Homo A Drug That Turns Homosexuality On and Off
posted by December 11 at 14:13 PMon
No, not beer—although rivers of beer have been spilt in successful efforts to induce a little situational homosexuality. No, neurobiologists have successfully turned homosexuality on and off in fruit flies using a drug that alters the way the brains of said fruit flies react to fruit fly pheromones.
And they weren’t just making little gay fruit flies ex-gay. From the NYT:
Within hours of the treatment, previously heterosexual male fruit flies would be courting other males, and treatment could also cause flies who had been engaging in homosexual behavior to become exclusively heterosexual, the neurobiologists report in Nature Neuroscience. You can read a summary of it here from the University of Illinois at Chicago, the home of one of the researchers, David Firestone.
The NYT asks the obvious follow-up: could you use similar approach to alter a human being’s sexual orientation?
Although I am not sure my research is a big step in this direction, I think that ultimately the answer will be: Yes….The question of whether or not homosexuality should be turned on and off is not a scientific question. It is an ethical/societal dilemma. I am glad my work is stimulating the discussion earlier rather than later. History is replete with poorly thought out attempts to “cure” societal/behavioral ‘illnesses’ that turned out, with proper perspective, to not be “illnesses” at all.
John Teirney then takes the discussion in a much more interesting direction. Instead of the usual hand-wringing about Christian fundies slipping anti-gay fluoride into the water supply and turning us all straight, Teirney wonders if straight and gay people alike will want to use these drugs to manipulate their sexual orientations. So long as you can flip the switch back and forth, he suggests, wouldn’t some people think, hell, why not?
I don’t think of homosexuality or heterosexuality as an “illness” to be “cured,” but I wonder how people would use the ability to control sexual orientation—to have a designer libido. Would some people, gay or straight, who weren’t having luck attracting one gender decide to switch to the other? Would some people casually switch back and forth?
So if there was a drug out there that could temporarily flip your switch and take you from hetero to homo, or homo to hetero, and back again… would you be tempted? I don’t think I would, seeing as how set in my ways I am, but I imagine younger, more sexually adventurous types might be tempted.
Of course, social conservatives would do all they can to block the recreational use of a drug like this, just as liberals would do all they could to block the exterminational use of a drug like this. But… man… if you could, would you? Should you?
Finally, there’s this creepy note…
Would parents, gay or straight, want to regulate their children’s sexual orientation—and should they or their children be allowed to do so?
Now that’s an interesting twist. When we talk about parents attempting to “regulate” their children’s sexual orientations, we’re almost always talking about straight parents wanting to make sure their kids turn out straight. But what about the growing numbers of gay parents out there? Would we be within our rights as parents to chemically alter our children’s sexual orientations? I don’t know a gay parent that would do such a thing, of course. But if this drug becomes available we may have to threaten to give it to our straight kids to prevent bigoted straight parents doing it to their gay kids.