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Exotic Becomes Erotic: A Developmental Theory of Sexual Orientation

There is evidence that biological factors, including genes, are correlated with an individual’s sexual orientation. But as we are often reminded, correlation is not necessarily causation. This entry describes a developmental theory of sexual orientation that proposes that biological factors do not, in fact, directly influence an individual’s sexual orientation but act indirectly by influencing the child’s preferences for sex-typical or sex-atypical activities. Children who prefer sex-typical activities and who play primarily with same-sex playmates are called gender conforming; children who prefer sex-atypical activities and who play primarily with opposite-sex playmates are called gender nonconforming. These preferences lead children to feel different from either opposite- or same-sex peers—to perceive them as dissimilar or exotic. Gender-conforming children will experience opposite-sex children as different from themselves, and ...

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