Interactional Theory: Biology and Sociology
Social psychologist Daryl Bem (1996) has proposed that biological variables, such as genetics, hormones, and brain neuroanatomy, do not cause certain sexual orientations, but rather they contribute to childhood temperaments that influence a child’s preferences for sex-typical or sex-atypical activities and peers. Although this theory may seem a bit outdated to us today, his premise about sexual orientation is interesting to consider.
Bem believes that males who engage in “male typical activities,” such as rough-and – tumble play or competitive team sports, prefer to be with other boys who also like these activities. Girls, on the other hand, who prefer “female typical activities,” such as socializing quietly or playing jacks, prefer the company of other girls who like to do the same activities. Gender-conforming children (those who engage in activities typical for their gender) prefer the other gender for romantic interests, whereas nonconforming children prefer the same gender. Bem’s “exotic-becomes-erotic” theory suggests that sexual feelings evolve from experiencing heightened arousal in situations in which one gender is viewed as more exotic, or different from oneself (Bem, 1996). Because this theory combines both biology and sociological issues, many refer to it as an interactional model.
Bem asserts that gay and lesbian children had playmates of the other sex while growing up, and this led them to see the same sex as more “exotic” and appealing. However, research has been contradictory and hasn’t been supported by other research (Peplau et
al., 1998). Many gay and lesbian children report playmates of both the same sex and the other sex while growing up.