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Chapter 11

Chapter 11 Notes

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Malcolm Mac Kinnon

CHAPTER 11SEXUALITY AND GENDERIntersexed infants babies born with ambiguous genitals because of a hormone imbalance in the womb or some other cause Gender Identity and Gender RoleYour sex depends on whether you were born with distinct male or female genitals and a genetic program that released male or female hormones to stimulate the development of your reproductive system Sociologists distinguish biological sex from sociological genderA persons gender comprises the feelings attitudes and behaviours typically associated with being male or femaleGender identity is a persons identification with or sense of belonging to a particular sexbiologically psychologically and sociallyWhen you behave according to widely shared expectations about how males or females are supposed to act you adopt a gender roleBabies first develop a vague sense of being a boy or a girl at about the age of one The develop fullblown sense of gender identity between the ages of two and threeBaby Bruces social learning of his gender identity was already far advanced by the time he had his sexchange operation Social learning of gender begins very early in life First perspective on gender differences argues that gender is inherent in our biological makeup and that society must reinforce those tendencies if it is to function smoothlyFunctionalist theory is compatible with this argument Second perspective argues that gender is constructed mainly by social influences and may be altered to benefit societys members nd Conflict feminist and symbolic interactionist theories are compatible with 2perspectiveMembers of society enforce heterosexualitythe preference for members of the opposite sex as sexual partners Theories of GenderSome analysts see gender differences as reflection of naturally evolved dispositionscalled the essentialism perspective because it views gender as part of the nature or essence of a persons biological makeup Other analysts see gender differences as reflection of the different social positions occupied by women and mensociologists call this perspective social constructionism because it views gender as constructed by social structure and culture EssentialismFreudFreud believed that differences in male and female anatomy account for the development of distinct masculine and feminine gender roles Children around age three becomes preoccupied with penis he unconsciously develops a fantasy of sexually possessing the most conspicuous female in his life his mother and soon begins to resent his father Boy also develops anxiety that his father will castrate him for desiring mother thus represses his feelings for mother in unconscious part of his personalityIn contrast young girl begins to develop feminine personality when she realizes she lacks a penis thus developing sense of inferiority Grows angry with mother and rejects mother and develops unconscious sexual desire for her father According to Freud women are naturally immature and dependent on men Sociobiology and Evolutionary PsychologyAccording to sociobiologists and evolutionary psychologists all humans ensure their genes are passed on to future generations Woman has bigger investment than man in ensuring survival of any offspring because she produces only small number of eggs during reproductive lifetherefore its in her best interest to maintain primary responsibility for her genetic children and to find best mate to intermix her eggsIn contrast men produce billions of sperm in single ejaculation and since men compete with other men for sexual access to women men evolve competitive and aggressive dispositions that include physical violenceFrom point of view of sociobiolgy and evolutionary psychology then gender differencesin behaviour based in biological differences between women and men Functionalism and EssentialismFunctionalists reinforce the essentialist viewpoint when they claim that traditional gender roles help to integrate society For boys the essence of masculinity is series of instrumental traits such as rationality selfassuredness and competitiveness For girls essence of femininity is series of expressive traits such as nurturance and sensitivity to othersGirls and boys learn these roles in family and the larger society also promotes gender role conformity A Critique of Essentialism from the Conflict and Feminist Perspectives Conflict and feminist theorists disagree sharply with the essentialist account theyve lodged four main criticisms against itFirst essentialists ignore the historical and cultural variability of gender and sexualitygender differences that appear universal to the essentialists vary widely they vary with social conditions Second problem with essentialism is it tends to generalize from the average ignoring variations within gender groups on average women and men do
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