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News Briefs II

Ear Emissions Shed Light On Female Sexuality


Scientists have found new evidence suggesting that homosexual and bisexual women differ in subtle biological ways from heterosexual women.

Everyone’s inner ears produce imperceptible sounds called “spontaneous otoacoustic emissions,” and scientists have long known that women’s ears tend to produce somewhat louder emissions than men’s.

By inserting tiny microphones into the ear canal, Dennis McFadden and Edward G. Pasanen of the University of Texas in Austin and colleagues compared the emissions of 60 homosexual and bisexual women with those of 57 heterosexual women. As a group, the homosexual and bisexual women’s emissions were slightly more like that of men: less frequent and weaker than those of the heterosexual women, the researchers found.

One explanation could be that homosexual and bisexual women were exposed to slightly different levels of hormones when they were developing in the womb, causing subtle changes in their development, the researchers say.

“For us, the most plausible explanation is that the inner ears of the non-heterosexual women were partially masculinized at some time in development, possibly at the same time that whatever brain structures are responsible for sexual orientation were also masculinized,” says McFadden, whose study is featured in the April issue of the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America.

Internet Middlemen Introduce “Infomediaries”


Amid a flurry of attacks on personal privacy on the Internet, new services called “infomediaries” may soon help consumers gain a degree of control over the circulation of their personal data in cyberspace, and even pay them cash dividends in the process.

Infomediaries would collect personal information voluntarily supplied by millions of consumers, protect that information with stringent privacy guards, then sell access to groups of those consumers to direct e-mail marketers and Web merchants based on users’ interests.Such businesses offer a new model for solving the privacy dilemma -- a third way between potentially chilling government regulation and the ineffectual self-policing that has promoted today’s Wild West Web mentality.

Infomediaries say merchants would fulfill a marketer’s dream: gaining intelligence on and access to potential buyers certified as interested in their wares. And consumers would benefit in several ways. They would be compensated -- either in cash or special offers for use of their personal information. And by aggregating demographic data and product preferences of millions of Internet users, infomediaries will try to create powerful blocks of buyers who can demand better prices and more personalized, less indiscriminate marketing pitches. Users interested in sports utility vehicles would be sent e-mail ads and Web reports on SUVs, but not information on luxury sedans, let alone Viagra.