“Homosexuality Conversion” classics fraudulent?

When members of the conservative movement in the US advocate subjecting gay and lesbian people to a putatively psychotherapeutic process that will “convert” them to heterosexuality, they often cite studies published by the renowned sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson. The “conversion” procedure was outlined in their 1979 book, Homosexuality in Perspective, in which it was reported that of 67 patients suffering from “homosexual dissatisfaction,” just 14 failed to be “converted” by the two-week treatment.

Now, however, there is suspicion that the cases never existed, that they were essentially “made up” by Masters without the knowledge of Johnson or his other colleagues. The allegations are published in an article in the April 22 issue of Scientific American. According to the article’s author, Thomas Maier, who has just published a book on Masters and Johnson called Masters of Sex,

Prior to the book’s publication, doubts arose about the validity of their case studies. Most staffers never met any of the conversion cases during the study period of 1968 through 1977,…

When the clinic’s top associate, Robert Kolodny, asked to see the files and to hear the tape-recordings of these “storybook” cases, Masters refused to show them to him….

Eventually Kolodny approached Virginia Johnson privately to express his alarm. She, too, held similar suspicions about Masters’ conversion theory, though publicly she supported him.

(Tip o’ the hat to Mind Hacks for alerting me to this story.)

About Christopher Green

Professor of Psychology at York University (Toronto). Former editor of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences. Creator of the "Classics in the History of Psychology" website and of the "This Week in the History of Psychology" podcast series.

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