Entries in Sexual Orientation (2)


Sexual Orientation Revealed in Eye Dilation Study

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- They say the eyes are a window to the soul, and now scientists say the pupils can also reveal a person's sexual orientation.

For the first time, researchers at Cornell University have used a specialized infrared lens to measure pupillary changes while subjects watched erotic videos to determine which gender they found attractive.

The results of the study were published recently in the scientific journal PLoS One.

In most cases, a person's stated sexual orientation matched the dilation of their pupils, which show signs of arousal. Previously, scientists used instruments to measure genital arousal, methods that were "too invasive."

Arousal or "interest" is associated with pupil dilation.

"The idea was to find an unconscious measure," said lead researcher and research fellow Gerulf Rieger. "We tried to find measures that were not so invasive, but reliable. The eye tracker infrared camera focuses on the eye while the person watches videos or pictures and measures the changes in pupil size."

The Cornell scientists had 325 subjects -- 165 men and 160 women, aged 20 to 35, all of whom were open about their sexual orientation.

As a control, subjects were shown naked photos and videos of the gender they were not attracted to. Subjects were also shown "boring" videos of people talking about the weather.

Predictably, heterosexual men showed more pupil dilation after being shown sexual videos of women, and little to men. Heterosexual women, however, responded to both sexes, confirming previous research that women have more fluidity in their sexuality.

"They respond to anything that is in some way sexual," said Rieger. "That doesn't mean they are bisexual. Their body is not connected to their mind, which is very different from guys."

The most plausible explanation for the female response is evolutionary. Primates show a lot of forced copulation that can be "brutal and painful" to females. The physical response seems to be "protective," according to Rieger.

The study did have some surprising results on men who said they were bisexual. The majority of men who identified with that orientation did respond to the sexual videos of both men and women.

"We can now finally argue that a flexible sexual desire is not simply restricted to women. Some men have it, too, and it is reflected in their pupils," said co-researcher Ritch C. Savin-Williams, who is a professor of human development at Cornell.

"In fact, not even a division into 'straight,' 'bi,' and 'gay' tells the full story," he said. "Men who identify as 'mostly straight' really exist both in their identity and their pupil response; they are more aroused to males than straight men, but much less so than both bisexual and gay men."

Measuring sexual arousal has always been a challenge for researchers.

"What if someone comes in and says one thing and responds a different way?" said Rieger. "We wanted to really find a measure of sexuality that goes beyond what people tell us."

The test might have some practical applications, when arousal and stated sexual orientation don't match. Therapists or doctors could guide a person through their own results.

In the past, genital arousal was measured differently for men and women. Men had a rubber band placed around their penis to measure expansion; women inserted a photo receptor instrument into the vagina that measured changes in blood flow.

As experts in human development, the Cornell team was trying to understand sexuality from the beginning. Because they now have a tool that is not so invasive, they can recruit younger subjects and learn more about human sexuality.

"We would not expose children to pornography, but there are different studies that we can now do that are not ethically problematic," said Rieger.

"Even if you say it's an unconscious response, doesn't mean it's all biological," he said. "In an ideal research world, you would study a child and see how early it starts and what it says about social influences."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


College Freshmen in California Asked to Declare Sexual Orientation?

Hemera/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- College freshman entering the University of California system next year could be asked to identify themselves as gay, straight, bi, or transgender when they accept their admissions offer.

The system’s Academic Senate initiated the proposal, which would add a question to the statements of intent students fill out when deciding to go to the University of California. The statements already include a host of identifiers such as race,  gender and ethnicity.

The question will not be asked on applications to the schools because students may feel uncomfortable filling out the forms in front of their parents, according to Robert Anderson, chair of the senate.

“Sexual orientation is a part of diversity and cannot be ignored,”  Anderson said after the proposal was passed,  according to the UCLA student newspaper, the Daily Bruin.

“It’s past time for this,” he told ABC News.

Collecting data on sexual orientation among undergraduates, graduate students, staff and faculty could help the school ensure there are services in place for LGBT members of the community, he said.

The senate was spurred to pass the bill by California state government, which already mandates that community colleges and California state universities collect information regarding students’ sexual orientation. It has been requested by the state that the UCs also collect this demographic information, Anderson said.

Many LGBT students told the student newspaper they thought the proposal was a good idea and would help lead to more benefits for LGBT students.

“The data may not be accurate, but something is better than nothing,” Marcus McRae, a senior who heads the student Queer Alliance, told the paper. McRae noted that UCLA’s LGBT center was very beneficial to him when he arrived on campus.

Anderson was not sure whether the information would factor into roommate assignment decisions for incoming freshmen.

The proposal comes at the same time that a college student from the opposite coast, at Rutgers University in New Jersey, is on trial for allegedly spying on and intimidating his roommate for having a gay sexual encounter. Dharun Ravi, who is accused of a hate crime, tweeted messages about his suspicion over his roommate’s sexuality, “F*** MY LIFE/He’s gay,” and told friends that he “[s]aw my roommate kissing a dude. Yay!”

The suicide of Ravi’s roommate, Tyler Clementi, and trial have sparked public outrage at gay-bullying among students.

The proposed policy at the UC system will be decided by the school’s provost, Lawrence Pitts, who is assembling a group to study the ramifications of such a policy, according to the Daily Bruin. The system has not yet announced when Pitts will issue a decision.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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