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interactionists, objects acquire meaning, thus becoming symbols, through communication. The self is seen as not only subject, but also object, and like other objects, it too becomes imbued with meaning through interaction. Importantly, the self is not seen only as an object to others, but also to oneself. That is, people have the ability to take on the role of others, and thus see the self as others see it, objectified. This view of self as other contributes to behavioral decision making, as people act in ways intended to foster certain perceptions of themselves on the part of others.
Within symbolic interactionism there are two schools of thought, contributing to two methods of inquiry. Situational symbolic interactionists “focus on how individuals define situations and thereby construct the realities in which they live” (Longmore, 1998: 46). Accordingly, sociologists using this perspective study face-to-face interactions using predominately qualitative methods like ethnography, in-depth interview, and participant observation to uncover the individual and interactional construction of situations. Structural symbolic interactionists, on the other hand, focus on the ways in which location in the social structure influences the self and the self’s construction of reality, and thus tend to use quantitative methods like statistical survey analysis to examine the relationships between individual behavior and perception and location within the large institutions that comprise social structure. Both the situational and the structural schools, however, are committed to the belief that reality is constructed in interaction.
In studying sexuality, symbolic interactionists turn their gaze on how people construct their sexual realities, from which follow their sexual beliefs and practices. For structuralists, some of the major social institutions thought to influence sexuality are religion, family, economy, law, and medicine. Each institution is associated with a sexual ideology or discourse (Foucault, 1998). Most religions in the United States promulgate the Judeo-Christian ideology,