Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Committee Member

Kathryn Hausbeck

Second Committee Member

Maralee Mayberry

Number of Pages



This dissertation is a feminist analysis of scientific articles published from 1990--2000 reporting findings from research on biological origins of lesbian and bisexual orientations in women. Informed by feminist standpoint epistemologies and the theories and empirical research of the interdisciplinary field of feminist science studies, I assert that scientific efforts to locate biological origins of lesbian and bisexual orientations in women are likely to be infused with culturally-based assumptions and beliefs regarding sex, gender, sexual orientation, and race. To the extent that these assumptions and beliefs go unacknowledged in the science, they place limitations on the knowledge claims that can be made from the scientific research; Based on prior, related analyses conducted by scholars in feminist science studies and in gay and lesbian studies, I utilize two distinct yet overlapping research methods to analyze the scientific research: methodological critique and discourse analysis. The methodological critique analyzes scientific flaws and limitations in the explanatory framework, the sampling procedures, and the interpretations and conclusions drawn from the data. The discourse analysis analyzes the contextual meanings associated with the language used in discussing sex, gender, sexual orientation, and race. Both analyses provide evidence for the influence of culturally-based assumptions and beliefs on the scientific research; By integrating the results of the two methods I show how they work together to place constraints on the scientific knowledge claims made in the body of research analyzed. I argue for the necessity for researchers to situate their research within the social, political, historical, and cultural contexts in which it arises, as well as within the context of the background assumptions that shape it. Only in this way can we evaluate the validity of scientific claims about the "nature" of lesbian orientation.


Bisexual; Critique; Feminist; Knowledge; Lesbian; Nature; Politics; Practice; Scientific; Scientific Knowledge

Controlled Subject

Women's studies; Sociology

File Format


File Size

8970.24 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




If you are the rightful copyright holder of this dissertation or thesis and wish to have the full text removed from Digital Scholarship@UNLV, please submit a request to and include clear identification of the work, preferably with URL.


IN COPYRIGHT. For more information about this rights statement, please visit