Some evidence exists that gender conformity and noncomformity in childhood areindeed fairly good predictors of sexual orientation. Specifically, a study from the KinseyInstitute (Bell, Weinberg, & Hammersmith, 1981) indicates that, compared to their hetero-sexual counterparts, adult gays and lesbians did not enjoy sex-typical activities as childrenand instead preferred sex-atypical activities by an average margin of about 4:1. Of course,because these types of data are retrospective self-reports, they may not necessarily reflectaccurate self-assessments but instead be the result of distortions, perhaps in the service oftrying to explain one’s sexual orientation. However, if we assume, for the sake of the argu-ment, that the results of this study have some veridicality, we need to figure out how theseearly feelings of similarity and dissimilarity become transformed into later heteroeroticismand homoeroticism.Although Bem (1996) does not supply any direct evidence for how this might occur,he speculates about several psychological mechanisms that might bring about the transfor-mation in question. At the core of all these speculations is the well-documented idea thatnovelty and unfamiliarity produce heightened physiological arousal (Mook, 1987). Thisincreased arousal may produce attraction to members of the same or opposite sex in a num-ber of ways. For instance, it may simply be a result of labeling arousal in appropriate ways,as suggested by Schachter and Singer (1962). In childhood, dissimilarity may be experi-enced largely in negative ways, as evidenced by exclamations such as “Girls are yucky” and“Boys are weird.” However, as we grow older and learn to associate arousal with attraction,the story changes dramatically. For those who have been gender-conforming, the presence:::::Sexual Orientation159
160C H A P T E R N I N E/ Sexualityof an opposite-sex other may produce the arousal necessary for the experience of attraction,whereas for those who have been gender-nonconforming, the presence of a same-sex othermay do the same thing.Of course, there is at least one problem in applying this approach to the developmentof heteroeroticism and homoeroticism. Recall from Chapter 3 that, in almost all of the stud-ies showing a link between arousal and attraction, the arousal came from an external source(e.g., having to cross a shaky bridge). It is not clear if such a misattribution of arousalwould occur when the source of the arousal was clearly related to the other person.In light of these and other difficulties in accounting for why the exotic becomes theerotic via a labeling of arousal approach, it is worthwhile to consider an alternative per-spective on emotion. Some time ago, Solomon and Corbitt (1974) proposed a homeostatictheory of affect in which our nervous system is set up to counteract the prolonged experi-ence of strong negative as well as positive emotions by producing the opposite emotion.