The darker side of science | Robert Heath’s quest to find a cure for homosexuality

Ok, this one is seriously messed up.

Homosexuality.  It’s a pretty loaded word, and there have been a multitude of instances where people have tried to purge it as if it’s some nasty disease. The apartheid armies of South Africa, for example, tried to eliminate homosexuality among its ranks by inhumanely forcing homosexual soldiers to undergo sex changes. These were often highly unethical, involving things like chemical castration and electrical shocks. Yeah, not very nice.

In 1970, a man called Robert Heath took matters into his own hands, and turned to science to try and find a cure for homosexuality. He was inspired by an experiment undertaken in 1954, where two scientists inserted wires into the septal region (read: pleasure centre) of a rat’s brain in order to produce sensations of intense sexual arousal. They then connected the wires up to a lever which was placed in the rat’s cage, and would allow the rat to sexually stimulate itself. The rat picked up on this exceedingly quickly, and was recorded to pull the lever almost manically, up to two thousand times an hour (don’t act like you wouldn’t either).

Robert Heath wanted to find out whether such electronic stimulation of the septal region could be used to cure homosexuality (i.e. induce a shift towards heterosexuality). So he took a 24-year-old homosexual male, with a history of epilepsy, depression and marijuana abuse (does this really sound like a good idea…?), and who found the idea of heterosexual intercourse to be ‘absolutely repugnant’. The man, who became known as patient B-19, had his skull drilled and an electrode implanted in the septal region of his brain. He was given a hand held device which he could use to…ahem…pleasure himself. Like the rat, he became obsessive and almost maniacal in its use. As Heath noted:

He was permitted to wear the device for 3 hours at a time: on one occasion he stimulated his septal region 1,200 times, on another occasion 1,500 times, and on a third occasion 900 times. He protested each time the unit was taken from him, pleading to self-stimulate just a few more times… the patient reported feelings of pleasure, alertness, and warmth; he had feelings of sexual arousal and described a compulsion to masturbate.


He was experiencing an almost overwhelming euphoria and elation and had to be disconnected.

Hmm. So you’ve got a depressed, epileptic, drug addicted gay man hooked up to a myriad of wires and machinery that will allow him to stimulate the ‘reward’ and ‘pleasure’ parts of his brain for hours on end. Good job, Heath!

At this point, B-19 was so stupidly horny that Heath thought that it was the prime time to introduce him to a young female prostitute.

A twenty-one-year-old female prostitute agreed, after being told the circumstances, to spend time with the patient in a specially prepared laboratory. The laboratory was modified to permit complete privacy, and an extension cord was inserted between the plugs in the patient’s hand and the jack box to the recording room to give him adequate mobility.

Right. Just imagine how that conversation went. The addition of the extension cord was also a nice touch. Thanks, doc!

For an hour, B-19 didn’t make any advances towards the girl. I guess she got bored because she then took the initiative and instigated sex herself. In the formal, scientific prose of Heath:

The patient began active participation and achieved successful penetration, which culminated in a highly satisfactory orgiastic response, despite the milieu and the encumbrances of the lead wires to the electrodes.


Heath saw the act of sex between the two as a surefire sign that B-19 was now on the ‘correct’ path to heterosexuality (his beliefs, not mine), but there is little known about B-19’s later fate. I’m guessing he reverted back to homosexuality, because that’s how he was born. Seriously.

TLDR; Heath’s study involved taking a severely depressed, drug addicted homosexual man into the lab, letting him stimulate his own brain to experience wildly intense feelings of sexual pleasure, and then tracking down a female prostitute to have sex with him, to see if that would make him like girls now.


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