Anti-Gays Rely on Masters and Johnson

Timothy Kincaid

April 23rd, 2009

William Masters and Virginia E. Johnson were sex researcher in the 60’s through 90’s. Their books Human Sexual Response in 1966 and Human Sexual Inadequacy in 1970 were considered classics that broke through misconceptions and myths about human sexuality.

But unlike their predecessor, Alfred Kinsey, they are not hated and reviled by anti-gay activists. Because in 1979 they released Homosexuality in Perspective, in which they claimed that homosexuality could in most cases be cured. And this is a claim very much treasured by those who seek to deny rights and equality to gay citizens.

For example, Thomas E. Schmidt writes in his article Homosexual Causation: Nature or Nurture? hosted on the Exodus International website:

W. Masters and V. Johnson conducted a study of fifty-four men and thirteen women who expressed a desire to convert or revert to a heterosexual orientation. Therapists chose candidates for their apparently high degree of motivation and for their accompaniment by an understanding opposite-sex partner who could serve as a support during the transition period. The treatment format consisted of an intensive two-week program followed by periodic follow-up over a five-year period. The client couple worked with a man-woman therapy team who focused on nonjudgmental identification and explanation of the influences that had led to the client’s homosexual behavior.

The therapists then worked to reduce these influences within the context of the clients’ value system and to encourage heterosexual function on the part of the client couple. About 20 percent failed during the initial treatment period, but the five-year follow-up revealed no more than a 30-45 percent total failure rate, much lower than even Masters and Johnson had expected.

Such well known and respected names as Masters and Johnson lend great credibility to the insistence that homosexuality is not an orientation and can, indeed, be reversed. See how prominently NARTH displays their names.

Is homosexuality immutable? Is it fixed, or is it amenable to change? The 1973 decision to delete homosexuality from the diagnostic manual of the American Psychiatric Association had a chilling effect on research. The APA decision was not made based on new scientific evidence-in fact, as gay activist researcher Simon LeVay admitted, “Gay activism was clearly the force that propelled the APA to declassify homosexuality” (1996, p. 224).

In reviewing the research, Satinover reported a 52% success rate in the treatment of unwanted homosexual attraction. (Satinover, 1996, p. 186). Masters and Johnson, the famed sex researchers, reported 65% success rate after a five-year follow-up (Schwartz and Masters, 1984, pp. 173-184). Other professionals report success rates ranging from 30% to 70%.

And anti-gay gadflies Stephen Bennett and Peter LaBarbera hauled out a 1979 Time Magazine article about the book as evidence that “a permanent, or at least longterm, switch to heterosexuality is possible more than half the time among gays who are highly motivated to change.”

However, as time passed, other researchers were unable to duplicate Masters’ success.

A study conducted by conservative evangelical researchers Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse which sought to validate the reorientation efforts of Exodus International found that a change from homosexual orientation to heterosexual orientation was nowhere near 65%. They reported a “conversion” rate of 15% and defined conversion in such a way as to allow for roaming eyes, sex dreams, and other attributes that are not generally considered to be indicative of heterosexuality.

The study, while the best published to date, is fraught with problems including sample size, measurement and definition of change, comingling of retrospective and prospective samples, and lack of follow-up. At best it could be said that

Perhaps eleven percent of an nonrepresentative sample of 98 highly motivated gay people who went through Exodus programs reported that after four years there was “substantial reduction in homosexual desire and addition of heterosexual attraction and functioning”.

But even that statement is challenged by the fact that one of the eleven successes wrote to the study coordinators to inform them that he was not truthful with them and that he had no change in attraction at all. He simply wanted to tell them what all parties really wanted to be true.

So why then is it that the optimistic results of Masters and Johnson are not readily evident in later studies? After all, Masters was reporting success within the first two weeks.

Well new information suggests that the secret may not be the inferior methods of more current attempts. Rather, the fault may lie with the source.

For more information see Masters and Johnson Gay “Cures” Were Likely Faked

Thomas Kraemer

April 24th, 2009

I don’t know if this is mentioned in Maier’s book, but nobody I’ve read has prominently noted that Masters attributed his successful ex-gay conversions to the “screening process” and on page 340 of his book he emphasizes that applicants for ex-gay therapy “must be screened for motivation in order to maintain a therapy failure rate at reasonably low levels.” — see Google Book Search

Of course, this type of unscientific criteria has always been common in the medical community. Patients who don’t get cured can be blamed for not being motivated enough or accused of being “noncompliant” patients. (i.e. a patient who didn’t follow the doctor’s orders)

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