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social sciences

Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

Subjects:  A-E  F-L  M-Z

     
Sexual Orientation  
 
page: 1  2  3  

In the last decade, increasing numbers have turned to biological theories, explaining sexual orientation in terms of biological phenomena such as brain circuitry, hormones, genes, and evolution. The brain, for example, is said to be influenced by prenatal hormones. Fetuses whose brains are exposed to high levels of androgens during prenatal development will be sexually attracted to women in adult life, while those exposed to low levels will be attracted to men. Brain researchers have looked at biological markers, such as the human hypothalamus, to test such conditioning.

Others have looked at bodily difference such as fingerprints or finger length to determine the influence of prenatal hormones. Other physiological and anatomical features have also been examined, but all of the theories proposed so far have limitations, some more serious than others. Since homosexuality is thought by many to run in families, there has also been an effort to look at genetic influence, and while some researchers have found what they think is documentation of this, there generally has been a failure to replicate the findings.

Sponsor Message.

The author of this article has argued that so far there are too many variables involved to come up with any definitive answers. Probably biological, psychological, and social dynamics are all involved, and there are too many variables to reach any final conclusions. As far as classifying any individual, sexual orientation seems best left up to the individual to define for himself or herself.

Vern L. Bullough

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social sciences >> Overview:  Anthropology

Anthropology, the first of the social science disciplines to take sexuality--and particularly homosexuality--seriously as a field of intellectual inquiry in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, has achieved a new impetus in the post-Stonewall era.

social sciences >> Overview:  Bisexuality

Although until recently rejected by most sexologists as a distinct sexual identity, bisexuality is gradually becoming recognized and studied as such.

social sciences >> Overview:  Ethnography

Beginning in the 1960s increasing numbers of ethnographers have conducted research on glbtq issues, spurred by the premise that studies of diverse sexualities are crucial to understanding human behavior and culture.

social sciences >> Overview:  Etiology

The earliest etiologies--or theories of causation--of homosexuality date from European antiquity, but the search for a universal etiology has intensified as homosexual behavior has come under the scrutiny of science.

social sciences >> Overview:  Homosexuality

The term "homosexuality," coined in 1869, with "heterosexuality" as its opposite, has led to a binary concept that oversimplifies the complexity of human sexual behavior.

social sciences >> Overview:  Intersexuality

Intersexuality (formerly referred to as hermaphroditism) is a congenital anomaly in which an individual's external genitalia or internal reproductive systems fall outside the norms for either male or female bodies.

social sciences >> Overview:  Native Americans

A social role for individuals who crossed or mixed male and female characteristics was one of the most widely distributed institutions of native North America.

social sciences >> Overview:  Sodomy Laws and Sodomy Law Reform

Sodomy laws, which provided the legal basis for police harassment of sexual minorities, were conclusively overturned by the United States Supreme Court in 2003, after more than half a century of efforts at reform.

social sciences >> Overview:  Straight Men Who Have Sex with Men (SMSM)

Straight men who have sex with men do so for a number of reasons, but in general such activity is about physical release and sexual behaviors, not about attraction or desire for another man.

social sciences >> Overview:  Transgender

"Transgender" has become an umbrella term representing a political alliance between all gender variant people who do not conform to social norms for typical men and women and who suffer political oppression as a result.

social sciences >> Berdache

Both male and female berdaches (or two-spirit persons), common among Native American tribal cultures, were characterized by gender variation sanctioned by supernatural dreams and visions.

social sciences >> BiNet USA

BiNet USA is the oldest national bisexual advocacy organization in the United States, attempting to serve as a voice of bisexual and pansexual people.

social sciences >> Bowers v. Hardwick / Lawrence v. Texas

Two of the most significant Supreme Court decisions regarding constitutional liberty for glbtq people are Bowers v. Hardwick (1986) and Lawrence v. Texas (2003).

social sciences >> Freud, Anna

Although she did not explicitly identify herself as a lesbian, Anna Freud, youngest daughter of Sigmund Freud and herself a psychoanalyst, was decidedly not heterosexual in any typical sense.

social sciences >> Freud, Sigmund

The founder of psychoanalysis and the discoverer of the unconscious, Sigmund Freud initiated a fundamental transformation in the self-understanding of Western men and women, including especially the role of sexuality.

social sciences >> Kinsey, Alfred C.

The most important sex researcher of the twentieth century, Alfred C. Kinsey contributed groundbreaking studies of male and female sexual behavior in America.


    Bibliography
   

Beach, F. A., ed. Human Sexuality in Four Perspectives. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976.

Bullough, V. L. Sexual Variance in Society and History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976.

Ford, C. S., and F. A. Beach. Patterns of Sexual Behavior. New York: Harper & Row, 1951.

Freud, Anna. The Ego and Mechanisms of Defense. New York: International Universities Press, 1953.

Kinsey, Alfred C., Wardell Pomeroy, and C. Martin. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders, 1948.

_____. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders, 1953.

Lippa, R. A. "Gender-Related Traits of Heterosexual and Homosexual Men and Women." Archives of Sexual Behavior 31 (2002): 77-92.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Bullough, Vern L.  
    Entry Title: Sexual Orientation  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated March 3, 2004  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/social-sciences/sexual_orientation.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  
 

 

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