The Distinguished Dissertation Award recognizes original work that makes an unusually significant contribution to the discipline. Both methodological and substantive quality are judged. The award is given each year to a CHSS doctoral student who has successfully defended their dissertation in the preceding 12 months.
At the May 18 Graduate Awards Ceremony the award went to Charles (Chaz) Wampold for his dissertation, Early/Late, Top/Bottom: Fraternal Birth Order and Anal-Erotic Roles of Men who have Sex with Men.
Having read widely on the topic of sexuality for many years while working as an attorney, Charles discovered the Widener program, applied, and received his M. Ed. in Sexuality Education in 2014. He had previously received his B.A. in Anthropology from Rice University and his J.D. from New York University School of Law. Charles’ main areas of research interest are long-term romantic love and the biological correlates of erotic role preferences of men who have sex with men, a topic about which his dissertation research has made a significant contribution. He presented his findings in May at the World Association for Sexual Health in Prague. Charles lives in Princeton, New Jersey. From 25 years, he was a Partner in the law firm of Drinker, Biddle & Reath, where he specialized in estate planning and trust & estate litigation. Charles enjoys travel, being with his spouse, and bragging about their three talented daughters.
This correlational study examined whether a phenomenon known as the fraternal birth order effect (FBOE) is a general predictor of same-sex attraction in men or whether it is associated with a specific erotic preference for receptive anal intercourse. FBOE describes the phenomenon that homosexual men, as well as androphilic male-to-female (mtf) transsexuals, tend to have a greater number of older brothers than do cisgender heterosexual men. FBOE is widely believed to be a phenomenon that is a marker for an innate, biological predisposition for androphilia in chromosomal males. The correlation between number of older brothers and androphilic mtf transsexuality is much stronger than the correlation between number of older brothers and male homosexual identity. Given that androphilic mtf transsexuals are highly likely to exhibit a preference for receptive intercourse, the existing data in FBOE literature is not inconsistent with the hypothesis that FBOE is a more potent predictor of a male’s erotic role orientation than of a man’s sexual orientation. Further, studies have demonstrated a link between boyhood gender nonconformity and an adult preference for receptive intercourse.
This study sought to examine whether FBOE is equally applicable to men who have sex with men (MSM) who engage mostly in penetrative anal intercourse (Tops), MSM who engage mostly in receptive anal intercourse (Bottoms), and MSM who engage in penetrative and receptive intercourse in approximately equal proportions (Versatiles). Going in to the study, it was hypothesized that Bottoms have a greater number of older brothers than do other MSM. In other words, FBOE is not a predictor of sexual orientation per se; rather, it is a predictor of anal-erotic role orientation (AERO). This hypothesis was tested surveying a sample of 243 MSM who engage in anal intercourse. As hypothesized, when AERO is measured by objective behavioral frequency, Bottoms, on average, had a significantly greater number of older brothers than did Tops or Versatiles. However, this difference was less robust (p being between .05 and .15 on most relevant statistical tests) when AERO was determined by a measure of subjective preference, rather than an objective/behavioral measure.
The research provides support for the proposition that the propensity to engage in receptive intercourse (volvivity), or the propensity to engage in penetrative intercourse (inrumptivity), may be shaped by prenatal factors. If these characteristics are innate, then perhaps for some men the biological foundation of gay identity is not so much an atypical erotic attraction to masculine forms as it is an atypical preference for volvive behaviors. An individual’s sexual object orientation and erotic role orientation can be plotted against two axes: the androphilic/gynephilic axis and the volvive/inrumptive axis. The androphilic/gynephilic axis equates with the popular notion of sexual orientation—androphilic males being gay and gynephilic males being heterosexual. It is possible that a person’s positions along each of these two axes are fixed at birth but it is also possible that an individual’s position on one axis is fixed at birth, and that his position on the other axis is not, but the fixed characteristic influences the postnatal development of the variable characteristic. This study provides evidence that the fraternal birth order effect is a phenomenon that relates directly to a male’s prenatal placement on the volvive/inrumptive axis. Thus, the conclusion of most fraternal birth order studies—that the fraternal birth order effect relates to prenatal placement on the androphilic/gynephilic axis—needs to be re-examined.