There have been just a few sociologists who have tried to incorporate biological findings into their work. Unfortunately, many of these authors approach the subject from a conservative position. This feeds the political fears of liberal sociologists that biological racism is making a comeback. In sociology, however, sociobiology is an outlaw subdiscipline and, therefore, an act of deviancy itself, making it a discipline only likely to attract the more conservative sociologists.

An example of a conservative social scientists who includes biology in his writings is James Q. Wilson (along with Herrnstein, 19 ). The authors find that offenders are disproportionately young, male, mesomorphic and nonectomorphic, and from the low normal or borderline region of the distribution of intelligence- test scores. The problem with sociologists who write about sociobiology is that they know very little biology. Two of the listed factors involved in criminality have always been considered under demography: gender and age. A more distinctly biologically inherited factor is intelligence and there does appear to be a clear and consistent link between criminality and low intelligence. Moreover, people who break the law are often psychologically atypical.

A better biological perspective on crime is presented in the edited Biology and Crime by C. R. Jeffery. In it he makes the point that psychology and psychiatry are today based on biology and the biochemistry of the brain, and that the major opposition occurs in sociology.

A better approach is taken by Theodore D. Kemper in his Social Structure and Testosterone: Explorations of the Socio-Bio-social Chain (1990). The author has incorporated the effect of social structure and testosterone levels on male sexuality, human infidelity and sexual intimacy, as well as sports activity. The attempt is not very successful in that it picks hormones instead of neurotransmitters and brain structure on which to focus, but it is a brave effort.

It is still popular to label any reference to biology in criminology as "neo-Lombrosianism." (Jefferey, 1979:8) Jefferey was the 1978 president of the American Society of Criminology. Jefferey has a medical model of crime control, but he goes too far for in his 1977 article on criminology he says professional criminologists should have dropped anomie, opportunity structure, differential association, social learning theory, conflict theory, and labeling theory" twenty years ago. Jefferey cites other sociobiological works including Van den Berghe's Man is Society: A Biosocial View (1978) and Ellis's article "The Decline and Fall of Sociology: 1975-2000" (1977).

There has been some anthropological support for biological factors in human behavior. Frederick Whitam (1987) compared samples of homosexuals and lesbians in the US, Philippines and Brazil, noting similarities in frequencies of occurrence, life style and behavior. He stresses a biological rather than a social explanation.

The purpose of this section is to explain the biological and psychiatric findings about the biological origins of many behaviors that sociologists have traditionally seen as deviant. Therefore, no attempt is made to explain the many sociological models of deviancy. These are valuable and insightful theories, but they are incomplete. The purpose is not to overthrow the traditional sociological explanations but to modify them. Once biological explanations are included, the amount of variance explained by the sociological factors will decrease, but it will not disappear.

As John Money (1988) has said, America is a sexophobic society. And it is sexophobic because this backs up its racist- moralist culture. A Kinsey Institute study in the 1970s (Klassen, et. al., 1989:17-19) found that a majority of Americans are "moral absolutists" who see such sexual behaviors as homosexuality, prostitution, extramarital sex, and most forms of premarital sex as always wrong. Nearly half of the study even disapproved of masturbation and an adult man's premarital involvement with someone he loves.

According to liberal theory, sex, like race, is still another American dilemma. For while being stern moralists in their attitudes, Americans are relatively sexually active (Klassen, et. al., 1989:21). This is not really a contradiction at all, since Americans are primarily concerned about the sexual behavior of those in the lower class. The white middle class uses this supposed concern to keep the racial caste system going.

The concern with condemning non-middle class behavior creates a self-fulfilling cycle of abuse and racism. The circle works in the following way. The white middle class discriminates against blacks causing them to have difficulties in making their out of the lower level of jobs; not working at all or working at low level jobs is associated with behavioral and psychological problems; these problems are in turn condemned by the white middle class, backed up by their racist-moralist code of ethics; the white middle class then concludes from the prevalence of behavioral problems among blacks that the blacks are either inherently or culturally inferior; this inferiority then justifies treating blacks in discriminatory ways, which further insures that the cycle will continue.

The bias in sociological studies of deviance appears in the sociologist's moralistic attitude toward the deviants. Just to take one example. Marilyn Salutin has written on "Stripper morality." It reads like a polemic resembling a moralist text that one would expect either from a born again Christian or a radical feminist. She naturally assumes that stripping is bad from the start. She uses such phrases as "exhibition of sheer animalistic physical sex for the sake of sex. (1977:193)" But sociologists are allowed to exercise their sociological moralism based on a sociological determinism on certain subjects. Given this she sees all the statements of the strippers as rationalizations. A less biased researcher could take other jobs and look at the statements made by the people as examples of trying to deal with stress or harsh conditions. Lawyers, for instance, have been getting a great deal of hostility directed towards them and they have to come up with a series of defenses to deal with the hostility. These statements should not be seen as rationalizations, but as expressions of adaptation. But in the case of deviancy, the moralism takes precedence.

The moralistic approach can be seen on any television talk show. Audience members often denounce guests with various types of deviancy in moralistic terms. A common moralistic question one hears is "Don't you realized what you are doing when you commit this deviant act?" or "Do you have any morals at all?"

The biological perspective can be a valuable antidote to this type of moralism. The result will be that we will not see people who are different from the norm as being victims of their own moral weakness but rather as alterations or an imbalance in potent neural systems within the brain. (Restak, 1988:111)

A second flaw in at least some of the sociological texts about deviance is that they do not take a multi-causal viewpoint. For instance, in Goode sees his task as one in which to intellectually demolish one theory of deviance after another by stressing those aspects of deviance the theories cannot explain. After reading the text, one is left with the impression that sociologists have no adequate explanations of deviance at all. Contrast this with a more generous, multivariate approach that regards the various sociological theories as partial theories. Each one provides valuable insights into various sociological explanations of deviance. These theories are valuable additions to our understanding of human differences, that can be combined with biological, psychiatric, psychological, and political science explanations of human differences to gain a more complete understanding of deviance.

One reason why few Americans accept sociological reasoning is that explanations that only focus on sociological theories excludes too many important factors from the theory. Partial theories are never going to be adequate as explanations of human behavior. Conservatives are quick to point out the weaknesses of this type of sociological reasoning. For instance, they maintain that while poverty may be an important cause of crime, not everyone in poverty commits crimes; not everyone from a dysfunctional family commits crimes; nor does every man rape. It seems to be obvious to everyone except the sociologists that other variables have to be included in order to create adequate explanations of human behavior. Hopefully, this fourth part of our book will correct the moralistic thrust of sociological treatments of deviancy.


This section discusses sexual orientations and disturbances. The first chapter treats homosexuality as a sexual orientation produced as a result primarily, but not exclusively, of differences in experiences in the uterus of the mother. It is necessary to stress, however, that both prenatal and postnatal determinants of sexual orientation are involved in homosexuality (Money, 1988:50).

Scientifically speaking, homosexuality is not a problem of deviancy. Homosexuality is not a chosen life style, but rather an inborn sexual orientation that feels as natural to the homosexual as does heterosexuality to the non-homosexual population. Given that homosexuality is a permanent setting of the brain's sexual orientation, there is no "cure" for homosexuality. Rather than resent the existence of homosexuals, society should celebrate it as a phenomenon that adds to the wonderful variety of life. It is considered here only because so many Americans view it as a moral evil and, therefore, consider it to be deviant. The second chapter in this section discusses the sexual variations known as paraphilias, some of which can have terrible social and personal consequences (such as rape fixations). Postnatal experiences play a great role in determining paraphilias.



Homosexuality is an erotic attraction to a person of the same sex. Currently, psychiatry considers it a nonpathological "variant" of human sexuality (Campbell, 1989:329).

Rates of Occurrence

Traditionally, researchers thought the rate of homosexuality among males was from 2 to 5 percent. Now estimates of the percentage of exclusively or predominantly homosexual men is closer to 10 percent. Kinsey in 1953 (cited in Campbell, 1989:329) estimated the proportion of female homosexuals to be between 2 and 6 percent of unmarried women and 1 percent for married women.

Moralistic Views

Homosexuality is a very controversial issue in the United States. Attempts to end discrimination against homosexuals have met with strident and sometimes violent responses from conservative groups; the conservatives maintaining that homosexuality is a chosen life style (in spite of the contrary scientific evidence).

There have been many different arguments used against homosexuality. The religious argument maintains that homosexuality is a sin against God. Proponents of this thesis often quote passages from the Bible. There are those who employ a biological approach and argue that homosexuality is just not natural or that it is not functional in an evolutionary sense, since humans need to reproduce their species.

Related to the evolutionary approach was the argument that homosexuality was a sign of degeneracy. Many believers in the positive school of criminology saw homosexuality as evolutionary degeneracy. They maintained that homosexuals were genetic throwbacks and, as such, behaved in animal-like ways. Cesar Lombroso, the late nineteenth century Italian criminologist, argued that homosexuals were at a lower stage of human development than heterosexuals. Since positivists did not believe in free will, they did not hold homosexuals responsible for their condition. They did believe, however, that homosexuals should be restricted to asylums because they posed a danger to society (Bayer, 1981:20).

Similar to evolutionary degeneracy is the concept of psychological degeneracy. Freud thought homosexuality was an indication of such psychological degeneracy. By contrast Havelock Ellis's work Sexual Inversion sought to demonstrate that homosexuality was inborn, and therefore natural. In 1952 the American Psychiatric Association (APA) issued its first official listing of mental disorders its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. The manual included homosexuality as a sociopathic personality disturbance (Bayer, 1981:39).

In the 1960s a more humane view was that homosexuality was a social disease, caused by societal forces. Proponents hoped that people would view homosexuality with the same tolerance given to those who suffer from a physical disease. This concept, however, never was very clear and never really proved satisfactory.

During the 1960s and 1970s homosexuals fought for the idea that homosexuality is a valid alternative life style that individuals freely choose. They maintained that this choice should be given the same respect accorded to other expressions of individual freedom in America. The APA itself became the target of their attack in 1970. In 1973 the APA's board of trustees decided to remove homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders.

The view of homosexuality as free choice actually played into the hands of the conservatives. The conservatives argued that since homosexuals could freely choose their lifestyle, then they could also freely choose not to be involved in this lifestyle. In other words, with a little bit of exercise of willpower homosexuals could convert themselves into heterosexuals. Conservatives responded to scientific studies of homosexuality with pseudo-scientific claims that homosexuals could be "cured" through behavioral therapy. This type of therapy has now been proven to be harmful to the psychological well-being of homosexuals. Indeed, homosexuals turning to psychiatrists for help to change their sexual orientation are now treated as victims of internalized homophobia (Campbell, 1989:330).

When the new biological explanations of homosexuality as the result of hormonal imbalances during pregnancy arose, many homosexuals and liberal non-homosexuals were very upset. Many concluded that this meant that the new findings would increase the popularity of the old racist biology, favored by conservatives. With time, however, more and more homosexuals have seen that the findings that homosexuality is not a matter of free choice is actually the stronger political argument against anti-homosexual spokespersons. For if homosexuality is not a matter of choice, there is less of an argument for discriminating against homosexuals.

Many homosexuals are upset that the new biological findings indicate that something goes "wrong" in fetal development. However, one could say that something different happens rather than use the word wrong. And perhaps one could even say something "good" happens in the sense that homosexuality provides our society with many creative individuals.


Goodman (1987:36) writes that although no specifically homosexual genes have yet been found, it is possible that they do exist. It could be that these genes are related to the susceptibility to stress. More research has to be done in this area.

People become homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual because of what happens to them partly in their prenatal history, and partly in their postnatal history (Money, 1988:6-7). In the chapter on issues in brain research we discussed the complicated interactions of the sexual system. We saw how important it is that the right sexual hormones be in place at the right time in order for correct human fetal development to occur. In the case of homosexuality there are disturbances in the chemical sequence that results in a different sexual orientation. We have seen how the female brain develops first and that the male brain develops from changes to this female brain. In mammals the specialization of the brain in the male depends on testosterone slowing the developmental pace of the left hemisphere. In the brain development of homosexual men, there has not been a full differentiation of the male brain from the female brain infrastructure that is shared by both sexes. This hormonal imbalance may result from nutritional, medicinal, or endocrine changes. Stress can be a major cause of hormonal imbalance because stress reduces the maternal secretion of testosterone into the bloodstream (Money, 1988:25). Studies, such as the one by Ward (1984, cited in Flor-Henry, 1987:56) on the prenatal stress syndrome in the rat have shown that exposing female rats to stress during the last week of pregnancy results in adult male offspring exhibiting feminized and demasculinized sexual behavior. Instead of the normal rise in fetal male plasma testosterone, that usually takes place on days 17 and 18 after conception, there was a sharp decline.

In the case of female homosexuals, the physical situation is somewhat different. In humans masculinization and defeminization of the fetal brain depend on the action of a conversion product of testosterone known as dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Women may be protected from the actions of DHT by the female hormone progesterone which blocks DHT formation. An abnormality in this progesterone mechanism may result in female homosexuality (Goodman, 1987:33).

But what about the role of social factors? In sociology the traditional explanation of homosexuality was the presence of the family of a weak father and a domineering mother. But the classically distant, remote father and the smothering, over- protective mother, if they are present at all, seem to be a reaction to a child who is different, rather than a cause of same (Whitam and Zent 1984, cited in Goodman 1987:36). Research (Money, 1988:82) has shown that male homosexuals actually have a close relationship with their fathers. The fathers of male homosexuals did not repudiate their sons' behaviors, but rather regarded it as something to be grown out of. One possible scenario of a close relationship between father and male homosexual son is that of the father covertly courting his son's allegiance against the mother. In some cases the son may take over the role of the wife, becoming, in a sense, a substitute wife. For his part the son may ally himself with his father in order to prevent a possible parental separation.

Conservatives constantly stress the horrors of the influence exerted a young boy by exposure to an adult male homosexual. However, in a longitudinal study of boys who became homosexual in adulthood (Money and Russo, 1979, cited in Money, 1988:81), none had early homosexual genital contact. Those boys in late childhood who had an explicitly sexual relationship with an older, pedophilic male lover were not found to be predetermined to become homosexual in adolescence or adulthood.

Overconcern with early childhood experience may actually cause more harm than good (Money, 1988:50 & 78). Juvenile sexual rehearsal play is a prerequisite for adult mating skill. Normally, juvenile sexual play evolves into heterosexual rehearsal play. This entire area needs to be studied more, but mismanagement of this play may result in sexual disturbances, such as the paraphilias.

A Note on Bisexuality

There is an hemispheric asymmetry in the way the hypothalamus acts. Nordeen and Yahr (1982, cited in Money 1988:24) implanted pellets of the steroid hormone estradiol, separately into the left and right sides of the hypothalamus of newborn female rat pups. After the rats became mature, the hormone on the left side produced defeminized behavior by suppressing lordosis (presenting), while the hormone on the right side produced masculinized behavior by facilitating mounting behavior.

It may be possible for disturbances in the hypothalamus to result in a situation where one side of the hypothalamus becomes masculinized, while the other becomes feminized. In the male, the masculinized side of the hypothalamus could then induce mounting behavior, and the non-defeminized side could induce female presenting (lordosis). The end result would be a bisexual orientation (Money, 1988:25).

A Note on Transsexuality

There is a great deal of confusion between the terms transsexual, transvestism, and gynemism. None of these behaviors are necessarily paraphilias, although they can be. The transexual crosses over to live full-time in the role of the other sex, with hormonal and surgical sex reassignment. In transsexuals there is evidence of abnormal development of the hypothalamus during gestation (Campbell 1989:774). In vernacular speech, a transexual is a woman trapped in a man's body, or conversely, a man trapped in a woman's body. The syndrome of psychological distress resulting from transexualism is known also as gender dysphoria. This dysphoria can be overcome through surgery. In order to qualify for surgery, the patient must pass the two-year, real-life test of becoming socially, economically, and hormonally rehabilitated in the role of the sex of reassignment. There are different biographic antecedents to sex reassignment, one of which may be paraphilic transvestism (transvestophilia). Transvestism is simply cross dressing. It can be used in the paraphilia transvestophilia, as well as by the transsexual. Transvestophilia is the sexual arousal resulting from the wearing of the clothing, especially the underwear, of the opposite sex. A gynemimic is a male who impersonates a female and becomes sexually aroused exclusively by men. They may be hormonally, but not surgically, sex-reassigned. The female counterpart is the andromimic.

What causes a person to become a transsexual? The hypothalamus seems to be involved in this etiology. In a study of thirteen male-to-female transsexuals, Boyar and Aiman (1982, cited in Flor-Henry, 1987:53) found a higher mean serum concentration of LH compared to normal men. Moreover, the maximum concentration of LH and FSH following the administration of LHRH was significantly greater than in heterosexual men in half of the transsexuals. In other words, the results from the transsexual men were shifted towards values found in normal heterosexual women.


Return to Main Page Table of Contents

Return to Home Page