• Sex - sexual behaviour
• Gender - being male or female
• Gender identity - the male's association with the male role and the female's association with the female role.
• Sexual identity - one's self label or self-identification as heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual.
An individual's enduring sense of self as a sexual being that fits a
culturally created category and accounts for one¹s sexual fantasies,
attractions and behaviour. Savin-Williams, 1995. p.166)
• what is it? how many are there? is the number increasing?
• inborn or learned?
• is it natural?
• is it "catching"?
• is it a choice?
• can it be changed?
• an illness? an indication of illness?
• a quality of the self?
• a type of personality?
• a lifestyle?
• CROSS-CULTURAL DATA
• SAME-SEX BEHAVIOR IS UNIVERSAL; BUT NOT THE "HOMOSEXUAL ROLE"
• EXPRESSION OF HOMOSEXUAL SOCIAL ROLE, WHEN PRESENT, IS ENORMOUSLY VARIABLE - 400+ types
• SOCIAL VALUE OF SAME-SEX BEHAVIOR AND "HOMOSEXUAL" SOCIAL ROLE IS VARIABLE
• Is same-sex sexual behavior a "natural" biological variant?
• Observed in many species of animals in their normal habitat, all the higher primates, penguins, whales, sheep.
• Is not associated with fatality or sterility (no violation of natural selection)
• 1600s: sin
• 1700s: crime
• 1800s: sickness
• 1900s: immoral choice, innocent victim of biology
• 2000s: neutral, natural variant????
• Left-handedness: the history of a biological variation
• 1600 - dangerous, evil : burned at the stake, devil possessed (sinestral)
• 1700 - social repugnant - associated with bodily wastes
• 1800 - defective: need for correction, prevention
• 1900 - tolerant acceptance: a nuisance, handicap
• 2000 - civil right???
• Bush, Clinton, Perot all "lefties"
Sexual Orientation: A person's erotic and emotional orientation toward members of his or her own gender or members of the other gender (J. Shibley Hyde and J. DeLaMater).
Distinct preference for sexual partners of a particular gender in the presence of clear alternatives
Gay males and lesbians too may engage in male-female sexual activity while maintaining a gay sexual identity. Some gay men and women are married, but harbour desire for members of their own sex, and fulfil these in extramarital affairs. Some, often women, only come to an awareness of their homosexual inclinations later in life.
Ford and Beach (1951) found that in nearly two thirds of the preliterate societies they studied, male to male sexual interactions were viewed as normal and deemed socially acceptable for some people, especially as certain times of life, e.g. during rites of passage.
0 Exclusively heterosexual with no homosexual
1 Predominantly heterosexual, only incidentally homosexual
2 Predominantly heterosexual, but more than incidentally homosexual
3 Equally heterosexual and homosexual
4 Predominantly homosexual, but more than incidentally heterosexual
5 Predominantly homosexual, only incidentally heterosexual
6 Exclusively homosexual (Kinsey 1948.)
• Gay men and lesbians often recall childhood play preferences
like those of the other sex (Bailey & Zucker, 1995). Childhood gender
conformity or nonconformity was not only the strongest but the only
significant childhood predictor of later sexual orientation for both men
and women (Bell et al., 1981a).
• But most homosexual people report not becoming aware of same-sex
attraction until during or shortly after puberty, and not thinking of
themselves as gay or lesbian until around age 20 (Garnets & Kimmel,
Little is known about female-female sexual activity in non-western
cultures. Evidence for female-to-female sexual behaviour was found by
Ford and Beachinn in only 17 out of the 76 societies they studied. This
cross-cultural evidence is consistent with data from our own culture.
Here too, males are more likely to develop sexual interest in, or
romantic relationships with, members of their own sex. (Katz, 1995;
Laumann et al., 1994).
• Baumeister R. (2000)- The degree to which a person's sex drive
can be shaped and altered by cultural, social, and situational
• Lack of plasticity: A person's sexuality is more rigidly
pattered early in life, as a result of biological and/or childhood
• Study hints at a finding reported recently by other
researchers-that women's sexual orientation tends to be less strongly
felt and potentially more fluid and changeable than men's (Diamond,
2000; Peplau & Garnets, 2000).
• Little evidence that biological factors are a major determinant
of women's sexual orientation: "It remains more subject to personal
choice and social influence" (Baumeister 2000, p.356).
Women's sexual orientation
• Women, regardless of sexual orientation, respond to both male and female stimuli (Chivers & others, 2002).
• More malleable: Victorian times seen as sexless till sexual desire awaken up male.
• More women spend periods of their lives identifying with
different sexual orientations. Emphasize individual characteristics
rather than gender when selecting a partner (Fox,1996).
• Negative attitudes towards gay persons prevade our western
society. Homosexual behaviour is often percieved as distusting, or
wrong, or unacceptable.
• Homophobia is the name given for a cluster of negative feelings
and attitudes towards gay people, including intolerance, hatred and
fear. There is some evidence that homophobic men are threatened by the
possiblity of discovering male-male impulses in themselves.
• Homophobia is strong also towards bisexuals even amonst the gay
subculture. Bisexual people are attracted to both males and females.
They report that they can maintain erotic interests in, and romantic
relationships with, members of both genders. Depending on how one
defines bisexuality, perhaps 1% to 4% of the population is bisexual.
Less would have a bisexual identity (Laumann et al., 1994). American
women who are not exclusively homosexual are more likely to be bisexual
rather than exclusively homosexual.(Diamant and others, 1999).
• Birth Order
• Brain differences
• Learning theory
• Early sexual experiences
Genetics and Sexual Orientation.
Considerable evidence exists that gay male and lesbian sexual orientations run in families (Bailey et al., 1993; Pillard, 1990). In one study, for example, 22% of the brothers of a sample of 51 predominantly gay men were either gay or bisexual themselves. This is nearly four times the proportion expected in the general population (Pillard & Weinrich, 1986). Although such evidence is consistent with a genetic explanation, families also share a common environment.
Runs in Families
"Studies indicate that male homosexuality is more likely to be
transmitted from the mother's side of the family." Robert Plomin, John
DeFries, Gerald McClearn, and Michael Rutter, Behavioral Genetics, 1997
Sexologist John Money (1994) agrees that genetic factors may play a role
in the development of sexual orientation. However, genetic factors do
not fully govern sexual orientation. Most researchers believe that
sexual orientation is affected by a complex interplay of biological and
psychosocial influences (Barlow & Durand, 1995).
Men who have older brothers are somewhat more likely to be gay, reports
Ray Blanchard (1997, 2001). Assuming the odds of homosexuality are
roughly 3 percent among first sons, they rise to about 4 percent among
second sons, 5 percent for third sons, and so on for each additional
The reason for this curious phenomenon-the "fraternal birth order
effect-is unclear. Blanchard suspects a defensive maternal immune
response to foreign substances produced by male fetuses. The maternal
antibodies may become stronger after each pregnancy with a male fetus
and may prevent the fetus' brain from developing in a male-typical
pattern. Women with older sisters, and women who were womb-mates of twin
brothers, exhibit no such sibling effect (Rose & others, 2002).
Researchers at the National Cancer Institute have found evidence linking
a region on the X sex chromosome to a gay male sexual orientation (Hamer
et al., 1993). The researchers cautioned that they had not found a
particular gene linked to sexual orientation, just a general location of
where the gene may be found. Nor do scientists know how such a gene, or
combination of genes, might account for sexual orientation.
Sex hormones strongly influence the mating behaviour of other species
(Crews, 1994). Researchers have thus looked into possible hormonal
factors in determining sexual orientation in humans.Testosterone is
essential to male sexual differentiation. Thus, the levels of
testosterone and its by-products in the blood and urine have been
suspected as a possible influence of sexual orientation, at least in
males. Research has failed to connect sexual orientation in either
gender with differences in the levels of either male or female sex
hormones in adulthood (Friedman & Downey, 1994). In adulthood,
testosterone appears to have activating effects. That is, it affects the
intensity of sexual desire, but not the preference for partners of the
same or the other gender (Whalen et al., 1990).
Hormonal Influences and Sexual Orientation
What of the possible prenatal effects of sex hormones? Experiments have
been performed in which pregnant rats were given anti-androgen drugs
that block the effects of testosterone. When the drugs were given during
critical periods in which the fetuses' brains were becoming sexually
differentiated, male offspring were likely to show feminine mating
patterns as adults (Ellis & Ames, 1987). The adult males became
receptive to mounting attempts by other males and failed to mount
Do prenatal sex hormones play a similar role in determining sexual
orientation in people? There is suggestive evidence. For example,
Meyer-Bahlburg and his colleagues (1995) interviewed groups of women
exposed prenatally to DES--a synthetic estrogen. They found that these
women were more likely to be rated as lesbian or bisexual than women who
were not exposed to DES. We do know that the genitals of gay people
differentiate prenatally in accord with their chromosomal gender (Whalen
et al., 1990). It remains possible that imbalances in prenatal sex
hormones may cause brain tissue to be sexually differentiated in one
direction even though the genitals are differentiated in the other
(Collaer & Hines, 1995).
• Hypothalamic cell cluster is larger in straight men than in
women and gay men; same difference is found in male sheep displaying
other-sex versus same-sex attraction.
• Anterior commissure is larger in gay men than in women or straight men.
Biological Correlates of Sexual Orientation
On average (the evidence is strongest for males), various biological and
behavioral traits of gays and lesbians fall between those of straight
men and straight women. Tentative findings‹some in need of
replication‹include these: Brain differences
These brain differences and genetic and prenatal influences may
contribute to observed gay-straight differences in:
• spatial abilities
• fingerprint ridge counts
• auditory system.
• occupational preferences
• relative finger lengths
• gender nonconformity
• age of male puberty
male body size
Evidence suggests that there may be structural differences between the
brains of heterosexual and gay men. In 1991, Simon LeVay, a
neurobiologist at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, carried
out autopsies on the brains of 35 AIDS victims--19 gay men and 16
(presumably) heterosexual men. He found that a segment of the
hypothalamus in the brains of the gay men was less than half the size of
the same segment in the heterosexual men. The same brain segment was
larger in the brain tissues of heterosexual men than in brain tissues
obtained from a comparison group of 6 presumably heterosexual women. No
significant differences in size were found between the brain tissues of
the gay men and the women, however.
The Structure of the Brain
LeVay's findings are intriguing, but they are preliminary. We do not
know, for example, whether the structural differences found by LeVay are
innate. Nor should LeVay's findings be taken to mean that biology is
destiny. As Richard Nakamura, a scientist with the National Institute of
Mental Health, commented, "This [LeVay's findings] shouldn't be taken to
mean that you're automatically [gayl if you have a structure of one size
versus a structure of another size" (Angler, 1991).
•Interpretation of Brain Differences
• possible causes of difference
-- genetic instructions
-- hormonal events (fetal, pubertal, maternal)
-- post natal experiences (80% of synapses form after birth due to experience)
• non-causal correlation
• causal brain difference
Do family relationships play a role in the origins of sexual
orientation? What are the effects of childhood sexual experiences?
Psychoanalytic theory is the major psychological approach to
understanding the origins of sexual orientation.
Sigmund Freud, the originator of psychoanalytic theory, believed that
children enter the world polymorphously perverse. That is, prior to
internalizing social inhibitions, children are open to all forms of
sexual stimulation. However, through proper resolution of the Oedipus
complex, a boy will forsake his incestuous desires for his mother and
come to identify with his father. As a result, his erotic attraction to
his mother will eventually be transferred, or displaced, onto more
appropriate female partners. A girl, through proper resolution of her
Electra complex, will identify with her mother and seek erotic
stimulation from men when she becomes sexually mature.
In Freud's view, a gay male or lesbian sexual orientation results from
failure to successfully resolve the Oedipus complex by identifying with
the parent of the same gender. In men, faulty resolution of the Oedipus
complex is most likely to result from the so-called classic pattern of
an emotionally "close-binding" mother and a "detached-hostile" father. A
boy reared in such a family may come to identify with his mother and
even to "transform himself into her" (Freud, 1922/1959, p. 40). He may
thus become effeminate and develop sexual interests in men.
• A girl who does not resolve her penis envy in childhood may
"manifest homosexuality, exhibit markedly masculine traits in the
conduct of her later life, choose a masculine vocation, and so on"
(Freud, 1922/1959, p. 50). The residue of this unresolved complex is
continued penis envy, the striving to become a man by acting like a man
and seeking sexual satisfaction with women: lesbianism.
• In Freud's view, a gay male or lesbian sexual orientation is one
result of assuming the gender role normally taken up by the other
The findings of lengthy Kinsey Institute interviews with nearly 1000
homosexuals and 500 heterosexuals (Bell & others, 1981; Hammersmith,
1982). The investigators assessed nearly every imaginable psychological
cause of homosexuality-parental relationships, childhood sexual
experiences, peer relationships, dating experiences. Their findings:
Apart from homosexuals' somewhat greater nonconformity, the reported
backgrounds of homosexuals and heterosexuals were similar.
Homosexuals were no more likely to have been smothered by maternal love,
neglected by their father, or sexually abused. And consider this: If
"distant fathers" were more likely to produce homosexual sons, then
shouldn't boys growing up in father-absent homes more often be gay?
(They are not.) And shouldn't the rising number of such homes have led
to a noticeable increase in the gay population? (It has not.)
Bem's theory: Exotic becomes Erotic (EBE)
It proposes that biological variables, such as genes, prenatal hormones,
and brain neuroanatomy, do not code for sexual orientation per se but
for childhood temperaments that influence a child's preferences for
sex-typical or sex-atypical activities and peers. These preferences lead
children to feel different from opposite- or same-sex peers--to perceive
them as dissimilar, unfamiliar, and exotic. This, in turn, produces
heightened nonspecific autonomic arousal that subsequently gets
eroticized to that same class of dissimilar peers: Exotic becomes erotic
Early sexual experiences
• Sample of 11.000. Van Wyk and Geist, (1984). Sex play to orgasm.
• Those who have arousing or uncomfortable experiences develop differently. Early sexual contact seems to be a predictor of homosexual attraction.
The Socio-Biology of Sexual Orientation
• Evolution of Sexual Behaviour
• Reproductive = coitus when female is ovulating
• Non reproductive = everything else masturbation; paraphernalia; anal, oral, manual-sex; coitus before puberty, after menopause, when the female is sterile, using B.C., when not ovulating, when male is sterile, not ejaculating, same-sex behaviour
There are some reports of changed orientation (Nicolosi & others, 2000;
Yarhouse & Burkett, 2002). In one report that was highly publicized by
advocates of sexual reorientation, Robert Spitzer (2002) located, with
assistance from "ex-gay" ministries and therapists specializing in
sexual conversion, "200 subjects reporting a change from homosexual to
When interviewed, only 54 percent of the females and 17 percent of the
males, however, had achieved "exclusively opposite sex attraction."
Critics questioned the accuracy of these after-the-fact retrospective
memories and testimonials (there were no before-and-after measurements
of sexual response). Even so, the difficulty locating people who had
made a self-reported U-turn in sexual orientation suggested to Spitzer
that sexual reorientation "may actually be quite rare.