Paul Cameron’s Falsehoods Cited By Anti-Gay Sympathizers
Anti-gay researcher Paul Cameron's falsehoods are well known. The incredible thing is the people who still cite them.
By David Holthouse
'Too Powerful to Resist'
While Cameron describes homosexuality as a "crime against humanity," he seems fascinated with the mechanics and pleasures of gay sex. In a widely publicized 1999 interview, he said, "Marital sex tends toward the boring end. Generally, it doesn't deliver the kind of sheer sexual pleasure that homosexual sex does. If you isolate sexuality as something solely for one's own personal amusement, if all you want is the most satisfying orgasm you can get, then homosexuality seems too powerful to resist. The evidence is that men do a better job on men."
In a separate interview, in 1996, Cameron traced his distaste for homosexuality back to his childhood, claiming that when he was 4 years old a pedophile approached him in an apple orchard and forced him to perform oral sex. "I must have been a beautiful and charming little boy. But I didn't like it very much," Cameron said. "I remember that he was kind of dirty, and this bothered me." A year later, according to Cameron, a female stranger lured him into a bathtub. "I had a much more pleasant experience with the woman."
Now 66 years old, Cameron received his doctorate in psychology from the University of Colorado, Boulder, in 1966, and became one of the first researchers to look into the adverse health effects of secondhand smoke. He also studied what he called "the happiness of handicapped versus normal persons," publishing his findings in 1971 under the title, "Satisfaction of the Malformed."
In 1978, Cameron authored a sex guide for Christian teenagers called Sexual Gradualism in which he assigned numeric values to sexual acts: Kissing level three, heavy petting level five, intercourse level eight. In it, he suggested that teens experiment with heterosexual sex, short of intercourse, as a means of preventing homosexuality. "While no parent wants his child starting the sexual process 'too young,'" he wrote, "better too young than homosexual."
Cameron first waded into the fray over gay rights in 1982, when he became chairman of the Committee to Oppose Special Rights for Homosexuals, which formed to fight a proposed ordinance in Lincoln, Neb., to extend civil rights protections to gays and lesbians. Cameron was then a professor at the University of Nebraska. Campaigning against the ordinance, Cameron told the congregation of the University of Nebraska Lutheran Church that a local 4-year old boy had recently been dragged into a shopping mall bathroom and castrated by a homosexual. The story was totally false. The Omaha Police Department and local hospitals had no record of such an assault. But the tale of the homosexual castration attack upon a child quickly became a popular myth, and Cameron kept defending it in the media as "an example of what could happen," even after admitting that his source for the information was a friend of a friend who'd supposedly heard it from a police officer. The Omaha gay rights ordinance was voted down by a four-to-one margin.
Cameron had learned an important lesson: The more sensational a falsehood about homosexuals is, the more it will be repeated, and the more it's repeated, the less it matters whether or not it's true.
550 Sex Questions
A year after his victory in Nebraska, Cameron announced himself as the head of a new scientific research group he called the Institute for the Scientific Investigation of Sexuality (ISIS). He said the institute's first project would be a nationwide sex survey. And Cameron boldly predicted in media interviews that, "The results will tend to indicate that those who lead sexually venturesome lives are more inclined toward suicide, are less happy, and contract more diseases." (Legitimate researchers do not publicize their findings in advance of data collection).
A 550-item questionnaire designed by Cameron was at the heart of the ISIS study. The questions were oddly constructed and deeply personal: "With how many homosexual virgins have you had homosexual relations?" and "How would you feel about sharing toilet facilities with a homosexual?" (Multiple-choice answers to the latter question included, "Very positive. I'd enjoy it greatly.") Another question asked respondents why they thought they had developed their sexual orientation and gave a checklist of 44 reasons including "I was seduced by a homosexual adult" and "I failed at heterosexuality." According to contemporary newspaper articles, residents in several neighborhoods targeted by Cameron's field teams called the police to report that perverts in the area were asking sleazy questions.
Legitimate scientists have identified and described in detail multiple fundamental flaws in the ISIS study's methodology and statistical analysis, any one of which would be enough to destroy its credibility. But still, to this day, Cameron's 1983 survey serves as the religious right's primary wellspring of anti-gay fear mongering.
"Whenever frightening claims about homosexual sex habits or child molestation are reported in pamphlets, videotapes or other materials, chances are the information has been taken from this single study," writes David Williams, director of the Kentucky Gay and Lesbian Library and Archives, who tracks the use of Cameron's statistics. "As propaganda, it has taken on a life of its own. As information, however, it's stunningly useless."
The same year Cameron conducted the ISIS survey, he released a separate study claiming that homosexuals are "10-20 times more likely than heterosexuals to molest children," a startling figure that still frequently pops up in hard-right religious sermons and AM radio screeds.
Cameron based that finding on a 1978 study by Nicholas Groth, the highly respected director of the Sex Offender Program at the Connecticut Department of Corrections. Groth had interviewed 175 convicted child molesters and found that more of them had molested boys than girls. Cameron's statistic is derived from the false assumption that men who molest boys are gay, despite the fact that Groth's original study found that none of the men identified himself as homosexual. Instead, the pedophiles were either heterosexual outside of their criminal behavior or were what Groth termed "fixated pedophiles with no interest in sex with adults."
Groth was outraged and filed a formal complaint with the American Psychological Association that led to Cameron losing his professional accreditation. "Dr. Cameron misrepresents my findings and distorts them to advance his homophobic views," Groth wrote the APA. "He disgraces his profession."
Cameron took his act to the national stage in the mid-'80s against the backdrop of the escalating AIDS panic. In 1986, he co-authored the book Special Report: AIDS, which advocated establishing concentration camps immediately for "sexually active homosexuals," theorized that HIV is transmissible by casual contact, and popularized a fictional medical condition labeled "Gay Bowel Syndrome."
In 1987, Cameron moved to Washington, D.C., and changed the name of his organization to the Family Research Institute. Later that year, his institute set up a booth in the exhibit hall at the Third International Conference on AIDS featuring banners that read, "Stop the pipeline: Cut homosexual travel" and "Problem: A worldwide homosexual network. Solution: Destroy the homosexual infrastructure. Punish homosexual acts."
The booth was swarmed with angry AIDS victims and gay rights activists, some of whom repeatedly sneezed on him before being arrested and dragged from the hall. An Associated Press journalist recorded a confrontation between Cameron and a reporter for the Gay Cable News Network.
"All we're saying is, screen and quarantine until we come up with a cure," Cameron said. "Rights have run amok in our society, particularly sexual ones. Homosexuals were hung 300 years ago in our society."
"Is that what you're advocating today, that gay people be hung?" the gay journalist replied.
Cameron continued, "Homosexuals were castrated 200 years ago."
"So things are getting better then?"
"Homosexuals were imprisoned 100 years ago."
"What sort of concentration camps do you have in mind, Dr. Cameron?"