Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Sociology

Content Description

1 online resource (iv, 235 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Steven Seidman

Committee Members

Glenna Spitze, Karyn Loscocco


Lesbian, Sexual Identity, Sexuality, Women's Studies, Lesbians, Bisexual women, Queer theory, Sex

Subject Categories

Gender and Sexuality | Sociology | Women's Studies


Essentialist models of sexual identity development have dominated social discourse and public opinion since the 1980s. This perspective posits that sexual orientation is an intrinsic, core identity that has roots in specific biological factors. Based on this perspective it is assumed that a person’s sexuality will manifest in a linear fashion throughout the life course. Notably, this model positions individuals with same-sex sexual attractions and behaviors as specific “types” of people. While this perspective has become largely institutionalized in public opinion, within academic research on sexual orientation, there has been little consensus on the veracity of this model. Specifically, the recent impact of varied theoretical perspectives including social constructionism and queer theory has complicated the acceptance of the essentialist model within academia and has led researchers to call for the development of alternative models of sexual identity development that challenge reductionist assertions.