Fruit machine (homosexuality test)
"Fruit machine" is a term for a device developed in Canada that was supposed to be able to identify homosexual people, or (offensively and derogatorily) "fruits". The subjects were made to view pornography, and the device measured the diameter of the pupils of the eyes (pupillary response test), perspiration, and pulse for a supposed erotic response.
The "fruit machine" was employed in Canada in the 1950s and 1960s during a campaign to eliminate all homosexuals from the civil service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), and the military. A substantial number of workers did lose their jobs. Although funding for the "fruit machine" project was cut off in the late 1960s, the investigations continued, and the RCMP collected files on over 9,000 "suspected" homosexuals.
The chair was like one from a dentist's office. It had a pulley with a camera going towards the pupils. There was a black box in front of it that showed pictures. The pictures ranged from the mundane to sexually explicit photos of men and women. It had previously been determined that the pupils would dilate in relation to the amount of interest in the picture. This was called the pupillary response test.
People were told the machine was to rate stress. After knowledge of its real purpose became widespread, few people volunteered for it.
Faulty test parameters
There were many problems with the "fruit machine." To begin with, the pupillary response test was based on fatally flawed assumptions: that visual stimuli would give an involuntary reaction able to be measured scientifically; that homosexuals and heterosexuals would respond to these stimuli differently; and that there were only two types of sexuality. There was also the problem of physiology. The researchers failed to take into account the varying sizes of the pupils and the differing distances between the eyes. Other problems that existed were that the pictures of the subjects' eyes had to be taken from an angle, as the camera would have blocked the subjects' view of the photographs if it were placed directly in front. Also, the amount of light coming from the photographs changed with each slide, causing the subjects' pupils to dilate in a way that was unrelated to their interest in the picture. Finally, the dilation of the pupils was also exceedingly difficult to measure, as the change was often smaller than one millimeter.
The idea was based on a study done by an American university professor, which measured the sizes of the subjects' pupils as they walked through the aisles of grocery stores.
In popular culture
- Lavender scare
- Penile plethysmograph
- Vaginal photoplethysmography
- Blade Runner#Voight-Kampff machine
- Gary William Kinsman, Dieter K. Buse, Mercedes Steedman, Whose National Security?: Canadian State Surveillance and the Creation of Enemies, (Between the Lines, Canada, 2000) ISBN 1-896357-25-3, chapter 10.
- Men in the Shadows: The RCMP Security Service. (Doubleday Canada, 1980) ISBN 0-385-14682-5, chapters 10 and 11.
- The Current, 9 May 2005
- "Opposite eras attract in gay history story". Vancouver Sun, October 23, 1998.
- Gary Kinsman et al.,Whose National Security?: Canadian State Surveillance and the Creation of Enemies, (Between the Lines, Canada, 2000) ISBN 1-896357-25-3,chapter 10.
- John Sawatsky. Men in the Shadows: The RCMP Security Service. (Doubleday Canada, 1980) ISBN 0-385-14682-5, chapters 10 and 11.
- CBC Radio 1 The Current, 9 May 2005
- Gary Kinsman, "'Character Weakness' and 'Fruit Machines': Towards an Analysis of the Anti-Homosexual Security Campaign in the Canadian Civil Service," Labour/Le Travail, 35 (Spring 1995).