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Sex & Gender

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Western University
Psychology 2035A/B
Doug Hazlewood

Sex & Gender - Becoming Male or Female: The Role of Biology and Socialization Part 1: Reproductive Biology: Prenatal Sexual Differentiation  Begins at conception (sperm fertilizes egg)  Mother’s egg (“X” sex chromosome) - every child receives x chromosome from mother  Father’s sperm (“X” or “Y” sex chromosome)  If x sperm fertilizes egg: genetic female (xx)  If a y sperm fertilizes egg: genetic male (xy)   A. The Genetic Factor - represents the first step in becoming a male or female  but you’re not a male or female yet, because for several weeks after this, you won’t have any sex organs  B. The Gonadal Factor (development of reproductive organs: testes or ovaries) - depends on whether the y chromosome is present or active • If present - (a) stimulates the development of the testes; • (b) inhibits the development of the ovaries  we see this most clearly when problems occur: “True Hermaphrodites” - genetic female (xx); with tiny piece of y chromosome attached (XXy) • y chromosome big enough to stimulate the development of testes. Not big enough to inhibit development of ovaries (therefore BOTH) - doesn’t happen very often  C. The Hormonal Factor (development of sex organs: penis or clitoris and vagina)  Testes produce androgens (male sex hormone)  When androgens are present; penis develops; (sometimes called the Adam Principle)  When absent; clitoris and vagina develop - called the Eve Principle  Problems can occur:  (a) The Adrenogenital Syndrome:  genetic female with unusually active adrenal glands (produce androgens);  fetus develops sex organs that appear to be “male” (clitoris is enlarged, vagina is fused (no clear opening) - individual doesn’t have testes because they are a genetic female  (b) Androgen-insensitivity syndrome:  genetic male with normal testes that produce normal levels of androgens;  but body is insensitive to androgens (like the androgens are not present) and therefore develops sex organs that have a “female” appearance - testes are there but they remain up in the body, “vagina” lacks any depth  women were given progestin to prevent miscarriages - was actually producing large quantities of androgens and then creating Androgenital Syndrome  if everything goes as planned, you are now a biological “male” or “female” (end of prenatal sexual differentiation)  But, for the next decade, you can’t reproduce  D. The Puberty Factor (involves hormones)  Girls (age 10-12); Boys (12-14)  (a) development of secondary sex characteristics - boys and girls: pubic hard, growth spurt  girls: breast development  Boys: facial hair, deeper voice, larger penis  (b) gonads (reproductive organs) mature: • menstruation in girls (mature eggs are released from ovaries); • the first ejaculation in boys (production of mature sperm from testes)  each of us has two basic identities Part 2: Our Two Basic Identities  (1) Sexual Identity (given to you by biology) whether you’re biologically male or female  (2) Gender Identity (perception of self as “male” or “female”; beliefs about what it means to be a male or female  “Gender Roles” (expectation about how males and females should behave)  gender identity and gender roles are given to you by the society in which you live  nearly every society expects males and females to be different (almost universal)  not every society has the same ideas about how males and females should differ  our society is no exception Consider “gender stereotypes”  what are the characteristics of the average “man” and “woman” in our society?  Women: The “Communal Dimension” (aka: expressive, socially-oriented, feminine) • E.g. caring, nurturing, affectionate, helpful  Men: The “Agentic Dimension” (aka instrumental, task-oriented, masculine) • E.g. aggressive, dominant, independent, self-reliant Two Questions:  Are these gender stereotypes accurate? • they contain a “kernel of truth” - there are differences but small differences  (b) Where do these differences come from? Why are women more communal and men more agentic? • Might depend on biology (see text, p. 346-348)  Absolutely certain that these differences also depend on how we are socialized (must learn to be males and females) Part 3: Gender-Role Socialization (p. 350-353)  Begins very early in life - new born infant instantly given gender appropriate name, gender appropriate toys, blue/pink blanket  Parents expect little boys and little girls to be different  A. The role of parents:  They perceive baby boys and girls differently  Study: participants were first time parents - interviewed within 24 hours of their baby’s birth. There are no physical differences between male and female babies (physically they’re identical). The parents of girls perceived their baby’s as smaller, softer, more finely featured; the parent’s of boy’s perceived them as larger, sturdier, better coordinated - probably weren’t any differences that only parents could detect  Study: people shown a video of a 9 month old infant - half of people were told they were watching a boy, other half told they were watching a girl (same child) - perceptions of child influenced by gender roles. They had preconceived ideas about little boys and little girls. Infant was playing with a jack-in-the-box. When the baby started to cry when the jack-in- the-box popped out and they thought it was a boy, they said it was crying because they baby was angry, but when they thought the baby was a girl, they said she was crying because she was sad  They behave d
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