Research by J. M. Carrier on the cross-cultural perspective of homosexual behavior has emphasized the absence of uniformity in the global attitude toward homosexuality. In some of the countries, it is tolerated and causes no condemnation, whereas in the other nations it is severely punished. The justification for such variations in the behavior can be found in the differences in sociocultural factors in the cross-cultural perspective. Apart from the variations in cultural practices, the unacceptance of homosexual behavior is motivated by prejudices and fears of the society, making their actions irrational. The evidence presented by Carrier suggest homosexual behavior to be “unnatural, dysfunctional, or associated with mental illness” (Carrier, 1980, p. 205). Homosexuality is reviewed by some of the cultures as a stigma, and thus, people with homosexual behavior are considered unacceptable and denied. Carrier’s research explored the complex combination of attitudes of the modern societies to the issue of homosexuality based on the available empirical studies and information from the missionaries, novelists, and travelers.
The variations of attitudes to homosexual behaviors depending on the society are suggested to be explained by 1) cultural attitudes toward cross-gender behavior and 2) presence of sexual partners, including premarital sexual segregation, expectations over virginity, distribution of incomes, the age of getting married, and availability of financial resources. In any culture, the cross-gender expectations are different, saying that societal and sexual roles of men and women are different. The ordinary social expectation regarding marriage is the creation of a cohabiting male-female couple of adult age for the production of the next generation. In the case of feminine male behavior, variations in social behavior cause more anxiety. Masculine female behavior causes lower anxiety in people. Social response to homosexuality can be categorized as 1) accommodation, 2) making it criminal, scandalous, or outlawed, and 3) neither accommodating nor criminalizing it by ensuring its non-occurrence.
Accommodating societies accept different forms of cross-gender behavior. Societies approach homosexuality as the will of God or from the mystical perspective. With the acculturation, the correlation between social and sexual roles has caused conceptualization of sexual behavior. Carrier estimated a concordance between gender and sexual roles. Disapproving societies are varied by their reactions such as negative public attitude, legal prohibition, strict dichotomization of gender roles, and homosexuality equaling cross-gender behavior.
Carrier implies that people use homosexuality as a means of self-expression. Homosexuality does not require a romantic relationship and can occur in friends and relatives who share the same desires and can accommodate their fulfillment. The societal approach to homosexuality is different. Culture and preferences of the society determine it. The cultural perspective of homosexuality, along with its psychological and biological sides, should be considered when researching homosexual behavior.
The article offers wide and extensive information about homosexual behavior and the way the respective culture modifies it. It presents descriptive and sufficient data on attitudes to homosexual behavior in various cultures and nations (from indigenous peoples to big nations). This research can be utilized as a secondary search because it is based on the empirical data received from the literature review.
The social concept of norms is considered in the reviewed article as a culture-dependent variation. Norms are determined by the cultural background of the nation, and thus, what is regarded as normal and socially acceptable for indigenous people, for example, mystic and ritual practices for gender and sexual estimation, will be not normal for advanced countries. Norms are the standard limitations that determine the line of conduct. They can differ along with acculturation.
The theory of social exchange explains the occurrence of social changes through the exchange that is happening between the parties. In the article, the social exchange theory applies to the process of acculturation, when a less developed nation or people exchange experiences, knowledge, and traditions with the more advanced nations. In practice, it can result in the global shift in attitudes toward homosexuality: if it were legally banned before in some countries, currently, a more tolerant attitude toward it would be developed there.
- Carrier, J. M. (1980). Homosexual behavior in cross-cultural perspective. In J. Marmor (Ed.), Homosexual Behavior: A Modern Reappraisal (pp. 204-214). New York, NY: Basic Books, Inc.