The Psychology of Sexual Orientation, Behavior, and Identity: A Handbook

By Louis Diamant; Richard D. McAnulty | Go to book overview

3
Biological Aspects of Sexual Orientation and Identity

Milton Diamond

Among the most fundamental questions one can ask about sexual behavior are of the nature of attraction and arousal. Why is someone attracted to another? Why are some attracted to males, others to females, and yet others primarily to children? Why is obesity a "turn on" for Mary but not for Sally, and why are large breasts a "turn off" for Bill yet a stimulant for Bob? While such questions might be conscientiously asked, the meaningfulness of the answers is fleeting.

Fads may certainly be involved. At any particular time the relative value of each specific feature or trait varies. Looks, intellect, wealth, family, religion, sense of humor, independence, and fertility, just to name a few, have all had their time in the limelight as salient in partner selection. Among the matters that seem to be taken for granted, however, is sexual orientation: one's erotic attraction to those of the same or opposite sex, or both. Although there may be flexibility in some desires, only for a minority is there flexibility in sexual orientation. For most individuals it is a fundamental prerequisite in choosing a partner. In wanting an adult sexual encounter, an individual might act upon a concept like, "I want to bed someone five feet to five feet six inches, with blue eyes, blond hair, a long red dress, and high heels." Only rarely would this occur without an understanding that the individual would be a female or a male in drag. And this prime concern toward the sex of the intended partner is more than on the other features.

Where does this emphasis on sexual orientation come from? The simple answer is, "From an interaction of nature and nurture." Each of us has a biological

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