Men and women tend to defer in many aspects. The difference is not only in looks, but also in how they think and understand different situations, their abilities, interest, lifestyle, behavior, and also their role in the society. Both male and female may perceive a person’s lifestyle in different dimensions. For example, studies and researches to evaluate the difference in attitude that exists in both heterosexual men and women towards gay men and lesbians have been in existence since from a very long time ago. By using research and earlier work done by different scholars, this paper seeks to explore whether there really exist the said gender attitude differences and the effects associated with the same. According to the findings, it will also seek to explain on the factors that contribute to these differences.
Studies show that a big percentage of heterosexuals hold negative attitudes towards homosexuals (Herek, 2002). These studies reveal that where as heterosexual women hold almost similar negative attitudes toward homosexual men and women, heterosexual men hold more negative attitudes towards homosexual men than towards homosexual women (Herek, 2002; Kerns & Fine, 1994). Through his research, Herek (2002) found that heterosexual men of different age groups have personal negative reactions towards gay men than toward lesbians. Straight men also hold more negative attitudes towards lesbians and gay men than straight women do. In addition to this, the attitudes of heterosexuals towards homosexual of the same gender are more negative than the attitudes towards homosexual of opposite sex (Herek, 1988).
Even though Herek (1988) Attitude Toward Lesbians and Gay Men Scale (ATLG) approach shows that homosexual women have less negative attitudes toward lesbians than homosexual men, contrary to this, another research that did not use this approach shows that homosexual women held less favorable attitudes toward lesbians than homosexual men (Whitley, 1987). Herek (1988) argues that findings and determinations concerning attitude gender difference in homosexual female are sometimes not consistent and they depend on the instruments and methods used for assessing these attitudes.
All the above cited work do not give adequate reasons why straight men would hold more negative attitude towards homosexuals than would women. The best way to understand sexual prejudice is by basing our argument on gender role approach and socialization through gender role self-concept and gender role beliefs. Gender role self concept represents a person’s perceptions in terms of gender role norms where as gender role beliefs represent beliefs of how people should behave or conduct themselves in terms of gender role norms (Whitley, 1987). According to gender role beliefs, children and young people acquire their gender role attributes from their parents or from other close members of the family they are live and socialize with. Through interactions and experiences, these children develop attitude about the role for women and men in the society. Good examples are like assigning of duties according to gender, women taking care of children, and men providing for their families.
Since homosexual men and women deviate from cultural and traditional expectations based on the roles that should be performed by men and women in their lives, (Kite, 1996; Whitley, 1987), it is practical that heterosexual persons who are not against individuals deviating from traditional and cultural gender roles to hold more positive attitudes towards homosexuality. Based on this, it is common for individuals who do not have traditional gender role attitudes to hold more positive attitudes towards lesbians and gay men than individuals who believe in traditional gender role attitudes (Kite, 1996). However, the valuation of heterosexuality in both lesbians and gay men is determined by a general system of beliefs (LaMar & Kite, 1998). Through this system, individuals should not perceive what is masculine as feminine and what is feminine as masculine (Whitley & Egisdóttir, 2000). In addition, those individuals who contradict with the traditional gender roles through possessing opposite sex characteristics are viewed negatively (LaMar & Kite, 1998).
Through gender role beliefs, there is a clear tabulation of the difference in gender role attributes between men and women in the society. According to this approach, heterosexual men are likely to adore and hold traditional gender roles beliefs than women. This is because unlike women, men acquire stronger gender role socialization in the society (Huston, 1984). The hostility of men towards homosexuality directly relates with traditional gender belief (Davies, 2004). Based on this concept since men are regarded the leaders in the society, it is expected for these men to hold more negative attitude to those individuals who behave contrary to traditional beliefs.
Unlike in gender role beliefs approach, there is no observable direct relationship between sexual prejudice and gender role self-concept. This is probably because unlike in gender role beliefs where relationships are based on the behavior of individuals under different situations, in gender role self concept, the relationships depend on personality traits or perception (Whitley, 2001). The concept only motivates sexual prejudice by treating all individuals equally, regardless of how different people live.
When we analyze all the findings pertaining to sexual prejudice, we find that the degree of negative attitudes that straight men hold towards gay men and lesbians seems to decline over time. This is because, as the world and ways of living change every day, people in all over the world are continually dropping their traditional beliefs and instead adopting the modern way of living.
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