Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why: Chapters Four and Five

gay-straight-and-the-reason-why

Based on Chapters Four and Five of Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why: The Science of Sexual Orientation by Simon LeVay

Chapter Four: Childhood

Boys and girls show fairly consistent differences in mental and behavioral traits; these traits are called “gendered traits”. Some of these differences arise through socialization, but many arise through biological factors such as hormone levels. Studies have shown that children who become gay adults (“pre-gay” children) are more likely to be gender-nonconformist, i.e. show characteristics typical of the opposite gender.

Two main types of methods are used to understand the characteristics of “pre-gay” children in comparison to “pre-straight” children:

  1. Retrospective Studies

The most widely used method. In retrospective studies, adults give descriptions of what they were like as children. Using this method, researchers have found that pre-gay boys are less physically aggressive than pre-straight boys and are more likely to take part in traditionally female activities. Overall, both pre-gay boys and girls were more likely to be gender-nonconformist, but for boys, such traits were much more predictive of adult homosexuality.

2.    Prospective Studies

A method where two groups of children –a control and a particularly gender-nonconformist group– are studied up to adulthood. These studies have made similar findings; noticeable femininity in boys is a predictor of adult homosexuality. Masculine traits in girls is not particularly a predictor of lesbianism — most girls who show traditionally male traits (“tomboys”) grow into heterosexual women.

Overall, these studies suggest that homosexuality is a part of a “package” of gender-atypical traits while heterosexuality is part of a set of gender-typical traits.

Chapter Five: Characteristics of Gay and Straight Adults

Studies on adults have found that mental and behavioral traits of gay men and women is shifted towards the opposite gender, but not completely opposite. Gay men show more of a gender shift than lesbians, who show no shift at all for some gendered traits.

Women tend to be more verbally fluent than men and better at tasks involving memory. Gay men score similarly to women on tests of verbal fluency and memory, while lesbians score similarly to men on such tests. Gay men and women are similar to their straight counterparts in aspects of sexuality, except in the roles preferred in sexual encounters. Some gay men are more receptive and some lesbians (so-called “butch” lesbians) are more dominant. Gay men strongly prefer more masculine partners and lesbians mildly prefer more feminine partners.

See also:

Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why Series:

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5 thoughts on “Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why: Chapters Four and Five

  1. “noticeable femininity in boys is a predictor of adult homosexuality. Masculine traits in girls is not particularly a predictor of lesbianism – most girls who show traditionally male traits (“tomboys”) grow into heterosexual women.”

    that’s an interesting statement. using my own family as an example, girls are somewhat encouraged to be tomboys–at least until they reach puberty. i remember my mom cracking down on me to wear more dresses once i got my period. but my cousin–who is gay, btw–was chastised if he joined the girls in a game of hop-scotch or jump rope. just remembering that generally in my family girls were encouraged to climb trees, play soft-ball, while the boys received disapproval if they participated in girly things.

    i’ll read the rest of the post now.

  2. temple, I think parents are generally more lenient with their daughters showing traditionally masculine traits than with their sons showing traditionally feminine traits. But I’ve never heard of them encouraging girls to become tomboys. Interesting. 🙂

  3. Masculine traits in girls is not particularly a predictor of lesbianism – most girls who show traditionally male traits (“tomboys”) grow into heterosexual women.

    Interesting–I just gave a presentation on this today. We are reading a book in my Golden Age Lit class about a woman who dressed as a man to become a soldier in the 17th-century, and we were discussing whether she became a man (at the end it’s revealed that she’s actually a woman, but she’s still a virgin so she’s given permission to live the rest of her life as a man) because of societal constraints or because she’s transsexual.

    An interesting implication of this research is that some of it seems to suggest that there are two opposite sexual poles that are naturally attracted to one another, and some people are gender-matched with the wrong sexual pole yet still fall in line with heterosexual attraction (e.g., “feminine” men attracted to “masculine” men).

  4. Jasmin,

    “we were discussing whether she became a man (at the end it’s revealed that she’s actually a woman, but she’s still a virgin so she’s given permission to live the rest of her life as a man) because of societal constraints or because she’s transsexual.”

    What are your thoughts on that?

    I think that it was probably more common in days past for women to act or dress as men in order to get just acknowledgment from society.

  5. In her case, I believe there was an interaction between her lesbian attraction and her desire to escape the convent. She does have some interactions with women, but doesn’t go into much detail, and the reason she actually got away with it was because she looked sufficiently “manly” and planned her disguise very carefully. Her own parents didn’t recognize her!

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