Homosexual Behavior in the United States, 1988-2004: Quantitative Empirical Support for the Social Construction Theory of Sexuality

Article excerpt


Previous quantitative social scientific studies of same-sex sexual behavior in the United States have mainly focused on estimating its prevalence and analyzing its trends over time, primarily because such studies have been conducted under the impetus of providing insights for effective HIV/STD prevention strategies. Even when regression techniques are employed, which is rather rare, these studies have explicitly avoided inferring causal relationships between various sociodemographic variables and homosexual practices, though their positive correlations have been frequently reported (Anderson & Stall, 2002; Billy, Tanfer, Grady, & Klepenger, 1993; Binson et al., 1995; Black, Gates, Sanders, & Taylor, 2000; Butler, 2005; Davis, 1929; Fay, Turner, Klassen, & Gagnon, 1989; Johnson et al., 2001; Kinsey, Pomeroy, & Martin, 1948; Kinsey, Pomeroy, Martin, & Gebhard, 1953; Laumann, Gagnon, Michael, & Michaels, 1994; Rogers & Turner, 1991; Spira, Bajos, & le groupe ACSF, 1993; Turner, Villarroel, Chromy, Eggleston, & Rogers, 2005; Wellings, Field, Johnson, & Wadsworth, 1994). In this regard, the present study contributes to this larger body of social scientific literature in three unique ways.

First, this article examines homosexual behavior in the United States through a quantitative causal analysis approach. Specifically, it investigates the causal relationship between two main variables--geographical urbanization and homosexual behavior--testing the significance of the causal direction from the former variable to the latter by using three different statistical models, one linear and two non-linear. Unlike previous studies that have paid relatively little attention to the causal connections between homosexuality and other sociodemographic variables, the central goal of this study is to establish a causal relationship that can be explicitly examined using statistical methods in which geographical urbanization functions as a variable that causally determines the prevalence of same-sex sexual contact in the United States.

In addition, although the present study was designed to draw data from the General Social Survey (from 1988 to 2004), as have most other researchers thus far, a distinct feature of this study is its incorporation of the recently updated 2004 General Social Survey (GSS) dataset. Despite the availability of the 2004 GSS dataset to researchers by 2005, one of the latest major social scientific publications dealing with the subject of homosexual practice in the United States, although comprehensive and broad in its scope of analysis, did not utilize the 2004 dataset (Turner et al., 2005). This is because the data for measuring the degree of urbanization of the respondents' residential area was publicly released in January 2006. The present study takes advantage of this newly released set of information and integrates this dataset into the estimations of the prevalence of homosexual behavior in the nation and the analysis of the hypothesized causal model.

Finally, through a simple quantitative causal modeling approach in exploring the relationship between geographical urbanization and homosexual behavior, the present study takes a provisional stand in the larger essentialism versus social constructionism debate about homosexuality and sexuality in general. When dealing with the topic of homosexuality, quantitative social scientists have often neglected offering any explicit claim with respect to the debate, except for incidences in which some researchers only mention that their results suggest or hint at the more plausible theoretical perspective of social constructionism (Laumann et al., 1994). In contrast, the quantitative analyses carried out in the present study are intended to speak directly to the debate between essentialism versus social constructionism. If the hypothesized path of causality from geographical urbanization to homosexual behavior is found to be statistically significant, this finding would demonstrate the high contingency of the behavioral expressions of homosexuality upon the social contexts in which they occur, and thus favor the social constructionist side of the debate. …


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