Notes for Gender and Sexuality
School of Family and
Consumer Sciences 400.404/504
Instructor: D. Witt
(these notes comprise the readings for the next two
What is the
difference between "sex" and "gender"? From the World
Sometimes it is hard to understand exactly
what is meant by the term “gender”, and how it differs
from the closely related term “sex”.
"Sex” refers to the biological and
physiological characteristics that define men and
women. Sex is Ascribed
refers to the socially constructed roles,
behaviors, activities, and attributes that a
given society considers appropriate for men and
women. Gender is Achieved.
To put it another way: “Male”
and “female” are sex categories, while “masculine” and
“feminine” are gender categories. Aspects of sex will not
vary substantially between different human societies,
while aspects of gender may vary greatly.
Examples of sex
characteristics usually refer to "secondary"
characteristics, or characteristics that are often
visually apparent :
- Women are generally smaller in stature than men,l and
have less bone mass compared to men.
- Women have smaller "Adam's apple" compared to men (in
the front of the neck that is due to the forward
protrusion of the thyroid
cartilage, the largest and most prominent
cartilage of the larynx.The
thyroid cartilage tends to enlarge at adolescence,
particularly in males.
- There are usually physical
differences in body appearance, as well as
reproductive differences that can either be
visually apparent or hidden from casual view.
- GENETIC DIFFERENCE - girls "xx", boys "xy"
- HORMONAL DIFFERENCE - testosterone (aggression) and
androgen are higher in males -estrogen and others are
higher in women.
- GONADAL DIFFERENCE - ovaries and testes
- GENITAL DIFFERENCE - penis/clitoris.
- REPRODUCTIVE DIFFERENCE - effective
contraceptive s reduce the social significance of this
of gender characteristics (note the importance of
the social application of sex differences here) :
- In the United States (and
most other countries), women earn significantly
less money than men for similar work
- In Viet Nam, many more men
than women smoke, as female smoking has not
traditionally been considered appropriate
- In Saudi Arabia men are
allowed to drive cars while women are not
- In most of the world, women
do more housework than men
- Most truckers are male, most nurses female, although
there are male nurses and female truckers.
- Worldwide the primary caregivers of children are
- Men make more money for the same job than do women.
- Women as a group consistently score lower on
mathematics and science achievement tests.
- Men score lower on verbal and language.
- Men are prone to aggressive, assertive, inexpressive
- Women are prone to passive, expressive ones.
If we were to try to use science and logic to define the
real important gender differences between men and women
aside from reproductive differences, what might these be?
Are men more intelligent that women? Do men work more than
women? Are women more emotional, and thus less trustworthy
than men? Each time we try to decide one of
these questions, we find there is as much difference
between any two men or any two women and there is between
any particular man and woman. We have to look closely at
Biological and Cultural Determinants of Gender and
Sexuality We differentiate between the terms
Gender (connoting the role of
male or female in any given society) and Sex
(connoting the biological configuration of
reproductive organs) for a reason. The two
processes arise from different processes - society and
biology. These two processes are useful to each other as
development progresses, but they are as independent as
they are dependent.
The Cause of Gender Roles : Biology or Culture - or
From the moment of birth,
through an incredibly complex process of
socialization, from the first peek at baby's
bottom, gender role reinforcement begins (i.e., ribbons,
pink blankets, softness for girls - hockey jerseys, blue
blankets, toughness for boys). Our culture's means of
reinforcement of gender roles is strongly integrated
into the social fabric, so that an individual finds
deviation difficult:. We separate consumer outlets
so that the girls go to one section and the boys to
another, and we separate social environments in much the
same way. Male and female responses to social stimuli
are often easily recognized and predicted, and based on
very traditional social values. Colors, clothing and
hair styles, toy selection leads to differences in
parental treatment based on gender, (girls are allowed a
little more flexibility than boys early on, but later
are forced into more rigid roles), and general social
treatment of individuals based on their gender ("sissy"
to a boy is much more dangerous than "tomboy" is to
girls of early school age,boys don't cry -girls don't
The developing individual quickly learns which part of
the social playground welcomes them, and the patterns of
feeling and behavior that go with it, as they learn to
play their Gender Role. Easily
by early childhood, increasingly through middle
childhood, and firmly by adolescence, individuals learn
socially appropriate behaviors and feelings and assume
their Gender Identity. This is a composite
of all the socially significant rights and obligations
warranted to an individual by virtue of their assigned
Self-identity and self-esteem are partially dependent on
the successful achievement of one's gender role. Social
and relational expectations demand it. Happiness
and life-satisfaction is partially dependent on
successful gender performance. Equally important is the
idea of changing society, therefore understanding of
gender role effects on limiting our progress as
individuals and as a species may inform our choices in
The biology argument suggests that we are predetermined
behave in sex appropriate fashion. This argument
points out that:
The culture argument suggests that we learn
sex appropriate behaviors from those around us. This
argument counters that:
- Women are weak physically, where men are strong.
- Women are verbal, men are action oriented.
- Women are scheming, men are direct.
- Women are nurturant, men are instrumental.
- Genetic programming forces our behavior beyond our
- Women are weak because of thousands of years of
evolution in which they did not consistently perform
- Women are verbal and scheming because men have
afforded themselves most of the social, political, and
economic resources available.
- Women have to align themselves with a powerful man
to achieve in those arenas.
- Women are nurturant because the have been delegated
Traditional male and female
behavior in American culture is not traditional in other
cultures, illustrating that "feminine" and "masculine"
behaviors are culturally affected. Different cultures have
different value placed on gender. Males most often inherit
power (patriarchy), and keep it, although this is not
always the case. Our developmental theories, such as Social Learning Theory
assert that children are rewarded for conforming to their
parent's (i.e., societies) expectations and are punished
for behavior that meets with disapproval. Differential socialization
holds that male children undergo quite different
socialization than do females. Fathers seem to be the
deciding factor in the early years of life; while both
parents support the division in later childhood.
Standard, traditional socialization agents such as role
models: peers, parents, and media, all support the status
quo for the treatment of boys and girls, then men and
The Feminist Critique of gender role
Beyond Gender Roles and
Toward Social Change:
- power and control are the real social motives
behind the division of sex roles / division of labor.
Not simply differential socialization
- there is no motivation for men to relinquish any of
their power and control to women (abortion issues,
equal pay issues, child care issues).
- The Feminist Power analysis -men have power and
privilege by virtue of their sex -it is in men's
interest to maintain that power -men occupy and
actively exclude women from powerful positions
(economic and political)
- feminine roles and cultural values are the product
of oppression. Idealization of them is dysfunctional
Social Science now asserts
is the gender role of choice - in other words, there is
a third, and probably better, gender role that is a
combination of male and female on some important
characteristics. If we can agree that there are two
basic dimensions of life - Expressive and
Instrumental, then there are times in life when
warmth is needed and times when assertiveness is
warranted. Aggression is appropriate at times, others
require appeasement, and so on empathy vs. rationality,
independence vs. dependence, formality vs. intimacy.
These traits are more accessible if they coexist in
single individual, rather than having people opt for one
or the other set. The person who possess
both kinds of traits is better suited to cope with the
demands of modern life. Males can express their feelings
well and are more nurturant than once thought possible.
Women can be assertive, task oriented, skilled at
problem solving and self-reliant than once thought
Sandra Bem (SL Bem - 1981 - Consulting
Psychologists Press, Palo Alto) created the Bem
Sex Role Inventory or BSRI in an attempt to
measure psychological androgyny. The measure has
been used hundreds of times to document the
positive and negative effects of traditional
versus androgynous gender roles on individual
development. Her measure places the respondent
in one of four quadrants:
Sex Role Inventory
As it turns out, Androgynous teenagers do not do well in
competitive situations, and neither do Traditionally
Feminine teenagers. However, androgynous teenagers do
will with relationships - friendships, family, and love.
Increasingly, as the social scientific world comes to more
precisely define the importance and effects of competition,
Androgyny may win out over traditional gender roles in terms
of overall success at life. You
can take the BSRI yourself by downloading the
Changing Gender Role
Expectations - In the past 15 years or so, American
culture has become Feminized to a great extent. -The most
important change in recent history to move our society
away from traditional sex roles is the massive influx of
women in to the PAID LABOR FORCE. With it came other
changes, such as changes in child care schedules, who buys
the weekly groceries, who does the laundry, who makes
decisions. -In many ways we are moving towards a "task"
oriented instrumental society for both genders, but one
that demands the emotional stability of traditionally
expressive femininity. In the past, mothers would agree
that "when the family does well, I do well", while
today she's likely to put herself a little higher up with
"when I do well, the family benefits." When wives
move into the labor force, husbands like it. But husbands
have not significantly increased the time they devote to
domestic tasks. (Nationally). Some studies reveal that
when a wife/mother takes on a full time job, she actually
increases her workload by 100%, still having to be
available for parenting, household chores, and general
nurturing as before.
Gender Roles and the Self-Fulfilling
Prophecy: At the turn of the 20th century
W.I. Thomas gave us the Situational Hypothesis, which
simply states Things that are perceived as
real, will be real in their consequences. If we
think we are weak, dependent, unskilled, we will act
accordingly. If we think we are tough, we will proceed
as if we are. While subject to the constant
barrage of messages from all quarters of our society,
not all of which are consistent or coordinated in
effect, individuals are also developing higher
level cognitive skills which allows them to take into
account an ever increasingly complex set of demands on
our time, resources, and abilities. In other words, we
can always change things.
Gender Identity and
Remembering back to Marcia's Typology for Identity
Achievement,, Gender Identity is one of the identities
that all adolescent's have to face up to. A
phenomenon has been occurring in the lives of girls as
they begin to develop into young adults. Psychologists
began to notice that girls aged 11 to 14 were beginning to
become depressed when compared with boys the same age.
Theories were not very helpful in noting possible reasons
why until Gilligan (see In a Different Voice, 1982)
offered her interpretation of the data.
Gilligan offered a counter argument to the traditional
ideas of Moral Development advanced by Lawrence Kohlberg
and others. Kohlberg explains advancing moral development
to be enabled by advancing cognitive ability (like
Piaget's stages of cognitive development). Achieving
higher level moral development also contributes to one's
sense of self and self-esteem, and actually affords the
individual a more positive view of themselves. This seems
to work better for boys than for girls, leaving the
mainstream theorists to conclude that perhaps girls just
don't keep up with boys on this concept - explaining their
higher levels of depression.
Gilligan offered a different explanation, centering her
argument around the idea of justice. If a person works hard and
follows all the rules, then life should work out well for
them, right? What if a person works hard and follows all
the rules and life doesn't work out well, not just for
them but for others like them. Gilligan began
finding that the latter situation was the case for many
girls. As they grew from middle childhood through early
adolescence, they began to see that boys, who didn't
follow the rules as closely as they, were getting rewards
that they didn't earn. At the same time, girls were
seeing that following the rules just didn't pay off as
well as it should. All their lives they were being told
how good they were, and how their good behavior was a
positive trait. Yet when it came time to receive honors
and rewards, these didn't come like they were led to
This is an important gender difference to keep in mind
while we talk about sexuality among adolescents. For some
girls, one way to achieve and maintain higher levels of
self-esteem is to become sexually active at an early age.
Overtime, if generations of girls find sexuality one of
the few modes for increasing and maintaining self-esteem,
the behavior may become normative. When discussing the
changing nature of sexuality, we always need a discussion
of NORMS. Cultural Norms contain sexual
standards, a code of behavior, to which people subscribe
and which dictate what kinds of sexual behaviors are
considered appropriate. Cultural Norms are specific to the
subcultural standards and practices that govern a
subculture's members. Statistical Norms focus on
the behaviors that really happen - simply counting
Distribution of Sexual Activity in the Culture
Before, during and after the Sexual Revolution of the late
1960's yearly 1970's, the dominant attitude about
sexuality in the U.S. has swung from the days of a quick
smooch on the porch swing to car dating to coed dorms and
cohabitation - from no
premarital sex before marriage to premarital sex as recreation
to premarital sex with
In the beginning there was the Abstinence Rule -1770 to
1950, then came the Double Standard 1950's followed by the
Sex for Fun Era 1960's & 1970's. From the 1980s onward
the culture has been dominated by Sex with Affection
Of course, there have been other social changes driving
the change in attitude about sex, most notably the
expectation that boys and girls will continue their
education beyond high school and on into college.
Sexually transmitted diseases, particularly HIV/AIDS, have
accompanied changes in cultural attitudes.
Cultural Norms have changed in the Twentieth Century.
- Abstinence prior to marriage - 1900 to 1930
- The Double Standard - 1930 to 1970
- Permissiveness for Recreation 1970 to 1978
- Permissiveness with Affection 1978 to present
If we were to write out a
definition of healthy sexuality, how might this definition
change for teenagers? When do teenagers get to start
having sex and what are the rules governing their
Would healthy sexuality include a period of education
about the positive and negative aspects of becoming a
sexual person, perhaps through sex education in the public
schools? Without a firm grounding in these essential
life skills, what might be the outcome, keeping in mind
that our nation's young people are a good reflection of
what we've made them to be
To get a partial view of this dilemma see The
Education of Shelby Knox
and the Lost
Children of Rockdale County
. Both documentaries are
available through the library. We can view some of these
films if the class consents. Shebly attended
high school in a district with a policy of abstinence
. She was interested in finding out
why important health information was being kept from the
district's young people. The Lost Children film
details a 1996 syphilis outbreak in a school district
attended by middle class students, The students involved
ranged in age from 13 to 16.
Parents could easily remedy part of this situation by
following these guidelines with their daughters:
- Monitor their expectations. Many parents are more
comfortable with letting a boy take chances but are
afraid a girl will hurt herself or get dirty.
- Be involved in a daughters schooling. Make sure she
gets a good education by finding out what goes on in the
classroom, how she's being treated, whether she's called
on, who gets to use the computers, etc.
- Encourage daughters in math and science. Redefine
algebra and calculus as girl subjects.
- Be the daughters' biggest booster. Women in
undergraduate engineering programs agreed that their
biggest encouragement came from their parents - by
constantly saying - "you can do it, kid."
- Let daughters make decisions - and live with the
- Teach her to think and speak up for herself. Don't
accept anything as truth without stopping, thinking
about it, and asking lots of questions.
- Don't overemphasize physical appearance. While all
kids need to hear from parents that they are good
looking kids, it is much more important for them to hear
they are good persons more than pretty ones, or you'd be
prettier if you'd lose weight/lighten your hair/smile
- Do give positive messages about sexuality. Not just
the plumbing lecture combined with the AIDS IS
EVERYWHERE/YOU'LL GET PREGNANT stuff - talk about the
wonder of her sexuality and how sweet and pleasurable it
will be. Talk about choosing relationships that are:
consensual, non-exploitive , mutually pleasurable,
honest, equal and responsible. And strongly advise that
sex can happen when both partners are ready.
- Help her develop a unique hobby, interest or talent.
- Expose her to strong female role models.
- Unconditional positive regard. All humans have a sex
drive - energy that is most efficiently used in pursuit
of and engagement in sexual activity.
As gatekeepers of sexuality, in heterosexual terms, women
have the option to engage in sexuality or not. Changes in
sexual behavior are dependent on women's decisions. There
is conflict between the expectations for males and females
in our culture - this causes angst while the teenager is
attempting to come to achievement of his/her sexual
identity. There has been an increase in the proportion of
people engaging in sexually intimate behaviors of all
types before marriage.
If sex with affection is the dominant social norm, it is up
to males to convince females that they are in love. So one
way to observe this phenomenon is to study the changes in
men's APPROACHES and ARGUMENTS.
in the United States
What are the determinants of sexual orientation:
- The Nature argument - homosexuality as a
natural condition being born a homosexual. Primarily an
argument favored by male homosexuals who wish to be left
- The Political argument - homosexuality is a
matter of choice. Primarily an argument favored by
politically active female homosexuals who wish to make a
- Either way, adolescents pondering their sexual
identity are fragile until their choices/natures take
hold of them.
- Coping with sexual uncertainty brings on anxiety and
doubt. Our culture does little to ease the difficulty.
Homosexual teenagers are often the victims of, not only
cruel jokes, but sometimes violent hate crimes perpetrated
at the hands of homophobic peers. It is important
to note that the gay population in the U.S. has seen a
dramatic reduction in the incidence of STD's of all kinds
since becoming aware of the AIDs virus. Conversely, STDs
among heterosexuals is still at alarming levels.
Cultural Restrictions on Sexuality
Sexuality in Dating - Teens 16-20 who reported being
Number of Partners (Lifetime Statistics from the Kinsey
1940 - 20% f 40% m
By 1978, among unmarried college aged women
1950 - 21% f 42% m
1960 - 25% f 60% m
1970 - 40% f 60% m
1980 - 64% f 77% m
1990 - 75% f 80% m
- 83% reported being sexually active
- the rise occurring in areas of casual dating, as
well as the normally sexual going steady and engaged
- 56% report sexual intercourse by age nineteen.
- Males 30-44 report an average of 6-8 female sexual
partners in their lifetime (Mosher, Chandra, &
- Females 30-44 report an average of 4 male sexual
partners in their lifetime (Mosher, Chandra, &
- 3% of men have had zero sexual partners since the age
of 18, 20% have had 1 partner, 21% have had 2-4
partners, 23% have had 5-10 partners, 16% have had 11-20
partners, and 17% have had 21 or more partners (Laumann,
Gagnon, Michael, Michaels, 1994).
- 3% of women have had zero sexual partners since the
age of 18, 31% have had 1 partner, 36% have had 2-4
partners, 20% have had 5-10 partners, 6% have had 11-20
partners, and 3% have had 21 or more partners (Laumann,
Gagnon, Michael, Michaels, 1994).
- 20% of American men and 31% of American women have had
one sex partner in their lifetime (Laumann, Gagnon,
Michael, Michaels, 1994).
- 56% of American men and 30% of American women have had
5 or more sex partners in their lifetime (Laumann,
Gagnon, Michael, Michaels, 1994).
Common Myths About
Sexuality Held by Adolescents and Their Parents:
Teen Pregnancy Facts
- If intercourse stops before the male ejaculates then
pregnancy will not occur.
- If I have intercourse while standing, no one will get
- I cannot get pregnant if one of us uses a condom or
some form of contraception.
- I cannot get pregnant on the first time of
- If I do not discuss sex with my children, perhaps
they will not have sex or know nothing about it.
- My children are not having sex because they are good
kids and I raised them to know better.
- The responsibility for birth control falls in the
hands of the female, after all, boys will be boys.
Risk Factors For Childbirth
Before Age 17
- About 30,000 pregnancies occur annually in the us
among girls under the age of 15.
- Over 900,000 adolescents become pregnant annually.
- 1 out of 12 unmarried female American teenagers become
pregnant each year; about half of them will carry the
pregnancy to term.
- Half of all first pregnancies occur within the first 6
months of becoming sexually active.
- 6 out of 10 teenage females who have a child before
age 17 will be pregnant again before age 19.
- America’s teenage birth rate is the highest in the
Western hemisphere; it is double the rate of Sweden, and
is an astonishing 17 times higher than Japan.
- 4 out of 10 girls now 14 years old will get pregnant
in their teens.
- Adolescent pregnancy and unwed mothers continue to be
a serious problem in the US even though the rate is
lower than it was in the 1940’s.
- Adolescent pregnancy rate is 4 times the rate of
Western European countries; even though it has declined
by 22%.since thee 1940's
- Teen pregnancy currently costs the US more than $7
billion per year.
- About half of all teenage mothers and 75% of unmarried
teenage moms will fall into poverty within five years of
giving birth of their first child.
- 45% of 1st born children and 33% of all children in
the US have mothers who are unmarried, teenagers, or mothers without
a high school degree.
- The number of girls who become pregnant between the
ages of 15 and 19 years will increase by 2.2 million
between 1995 and 2010.
- About 33% of females aged 15 to 17 do not understand
the human fertility cycle.
- 12% of students believe the birth control pill
protects against aids.
- About 25% adolescents believe looking at a person can
enable to identify whether or not someone has AIDS.
Adolescents and Sexually
- Health risks of pregnant teens - Infants with low
birth weight or premature delivery
- Mothers dropping out of school - Only 50% of teen
mothers complete school by age 26.
- Children develop more behavior difficulties
- Children with lower intelligence scores.
- Children with more illnesses.
- Mothers and infants living in poverty.
- Only 25% of adolescent fathers remain involved.
- 25% of sexually active adolescents contract an STD
every year. Most common STDs are as follows:
- Gonorrhea. Bacterium; thrives in moist
membranes; treated successfully with antibiotics.
- Syphilis. Bacterium; prefers warm, moist areas;
attacks CNS; treated with antibiotics.
- Chlamydia. Bacterium; infects genitals; highly
infectious; 25% if females become infertile.
- Genital Herpes. Virus; many strains; recurring
blisters and sores.
- AIDS. Virus; destroys the immune system; death
results from common illnesses.
SEX and CULTURE
Forcible sexual behavior and sexual harassment are
unfortunate byproducts of a sensual culture.
Four key dynamics describe this occurrence:
- Rape. Forced, non-consenting sexual
- Date rape. Coercive sexual activity with a know
- Quid pro quo sexual harassment. Forced sexual
compliance in exchange for protection from negative
- Hostile environmental sexual harassment. Forced
sexual contact that negatively impacts work.