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Chapter 13: Gender & Sexuality
• Gender: Socially constructed roles, behaviours, expressions and identities. It influences how people
perceive themselves and each other, how they act and interact, and the distribution of power and
resources in society. Usually conceptualized as a binary of girl/woman and boy/man, but in reality there is
considerable diversity in how people understand, experience, and express it.
• Sex: A set of biological attributes in humans associated with physical and physiological features, such
as sex hormones, gene expression, hormone levels, and reproductive anatomy. Usually categorized as
male or female, but there is also variation in these attributes.
THEORIES OF GENDER DEVELOPMENT (Video)
• Gender is simultaneously a sociocultural and a psychobiological construct
Biological Theories: Genes & Hormones
• Sex hormones during development affect both anatomy and behaviour, with exposure during sensitive
periods helping to organize the formation of brain circuits that support behavioural sex differences.
During puberty, hormones then activate these brain circuits.
• Genes continue to play a part in postnatal sexual development, interacting with the environment
• Disorders of sexual development include congenital adrenal hyperplasia, 5-alpha-reductase deficiency,
androgen insensitivity syndrome, penile agenesis, cloacal exstrophy (incomplete closure of peritoneal
cavity), and ablation penis from botched circumcision (David Reimer)
• Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia: Brain structure of genetic female influenced by prenatal androgens,
brains are partially masculinized due to this exposure. Show male-typical toy preferences and play
patterns, may identify as less gender typical “tomboys”. Increased likelihood of same-sex attraction.
• Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome: Lack of androgen receptors, develop female phenotype of
external genitals but lack uterus and ovaries.
• Individuals with AIS will have female-typical brain structures. They almost unanimously identify as
female, almost none transition back to male role. Have distribution of sexual orientation similar to genetic
• Hines, 2002: Test prenatal testosterone concentrations in maternal blood, found it positively correlated
with male-typical childhood behaviour in boys and girls.
• Gender is an emergent property resulting from an interaction between our biological makeup and
• Females and males have evolved different behavioural and cognitive strengths, from their association
with reproductive and social roles as the product of evolutionary processes
• With transition to agrarian living about 10,000 years ago, from nomadic living to growing food, led to
ownership over mates and sexuality
• Gender differences in sexuality reflect different adaptive problems faces by females and males in terms
• Females and males choose mates with traits signalling fitness; these choices shape sexual
dimorphisms in physical and psychological traits, such as physical strength or signs of fertility, and
dominance and nurturing nature
• Parental Investment Theory: Asymmetric minimum reproductive investment for women and men. Men
locate partners, produce sperm and semen to have sex. Women choose partners, ovulate, have sex,
undergo pregnancy (must create almost 30 pounds of tissue!), lactation, and child-rearing. Page 368-390, 22 pages Page 2 of12
• Sexual Strategies Theory: Women and men have evolved different sexual strategies based on the
asymmetric reproductive effort. Males want to maximize the number of offspring – higher number of
sexual partners, higher sex drive, interest in low commitment sex.
• Females want to maximize survival of offspring to reproductive age (nurturing strategy) – lower sex
drive, lower number of sexual partners, less interest in casual sex
• However, there are definitely overlap in strategies adopted by women and men, and today most of our
sexual experiences are completely decoupled from reproduction
• Kohlberg: Gender is a cognitive representation that children develop, around age 3-4 years. This
conception of gender shapes gendered behaviour. Key process is gender constancy – essential
characteristic of a person; before age 3, child may use surface characteristics to understand gender (a
man with long hair is called a woman), but later on they understand gender is retained regardless of
• Social Learning Theory: Gender-related traits learned from society and family. Classical conditioning,
with gender-nonconforming behaviour shamed and bullied. Operant conditioning with differential rewards
for gendered behaviour, e.g. praised as pretty in princess outfit but chastising one in a Teenage Mutant
Ninja Turtle outfit. Observational learning and modelling based on Bandura’s research (Bobo Doll).
• In this theory, changing society and contingencies would change a child’s behaviour. This is true to a
certain extent, but case of David Reimer demonstrates the importance of biological processes as well.
• “I am a boy, therefore I want to do boy things, therefore doing boy things is rewarding” vs. lack of
internal gender representations and shaped by environment to want to be a boy: “I want rewards, I am
rewarded for doing boy things, therefore I want to be a boy”
• Social Role Theory (Eagly): Societal restrictions on gender roles based on gendered divisions of
labour, that develop into gender differences in behaviour and stereotypes. It’s not the biological potential
or sex per se, but the way society differentially treats these potentials.
• Belief in men as breadwinners and women as caregivers; societal and employment structure thus
reflects this, creating a division of roles. E.g. Women in STEM
• With respect to sexuality, dictation of freedom to experience sexuality as function of these labour roles
• Feminist Theory/Social Constructionist: Gender is a cultural invention, result of a patriarchal society
and not an essentialist characteristic – it is something we do, not something we are.
Problems with “Gender is Learned” Models
• Gender differences emerge before children have cognitive capacity to form schemas or understand
gender constancy, such as differences in play behaviour and preferences
• Does not account for intersexed individuals, particularly in forced gender reassignment scenarios
• Biological factors lay a certain groundwork upon which sociocultural effects act moderately, and shape
gender expression but do not eliminate gender differences
• Children with older sibling of the same sex are slightly more gender-stereotypical in activities, but
gender differences in play behaviour (nurturing vs. rough and tumble) remain
The Role of Our Bodies
• Fausto-Sterling: Bodies come to be gendered, ideas about an appropriate male or female body with
culture written into our bodies – individuals with disorders of sexual development were subject to genital
modification surgeries to have more “typical” genitalia. Bodies are not static, but responsive to
• Objectification Theory: The way the body is treated and looked upon by society in terms of its
sexualization of particular areas and shapes creates distance between women and their bodies. With
spectatoring, people are removed from themselves, making them removed from the moment and prone
to sexual dysfunction Page 368-390, 22 pages Page 3 of 12
• Postculturalist Perspective: the body, just like gender, is variable and historical and a cultural
construct. E.g. Compare today’s view of thin women to earlier ideals of Rubenesque women.
• Doing Gender (Zimmerman): Gender is not an identity, but an activity that is performed, enacted and
reconstituted in everyday life based on reactions and feedback from others
• Interaction Model of Gender-Related Behaviour (Deaux): Gender-typed behaviour depends on
characteristics of the behaviour, the situation, the interacting partner, the subject him/herself, and on
social processes such as selective attention, interpretation and recall, regulation and self-regulation, and
• Behaviour-Related Aspects: Gender-typed behaviour more likely the more the behaviour is central to
the standard heterosexual script.
• Situation-Related Aspects: More gender-typed behaviour in public than private, with strangers than
friends, and when gender scripts are activated
• Partner-Related Aspects: Dependence fosters self-management and adherence to gender scripts
• Subject-Related Aspects: Individual differences in external contingency with respect to gender norms,
value placed on conformity
GENDER ROLES & STEREOTYPES
• By 2.5 years, most children can correctly identify their own gender. Gender is one of the most basic
status characteristics in our interactions with people and the position we hold in society.
• Dominant culture adheres to a rigid two-gender system which often excludes those who fall outside
traditional conceptions of masculinity or femininity – although other cultures may have three or even four
• Gender Role: A set of culturally prescribed expectations that define how people of a gender ought to
behave. Leads to enactment of gender stereotypes, and gender schema = “doing gender”
• Stereotype: A rigid set of beliefs about a group of people (e.g. men) that distinguishes them from
others (e.g. women) and is applied to all visible members of that group. This can function as a self-
fulfilling prophecy when one tailors behaviour to adhere to gender role expectations, such as in
• Children as young as 6 years are aware of stereotypes. When told a story that included a gender
stereotype (e.g. a firefighter), and asked which person the story was about, the children respond with the
• Heterosexuality is an important part of gender roles. Women are expected to be feminine and sexually
attractive to men; women including lesbians who violate this are considered masculine.
Gender Schema Theory
• Gender Schema (Bem): A set of ideas about behaviours, personality, appearance, etc. that we
associate with males and females. This influences how we process information, leading to
dichotomization based on gender. We would judge individuals as either gender schematic, or
• In this theory, gender is not innately biological, but influenced by cultural norms and typically adopted
through observational learning.
• E.g. Today pink is associated with girls, and boys with blue. Circa 1918, generally accepted rule was
pink for boys because it was a “stronger” colour while blue was more “dainty” for girls.
• Leads to distortion of memory or failure to remember information that is stereotype-inconsistent.
Difficult to change people’s stereotyped notions because we tend to filter out information that contradicts
stereotypes. Page 368-390, 22 pages Page 4 of12
• Our own gender roles and the situation we are in affect likelihood of processing with gender schema,
e.g. activation of schema in masculine men viewing an erotic film
The Traditional Sexual Script
• Scripts: Cognitive frameworks for how people are expected to behave in social situations.
• Traditional Sexual Script: The heterosexual script, specifies how men and women are expected to
believe in a sexual situation. This remains the most common dating script despite changes in gender
roles over the last century. Some aspects include:
o Men are seen as having strong sexual needs and highly motivated to engage in it at any
opportunity. Women are seen as sexually reluctant, and interested only in context of love and
o High sexual experience enhances men’s but decreases women’s perspective status, i.e.
masculinity in men and non-selectivity or lack of values in women.
o Men are expected to take responsibility for both their own and their female partner’s sexual
pleasure and orgasm, while women are expected to be sexually naïve and may be afraid to share
their sexual preferences
o Men are supposed to be the initiators
o Women are expected to be sexual gatekeepers, offer at least initial token resistance to
• Research participants in dating and long-term relationships kept a diary in which they recorded sexual
initiations and responses. Results showed men initiate sex more often in both dating and long-term
relationships, but on average women also initiate more than once a week.
• Men and women were equally likely to accept or refuse an initiation, and if one’s partner is reluctant,
men and women used the same strategies to try to change their partner’s mind (flirting, touching,
• Socialization: The ways in which society conveys to the individual its norms or expectations for his/her
• This includes reward for behaviour appropriate for their gender and punishment for inappropriate
• Imitation of adult models also contribute, such as parents, teachers, and people depicted on television.
Behaviours such as buying dolls for girls and baseball bats for boys also contribute, encouraging gender-
typed activities – although most treat boys and girls similarly in many ways.
• Children engage in self-socialization: the more they come to identify with a particular gender, the
more they are motivated to incorporate attributes associated with the gender into their self-concept.
Seeing themselves matching the stereotype strengthens gender identity.
• Teenagers particularly effective at exerting pressure for gender-role conformity
• Media continue to show females and males in stereotyped roles. “Voice of authority” voice-over in ads
are 71% male, and they are more likely to be portrayed as assertive and employed, while female voices
are most likely to be shown as parents and sex objects
• 3 to 6 year olds who view more TV have more stereotyped ideas about gender roles; new media like
video games can show even more extreme patterns of gender stereotyping like in Grand Theft Auto
Gender Roles & Ethnicity
• Ethnicity: A sizeable group of people who share a common and distinct racial, national, religious,
linguistic, or cultural origin or heritage.
• 1 in 5 Canadians were not born in Canada, with most of these people living in metropolitan areas such
as Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal. Immigration since the 1980s have dramatically increased Page 368-390, 22 pages Page 5 of 12
Canadian ethnocultural diversity and introduced a wide range of attitudes and traditions surrounding
• For ethnic minorities, gender roles may reflect values and norms in country of origin but also the
majority Canadian culture through acculturation.
• Ethnocultural Communities Facing AIDS study found cross-cultural similarities in gender roles.
o Generally, men and women had distinct roles with men expected to be head of family and
women as caregivers; however, economic realities may mean women must work and role changes
can often create family conflict.
o Double-standard with sexual behaviour, with dating and premarital sex accepted and
encouraged in sons but not tolerated in daughters
o Men expected to be active in sexual relationships, women to be passive
The South Asian Communities
• Religion is a major focus of community life. Hard work, education, achievement, and respect for
traditional values are highly valued – some cases include arranged marriages
• Men and women tend to be assigned different roles, and women expected to be submissive
• Boys tend to be given freedom and allowed dating and sexual experience, but girls are not allowed
because female virginity before marriage is highly valued
• Men expected to take lead in sexual encounter, with women passive and uninformed
• Due to women’s prescribed sexual passivity, many men may visit sex workers for casual sex; women
are not supposed to question or complain about extramarital sexual activity
The Chinese Community
• Emphasizes responsibility to the family and community over self-fulfillment
• Marriage is highly valued, so couples are reluctant to separate or divorce even with significant marital
• Man is considered head of the household, and the woman is the primary caregiver
• Premarital sex is discouraged for both men and women, although extramarital sex may be acceptable
for the man in “astronaut families” in which the man works away from home
• Gender roles are becoming more diverse as people move away from their traditional roles, with women
pursuing more education and career goals, independence and assertiveness
English-Speaking Caribbean Community
• Strong sense of family and community. Man expected to be provider and woman as caregiver and head
of household while also working outside the home; many single-parent families headed by women.
• Restrictions on sexual activity for girls to prevent adolescent pregnancy.
• Having a male partner and having a child are considered indicators of success for women
• Not uncommon for married and cohabitating men to have multiple partners
• Before European contact, had relatively egalitarian gender roles but acculturation has led to adaptation
of the majority male dominance stereotype
• Among the 200 Aboriginal languages, at least 2/3 have a term that refers to a third gender beyond
male or female, typically terms two-spirit. These people are not homosexuals, transsexuals, or
transvestites – a man may be married to a two-spirit male, but is not considered homosexual because
there are two different genders.
• Role of the “manly hearted woman” where a woman who is exceptionally independent and aggressive
can take on. This “warrior woman” role existed among the Apache, Crow, and other tribes where the Page 368-390, 22 pages Page 6 of12
women expressed masculine traits and participated in male-stereotyped activities while continuing to live
and dress as female.
GENDER DIFFERENCES IN PSYCHOLOGICAL FUNCTIONING
• Aggressiveness: Cross-culturally, males more aggressive than females for all indicators including
physical, verbal, and fantasy aggression. Also true at all ages.
• Communication: Women tend to self-disclose more than men do in communication, about both sexual
and non-sexual issues. Traditional gender roles favour emotional expressiveness for females and
repressiveness for males.
• Today, more focus on good communication and openness for both genders and movement towards
norm of greater emotional expressiveness for men.
• Women are better at decoding non-verbal cues of body language and facial expression
GENDER DIFFERENCES IN SEXUALITY
• One of the largest gender differences is in incidence of masturbation. Not only do fewer women
masturbate, in general those who do start at a later age – many report masturbating for the first time at
age 25 or later.
• This gender difference shows no evidence of diminishing, 80% of men and 48% of women at UBC
Attitudes about Casual Sex
• Casual sex is sexual intercourse in a situation in which there is no emotionally committed relationship
• Men are considerably more approving of such interactions than women; females more likely to believe
that sex without love is not satisfying
• 68% of male adolescents and 48% of females approve of premarital sex, 66% and 32% each for casual
• 20 of top 25 reasons for having sex the same for men and women, but men more likely to include
reasons due to physical desirability of their partner, physical pleasure, and insecurity. The women did not
endorse emotional and commitment motives, but did say they were more likely to have sex to express
love for their partner.
Use of Pornography
• Men considerably more likely to report using pornography than women, and to go online to engage in
sexual activity with a partner
Arousal to Erotica
• Research shows men are more aroused by erotic materials, but not by much
• Heiman: Physiological measures of arousal using penile strain gauge and photoplethysmograph
(both measure vasocongestion), as well as self-ratings of arousal of male and female university students
to erotic materials.
o Participants heard 1 of 4 kinds of tapes depicting heterosexual couples. Erotic tapes included
excerpts from popular novels giving explicit descriptions of heterosexual sex. Romantic tapes
included a couple expressing affection and tenderness without engaging in sex. Erotic-roman