Sex, Sexuality, and Gender: Final Paper Response

Date: Jan 14, 2019

Abstract

Sex, sexuality, and gender have elicited debate in the recent past about their interpretation and application. Social standards and culture have for a long time been used to assign sexuality to people as either male or female. However, now, there are calls to recognize other sexualities such as herms, ferms, and merms whose characteristics deserve a sexuality of their own. The increase in the number of people who identify themselves as either gays or lesbians and calls for freedom and rights of such people has elicited debates about the role of nature and nurture in determining the sexuality of a person. This has considered vis-a-vis their individual perception of whether they are male, female, or known of the two sexes. In this response paper, the concepts of sex, gender, sexuality, and intersex as well as the social implications of new sexes being accepted in the society will be discussed. I also offer personal perception on sex and sexuality.

Key words: sex, sexuality, gender, sexual orientation, intersex

Introduction

The human history is built on the sexual relationships that people have had with each other over time. The field of human sex and sexuality is particularly interesting because sex is a cultural universal. Just as we have sexual behaviors that for a long time and throughout history have been deemed as normal, there are also those sexual behaviors which have been seen as abnormal. For instance, most societies across the world expected a young man to be attracted to a young woman after which the two would agree to settle in a lasting union in the form of marriage. Women are also automatically expected to be mommies or mommies to be by virtue of having ovaries and a uterus (Springer, 2008, p. 91). In the same way, most societies disapproved homosexuality, child sex, and incest among other weird sexual behaviors. Throughout history, human beings are known to have participated in sexual behaviors in one way or the other. What have been evident though are the differences in societal definition of what constitutes acceptable human sex and sexuality.

Sex, Sexuality, and Gender

Sex is the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women; whereas gender refers to the socially constructed roles, attributes, as well as behaviors that a society considers appropriate for men and women. On the other hand, sexuality refers to a person’s preference or sexual orientation with regards to one’s sex. Additionally, masculine hegemony is the ability of men to impose a definition of the situation, set the terms in which events are understood, and issues discussed, formulate ideals and define morality as an essential part of this process. Through hegemony, men have built a patriarchal system of viewing sex whereby they are considered as superior to women in the society. This is enforced through gender characteristics that differentiate what men can do from those that women can do in terms of behavior, attributes, and social activities. As such, gender as a construction of social roles is learned through social activities, media, and social hegemony. Masculine hegemony legitimizes patriarchy in the society.

However, with the changing lifestyle, the interpretation of sexuality and sexual activities have bordered on political, economic, and social factors. The involvement of state in the regulation and control of human sex and sexuality is not a recent phenomenon. However, since the advent of civilization, the state has sought to influence the sexuality of its citizens for various reasons. Just as we have certain sexual behaviors that are universally rejected by most societies as abnormal, there are also those that are almost universally accepted as normal. Thus, different societies have developed their own mechanisms to reinforce the acceptable sexual practices.

Socially, there are various factors that influence the involvement of the state in control and regulation of human sex and sexuality. These include state’s concerns for the health of its people and the need to maintain the morality of the nation. Though this remains controversial with what is moral remaining relative to the each individual’s definition, everybody has a gender identity. Nevertheless, because most people’s gender identities are in line with their gender as stated right from birth, they are not always bothered by it. However, one’s identity as dictated by gender in most societies is of great significance. This is because the societal responses, as well as people’s expectations, are largely based on the way in which a person expresses the identity. The western culture is deeply committed to the idea that there are only two sexes (Fausto-Sterling, 1993). Equally, the religious fraternity finds its place in the social aspect of human sexuality by arguing through their doctrines that certain sexual behaviors should not be allowed in the society. In the recent past, the religious fraternity has been vocal against practices such as homosexuality and incest even though recent studies show that the previously stern opponents of such practices are now softening their stand on these issues.

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Politically, human sex is controlled and regulated by the state through the legal policies and regulations that criminalize certain sexual behaviors. In this context, the state may seek to control and regulate human sex owing to the rise in the cost of social amenities because of the increasing population. This factor has led to the introduction of family planning tools by the state. Such tools have, however, rubbed shoulders with stakeholders in the area of human sexuality (Stombler, 2010). In most instances, discrimination against transgender people can be fairly characterized as sex-based. Thus, actions are normally taken against individuals based on the widely known stereotypes on women’s nature, as well as that of men. This could be about the way they are supposed to appear or/and behave. It includes the belief that neither men nor women can ever have their sex changed. Still there are those expressing masculine and feminine traits in a way that neither of the traits dominates the other, androgynous people.

Several theories have been proposed on matters related to human sex and sexuality by a number of scholars. Their views have shaped the contemporary perception of what constitutes human sex and sexuality. The Weeks’ theory of human sexuality, which is compatible with feminism approach, asserts that sexuality is far detached from a universal phenomenon, but is, in fact, a part of “social life and identity that can be sexualized or desexualized through cultural meaning and regulation” (Richardson, 1996). This definitely brings on board the role of the state whose social constructionists view as that of creating and maintaining expectations with regard to sexuality. This is especially where such expectations are deemed beneficial to those in power. In other words, the state engages in controlling and regulating human sex and sexuality because it sees it beneficial in advancing its objectives.

The consideration of human sex and sexuality is thus conceived in various sexual theories put forward by different societies. For instance, in many societies, where monogamy is seen as the standard of sexual relationship between male and female, the extramarital affair is seen as a deviation of human sex and is vehemently rebuked by the society. On the other hand, the legality of a transgender person’s marriage has become a thorny issue. However, in societies that do not find any abnormality in having more than one sexual partners, like in many communities and in religious practices, the practice is encouraged and even promoted by the social systems. In such cases, individuals are socialized into sexual orientations that promote this view on sexual relationships at the family level, in culture, education, media, and religion. Nonetheless, in the recent past, the media and peer influence played a bigger role in defining what constitutes the normal or abnormal human sex and sexuality. The state, on the contrary, is using its machineries, including regulations and policies, to determine the sexual behaviors that are practiced within its jurisdiction (Fausto-Sterling, 1993).

Personal Reflection

The social and communal characteristics attached to maleness of femaleness have dominated the society’s definition of what constitutes a man or a woman for a long time. This has been occurring despite the fact that physical features can not sufficiently be used to label one as either man or woman. This is based on the fact that other factors such as physiological processes and inner feelings equally play a big role. The other factor that has been contributing to stereotyping of gender and sex is that people with queer sexual organs have largely continued to be discriminated against by the society. There is also the factor of the high level of secrecy surrounding people with multiple sexual organs.

This has further been largely compounded by scientific and medical procedures that have easily been accepted by the society as corrective measures to fix what is considered as deformities in male or female genitalia. Such developments have made people with such physical sexual features unable to fit in societal view of what constitutes a male of a female. The same dilemma has faced people who possess what the society considered normal physical sexual features, but yet were attracted to people of the same sex, better known as homosexuality as opposed to the standard heterosexuality. As noted and expressed through the YouTube video, discrimination against such people was rampant in all sectors of social life, and people who were predisposed to this unique behavior hid them from the general society (Cho, 2008). I agree with Pollitt (2011) that it was based on such a belief that people with multiple genitalia or who viewed themselves as belonging to the opposite sex became ashamed of their behavior and sought all means to hide it from the society. Moreover, the role of women as first gender in sexual identity has been blurred in the modern media with many movies giving premium to male roles than to female ones. As argued in Smurfette principle, movies should have 2 women of color in it who talks to each other about something other than a white person. This is considered as empowering female sex amid a society tilted towards male roles.

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However, with the realization of the role of nature (as proposed in influence of hormones in perception as to whether one is female or male) as opposed to nurturing in influencing and the increasing space for freedom, things changed. This has also been boosted by the enactment of laws that criminalize discrimination of people with queer sexual orientation or multiple genital characteristics. Springer (2008) observed that more persons with different views from what people have always known as constituting one’s gender are coming out to the public. For instance, several states in the United States have enacted laws that recognize the fact that there is more unidentified sexuality other than the much touted male and female. In addition, we have herm, ferm, and merm sexualities that need to be recognized by the society.

Studies have shown that up to 4% of the population are not identifying themselves with the conventional male or female sexualities. This finding is also an indication that nature plays a big role in determining the sexuality of a person: it is not necessarily the nurture aspect of society. It is also of concern that the number of people identifying them with sexualities other than male or female is increasing just as there is the increase in homosexuals. Thus, it is important to investigate what is causing this upsurge in what many representatives in the society consider an abnormal sexual orientation. In the meantime, it may be discovered that lifestyle, modern medicine, and many other factors are playing a role in altering the bodily physiology and physical formation of genitalia to produce people who neither identify themselves as male or female, or better still, those who are attracted to people of the same sex. The debate around intersex should focus on the causative factors rather than corrective measures as is the case in the contemporary medical continuum.

Different governments feel that they have a stakeholder in controlling the sexual activities of its people given that they impact the provision of services like medical and education. Recently, there have been attempts to interrogate the way that heterosexuality encodes and structures everyday life, and to recognize the impact that ignoring or excluding heterosexuality has had on the development of social theory. International bodies have been constituted to look into the issue of human sex versus human rights. Whereas states feel that it is difficult for such internationally constituted bodies to represent agreeable political and legal ideologies with regard to what sexual activities of a locally constituted jurisdiction such as a country or a committee. This is further contained in the sexual theories that support the idea that human sex and sexuality cannot be universal.

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