Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why: The Science of Sexual Orientation

Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why: The Science of Sexual Orientation

by Simon LeVay
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Overview

Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why: The Science of Sexual Orientation by Simon LeVay

What causes a child to grow up gay or straight or bisexual? Traditional explanations, such as those put forward by Sigmund Freud, have centered on parent-child relationships, on various forms of "training," or on early sexual experiences. In this book, neuroscientist Simon LeVay summarizes a wealth of evidence that points in a radically different direction: A person's sexual orientation results primarily from an interaction between genes, sex hormones, and the developing brain. The same biological processes that influence a broad array of gendered traits are also the guiding factors behind a person's emerging sexuality.

LeVay helped initiate this field of research with a much-publicized 1991 study in which he reported on a difference in brain structure between gay and straight men. Since that time, an entire scientific discipline has sprung up around the quest for a biological explanation for sexual orientation. In this book, LeVay takes the reader on a whirlwind tour of laboratories that specialize in genetics, endocrinology, neuroscience, cognitive psychology, evolutionary psychology, and family demographics. Although many details remain unresolved, the general conclusion is inescapable: a person's sexual orientation is a central aspect of his or her identity—one that arises in large part from biological processes operating before birth. And far from seeking to discover "what went wrong" in the lives of gay people, or attempting to develop "cures" for homosexuality, today's scientists see sexual orientation as an aspect of human diversity-something that is worth studying simply because it is part of what makes us human.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780199737673
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 09/29/2010
Pages: 432
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.60(d)

About the Author

Simon LeVay, Ph.D., is a British-born neuroscientist who has served on the faculties of Harvard Medical School and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. He has written ten previous books, including the textbook Human Sexuality (Sinauer, 3rd edition 2009) and the New York Times best-seller, When Science Goes Wrong (Penguin, 2008).

Table of Contents

Introduction

Chapter 1: What Is Sexual Orientation?
Criteria for sexual orientation Sexual orientation in men and women Stability of sexual orientation Prevalence of different orientations Are there categories?
Sexual orientation across cultures

Chapter 2: Why We Need Biology Psychoanalytic theories Learning theories-influence of early sexual experiences Learning theories-gender learning Is it a choice?
The biological alternative

Chapter 3: The Outline of a Theory 30
Male and female brains Male and female behaviors Development of sex differences in animals Sexual partner preference in animals Origins of variation within each sex Relevance to human sexual orientation Sexual orientation in nature

Chapter 4: Childhood Development of gendered childhood traits Childhood traits associated with adult sexual orientation: retrospective studies Prospective studies Contrasting models

Chapter 5: Characteristics of gay and straight adults Gendered traits in adulthood 54
Origin of gendered traits Sexual orientation and cognitive traits: visuospatial abilities 58
Verbal fluency Memory tasks Handedness Intelligence Personality traits: Masculinity-femininity Occupational preferences Other personality traits Sexuality Overview

Chapter 6: The role of sex hormones Hormone levels in gay and straight adults Why focus on prenatal sex hormones?
Hormone levels during development Congenital adrenal hyperplasia Finger length studies The inner ear Central auditory system Action of sex hormones on the developing brain Possible causes of variability in prenatal androgen levels

Chapter 7: The role of genes Sibling studies Is the family clustering caused by genes?
Twin studies Molecular genetics-candidate-gene studies Genome scans Genes and sexuality in fruit flies Genes, homosexuality, and evolution Kin selection The "fertile female" hypothesis Beneficial effects on same-sex relatives

Chapter 8: The brain A brief tour of the brain The hypothalamus and sexual orientation Other brain regions Brain activity Pheromone studies Sheep Overview Inhibition and sexual orientation

Chapter 9: The body Body size and shape Trunk and limb length Penis size Symmetry and developmental instability Hair whorl direction Gaydar Overview

Chapter 10: The older-brother effect How well established is the older brother effect?
How strong is the older brother effect?
The older-brother effect and handedness What causes the older-brother effect?
Is the older-brother effect adaptive?

Chapter 11: Conclusions Sexual orientation is linked to other gendered traits A common origin for gender-shifted traits?
The role of genes Does the older-brother effect work through prenatal hormones?
Is there a random biological influence?
How does sexual orientation become categorical?
Diversity among gay people Changes in the prevalence and nature of homosexuality Sexual orientation and gender: the social fallout Glossary Bibliography

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Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why: The Science of Sexual Orientation 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Sean223 More than 1 year ago
The author has taken a lot of care to both synthesize a large quantity of scientific research and present it in a clear and organized manner. The pages are very easy to read -- the book and layout is inviting. The language is scientific but generally respectful of the LGBT community (much more so than some other science texts). The book is what it says, a primer on the science of sexual orientation. While you won't find any intense analysis going on here, you will find more than enough depth to be interesting to the scientifically minded reader and plenty of breadth as far as sexual orientation is concerned. Bisexuality is underrepresented, perhaps. Gender identity is not the key focus of the book either. But, if you are looking for a nice, thorough resource for the science of sexual orientation, this is your book!
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