Societal attitudes toward homosexuality

Pew Global Attitudes Project 2013: "Which one of these comes closer to your opinion, number 1 or number 2?: #1 – Homosexuality should be accepted by society, #2 – Homosexuality should not be accepted by society". Percentage of responders who were in favor of #1:
  81–90%
  71–80%
  61–70%
  51–60%
  41–50%
  31–40%
  21–30%
  11–20%
  1–10%
  No data

Societal attitudes toward homosexuality vary greatly in different cultures and different historical periods, as do attitudes toward sexual desire, activity and relationships in general. All cultures have their own values regarding appropriate and inappropriate sexuality; some sanction same-sex love and sexuality, while others may disapprove of such activities in part.[1] As with heterosexual behaviour, different sets of prescriptions and proscriptions may be given to individuals according to their gender, age, social status or social class.

Homophobic attitudes in society can manifest themselves in the form of anti-LGBT discrimination, opposition to LGBT rights, anti-LGBT hate speech and physical attacks targeting (presumed) LGBT persons.

Many of the world's cultures have, in the past, considered procreative sex within a recognized relationship to be a sexual norm—sometimes exclusively so, and sometimes alongside norms of same-sex love, whether passionate, intimate or sexual. Some sects within some religions, especially those influenced by the Abrahamic tradition, have censured homosexual acts and relationships at various times, in some cases implementing severe punishments.[2] Many countries have also seen rising support for LGBT rights in modern times (including the legal recognition of same-sex marriage, anti-discrimination laws, and other such rights).

Since the 1970s, much of the world has become more accepting of same-sex sexuality between partners of legal age.[3] A 2017 book by Professor Amy Adamczyk, published by the University of California Press and based on years of mixed methods research, shows that these cross-national differences in acceptance can be explained by three factors: the strength of democratic institutions, the level of economic development, and the religious context of the places where people live.[4] The Pew Research Center's 2013 Global Attitudes Survey "finds broad acceptance of homosexuality in North America, the European Union, and much of Latin America, but equally widespread rejection in predominantly Muslim nations and in Africa, as well as in parts of Asia and in Russia". The survey also finds "acceptance of homosexuality is particularly widespread in countries where religion is less central in people's lives. These are also among the richest countries in the world. In contrast, in poorer countries with high levels of religiosity, few believe homosexuality should be accepted by society. Age is also a factor in several countries, with younger respondents offering far more tolerant views than older ones. And while gender differences are not prevalent, in those countries where they are, women are consistently more accepting of homosexuality than men."[5]

Difficulties interpreting homosexuality in different cultures

Contemporary scholars caution against applying modern Western assumptions about sex and gender to other times and places; what looks like same-sex sexuality to a Western observer may not be "same-sex" or "sexual" at all to the people engaging in such behaviour. For example, in the Bugis cultures of Sulawesi, a female who dresses and works in a masculine fashion and marries a woman is seen as belonging to a third gender;[6] to the Bugis, their relationship is not homosexual (see sexual orientation and gender identity). In the case of 'Sambia' (a pseudonym) boys in New Guinea who ingest the semen of older males to aid in their maturation,[7] it is disputed whether this is best understood as a sexual act at all.[8] In recent times, scholars have argued that notions of a homosexual and heterosexual identity, as they are currently known in the Western world, only began to emerge in Europe in the mid to late 19th century.[9][10] Behaviors that today would be widely regarded as homosexual, at least in the West, enjoyed a degree of acceptance in around three quarters of the cultures surveyed in Patterns of Sexual Behavior (1951).[11]