Author and zoologist Desmond Morris’s new books presents the idea that gay men may be gay because they retain juvenile characteristics into adulthood, a phenomenon known as neoteny.
Morris’s The Naked Man: A study of the Male Body suggests that men become gay when they fail to undergo a social process which usually happens to other men.
He says that while most boys break away from other boys as teenagers and begin to focus on the opposite sex, gay men fail to do this and “get stuck” in the earlier stage of bonding with boys. This may be as a result of some unpleasant experience with girls during this phase.
“They cannot understand why young boys, who were playing sex games with them only a few months before, are now only interested in chasing girls,” the author says.
This, suggests Morris, may be a good thing as “The playfulness of childhood is continued with certain people into adulthood. This is very much a positive. Adult playfulness means that certain people, often a fairly large proportion of them gay, are more inventive and curious than heterosexuals.”
He adds that, “Gays have in general made a disproportionately greater contribution to life than nongays… The creative gay has very much advanced Planet Earth.”
Morris says that he originally believed that men became gay because of absent fathers but has since revised his thoughts on the matter.
The neoteny theory has been received with mixed reaction from various quarters. Gay rights activist, Peter Tatchell, told The Times newspaper that, “I would also think that being gay is very much a mix of genetic factors and hormonal influence in the womb. I don’t really know about this playfulness idea being carried from childhood to gay adulthood.”
Ongoing research appears to show that human sexuality may be influenced primarily by genetic or biological factors, rather than social or developmental factors, although these may play a part.
Morris is best known for his 1967 book The Naked Ape, in which he explained human behaviour by comparing it to animal behaviour, specifically that of the ape.