Factors that Influence Sexual Orientation in Men and Women
Assignment 3: Research Paper
In the song, Letter to a John, Ani Difranco proposes that “women learn to be women, and men learn to be men” (Difranco, 1994, track 3). But what does it mean to be a women or a man? What factors influence human beings to become like a women or a man; how do we decide who to love, to be attracted to, to feel passionate about, to desire?
Through a series of five research articles the question, what factors influence sexual orientation in men and in women is considered. The research stems from research journal articles published in journals of psychology and sociology. The research question is dissected into subtopics including: a definition of sexual orientation; a definition of gender and sex; what it means to be homosexual; theories of socialization, genetics, hormones, and evolution; a look at where research falls short; and finally a link to motivation and emotion. Perhaps the question “can anyone tell me why I’m gay?” (Jenkins, 2010, p. 279) can be answered.
What is sexual orientation anyways? It has been explained as the “the cumulative experience and interaction of erotic fantasy, romantic-emotional feelings, and sexual behavior directed toward one or both genders” (Wilkinson & Roys, 2005, p.66). This definition has been supported by the fact that “it recognizes the significance of affectionate relations in an individual’s sexual orientation…and considers the possibility that the components of sexual orientation can be independent, allowing an individual to express different and even contradictory qualities of behaviors, fantasies, and feelings simultaneously and across time” (Wilkinson & Roys, 2005, p.66). The definition allows each entity to portray a character of their choice on the stage of life and that character may change or adapt over time.
If sexuality is based on sexual manners focussed on one or both genders, then the term gender must be classified before the nature of sexual orientation can be truly understood. Gender, by definition suggests “culturally constructed distinctions between femininity and masculinity…which according to this distinction, individuals are born female or male but they become feminine or masculine” (Weiten & McCann, 2007. p.481). Furthermore, sex is not the same as gender as it refers to the biological characteristics one is born with (Weiten & McCann, 2007. p.481).
Sex refers to what we are born with; gender is who culture shapes us into, and orientation is who we connect too emotionally and through passion and fantasy.
When one is attracted sexually and have passionate feelings towards those of the same sex as their own, they may be labelled as homosexual or from men, gay, and women, lesbian (Wilkinson & Roys, 2005, p.65). If one portrays opposite characteristics than what is considered to be the norm for their sex or even gender, then they may be described as being cross-gendered. In cases such as these, the individual is more likely to be thought of as being a gay man or a lesbian (Wilkinson & Roys, 2005, p.65).