Lesbian and putative pheromone study, Part 5 – AP says they were wrong

On Friday afternoon, May 12, the AP issued a “clarification” of their report covering the study of the brains of lesbians. Here is the statement:

Clarification: Lesbian Brains Story
Fri May 12, 2:36 PM ET

WASHINGTON – In a story May 8, The Associated Press reported on the perceptions of lesbian women and heterosexual men and women when sniffing chemicals derived from human hormones. That report was based on a chart in a research study which indicated different perceptions of the chemicals, such as pleasantness, familiarity and irritability.

While there were differences in how the brains of homosexual and heterosexual participants reacted to the chemicals, the story should also have included the conclusion that indicated differences in individual perceptions were not statistically significant.

I made a request to the AP Thursday afternoon for the original AP story to be reviewed by the Science editor. Then, at the request of the AP, I supplied all of the correspondence between Dr. Ivanka Savic, Randolph Schmid and me. I have heard nothing directly from the AP as yet.

This is an important correction because many were misinterpreting the study thinking that lesbians responded differently in their feelings to the different smells. No such differences were reported, nor did any of the gay or straight participants experience sexual arousal in response to the substances inhaled. The study authors, lead by Ivanka Savic, have been clear all along that they do not know what the brain differences mean. No one knows how these differences would directly relate, if at all, to chosen sexual behavior.

So the correction did not go far enough. About the Savic study, the original story said: “It’s a finding that adds weight to the idea that homosexuality has a physical underpinning and is not learned behavior.” As Dr. Savic stated, “This is incorrect and not stated in the paper.” Since the study did not explore learning factors, one cannot state that the study adds weight to any ideas about learning and sexual feelings or behavior.

The website GayNZ came closer to an accurate correction, reporting:

AP says lesbian brains story was wrong

The Associated Press has clarified a story they released which inferred that lesbian brains are significantly different to those of heterosexuals.

The story was released on May 8 and carried by GayNZ.com on May 9 (“Lesbian brains react differently”). The story cited Swedish research that showed lesbians are more likely to find male pheromones, essentially the scent of men, more irritating, and furthermore that lesbians processed both male and female hormones in the ‘scent area’ of the brain, whereas heterosexuals processed the pheromone of the opposite sex in the hypothalamus, or ‘sexual stimulation’ area of the brain.

The report prompted a number of sexuality-researchers to claim that this revealed that sexuality is biologically formed, rather than solely through life experiences.

The Associated Press now claims this conclusion to be unsupported by the research, as no statistically significant differences were found. Most researchers continue to maintain that the formation of sexuality is a complex issue, stemming from both biological and cultural factors – or, simply put, both nature and nurture.

The state of the art is much closer to this statement from GayNZ than the article from the AP.

(Thanks to Colleen Keating for the tip.)

8 thoughts on “Lesbian and putative pheromone study, Part 5 – AP says they were wrong”

  1. I have learned that the PFOX bullying brochure has been printed without my name on it. The bullying brochure online is incorrect and will be changed. I have asked them to change the sentence in the brochure to reflect the interaction of biology and environment. I hope that happens.

  2. As an expert on gay issues from the less traveled angle of spirituality (see my A Special Illumination and its detailed summary for Review of Biblical Literature at http://www.bookreviews.org/pdf/4656_4760.pdf I have tried, mostly in vain, to get all parties to look at a different possibility. It is one that Christians especially should consider when they seek to make sense of (or just avoid) “some are born eunuchs from their mothers’ wombs” (Mt.19:12). Scholarly evidence is mounting that eunuch was a possible term for what we understand today as someone not attracted to the opposite sex or “homosexual”, not invariably someone castrated or sexually inactive.

    But if Jesus really understood some people are born gay then that would be an essentialist position seemingly challenged by constructionist interpretations of identity and all Christian claims of “cure” too (dubious though many of these seem to be). So is there and could there ever be any way beyond the genetic and physical of knowing who is naturally homosexual and why some claim cure or appear to have floating sexual identities? Actually there are at least two ways but almost no one wants to examine or even admit them.

    The fact is that homosexuality, originally associated with religious rites, should be regarded as a spiritual condition before a sexual one. It therefore maybe itself needs to be perceived in spiritual or “esoteric” ways – everything from the aura to the stars. When the psychiatrist, C.G Jung, came up against a brick wall (like that presented today by homosexuality) he cast the horoscopes which some modern Christians, (who seem to imagine the Magi must have been devil worshippers) won’t consider but which increasingly psychiatrists are doing – many are applying to professional astrologers to cast them. Surprisingly this can turns up excellent information for gay issues albeit even some astrologers will deny this but mainly because they don’t know what to look for or to use – many aren’t even aware that such as a Part of Homosexuality exists. Though it’s impossible to summarize all that’s involved one could say that especially certain aspects to Uranus can indicate “natural”, innate homosexuality (essentialist thesis) while what are called “afflicted” aspects to Neptune almost invariably support dissolved boundaries, floating identities and often bisexuality (constructionist viewpoint) but sometimes also great neurosis and guilt and a susceptibility to “cure” – meaning in effect a degree of direction the natal factor tends to lack. I am not inventing this but I have discussed it with a psychotherapist who couldn’t imagine how I could describe to him what he was treating by just horoscope factors.

    East and West it has also always been said that innate homosexuality is visible by the different shape and vibration of the aura or body electric, according to those claiming to be able to see such things. It’s a difficult claim but one which Christian doctrines of soul should at least be willing to listen to and one must assume such as Jesus who is reported as reading minds would be able to read any auras too. Perhaps the main thing to stress, though, is that authentic homosexuality or third sex status is a spirituality, a temperament and worldview before it is anything sexual so that that is what any therapy has to look at. But it’s also true secular liberationists no more want to consider this possibility than some Christians. Their aim is to affirm equality by stressing a sameness of personality which is not in fact the case.for the great majority who if anything are repressing difference along with spirituality in a secular world most of the time.

  3. Warren: OK, got ya.

    (You know I diary these reminders… autistic tendencies with a mind like a sieve, an unfortunate combination.)

    That’s encouraging. No, really.

    Given it’s simply an online pdf, that should be a two minute job. If only to remove a name, if nothing else. What a shonky, disreputable outfit they are.

    And given a common link person — presume you didn’t get a leg up for the Exodus junket to Barbados either; in support of the current criminal laws. Pity, could have given your post-Winter pallor a bit of a pre-Summer treatment 🙂

  4. I appreciate the correction but I maintain that the interpretation of the study as detracting from a learning model was overreaching. The study authors agree with me on this.

    Re: PFOX. I have repeatedly asked that it be fixed. I am not sure what is going on over there right now. We are not on the same page on several things at present. I don’t know if that is a part of it or not.

  5. Yes, non-scientists should beware of graphs…

    The AP reporter read it wrong. The AP corrected what they said. There was nothing intentional about their mistake, and they responded quickly and correctly.

    For sure, we cannot be accountable for what other people write. We can be for what we write.

    Again, any news on your PFOX brochure? It’s now 6 weeks… and it’s still both deceptive and available for download.

  6. Anon: Just want to make sure that it is clear: there were differences in how the brain reacted but not the conscious reports of the people. Lesbians have a complicated reaction to these chemicals but still it is different that the brains of the straight women. What is still at issue is that the AP did not correct (as far as I can see) has not corrected the impression that the study showed the differences were learned. That is still a false impression. We don’t know how the differences got there.

  7. it must be killing all the gay people out there to read that last line the differences were not statistically significant LOL.

    Just comes to show how eager they are to twist any research study in such a way to suit their agenda, while simultaneously hacking to death any other study that goes against them (i.e. spitzer)

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