An article on the website for from Heterosexuals Organized for a Moral Environment (H.O.M.E.) claims that sexual abuse has been shown to lead to Homosexuality:

It is a well-documented fact that many many homosexuals were sexually abused when young...

In other words, there is an abundance of evidence that many many homosexuals were born heterosexual but were disoriented by sexual abuse.

Conservapedia attempts to back-up this claim with several studies they say show that sexual abuse is a cause for Homosexuality including:

In 1999, Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, M.D. wrote the following regarding the position of sexual abuse being a contributing factor for homosexuality: “ Many studies demonstrate a sadly disproportionate extent of sexual abuse in the childhoods of homosexual men, suggesting at the least that both homosexual unhappiness and homosexuality itself derive from common causes...[30] ”

In 2001, the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior published a study entitled Comparative data of childhood and adolescence molestation in heterosexual and homosexual persons. The abstract for this article states the following: “ In research with 942 nonclinical adult participants, gay men and lesbian women reported a significantly higher rate of childhood molestation than did heterosexual men and women. Forty-six percent of the homosexual men in contrast to 7% of the heterosexual men reported homosexual molestation. Twenty-two percent of lesbian women in contrast to 1% of heterosexual women reported homosexual molestation. This research is apparently the first survey that has reported substantial homosexual molestation of girls.[31] ”

In 1998, Dr. William C. Holmes, M.D. and Dr. Gail B. Slap, M.D. reported in the medical journal JAMA the following:

“ Adolescent boys, particularly those victimized by males, were up to 7 times more likely to identify themselves as homosexual or bisexual than peers who had not been abused (P<.001).

This reasoning seems to stand counter to the idea that homosexuality has a biological origin rather than a social one.

Is there any truth to the claims that sexual abuse can lead to homosexuality?


2 Answers 2


Childhood Sexual Abuse Does Not Cause Homosexuality

Is there any truth to the claims that sexual abuse can lead to homosexuality?

Obviously there is not a causal relationship between childhood sexual abuse and homosexuality. If childhood sexual abused caused homosexuality then we could safely conclude that anyone who was sexually abused as a child would be homosexual. Such a statement can be disproved by finding a single person who was sexually abused as a child and who is not a homosexual. I am confident that somewhere in the seven or so billion people that populate this earth there exists at least one person who was sexually abused as a child yet identifies as a heterosexual. Ergo, sexual childhood abuse does not cause homosexuality.

Granted, the quotations you cited did not claim that childhood sexual abuse leads to homosexuality. Rather, they note that there is a strong link between the two. So let's talk about whether there exists a correlation between childhood sexual abuse and homosexuality.

The Correlation Between Childhood Sexual Abuse and Homosexuality

Whether there is a higher incidence of childhood sexual abuse among homosexuals than heterosexuals depends on which studies you read. For instance, in The prevalence of child sexual abuse: Integrative review adjustment for potential response and measurement biases, authors Kevin Gorey and Donald Leslie note:

Female and male child sexual abuse prevalence estimates adjusted for response rates ... and adjusted for operational definitions ... were 14.5% and 7.2%.

In the study History of Childhood Sexual Abuse and HIV Risk Behaviors in Homosexual and Bisexual Men, David Brennan et al find that "childhood sexual abuse was reported by 15.5% of the survey respondents." (Their survey was given to men, 99.5% of which identified as gay or bisexual.)

If we take these numbers at face value then we are led to the conclusion that the incidence of childhood sexual abuse in homosexuals and bisexuals is nearly twice of that of the general population.

The History of Childhood Sexual Abuse and HIV Risk Behaviors in Homosexual and Bisexual Men study notes that victims of childhood sexual abuse are much more likely to engage in risky behaviors, including HIV status, STDs, drug use, and prostitution. And Wikipedia has a rather detailed look at the psychological and physiological harms caused by such abuse:

Psychological, emotional, physical, and social effects include depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, eating disorders, poor self-esteem, dissociative and anxiety disorders; general psychological distress and disorders such as somatization, neurosis, chronic pain, sexualized behavior, school/learning problems; and behavior problems including substance abuse, self-destructive behavior, animal cruelty, crime in adulthood and suicide.

If we agree that there exists a higher incidence of childhood sexual abuse among homosexuals that implies a positive correlation, but one is left wondering whether the correlation can be described by other factors.

Men vs. Women

If there is a strong correlation between childhood sexual abuse and homosexuality and if factors such as the genders of the abuser and abused are irrelevant then we would expect to see a higher percentage of lesbians than gay males in society, given the fact that women are nearly twice as likely to be the victims of sexual abuse than men. Yet according to The prevalence of homosexual behavior and attraction in the United States, the United Kingdom and France:

Examination of homosexual behavior separately finds that 6.2 ... and 3.6 ... of females in the United States ... report having had sexual contact with someone of the same sex in the previous 5 years.

Yet twice as many women suffer from childhood sexual abuse yet only half as many have homosexual experiences.

This would lead one to conclude that the correlation lies more between same-sex abuse and homosexuality. Presumably, most sexual abuse perpetrators are men, so girls are suffering from heterosexual abuse while boys are suffering from homosexual abuse.

  • 21
    Your personal opinion is actually irrelevant and falls under pseudo answers category.
    – user288
    Apr 9, 2011 at 12:35
  • 41
    I disagree with your statement that "we could safely conclude anyone who was sexually abused as a child would be homosexual". What evidence is there that sexual abuse would ALWAYS cause this? We know that HIV causes AIDS, but not everyone who has been exposed with HIV has AIDS. Maybe there could be an 'incubation' period, and the 'a single person who was sexually abused as a child and who is not a homosexual' hasn't 'changed' yet. I am not saying I believe any of this, but I don't thing your conclusion is valid.
    – fred
    Apr 11, 2011 at 18:00
  • 17
    For the record, I do not think sexual abuse (SA) does. That is not my argument at all. My argument is purely with your logic. Finding one person who has been SA who is not homosexual ONLY proves that SA does not ALWAYS cause homosexuality. Maybe it causes homosexuality in 90% of the cases. Maybe in 17%. Maybe in 1%. If any of those were true (and again, I do NOT believe any of those to be the case), then simply finding one (or 10, or 100, or a million) would NOT disprove this theory.
    – fred
    Apr 11, 2011 at 20:29
  • 59
    "If childhood sexual abused caused homosexuality then we could safely conclude that anyone who was sexually abused as a child would be homosexual." -- By this logic I can argue that smoking cigarettes does not cause cancer. -1 Aug 26, 2011 at 13:14
  • 34
    @Scott, you say you are referring to "cause" in a "statistical context". Firstly, this use of causality to mean determinisitic causality is unconventional, even in a statistical context. Secondly, the original author almost certainly meant probabilistic causality, so it is a strawman.
    – Oddthinking
    Nov 16, 2011 at 12:02

Regarding Tomeo et al. 2001, Archives of Sexual Behavior, 30(5), 535-541:

DOI: 10.1023/A:1010243318426

The following shows what their criteria for "molestation" were (direct quote from the study): "These criteria require that the victim be under the age of 16 at the time of molestation, the perpetrator being at least 16 years of age and at least 5 years older than the victim."

  • So it doesn't really appear to be molestation and could easily include many homosexual's first sexual experiences, which would likely often be modified by the decreased availability of same-age partners, relative to heterosexuals who have the privilege of assuming that everybody is heterosexual.
  • Table 2 of Tomeo et al. 2001 shows that about 65% of the "victims" reported that they were homosexual prior to the "molestation" even occuring.
  • The other 35% may well have been unsure of their sexual orientation prior to the "molestation" and their first sexual encounter simply clarified it.
  • Some people express the (imo idiotic) notion that you can't really know your sexual orientation until you have had a sexual encounter. I suspect that may have been a factor among those 35%.
  • The heterosexual and homosexual participants were also recruited from different places (homosexual at a gay-pride march and hetero were college students).
  • The respondents were self-selecting, especially at the gay pride parade, where a booth was used, and the response rate was not known or documented by the researchers.

Refuting one study is enough for me anyway. The others aren't properly referenced anyway and the first doesn't actually look like a study but mere anecdotal opinion, while the second one doesn't even specify sexual abuse etc etc.

As previously detailed, a direct causal relationship would necessitate that all victims of molestation were homosexual. The studies cited (Tomeo et al. 2001) themselves instantly disprove this suggestion because they include heterosexuals who were molested...

  • 11
    "So it doesn't really appear to be molestation", "which would likely often be modified by the decreased availability of same-age partners" holy crap. Are you saying what I think you are saying? Why wouldn't it be molestation? Why is victim in quotes?
    – user1873
    Aug 25, 2012 at 18:09
  • 1
    Memories aren't exactly set-in-stone (they actually change all the time), so you can't completely discount the idea that their sexual orientation changed (or this was the first time they noticed it) during/after being molested, and then their memories changed so "it's always been that way". See: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memory_errors Aug 27, 2012 at 15:27
  • 9
    " who have the privilege of assuming that everybody is heterosexual." Why is this a privilege? At most you could call this an advantage. But it's not something imposed by laws... it's a biological fact that sex organs evolved for a specific use and our sexual orientations evolved to match that use. So if you wanted you could say that homosexuals are evolutionarily biased when finding a partner, but using the derogative term privilege with something that naturally came to be in millions of years is, IMO, absurd.
    – Bakuriu
    Jun 8, 2016 at 11:29
  • 5
    Again the notion that "cause" means "produces 100% of the time." Also, refuting a study, or claiming to, does not answer the question.
    – user45478
    Jul 30, 2019 at 20:47
  • 1
    @user1873, to me, "molestation" implies lack of consent. Tomeo et. al., on the other hand, appears to adopt a strictly chronological definition, meaning that the same action could be molestation one day, and consensual sex the next.
    – Mark
    Aug 12, 2020 at 2:43

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .