The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), a leading human rights group, has criticized the Czech Republic for continuing to use a “sexual arousal” test on gay men seeking asylum. Applicants are hooked up to a penile plethysmograph (PPG), which measures blood flow to their junk, and then shown straight porn. Anyone who gets aroused is sent back to whatever country they came from.
In a statement, the agency said:
“There are a number of problems with this situation, even apart from the fact that the reliability of ‘phallometric testing’ is questionable, since it is dubious whether it reaches sufficiently clear conclusions to be used as evidence in the processing of claims and in possible subsequent legal proceedings. This oblique practice would in any case not be appropriate as regards people who are bisexual.”
According to the BBC, the Czech Republic’s interior minister “reacted angrily” to the claims and said that so far, fewer than ten tests have been conducted and all have had the applicant’s full written consent. Also according to the BBC, this issue first came to light after a German court refused to send a gay Iranian man to the Czech Republic because he would be subjected to the test.
The devices first came into use in Czechoslovakia in the 1950s as a way to verify that men claiming to be gay in order to avoid military service really were. PPGs have also been used to determine whether sex offenders are likely to re-offend. As many as 20% of Canadian treatment programs for adolescent sex offenders, and 10% of American ones, use penile plethysmography to determine whether treatment will be effective. Last July, a Canadian tester was charged with sexual assault. Additionally, evidence from PPGs has been proven inadmissible in both Canadian and American courts.
This isn’t the first time a government has subjected people to testing to find out whether someone is gay. In the Cold War, the Canadian government developed a “fruit machine” that they a. actually called that and b. used to determine whether federal employees had “character weaknesses” (i.e. were of a homosexy persuasion) and would therefore be security risks using a similar combination of bogus science and porn. It didn’t work for them, either (note to Americans: the science behind the test came from your country).
In 1966, researchers said that “conclusive means to identify homosexual subjects was still out of reach.”
Which doesn’t explain why people keep trying to find one anyway.
Gayness is complicated business.
There have been studies that say being gay might be genetic.
It may or may not have to do with your mother.
Or your brain structure.
Or your environment.
And gaydar can be just as complicated.
A girl in a plaid flannel shirt with skinny jeans, combat boots, and another girl attached to her by the lips is probably gay, but she could also be a hipster with a drinking problem (or both). Similarly, even though there have been lots of studies showing that more lesbians and gay men are left-handed, or that in some cases brain structure can be different for non-gay people, it takes a very special type of person to go up to someone at a bar and say hey, baby, is your anterior commissure* larger or are you just happy to see me? And, I would suggest, federal governments are not that type of person.
Simply put: there is a reason that none of the tests meant to determine whether or not someone is gay work, and that reason is that everyone is different. Right now, while there are theories about genetics and environment, no one’s too clear on what makes people go gay (though there is reasonable evidence that looking at hot girls in menswear may play a role).
And more importantly, it doesn’t matter. While it is understandable that a government sheltering those seeking asylum would want to verify the legitimacy of any claims of persecution, there is something inherently disturbing about hooking someone up to a machine and forcing them to watch porn in order to do so. Not only is it highly invasive, potentially in violation of religious beliefs, and just gross, it doesn’t even work. The rest of the European Union has stopped using phallometric testing on gay people seeking asylum. It’s time the Czech Republic did the same.
*Bigger for lesbians.