Man Up

Rekers's Spanking Science

Long before he hired a gay escort, George Alan Rekers tried beating the gayness out of little kids.

By Penn Bullock and Brandon K. Thorp

What do you do with a little boy who likes cross-dressing and playing with dolls? If you're George Alan Rekers, you "extinguish" the boy's feminine behavior with a sometimes violent Pavlovian regimen while your scientific team observes through a one-way mirror.

That's what the Baptist minister — who made international headlines when he was exposed by Miami New Times this month for hiring a gay escort — did in the early 1970s at a clinic he opened at UCLA called the Feminine Boy Project.

In 1974, Rekers, a leading thinker in the so-called ex-gay movement, was presented with a 4-year-old "effeminate boy" named Kraig, whose parents had enrolled him in the program. Rekers put Kraig in a "play-observation room" with his mother, who was equipped with a listening device. When the boy played with girly toys, the doctors instructed her to avert her eyes from the child.

According to a 2001 account in Brain, Child Magazine, "On one such occasion, his distress was such that he began to scream, but his mother just looked away. His anxiety increased, and he did whatever he could to get her to respond to him... Kraig became so hysterical, and his mother so uncomfortable, that one of the clinicians had to enter and take Kraig, screaming, from the room."

Rekers's research team continued the experiment in the family's home. Kraig received red chips for feminine behavior and blue chips for masculine behavior. The blue chips could be cashed in for candy or television time. The red chips earned him a "swat" or spanking from his father. Researchers periodically entered the family's home to ensure proper implementation of the reward-punishment system.

After two years, the boy supposedly manned up. Over the decades, Rekers, who ran countless similar experiments, held Kraig up as "the poster boy for behavioral treatment of boyhood effeminacy."

At age 18, shamed by his childhood diagnosis and treatment, Rekers's poster boy attempted suicide, according to Gender Shock, a book by journalist Phyllis Burke. Rekers, whose early experiments were the first to ostensibly demonstrate a "gay cure," resigned from the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) last week, after it was revealed the gay escort had given him nude sexual massages. NARTH, however, stands by his science.

 
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