Sexual Orientation and Social Stratification

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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The topic I chose for this assignment is sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is described as the inclination to feel sexual desire toward people of a particular gender or toward both genders. Sexual orientation is believed to be something that is learned over time through the act of socialization. This socialization occurs in many different aspects of life, it begins with family socialization. Family socialization is normally where a kid learns to demonstrate certain gender specific roles and can have an effect on how one should display emotions, what one should wear and what ones particular interests should be.

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The next form of socialization is through school, some of the influences through school environment involve the stereotypes of males getting called on and punished more frequently and females tend to earn higher grades but have to maintain a certain social and physical appearance. The next form of socialization occurs through interactions with ones’ peers.

These interactions tend to deem boys more athletic and are expected to be in and socialize through such groups whereas females are responsible for their social position and ensuring to present themselves in an attractive manner to maintain a certain social status. The last form of influence happens through the media. This particular influence tends to lead to unrealistic beauty standards, which can oftentimes lead to serious issues with eating disorders as well as depression. In todays media there is also an increase in the acceptance of gays and lesbians and less acceptance towards those of the transgender community. All of these factors can have a high impact on ones sexual orientation, as most people tend to seek acceptance through the people they interact with the most. Certain individuals tend to mirror the sexual orientation and interests as those that they look up to and want to maintain relationships with.

Looking through a structural functionalist perspective, some of the claims tend to state that different gender roles compliment one another and that women and men are better suited for one role over another. According to sociologist Talcott Parson, this would be defined as a nuclear family and would include a family of a husband and wife as well as a few kids. The wife’s main job was to stay in and be the homemaker so she’d stay home and take care of the children whilst the husband’s main role would be as the breadwinner. This functionalist influence on the children would mean that the children would grow up and learn certain gender specific attributes. The girls would grow up taught an expressive attribute meaning they’d need to be sensitive to others’ and the boys would be taught a more instrumental attribute such as to be independent and competitive. I believe this perspective was well respected back in that era. But as time has gone on and people are becoming more accepting of those in the gay/ lesbian/ transgender community this particular perspective is now highly frowned upon. I believe a few questions Parson would ask would be: How can a family with a same sex relationship have children? How can a family with a same sex relationship decide who is the breadwinner and who is the homemaker?

Now to look at things through a social conflict perspective. This particular perspective has stated that men and women’s roles are not valued through the same light and that men tend to be in positions that hold more power and control family resources. According to sociologist Karl Marx, conflict theory can be in used in multiple forms of injustice by realizing there is an issue within society that is causing such problems. I believe some of the questions Marx would ask given sexual orientation would be: How can a woman maintain the same social status as a male but is able to take time off for maternity leave? Men are looked at as the primary earners in a family, how is a single mother able to climb and gain power in that same role?

The last topic is viewing the matter from a symbolic interactionism perspective. Symbolic interactionism states that based on ones’ gender this is how one should be socialized throughout their life. This can have an influence on ones’ hobbies, college they go to and can lead to one pursuing an occupation based on their gender. Sociologist George Mead came up the the symbolic interactionism theory back in 1969 with the help of one of his students Herbert Bulmer. This theory states that ones’ social influence has an effect on everything in their life. Another sociologist that has an influence in this topic would be Cooley, who wrote “Looking Glass Self” and in that stated that self develops as a result of our interpretation and evaluation of the responses of others (Cooley 1902). Although society at this point has become more accepting of those who are gay/lesbian or transgender, that does not mean that social influences such as labeling and bullying have prevented certain individuals from coming forward. I feel as though majority of people come forward when they feel accepted or have a tight group of friends and family who accept and are there to offer support. Some of the questions I believe Cooley would ask would be: What influences do you have to that allowed you to come to this conclusion of sexual orientation? Are your social groups those who have similar sexual orientation? Did you family dynamic have any influence on this decision?

In my analysis, I’m going with the Social Interactionism perspective. This is due to the amount of resources and influences provided in this theory. There have been multiple sociologists that have worked on this perspective and I honestly believe it’s the most open. If an individual comes out as gay/lesbian or transgender, the main goal with social interactionism would be to conduct research on social interactions and if that had an influence on this decision.

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Sexual Orientation And Social Stratification. (2021, Apr 03). Retrieved from