2015 Puzzle of Sexual Orientation Conference





Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada

Organizers: Paul Vasey, Kelly Suchinsky & Jean-Baptiste Leca

We gratefully acknowledge the following people and organizations for their financial support:

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

Dr. Lee Ellis

Dr. Thomas W. Johnson

Dr. John Sylla

The American Institute of Bisexuality

Dr. Mike Mahon, President, University of Lethbridge

Dr. Andrew Hakin, Vice President (Academic), University of Lethbridge

Dr. Lesley Brown, Vice-Provost/Associate VP Academic, University of Lethbridge

Dr. Craig Cooper, Dean of Arts & Science, University of Lethbridge

The Office of Research Services, University of Lethbridge

We gratefully acknowledge the following people for their logistical support:

Erin Crane, Conference Services, University of Lethbridge

Jerrim Rushka, Conferences Services, University of Lethbridge

Laurel Corbiere, President’s Office, University of Lethbridge

Kathy MacFarlane, Advancement-Development, University of Lethbridge

Richard Westlund, Advancement-Public Affairs, University of Lethbridge

Caroline Zentner, Advancement-Public Affairs, University of Lethbridge

Leanne Wehlage-Ellis, Psychology, University of Lethbridge

Mary Kavanagh, Department of Art, University of Lethbridge

Rebecca Anweiler, Fine Art Program (Visual Art), Queen’s University

Lesley Roberts, Psychology, University of Saskatchewan

Corbin Chenger, Psychology, University of Lethbridge

Lanna Petterson, Psychology, University of Lethbridge

Scott Semenyna, Psychology, University of Lethbridge

Francisco Gómez, Psychology, University of Lethbridge

Ryan Mallard, Psychology, University of Lethbridge

Dr. Gabe Yanicki, University of Alberta

Dr. Simon LeVay, West Hollywood, USA

Dr. Heather Hoffmann, Knox College

Dr. Micheal Seto, Psychology, University of Ottawa

Dr. Meredith Chivers, Psychology, Queen’s University

Dr. Lori Brotto, University of British Columbia

Dr. Kate Frank, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Dr. Ken Zucker, Editor, Archives of Sexual Behavior


In the early 1990s there was a ground swell of interest in the biology of sexual orientation. Simon LeVay had published his now classic study in Science demonstrating that brain structure varied in males according to sexual orientation. Two years later, Dean Hamer published research in the same journal indicating that male sexual orientation had a genetic component. The public was hungry for more information, but the science of sexual orientation was in its infancy; many more questions existed than answers. Fascination with this topic could be mixed with equal doses of suspicion and hostility depending on one’s political leanings. This could come from both outside academia and within, from those with political leanings toward the left and the right. Not surprisingly, support to enable research on the biology of sexual orientation was meager. 

It is in this context that Lee Ellis decided to host the first International Behavioral Development Symposium on the Biological Basis of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Sex-Typical Behavior in 1995. The meeting took place on the campus of Minot State University in North Dakota. Ideas were exchanged, collaborations were forged, and the science of sexual orientation found fertile ground in which to develop. Indeed, the proceedings of this first symposium were published in two edited volumes, Males, Females, and Behavior: Toward Biological Understanding and Sexual Orientation: Towards a Biological Understanding.

The 1995 symposium was such a success that Lee went on to host another in 2000 and yet another in 2005. The proceedings from both of these meetings were subsequently published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. With each successive meeting, the reputation of the symposium grew. For one of us (PLV), the 2000 meeting was the first one attended and he can clearly remember senior scholars sitting on the edge of their seats in rapt attention as they took in cutting-edge research presentations. The energy and excitement during those meetings was really something special. It was commonplace to hear participants comment that the Minot meetings were the best they had ever attended. Not surprisingly, invitations were highly coveted and grew to be more and more so with each successive meeting.  

In 2005, anticipating his retirement, Lee had no desire to see the symposium disappear as a historical footnote; he was nonetheless ready to pass the organizational responsibilities for the meeting on to others. With this in mind, he decided that sexologists working at the University of Lethbridge would be well positioned to take over the running of subsequent meetings. Lethbridge is a small, relatively isolated city on the southern Alberta prairies and, in this regard, it seemed like Minot’s Canadian cousin. Moreover, a small group of sexologists, headed by Martin Lalumière and Paul Vasey, existed at the University of Lethbridge, with whom Lee felt he was leaving the meetings in good hands.

So, in 2010, Martin Lalumière, Paul Vasey, and Kelly Suschinsky (at the time, a graduate student of Martin’s) hosted the Puzzle of Sexual Orientation Meeting on the University of Lethbridge campus. One of our major goals for the Lethbridge meeting was to nudge participants to think more deeply about what exactly was meant by the term “sexual orientation.” Was it just about being attracted to men or women, or was it about something more? For example, was there an age component? What about an activity component? Michael Seto’s presentation, “Is Pedophilia a Sexual Orientation?” provides but one example of where such “out of the box” thinking led us all. The meeting was supported by the University of Lethbridge and by a generous grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Unfortunately, Lee was unable to attend the 2010 meeting due to teaching responsibilities at the University of Malaysia, but, by all accounts, it was a huge success. The appearance of a bear and cub (the ursine variety, not the gay kind) during a fieldtrip to Waterton National Park probably helped bolster the meeting’s reputation!

A number of newsworthy events have occurred since many of us last gathered in Lethbridge. Following the 2010 meeting, one of the former Vice Presidents at the University of Lethbridge had this to say: “The ‘edgy’ sex research being conducted here and showcased at the Puzzle of Sexual Orientation meeting deserves our support.” These words proved not to be hollow ones as “the genesis of sexual orientation” was explicitly named in the University of Lethbridge’s 2011 Strategic Research Plan as an area of investigation it seeks to foster. So apparently Lee’s decision to move the meetings to Lethbridge was a good one.

Perhaps there can be no better news than the fact that some of the attendees at the 2010 meeting, who were graduate students at the time, now have faculty positions of their own. This leaves us feeling hopeful that the science of sexual orientation will continue to have a healthy future.

On a sadder note (for Lethbridge), Martin Lalumière left Lethbridge for the University of Ottawa in 2013 and he is greatly missed. 

On an even sadder note, Dr. Eugene Garfield passed away in 2011 at the age of 86. All three of the Minot symposium meetings were made possible thanks to the generous support from the Eugene Garfield Foundation. All of the Puzzle of Sexual Orientation attendees owe Dr. Garfield a debt of gratitude for providing the financial kick-start to these meetings at a time when the science of sexual orientation was in its nascent. Were it not for Dr. Garfield’s initial investment, it is unlikely that this meeting would be taking place in 2015.

We think Dr. Garfield would be heartened to see that the science of sexual orientation has flourished in the twenty years that have passed since the first Minot meeting. So much so, that the topic, broadly speaking, can sustain entire volumes such as Mike Bailey’s The Man Who Would Be Queen, Richard Lippa’s Gender, Nature, and Nurture, Martin Lalumière’s The Causes of Rape, Lisa Diamond’s Sexual Fluidity, Simon LeVay’s Gay, Straight, and the Reasons Why, Michael Seto’s Pedophilia and Sexual Offending Against Children, Anthony Bogaert’s Understanding Asexuality, and Katherine Frank’s Plays Well in Groups. We are thrilled that all of these scholars are able to join us for the 2015 meeting.

In keeping with the ethos of the 2010 meeting, we wanted to ensure that the meeting was small and intimate. It was important to us that the time individuals had for interacting was maximized. As any seasoned conference goer knows, the most important outcomes of these meetings often occur outside of the presentations. One of our main priorities was to create a welcoming space for young sexual orientation researchers and, in this regard, we are very happy to report that graduate student attendance at this meeting is way up from 2010. In response to this influx of graduate student attendees, we have organized a series of modest “workshops” aimed at developing career skills associated with grant writing, ethics, funding acquisition, and media relations.  While on the issue of media relations, we also felt it was important to heed the call from funding agencies to actively engage in knowledge translation with the public. Consequently, during this meeting there will be opportunities to meet with journalists and some of the participants have graciously agreed to “live-Tweet” talk and poster presentations with the presenters’ consent.

Finally, we felt it was important during this meeting to foreground the value of an integrative biosocial/cultural approach to the science of sexual orientation. Of course, most if not all of the attendees at previous meetings wholly endorsed such a perspective, but we hoped that by making the importance of an integrative approach more explicit during the 2015 conference it would spur new and innovative thinking. As such, many of the talks you will hear during the 2015 meeting grapple with the dynamic interplay between biology and the socio-cultural environment, and how this impacts sexual orientation. This type of thinking has the power to shift paradigms, but it often requires that we think outside of our comfort zones and be prepared to relinquish much of what we thought we knew. Parsimony should, of course, be sought whenever possible, but not at the expense of accurately characterizing what all the attendees now know is proving to be a much more complex trait than any of us had previously imaged.


1st Prize ($300)

Kevin Hsu

Autopedophilia: Evidence for erotic target location errors in pedohebephilic men

2nd Prize ($200)

Matthew Bramble

Masculinizing gene expression and DNA methylation in neural stem cells and their differentiated progeny by a single exposure of testosterone: An In vitro approach of understanding hormonal organization

3rd Prize ($100)

Samantha Dawson

What’s in a look? Examining visual attention patterns of women across the Kinsey scale


Viewing time as a measure of pedophilic sexual interest: A meta-analysis

Kelly M. Babchishin1, Alexander F. Schmidt2, &

Robert J. B. Lehmann3

University of Ottawa, Ottawa1

University of Luxembourg, Luxembourg2

Charité University, Berlin3

Pedophilia, defined as a persistent and recurrent sexual interest in children, plays a central role in both the initiation and maintenance of child sexual abuse. Sex offenders against children (SOC) display significantly greater sexual interest in children compared to men who do not molest children and sexual interest in children is one of the best predictors of sexual recidivism among SOC. Accordingly, the accurate measurement of sexual interest in children is of critical importance in the supervision, risk assessment, and treatment of sex offenders. The current study presents a meta-analysis of the ability of viewing time measures adapted to assess sexual interest in children to discriminate SOC from non-SOC. A comprehensive search of the literature resulted in 16 eligible studies disseminated between 1996 and 2014 (Mdn = 2010). The ability of viewing time measures to distinguish SOC (N = 1,605) from non-SOC (N = 1,015) was meta-analyzed. The average effect size, indices of variability across studies, and moderators of the effect are presented.

A taxonomy of human male bisexuality

J. Michael Bailey & Allen M. Rosenthal

Northwestern University, USA

Human male bisexuality has been a contentious research topic. Much of the controversy is due to the insistence that there is a single way to be bisexual. In fact, sexual orientation, sexual orientation identity, and behavior can diverge among men who might plausibly be thought to be bisexual. Several categories of men reasonably claim to be bisexual, and yet the underlying motivation and expression of their bisexuality differ considerably among them. I will review empirical support for the following categories of male bisexuality:

1. Men with bisexual orientation

2. Men with bisexual identity/history but homosexual orientation

3. Men with bisexual identity/history but heterosexual orientation

4.Men with bisexual identity/history and various paraphilias, including autogynephilia, gynandromorphophilia, and pedophilia.

Possible separate etiology of homosexuality in gay male only-children

Ray Blanchard1, Doug P. VanderLaan1, Malvina Skorska2,

Kenneth J. Zucker3, & Anthony F. Bogaert2

University of Toronto, Canada1

Brock University, Canada2

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Canada3

This study investigated the hypothesis that mothers who produce a homosexual son at their first delivery include a biologically distinct subpopulation of mothers of homosexual sons. The participants were 126 mothers of gay and heterosexual males; these had been recruited for a serological test of the maternal immunization hypothesis of the fraternal birth order effect. The present study was conducted on non-serological data from that project. The participants were divided into five groups: mothers of gay only-children (n = 8), mothers of gay males with no older brothers, mothers of gay males with one or more older brothers, mothers of heterosexual only-children, and mothers of heterosexual males with one or more siblings. The first dependent variable was fetal loss, that is, the total number of miscarriages, abortions, and stillbirths reported by the mother. The mothers of gay only-children reported the largest amount of fetal loss. The second dependent variable was fetal birth weight. In order to control for the normal positive correlation between birth order and birth weight, we used only those mothers who produced a live-born son on their first pregnancy. This reduced the sample size to 64, including 4 gay only-children. The birth weight of the gay only-children was much less than that of the other groups of first-pregnancy sons. The 4 excluded gay only-children—the 4 fetuses who had been preceded by (non-productive) pregnancies—weighed more than the 4 participants from first pregnancies. However, they still weighed substantially less than all the other groups. The results support the hypothesis that there is a cause of male homosexuality that is associated with high levels of fetal loss in the mothers and low birth weight in the liveborn offspring. This combination is compatible with some maternal immune response, but it may be different from the hypothesized immune response underlying the classic fraternal birth order effect.

Masculinizing gene expression and DNA methylation in neural stem cells and their differentiated progeny by a single exposure of testosterone: An In vitro approach of understanding hormonal organization

Matthew Bramble, Lara Roach, Allen Lipsion, Jason Gosschalk,

Neerja Vashist, and Eric Vilain

University of California, Los Angeles, USA

The role of gonadal hormones and their influence on sexual differentiation and brain masculinization have been highly investigated in the rodent model over the past century. However, the studies that have been conducted failed to unravel at the molecular level exactly how these hormones may alter sexual behavior. Our research group recently found that neonatal androgen exposure is capable of altering DNA methylation patterns in sexually dimorphic regions of the rodent brain. The methylation differences may be an early molecular explanation as to how gonadal hormones permanently alter the developing brain, through the process known as hormonal organization. Using sex-specific embryonic day 14 C57/B6J mouse neural stem cells, we investigated the effects of exposures to testosterone propionate (TP) and its derivatives on multipotent neural stem cells prior to their maturation into neurons or astrocytes. Early results suggest significant and long lasting changes in the expression of numerous genes as a result of TP treatment at the NSC stage. We have demonstrated that testosterone exposure on XX neural stem cells can aid eliminating sex differences in gene expression, which are able to be carried over to the final stages of differentiation, again minimizing sex differences in both neurons and glia cell types. This phenomenon is likely due to epigenetic mechanisms, as we have shown that the global DNA methylation patterns in XX NSCs that are exposed to TP are not significantly different than basal XY NSCs.  Prior to TP exposure however, DNA of XX NSCs are hypomethylated compared to their XY counterpart, which suggests that basal sex differences in the early developing central nervous system may be mediated through DNA methylation and other epigenetic mechanisms, prior to gonadal hormone exposures during development.  Using this in vitro approach coupled with an in vivo verification, we aim to elucidate the role that DNA methylation and gene expression changes have on neural stem cells, and how these alterations affect the final differentiated cell types. 

A test of the maternal immune hypothesis of men’s sexual orientation

Anthony F. Bogaert1, Melvina Skorska1, Chao Wang2,

Jose Gabrie1, Kenneth Zucker3, Doug VanderLaan4, &

Ray Blanchard4

Brock University, Canada1

Harvard University, USA2

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Canada3

University of Toronto, Canada4

In 1996, Blanchard and Bogaert found evidence that gay men have a greater number older brothers than do heterosexual men. This "fraternal birth order" (FBO) effect has been replicated numerous times. More recently, we have found evidence that this effect is of prenatal origin (Bogaert, 2006). Although there is no direct support for the exact prenatal mechanism, the most plausible explanation is likely immunological in origin, i.e., a mother develops an immune reaction against a substance important in male fetal development during pregnancy, and this immune effect becomes increasingly likely with each male gestation (e.g., Blanchard & Bogaert, 1996; Blanchard, 2008; Bogaert & Skorska, 2011). This immune effect is hypothesized to cause an alteration in some later born males' prenatal brain development. The target of the immune response may be molecules on the surface of male fetal brain cells (e.g., including in the anterior hypothalamus). Antibodies might bind to these molecules and thus alter their role in typical sexual differentiation, leading some later born males to be attracted to men as opposed to women. There is evidence in the scientific literature that mothers of boys can indeed develop an immune response to one substance (i.e., the Y-linked antigen SMCY) important in male fetal development, and that this immune effect becomes increasingly likely with each additional boy to which a mother gives birth. However, to our knowledge, there is no evidence of a maternal immune response to other Y-linked substances important in male fetal development, nor is there any direct evidence of a maternal immune response underlying men's sexual orientation development. To test this hypothesis, we examined evidence that mothers of a gay men, particularly those who had previous male pregnancies, may have had an immune reaction (relative to mothers of a heterosexual son) to one or more of three Y-linked substances: SMCY, PDCH11Y, NLGN4Y (iso-1 and iso-2).  Immune assays targeting these male-specific substances were developed. These immune assays were then conducted on blood samples drawn from approximately 100 mothers of sons, about half of whom had a gay son. Additional control samples (e.g., women without male pregnancies, men) were also analyzed. Findings from these assays are presented here.

Asexuality: Orientation, paraphilia, dysfunction, or none of the above?

Lori A. Brotto

University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Prior to 2004, asexuality was a term that was largely reserved for describing the reproductive patterns of many single-celled organisms. Since then, however, empirical research on the topic has grown, with estimates suggestion that up to 6% of the adult human population likely identify as asexual—defined by the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) as a lack of sexual attraction towards anyone. Given the centrality of sexual attraction as a core feature of being human, critics have argued that asexuality is a manifestation of some underlying psychopathology, and may in fact represent an extreme variant of a sexual desire disorder. Others argue that asexuality may be best placed within the domain of paraphilias since paraphilias are defined as atypical sexual attractions. Asexuality advocates themselves argue that asexuality should be conceptualized as a unique sexual orientation for a variety of reasons (e.g., asexual individuals share experiences of discrimination with other sexual minority groups; other sexual orientations are defined on the basis of their sexual attractions). The goal of this talk is to summarize a body of literature emerging from our laboratory which has been largely aimed at testing each of these hypotheses. We conclude that asexuality is a heterogeneous category with overlap in each of these domains that may be difficult to discern.

A unified theory of typical and atypical sexual interest in men: Paraphilia, hypersexuality, asexuality, and vanilla as outcomes of a single, dual opponent process

James M. Cantor

Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute

University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine

What makes men into whatever they are into?  Over the past five years, clues have continued to accumulate showing neuroanatomic and prenatal contributors to the development of atypical sexual interests in men.  Although earlier research was often limited to the paraphilias such as pedophilia (especially in forensic settings), findings are now being reported for a wider range of atypical sexual phenomena, including asexuality (especially in civil rights and visibility settings) and various forms of hypersexuality (especially in clinical settings).  Because these phenomena exist in different contexts, they have been explored largely independently.  Rather than being unrelated atypicalities, however, these phenomena may instead represent the possible outcomes of a single mechanism underlying them all.  This paper will outline a “dual opponent process model” of male sexual interest in which typical sexuality, asexuality, certain forms of hypersexuality, and the paraphilias are each manifestations of a single, neurobiologically plausible, neural network-based mechanism.

Sexual psychophysiology and its complicated relationship with women’s sexual orientation

Meredith L. Chivers

Queen’s University, Canada

Research on the gender-specificity of sexual response has consistently produced gender and sexual orientation effects, such that only heterosexual women, exclusively heterosexual women in particular, typically show gender-nonspecific patterns of genital response. These results typically extend to other measures of sexual interest, such as viewing time and neuroimaging. These data are often produced as psychophysiological evidence that women are uniquely more fluid in their sexual orientation because both genders can provoke sexual response. More recent data, however, suggests that the female sexual response system may be more responsive to cues other than gender, thereby producing a response pattern that appears not to distinguish between genders. For example, stimulus cues depicting sexual activity and relationship context consistently moderate genital response, and could possibly obscure gender-specific patterns of sexual arousal. I will review the literature on the gender-specific sexual response with an emphasis on the nature of sexually-competent stimulus cues. I will then present data showing gender-specific genital and subjective sexual arousal in androphilic and gynephilic women and men to prepotent sexual stimuli - depictions of sexually-aroused genitals without relationship or sexual activity context. These data will be discussed in terms of gendered sexual response, the capacity for contextual and gender cues to render stimuli sexually-competent, and implications for understanding the relationship, if any, between women’s sexual psychophysiology and sexual orientation.

Role-specialization among transgender androphilic males

Lucas Court & Paul L. Vasey

University of Lethbridge, Canada

Androphilia refers to sexual attraction to adult males, whereas gynephilia refers to sexual attraction to adult females. The manner in which male androphilia manifests varies cross culturally. In many non-Western cultures, male androphiles present publically in a highly feminine manner and self-identify as neither men, nor women, but rather as a third gender. These individuals are often referred to as transgender male androphiles, that is, feminine male androphiles whose gender identity differs from the one they were assigned at birth.  Research indicates that the transgender form is evolutionarily ancestral to the cisgender (“gay”) form. Two types of transgender male androphilia exist: non-role specialized and role specialized. The latter occurs when special social roles are culturally sanctioned for transgender male androphiles.  Here, we examine what was the ancestral form of transgender male androphilia: the role-specialized form or the non-role specialized form? If it were possible to establish that one form of transgender male androphilia was associated, more often than not, with sociocultural conditions thought to characterize ancestral humans, then this would bolster the conclusion that that particular form of male transgender male androphilia was ancestral. With this issue in mind, we identified 55 transgender societies using the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample, which provides a sample of world societies that reduces the problem of non-independence due to cultural diffusion or common cultural derivation.  Of these 55 transgender societies, 16 had role-specialization and 39 had no role specialization for transgender male androphiles. We then compared these two types of societies for the presence/absence of ancestral sociocultural conditions (e.g., small group size, hunting and gathering lifestyle, animistic religion and egalitarian political system). A binary logistic regression was conducted to test for differences between role structured and non-role structured male transgenderism in the presence/absence of ancestral sociocultural conditions. There was no significant difference between the groups (n = 55, p = 0.27).  Our results suggest that the two forms of transgender male androphilia evolved at approximately the same time. Thus, it appears as if transgender androphilic males filled special social roles soon after this trait emerged. These specialized roles appear to reflect certain activity preferences that characterize androphilic males worldwide regardless of cultural context.

What’s in a look? Examining visual attention patterns of women across the Kinsey scale

Samantha J. Dawson, Katherine M. Fretz, & Meredith L. Chivers

Queen’s University, Canada

The gender difference in the specificity of sexual response has been replicated using a variety of methodologies (genital response measures; viewing-time; pupil dilation). Collectively, these studies find that men tend to discriminate between their preferred and nonpreferred gender (gender-specific) much more than women do (gender-nonspecific). While this gender difference is robust, there is substantial within-gender variation in specificity of sexual response, particularly in women. In fact, recent evidence suggests that women’s sexual responses to preferred and nonpreferred gender cues vary based on the exclusivity of their sexual attractions.

We used eye tracking to examine early and late visual attention biases to preferred and nonpreferred gender cues using a forced attention paradigm. Women differed with respect to the exclusivity of their sexual attractions to male (androphilia) and female (gynephilia) targets. Data from a large sample of women (n = 149) revealed that exclusively (Kinsey 0) and predominantly androphilic (Kinsey 1) women showed a gender-nonspecific pattern of early attention, such that they oriented similarly quickly to their preferred (male) and nonpreferred (female) targets. In contrast, the gynephilic/androphilic (Kinsey 2-4) and predominantly/exclusively gynephilic (Kinsey 5 & 6) women were gender-specific, such that they oriented significantly more quickly toward female targets. For late attention, gender-specific patterns of visual attention were found for androphilic and gynephilic women, such that they spent a significantly greater amount of time looking at their preferred gender during each trial. Intuitively, gynephilic/androphilic women spent similar amounts of time looking at male and female targets. Self-reported attraction to the male and female targets revealed an identical pattern to what was observed for the late attention measure.

These data provide support for the utility of eye-tracking and the forced attention paradigm to detect sexual response patterns that correspond with self-reported attractions in women. The conscious allocation of attention in the forced attention paradigm may represent the guiding process under which women detect, evaluate, and select potential mates (i.e., their sexual orientation).

Sexual fluidity in women and men: What is the relevant time scale?

Lisa M. Diamond

University of Utah, USA


Research over the past decade has produced increasing evidence that both men and women possess a capacity for sexual fluidity, defined as variability in the experience and expression of same-sex and other-sex sexuality over the life course.  Much remains unknown about the phenomenon of sexual fluidity, including the extent of gender differences in fluidity, social and cultural influences on fluidity, and the reasons why some individuals appear to possess a greater capacity for fluidity than others.  Yet in order to tackle any of these questions, we must first ensure that we are adequately assessing, describing, and conceptualizing the phenomenon itself.  During the early years of research on sexual fluidity, any demonstrable change same-sex and other-sex sexuality was taken as evidence of fluidity.  Yet the task now is to understand what types of changes – over what time scales – are most relevant, and whether experiences of sexual fluidity that operate at different temporal levels (moments versus days versus years) represent fundamentally different phenomena with different bases, origins, influences, and implications.  In the present talk, I outline the theoretical importance of this question and I present data from research investigating both day-to-day and long-term patterns of change in the same-sex and other-sex desires, motives, and behaviors of heterosexual, bisexual, and gay/lesbian women and men.

Androgen exposure and sexual orientation: Biomarkers point toward a modified neuroandrogenic theory

Lee Ellis1, Amy Lykins2, Anthony Hoskin3, & Malini Ratnasingam4

Minot State University, USA1

University of New England, Australia2

Idaho State University, Pocatello, USA3

University of Malaysia4

Background Neuroandrogenic theory predicts that sexual orientation is basically determined prior to birth by exposing the brain to varying amounts of androgens.  In essence, the more androgens, the more one prefers females as sex partners, and the less androgens, the more one prefers males.  As a reputed biomarker for prenatal androgen exposure, 2D:4D measures have been used in more than a dozen studies to test this prediction.  Findings have been mixed. 

Purpose. The present study sought additional evidence of prenatal androgenic influences on sexual orientation using a 2D:4D measure of the right hand along with four additional biomarkers of androgen exposure (height, physical strength, muscularity, and athletic ability). 

Methods Self-reported data were obtained from college students in Malaysia (N = 2,058) and the United States (N = 2,511).  The five androgen measures were factor analyzed, resulting in a clear two-factor solution: 2D:4D and adult height forming a bone growth factor and the remaining three traits comprising a muscular coordination factor

Results When males and females were analyzed separately, 2D:4D was usually not significantly correlated with sexual orientation.  In fact, it was the muscular coordination factor rather than the bone growth factor that predicted sexual orientation the best. 

Conclusion Support was found for neuroandrogenic theory, with one important qualification.  To explain this qualification, the theory had to be modified.  This study suggests that prenatal androgens contribute to variations in sexual orientation, but in a more complex manner than has been heretofore articulated. 

There’s something queer about primate sociality: Phenotypic and phylogenetic associations between sociality indicators and same-sex genital interactions across clades

Heitor Fernandes1, Aurelio José Figueredo2, Michael Woodley3, &

Paul Vasey4

Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil1

University of Arizona, Tucson, USA2

Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium3

University of Lethbridge, Canada4

Frequencies of male-male and female-female interactions involving genital contact were compared to frequencies of male-female interactions involving genital contact (relative same-sex genital contact frequency; RSGC) for 53 non-human primate species. Group size, time spent allogrooming, and clique size correlated positively with male RSGC and with female RSGC, and a sociality factor comprising those variable explained ~25% and ~8% of the variance in male and female RSGC, respectively. Analyses using sex-specific sociality indicators presented highly similar results. Phylogenetic comparative analyses indicated RSGC is highly evolutionarily labile, thus none of the correlations aforementioned were significantly affected by phylogenetic inertia, suggesting coevolution of sociality and RSGC. A higher optimum value of male RSGC was identified for catarrhine superfamilies, suggesting increased selection for male RSGC in catarrhines relative to other superfamilies. For females, no specific selection regimes were found for different suborders or superfamilies, suggesting that if directional selection for female RSGC has happened, it was stronger at the family-level or lower. Finally, the Continuous Parameter Estimation Model was used to estimate which species present stronger associations between sociality and male and female RSGC and to guide future studies.

Patterns in group sex as an erotic preference

Katherine Frank

University of Nevada, Las Vegas, USA

Group sex comes in many varieties, yet has been practiced across time and place.  In recent work, I've explored the meanings of group sex around the world using published academic research, memoirs, and journalistic sources, visiting group sex venues, and interviewing individuals who enjoy frequenting bathhouses and sex clubs, swingers’ parties, BDSM events, sex parties, threesomes, “hotwife” scenarios, etc.  Humans engage in group sex for social and cultural reasons, such as to create or destroy bonds, express hierarchies and relationships, and send artistic and political messages.  For some individuals, though, group sex may be a distinct erotic or sexual preference, which leads to some of the questions addressed here:  Is it possible to discern patterns in arousal and motivation across the extensive variation in practice?  Are there psychopathologies involved in a persistent desire for group sex?   What might the underlying biological or psychological bases be for strong preferences for group activity?

The evolution and development of adult sexual plasticity

Matthew S. Grober

Georgia State University, Atlanta, USA

The expression of variable and/or flexible adult sexual phenotypes among the vertebrates is rare.  This is primarily the result of chromosomally/environmentally-induced mechanisms to fix the sexual fates of a variety of tissues at or around the time of birth, because adult discordance of these traits results in greatly reduced fitness. While the constraints that require this coordination to be complete at birth are not well understood, the early organization of sexual phenotype has been demonstrated in the vast majority of vertebrates, is the overwhelming rule for mammal development, and results from constraints imposed by the need to coordinate genital and urinary tract development before birth. Through the study of naturally occurring adult sex change, we have been testing the hypothesis that adult sexual plasticity in vertebrates evolved via a two-step process: 1) escape from early chromosomal or environmental canalization of sexual function; the norm for the vast majority of vertebrate species.  2) the evolution of mechanisms that ‘capture’ the conserved molecular genetic pathways that regulate sexual development in a variety of tissues across the body axis and entrains them to relevant cues from the biotic / abiotic environment. Empirical support for this hypothesis has been generated for both the gonad and external genitalia.  One result of this work that is of interest to the study of human sexuality is the understanding that sexual behavior has been emancipated from a strictly procreative function in a variety of species and for a variety of reasons, but in most cases results in the ability to express a greater than ‘normal’ range of adult sexual behaviors within and between the sexes.  As non-procreative sex can have non-reproductive benefits, the evolution of human sexual variation should take an approach that is not restricted to an analysis of mating success.

Male-bonded dyads in the mona monkeys of Grenada, West Indies: Potential for male bisexual behaviour in primates?

Noëlle Gunst, Jean-Baptiste Leca, & Paul L. Vasey

University of Lethbridge, Canada

In some gregarious primate species, dispersing males may join all-male groups for variable periods of time. Although all-male group members lack breeding opportunities, they may benefit from a social environment in which maturing males can develop their social skills and a potential for bisexual activity. The free-ranging mona monkeys (Cercopithecus mona) of Grenada are known to form small all-male groups in which long-term and strongly bonded adult male dyads engage in affiliative and homosexual behaviour. We present preliminary data on the frequency and form of social and socio-sexual interactions within such male dyads, including intense and bidirectional grooming and playing sequences, tail-twining, and genital touching. Such a high level of tolerance among adult males contrasts with the competitive and aggressive interactions characteristic of primate males. Research on social, socio-sexual, and homosexual behaviour in all-male groups of primates may shed light on the mechanisms and evolution of male bisexuality in humans.

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence: Is homosexuality universal?

Raymond Hames1, Zachary Garfield2, & Melissa Garfield2

University of Nebraska, Lincoln, USA1

Washington State University, Vancouver, USA2

In nation states male homosexuality is always found at rates between about 2-4% of the population (LeVay, 2011). And given homosexuality appears to have a variety of biological foundations it seems reasonable to hypothesize that homosexuality is a human universal. However, cross-cultural surveys casts significant doubt on universality. Broude and Green (1976) published data on homosexuality in the 186 society Standard Cross Cultural Sample of the HRAF.  In variable 8 “Attitude toward homosexuality” they found 5 societies of 42 (11.9% of their sample) in which there was no concept of homosexuality.  In variable 19 “Frequency of Homosexuality” homosexuality was coded as rare or absence in  41 of 70 societies (58% of their sample). Our goal is to reexamine the HRAF sample of societies used by Broude and Green to determine whether in those five societies where no concept of homosexuality is purported to exist is accurate and to crucially distinguish between absent and rare in the other 41 societies. By way of background, the SCCS is the most frequently used sample of societies employed by cross-cultural researchers to investigate patterns of behavior and cultural beliefs.  To a large extent it is a sample of mostly non-WEIRD societies (sensu Henrich et al., 2010). In developing the SCCS, Murdock and White (1969) selected societies to reduce the probability that they are descended from a common recent ancestor or have had an opportunity for cultural diffusion. This is done to maximize sample statistical independence (or to deal with “Galton’s Problem”). This sample scheme allows one to assume that commonalities among societies are not likely the consequence of a shared cultural origin or diffusion through cultural contact, thus representing independently developed patterns of behavior. To retest Broude and Green’s results we examined research reports currently outside of the official HRAF data and reports on SCCS societies published after Broude and Green’s 38 year old survey.  Although our research is ongoing, we have found that in 4 of the 5 societies coded “No concept of homosexuality”, 4 of them have a concept of homosexuality.  More importantly, in the 41 societies where homosexuality was coded as rare or absent, our re-examination reveals it is present in at least 27 of those societies.  We conclude by discussing inherent problems faced by researchers in documenting homosexual behavior in non-western societies and the even greater problem in documenting forms of homosexuality. 

Autopedophilia: Evidence for erotic target location errors in pedohebephilic men

Kevin J. Hsu & J. Michael Bailey

Northwestern University, USA

Erotic target location errors (ETLEs) are a useful but underappreciated conceptualization of paraphilias that involve locating preferred erotic targets within one’s own body, or internalizing external erotic targets. Individuals with such paraphilias are sexually aroused by impersonating their preferred erotic targets either through fantasy or modifications to their body, dress, or behavior. For instance, autogynephilia is a paraphilia in which a man is sexually aroused by the thought or image of himself as a woman, and it often manifests in erotic cross-dressing. Because women are the preferred erotic targets of most men, autogynephilia is the most common form of ETLE and is thus the clearest and most documented example. As preliminary evidence for further wide-ranging validity of ETLEs, Freund and Blanchard (1993) observed several pedophilic men who, in addition to their sexual attraction to children, were also sexually aroused by dressing as children or fantasizing about being children and having their bodies. The purpose of the present study was to examine the extent to which ETLEs exist among pedohebephilic men, who have a strong and recurrent attraction to prepubescent and/or pubescent children. In an Internet survey of pedohebephilic men, we found that autopedophilia, which we use to describe sexual arousal to the idea of being a child, characterized a majority of the men recruited. In addition to asking about their fantasies and experiences related to autopedophilia, we also asked about those related to other ETLEs such as autogynephilia and about other relevant aspects of their sexuality and personality. Findings will be reported and discussed. The results of the study will lend insight into ETLEs among pedohebephilic men and have implications for the concept of ETLEs as a whole.

Gender-specificity of women’s genital responses varies with stimulus order

Jackie Huberman & Meredith Chivers

Queen’s University, Canada

Women who are exclusively androphilic (i.e., sexually attracted to men) tend to exhibit similar genital responses to sexual stimuli depicting their preferred gender compared to their nonpreferrend gender (gender-nonspecific). Gender-specificity of women’s genital responses has been studied using vaginal photoplethysmography (VPP), with comparisons made to men’s gender-specific genital responses, typically assessed with penile plethysmography (PPG). One limitation to using these measures of genital response is that they use different scales, making it difficult to draw direct gender comparisons. Data we have presented elsewhere demonstrated gender-specificity of men’s genital responses, assessed with thermography. The purpose of the current study was to examine the degree of gender-specificity of women’s genital responses, assessed with thermography, and to evaluate whether these responses were consistent with concurrently-assessed VPP responses.

We presented androphilic women (n = 28) with 10-minute audiovisual stimuli depicting: a) men or women masturbating, b) a nonsexual nature film, and c) women or men masturbating. We counterbalanced the order of presentation of the two sexual films across participants, which allowed for the examination of a potential stimulus order effect on women’s sexual responses. Participants reported feelings of sexual arousal during each film and genital responses were assessed with thermography and VPP. Surprisingly, we found that women’s genital responses varied by order of stimulus presentation. Genital responses to the male sexual stimulus were greater when this stimulus was presented first rather than second - this effect was significant for VPP and at a trend-level for thermography. Responses to the neutral and female sexual stimulus, however, did not significantly vary by stimulus order. Despite the effect of stimulus order on genital responses to the male sexual stimulus, we found that women’s genital responses were not significantly gender-specific for either stimulus order. By comparison, women’s self-reported sexual arousal was gender-nonspecific, with no effect by stimulus order. Our findings provide converging evidence of women’s gender-nonspecific genital responses and suggest that a contextual factor (order of stimulus presentation) may influence women’s genital responses to their preferred gender. These results fit with a limited body of research suggesting that contextual factors may influence women’s sexual responses. Implications and important future directions will be discussed.

The impact of voluntary castration on the sexual attractions, fantasies, and relationships of men

Robyn Jackowich1, Thomas Johnson2, Ariel Handy3, &

Richard Wassersug4

Queen’s University, Canada1

California State University, Chico, USA2

University of British Columbia, Canada3

La Trobe University, Australia4

We surveyed natal males, who had been voluntarily castrated, about their preferred (or “target”) gender(s) for sexual attraction, fantasy, and relationships. We also investigated whether there were changes in their frequency of sexual activity and the gender(s) to which they were sexual attracted, fantasized about, and had sexual relations before versus after their castration.  A questionnaire posted on www.eunuch.org yielded data on individuals, who were voluntarily castrated either physically (n=198) or chemically (n=96). Respondents were asked to report retrospectively on their sexuality six months to a year both before and after castration.

The majority of respondents did not report any change in preferred gender(s) in their sexual attractions (65%, n=181), fantasies (62%, n=169), or relationships (66%, n=163). However, some respondents did report changes. Specifically, 76 (27%) participants reported a change in the gender to which they were attracted, 82 (30%) fantasized about, and 57 (23%) who they had sexual relations with.

A subset of this data was analyzed for patterns of either diversification (such as going from preferring “only males” to “mostly males”) or decreases (or narrowing) in preferred gender(s) after castration. The greatest amount of diversification was seen in the areas of attraction (63%; 29 out of 46 analyzed responses) and fantasies (58.8%; 30 out of 51 analyzed responses). The greatest amount of decrease was found in relationships (43.6%; 17 out of 39 analyzed responses). For example, some respondents who were attracted to, or fantasized about, “only females” prior to castration indicated preferring “mostly females” after castration. Similarly, some respondents, who were attracted to or fantasized about “mostly males”, prior to castration shifted to “only males” after castration.

A small portion of individuals also claimed to have changed to being non-sexual; i.e., 22 (8%) became attracted to no-one, 21 (8%) fantasized about no-one, and 27 (11%) have sexual relationship with no-one. In sum castration may alter the gender preference(s) in sexual attraction, fantasy and relationship for approximately a third of men who voluntarily undertake the procedure.

The empirical status of the preparation hypothesis of female genital responses

Martin L. Lalumière & Megan L. Sawatsky

University of Ottawa, Canada

Research, both in our lab and in others, has revealed that women’s genital responses are strongly affected by the presence of sexual cues (versus non-sexual cues), but that specific sexual cues (e.g., gender cues) often have little impact on the magnitude of the responses. In addition, women’s genital responses (often measured with vaginal photoplethysmography) do not strongly correspond with self-reported partner and activity preferences in most studies. Measures of genital responses, therefore, would not be good indicators of gender sexual preferences or other sexual preferences. This represents a sort of puzzle, especially considering that men’s genital responses are highly affected by specific sexual cues and correspond strongly to stated preferences (in most context). One hypothesis to explain female low cue-specificity and low concordance is the preparation hypothesis: Women’s indiscriminant genital responses serve a protective function, to prepare the vaginal lumen for possible sexual activity and therefore prevent injuries that may occur as a result of penetration. In this presentation we will review evidence for and against this hypothesis, especially in light of recent findings showing cue-specificity in women using particular stimuli and using new measures of sexual responses.

Female bisexual behavior in Japanese macaques: A Kinsey scale for monkeys?

Jean-Baptiste Leca, Noëlle Gunst, & Paul L. Vasey

University of Lethbridge, Canada

Background: Although bisexual behavior occurs in various animal taxa, the existence of bisexual attraction is poorly understood. This may be due to the lack of longitudinal studies of sexual behaviors in non-human animals. The free-ranging Arashiyama group of Japanese macaques located around Kyoto city, Japan, is an ideal non-human primate population for studying bisexuality because females in this group routinely exhibit heterosexual and homosexual behavior over their lifespans.

Questions: What is the prevalence of bisexual behavior in the female Japanese macaques living in this group? What are their degrees of bisexuality on a Kinsey scale of sexual orientation? What are the temporal patterns of female sexual preference for males and females, within and across mating seasons? How can we explain such variation?

Methods: We conducted a longitudinal analysis of heterosexual solicitations (N = 2,653), homosexual solicitations (N = 421), heterosexual consortships (N = 2,329), and female homosexual consortships (N = 1,227) involving 137 sexually active females from this group. These behavioral data were collected on a daily basis, over 12 consecutive mating seasons (2000-2012), and for a total of 1,275 days of observation.

Results: We found that 82% of the long-term sampled females were bisexual (i.e. they showed heterosexual and homosexual behaviors at some point in their lives), whereas only 18% were exclusively heterosexual. None were exclusively homosexual or asexual. Although most females show low degrees of bisexuality (33% scored 1 on the Kinsey scale), a substantial proportion show various higher degrees of bisexuality (20%, 17%, 7%, and 5% scored 2, 3, 4 and 5, respectively). Most females changed preferences back and forth for male and female partners, across and within mating seasons. We found that 63% of females showed homosexual behavior (with or without heterosexual behavior) across several mating seasons. A multivariate analysis revealed a significant contribution of the following female attributes in explaining the occurrence of female homosexual behavior: age, duration of oestrus, parity, dependent offspring, and dominance.

Conclusions: In the Arashiyama macaques, female homosexual behavior was primarily expressed in the context of bisexual behavior. Bisexuality was the main sexual orientation of females in this group as the majority of females scored as Kinsey 1-5. Homosexual behavior may not be costly in terms of reproductive success given that all females that engage in homosexual behavior are bisexual. The females’ homosexual behavior was, at least partially, explained by life history, social, and physiological variables.  We address our results in the light of female sexual fluidity.

Measuring sexual attraction with invisible images

Marie-Andrée Légère, Megan Sawatsky, & Martin L. Lalumière

University of Ottawa, Canada

Background: Explicit measures for assessing sexual attractions, such as physiological measures and questionnaires, have some limitations. Most importantly, participants can fake their sexual interest. Implicit measures may remedy these limitations. Because participants are not consciously aware of what is being tested, implicit measures can override the expectations of what they should answer in terms of sexual attraction. Jiang et al. (2006) used an implicit measure, the interocular suppression paradigm, for assessing sexual attraction. They found that heterosexual men where better at identifying the orientation of an item after the presentation of an invisible female picture and were worst at this task after the presentation of an invisible male picture.

Research Questions: The purpose of this study is to replicate the study of Jiang et al. (2006). Because it has not been replicated, it is important to determine if the paradigm of binocular rivalry can provide a valid measure of sexual attraction.

Method: An interocular suppression paradigm was used. Sixteen heterosexual men looked through a stereoscope at a pair of high contrast dynamic noise patches (presented to the dominant eye) and a picture (naked men or women) and its scrambled control (presented to the non-dominant eye). Because of interocular suppression, the image and its scrambled control remained invisible. Participants had to indicate the orientation of an item (tilted 1° clockwise or 1° counterclockwise) presented at the location of the image or its scrambled control. There were 128 trials. The session ended with a questionnaire assessing sexual attraction.

Results: Participants showed a positive attentional effect, in which they were better at identifying the item orientation after a presentation of a woman. However, they did not show the expected negative attentional effect, in which they should have been less accurate at identifying the item orientation after a presentation of a man.

Conclusion: We partly replicated the results of Jiang et al. (2006). Heterosexual men seem to be attracted to invisible images of women and thus perform better on an attentional task.

Implication: A valid and reliable method to implicitly measure sexual attraction has both academic and practical significance. For example, this method may be used to measure the sexual interests of persons who may have reasons not to disclose their sexual attraction, for example, sexual offenders.

Assessing sexual orientation and category specificity in a representative sample of 2,500 United States adults

Richard Lippa

California State University, Fullerton, USA

Using Qualtrics Panels—a professional service that obtains random and representative survey samples—we are administering an online survey to 2,500 adult (age 18 or older) male and female residents of the U.S. The survey includes demographic measures; self-report measures of sexual orientation; attitude, interest, and personality scales; and self-report and behavioral measures of sexual category specificity (self-reported sexual attraction to and viewing times to male and female swimsuit models). The resulting data will provide new information about the prevalence of various sexual orientations—as assessed by self-reported sexual identity, self-reported sexual attractions, and behavioral viewing time measures—in a representative sample of Americans, and they will provide new information about the consistency of different measures of sexual orientation in a broad and representative sample of American adults. The data will also permit an examination of factors that may be related to the category specificity of sexual attraction—such as sex and sexual orientation—in broader and more representative samples than have been studied in the past. Finally, the data will permit analyses that explore whether demographic factors such as age, ethnicity, religiousness, education level, and state of residence are related to measures of sexual orientation and to measures of the category specificity of sexual attraction.

Overachieving and striving to avoid inferiority in gay men

Ryan Mallard, Lanna Petterson, & Paul Vasey

University of Lethbridge

It has been suggested that gender conforming androphilic males go into an ‘overachiever’ mode as a means to compensate for their atypical sexual orientation, which is often stigmatized. We tested two hypotheses to determine: 1) whether androphilic males overachieve compared to gynephilic males, and 2) whether ‘overachieving’ varies between androphilic males as a function of masculinity and femininity.

All data were collected on the social networking site Facebook. Biographical information was collected and Kinsey scores were used to determine sexual orientation. Masculinity and femininity were determined using the Lippa Hobby Scale and the Childhood Gender Identity Subscale. Overachieving was assessed in terms of two goal-oriented styles: Performance-Goal orientation and Growth-Seeking Goal orientation.  Performance-Goal oriented individuals are concerned with extrinsic validation and approval. In contrast, Growth-Goal oriented individuals are concerned with intrinsic reward. We assessed Performance-Goal orientation using three subscales including the Validation-Seeking subscale, the Insecure Striving subscale, and Brief Fear of Negative Evaluation scale. We assessed Growth Seeking Goal orientation using the Growth-Seeking subscale. None of the hypotheses were supported. Consequently, if androphilic males are ‘overachieving,’ it is for reasons beyond what was considered in this research.

From top to bottom: Assessing the debut, construction, and mutability of anal penetrative orientation of gay and bisexual men

David A. Moskowitz

New York Medical College, USA

There has been a dramatic increase in scientific understanding of the receptive and insertive anal sex behaviors of gay and bisexual men. While initially framed as a key behavioral variable impacting the likelihood of HIV infection, secondary research has revealed that men readily identify as their anal penetrative orientation (i.e., if insertive only, a “top”; if receptive only, a “bottom”; or if willing to be both insertive and receptive, a “versatile”). Gay men’s labeling as a top, bottom, or versatile has been referred to in the literature as their sexual self-identity and/or sexual self-label. Pockets of research have identified contributing factors to whether men identify in a specific way. Penis size and other body attributes, adult gender typicality, anodyspareunia, facial cues and movement, and race (to name a few) have separately been shown to correlate with the sexual self-label. However, as a function of these studies being produced through secondary analyses of other primary research (i.e., usually HIV/STD research), these variables could reveal only independent snapshots of how sexual self-identity might be related.

This current research treats the sexual self-identity as the primary dependent variable and includes all the constructs identified by previous research as influential, in an attempt to create an all-encompassing quantitative model for top, bottom, and versatile orientation. Factors that contribute to identity-behavior concordance or discordance are also integrated. Additionally, the study expands on what is known on the development of the sexual self-identity. It tests whether some (or all) of the top/bottom/versatile labels are self-acknowledged alongside men’s recognition of their same-sex arousal (e.g., during childhood or adolescence) or rather, are a function of sexual experience. It will try to assess if the relationship of childhood and adolescent gender typicality is as impactful over or predictive of sexual self-label as adulthood gender typicality. Finally, this cross sectional research asks men’s attitudes regarding the mutability of their sexual self-identities and how integral labels are to men’s understanding of their minority sexual orientation.

This work hopes to establish at what point gay or bisexual men become bottoms, versatiles, or tops, why they orient as such, and most importantly, whether anal penetrative role shows markers of innateness.

Indicators of depression and anxiety and their relationship with sexual orientation among Canadian women

Lanna J. Petterson1, Doug P. VanderLaan2, Tonje Persson3,

& Paul L. Vasey1

University of Lethbridge, Canada1

University of Toronto, Canada2

Concordia University, Canada3

Previous research has indicated that lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals report more negative mental health outcomes compared to heterosexual individuals. Specifically, these individuals tend to report symptoms of depression and anxiety more frequently than heterosexual individuals. While sexual orientation differences for depression and anxiety have been consistently reported among men, several studies have indicated that no such differences may exist between lesbian and heterosexual women. Rather, for women, bisexuality may be associated with a higher risk of depression and anxiety than both heterosexuality and lesbianism. Given that the associations between women’s sexual orientation and mental health have varied, the current study investigated how women’s sexual orientation may influence their mental health outcomes. The current study examined two competing models in a non-clinical sample of Canadian women (N = 287). The first model predicted that women who reported bisexual attraction would endorse more indicators of depression and anxiety compared to women who reported lesbian and heterosexual attraction. The second model predicted that women who reported relatively greater same-sex attraction would endorse more indicators of depression and anxiety compared to women who report heterosexual attraction. Consistent with model one, bisexuality predicted more indicators of depression and anxiety than heterosexuality and lesbianism. These findings suggest that bisexuality in women may be associated with higher risk of depression and anxiety than monosexuality. Future research may benefit from exploring risk factors potentially unique to the mental health of bisexual women. 

Epigenetic mechanisms of pleasure and bonding: The confederacy of opioids, oxytocin, vasopressin, and dopamine

James G. Pfaus1, Amanda Holley1,2, Gonzalo Quintana Zunino1,

Tamara Cibrían-Llanderal3, & Genaro A. Coria-Avila3

Concordia University, Canada1

University of Texas at Austin, Austin, USA2

Universidad Veracruzana, México3

First experiences with sexual pleasure sensitize Pavlovian and operant associations between sexual incentive cues (both contextual and discrete) and the behaviors that induce the pleasure, leading to a crystallization of sexual and social partner preferences. In both “monogamous” prairie voles and “promiscuous” rats, these early experiences activate a cascade of neurochemical events, starting with opioid release (pleasure) that produces epigenetic changes in oxytocin, vasopressin, and dopamine neurons (bonding, excitation, and wanting, respectively), making them more susceptible to activation by specific contexts associated with sexual arousal, and specific discrete partner-related cues associated with pleasure.  Here we describe the results of several key experiments showing how this cascade unfolds in female and male rats, how it can be modified by experiences that activate D2 dopamine receptors, blocked completely by opioid receptor antagonists, and how it is dependent on demethylation produced by flavin-dependent monoamine oxidase (which demethylates mono- and di-methylated lysines).  Mechanisms linking mu opioid receptor binding to the sensitization of dopamine neurons and activation of the CD-38 gene within oxytocin and vasopressin neurons (critical for oxytocin and vasopressin synthesis and release) are discussed and placed into a neuroanatomical framework that links hypothalamic, limbic, and cortical activation. This “confederacy” creates a hierarchy of cues and behaviors during early experience with sexual pleasure that controls the development of both social and sexual partner preferences.

Global evidence for the kin selection hypothesis based on the individual and household characteristics of parents

Eduard Playà González1, Lucio Vinicius1, &

Paul Vasey2

University College of London, UK1

University of Lethbridge, Canada2

The Kin Selection Hypothesis (KSH) posits that homosexuality can be maintained in a population as long as the cost of not reproducing can be offset by the benefit of supporting kin. Consistent evidence for this hypothesis has been provided by studies in Samoa, but research in other cultures (i.e. the US, the UK, Japan, and Canada) has failed to garner empirical support. Factors such as individualism, geographical dispersion of families, and homophobia have been considered to possibly interfere with the willingness to help kin. While tests of the KSH have traditionally focused on identifying avuncular tendencies in homosexual males, the present study focused on assessing the attitude of parents, particularly those with a greater need for alloparental support. Under certain circumstances, these parents will aim to maximize contact with potential helpers at the nest, whether kin or not. The parental attitudes and circumstances that are likely to increase contact with homosexuals were of particular interest in this investigation.

An analysis of data from 58 countries (the World Values Survey, 2010-2014) indicates that attitudes towards homosexuality tend to be more positive as the potential need for alloparental support increases. Therefore, this study provides circumstantial evidence suggesting that a greater need for alloparental support increases the contact with homosexuals. Research demonstrates that attitudes towards homosexuality are strongly associated with degree of contact with homosexuals (Herek and Glunt, 1993; Pettigrew & Tropp, 2006; Smith et al., 2009).

Variables such as marital status and number of children have been used to identify the best fitting model. Among parents with a mid-low financial situation, single parents are especially expected to be in need of alloparental care. Results show that these parents, in particular, have more positive attitudes towards homosexuals. Moreover, when introducing a parenting style variable in the model, the outcome indicates that the more children single parents have, the more positive their views are of homosexuality.

The present study is consistent with the predictions generated by the KSH and suggests that kin selection may be responsible, in part, for the evolution of genes associated with same-sex sexual attraction.

Sexual arousal: The correspondence of eyes and genitals

Gerulf Rieger1, Brian Cash2, Sarah Merrill2, James Jones-Rounds2,

Sanjay Dharmavaram2, & Ritch Savin-Williams2

University of Essex, UK1

Cornell University, USA2

Men’s, more than women’s, sexual responses may include a coordination of several physiological indices in order to build their sexual arousal to relevant targets. Here, for the first time, genital arousal and pupil dilation to sexual stimuli were simultaneously assessed. These measures corresponded more strongly with each other, subjective sexual arousal, and self-reported sexual orientation in men than women. Bisexual arousal is more prevalent in women than men. We therefore predicted that if bisexual-identified men show bisexual arousal, the correspondence of their arousal indices would be more female-typical, thus weaker, than for other men. Homosexual women show more male-typical arousal than other women; hence, their correspondence of arousal indices should be stronger than for other women. Findings, albeit weak in effect, supported these predictions. Thus, if sex-specific patterns are reversed within one sex, they might affect more than one aspect of sexual arousal. Because pupillary responses reflected sexual orientation similar to genital responses, they offer a less invasive alternative for the measurement of sexual arousal.

A physiological manifestation of homonegativity and its relationship to affective states

Lesley Roberts & Melanie Morrison

University of Saskatchewan, Canada

Homonegativity is a multidimensional construct that encompasses the negative affective, cognitive, and behavioural responses directed towards individuals presumed, correctly or incorrectly, to be gay or lesbian. Previous research has demonstrated that homonegativity may also manifest itself physiologically. For example, one study found that men who scored higher on measures of homonegativity responded with greater sexual arousal to gay male sexual stimuli than men who scored lower. The authors suggested that the arousal patterns observed in this study might have resulted from homonegativity functioning in an ego-defensive-type manner. It has been suggested that the ego-defensive function is the most affectively laden function of homonegativity, one that is likely accessible through psychophysiological means. Given that the affective component of homonegativity is relatively understudied compared to the cognitive and behavioural, the purpose of the current study was to examine a physiological manifestation of homonegativity and its association to affective responses and attitudinal functions of homonegativity (i.e., ego-defensiveness) that are more explicit in nature.

Perceiving sexual orientation from minimal cues

Nicholas Rule

University of Toronto, Canada

People show remarkable accuracy and efficiency in determining others’ race, sex, and age from visual and aural cues. One quality shared by these particular social categories, however, is that the cues that differentiate them tend to be perceptually obvious. In this talk, I will present a body of research showing that people are also able to distinguish social category information that is not as obvious; namely, sexual orientation. I will therefore present data illustrating how men’s and women’s sexual orientation can be accurately perceived from minimal cues in their nonverbal behaviour and appearance.  I will begin by reporting on the legacy of efforts to test whether the lay notion of “gaydar” has empirical credibility and then zero in on recent work showing that even photos of pairs of eyes provide sufficient information to judge sexual orientation more accurately than chance guessing. I will then present data from a series of studies investigating the basic perceptual and cognitive processes underlying the accuracy of judging sexual orientation and how individual and group-based (e.g., cultural) differences may moderate this accuracy. Finally, I will expound upon some of the implications for these judgments and how they affect thought, behaviour, and action in the real world.

Genetics of sexual orientation

Alan Sanders

NorthShore University HealthSystem Research Institute, USA

Sexual orientation appears genetically complex, with important genetic and environmental factors, as consistently shown in family and twin studies.  I will review these aspects, for both males and females, and then continue on to molecular studies – linkage and association.  Linkage studies for male sexual orientation have gradually increased in size and scope since 1993, and the most recent round taken in context with previous work shows two main linkage peak regions – on pericentromeric chromosome 8 and the long-discussed chromosome Xq28.  However, linkage studies tend to map broad linkage regions, containing dozens to hundreds of genes, and to refine gene mapping further, association studies are needed.  Limited candidate gene association studies have been performed, but without firm conclusions, as is typical in the field for complex genetic conditions.  However, genome-wide association studies (GWAS) are now beginning to come out on the trait, for both sexes, and hold some promise for identification of genes contributing to variation in sexual orientation.  Likely, given the experience with such approaches in complex genetics, such findings may take large sample sizes. I will discuss the current state of the field, including our own GWAS at the meeting.

The sexual/romantic continuum: Mostly straight and mostly gay young men

Ritch C. Savin-Williams

Cornell University, USA

In contradistinction to the traditional tripartite categorical conception of sexuality, this presentation imagines a sexual/romantic continuum perspective. Specifically, two points along the continuum, mostly straight (Kinsey 1s) and mostly gay (Kinsey 5s), were targeted. Previous empirical research on mostly straights revealed physiological, behavioral, and psychological evidence for its existence and prominence as the second most populated point along a sexual/romantic continuum. Research on mostly gays is more sparse and controversial, especially regarding its viability. Empirical evidence derived from four unique samples with a mixture of physiological, survey, and interview cross-sectional and longitudinal methodologies addressed the sustainability of MS and MG continuum points. Self-reported Kinsey 1s (N = 56) and Kinsey 5s (N = 66) were the research participants. Physiological (genital arousal, pupil dilation) results weakly distinguished MS and MG from neighboring continuum points, although all data were in the expected direction (e.g., MGs more attracted to females than Gays). Based on survey and interview data, both MS and MG groups were composed of three “types” of individuals. One was false positives: individuals who reported a MS or MG sexual orientation but indicated all current sexual attraction, fantasy, infatuation, genital contact, and romance were toward the opposite sex (MS) or same sex (MG). These straight and gay individuals identified as nonexclusive because they embraced queer politics, misunderstood terms, found their nonpreferred sex aesthetically pleasing, recalled previous behavior, or were influenced by their traditional culture. A second was singular oriented: individuals who indicated a romantic or sexual (but not both) interest in their nonpreferred sex.  A third was dual oriented: individuals with a small degree of both sexual and romantic interest in their nonpreferred sex. No participant was currently in a sexual or romantic relationship with their nonpreferred sex. Evidence for a sexual/romantic continuum was strong regarding psychological and behavioral indicators but weaker for physiological assessments.

Vaginal lubrication: A cue-specific sexual response in women?

Megan L. Sawatsky1,  Samantha J. Dawson2,  & Martin L. Lalumière1

University of Ottawa, Canada1

Queen’s University, Canada2

Several studies have documented that women’s genital responses are not strongly associated with sexual partner preferences, and that specific sexual cues (e.g., gender) have little affect on response magnitude. Most studies documenting women’s low genital response cue-specificity have assessed changes in vaginal blood flow using vaginal photoplethysmography (VPP). Based on the premise that increased vaginal blood flow corresponds with increased vaginal lubrication, the preparation hypothesis proposes that women respond genitally to almost any sexual cue because of the high cost of not becoming lubricated should vaginal penetration occur (i.e., injury to the reproductive tract). The purpose of this study was to test the preparation hypothesis using VPP and a new measure of vaginal lubrication, called a litmus test strip (LTS; Dawson, Sawatsky, & Lalumière, under review). The LTS measures lubrication at the introitus in mm (i.e., mm of color change on the litmus paper).

Female participants (17 androphilic, 3 andro-gynephilic) were presented with a series of sexual and nonsexual film clips. Participants rated their sexual arousal throughout each film while their genital responses were assessed using VPP and LTS. Actor gender and activity intensity (i.e., solitary masturbation, coupled sex) varied across the sexual films.

Replicating previous research, we found that genital responses assessed with VPP were similar across different sexual stimuli (low cue-specificity). A different pattern was observed for the LTS: Among the heterosexual participants lubrication was greater for stimuli depicting male-female sex (M = 19.02, SD = 10.75) compared to all other sexual stimuli (M = 13.11, SD = 5.83), g = 0.59, 95% CI [0.22, 1.03], and nonsexual stimuli (M = 13.34, SD = 7.62), g = 0.55 [0.08, 1.09]. When considering the preferred sexual stimulus of all 20 women (i.e., the film that elicited the highest rating of self-reported sexual arousal), we found that lubrication was greater for the preferred sexual stimulus (M = 18.91, SD = 9.50) compared to all other sexual stimuli (M = 13.89, SD = 5.89), g = 0.50 [0.22, 0.82]. This is one of the first studies to demonstrate genital response cue-specificity for women.

These findings are inconsistent with the preparation hypothesis, which predicts that vaginal lubrication should be produced in response to almost any sexual cue, regardless of sexual preference. It is possible that vaginal blood flow is an initial, low-cost physiological response and that lubrication is only produced when the possibility of sexual activity is high (e.g., when feeling sexually aroused, experiencing sexual activity).

Occupation preferences among Samoan men, women, and fa’afafine

Scott W. Semenyna & Paul L. Vasey

University of Lethbridge, Canada

Previous research has established sex differences in occupational preferences as being both substantial, and cross-culturally universal. Data also indicate that androphilic (i.e. homosexual) males tend to display a ‘gender-inversion’ in occupational preferences, with interests that are markedly, although not completely, female-typical. In Samoa, androphilic males occupy a third-gender category, and are known locally as fa’afafine. In order to test the anticipated sex difference, as well as the gender-inversion of occupational preferences among fa’afafine, data were collected from 103 men, 103 women, and 103 fa’afafine. The sex difference in preference was substantial (d = 2.04), even more pronounced than in most Western cultures. Interestingly, women and fa’afafine did not differ in their preferences (p = .89), indicating that a complete gender-inversion of occupational preferences tends to occur among the fa’afafine. The present research corroborates past findings, and adds support for gender-atypical occupational preferences being a cross-culturally invariant aspect of male androphilia.

Dimensions of male asexuality: Sexual interests, behaviors, and arousal patterns

Theodore Semon, Maggie Smith, & Michael Bailey

Northwestern University, USA

Asexual men report experiencing low levels of sexual desire and sexual attraction compared with monosexual (heterosexual and homosexual) men. We investigated several unexplored possibilities that could help explain their self-reports. If asexual men tend to have unusual sexual interests, this could account for their low level of interpersonal sexual desire. Alternatively, asexual men may have sociosexual deficits leading to low levels of sexual satisfaction and interest. Finally, it is possible that asexual men still experience sexual arousal to erotic stimuli; in this case, their objectively measured sexual arousal patterns would not differ from those of monosexual men. We conducted two studies to examine the sexual interests, behaviors, and arousal patterns of asexual men. In the first, we surveyed 144 asexual, 197 heterosexual, and 136 homosexual men on aspects of sexual interests and sociosexual functioning. Asexual men scored significantly higher on a measure of social deficits associated with autism spectrum disorders, and lower on measures of self-perceived mate-value compared to monosexuals. Mixed results were found for associations of asexuality with atypical sexual interests: asexual men reported fewer paraphilic interests in general, but scored significantly higher than monosexual men on a measure of autogynephilia, the propensity to be sexually aroused by the image of oneself as a woman. In the second study, we compared the genital and subjective arousal patterns of 10 asexual, 34 heterosexual, and 31 homosexual men. Asexual men had significantly lower and less differentiated genital responses overall to sexual stimuli compared with monosexual men. Results of these studies demonstrate that asexual men exhibit diminished genital arousal consistent with their reported lack of sexual attraction.

Gaps in what we know about erotic age preferences

Michael Seto

University of Ottawa Institute of Mental Health Research &

Royal Ottawa Health Care Group, Canada

In this talk, I provide a succinct, critical overview of our knowledge about erotic age preferences and identify major gaps to guide future model building and empirical work. Of particular interest is the idea that there is variation in the focus and exclusivity of erotic age preferences, with implications for thinking about erotic age preferences as a form of sexual orientation.

The role of postnatal stress in the relationship between sexual orientation and objective height in the Add Health data

Malvina Skorska & Anthony Bogaert

Brock University, Canada

Studies using both self-reported and objective height have found that gay men are shorter, on average, than straight men. The results are less consistent in women with some studies finding that lesbian women are taller, on average, than straight women, and the majority of others finding that there is no height difference. It has also been found that distortion of self-reported height cannot explain the height difference. Thus, the height difference that has been found in men, and found less consistently in women, has been interpreted in light of the influence of prenatal hormone levels on fetal development. Specifically, given that height is partially determined prenatally, the results found to date on the relationship between sexual orientation and height provide additional support for the notion that decreased levels of prenatal androgens are implicated in the development of gay men, and, to a lesser extent (because of the inconsistency in results for this specific relationship), increased levels of prenatal androgens are implicated in the development of lesbian women. However, given that height is influenced by other factors, and given that sexual orientation is associated with other developmental mechanisms, other potential hypotheses will need to be examined to begin to understand the mechanisms responsible for the sexual orientation and height relationship, particularly in men. Specifically, height is affected by stress postnatally, and there is ample evidence that LGBT individuals experience greater stressors postnatally than straight individuals. This suggests that a possible explanation for the sexual orientation and height relationship is a postnatal one, such that, the relationship between sexual orientation and height may be mediated by stress that occurred postnatally. This study will examine this mediation model using Waves I (n = 12 105), and IV (n = 15 701) of the Add Health data set. This data set contains several stress related variables answered by a cohort of American adolescents in grades seven to twelve. The sample is a nationally representative sample of adolescents that has been followed from 1994 until 2008, through four waves of data. It is predicted that, in men, the relationship between sexual orientation at Wave I (consistent with sexual orientation at Wave IV), and height at Wave IV will at least be partially mediated by various stress and stress outcome measures at Wave I. In women, it is predicted that there will be no relationship between sexual orientation at Wave I, and height at Wave IV, and thus, no mediation will need to be tested. Thus, we expect a postnatal mechanism to partially explain the relationship between sexual orientation and height in men. Through this study, we will gain more insight into the mechanisms that are involved in explaining the sexual orientation and height relationship, particularly in men.

A peek inside a furry convention

Debra W. Soh1 & James Cantor2

York University, Canada1

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health2

Is it really about sex? Is it not? When asked, most people have heard of furries—individuals who express an interest in anthropomorphic animals or creatures. Popular media portray furries and their related interests (e.g., fursuitism and furry erotica) as sexually deviant and sinister; however, they remain a population that has not yet been studied empirically. I attended Furnal Equinox 2014, the largest furry convention in Canada, with 910 attendees, to observe the furry lifestyle through a sexological lens. I aimed to clarify whether fursuitism is truly a paraphilia, amidst a long history of claims from the furry community that it is not. The majority of attendees were young males in costume; a large proportion also identified as LGBT. There were a large variety of animals being represented, including hybrids, with foxes and wolves being the most popular. After speaking with artists, vendors, and many furries themselves, it appears that most furries feel they do not fit into mainstream society. The fandom offers a community in which they feel safe and accepted by other like-minded individuals. Their sexual interests are only one expression of their identity, as would be the case with any euphilic (i.e., non-paraphilic) individual.

Sexual and gender minorities in Mumbai, India

Matthew Stief

Cornell University, USA

Most of what is known about sexual orientation and sexual identity is based on samples of university students living in rich, industrialized, urbanized, and democratic countries – i.e. Western Europe and its colonies, particularly the United States.  Such societies are typically characterized as “individualist” by cultural psychologists and tend to emphasize the preferences, desires, achievements, and independence of the individual, to offer a broad range of choices to the individual, and to make such preferences and choices central organizing principles of personal identity.  Most people alive today, however, and virtually every person that has ever existed, have not lived in such societies.  Most people in most places have been relatively poor, living in relatively small communities, entirely dependent on their extended families for their continued existence, and with a radically restricted range of choices available to them.  In modern India, for example, 68% of the population (840m) are rural, 49% (605m) engage in subsistence agriculture, 37%  (460m) are illiterate, and only 5% (61m) have access to the internet, and approximately 90% of marriages are arranged.  While scientific understanding of sexual orientation, defined as a distribution of psychobiological reactivity to gendered sexual stimuli, has made substantial progress, it remains an important possibility that such differences in developmental environment shape both psychobiological reactivity itself and how they are incorporated into personal identity.  The present study uses viewing time as a covert measure of sexual orientation to look for such differences between sexual identity groups prevalent in the Indian city of Mumbai.

Patterns of non-exclusivity in erotic age interests

Skye Stephens1, Michael C. Seto2, & Alasdair M. Goodwill1

Ryerson University, Canada1

University of Ottawa Institute of Mental Health Research &

Royal Ottawa Health Care Group, Canada2

The sexual response gradient suggests that individuals may have a range of stimuli (organized from most to least) that they find sexually arousing (Seto, Lalumière, & Kuban, 1999). This raises the possibility that some men may be non-exclusive (i.e., showing similar levels of sexual arousal to different stimuli) in their sexual interests. Recent research suggests that this pattern of non-exclusivity is particularly prominent in hebephiles (i.e., those with a sexual interest in pubescent children; Beier et al., 2013) regarding their erotic-age interests. Nonetheless, to date there has been limited research on how non-exclusivity might compare across those with different erotic-age interests and contribute to victim selection in sexual offending.

The present study utilizes a clinical sample of 2,238 men who committed at least one sexual offence against a person. All men were interviewed about their sexual interests and objectively assessed using volumetric phallometry in order to deduce their sexual interests. During phallometric assessment, sexual arousal (i.e., penile blood volume change) is measured in response to depictions of prepubescent, pubescent, and adult males and females. In the present study, the sexual response gradient will be examined in those men who admit to pedophilic and hebephilic sexual interests. A comparison group of teleiophiles will be comprised of those men who admit to sexual interest in fully mature adults and have no child victims.

In order to capture patterns of non-exclusivity in the phallometric data a Gini Index (Lerman & Yitzhaki, 1984) will be calculated. This coefficient measures inequality in values, with a coefficient of zero representing perfect similarity (i.e., values are all the same) or one representing complete dissimilarity. It is hypothesized that hebephiles will have higher levels of dissimilarity in their phallometric results compared to pedophiles and teleiophiles. Further, higher levels of dissimilarity will be correlated with having a greater number of victims in different age categories. Results will be discussed in relation to the assessment of erotic-age interests in sexual offender populations. 

Sexual concordance across the Kinsey: Assessing the relationship between sexual concordance and sexual attractions in women

Kelly D. Suschinsky & Meredith L. Chivers

Queen’s University, Canada

Sexual concordance refers to the relationship between physiological (i.e., genital) and emotional (i.e., self-reported) aspects of sexual arousal.  On average, we see a gender difference in sexual concordance, with men exhibiting a higher degree of synchrony between genital and self-reported sexual arousal (Pearson’s r = .66; Chivers et al., 2010) relative to women (Pearson’s r = .26; Chivers et al., 2010). Although the gender difference in sexual concordance has been documented for decades, we know much less about the substantial variation in sexual concordance amongst women; genital and self-reported sexual responses may correlate strongly and positively, not at all, or even strongly negatively among women across various genital measures (reviewed in Suschinsky et al., 2015).

The within-gender variation in sexual concordance suggests that individual differences may be related to sexual concordance. One relevant individual difference may be sexual preferences, particularly one’s degree of attraction to women. Awareness of arousal likely motivates sexual behavior, and gynephilic (i.e., attracted to women) male individuals who were more aware of their sexual arousal likely had increased reproductive fitness because they secured more sexual partners. Preliminary research indicates that women who are attracted to women may also exhibit relatively higher sexual concordance (Suschinsky et al., 2009; Suschinsky & Lalumière, 2010).

We examined whether sexual concordance varies as a function of sexual attractions in two samples that included exclusively androphilic women (Kinsey 0s), predominantly androphilic women (Kinsey 1s), ambiphilic women (Kinsey 2s through 4s), and predominantly or exclusively gynephilic women (Kinsey 5s and 6s).  Participants were presented with a variety of sexual and non-sexual stimuli (audio-visual for one sample, audio-narratives for the other sample); genital responses were assessed using vaginal photoplethysmography and self-reported sexual arousal was assessed using a keypad. Within-subjects correlations between genital and self-reported sexual arousal were calculated for each participant. Preliminary results indicate that sexual concordance in women varies as a function of sexual attractions, but not sexual identity, in response to audio-visual stimuli.

Disgust and sexual responding to sexual and nonsexual cues

Amanda D. Timmers, Meredith L. Chivers, & Lucas I. Hildebrand

Queen’s University, Canada

The dual control model proposes that sexual response is comprised of an interaction between excitatory and inhibitory processes (Bancroft, Graham, Janssen, & Sanders, 2009). Sexual response is proposed to be a complex negotiation between conflicting processes aiming to avoid risk (e.g., infection, disease) and achieve benefit (e.g., reproductive success), in accordance with evolutionary theory (Gangestad, 2007).  Disgust is an obvious choice as one source of inhibition. To date, however, very little empirical research examining the mechanisms of disgust and its relationship with sexuality, sexual orientation, and sexual response exists (de Jong, van Overveld, & Borg, 2013).  The current study examined the relationship between genital response, continuous self-reported and discrete self-reported sexual arousal, and disgust ratings of men and women with varying degrees of same-gender attraction (exclusively androphilic to exclusively gynephilic) in response to visual and audiovisual sexual and nonsexual stimuli.  Stimuli varied by the gender of the sexual actors portrayed (male, female), the intensity of the sexual activity that was depicted (nude exercise, masturbation, penetrative/oral intercourse), and the sexual potency of the images (clothed men and women engaging in nonsexual activities, unaroused genitals, aroused genitals).  Data are currently undergoing analyses and will be discussed in terms of proximal factors influencing response to preferred and nonpreferred sexual stimuli.

Recent progress in establishing and explaining the link between Gender Dysphoria and Autism Spectrum Disorder in children

Doug P. VanderLaan1, Jonathan H. Leef2, Hayley Wood2,

S. Kathleen Hughes2, & Kenneth J. Zucker2

University of Toronto, Canada1

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Canada2

Gender dysphoria (GD) is characterized by incongruence between the gender assigned at birth and the experienced gender. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterized by deficits in social communication and repetitive and restricted behaviours, interests, and/or activities. Beginning in the late 1990s, a handful of clinical case reports described an apparent link between GD and ASD. Since 2010, a small number of quantitative studies have addressed this issue by examining how frequently these conditions, or traits thereof, co-occur. In addition to summarizing qualitative and quantitative evidence of the GD-ASD link, this presentation will describe two recent studies of GD children conducted in the Gender Identity Service at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Toronto, Ontario. Study 1 examined the prevalence of compulsive/repetitive behaviours and intense/obsessional interests in a large sample of children clinically referred for GD (n = 532; 82% male) vs. three comparison groups: siblings of gender dysphoric children, clinic-referred children, and non-referred children. Based on parent-report, GD children were significantly more likely to show intense/obsessional interests relative to all three comparison groups. GD children were also significantly more likely to show compulsive/repetitive behaviours compared to the sibling and non-referred groups. Study 2 examined parent-reported autistic traits in a sample of 49 children clinically referred for GD (82% male) using the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS), a more comprehensive parent-report measure of ASD traits. Compared to previously published samples of children with ASD, our sample of GD children with clinical-range SRS scores (n = 22) showed less severe ASD traits on average. The remaining GD children (n = 27) showed SRS scores that were consistent with those of unaffected children. Also, clinical-range SRS scores in GD children were associated with a combination of high gender nonconformity on a continuous parent-report measure and high birth weight, the latter being a known ASD risk factor. This triple association appeared to be more pronounced in female children with GD. Together, the findings from Studies 1 and 2 indicate that ASD is key for understanding variation among GD children. They also help hone in on processes that might be responsible for the GD-ASD link. As such, both the theoretical and clinical significance of the GD-ASD link will be discussed.

Are dichotomous male monosexualities WEIRD? Insights from a Polynesia culture

Paul L. Vasey1, Lanna J. Petterson1, Barnaby J. Dixson2,

& Anthony C. Little3

University of Lethbridge, Canada1

University of Queensland, Australia2

University of Stirling, UK3

Vasey lab research on male sexual orientation in Samoa is now entering its second decade. I will briefly review the major findings that have arisen from our first decade of research, emphasizing what we know “for sure,” what we probably know “for sure,” and what findings remains more speculative, but intriguing.

During the remainder of the talk, I will discuss our more recent research on the sexual orientation of men who have sex with feminine/transgendered males, known locally as fa’afafine. In Studies 1, we employed self-report and viewing time (response time latency) measures of sexual attraction to determine the sexual orientation of masculine Samoan men who engage in sexual interactions with fa’afafine compared to: (1) masculine Samoan men who only engage in sexual interactions with women, and (2) fa’afafine. As expected, both measures indicated that masculine men who only engaged in sexual interactions with women exhibited a gynephilic pattern of sexual attraction, whereas fa’afafine exhibited an androphilic one. In contrast, both measures indicated that masculine men who engaged in sexual interactions with fa’afafine demonstrated a bisexual pattern of sexual attraction. In Study 2, we employed self-report and viewing time measures to examine differences in patterns of sexual attraction among: (1) men who only engage in sexual interactions with women, (2) men who engage in sexual activity with feminine males (known locally as fa’afafine) but only receive fellatio, (3) men who both preform and receive fellatio with their fa’afafine sexual partner(s), and (4) fa’afafine, themselves. Our results indicate that these groups are distributed on a scale of sexual attraction ranging from primarily attracted to women to primarily attracted to men, respectively.

Research conducted in WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic) cultures suggests that male sexual orientation is categorical, with most men exhibiting sexual attraction to one sex or the other, but not to both. In contrast, our research, which was conducted in a non-WEIRD culture, suggests that male sexual orientation is a continuous trait, not a categorical one. Furthermore, our research suggests that the capacity for male bisexual attraction and the manner in which it is expressed is influenced by the cultural context in which male sexual orientation develops.

I conclude by briefly discussing our emerging research on Samoan androphilic males that are not fa’afafine.

The X in sex and sexual orientation:

Lessons from animal models

Eric Vilain

University of California, Los Angeles, USA

Klinefelter Syndrome (KS) is the most common sex chromosome aneuploidy in men and is characterized by the presence of an additional X chromosome (XXY). In some Klinefelter males, certain traits may be feminized or shifted from the male-typical pattern towards a more female-typical one. Among them is partner choice, one of the most sexually dimorphic traits in the animal kingdom. We investigated the extent of feminization in XXY male mice (XXYM) in partner preference and gene expression in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis/preoptic area and the striatum in mice from the Sex Chromosome Trisomy model.

We tested for partner preference using a three-chambered apparatus in which the test mouse was free to choose between stimulus animals of either sex. We found that partner preference in XXYM was feminized. These differences were likely due to interactions of the additional X chromosome with the Y. We also discovered genes that differed in expression in XXYM versus XYM. Some of these genes are feminized in their expression pattern. Lastly, we also identified genes that differed only between XXYM versus XYM and not XXM (an engineered XX male mouse carrying the testis determining gene Sry) versus XYM. Genes that are both feminized and unique to XXYM versus XYM represent strong candidates for dissecting the molecular pathways responsible for phenotypes present in KS/XXYM but not XXM. In sum, our results demonstrated that investigating behavioral and molecular feminization in XXY males can provide crucial information about the pathophysiology of KS and may aid our understanding of sex differences in brain and behavior. The role of the X chromosome in sexual orientation will be broadly discussed.

Becoming a eunuch: Motivations for and sexual consequences of voluntary castration in the modern world

Richard J. Wassersug1 & Thomas W. Johnson2

La Trobe University, Australia1

California State University, Chico, USA2

Eunuchs are the oldest recognized gender outside the binary. Historically eunuchs filled special roles in society as government bureaucrats, military officers, religious ascetics, or soprano singers (if castrated before puberty). However the social roles filled specifically by eunuchs of the past no longer exist and there is no convention about how eunuchs today should present in public within the western world. As a result eunuchs are now a “hidden gender”.

Indeed few castrated males in contemporary society accept a "eunuch" identity, which is not surprising in that the label “eunuch” is now largely pejorative. Although most modern day castrations are performed to treat certain cancers, some men, who are otherwise healthy, nevertheless voluntarily seek out genital ablation. They are not male-to-female transsexuals for they desire only emasculation and not feminization. Our research focuses on understanding the motivation for and impact of voluntary castration on contemporary males.

One part of our research has been on factors leading individuals to desire castration. Another part has been on the impact of voluntary castration on male sexuality. That later work is predicated on the fact that historically eunuchs have variously been homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, asexual, and even hypersexual depending on the societies and cultures in which they lived.

Our data on over 350 voluntary eunuchs and over 1300 eunuch "wannabes", who were seeking castration, found that they were: 1) far more likely to have grown up on a working farm than the general population, 2) were much more highly educated than average, 3) likely to have been threatened with castration by an adult during childhood, 4) have very religious parents, and 5) be non-heterosexual.

Our data also suggest that the androgen deprivation associated with voluntary castration may lead to changes in sexuality. A few respondents in our study reported an increase in frequency of sexual activity, while more reported a reduction. More than a quarter, though, reported no change in frequency of sexual activity. With castration there were also changes in the targets of individual sexual interests. Many reporting that their sexual fantasies, attractions, and actual sexual activities involved genders different from what they were before castration. The sexual plasticity that we have observed in castrated males parallels the sexual plasticity more commonly reported in females.

The effect of gonadal hormones on the sexuality of castrated males

Erik Wibowo1, Richard Wassersug2, Ariel Handy3,

& Thomas Johnson4

Vancouver Prostate Centre, Canada1

La Trobe University, Australia2

University of British Columbia, Canada3

California State University, Chico, USA4

Castration in men results in various adverse events and supplemental gonadal hormones can reverse some of these effects. In most cases, androgen deprivation due to pharmacological treatments or an orchiectomy reduces sexual interest and ability. However, some men remain sexually active despite being androgen-deprived. Most notably, examples include some eunuchs in history, prostate cancer patients on androgen deprivation therapy, and some modern day men, who sought voluntarily castration without an explicit medical need.

Studies on mammalian species suggest that, not only testosterone, but also estrogen, may help elevate sexual interest in castrated males. Furthermore, human studies indicate that castrated men, who take supplemental estrogen, are more sexually active than those who do not receive estrogen.

We conducted a survey exploring how the use of hormone therapy—i.e., testosterone (at either replacement level or low dose), estrogen (at high or low dose) or no hormones—influences sexual attraction, fantasy, and relationships of men, who voluntarily elect surgical castration (n = 198; average age = 42.4 ± 13.9 years old). One hundred and eighty four of these individuals answered questions on their sexual attraction, fantasy, and relationships before and after castration. Those receiving a replacement dose of testosterone were more likely to have frequent sexual activity than the other groups (P < 0.05), whereas those without hormone replacement were more likely to ‘never or almost never’ have sexual activity compared to those on either testosterone or estrogen therapy at either low or high dosage (P < 0.05). Those without hormone supplementation are more likely to become non-sexual (10 out of 52 were attracted to no-one and 9 out of 52 fantasize about sex with no-one) compared to those receiving supplemental testosterone or estrogen (P < 0.05).

In sum, castration in males results in many side effects, including various sexual changes. Our data on men, who voluntarily choose surgical castration, suggest that either testosterone or estrogen use may help men preserve some sexual interest and activity.

Sexual fantasy and masturbation among asexual individuals

Morag A. Yule, Lori A. Brotto, & Boris B. Gorzalka

University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Asexuality is defined as lifelong lack of sexual attraction, and 1% of the population self-identify as asexual. Research to date indicates that asexuality is best conceptualized as a sexual orientation. Despite a professed lack of interest in sexual activity, previous research has shown that asexual individuals masturbate at rates similar to sexual individuals. What asexual individuals masturbate to is an important question that has yet to be explored, especially as sexual fantasy is often seen as an indicator of sexual orientation. This study examined quantitative and qualitative measures of sexual fantasy and masturbation in asexual and sexual men and women.

Five hundred forty-six participants (322 self-identified asexual and 224 sexual) completed online questionnaires assessing masturbation and sexual fantasy. Among other measures, participants completed the 62-item Sexual Fantasy Questionnaire (SFQ) and were then given the opportunity to describe in detail any sexual fantasy they had engaged in that was not included on the SFQ. Content analysis was carried out to identify themes and patterns in the qualitative data and these were compared between sexual and asexual participants.

Seventy-one percent of asexual and 95% of sexual participants reported masturbating at least monthly. Thirty-two percent of asexual participants endorsed the item “I have never had a sexual fantasy” compared to 1% of all sexual participants. Eight percent of asexual participants endorsed the item “My sexual fantasies do not involve other people” compared to none of sexual participants. Compared to sexual participants, asexual participants were more likely to complete the qualitative section for “other” sexual fantasies, suggesting that the extensive number of options on the SFQ did not adequately describe their fantasies. Of note, asexual participants often described having sexual fantasies that involve other people, but do not include themselves, that include “romantic” or emotional content rather than sexual content (e.g. “intense cuddling”), or that include fictional characters or people. Themes and patterns of sexual fantasy content described by asexual individuals will be discussed in detail.

That some asexual people do not have sexual fantasies in the same way that sexual people have them might have implications for how we conceptualize asexuality. Non-directed masturbation indicates that masturbation for some asexual people may not arise from intrinsic desire or sexual excitement. The finding that many asexual individuals do have sexual fantasies raises questions about their sexual attractions, and whether they do experience unusual, maybe even paraphilic, attractions. The content of asexual individual’s sexual fantasies will be explored, and implications for what this might mean about how we conceptualize asexuality will be discussed.

About the cover art

Learning How To Use and Control Heat, 1996, Rebecca Anweiler

Triptych on two panels, oil on canvas, 90 cm x 165 cm, City of Toronto Public Collection.

Rebecca Anweiler is a Canadian painter based in Kingston who completed her MFA at Concordia University in Montreal in 2000, and is an honours graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design, receiving numerous awards for her work. She has taught Drawing and Painting at Queen's University for the past 7 years, as well as at the University of Lethbridge, Alberta and Concordia University, Montreal. A recent recipient of both Ontario Arts Council and Canada Council grants, Anweiler's artwork has been exhibited extensively in Toronto and Montreal, and she has paintings in several public collections including the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, the City of Toronto, and the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery.

"Anweiler's art practice involves exposing scientific bias by appropriating historical imagery of animal and human subjects. Using clever visual juxtapositions, Anweiler subverts scientific assertions as well as current assumptions related to themes of sexuality, ecology, and biology. Her seductively rendered paintings are evocative explorations of the photographic image, representation, surface, and illusion."

– Mary Kavanagh, Department of Art, University of Lethbridge, Alberta

About our logo

The Puzzle of Sexual Orientation logo was designed by Lesley Roberts for the 2010 Lethbridge meeting.  It appears throughout this program booklet and on the conference tote bags. The logo is intended to symbolize potential dimensions of sexual orientation including partner sex and age, one’s peak erotic activity, and the target location of one’s erotic interests.