Friday, June 03, 2005

In Search of that Pesky Hetero Gene

That one gene, the researchers are announcing today in the journal Cell, is apparently by itself enough to create patterns of sexual behavior - a kind of master sexual gene [in fruit flies] that normally exists in two distinct male and female variants.

In a series of experiments, the researchers found that females given the male variant of the gene acted exactly like males in courtship, madly pursuing other females. Males that were artificially given the female version of the gene became more passive and turned their sexual attention to other males.


My favorite bit of that? Describing homosexual male behavior as "passive."

I mean, all females are totally passive sexual partners, so males who go after other males or are interested in other males must be passive, too. My other favorite assumption in that is that females "act like males" when courting females, and males "act like females" when being courted. Why aren't they described as "acting like females interested in other females" or "acting like males interested in other males"?

They real key is this, of course:

But no one dreamed that simply activating the normally dormant male portion of the gene in a female fly could cause a genetic female to display the whole elaborate panoply of male fruit fly foreplay.

Key being, "dormant."

Yea. It was already there.

In all of them.

2 comments so far. What are your thoughts?

jeff said...

While I think your point is a good one here, barring any more knowledge about the norms of fruit fly behavior,it seems strange to criticize in this way:

"My other favorite assumption in that is that females "act like males" when courting females, and males "act like females" when being courted. Why aren't they described as "acting like females interested in other females" or "acting like males interested in other males"?"

Perhaps there are no gay fruit flies. Seems unlikely, but, if there aren't any, then the phrases used seem pretty appropriate (for fruit flies), as gender would be inextricably intertwined with attraction for the 'opposite' gender...

 

Posted by jpjeffrey

Anonymous said...

Actually, as I understand it, there *are* fruit flies that "naturally" exhibit same-sex attraction behavior; this experiment was just forcing the issue, and I believe they were describing attraction/desire in fixed gendered terms.  

Posted by Kameron Hurley