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Moderating Effect Of Sexual Orientation On Conformity To Gender Norms Among Female Students

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The present research delved into sexual orientation and its effect on women’s conformity to gender norms. Sexual orientation refers to one’s emotional, romantic and sexual to men, women, or both sexes. In this study, sexual orientation was used to study the effects on women’s conformity, specifically, to gender norms.


Background of the Study

In a time where human beings are becoming more open in expressing their individual characteristics and having these unique characteristics accepted and celebrated, it is important to find out just how far society has come in terms of embracing individuality. Both conformity and gender norms are socially related terms that have been used in a number of studies separately. The act of conforming is usually done towards general norms in society, while gender norms are more specific in nature. These two concepts are discussed and researched upon extensively in the academe but there are some variables and factors that are overlooked and understudied. Human sexuality comes with a wide array of terms, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Sexual orientation is who an individual is attracted to romantically or sexually. There is a lack of studies being done on sexual orientation as a variable that could affect how gender norms are being practiced. Some previous findings have shown that there is a discrepancy in conformity to female gender norms depending on the culture (Sanchez-Lopez, et al., 2009).

Gender norms

Gender norms (sometimes referred to as gender roles) falls under a wide spectrum of socially held beliefs with a set of behaviors, perceptions, and attitudes that are deemed appropriate by society (Levesque, 2011). These norms vary depending on gender. Males are perceived to be more independent, aggressive, or seen as the more dominant sex (Parent & Moradi, 2009). Contrasting to men, women are seen as gentle, caring, and empathetic (Parent & Moradi, 2010). In anthropological studies, women’s roles began back in the hunter-gatherers period when women stayed at home to look after the children and men were the ones searching for sustenance. This historical perspective is pivotal in the coming centuries to follow because men as the breadwinner of the family support the thought that the basic family structure would collapse if the father or male were not present. Survival being the keyword; human beings are genetically inclined to do everything for the main purpose of survival and procreation. As such, gender roles began to form and evolve in society. Gender roles are performative acts that are oftentimes unconsciously executed (Butler, 2004). These acts can be referred to as feminine or masculine. Although the subfactors of femininity and masculinity are not specifically set, there are a number of incidences that lead to the conclusion that femininity and masculinity are multidimensional social structures (Butler, 2004). Basic feminine stereotypes may also include some masculine traits and vice versa, thus making the distinction between the two ambiguous.

Development of gender norms in people

Gender identity develops in children at the age of two when they start noticing physical differences in each other (Thompson, 1975). This is when parents usually, and any other external variables, start to teach children what they should or should not do; although children still have cross-gender preferences (preference of the opposite gender’s toys or clothing). A cognitive theory called the gender schema theory coined by Bem (1981), talks about how children develop gender roles through their everyday interactions and observations from their environments and cultures; she labeled this phenomenon as sex typing. In a recent study by Bian, Leslie, and Cimpian (2017), they found that the lack of women working in highly intellectual fields is due to the fact that by age six, girls are more likely to regard “smart” as a field that was more suited towards boys and end up losing interest in these fields.

Masculine gender norms

Masculinity and femininity refer to the degree to which an individual sees themselves possessing masculine or feminine traits (Stets & Burke, 2000). These two concepts have long been researched on for many purposes. Masculine gender norms, or masculinity, refers to the social construct that describes men based on their physical attributes and behaviors. A more masculine individual engages oneself in more dominant, autonomous, and even competitive behaviors (Ashmore, Del Boca, and Wohlers 1986).

Feminine gender norms

Feminine gender norms, or in other words; femininity is a socially constructed term that is used to define females as caring, empathetic, sensitive, etc. These terms have gentle undertones and it expresses how a woman is expected to act in society. Gender roles in general differ depending on the culture and environment. A study on gender norms among females in Spain by Sanchez-Lopez, et al. (2009) compared the results to another study done in America using the Conformity to Feminine Norms Inventory (CFNI) scale showed that US female students conformed more to feminine gender norms than Spanish women.

A study by Eagly (2009) delves into the prosocial behaviors of gender. Women share more communal and relational behaviors while men are agentic, strength intensive, and collective oriented. Prosocial behaviors assess the way humans interact with each other.

Conformity in a Filipino perspective

In Filipino psychology, there is a concept called “pakikisama” that is the equivalent to conformity (Pe-Pua & Protacio-Marcelino, 2000). It is an act of submission for the sake of camaraderie. Filipino people are pressured into conforming with others for the sake of sacrificing certain traits in order to have a smoother relationship with others. Although this may seem like a positive act that may not always be the case. In a recent study by Saito (2010), he talked about the abusive powers of using pakikisama in the youth. The Filipino youth use pakikisama to bully others into getting their way or to get others to join dangerous cliques/gangs. This concept can be used to manipulate young individuals by using their own psychology against them.

Gender norms in Philippine context

The Philippines is known as one of the most egalitarian countries with regards to gender. However, masculinity and femininity are still very much evident in the Philippine setting. Prieler (2013) mentioned that in a study on gender representation in Philippine television, females were more engaged in housework (45.9 % vs. 24.5 %) and males were more engaged in the workplace (17.9 % vs. 7.4 %). These findings were based mainly on the social cognitive theory and the cultivation theory.

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A number of gender differences have been studied in the Philippine setting. One of which was about emotional relationships and physical behaviors among Filipino adolescents. This study discovered significant differences between the two sexes based on the two factors. Comparing to other countries in Asia, females engaged in some emotional relationships at younger ages than males. However, males engaged in relationships at a faster pace than females (Upadhyay, et al. 2006). The progression of relationships —experiencing crushes, courtships, dating then eventually sexual intercourse, may differ among the two sexes as well, which then affects how the two sexes perceive these emotional relationships (Upadhyay, et al. 2006).

Gender norms and sexual orientation

In our society, the main indicators of our gender are mainly the behaviors, values, and attitudes which are learned through the socialization process (Mahalik et al., 2003; Mahalik et., al, 2005). Usually, these generate ideas about how men and women should act. Gender norms commonly reflect the values of groups that are powerful and dominant in the society. A study by Gilbert and Scher (2009) found out that women tend to reflect themes of agreeableness, attractiveness, domesticity, and subservience to men. However, men reflect the themes of self-reliance, pursuing success, acting tough, being competitive, controlling emotional expression, feeling superior to women, having positive attitudes toward casual sex, and fearing and hating sexual minority men. On the other hand, according to the Canadian Paediatric Society (2008) sexual orientation dictates a person’s emotional, romantic, and sexual attraction to other individuals. The term “coming out” is used when a person is declaring a homosexual identity. This can start with homosexual fantasies or dreams. Sexual orientation includes gay, lesbians, bisexual, and so on.

Sexual orientation

Sex is a broad term that has been discussed in a number of studies. Sex in itself, tackles a number of terms that ultimately differ in definition. Sexual orientation is just one out of the many concepts used to describe one’s sexuality and the moderating effect in this proposed study. Sexual orientation is referred to as 1) patterns of emotional, romantic, and sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes, 2) the preferred term to use in order to describe one’s attractions to men, women, or both sexes, and 3) the personal trait individuals possess to be attracted to men, women, or both sexes (Dembrroff, 2016). The researchers of this study aim to discover if sexual orientation plays a moderating effect on a female’s conformity towards their respective gender norms.

In a separate research done by Oswalt and Wyatt (2011), an empirical data show wherein the researchers had 27,454 students from 55 different universities all over the United States and were enrolled in a university showed that 93.8% students identified as heterosexual, 1.9% said they were gay or lesbian, 2.9% identified as bisexual, while 1.5% said that they were unsure. It is also important to note that gay, lesbians, and bisexuals (GLB) individuals are more prone to having mental health disorders and engaging in negative risk behaviors such as substance use and abuse, self-injurious behaviors, and suicidal behaviors compared to their heterosexual counterparts. In the educational setting, the ones who encounter unique and challenging experiences and usually the least accepted group are the sexual minority college students or the lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and queer. These college students are more likely to be the targets of harassment and derogatory remarks compared to their heterosexual counterparts. Commonly, gays are most often targets of the degrading remarks while lesbians are most or excluded (Rankin et al., 2010).

Social Role Theory

In examining one’s conformity to gender norms, the researchers needed to first examine both genders’ social roles, and with that being said, Alice Eagly’s Social Role Theory became the theoretical framework for this research. The Social Role Theory delves into the differences and similarities between both male and female in terms of social behavior (Eagly & Wood, 2016). There are a number of differences between both sexes which ultimately affect their social roles. However, their social roles also depends on 1) differences presented in each of their physical features and related behaviors which include childbearing and other biological features, and 2) the number of differences between social, economic and technological factors. Because of the number of differences both males and females have, certain occupations and activities are more efficient when performed by either sex (Eagly & Wood, 2016).


These specific subtopics was discussed in the review of related literature in order to further expound on the complexity of the variables in the study. There are many things that interconnect gender norms, conformity, and sexual orientation. The background surrounding these variables is also explained because it is important to note each component intersectionally. The cultural impact is also important because conformity differs depending on the environment an individual is raised in.

Conceptual Framework

The researchers will investigate the relationship of the different sexual orientation namely homosexuals, bisexuals, and heterosexuals and conformity to the different gender norms for both females and males. The different gender norms will be based on two scales called Conformity to Feminine Norms Inventory (CFNI) and the Conformity to Masculine Norms Inventory (CMNI).

Significance of the Study

These concepts can be detrimental in an individual’s mental health because it limits people to certain behaviors that may not be akin to the way they identify. This is further complicated once sexual orientation is introduced but for the sake of simplicity and to focus on gender norms, heteronormative concepts will be used. So if a man has a generally feminine personality, society will classify this individual as an oddity or an outlier; this isolation follows him throughout his developmental years.

The researchers will gather participants by using different social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to reach more people. Afterwards, the participants will be given a survey that will ask for their demographics including age and sexual orientation. The CMNI scale will be answered first, following with the CFNI scale.


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