Most of Chapter 7 is presented in a much more expanded and better manner at a site on feminine beauty.
Male Homosexuals and Fashion Designing: Why are Male Homoseuxals Overrepresented?
This topic is related to a recently published study, which is discussed first.
Esgate and Flynn have reported a study that attempted to indirectly assess the extent of functional brain asymmetry among right-handed college students in different fields.(1) They employed a synonym generation task that manifests female advantage (effect size = 1.2) and a mental rotation task that manifests male advantage (effect size = 0.9; the task involved the mental manipulation of stick figures). The purpose of this study was to assess whether men in female-majority occupations/fields and women in male-majority occupations/fields manifested an opposite-sex-typical pattern of functional brain asymmetry. The students were drawn from male-majority fields (engineering, computing) and female-majority fields (nursing, psychology and fashion design).
Male and female students in female-majority fields performed better on the synonym generation task than the others (moderate effect size). Males only had a slight advantage on the mental rotation task, and a lot of this had to do with the fact that female fashion design students outperformed all other groups on the mental rotation task, including male engineering students. The authors speculated that this could possibly be a result of the greater practice female fashion design students are expected to have had with manipulating the human figure in their design work. However, this need not be the case, and they still outperformed male fashion design students. The male advantage with respect to mental rotation ability in the general population is not accounted for by sex-typed behaviors and is barely accounted for by sex-related personality traits [in one study, whereas 6.5% of the variance in mental rotation ability was accounted for by sex-related personality traits, 13.5% of the variance was accounted for by sex].(8) Obviously, one needs to consider the possibility that acquisition of good fashion designing skills require high native mental rotation ability to start with.
Fashion designing draws a disproportionate number of homosexual men. Indeed, in the study by Esgate and Flynn, they had 11 men and 21 women who were fashion design students and 5 of the 11 men were self-described homosexuals. The authors did not find any differences between homosexual and heterosexual men on mental rotation ability and synonym generation among the fashion design students and claimed that there was thus no evidence for a female-like functional brain asymmetry pattern among the homosexual men in their sample. However, this conclusion is flawed:
On the other hand, the authors reported dyslexia in 5 of the 32 fashion design students in their study (1 man, 4 women), which is elevated compared to the general population (1-3%), and an increased prevalence of dyslexia among fashion design students has also been reported elsewhere.(7, 10) Götestam has shown elevated rates of left-handed writing, stuttering and dyslexia in separate samples of homosexual men: 17.5%, 7.1% and 7.9%, respectively, in 394 homosexual men;(4) and 13.9%, 6.5% and 8.6%, respectively, in a sample of 363 homosexual men.(2) For comparative purposes, the prevalence of left-handed writing, stuttering and dyslexia in the general population is 8-8.4%, 1.6% and 1-3%, respectively.(5, 6, 9) Increased rates of left-handedness, stuttering and dyslexia have also been reported among architecture and music students.(3, 7) In a sample of 363 homosexual men assessed on sexual behavior, Götestam also reported a high involvement in creative endeavors: music (11.2%), composing (2.2%), creative writing (6.0%) and painting (2.8%).(2) Given that 1) excess prenatal testosterone exposure has been implicated as one of the factors etiologic to left-handedness, stuttering, and dyslexia; 2) the prevalence of left-handedness, stuttering and dyslexia is higher among males compared to females and higher among homosexual men compared to heterosexual men; 3) there is a preponderance of males among those involved in the aforementioned creative endeavors, especially among those with top-notch ability in said creative endeavors; and 4) plenty of evidence exists suggesting excess prenatal testosterone exposure as one of the major factors etiologic to male homosexuality [evidence in my book plus here], one can propose with some confidence that the ability to be a top-notch fashion designer requires a high level of masculinization of some parts of the brain. Indeed, even though there is a preponderance of women among fashion design students, most top-ranked fashion designers are homosexual men, and female fashion designers apparently have both outstanding mental rotation ability as documented in the study by Esgate and Flynn and are also often masculine looking.
It could be proposed that the effects of testosterone are non-linear, with exposure to moderate levels of testosterone corresponding to cognitive enhancement with respect to the abilities that favor males in the general population, thereby accounting for, say, better musical ability among women with elevated testosterone levels and men with moderate testosterone levels compared to others within their respective sex groups at the level of the general population, as has been argued by Simon Baron-Cohen and others. This notion would be consistent with the hypothesis that reduced prenatal testosterone exposure increases the likelihood of male homosexuality, which would account for the overrepresentation of masculinized women and homosexual men among top-ranked fashion designers. However, both these notions are inconsistent with a vast amount of data that I have addressed in my book, including the fact that the male preponderance among those with top-notch ability in the aforementioned creative endeavors is associated with male advantage with respect to sexual selection, i.e., a high level of androgens-caused masculinization of the underlying neural circuitry is expected to be one of the major factors behind the highest expression of the creative ability behind such endeavors.
Therefore, the most plausible explanation of the finds above is that 1) elevated prenatal testosterone exposure is implicated in top-notch fashion designing ability; 2) excess prenatal testosterone exposure-induced developmental disturbances are responsible for the higher rates of disturbed outcomes such as dyslexia and stuttering among fashion designers and homosexual men; 3) excess prenatal testosterone exposure-induced developmental disturbances are responsible for the non-linear relationship between testosterone exposure and ability in the general population, but in a small minority of the population, small enough to not alter the trend in the general population, the extra prenatal testosterone exposure is able to enhance some cognitive functions, given the requisite genetic backgrounds; and 4) the mix of female-typical and masculine or hypermasculine traits among homosexual men and masculinized women correspond to their overrepresentation among fashion designers given the requirements of a job preference disproportionately favored by women or the more feminine and designing ability where men or the more masculine are more likely to excel.
- Esgate A and Flynn M. The brain-sex theory of occupational choice: a counterexample. Percept Mot Skills 100: 25-37, 2005.
- Gotestam KO. Handedness and creativity in a sample of homosexual men. Percept Mot Skills 92: 1069-1074, 2001.
- Gotestam KO. Lefthandedness among students of architecture and music. Percept Mot Skills 70: 1323-1327; discussion 1345-1326, 1990.
- Gotestam KO, Coates TJ, and Ekstrand M. Handedness, dyslexia and twinning in homosexual men. Int J Neurosci 63: 179-186, 1992.
- Hier DB, LeMay M, Rosenberger PB, and Perlo VP. Developmental dyslexia. Evidence for a subgroup with a reversal of cerebral asymmetry. Arch Neurol 35: 90-92, 1978.
- McManus IC. The inheritance of left-handedness. Ciba Found Symp 162: 251-267; discussion 267-281, 1991.
- Radford J. Gender and choice in education and occupation. London: Routledge, 1998.
- Saucier DM, McCreary DR, and Saxberg JKJ. Does gender role socialization mediate sex differences in mental rotations? Personal Individ Diff 32: 1101-1111, 2002.
- Sheehan JG. Stuttering: research and therapy. New York: Harper & Row, 1970.
- Tovey M. Designing with both halves of the brain. Design Studies 5: 219-228, 1984.