More on the Sociological Dimensions of Sexuality: This Time from a Developmental Psychologist

Here’s a few words from developmental psychologist Lisa Diamond, interviewed recently in New Scientist offering some more support to the fluidity (as opposed to ‘born this way’) of human sexuality. I have posted on this topic several times before – see here, here and here. Lisa here is commenting on the sexually oppressive effects of social acceptability:

What other arguments do opponents of same-sex marriage make?
They are concerned that children would grow up seeing, wow, gays can get legally married, that must mean our society thinks that being gay is okay. So people will then be more likely to consider gayness themselves and over time there will be an increase in the number of gays out there. And frankly, regardless of the basis of their fear, they’re right about the result. Over the past 20 years, every survey repeated over time has shown that the number of individuals who self-identify as gay has been going up, especially people who identify as bisexual or who identify as heterosexual but who have had some same-sex sexual experiences.

So what is behind the increase in people reporting same-sex sexual experiences?
Probably there’s a core part of the population that is about as gay as the day is long, and they don’t appear to be affected at all by social acceptance, whether you put them in South Africa or America or 1920 or 1980. They’re like, “I am gay and I’m going to find some way to be gay”. But the most common form of same-sex attraction is not exclusive attraction but a bisexual form. You can imagine that these people are likely to be influenced by social acceptance of same-sex sexuality. If you are bisexually attracted you may think, “Wow, the world is going to hate me if I end up with someone of the same sex, my life is going to be a lot easier if I end up with someone of the opposite sex.” So you end up focusing on that.

While social acceptability for me doesn’t quite cover it – the effects of how we do gender and how that transforms over time for example is also likely to impact on people’s range of attraction – it is still good to see the more mainstream and establishment arenas of psychology and New Scientist disseminating this argument. Unfortunately, the greater depths that lowly sociology has to offer are  still very much out in the margins.


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