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Chapter 9
Sexual Orientations
A Continuum of Sexual Orientations
• Terminology
– sexual orientation: to which sex a person is
– homosexual orientation: primary erotic
psychological emotional and social orientation is
to same sex
• gay males
• lesbian females
– bisexual orientation: attraction to both same &
opposite sex partners
– heterosexual orientation: attraction to opposite
sex partner (aka straight)
Kinsey’s 7-point continuum
• Distinctions between homosexual and heterosexual are not as
clear cut as many believe them to be
• Scale based on both feelings of attraction & sexual behavior
• Limitation: gives erroneous impression of fixed orientation
Fig. 9.2 Kinsey’s continuum of sexual orientation (adapted from Kinsey et al., 1948, p. 638).
A Continuum of Sexual Orientations
• past Kinsey data = 2% of females & 4% of males
were exclusively gay
• men are more likely to fall at the extremes
• NHSLS data: 1.4% of females & 2.8% of males
identify as homosexual (1990’s)
• may depend on how question is asked
– In NHSLS study, 5% of men and 4% of women said they
had had sex w/person of same sex since age 18
– Global Sex Survey: average of 12% of respondents from 41
countries said they had same-sex experience
A Continuum of Sexual Orientations
• Bisexuality
– More women than men are bisexual
• May be due to greater social tolerance
for same-sex affection between women
– context (environment) matters more
than contact.
– categories:
• real: individual feels attracted to both sexes
• transitory: temporary bisexual involvement by someone
who is actually homosexual or heterosexual
• transitional: when someone is changing from one
orientation to another
• homosexual denial: attempt to deny exclusive
homosexuality to avoid stigma of homosexual identity.
A Continuum of Sexual Orientations
• Asexuality: feeling no sexual attraction to either sex
– Rarely studied
– National study in Britain of 18,000 people found that 1% of
individuals were asexual
– According to Asexual Visibility and Education Network,
asexuality is a sexual orientation, not a choice--therefore,
different from celibacy
– Asexual people lack sexual attraction to others, but still
have desire for friendships, affection, and partnerships
– Some asexual people masturbate, but feel no interest in
sexual activity w/a partner
Sexual behaviors &
sexual orientation
• As we have seen in the book, there are no
sexual behaviors that are really limited to
either homosexuals or heterosexuals
• Behaviors are behaviors…
– Sexual orientation only comes into the situation
when you focus on who is interacting sexually
with whom.
What determines sexual orientation?
• Psychosocial theories:
(not well-supported by
research) life incidents, parenting, psychological.
– “By default” myth:
unhappy heterosexual
experiences. Not true.
– Seduction myth: seduced by older homosexuals. Not
– Freud’s theory: childhood experiences and relationship
with parents. Not true.
What determines sexual orientation?
• Biological theories:
– Genetic factors:
• Homosexuality is strongly familial; however, this could be due to
either genetics or the family environment
• Twin studies--look at whether a correlation is higher among identical
or fraternal twins to test “nature vs. nurture.”
– Australian study (2000):
twin concordance rate 10-20% higher in identical twins than
in fraternal twins
– Gender nonconformity: homosexual adults somewhat more likely to
experience gender nonconformity as children (lack of conformity to
stereotypical masculine and feminine behaviors).
What determines sexual orientation?
• Biological theories: Prenatal influences
– Animal research: influence of prenatal hormones . . .
– Age of puberty:
– Birth order:
Implications if biology is destiny
• May result in more acceptance
– If homosexuality is biologically based, people who
believe homosexuality is “unnatural” might reevaluate
their beliefs
• Potential for scary genetic engineering
– Intolerant people may try to prevent or change
homosexuality during pregnancy or use screening
techniques to prevent birth of gay people
• Should it really matter whether homosexuality is
biologically based in order for gay people to receive
equal rights?
– Would equal rights be given only out of ‘sympathy and
tolerance for having a “defective” orientation’?
Societal Attitudes
• Cross-cultural attitudes vary greatly
– Extreme human rights violations for gays and lesbians
occur frequently in many places around the world
– U.S. now grants political asylum to people fleeing
persecution based on
sexual orientation
– 14 countries have
established national
laws that protect gay
men, lesbians, and
bisexuals from
discrimination (Canada,
Denmark, Finland, France,
Iceland, Ireland, Israel,
Netherlands, New Zealand,
Norway, Slovenia, South
Africa, Spain, Sweden)
note: not U.S.
Judeo-Christian attitudes toward
• Historically negative attitudes toward homosexuality
• Biblical injunction in Leviticus “You shall not lie with a
man as one lies with a female; it is an abomination”
• Judaism today:
– Orthodox Jews: homosexual acts forbidden, homosexuals
must try to “work against” their inclinations
– Conservative Judaism: temples may perform same-sex
commitment ceremonies and hire gay rabbis & cantars
– Reform Judaism: support gay commitment ceremonies and
gay families; many homosexual Jews are reforms
• Reinterpret “to-evah” from “abomination” to “idolatrous acts;” thus, the
Bible prohibits cult-like homosexual acts as practiced in Biblical
times, not as homosexual relationships are today.
Islamic views toward homosexuality
• Homosexuality strictly forbidden among men;
implicitly extends to women
• Same-sex intercourse is officially punishable by
death in several Muslim nations, including Saudi
Arabia, Pakistan, Iran, Mauritania, Sudan, Somalia,
and Yemen.
• LGBT Muslim organizations
– Al-Fatiha foundation: progressive Islamic nonprofit that
promotes acceptance of homosexuality as natural
– Straightway: support group/web site for Muslims who feel
same-sex attraction--promotes “help” in avoiding acting on
same-sex attractions
Societal Attitudes (U.S.)
• Early to mid-1900s societal shift: from sinner to
– Drastic attempts used to “cure” homosexuality, including
castration, lobotomy, drugs, hormones, hypnosis,
electroshock treatment, and aversion therapy (pairing
shock or nausea-induction w/homosexual stimuli)
– 1973 APA removed homosexuality from list of mental
– no differences in psychological adjustment between gays &
straights (if person has accepted their homosexuality)
– sexual reorientation therapy (aka conversion therapy)
doesn’t work but gay affirmative therapy is helpful
• Definition:
1 anti-homosexual attitudes,
2 irrational fears of homosexual people, or
self-loathing of one’s own homosexuality
• Contributes to daily harassment, discrimination, and
violence against LGBT people.
– More than 1/3 of gay men and lesbians have been victims
of violence
– Hate crimes less likely to be reported than other crimes,
b/c survivors expect nonsupportive responses from
Hate crime laws
• Increased sentences for assault, robbery, and murder that
are committed because the victim is of a particular race,
religion, ethnic group,
or sexual orientation
(not all states include
protections based on
sexual orientation)
What causes/fuels homophobia
• Lack of acceptance of the values and differences
among people.
• Traditional gender role stereotypes
• Denial of homosexual feelings
– Research study: masculinity gender role challenged or
threatened, thus, violence.
• Promotion of homophobia by a religious group
– Quote from Jerry Falwell: "[homosexuals are] brute beasts...part of a
vile and satanic system [that] will be utterly annihilated, and there will
be a celebration in heaven."
• Low self esteem leading to a need to hate other
Homophobia affects heterosexuals, too
• Homophobic individuals may restrict their sexual
behaviors to avoid any behavior that might be
interpreted as homosexual
• Same sex friends or family members may refrain
from hugging or showing affection
– Men’s fear of same-sex attraction often prevents
formation of deep friendships--limiting relationships to
“buddyship” or acquaintances
• Gender stereotyping and homophobia limits
personal expression and aspirations
• A woman may decide not to publicly identify as a
feminist b/c she fears being labeled a lesbian
• Definition: discrimination towards or against nonheterosexual behavior due to a cultural or
sociobiological bias.
• Like racism and sexism, pervades societal customs
and institutions
– Whereas homophobia usually refers to individual antigay
attitudes, heterosexism refers to societal-level ideologies
and patterns of institutionalized oppression of nonheterosexual people. (Insidious - meaning treacherous
and harmful, deep rooted feeling and behavior. Hard to
Heterosexual questionnaire
Answer the questions asked on the handout.
Then, consider the following questions:
1. Did you find the questions hard to answer? Were
some harder than others? Which? Why?
2. How did the questions make you feel?
3. What does it say about our society that LGB
people are frequently asked similar questions?
4. What can you do in the future if you hear
someone asking such questions?
Lifestyles: Coming out
• Homosexual “lifestyle” is as varied as heterosexual
• Coming out: the process of becoming aware of and
disclosing one’s homosexual identity
– The extent to which a homosexual person is open about
their sexual orientation significantly affects their lifestyle
 self-acknowledgment of orientation
 self-acceptance of orientation
 disclosure to others
– Some terms:
• “In the closet”
• “Outing”
• “Passing”
Homosexual relationships
•* Are often more egalitarian/flexible with regard to gender
• Mostly, face same challenges as heterosexual couples in
creating satisfying relationships
– Additional challenge of social acceptance, antigay discrimination
and prejudice
• Lesbians more likely to be monogamous than gay men
and value emotional intimacy more
– 1980s--lesbian “radical sex” subculture began to develop that
pushed the boundaries of female sexuality & sexual expression
– Lesbian sexual interactions tend to have more characteristics
associated w/greater sexual enjoyment than heterosexual
women’s sexual interactions
• More nongenital interaction before genital contact, longer sexual
encounters, more comfort w/erotic language, greater frequency of
Homosexual families
• Many different family units (couple w/ or w/o children, single
parents, etc.)
• Census data on same-sex couples raising children
– 33% of lesbian/female bisexual couples
– 22% of gay/male bisexual couples
• Children from previous heterosexual marriages, artificial
insemination, help of a surrogate mother
• Adoption:
– Many homosexual people adopt as individuals rather than couples
– Many state laws are ambiguous
– States that allow gay couples to jointly adopt: NJ, Calif, Conn, Illinois,
Mass, NY, Vermong, WashDC
– States that ban adoption by gay couples: Florida, Nebraska, Oklahoma,
Utah, Mississippi
• Research shows that children of gay parents are no different
than children of heterosexual parents
The Gay Rights Movement
• Blossomed in U.S. in 1969 w/ the Stonewall riot
– Police raided a gay bar, the Stonewall, (raids were common at the
time), and the bar’s patrons fought back
-started a riot that didn’t end until the
following day
– Gay Pride week and parades are held
yearly in June to commemorate Stonewall
– This year, SF parade is the last week in June
Goals of the Gay Rights Movement
• 1Decriminalization of private sexual behavior
– 2003 Lawrence et al. v. Texas Supreme Court ruling declared “sodomy”
laws unconstitutional based on right to privacy
– Still illegal in many countries
• 2 End discrimination against homosexuals
– Amendment to 1964 Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation along
w/”race, creed, color, and sex” to make discrimination illegal in housing,
employment, insurance, and public accommodations
– Equal recognition and protection for gay relationships and families
• Legal adoption, and marriage/civil union
– End military’s discrimination against homosexuals
• “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy: says that military considers gay people unfit for
service, but they may serve as long as they keep their orientation secret
• 11,000 gays and lesbians have since been expelled from the military
• Iraq war--secrecy means that partners at home have no access to support
services and may not be told if partner is wounded, captured, or killed
• Majority of people in U.S. (63%) are against policy