Sexual Orientation Across Culture and Time

Chapter

Abstract

Although “gay rights” may be considered a contemporary issue in modern global society, history is replete with accounts of same-sex attraction and sexual behavior across a multitude of Western and non-Western cultures. The present chapter reviews the status of sexual orientation across cultures. We pay particular attention to how varying degrees of belief and public discourse about gender work in concert to shape the experiences of sexual minorities. We review this from two perspectives: (1) the ways in which sexual minorities are perceived and treated by heterosexuals and the broader culture, and (2) the influence that cultural context and gender expectations have upon the cognitions, behaviors, and social experiences of sexual minorities. Finally, we devote considerable discussion to the most recent advances in behavioral research examining the social, cognitive, and ecological impact of perceptions of sexual orientation. Specifically, we review the literature on the consensus and accuracy of judgments of sexual orientation from minimal cues (e.g., facial appearance, vocal cues, and nonverbal behavior), how this occurs in the minds of perceivers, and the consequences that the capacity to perceive sexual orientation holds for both perceivers (heterosexual and not) and targets. Importantly, we situate this within the context of culture, attending to how both intracultural and intercultural factors influence the conception, perception, and treatment of sexual minorities across and within nationally defined cultural groups.

Keywords

Sexual orientation across cultures Same-sex attraction Sexual behavior across cultures Sexual minorities Minimal cues to sexual orientation Sexual prejudice 

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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