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Chapter 4

SOC101Y1 Chapter Notes - Chapter 4: David Reimer, Compulsory Heterosexuality, Grammatical Gender

Course Code
Robert Brym

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Chapter 4: Gender and Sexuality
Gender, Sex and the Case of David/Brenda
David Reimer
o Penis accidentally burnt off in infancy
o Parents saw interview with Dr. John Maney
Successfully assigned male/female identity to children
Criterion: “erotic functioning” as adult
Sex change for boys with penis less than 2.5 cm at birth, same for
girls with clitoris larger than 1 cm
o Parents can never waver or tell child
o July 3, 1967 underwent surgical castration and reconstructive surgery, 22
months old
David became Brenda
How do we define female and male?
What are relationships between biological sex and the attributes and the
behaviours that we associate with being male or female?
What are the implications of this relationship for sexual identity and sexual
Defining Male and Female: Sex and Gender
Most people distinguish on basis of biological sex
o Sex: depends on whether born with distinct Male or Female genitalia and
a genetic program that releases either male or female hormones to
stimulate reproductive development
At this point in conception, newly founded zygote has 46 chromosomes
o If last chromosome has XX pattern=girl (XY=boy)
o 1/400 children born with unusual 46th chromosome
6th-7th week of gestation, gonads begin to develop
o Testes, ovaries
o Distribute hormones that contribute to development of sex organs
Only sexual difference in brain=hypothalamus
o Female sensitive to oestrogen=menstrual cycle
Involves not just biology
o Masculine and feminine behaviour, attitudes, feelings
o Therefore biological sex must be distinguished from sociological gender

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Gender compromises the feelings, attitudes and behaviours associated with being
male or female
o Also identification with or sense of belonging to a particular sex
biologically, psychologically and socially=gender identity
o When people behave according to widely shared expectations about how
males and females act=gender role
North American gender roles changed somewhat since 1960
Not conforming to roles can bring lots of stress
o Transgendered have this problem
When don’t identify with all traits of sex assigned at birth
1 in every 5-10, 000 Canadians are transgendered
1 in every 3, 000 Canadians are fully transsexual
Don’t identify with sex of birth, sex-change
How do we define masculine and feminine?
o Masculine men and feminine women=normal
o Adopt gender role consistent with sex
o Gender role and sex have no relationship (as expected)
Expectations about sexual behaviour most rigid of gender norms
o Sexual behaviour often departs widely from biological sex and
sociological gender
Refers to activities that are intended “to lead to erotic arousal and produce genital
o Guided by a set of sexual scripts that tell us whom we should find
attractive, when and where it is appropriate to be aroused what is
permissible and how to behave sexually
Scripts linked to gender roles
Men=sexual aggressor, more promiscuous, experienced
Women= love before intimacy, sexually passive, held accountable
for moral standards and contraception
Long-time, sexuality assumed to be heterosexuality
o Homosexuality considered serious psychiatric disorder until 1974
o Compulsory heterosexuality: should only desire opposite sex
Assumption of heterosexuality negative for gays and lesbians
o Face discrimination
o Denied basic civil rights
o “Gay bashing”
Feminists: heterosexuality puts all women at a disadvantage

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o Based on unequal economic, political, legal and social relations between
women and men
Sexual Attitudes and Behaviours
Traditional script: fall in love, get married, have kids
o Premarital sex now widely excepted
o Unmarried and living together
Men more willing than women to participate in unconventional sexual activities
Sexual activity declines with age
o But many 70+ participate in sex once a week
o Challenges myth that elderly are A-Sexual
Men=more frequent intercourse
Men and women differ in terms of standards they use to justify sexual activity
o Love standard
o Fun standard (men and francophones)
Becoming more tolerant of homosexuality and same sex marriages
o Has to do with age, gender, and region
The prevalence of homosexuality depends on how it is measured
o Based on sexual identity=lower percentage than estimate based on sexual
Sexuality comprises 4 continua
o Sexual attraction
o Sexual desire
o Sexual behaviour
o Sexual identity
Attitudes about extramarital affairs more conservative
o Part of a more general tendency for people to have fewer sexual partners
o Spread of sexually transmitted diseases
Does Sex Determine Destiny?
Some analyst see gender as a reflection of naturally evolved dispositions
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