Since 1932, Aversion Therapy, or a treatment in which a patient is exposed to a negative stimuli while receiving discomfort, was a generally accepted form of treatment for addictions and other problems. In 1994, the American Psychological Association declared that Aversion Therapy did not work and was dangerous. Beginning around 1966, Aversion Therapy was used in order to attempt to cure individuals of homosexuality, thus rendering them heterosexual. Bring in the Mormon Church, which preaches that only heterosexual
individuals can be a true part of the church. During the 1970’s Mormon Presidents would send young men who believed they were homosexual to Brigham Young University, which began a program using AversionTtherapy in an attempt to cure them of homosexuality. Their motives were supposed to be purely to allow the individual to continue to be associated with the Mormon Church, for if they could not be cured, they could not be a Mormon.
In a series of video interviews titled “Fallacy In the Mormon Church”, four men detail what went on in their “therapy sessions” in the basement of the Smith Family Living Center at BYU. Participants were sat in a chair in a room filled with two-way mirrors so that they could be monitored. They were then strapped down and an I.V. inserted into their arm. A device was connected to their penis, which would measure their arousal level, heart monitors, and electro-shock pads which were put on their testicles, thighs, and armpits. The subjects were then exposed to both videos and pictures of homosexual pornography, and, if any level of arousal was detected via their penis or heart rate, a fluid would be injected into them causing them to vomit, or an electrical shock would be inflicted to cause them discomfort. The purpose of this goes along with the definition of Aversion Therapy,
which hopes to associate negative outcomes with having homosexual thoughts, which will hopefully down the line cause the subject to not have these thoughts anymore, fearing the uncomfortable outcome. The four subjects which were interviewed in the video are still gay to this day, and believe that the experiments only made themselves more fearful of the public reaction to their “problem.” Results showed that it had a success rate of over 50%, which made it relatively successful. Data gathered later, however, showed that many of the individuals were actually bi-sexual, making the experiments unable to be considered successful.
Talking about the specific ethical principles that were violated here can be a little tricky. I personally, do not believe Homosexuality is a disease, nor wrong, and that is an opinion I hold. It is obviously a very heated topic and one which can fall under the category of ethical or non-ethical. So from my viewpoint, the first ethical principle violated was the choice of whether or not they wanted to be who they wanted to be. The Mormon Church specifically told them that they could not be a part of their religion if they did not “convert themselves” leaving them little choice as they wanted to be dedicated Mormons. The induced vomiting and electro-shock therapy caused the patients extreme discomfort, and in the case of one individual, stimulated his phobia of vomiting so much that he passed out. Ways for improving this experiment could have involved psychological treatment not involving pain and discomfort. If a person truly wants to change who they are, they should be able to do so freely, and not forcefully, as done by the Mormon Church in this case.
I find it hard to apply this case to our study of Virtual Play in our MMO’s. At no time in these games are people ever forced to do anything. That is the blessing of our online video games; We are allowed to be whoever we want to be, exploring or questing. Nowhere do players encounter a level of demand in which they absolutely have to do something in order to continue playing. We obviously will not be using this kind of persuasion in our studies, as we really don’t have that kind of leverage on any player. We could however, use the fact that they would be helping the gaming community as a whole, and therefore themselves, to our advantage in getting them to help us.