Human Sexuality > Chapter 5

Chapter 5: Viewpoints


Viewpoints in regard to gender roles vary according to upbringing, behavior, and attitude. We all know that men and women have different attitudes, and as a matter of fact, think differently. However, what develops distinctions between male and female behaviors or masculinity and femininity? What is it that makes us a man or a woman? Is that determination based primarily on physical makeup or sexual organs we’re born with? If so, why are some men more masculine than others? Why do some girls grow up being tomboys? This lesson will seek to explain the difference in viewpoints between male and female, and masculine versus feminine.

Actually, gender roles have been stereotyped for hundreds of years, although most are oversimplified concepts of what a man or a woman should look or behave like. In many situations, such stereotypes have prevented men and women from achieving their goals, dreams, and desires. In many cultures, gender role stereotypes have actually succeeded in defining behaviors and attitudes, which often unfortunately morph into false beliefs and conceptions about what women and men should or shouldn't do, as well as can or can't do.

For example, many believe that women cannot be successful in typical male roles or careers such as airline pilots, military personnel, sports figures, or even corporate presidents because they lack in domination, aggression, or mechanical abilities that are required for such a roles. However, women today have shown that they can and often are fully capable of performing in such rules. Regardless of the success of many women to break sex gender boundaries, stereotypes continue to persist.

Gender role stereotypes continue to be major career obstacles, for both men and women. In many situations, your gender may directly affect whether or not you are eligible for certain jobs. An equal pay is still a major problem in many career fields not only in the United States but around the world. Even today, in the 21st century, many women earn less than men for the same type of work.

Human sexuality defines all types of individuals in many aspects of gender that are not understood by many. Men and women are both equally capable of excelling in academics, medicine, politics, business, and sports, and yet we continue to see many women literally chained in place by continued stereotyping.

Gender role identification also incorporates attitudes regarding what women should or should not do. In many cultures around the world, men continue to define the boundaries for women's work in man's work. Some behaviors that are considered fairly typical as well as appropriate for each sex differ among societies. For example, in the Middle East, it's perfectly difficult to find men engaged in occupations that are generally relegated to women in the United States.

Ask yourself this question: your friend tells you that she is expecting a child. Tests have determined the child will be a girl. Will you go out and buy that child something pink and frilly, or will you buy the girl a toy toolkit? s you can see, our concepts of gender have been ingrained in us for decades, and aren't easy to break!

Gender role stereotypes can be defined as an oversimplification or widely held belief regarding characteristics that define men and women. Despite efforts to overcome such habits and attitudes, individuals today continue to perceive gender as a specifically defined concept of identity, which can't be further from the truth.

Emotions and Gender Identity


Are emotions involved in gender identity? Studies seem to think so. The human population is divided into two genders: male and female. However, many men are more effeminate than others, while many women are more masculine than their peers. Have you ever tried to imagine what your girlfriend might be like if she was a man? In many cases, viewing a member of the opposite sex in such a way is impossible, which goes to show how firmly implanted our ideas of gender roles and identity in society today appear to be.

However, gender isn't just a matter of dividing groups into male or female. Gender identity involves more than a spectrum that starts with black and ends in white. There are many shades of gray, and combinations that may be present in every given individual and every one of them can be considered normal. Sexual diversity involves many concepts of female or male identity, as what makes a man different from a woman, or the difference between masculinity and femininity.

Are you a man? Are you a woman? Do you consider yourself to be masculine or feminine? Can you be some of both? Some of these questions aren't so easily answered by many individuals. Many women have male traits, and many men also carry effeminate traits. What makes one woman want to be a firefighter and another a fashion designer? What makes a man want to be a combat soldier or a nurse? These questions aren't always easily answered, but they have to do with our concepts of gender identity. Gender identity may be defined as which particular sex in individual perceives him or herself to be.

According to research, gender identity begins around the age of four. The idea of gender is used to define feminine and masculine dimensions of human nature. Gender identity goes way beyond a sex definition of male or female. How much of your conscious thought determines masculinity or femininity? Imagine someone waking up from a coma, not knowing whether he or she was a male or female? What if he or she were under a sheet and couldn't see their body? How would that feel? What would determine the answer, beyond physical attributes?

[QN.No.#26.Gender identity begins around the age of :]

Every one of us is an individual and each one of us carries distant perceptions as to masculine or feminine behavior, as well as what comprises a male or female identity. Does a woman who wears men’s jeans, overlarge T-shirts, and a pixie haircut make her any less feminine than a woman who enjoys wearing high heels and silk dresses?

In many cases, or individual personalities, actions, and attitudes offer a challenge to preconceptions of what is considered male or female behavior, and also expresses differing aspects of masculinity and femininity.

Gender roles in viewpoints are an often confusing subject within the field of human sexuality and how sexual identity as a man or woman develops in childhood, as well as how that person feels about sex and gender differences helps each of us to distinguish sexual orientations, understand stereotypes, and understand how gender influences every aspect of our lives, from our relationships to her inability to communicate with others.

Distinguishing Gender Identity and Sex


Today, the term gender is often confused for sexual orientation. As a matter of fact, gender personifies a specific aspect of the human condition. Our sex is determined by our biology, while gender identity is something we learned during the course of our upbringing, as well as experiences not only in childhood but also throughout our life. Experiences in the home and our family environment influence our attitudes regarding gender identity.

Therefore, gender identity and sex are separate, but both play an important role in how we perceive ourselves. In many cases, an individual's gender identity may be opposite of their biological sex. Many men, born with male genitalia, lean strongly toward a female gender or gender identity, and the same can be said for many women who lean more toward ‘manly’ feelings. In many cases, men and women may dress and behave as members of the opposite sex, which is called transgender or transsexual behavior.

[QN.No.#27.Men and women may dress and behave as members of the opposite sex, which is called :]

Psychologists have determined that personality may involve genetic and biological leanings, but it gender identity is strongly influenced by attitude and experience gender is not merely male or female, but incorporates many different aspects in viewpoints. A person wouldn't necessarily identify a friend as being merely aggressive, shy, or outspoken. Individuals are not identified by such means, and the same thing goes for gender identity.

We all know that the difference between males and females is a matter of a chromosome. Females have two X chromosomes while males have an XY combination. Why chromosomes encourage male hormones to be secreted, which is why male genitalia develop on fetuses. These hormones are called androgens. However, the difference between male and female fetuses cannot be determined until about 12 weeks of age.

However, there are cases when fetuses develop with extra chromosomes, and some babies are born with both male and female genitalia. For example, Klinefelter syndrome and Turner syndrome produce fetuses with variations in chromosomes. In some cases, genitalia are not easily identified as being either male or female.

Klinefelter syndrome occurs occasionally in males born with an additional ex-sex chromosome. Because of this, they carry an XXY-chromosome combination, which is called Klinefelter syndrome, after the physician who studied it in the early 1940s. However, this is not to say that XXY males are aware of the extra X-chromosome. In some cases, males lived their entire life without realizing they have an extra X-chromosome, which may only be noted if the syndrome becomes active. Such individuals may experience a lack of facial hair, smaller sex organs, a more round body shape and some breast enlargement during the puberty stage.

Research has shown that XXY males are typically sterile and have a higher rate of autoimmune illnesses and diseases than those who don't. In addition, males diagnosed with Klinefelter syndrome often exhibit learning difficulties and slower language development skills.

Turner syndrome is a condition that was studied in the late 1930s among female infants, which involves the result of damage to one of the pair of X-chromosomes during fetal development. In nearly all cases, female fetuses with such damage are miscarried during the first two trimesters of pregnancy. However, for those infants who survive, Turner syndrome produces kidney damage, heart abnormalities, and short in stature, arrested or absent sexual development, among others. Women diagnosed with Turner syndrome are sterile and as they age, become increasingly at risk for osteoporosis and kidney failure.

[QN.No.#28.Among female infants, the damage to one of the pair of X-chromosomes during fetal development results:]

[QN.No.#29.Turner syndrome produces problems such as:]


Androgyny


Androgyny, also known as complete androgen insensitivity syndrome (see AIS) is extremely rare and caused by hormonal disorder that result in genetically formed males who possess female genitals. This condition is caused by insensitivity to androgens that initiate development of male genitalia during early pregnancy. In such cases, such babies are born with female appearances, although internal testicles are present. Because of this, the child produces male testosterone, although most babies in such cases are raised as girls. As the girls grow and develop, the insensitivity to the antigens is continuous and is eventually converted to estrogen, which encourages female breast development during puberty.

[QN.No.#30.An extremely rare hormonal disorder that results in genetically male babies who possess female genitals is known as:]

Partial androgen insensitivity syndrome (PAIS) is similar to complete androgen insensitivity syndrome, but results in fetal development with lower responses to androgens within the uterus. In such cases, a baby born with ambiguous appearing genitalia (not readily identifiable as male or female) is also known as "intersex baby".

A very small percentage of humans are born with intersex characteristics. Intersex babies are generally born with one of several conditions, which include:

  • XY chromosomes, meaning genetically male, but with external female genitalia
  • Genetically female (XX chromosomes) but with external male genitalia
  • Genetically female, but with ambiguous external genitalia


If no genetic testing is performed, children, parents, and positions are often unaware of the condition until the child reaches the puberty stage and sexual characteristics begin to develop or not. In cases of ambiguous external genitalia, physicians may opt to alter sexual anatomy through surgical procedures to create a more normal female or male appearance. In those cases, the child is raised as the sex that has been created to such surgical procedures.

However, in recent years surgical procedures involving intersex babies have created extreme controversy. Intersex does not mean an individual is born with both female and male genitalia, but refers to an individual born with ambiguous genitalia. Why are such surgeries performed in the first place? It seems that society must have a determination of whether or not an individual is male or female in order for that individual to fit into society. Many parents question how their child will grow up in a society that does not understand such conditions. Will the child be raised as a male or female? Will the child use a man's or a woman's restroom? How will the child eventually date and marry without a clear indication of a definite sexual identity?

Gender Identity Development


How is gender identity developed? While our biological sex is predetermined, gender identity, meaning masculinity or femininity, maleness versus femaleness, develops in infancy and early childhood. This debate of "nature versus nurture" still continues today in determining whether or not nature or environment plays a role in the development of gender identity.

Research has determined that hormones may have some sort of impact on individual’s sexual identity or orientation but such studies are difficult to quantify because everyone behaves differently, both emotionally and by attitude, to experiences and surrounding environments, as well as upbringing.

Research has relied mostly on observation of individuals who have been diagnosed with hormonal disorders, or children who have not yet developed specific gender identity during infancy or as toddlers. Hormones do play an important role on the development of gender-based behaviors. However, childhood development also played a large role in the preferences of a child's play preferences as well as playmates.

By the age of three or four, sexual identity is defined. This period will last through puberty. By this time, children are exposed to others, parents, brothers and sisters, and other family members have influenced them.

Studies have shown that infants and toddlers seem to have a preference for same-sex friends. In most situations, boys and girls seem to automatically gravitate toward separate groups, place settings, and activities. In most cases at this stage in life, boys do not like girls playing with them and vice versa. By the time they're six years old, children spend more time when same-sex friends and family members than those of the opposite sex.

Cultures around the world encourage same-sex play. In addition, such behavior is seen in the animal kingdom, most especially among primates like chimpanzees and monkeys. Therefore, it can be said that sexual biology has a strong influence on gender development, but social influence cannot be ignored. Humans are social creatures and we begin to interact with others from the moment we’re born. In many cases, expectations as to gender role and identity developed the moment we are born.

For example, a parent may learn that the baby she is carrying is male or female and decorate the child's nursery in specific color schemes as well as purchasing gender appropriate clothing and toys. Have you ever been invited to the home of an acquaintance that has had a baby? Surely you have. However, what do you do when you don't know the sex of the baby and you want to purchase a baby gift? Do you buy a doll or a football? Would you buy a football for an infant girl or a doll for a baby boy? In most cases, the answer to that question is no. Why not?

Society has defined clear boundaries between male and female. If we know someone's gender, we think we have a greater understanding into how he or she behaves, and we base our expectations on such knowledge. Parents, friends, teachers, and the media have an unbelievable impact on the development of gender role identity in today's society.

Male versus Female


A study performed by Johnson and Young in 2002 studied the media, most specifically television, and behaviors regarding gender identity. The studies determined the following:

  • Men are usually more dominant than women in male-female interactions.
  • Men are often portrayed as rational, ambitious, smart, competitive, powerful, stable, violent, and intolerant; women are portrayed as sensitive, romantic, attractive, happy, warm, sociable, peaceful, submissive, and timid.
  • Television programming emphasizes male characters strength, performance and skill; for women, it focuses on attractiveness and desirability.
  • Marriage and family are not as important to men as to women in television programs. One study of TV programming found it for nearly half the men, it was impossible to tell if they were married, a fact that was true for only 11% of the women.
  • Television ads for boy oriented products focus on action, competition, and destruction, and control; television ads for girl-oriented products focus on limited activity, feelings, and nurturing.
  • Approximately 65% of the characters in television programs are male (even most of the Muppets have male names and voices).
  • Men are twice as likely as women to come up with solutions to problems.
  • Women are depicted as sex objects more frequently than men.
  • Men are shown to be clumsy and inept in dealing with infants and children.
  • Saturday morning children's programs typically feature males in dominant roles with females in supporting or peripheral roles.


Turn on the television and see for yourself. Open a magazine and you'll also see a similarity in focus when it comes to ads. While we are often warned against allowing children to watch much television, studies have shown that children who are less exposed to television than others express less stereotypical behaviors and attitudes.

Studies have also shown that children who watch television shows where such stereotypes are broken, such as women and strong detective or police roles, or men are portrayed as nurses, teachers, or stay at home dad, are less likely to be impacted by such gender separation lines.

However, some individuals clearly understand the difference between their gender identity and their biological sex, a condition termed as a transgendered individual. There is a difference between a transgender individual and a transsexual. Transgender individuals often strive to identify with concepts of identity that defy their sexual identity. For example, a biological male may believe he is somewhat or fully female in that male sexual organs are unnatural. Such an individual is called a male-to-female or MTF. A biological female who believes "he" has been born with female genitalia by mistake is known as a female-to-male or FTM individual.

Such individuals who make the decision to transition from a biological sex gender to gender identities through hormone therapies, surgeries, or dress are known as transsexuals. For some individuals, cross-dressing is an occasional or continuous endeavor to find comfort or stability with one's gender identity. In many cases, sexual reassignment surgery is the only hope for such individuals to feel comfortable in their own bodies.

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity


Being born with male or female genitalia is not always an indication of sexual orientation. Genitalia are not what influence emotions, attraction, and behaviors. While a person may exhibit male gender identity, he may also have bisexual, heterosexual, or homosexual attraction. The same thing goes for women. Human sexuality involves both gender as well as sexual orientation. A person's identity as well as life experiences and behaviors may rely on a single or a variety of combinations determined by biological sex, sexual orientation, and gender. For example, most biological males exhibit male gender identity and heterosexual behavior.

Stereotypes often occur when it comes to gender identity. Gender stereotypes are beliefs or solutions that people who belong to a certain sex or group are easily identifiable by various characteristics. Unfortunately, stereotypes fail to take into consideration how unique and individual people are. For example, it's a mistake to assume that just because a child is a girl, she will automatically like playing with dolls, or that a young boy will automatically want to play with a fire truck.

In many cases, we make assumptions on how we expect people to behave in various roles. Women have long lived under the stereotype that she must be a natural housekeeper, maternal, and enjoy cooking, cleaning, and serving others. Men have long lived under the stereotype that they must be the head of a family, the main breadwinner, the strong leader of a family unit. However, there are many variations between one extreme and another. How a person learns to behave and who a person is not only based on biological sex, but on attitudes, upbringing, and desires.

Just because we expect people to behave a certain way doesn't necessarily mean that we should agree or disagree. Stereotypes do exist and will continue to exist. However, understanding how we in the West often stereotyped individuals is personified in our attitudes, expectations and behaviors within society.

Gender stereotypes limit an individual’s freedom of expression and identity. For example, certain characteristics are commonly defined as male or female. It's considered desirable in today's society for a man to exhibit characteristics such as decisiveness, confidence, strength, and independence. Women are expected to be emotional, fearful, talkative, and passive. However, such traits are considered to be undesirable by many. Women also want to be seen as strong, independent, and assertive. Unfortunately, men who appear submissive, passive or emotional produce undesirable results in society.

The stereotypes listed above that are considered feminine are also typically considered to be undesirable characteristics in both males and females. Such stereotypical attitudes are often discriminating and prejudicial against both males and females. Because each one of us is unique, each one of us should also be able to express our individuality without being stereotyped or classified by a certain name or term that defines our identity.

Gender stereotypes develop in the same pace as gender identity, and by the time children are five years old, most understand the difference between male and female behavior as well as desirable traits of masculinity and femininity.

As children venture through elementary school in junior high school, gender stereotypes and expectations grow. Many skills such as sports, mechanics, and math are defined as specifically masculine, while skills in music, art, and reading are considered to be more feminine. By the time children reached high school, gender stereotypes are firmly implanted in our brains. After school activities, jobs, and choices for recreation are generally determined according to social expectations.

Hopefully, the 21st century will see a decrease in personal as well as gender stereotypes and stereotypical behaviors. While great strides have been made toward equality not only for women but men wishing to enter traditionally female roles, stereotypes in occupational careers are still prevalent. For example, a great majority of airline pilots, architects, lawyers and doctors continue to be male, while fields of education, nursing and service oriented careers continued to be almost exclusively female. We must always remember that gender stereotypes are influenced by life experience and may change over time, but individuals today still make the mistake of identifying men and women along gender roles and identity.

Gender and Emotions


Listed below are common beliefs are attitudes that have been divided into typically male or female stereotypes. See if you agree or disagree.

Male oriented goals:

  • Demonstrating authority
  • Gathering information
  • Avoid asking questions
  • Avoid talking about feelings
  • Seek respect
  • Avoid personal discussions with friends
  • Seeking personal independence


Female oriented goals:

  • Empathize and offer emotional support
  • Continually seek harmony
  • Attempt to cooperate
  • Ask questions
  • Seek to talk about feelings
  • Seek acceptance
  • Discuss personal issues with friends
  • Seek a sense of shared community


As you can see, many women often exhibit male oriented goals, and vice versa. It can be said that our viewpoints regarding masculine or feminine behavior in regard to gender is greatly influenced I individual upbringing. When it comes to the nurture-nature debate, controversy over gender differences is bound to continue, but hopefully, individuals will see more overlapping between genders than a clear delineation of expected behaviors for each gender.

Conclusion


Most people don't spend an awful lot of time considering their gender identity. In most cases, an individual is male or female, feminine or masculine, man or woman. However, this concept of gender is complicated and often clouded by stereotypes, upbringing, and attitudes. Becoming aware of gender issues is important in understanding human behavior, both emotionally and sexually. No one likes to be stereotyped into a certain group or classification.

Masculinity or femininity incorporates various characteristics that may blend between genders. Being aware and accepting the diversity of genders in society today is a basic facet of human sexuality and behavior. Understanding who we are, what we want out of life and seeking pleasure, happiness and satisfaction is part of our human nature and goes much deeper than the appearance of external genitalia.

Our expectations, behaviors, and chosen roles in life are often independently decided upon regardless of stereotypes, expectations, or attitudes expressed individuals in all facets of society. Some men are effeminate, while some women are masculine. This blending of expectations and attitudes does not make them any less male or female, but enables many of us to address and understand a greater understanding of humanity.

Because of the variety of attitudes and viewpoints regarding gender, there are also many different types of relationships. Values and expectations in regard to relationships and our response to them in a variety of situations will be explored in the next lesson.

 
Human Sexuality > Chapter 5
Page Last Modified On: February 16, 2015, 07:42 PM