Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 31-56

First online:

The Emergence of Lesbian Sexuality and Identity Cross-Culturally: Brazil, Peru, the Philippines, and the United States

  • Frederick L. Whitam
  • , Christopher Daskalos
  • , Curt G. Sobolewski
  • , Peter Padilla

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Questionnaire data were collected from 205 lesbians and 224 heterosexual women in Brazil, Peru, the Philippines, and the United States between 1981 and 1988. Items include direction of childhood sexual interests, age of first awareness of sexual attraction, cross-attractions, age of first sexual contact, sex of partner in first sexual contact, age of awareness that sexual attractions were serious, and age of realization of adult sexual orientation. In general, similarities in the development of lesbian sexuality and differences between lesbians and heterosexual women were found, regardless of culture. Findings include: Lesbians were more sexually active as children and displayed more sexual interest in girls than heterosexuals did in boys; lesbians tended to become aware of their attractions to women later than heterosexuals realized attractions to men; lesbians reported considerably more early attraction to men than heterosexuals did to women; lesbians reported earlier sexual contact than did heterosexual women; the sex of the partner of first sexual contact for lesbians was split roughly equally between males and females whereas heterosexuals reported contact with males almost exclusively; childhood awareness that sexual attractions were serious were similar in lesbians and heterosexuals; lesbians defined themselves as homosexual later than heterosexuals defined themselves as heterosexual. We conclude that norms for heterosexual behavior impact the development of lesbian sexuality and identity, impeding, but not obliterating,their development. Lesbian sexualityand identityeventuallyemerge regardless of culture.