Because the world needs another reason to believe the Mormon Church thinks we’re all a bunch of dog fuckers, today let’s learn about a study conducted by a Brigham Young University graduate student that called for homosexuals to administer electric shocks to their penises to de-gay themselves.
Called “electric aversion therapy,” this sounds like something a hole lot worse than all that hugging and pillow beating that “touch therapy” calls for. ABC News introduces us to John Cameron, who volunteered for the 1976 study — which, as all graduate studies must be, was cleared by administrators.
Twice a week for six months, he jolted himself with painful shocks to the penis to rid himself of his attraction to men. “I kept trying to fight it, praying and fasting and abstaining and being the best person I could,” said Cameron, now a 59-year-old playwright and head of the acting program at the University of Iowa. “I was never actively gay, never had any encounters with men — never had moments when I failed and actually had sex with other men,” he said.
But his undercurrent of feelings put him in direct conflict with the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints (LDS) and its principles. “As teens we were taught that homosexuality was second only to murder in the eyes of God,” he said. “I was very, very religious and the Mormon church was the center of my life,” said Cameron, who had done missionary work in Guatemala and El Salvador. The 1976 study at Brigham Young, “Effect of Visual Stimuli in Electric Aversion Therapy,” was written by Max Ford McBride, then a graduate student in the psychology department. “I thought he was my savior,” said Cameron, who enrolled with 13 other willing subjects, all Mormons who thought they might be gay, for a three- to six-month course of therapy.
So how did this, uh, “therapy” work?
A mercury-filled tube was placed around the base of the penis and the students were shown alternating slides of men and women in various stages of undress. When participants responded to images of men with an erection, the closed electric circuit was broken and they received three-second electrical shocks at 10-second intervals. Each session lasted an hour. Participants set their own pain levels. Cameron said his shame was so deep that he selected the highest level. “Max didn’t do it, we did it,” he said. “I was always turning it up to get the most pain because I was desperate.”
Now let’s all remember this was the 1970s, just when the psychological community was abandoning its definition of homosexuality as a disorder. But that’s not a theory the Mormon Church, which runs the show at BYU, has ever really abandoned, despite its claims. And while LDS insists it’s given up its reparative therapy techniques, exiled members of the church claim otherwise. And no matter what the Mormon Church says in public, they still think you’re gross.
And just in case you’re wondering why the study had only 14 subjects, well, it originally had 16. But two of the participants killed themselves during the experiment.