The Erosion of Heterosexuality

Charles W. Socarides, M.D.

A significant portion of society today is of the belief that homosexuality is a normal form of sexual behavior different from, but equal to, that of heterosexuality. Many religious leaders, public officials, educators, social and mental health agencies, including those at the highest level of government, departments of psychiatry, psychology, and mental health clinics have been taken in by a widespread sexual egalitarianism, by accusations of being „undemocratic“ or „prejudiced“ if they do not accept certain assertions thrust upon them; as if deprived of all intellectual capacity to judge and reason. This revolutionary change in our sexual morals and customs has been ushered in by a single act of considerable consequence: the removal of homosexuality from the category of aberrancy by the American Psychiatric Association (1973). It is furthermore a fateful consequence of our disregard for established psychoanalytic knowledge of human sexual behavior.1 
This act was naively perceived by many psychiatrists as the „simple“ elimination of a scientific diagnosis in order to correct injustices. In reality, it created injustices for the homosexual and his family as it belied the truth and prevented the homosexual from seeking and receiving help. At the social, group, and community level, it proved to be the opening phase of a two-phase sexual radicalization: the second phase being the raising of homosexuality to the level of an alternative lifestyle - an acceptable psychosexual institution - alongside heterosexuality as a prevailing norm of behavior. The motive force for this movement was the wish to protect the homosexual against injustices and persecution which could, for all intents and purposes, have been legitimately effected by the demand for equal rights for the homosexual, a demand arising from humanitarian motivations so deeply embedded in our humanistic science. Instead, the false step of removing homosexuality from our manual was substituted. This amounted to a full approval of homosexuality and an encouragement to aberrancy by those who should have known better, both in the scientific sense and in the sense of the social consequences of such removal. To many American psychiatrists, this action remains a chilling reminder that if scientific principles are not fought for they can be lost - a disillusioning warning that unless we make no exceptions to science, we are subject to the snares of political factionalism and the propagation of untruths to an unsuspecting and uninformed public, to the rest of the medical profession, and to the behavioral sciences. The devastating clinical fallout from this decision was to follow. Those who would wish to retain homosexuality as a valid diagnosis have been essentially silenced by lectures, meetings, and publications, both originating within our association and from other sources. Political parties and religious leaders have been ­utilized to reinforce this silence.

The press has been influenced as well as the media; television and movies promote homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle, as well as censor movies which might show homosexuality as a disorder. Homosexual sex education has entered our schools and colleges - and pro-gay activists - homosexual or otherwise - portray their way of life as „normal as apple pie“ and intimidate others with different views. In essence, this movement has accomplished what every other society, with rare exceptions, would have trembled to tamper with: a revision of the basic code and concept of life and biology, that men and women normally mate with those of the opposite sex and not with each other.

This psychiatric nonsense and social recklessness bring with it many individual tragedies, as men and women who no longer care for their appropriate sexual roles create confusion in the very young for generations to come. Gender-identity disturbance is bound to increase and more true homo­sexual deviations result as parents distort the maleness or femaleness of their infants and children. 
Homosexuals who are in therapy have developed tremendous resistance, which retards their progress, while others are dissuaded from seeking appropriate help. Other medical specialists such as pediatricians and internists are baffled by psychiatry‘s folly. Residents in psychiatry have very little interest in going into an area of psychiatric research where they will be attacked, belittled, and demeaned, and their knowledge of sexual development will cease to grow. Above all, however, it is the individual homosexual wishing to change who suffers the most.

Young men and women with relatively minor sexual fears are led with equanimity by some psychiatrists and nonmedical counselors into a self-despising pattern and life­style. Adolescents, nearly all of whom experience some degree of uncertainty as to sexual identity, are discouraged from assum­ing that one form of gender identity is preferable to another. Those persons who already have a homosexual problem are discouraged from finding their way out of self-destructive fantasy - discouraged from learning to accept themselves as male or female, discouraged from all those often painful but necessary courses that allow us to function as reasonable and participating individuals in a cooperating society.
After all, homosexuality cannot make a society or keep one going for very long. It operates against the cohesive elements of society. It drives the sexes in opposite directions, and no society can long endure when either the child is neglected or when the sexes war with each other. Those who reinforce the disintegrating elements in our society will get no thanks from future generations.

Forces whose spokesmen adamantly insist that homosexuality is an alternative lifestyle have not been stopped by appeals to tradition, enlightened self-interest, or even the established findings of psychoanalysis. Threats about what would happen to society do not have much effect: nobody considers himself society‘s guardian. The average citizen says he doesn‘t quite know what these social interests are, and, after all aren‘t personal decisions about sex a private matter? The answer to that question, contrary to popular opinion, is NO.

Psychoanalysis reveals that sexual behavior is not an arbitrary set of rules set down by no-one-knows-who for purposes which no one understands. Our sexual patterns are a product of our biological past, a result of man‘s collective experience in his long biological and social evolutionary march. They make possible the cooperative coexistence of human beings with one another. At the individual level, they create balance between the demands of sexual instinct and the external realities surrounding each of us. Not all cultures survive - the majority have not - and anthropologists tell us that serious flaws in sexual codes and institutions have undoubtedly played a significant role in many a culture‘s demise. When masses of people think similarly about previous customs their collective behavior will, in the last analysis, have a profound impact on the whole of society.

Scientists, psychologists, psychiatrists, political leaders, public officials, and others with vested interests today ransack literature for bits of fact and theory which can ­be pieced together into a prohomosexual or bi­se­xual concept of nature, man and society. Some of the individuals say that homo­sexuals are healthy, society is sick, and that science should cure society. Others raise false or outdated scientific issues in their war with traditional values. Many of our ­values can use change, but polemical pseudo­­science and genetics without cor­roboration is not the way. No society has accepted preferential homosexuality. Nowhere is homo­sexuality, or so-called „bi­sexuality,“ a desired end in itself. Nowhere do parents say, „It‘s all the same to me if my child is heterosexual or homosexual.“ Nowhere are homosexuals more than a small minority at the present time. Nowhere does homo­sexuality per se place one in an enviable position.

Some prohomosexual proponents within the behavioral sciences state that mental ill­ness is simply a product of social definition, and that sexual behavior considered normal in one society may be deviant in another. Examination of the facts shows that this is not true of all illness and all behaviors. ­Some behaviors are universally deviant and every society thinks them destructive. ­Incest, rape, psychopathic (apparently unmotivated) violence are considered taboo in all societies. So is predominant or exclusive homosexuality or even bisexuality. While homosexuals can and should be protected by all the laws of society, homosexuality should not be encouraged. 
The forces allied against heterosexuality are formidable and unrelenting. Charges of being „undemocratic,“ „cruel and inhuman,“ or „irresponsible, homophobic and prejudiced,“ are leveled at those who would question the normality of homosexuality. These accusations are then reinforced by the media, motion pictures, and the press, and render the ordinary citizen, who disapproves of such practices (as well as faint-hearted members of the psychiatric and psychological professions) mute before their onslaught.
The counter for such forces is the know­ledge that heterosexuality has self-evident adaptive value: decades and even centuries of cultural change are not likely to undo thousands of years of evolutionary selection and programming. Man is not only a sexual animal, but a care-bonding, group-bonding, and child-rearing animal. The male-female design is taught to the child from birth and culturally ingrained through the marital order.

This design is anatomically determined as it derives from cells which, in the evolutionary scale, underwent changes into organ systems, and finally into individuals reciprocally adapted to each other. The malefemale design is thus perpetually maintained and only overwhelming fear or man‘s false pride and misdirected individual enterprise can disturb or divert it. All of this is enough „to make angels weep.“ I borrow the phrase from one of William Shake­speare‘s bitter comedies, Measure for Measure. One of my patients brought the quote to my attention some time ago, as he him­self mused about his condition. (He is a homo­sexual and a distinguished scholar, but he is learning about the dynamic forces behind his homosexuality and learning to gain control of them.) Here is the entire quote:

But man, proud man,
drest in a little brief authority,
most ignorant of what he‘s most assur‘d,
his glassy essence like an angry ape
plays such fantastic tricks 
before high heavens
as make the angels weep.


1 See „Sexual Politics and Scientific Logic: The Issue of Homosexuality,“ in: The Journal of Psychohistory, 10 (3), 1992, New York and London - in those pages I present a detailed account of the social and political forces both within and without our organization responsible for this act, and critically examine the spurious and pseudoscientific reasons put forth for the removal of a diagnosis from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

Textnachweis: Socarides Ch. W., The Erosion of Heterosexuality, aus: New Techniques in the Treatment of Homosexuality, Collected Papers from the NARTH Annual Spring Conference 1994, Copyright: NARTH