Sex is universal. Across cultures, sex plays an important role in the determination of social constructions of gender roles, gender expectations, attitudes towards sex and sexual behavior. Biologically, sex is a predetermined characteristic, which predisposes the individual to develop, grow and behave according to gendered concepts of what is to be male or female (Crompton, 2006). However, some individuals behave in conflict with their own sex, such as in being gay and lesbian. Homosexuality is a sexual behavior and attitudes towards it have differed from one culture to another.
Homosexuality is defined and determined through the sexual feelings of attraction that the individual has for the same sex. For example, a man who is sexually aroused by other men and not by woman is clearly gay. Homosexuality have enjoyed a colorful and painful history, it is accepted in European and Central American countries more than in the male-dominated societies like the U. S. and Japan (Crompton, 2006).
Homosexuality across cultures does not follow the collectivist and individualist dichotomy, where collectivist cultures are expected to have positive attitudes towards homosexuality, and the more individualist cultures like the U. S. would have at least moderately positive attitudes towards it. It is observed that homosexuality is a sensitive issue among Americans despite having a relatively large number of gay members of the society (Crompton, 2006). For example, although gay marriages are now celebrated in different states, policies that legalize such marriage have been slow to develop. The resistance towards accepting gays in the American society has been due to the highly masculine and macho culture of males in the country.
Accepting gays would be tantamount to relinquishing the idea of male superiority that the American culture subscribes to (Schilt & Westbrook, 2009). Japan, which is largely collectivist, is also male-dominated, women do not enjoy the same social status that males have, and although concerned with the “other” than with the self, Japanese culture frown upon open homosexuality (Suganuma, 2006). Although some cities and communities in Japan are more accepting of gays, most of the time, gays conceal their true nature for fear of discrimination.
Gayness in Japan is often seen on anime, art, showbiz and the media, although it is present in the society, it is still considered unacceptable and is fantasized in more socially acceptable forms such as in art, music and popular culture (Katsuzo, 2006). Attitudes towards homosexuality ranged from loving acceptance to utter disgust and most of the attitudes are influenced by the dominant social norms and traditions regarding maleness and masculinity and not on the collectivism-individualism cultural orientation (Crompton, 2006).
In cultures where the males are given more importance in the social strata, gayness is construed as an affront to the masculinity of the men in that society. Hence, gay bashing and hostility towards gay are very evident. In the history of homosexuality in the U. S. , homosexuality was even considered as a mental disorder and was included in the Diagnostic Manual of mental disorders. Thus, gay individuals would be considered as having a psychological crisis and would need medication and therapy to cure them of their being gay (Crompton, 2006).
Naturally, those who considered themselves as gay would also have conflicting emotions and behaviors because they thought that they were going crazy. Some gays tried to marry in order to conceal their homosexuality, while others suffered in silence. The classification of homosexuality as a disease was later on repealed as the gay rights movement in the country became more vocal and as more knowledge about homosexuality became known (Schilt & Westbrook, 2009).
On the other hand, societies, which are more egalitarian, or those that are predominantly matriarchal have more positive attitudes towards gayness (Schilt & Westbrook, 2009). In Mexico, gays are accepted in the society and attitudes towards them are positive, in Puerto Vallarta, gays enjoy celebrity status and are accorded respect (Schilt & Westbrook, 2009). In addition, in this societies, cross-dressing is expected among gays, wherein they appear and wear female clothes, gays come out in the open and they are not afraid of being stoned, bashed or slandered.