Trends in Evolutionary Explanations for Human Male
Same-Sex Eroticism: A Commentary on Riegel (2011)

By Bruce Rind, PhD, Email

Abstract as published on line in International Journal of Sexual Health:

Riegel (2011) described the moral panic that has developed in our society around the issue of boy / older-male eros. In response, he provided ameliorative insights from multiple disciplines including sociology, psychology, politics, the law, evolution, and anthropology. One was the proposition that boy / older male eros has an evolutionary functional basis. In this commentary, I discuss his social critique and focus on his evolutionary hypothesis, reviewing seven earlier hypotheses for comparison. Riegel's explanation is part of a new trend. His work contributes to the field and can help facilitate an eventual amelioration of the panic.

The complete paper is copyrighted and cannot be posted here. What follows is a synopsis:

Note: This synopsis of Rind's commentary assumes that the reader has access to the underlying paper, which is linked below.

The paper begins with a description of Riegel's 2011 paper, and then devotes two paragraphs to discussing past and current contextual social and cultural issues, especially the effects of victimology. "Riegel followed the example of a fair number of researchers in the 1980s, such as sociologist Paul Wilson and psychologist Theo Sandfort, who not only presented a benign description of boy / older-male eros, but went on to advocate boys’ rights in self-determination, should they want to be involved in such relationships. . . . nowadays we are in the midst of an intense moral panic surrounding the issue of boy / older-male eros. . . . a credible alternative: boy / older male eros stems not from pathology but from nature; its effects are not preordained to be harmful and destructive but can be beneficial. . . ."

Next is a description of what is given the title of "Androphilia Hypothesis," essentially restating the concepts for the evolutionary adaptive effects of boys being "drawn towards bonded relations with certain older males, who themselves had the reciprocal capacity to take erotic interest in boys."

Then eleven paragraphs spread across several pages are devoted to presenting seven evolutionary theories of primarily adult male same-sex eroticism, including Vangaard's, which is mentioned in the original 2011 Androphilia paper. These are followed by five more paragraphs of synthesis and critique of those seven theories.

The discussion then returns to "Riegel's hypothesis," taking note that while benefits to the boy are hypothesized, no such equivalent benefits for the older partners are proposed. It is also noted that "Androphilia is generally used to denote homoerotic attractions between adult males. . . ." It is proposed that "[p]receding the term with “transitory” would help — with transitory androphilia being a developmental, temporary erotic interest in a man, which could be finding the man himself and/or the sexual interaction with the man erotic."

Three paragraphs are then devoted to examining the "lack of parsimony because [boy-older male] mentoring/bonding can be achieved without eros," as well as the "just-so-story" problem.

In the concluding two paragraphs, it is noted that "From the various plusses and minuses of these works, via a dialectical process, explanations will advance and become more valid. Riegel’s work is part of this process. . . . A clear strength in Riegel’s evolutionary hypothesis, consistent with the discussion presented previously, is that he focused on one type of male homosexual behavior (i.e., transgenerational) and restricted his cross-cultural evidence to just that type. . . . This practice represents a new trend in this nascent field."

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