John Bancroft is a British psychiatrist, reproductive biologist, and sex therapist. Many consider Bancroft’s 2003 criticism of J. Michael Bailey’s book The Man Who Would Be Queen to be a turning point in the history of the academic exploitation of sex and gender minorities. He also commented on Bailey’s version of events recorded by Alice Dreger and published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior by Kenneth Zucker.
Bancroft began his career administering “faradic aversion” (electroshock) to “cure” self-hating sex and gender minorities, including trans people.
He has acknowledged mistakes: “In the past, I have used words or concepts that I would not use today because they are insensitive or potentially hurtful. I now consciously strive to avoid such insensitivity, and so far I have not found this a barrier to communicating scientific ideas.”
John Henry Jeffries Bancroft was born June 18, 1936 in Peterborough, England, the son of Jack Stockton and Andree Georgette (Jeffries) Bancroft. Bancroft received a bachelor’s degree from University of Cambridge in 1957 and a master’s degree in 1960. He was a trainee in psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, London from 1963-1967.
In 1968 he advocated “electric aversion therapy of sexual deviations,” reporting he had shocked a number of people seeking to be “cured,” including 14 “transvestites and transsexuals.” His electrocution of trans women happened twice a day for about two weeks and took three forms:
- “with the deviant act” (“as he is cross-dressing”)
- “with the deviant fantasy” (when they imagined expressing their gender)
- “with the erectile response” (while their genitals were attached to a penile plethysmograph)
He went on to train in psychiatry at the Maudsley Hospital, London, and in 1969 moved to Oxford to help his colleague, Michael Gelder, establish a new University Department of Psychiatry. He was a clinical reader in psychiatry at University of Oxford from 1969-1976. Bancroft then got his medical degree in 1970 from Cambridge University.
Over the next few years, he became increasingly interested in human sexuality, and in 1976, he moved to the Medical Research Council’s Reproductive Biology Unit in Edinburgh. He was there for the next nineteen years until he was appointed Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Indiana University School of Medicine. Bancroft was Director of The Kinsey Institute at Indiana University from 1995 to 2004. He then returned to England and began reducing his scholarly output. He published a book on tolerating uncertainty in 2014.
Bancroft married twice and fathered five children. His first wife, Judy Greenwood, is also a psychiatrist. His second wife, Cynthia Graham, is a clinical psychologist. His first three children are all professional jazz musicians.
IASR conference 2003
The Kinsey Institute hosted the 2003 conference of the International Academy of Sex Research (IASR). Lynn Conway received the following first-hand report from an IASR member in attendance:
Obviously shaken from the recent events, Bailey offered a nearly-unintelligible 30 minute outline of Blanchard’s theory of transsexualism. He then briefly mentioned the transgender “attack” on science. He also tried to get sympathy from the audience by showing pictures of his children. Bailey ended his talk abruptly by walking away from the podium, stating there was not time for the scheduled question-and-answer period. The audience, however, was not in agreement with him.
John Bancroft, director of The Kinsey Institute and one of the most respected sexologists in the world, was the first to cross-examine Bailey. His words (which I directly quote) were: “Michael, I would caution you against calling this book ‘science’ because I have read it … and I can tell you it is NOT science.”
Complete silence fell over the room. It was obvious that, indeed, a new era has finally dawned on sexual science and the study of transsexualism. While several people in the room at the meeting, including Ken Zucker, support Bailey and his “scientific” speculations, I can tell you that the vast majority of the scientific community does NOT.Conway (2003)
Disgraced doctor and “autogynephilia” activist Anne Lawrence was present for the comment and said:
Bancroft’s remark was followed by utter silence in the room, as though no one could believe that anyone would say something so tactless. It was as though Bancroft had stood up and loudly farted — people looked at each other in embarrassment for him. Certainly no one clapped or said a word of agreement.Lawrence, Anne (August 23, 2004). Bancroft’s “not science” comment. Yahoo
Bancroft’s comment about Bailey’s book was promising, but he continued to work with biased and anti-trans people like Ray Blanchard until his retirement.
Dreifus, Claudia (May 25, 1999). A Conversation with John Bancroft. Sitting in the Ultimate Hot Seat: the Kinsey Institute. New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/1999/05/25/science/conversation-with-john-bancroft-sitting-ultimate-hot-seat-kinsey-institute.html
Q. When you were a sex therapist in Great Britain, you did aversion therapy on homosexual patients. Do you regret that now?
A. I don’t regret it because I think my motives for doing it were entirely honorable. I just think it was a stage of development in the way we were thinking about it. I am embarrassed about it when people discover it.
Q. Do you fear you damaged your patients?
A. No, not at all.
Q. Or perhaps, wasted their time?
A. Oh, I think I must have wasted many patients’ times over the years. Yes, I think it was a fruitless exercise, but it didn’t take me very long to realize that.
Q. Do you consider homosexuality a sickness?
A. No. Not at all.
Q. Then why do aversion therapy?
A. Because one was responding to individuals’ coming along and saying, ”I want to change.” I still respect that request. It’s a request that one gets seldom or never, now. The individual who is wanting to deal with his sexual life, I’m there to try to help them sort it out, one way or the other.
Conway, Lynn (2004). Scientists in Psychology challenge J. Michael Bailey and “The Man who would be Queen: The Science of Gender Bending and Transsexualism” https://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/TS/Reviews/Scientists%20Challenge%20Bailey.htm
Carey, Benedict (August 21, 2007). Criticism of a Gender Theory, and a Scientist Under Siege. New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/21/health/psychology/21gender.html
At a public meeting of sex researchers shortly after the book’s publication, Dr. John Bancroft, then director of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, said to Dr. Bailey, “Michael, I have read your book, and I do not think it is science,” according to accounts of the meeting. Dr. Bancroft confirmed the comment.
Books and chapters
Bancroft JHJ (1972). The relationship between gender identity and sexual behaviour: Some clinical aspects. In Ounsted C, Taylor D, eds. Gender Differences: Their Ontogeny and Significance. Churchill Livingstone, ISBN 9780443009020
Bancroft JHJ (1974). Deviant Sexual Behaviour: Modification and Assessment. Clarendon Press, ISBN 9780198573678
Bancroft JHJ (1983). Human Sexuality and Its Problems. Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier, ISBN 9780443016592
Bancroft JHJ, Reinisch JM (1990). Adolescence and Puberty. Oxford University Press, ISBN 9780195053364
Bancroft JHJ, Davis CM, Weinstein D, eds. (1990). Annual Review of Sex Research. Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality ISBN 978-0962826610
Bancroft JHJ (2002). Sexual arousal. In Nadel L (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science. Macmillan, ISBN 9780470016190
Bancroft JHJ, ed. (2003). Sexual Development in Childhood. Indiana University Press, ISBN 9780253342430
Bancroft JHJ (2004). Alfred C. Kinsey and the politics of sex research. Annu Rev Sex Res. 2004;15:1-39.
Bancroft JHJ (2014). Tolerance of Uncertainty. AuthorHouse, ISBN 9781496929372
Selected journal articles
Bancroft JHJ, Marks I (1968). “Treatment of Sexual Deviations.” Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine. 61 (8): 796–799. doi: 10.1177/003591576806100827.
Bancroft JHJ (1969). Sex and Gender by Robert Stoller [book review]. The British Journal of Psychiatry, Volume 115, Issue 528, November 1969, pp. 1335 – 1337. https://doi.org/10.1192/bjp.115.528.1335
Bancroft JHJ (1969). Aversion therapy of homosexuality: A pilot study of 10 cases. The British Journal of Psychiatry, Volume 115, Issue 529, December 1969, pp. 1417 – 1431. https://doi.org/10.1192/bjp.115.529.1417
Marks I, Gelder M, Bancroft JHJ (1970). Sexual deviants two years after electric aversion. The British Journal of Psychiatry 1970 -1970 Aug;117(537):173-85. https://doi.org/10.1192/S0007125000192864
Bancroft JHJ (1981). Hormones and human sexual behaviour. British Medical Bulletin, Volume 37, Issue 2, May 1981, Pages 153–158, https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordjournals.bmb.a071693
J Bancroft JHJ (1990). Man and His Penis- A Relationship Under Threat?- Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality, Volume 2, 1990 – Issue 2. https://doi.org/10.1300/J056v02n02_03
Bancroft JHJ, Janssen E (2000). The dual control model of male sexual response: A theoretical approach to centrally mediated erectile dysfunction. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 2000 Jul;24(5):571-9. doi: 10.1016/s0149-7634(00)00024-5
Bancroft JHJ, Janssen E, Strong D (2003). The relation between mood and sexuality in gay men. Archives of Sexual Behavior 2003 Jun;32(3):231-42. https://doi.org/10.1023/a:1023461500810
Bancroft JHJ, Loftus J, Long JS (2003). Distress about sex: A national survey of women in heterosexual relationships. Archives of Sexual Behavior 2003 Jun;32(3):193-208. 10.1023/a:1023420431760
Bancroft JHJ, Vukadinovic Z (2004). Sexual addiction, sexual compulsivity, sexual impulsivity, or what? Toward a theoretical model. Journal of Sex Research 2004 Aug;41(3):225-34. doi: 10.1080/00224490409552230
Bancroft JHJ (2005). The endocrinology of sexual arousal. Journal of Endocrinology, 2005 Sep;186(3):411-27. 10.1677/joe.1.06233
J Bancroft JHJ (2008). Lust or identity? Archives of Sexual Behavior, 37(3):426-8; discussion 505-10 doi:10.1007/s10508-008-9317-1
Bancroft JHJ, Graham CA, Janssen E, Sanders SA (2009). The dual control model: Current status and future directions. J Sex Res. 2009 Mar-Jun;46(2-3):121-42. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224490902747222
Jannini EA, Blanchard R, Camperio-Ciani A, Bancroft JHJ (2010). Male homosexuality: Nature or culture? J Sex Med, 2010 Oct;7(10):3245-53. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2010.02024.x