The development of sexual orientation among human beings is determined by several causative factors. Researches done to determine these factors have not yet come up with a conclusive list that outlines the particular factors that determine the development of sexual orientation among people. This paper describes factors that seem most important in the development of sexual orientation
According to LeVay (2011: 4), sexual orientation is a continuing emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction that a person experiences as directed towards people of opposite sex, same sex, or both sexes. As such, discussions about sexual orientation have always been viewed in terms of homosexuals, heterosexuals, or bisexuals. Several factors contribute to the development of a particular sexual orientation although studies done so far have not identified certain factors that are dominant in causing a given sexual orientation. Given the existence of bisexuals as a form of sexual orientation, the matter becomes even more complicated because there is an intertwinement of factors and an amalgam of two or more factors contributing to the bisexual situation. The approach to discovering the causative factors have rallied nature versus nurture factors which might contribute to the development of different sexual orientation even among people living in the same cultural and social setup (LeVay, 2011: 7). This paper discusses the most important factors that contribute to the development of a given sexual orientation.
LeVay (2011: 13) observed that the findings from the world’s largest twin study indicate that sexual orientation is mainly determined by the genetic makeup and the environmental factors that interplay to lead to the final sexual orientation in a person. The researchers of the study concluded that genetics and environmental factors which are specific to every person and which included the biological processes like difference in the exposure to different hormones in the womb greatly determined if a person was going to develop in heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual. According toLeVay (2011: 15), sexual orientation may come as a result of the combination of social and biological factors. The biological factors may include differences or variance in the amount of male hormones both in males and females. For instance, it is thought that people are predisposed to behave in a given manner depending on their gender (Balthazart, 2012: 8).
In the findings of the study, there was no identification of a single gene factor or environmental factor that determined the final relationship that a person was going to have in terms of the sexual relationships and thus there is no single factor that can be pinpointed as the main cause of a given sexual orientation that develops in people (Cantor & Cantor, 2006: 15). The results of the study revealed that sexual orientation is influenced by a mixture of genetic and environmental factors. The influence of genetic or environmental factors depends on the intensity and the surrounding in which the person stays in and therefore making it even more difficult to determine how exactly such factors affect the sexual orientation of a person.
As noted by LeVay (2011: 40), the results of numerous studies indicate the sexual orientation could be caused by the genes that are passed from one generation to the other. LeVay (2011:41) indicated that people who were gay or lesbian likely had a close relative who was also gay or lesbian. In the same manner, siblings were more likely to become lesbians or gay if either of their parents was a bisexual. Further LeVay (2011: 51) noted that, “girls who are the biological children of lesbians may have an increased likelihood of becoming bisexual or lesbian, perhaps on account of genes running in those families” This indicates that the genetics that can cause gender-nonconformity in human beings can be passed down from one generation to the other.
The ability to pass the genetics forms from one generation to the other is among the major factors that contribute to the final sexual orientation of an individual (LeVay, 2011:55) That is, if the genetic makeup of a person includes an imbalance in the sexual orientation instincts, then it becomes difficult for a person to suppress those sexual orientation instincts whenever they come. Moreover, the sexual drive and the sexual orientation together influence the kind of associations that a person is likely going to form. Studies have indicated that people who are homosexuals have never found satisfaction in their heterosexual relationships no matter how they would want to settle in a normal environment (Carroll, 2009:21).
In cases where the level of hormones such as testosterone are in abnormal quantities, the person can easily develop a gender-nonconformist condition that isolates him or her from the normal behavioral way of people of the same gender (LeVay, 2011: 45). The hormonal imbalances are a natural phenomenon that can occur in the womb of the mother during pregnancy and significantly alter the way a person is going to behavior as far as gender identity is concerned. As noted by LeVay (2011:70) the hormonal imbalance is among the suspecting leading factor in the sexual orientation that determines whether a person is going to be homosexual, heterosexual, or bisexual. However, the two indicated that this is based on the data from one region and thus needed a great deal of verification before they were accepted as a general conclusion.
One of the major factors that cause development of a particular sexual orientation in human beings as was pointed out by Freud is the relationship that a child has with his or her mother and father while growing up (LeVay, 2011:80). According to Freud, children and especially male, who fail to successfully come out oedipal phase and remain attached to their mother are likely to acquire a homosexual approach in their relationship with other people. Such children as noted by Patterson & D'Augelli (2012:23) seek to compensate for their lack of detaching themselves from their mother’s closeness or seduction and their father’s hostility or absenteeism. LeVay (2011:90) argued that this is an indication of “a lifelong persistence of the original primary feminine identification with the mother, and a consequent sense of deficiency in one’s masculine identity.” This condition ultimately creates a situation where a child may develop a reversed sexual orientation that underpins the sexual conformity as adults. Homosexuality thus in adults is a result of failure to develop into a post oedipal phase that makes a boy child to remain sexually fixated to his own mother. This translates into the upbringing of a child as one of the factors that determines the sexual orientation of the child as an adult person in future.
The human body produces thousands of hormones that control the development of body features and behaviors that a person is expected to exhibit (Bancroft, 2009:150 and Wade, 2005: 37). Because of the hormones that have the powers to influence the behavior of a person, sexual orientation is thought to be more often than not to be a result of different hormones in the body. Particular hormones determine the development of male or female genitals. In cases where the male or female genitals fail to develop normally as a result of hormonal imbalances, a person may characteristically identify themselves with the opposite sex or develop a non gender conformist characteristic.
As observed by LeVay (2011:67) and Rahman (2005:77), hormones play an important role in deciding the kind of gender identity and the sexual orientation that a person is going to identify themselves with. As such sexual orientation is largely determined by the kind of hormones dominant in one’s body. According toLeVay (2011:178), the existence of explicit differences in the behavior of male and female both externally and internally enhances the final sexual orientation that a person is likely going to be identified. However, Greenberg, Bruess & Conklin (2010: 77) argued that this observation was not confirmed in an experiment that involved a male young with elder sisters who develop more pronounced male characters and behaviors. This was in contrast with the expected results since it was expected that the young boy would be influenced by the elder sister and develop an opposite sexual orientation.
Therefore studies contacted in the hormonal influence over the sexual orientation indicated that hormones play an important role in the final sexual orientation that a person is going to have. Even though LeVay (2011:201) argued that the researches on the influence of hormone on the sexual orientation were scanty, this would be effectively deduced given that most human and by extension animal behaviors are controlled by the body hormones. As such, it follows that sexual behaviors must also be influenced by the sexual hormones in the body. Furthermore, Than (2010:10) noted that there is a significant different in some hormones such as testosterone and androgens, both of which are gender specific hormones in both male and female. An increase in hormonal quantity in either of the two hormones is likely to produce a change in the sexual behavior of a person. This therefore indicates that hormones play an important role in determining the final sexual orientation that a person gets to identify themselves with.
Recent studies indicate that social factors such as availability of drugs and alcohol also have a strong influence of the sexual orientation of a person. According to Wilson & Rahman (2005:45), “bisexuals and students whose sexual orientation was in flux reported the heaviest drinking and most negative consequences from alcohol use, such as uncontrolled drinking and withdrawal symptoms”. This is an indication that social factors as much as biological factors do influence the final sexual orientation that a person is likely going to identify with. Perrin (2007: 23 and Murphy (2012: 18) reported that people who perceive themselves to have an inverted to be undergoing stress or depression can resort to an inverted sexual orientation as a way of escaping the conditions that were causing the stress or depression in the first place. Crooks & Baur (2010: 74) argued that for this reason, it is possible for some people to turn into homosexuals or bisexuals to escape the challenges they are facing as heterosexuals.
The stigmatization that follows a certain sexual orientation can also be social cause of some people to develop abnormal sexual orientation from the one that normally they would be following in the normal circumstances. The use of drugs and alcohol is seen as a way of escaping the normal stigmatization that normally follows identification with a given sexual orientation. In essence, it is the realization of a socially unacceptable sexual orientation like homosexuality that can lead someone to abuse of drugs or vice versa (Talley, 2012:57).
Similarly, LeVay (2011: 305) argued that the human brain plays a bigger role in deciding about the final sexual orientation that a person identifies with in adult life. According to Rahman (2005), within the front of the hypothalamus there exists an area known as medial preoptic which mainly is involved in the regulating the male-typical sexual behaviors. This therefore means the brain plays an increasingly bigger role in deciding the kind of sexual orientation that a person is likely going to engage in. A study by LeVay (2011:310) concluded that the medial preoptic region in males was relatively larger than those of females. The control of the brain in the sexual behaviors is seen in the differences in sizes of the region even among males but whose sexual orientation is different The difference is the sizes of the region is an indication that the brain is directly involved in the controlling of the activities that people engage in including the sexual orientation (Joseph, 2005: 15).
Sexual orientation can also be influenced by the conditions and the environment in which a person is brought up in. According to Drescher (2006:27) and Perrin (2007: 13), social practices in the place where a person is raised and the conditions that exist can be causative factors in the development of sexual orientation in both male and female. The influence of the surrounding such as the practices that children see their elder siblings engage in and watch in the media can shape the kind of sexual orientation that finally dominates the live of a person in adulthood (Morrow & Messinger, 2006: 23). Some studies indicate that the influence of older brothers to the lesser-born boys is a biological in nature rather than the believed system of social. According to their argument, the mother’s immune system plays a role as mediation between the older brothers and the lesser-born boys. The influence of the older brothers on the development of a given sexual orientation is thus entrenched in the immune system of the mother. Studies done by Omoto & Kurtzman (2006:13) indicated that gay men tended to have more older brothers than straight men and this was hypothesized to be a causal for the development of the homosexuality among the men. Consequently, the number of older brother can determine the kind of sexual orientation that one adapts and the same is with women (Friedman & Downey, 2012: 22).)
In conclusion, sexual orientation can be a result of several factors including the natural and environment ones. However, given the variety of preferences in the sexual orientation amongst people even of the same characteristics and upbringing, it is not easy to pinpoint a given causative factors since the factors that lead to the development of a particular sexual orientation change from one group of people to the other. Some of the identified factors are averages of the presumed causes of sexual orientation among human beings. These factors include the genetic influence, the biological influence, older brothers, and exposure to a particular situation either in childhood or even in adulthood, and the general social practices in terms of sexuality that are prevalent in a given environment.