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Chapter 4

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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 relations? 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=girth(XY=boy) o 1/400 children born with unusual 46 chromosome  6 -7 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  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 Sexuality  Refers to activities that are intended “to lead to erotic arousal and produce genital response” 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 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 Change  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  Women=abstention  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 orientation  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? Essentialism  Some analyst see gender as a reflection of naturally evolved dispositions  Others see it as a reflection of the different social positions occupied by women and men  Essentialism and social constructionism Essentialists  Observe male-female differences in sexual scripts, the division of labour at home and workplace, mate selection, sexual aggression, jealousy, promiscuity, fidelity etc.  Interpret differences as natural and universal  Nature ultimate force in shaping men and women  Originate in biology in psychology  Brain studies, sociobiology and Freudian Studies Brain Studies  Male-female differences in brain structure are sometimes said to account for male-female differences in behaviour and achievement  Brain compromises 2 hemispheres of about equal size, connected by a bundle of fibres o Left=language abilities o Right=non-verbal perception, visual/spatial skills  Some scientists argue that the 2 hemispheres develop differently in boys and girls as do the fibres connecting them o Testosterone inhibits left development  Men good at math, artistic, musical and visual/spatial abilities o Fibres bigger in women  Allows women to use hemispheres more evenly Sociobiology  E.O. Wilson (1975) o Al human beings instinctively want their genes passed down to future generations  However, different reproductive status on men and women means they had to overcome different adaptive problems and develop different adaptive strategies o Masculine and feminine o Individuals who possessed these traits had a better chance of surviving o Became genetically encoded  Genetic factors also trigger biochemical processes that further enhance sex differences through varying levels of hormone production in women and men  4 adaptive strategies or “universal features of our evolved selves” govern the relations between the sexes and contribute to the preservation of the human species o Men want casual sex with women o Men treat women’s bodies as men’s property o Men beat or kill women who incite male sexual jealousy o Women are greedy for money Freud  Sexuality is the main human instinct o Motivates human behaviour o Accounts for development of distinct masculine and feminine gender roles  3-5: begin to pay attention to genitals  As boys begin to be preoccupied with penis, unconsciously develops fantasy of sexually possessing mother o Resents father o Fear of castration by father for wanting
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