Prenatal Androgen Exposure May Influence Sexual Orientation

Dr. Lee Ellis Interview with:
Lee Ellis PhD
Department of Anthropology
University of Malaya
Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Ellis: Sexual orientation appears to be highly influenced by prenatal neurohormonal factors (as opposed to social experiences throughout life).  However, the specifics continue to elude scientific comprehension.  Over the past two decades, researchers began to explore the possibility that a putative measure of prenatal testosterone exposure, called the 2D:4D finger length ratio, might be predictive of variations in sexual orientation.  The results have been mixed.  In the present study, colleagues and I obtained multiple measures of prenatal testosterone exposure (including a 2D:4D measure) from large samples of college students in two countries and factor analyzed these measures.  Analyses revealed two apparent prenatal testosterone exposure variables, one largely pertaining to bone growth (that included our 2D:4D measure), and the other mainly pertaining to muscular growth and coordination.  It was this second factor, not the first one, that appeared to be mainly responsible for variations in sexual orientation.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Ellis: Sexual orientation does not appear to be something that we acquire through our social experiences.  Growing scientific evidence points toward delicately balanced prenatal influences.  Individuals and parents concerned about sexual orientations other than heterosexuality should be counseled to accept the narrow limits within which sexual preferences can be altered by social pressure.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Ellis: In the future, researchers interested in better understanding the causes of sexual orientation should expand their measures of prenatal testosterone exposure beyond the 2D:4D finger length variable, and focus on a variety of sexually dimorphic traits that reflect additional aspects of this exposure.


Putative Androgen Exposure and Sexual Orientation: Cross-Cultural Evidence Suggesting a Modified Neurohormonal Theory

Lee Ellis, Amy Lykins, Anthony Hoskin and Malini Ratnasingam

Article first published online: 14 DEC 2015 | DOI: 10.1111/jsm.13070

Journal of Sexual Medicine

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Lee Ellis PhD (2015). Prenatal Androgen Exposure May Influence Sexual Orientation

Last Updated on December 15, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD