Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Harm of Homosexual Practice: A Medical and Moral Argument

As President Obama has declared his support for “marriage” between members of the same sexes, supporters have warned opponents of gay “marriage” lest they should find themselves on “the wrong side of history” (on which see my previous post here).  As the debate has progressed, however, the quality of arguments on both sides have been disappointing.  Many Christians are not well equipped to explain their objections to same-sex unions, and many supporters of such unions rely on cheap slogans and absurd caricatures of actual Christian reasoning (1).  To them, no rational person could oppose same-sex unions, and opponents are little better than racists or those who once opposed inter-racial marriage.

Yet, to a Christian, one does not oppose same-sex unions and homosexual practices for the same reasons that some people in the past opposed the marriage between a black man and a white woman.  On the contrary, Christians oppose homosexual practice for the same reason that they oppose giving alcohol to an alcoholic or cigarettes to a nicotine addict. 

This line of thinking will be unfamiliar to many whose primary image of same-sex relationships is smiling faces of such people on the evening news, but as is often the case, the cameras do not tell the whole story.

Three Moral Principles

This post will assume three points:

1. It is wrong to engage in self-destructive behavior.
2. It is wrong to encourage others to engage in self-destructive behavior.
3. It is wrong to engage in behavior that harms others. 

I will not argue or defend these points at length; a person who denies them is more in need of moral help than rational argument.  In short, we think it wrong to become an alcoholic because such behavior is harmful to oneself.  As such, we think it wrong to encourage or support others in their alcoholism.  Finally, we all admit that a person’s right to smoke may be curtailed if they risk harming others through their second hand smoke.

The substance of this post, then, will be dedicated to summarizing briefly some evidence for this fourth point:

4. In homosexual practice, a person hurts himself and others.

Presenting the Evidence: There is substantial evidence that homosexual practice is harmful.  Some is summarized below.

1. Promiscuity and short-term relationships (2).  Homosexual behavior involves what one writer called “an almost compulsive promiscuity.”  75% of homosexual men have had more than 100 partners in their lifetime, most of them strangers (3).  A Los Angeles study found that male homosexuals averaged over 20 partners per year (Schmidt 107).  Lastly, only 7-8% of homosexual men and women have ever had relationships lasting more than three years.  This differs vastly from heterosexual sexual practice.  As Schmidt writes: “Promiscuity among homosexual men is not a mere stereotype, and it is not merely the majority experience- it is virtually the only experience” (Schmidt 108). 

2. Increased incidence of drug use.  Researchers also report significantly higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse among male and female homosexuals.  They are more likely to use marijuana (89% vs 25% of heterosexuals), cocaine (50% vs. 6% of heterosexuals), poppers (72% vs 2% of heterosexuals), as well as other drugs including tobacco and abuse of alcohol.  Another Boston study from 1985-88, 81% of homosexual men had used marijuana, 70% poppers, and 60% cocaine (Schmidt 111).

Second, there is a correlation between the number of partners and person has had, and their tendency to use drugs and engage in unsafe sexual techniques (Schmidt 111).

3. Physical damage and complications.  There is no need for explicit details, but mens’ and womens’ bodies are designed for sexual intercourse with each other in a way that mens’ bodies are simply not designed for sex with other men and the consequences are often physically traumatic.  As a consequence practicing homosexuals are at greater risk of prostate damage, ulcers and ruptures, and chronic incontinence (Schmidt 118).  (4)

4. Sexually transmitted diseased and AIDS.  Besides physical trauma, many viral and non-viral infections trouble the homosexual population.  Non AIDS diseases include Amebiasis (affects 25-40% of homosexual men), syphilis (30% of homosexual men), and hepatitis B (65% of homosexual men).  As Schmidt says, even compared to the most promiscuous segment of the general population, the 75% STD incidence rate among homosexuals in remarkable (p.121).  This is to say little of the AIDS epidemic, to which homosexual men are especially vulnerable.  A Canadian study found that half of people living with AIDS are homosexual men (5).

5. Lower life expectancy. As a consequence of these medical issues especially (but not limited to) the AIDS epidemic, homosexual men have a life expectancy that is significantly lower that heterosexual men even, as one Canadian study acknowledges, according to the most liberal estimates (6).

6. Increased incidence of mental illness, depression, and suicide. Lastly, homosexuals suffer from a severely higher incidence of some types of mental illness, especially depression, and suicide (7).  Schmidt gave that number that 40% of homosexual men have a history of major depressive disorder compared to 3% of men generally.

It might be objected that homosexuals are only at greater risk of depression and suicide because they suffer discrimination.  This is implausible for two reasons.  First, as the twentieth century has progressed, society has only become more accepting of homosexual practice, yet these problems remain as big as ever and may even be growing (8).  Second, surely the other factors we have discussed here provide a much clearer and more plausible understanding of why homosexuals are in such greater danger of depression, mental illness, and suicide.  More drug abuse, short-term relationships, numerous medical problems, and a far lower life expectancy surely provide a much more likely explanation of why homosexuals suffer from higher rate of mental illness and suicide. 

In fact, greater acceptance of homosexuality might even make the problem worse!  In encouraging homosexual practice and thereby possibly increasing it, homosexuals will be more likely to suffer from these medical problems and thus more likely to suffer mentally because of it. 

The Practical Conclusion

This has easily been the least pleasant blog post I have written.  I prefer to write about my interests and this is one topic I would prefer to avoid.  Second, much material here will come as a surprise to many and even seem harsh to say, but it is far harsher not to.  The material here should always be presented cautiously and never triumphantly. 

Nonetheless, we cannot refrain from drawing the conclusion that homosexual practice entails many harmful behaviors including medical and mental health problems, promiscuous behavior, increased incidence of drug use, and lower life expectancy.

Because we recognize that drug use harms self and other, we agree that it is wrong to use drugs or to encourage others to use them.  In the same way, we cannot avoid the conclusion that because homosexual practice is harmful, it is wrong to practice homosexual behavior or to encourage others to do so.  It would be like giving alcohol to an alcoholic.

I end with the obvious remark that Christian engagement with people struggling with homosexuality must always be with respect and charity, though this will not entail acceptance of their homosexuality any more than loving an alcoholic entails acceptance of his alcoholism.  Second, there is help for homosexuals who do want to live a chaste life in different Christian ministries ( 

Further Reading

William Lane Craig, “A Christian Perspective on Homosexuality.”

Thomas Schmidt, Straight and Narrow?  Compassion and Clarity in the Homosexuality Debate, (1995).


(1) Such as that Christians oppose same sex marriage because gay people are more likely to raise gay children; that opponents of gay marriage fear allowing it will lead people to wish to marry their dogs; and that gay marriage is not “natural” in the same way that high fructose corn syrup is unnatural.

(2) Much of this information is taken from chapter 6 of Thomas Schmidt, Straight and Narrow?: Compassion and Clarity in the Homosexual Debate (InterVarsity, 1995).  I will not cite every study to which he refers, the reader is referred to his footnotes for the specific studies.

(3) Schmidt p.106.  Among others, he is citing A.P. Bell and M.S. Weinberg, Homosexualities, (New York, 1978).
See also,

(4) Another study confirms this as a problem to which physicians must be particularly attentive in young homosexuals: "Medical problems of the homosexual adolescent." Journal of Adolescent Health Care. 6(4):278-85, 1985 Jul.

See also Schmidt (122).  He points out that approximately 30% of homosexual men are infected with AIDs (123).

(7) Schmidt 112-126.  He also points out that homosexuals are more likely to suffer from alcoholism (30%) than heterosexuals (10%).  Second, thought homosexual men make up not more than 2% of the population, 35% of pedophiles are homosexuals.

See also: , which found that LGB people are at higher risk of substance abuse, depression, and suicide.

(8) In a previous post, I observed that the problem of bullying and youth suicide has only gotten worse over the twentieth century.


  1. Thank-you for the well thought-out and presented arguments.
    I especially appreciated your line: " The material here should always be presented cautiously and never triumphantly." I was tempted to publish a link on Facebook to this, but I must first consider my motives and a proper comment to introduce it.
    - Reg.

  2. Reg, I'm glad you found it useful. I wonder about the same challenge, how to use this material without the risk of seeming triumphant "aha, I'm right after all and homosexuality is bad!" The best way I know to strike the balance now (and I am still trying to figure it out) is to use the material defensively on a personal basis. Rather than taking this material and throwing it at people, I would use it on a personal level if I am asked why I oppose homosexual practice, especially by a person who doesn't care about the Bible. It is a challenge to keep reconcile the fact that it can be useful to share such material, but also what is my audience, the strong passions it will raise, is it likely to be useful, and even my own spiritual state as I share it?

  3. Great article. In my opinion, any sexual practice can be harmful not just in homosexual. It's a question of how, I think. Thank you for sharing.

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