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What Causes Same-Sex Attractions? Part 4: The Role of Puberty

Here's an obvious fact for males:  puberty dramatically changes us! If being born with extra "sensitivity" is arguably the most important factor in what initially creates a male's same-sex attractions (ssa) [refer to my Part 1 of this series], then what happens in puberty may "pour the cement" for the foundation of a man's future sexual identity and addiction.  Let's see how.


Brain and Body Development.  Research by psychoanalyst Sander Breiner, M.D., [cited in NARTH Bulletin; Vol 15, No 2; Winter 2007] reports that when a pubescent male experiences doubts about his sexual attractions, body appearance, and sexual capacities, these stressors may actually harm his brain development.  Many experts agree that the brain is in a state of constant change during puberty. According to Goldman-Rakic & colleagues in their handbook on the neurobiology of cognitive development, certain brain regions can become dysfunctional due to stress over one's sexuality (to include stress over sexual dreams).  Specifically, the brain neurons that produce "kisspeptin" helps regulate heterosexuality past puberty. Thus, it is possible that significant stress concerning one's sexual attractions and male esteem may limit one's capability of developing heterosexually. This developmental process has nothing to do with his choice - it is something that is automatically happening in the ssa male's brain that he is totally unaware of or can control!

Additionally, a pubescent male who has experienced significant stress concerning his sexuality may be more likely to have delayed secondary sex characteristics (e.g., late development of pubic or body hair; underdeveloped penis or muscles; hindrance of developing a deeper-tone voice; etc.).  My own experience in counseling ssa males seems to confirm this. My ssa clients initially complete an extremely thorough questionnaire about their sexuality. One of my questions is: "Between the ages of 11-17, would you consider yourself less developed physically than other males your age (e.g., smaller in height or muscles; behind the other males in developing bodily hair; smaller penis size; etc.)?"  From the time I first began acquiring this data, an astounding 69% of the ssa male clients responded "yes"! Thus, pre-puberty stress over one's sexuality can potentially permanently affect one's brain and sex characteristic development.

Sexual Addiction Development.  Additionally, the degree to which a pubescent boy engages in homoerotic lust, masturbation, and physical contact with other males sets the stage for later becoming sexually addicted.  By "sexual addiction" I mean one's "consistent lack of control over his erotic impulses - despite his best intentions and threat of harm". If a man lets his sexuality control his actions (such that he engages in erotic lust or physical contact when he does not want to), then he clearly is not sexually "in control".

Let me explain a basic sequence that occurs for ssa males who are sexually "out of control". 

  1. Same-Sex Attractions.  All ssa men experience an initial attraction toward looking at other men with fascination - more than they do toward women.  For example, in a crowd of people, ssa males will be noticing the males first, before paying attention to the women. There is nothing sinful about experiencing a same-sex attraction.  You did not create this attraction in yourself, so there is no need to feel ashamed about it.

  2. Homoerotic Temptation.  When an ssa man looks at other men, sometimes (but clearly not always) the ssa man experiences an automatic erotic feeling from looking at a particular man (i.e., being "turned on" by the sight of that man).  This "turn on" is nothing more than an erotic impulse to want to continue taking in more of that man (e.g., staring longer, from a different angle, at specific body parts, beginning to image what the man looks like naked, beginning to fantasize about what one would do sexually with that man, etc.).  In Biblical terms, this is defined as a sexual temptation. There is nothing sinful about experiencing a sexual temptation. Jesus no doubt experienced sexual temptations - yet did not sin (see Hebrews 4:15). While it may create distress in us when we experience a homoerotic temptation, there is no need to feel ashamed about that - since it is an automatic response that you cannot control the existence of, and is not an immoral state-of-being.

  3. Homoerotic Lust.  The ssa man who moves beyond the homoerotic temptation condition of "I want that", to the next stage of "I must have more and I am going to pursue getting more!", has now entered "the self-destruction zone".  Erotic lust (whether homoerotic or heteroerotic) involves coveting - a longing and intention to "take what is not mine". Thus, Jesus tells us that erotic lust (like coveting) is a sin (Matthew 5:28). While we cannot control whether we automatically experience a same-sex attraction or a homoerotic temptation, we can control whether we let the temptation progress into a homoerotic lust.  Indeed, it is our responsibility to control that progression - for those of us who are attempting to live like Jesus.

  4. Homoerotic Contact.  When an ssa man pursues his homoerotic lust to the point of engaging in physical homoerotic contact with another man (i.e., sensuous touch, masturbation, oral or anal sex, etc.), he not only is guilty of sin, but has injured another person's pursuit of Christ-likeness.

During puberty, ssa males are consumed with same-sex attractions and homoerotic temptations.  For the ssa male, this is normal, and perhaps inevitable. However, the more an ssa male engages in homoerotic lust or contact, the more likely the person is to continue lusting.  Thus, someone who experiences same-sex attractions and homoerotic temptations - but immediately refocuses and prevents himself from engaging in homoerotic lust - is less likely to be become sexually addicted, dependent upon homoerotic relationships, and develop a gay identity.


It is quite possible that a child's stress over his male esteem and sexual attractions may have permanent impact upon that male's brain development during puberty - which, in turn, may impact his secondary sex characteristics.  These involuntary neuro-hormonal processes will very likely strengthen his same-sex attractions and homoerotic temptations - creating a "natural" desire within him to want to be sexual with certain men. However, if that male keeps choosing to engage in homoerotic lust or contact, he may be dooming himself to sexual addiction and possibly the development of a gay-identity [more about sexual identity in the next series of articles]. 

It does not have to be so!



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