Is homosexuality caused by childhood sexual experiences? One challenge to evolutionary theory is to explain why homosexuality is so enduring, if the researchers are correct in claiming that the orientation is the result of genes. I've wondered if the environment might play an important role in some way. Specifically, I have speculated that many boys, perhaps passive, attractive boys in particular, might be targets for childhood sexual contacts which have a powerful impact on their subsequent sexual tastes.
The stereotype of childhood sexual experiences is of traumatic abuse, but the reality is that most contact does not involve fear, intimidation, or coercion, but is likely to involve other children--often older--and to be playful, experimental, and experienced as pleasurable. The body is wired to feel pleasure, and a naive child might have little idea about what is appropriate or inappropriate.
There is empirical support for my idea in The Longitudinal Study of Violence Against Women. The study asked men, as well as women, about sexual victimization (N=782). Here are the percentages of males who experienced sexual contact as a child:
Percent who had experience at least once as a child
Shown a sex organ as a child
Attempted sexual intercourse
Reason for participation--straight men
Felt good 20.1
Felt loved 1.8
Was told it is ok 6.5
Threatened or coerced 1.4
Reason for participation--homosexual men
Felt good 18.8
Felt loved 18.8
Was told it is ok 0.0
Threatened or coerced 0.0
Reason for participation--bisexual men
Felt good 41.2
Felt loved 17.6
Was told it is ok 5.9
Threatened or coerced 5.9
First, we can see that childhood sexual contact is common, and is almost always non-coercive. Gay and bisexual men are both more likely to report various kinds of experiences, and the differences with straight men are the most glaring when the experience is the most intense (i.e., attempted or completed sexual intercourse).
We shouldn't make too much of the "reasons" numbers for gay and bisexual men since the sample sizes are too small, but it is clear that experiences are not traumatic most of the time. Also, keep in mind that these data do not tell us how many encounters were same-sex.
While there are other factors at play here--some homosexuals report none of these kinds of experiences--there is evidence here that early sexual contact might influence sexual orientation: men who develop a gay or bisexual orientation are much more likely to have experienced sexual intercourse--some of it presumably anal sex--as children.
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