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It would really destroy me. I don't know who would bear sexual abstinence. Even Catholic priests can't cope with it and not even the nuns … year-old man. Many informants used metaphors for their sexual appetites such as young men are hungry, in a hurry and in need for premarital sex since their strong sexual needs would be uncontrollable. Young men also felt pressurised by their friends and older adults within their communities to start having sex before marriage to gain experience and to avoid being belittled by young women. In addition, they claimed that young women's provocative and sexy ways of dressing made young men unable to refrain from sex before marriage.

Similar issues about what they perceived as sexual activities were also stressed among some young women:. This is what young men say … keeping sperm will hurt my back, I have to release my sperm … year-old woman. According to the interviews, young male sexual behaviour was linked with their capacity to show sexual prowess and potency in sexual encounters, especially when they drink.

They also reported that alcohol gave them energy to have sex with increased performance, which was also measured in terms of multiple ejaculations. They highlighted that the more a young man ejaculates, the stronger man he is sexually:. Some other men when they have sex with a woman … the woman should cry … in the meantime the man's sexual potency is still there and he is ready to have sex … year-old man.

Exploring virgin girls and changing sexual tastes were raised as the main reasons for young men's engagement with multiple partners. Some young men said that sex with virgin girls was better than sex with sexually active girls, and in certain provinces the bride price for virgin girls was high. However, according to some participants, virginity was no longer of particular value in Kinshasa.

Though young men were unemployed and lacked money, they reported that having sex with one partner was monotonous. These many female partners are provided with money in order to meet their needs. If they need something, the real man should buy it for them … year-old man. In many cases, sex with multiple partners was a survival strategy in a context of economic hardship where parents were poor and uncaring. Certain female students were reported to have sex with multiple partners in order to pay school fees, obtain good grades in schools and acquire luxuries such as mobile phones and artificial hair.

Participants also argued that even economically better-off women had many partners, not to exchange sex for money, but probably to maintain their socioeconomic status. However, women's financial dependency towards men was identified as the main reason for multiple partnerships:. One partner is not sufficient to give you all you need, not even parents … one guy will be responsible for providing body lotion and soap, and another will take care of transportation fees.

Another one will care for clothes and shoes, and this is the way many young women behave year-old woman. Participants reported cases of girls who have sex with older men because young men are not capable of providing for them financially. In both ways, adults provided financial support in exchange for sex.


  1. Chapter 12. Gender, Sex, and Sexuality.
  2. Going Somewhere? Live Learn Work Educators Guide (Activity Book).
  3. Jordan Peterson’s Gospel of Masculinity.

Participants said that older people were caring, kind and respectful towards their young partners. However, young women reported that older men requested unprotected sex because they paid for sex and were probably dissatisfied with sex while using condoms. Participants viewed age-disparate sex as unacceptable, and asserted that it could increase youth vulnerability to HIV and eventually lead to deadly sex.

The Splendor of Gender / Respecting Masculinity (Message Only)

A couple of young women raised concerns about being in an unequal, age-disparate sexual relationship:. I am using the two verbs because I have been dated by two married men. With both of them, when I consider their wives, I ask the question why these men can think of dating me, you see. When I see his wife I tell myself that she is a role model for me when I get married. But this man comes to me … and tells me the negative side of his wife … year-old woman. Informants reported that some church leaders opposed both the health messages about condoms and the practice of condom use among churchgoers because this would motivate youths to have sex indiscriminately:.

This is a church … Indeed, the pastor said that you should not say this here because we are in the church. If you start saying things like that in the church, this would promote sexual promiscuity. Indeed, young people would play with sex; therefore it is good if young people can abstain from sex … year-old man. In their sexual encounters, several respondents reported that youths did not seem to have much time for condom use; condoms were thought to be poorly manufactured and were sometimes unavailable.

Overall, condoms were viewed as too tight, painful, delaying orgasm and having holes in them. Instead, they say if I have sex with my girlfriend, I would like to feel it … year-old man. By contrast, only a few youths mentioned using condoms in sexual encounters because they believed that condoms saved lives. Hence, they wished that church leaders would allow them to use condoms when necessary. Several participants reported that church leaders refusing the use of condoms could be suspected of being responsible for the spread of HIV among the youth.

For these respondents, using condoms in this particular context of HIV was viewed as a sign of wisdom. Therefore, they disagreed with girls who refused to use condoms during sex. Such girls were viewed as untrustworthy, suspected to be pregnant or deemed to be already infected with HIV:. I will refuse … Oh, pregnancy! I will be afraid of it during fertile days. Similarly, some girls also showed agency in refusing unprotected sex in cases where partners did not use a condom. In such cases, boyfriends would be requested to buy one; otherwise sex would not take place. According to these girls, unprotected sex would only be appropriate with a sexual partner who had tested negative for HIV.

A small group of church followers demonstrated their Christian values in two ways. Firstly, they recognised the church's moral ideal for sex as a viable option for themselves. Gender equality and mutual respect were mentioned as a prerequisite in order to build a gender-equitable society. Instead, the respondents said that boys and girls should live together and share advice in order to seek true love.

In sexual encounters, girls should be considered as equal decision-makers in initiating sex and enjoying sexual pleasure since girls have the same sexual desire as boys. These church followers were aware that sexual abstinence was not an easy option and consequently used their prayers and faith in God to make sexual abstinence a reality.

They insisted on continued adherence to church teaching to raise HIV awareness, and they trusted pastors who were telling them what they perceived to be the truth on sex, sexuality and HIV. Church followers also mentioned the increased risk of HIV that young people face in Kinshasa. This included peer pressure for an early sexual debut, intergenerational sex that can lead to death and people living with HIV who have unprotected sex.

This group of young people perceived transactional sex and sex with a partner of unknown HIV status and the unwillingness of men to use condoms as potential HIV threats. They were fully aware of the existence of HIV in their midst and had therefore committed themselves to undergo voluntary HIV testing and counselling before marriage:.

You always go to marry a young girl and you start sleeping with her. It is not worth it … You should finish your studies … you are responsible … once you see a woman, the first thing: HIV test. Both of you should take the test … year-old man. The churchgoers were heterogeneous in attitudes and sexual experiences. The majority were already sexually active given the gender norms coupled with the socioeconomic hardships of Kinshasa. While young men's discourses reflected sexual conquests to demonstrate their masculinities, young women's discourses referred to money and status acquired through transactional and intergenerational sex.

These sexual relationships interfered with the church message related to forbidden premarital sex. A small number of youth committed themselves to believe in abstinence and to promote gender equality. The youths acknowledged the church teachings of sexual abstinence and faithfulness, which conflicted with premarital sexual activities that run counter to the teachings of sexuality in most Congolese churches.

However, church leaders would probably gain a great deal by listening to the lived realities of young people's lives. Research has shown that HIV programmes involving young people and respecting their life patterns have a greater chance to succeed than programmes that do not prioritise such a holistic approach UNAIDS Paradoxically, some respondents reported that many church leaders were reluctant to talk about sex and sexuality openly and truthfully.

The lack of appropriate language regarding sexuality could partly explain the difficulties for church leaders to deliver effective messages about HIV prevention Schmid Churches that view sex and sexuality negatively could be detrimental to young people, as this may encourage them to instead seek guidance from unqualified sources such as pornography Paterson We also found that condoms were banned on the grounds that they would legitimise young people's sexual promiscuity.

By contrast, studies have shown that people exposed to appropriate information about sexuality tend to postpone their sexual activities Boonstra The church anti-condom position could enable the spread of HIV among young people who have unprotected sex, thus rendering the church leadership a part of the HIV problem rather than a partner in its solution. While the use of condoms might not be a perfect solution for all youths, the consistent and regular use of condoms might prevent HIV and save lives. In this way, the church leadership might make sure that sexually active youths willing to use condoms access them in order to protect themselves and others from HIV.

Sexual strength was valued both as an indicator to sexually satisfy older women and a measure of sexual potency in relations with young women. Research has shown that young men may perceive sexual experience as a rite of passage into manhood. In our study, some young men were hardly concerned about the risks taken during unprotected sexual encounters. This type of widespread sexual stereotyping encourages pretence and should not go unchallenged Clark [].

Also, young men sought multiple and concurrent partners to showcase their masculinities. However, to maintain such a sexual network, they were expected to have money to distribute to young women. Most of the informants, however, were either students or unemployed Table 1 , as are the majority of youths in Kinshasa. Understanding these contradictions is crucial in order to ascertain what young men feel regarding the construction of masculine sexual behaviours and what it means to be a man.

Young men need to learn that masculinity does not depend on sexual conquest and potency, but rather on the ability to behave responsibly and respectfully towards their partners Barker, Verma, Crownover, Segundo, Fonseca, Contreras, et al. We found that certain young women perceived sex as a commodity to trade for food. The same finding has been reported in another study where an association was found between women from poor family backgrounds and risk-taking behaviours to get money or food Weiser, Leiter, Bangsberg, Buttler, Percy-de Korte, Hlanze, et al. Ignoring down-to-earth issues such as food could undermine effective HIV prevention strategies Rollins The informants reported also that young women have many financial needs to be satisfied by multiple partners and interventions for HIV prevention have focused on females UNFPA However, our study has revealed that young men also are involved in exchanging sex for money with older women.

Thus, interventions need to be adapted to address their respective specific needs. Participants stressed that young women and men received kindness, care and luxury goods in age-disparate sex that they might miss with youths of their own age. Similarly, Masvawure stated that young women boosted their socioeconomic status through intergenerational relationships. However, in our study, young women felt bad about having sex with older men and probably thought that when they would get married, their husbands might also be having sex with young women. In a study where age and economic asymmetries were the norm between partners, Luke reported that older men were perceived to like sex while they hate to use condom because they pay young women for sex.

Consequently, intergenerational relationships resulting into unsafe sex practices could partly explain the increased HIV prevalence among young women in the country Leclerc-Madlala Our finding is consistent with the coexistence of gender-equitable and inequitable attitudes which has also been reported by Pulerwitz, Michaelis, Verma and Weiss In their study, some young men showed more gender-equitable attitudes than others because of the support they received from significant others regarding the ongoing change; this was interpreted as a key strategy to challenge the rigid masculinity norms in the society.

Church followers who viewed themselves as agents of change to promote mutual respect and gender equality asserted, for instance, that young woman are also driven by the same feelings for sex as do young men Oriel Therefore, church followers might represent the voices of resistance that challenge traditional norms of masculinities equating sexuality with masculinities Barker In addition, church followers who chose to undergo HIV premarital test to know their HIV status and that of their partners might be considered as responsible people to be trained as peer educators to prevent HIV in their respective communities.

While Messerschmidt stated that women may cultivate hegemonic masculinities in romantic relationships, we found that young women advised their boyfriends to use condoms during sex. Otherwise sex would not take place. This is self-explanatory that young women may also help to re construct alternative masculinities.

The first author has been living and working in Kinshasa as a HIV church coordinator for some years and his pre-understanding of the local context might have affected his judgements and somehow influenced the answers he received from the participants. However, this was counteracted by having an open-mind attitude during the fieldwork and by the use of a prepared topic guide to keep the pre-understanding acknowledged and under control. Additionally, the first author informally discussed certain issues with young people to gain further clarification.

The interviews were rewarding because the first author had access to overlooked churchgoing young men and women whose sexuality is a topic that is both sensitive and reluctantly discussed in church settings in cross-gender and cross-age groups. However, care was taken not to be judgmental about young people's opinions during interviews.

Moreover, the participants may have been influenced by social desirability since the first author was and is still working with churches to make them more competent regarding HIV. Some participants seemed to lack the language to address issues of sexuality. The results of our study are based on 3 specific communities out of 24 in Kinshasa, and the results may not reflect the discourse of all young churchgoers in this setting Denscombe While the findings of this study should not be generalised to all churchgoers in the DRC, they provide invaluable insights on how church-going youths construct contradictory notions of gender and sexuality in this particular context of HIV.

In the present study, we have identified five discourses and develop an image of their influence, affects and consequences on church youths. We found that young churchgoers are fully aware of the ideal sexual morality preached by their churches. However, this church teaching is not necessarily translated into expected actions. Instead, young churchgoers who are sexually active take risks by engaging in multiple relationships, which can include transactional and intergenerational sex.

As a result, their sexual encounters are often unprotected, with sexual conquest being a key characteristic of masculinities for some participants. However, a few church followers made references to alternative masculinities, particularly with regard to some elements of church teachings such as gender equality and mutual respect between young women and young men. Although the process of changing gender identity is complex, alternative masculinities might promote gender-equitable attitudes especially among young men, and may open doors to young women and men to promote their respective well-being.

Author contribution : H. All authors gave their final approval of the version to be published. Europe PMC requires Javascript to function effectively. Recent Activity. Five main discourses emerged: 'we are aware of the church message on sex', 'young men need sex', 'young women need money', 'to use or not to use condoms' and 'we trust in the church message'.

The snippet could not be located in the article text. This may be because the snippet appears in a figure legend, contains special characters or spans different sections of the article. Published online Jul 7. PMID: Edin g. Kerstin E. The moral rights of the named author s have been asserted.

This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Abstract Masculinity studies are fairly new and young churchgoers are an under-researched group in the current Congolese church context. Method Conceptual framework Given the interest to understand men and masculinity in recent years, research has found that there are multiple ways of being a man. Recruitment of participants To be recruited to the study, participants had to be unmarried, attend church services and agree to be interviewed.

Interview topic guide To explore the topic in depth and bring together the multiple views of the informants, we decided to use qualitative in-depth interviews Kvale Table 1.

Introduction

Basic demographics of the informants. Open in a separate window. Data collection For the interview, participants were given the freedom to choose to speak either Lingala, the vernacular language spoken in Kinshasa, or French. Data analysis Data were analysed both manually and by using Open Code 3.

Results The five main discourses that emerged from the analysis were: We are aware of the church message on sex Figure 1 ; Young men need sex; Young women need money; To use or not to use condoms and We trust in the church message.

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We are aware of the church message on sex All participants said that they knew and listened to their church's message on sex based on the ideal morality of forbidden premarital sex, abstinence prescribed in the Bible, sex allowed in marriage and the banning of condoms. Young men need sex In spite of the existing ideal church-approved sexual morality that participants were aware of, some young men confirmed being sexually active and stated that sex was good and pleasurable. Similarly, they heard but disobeyed the church message on abstinence since this was perceived as an old-fashioned message, and even seen as detrimental to their health: … Laughing … they want to ruin me.

Even Catholic priests can't cope with it and not even the nuns … year-old man Many informants used metaphors for their sexual appetites such as young men are hungry, in a hurry and in need for premarital sex since their strong sexual needs would be uncontrollable. Similar issues about what they perceived as sexual activities were also stressed among some young women: … Young men are thirsty for sex and are willing to do that … for them, they say that keeping … keeping sperm, it will hurt their back ….

This is what young men say … keeping sperm will hurt my back, I have to release my sperm … year-old woman According to the interviews, young male sexual behaviour was linked with their capacity to show sexual prowess and potency in sexual encounters, especially when they drink.

They highlighted that the more a young man ejaculates, the stronger man he is sexually: Some other men when they have sex with a woman … the woman should cry … in the meantime the man's sexual potency is still there and he is ready to have sex … year-old man Exploring virgin girls and changing sexual tastes were raised as the main reasons for young men's engagement with multiple partners. However, women's financial dependency towards men was identified as the main reason for multiple partnerships: One partner is not sufficient to give you all you need, not even parents … one guy will be responsible for providing body lotion and soap, and another will take care of transportation fees.

Another one will care for clothes and shoes, and this is the way many young women behave year-old woman Participants reported cases of girls who have sex with older men because young men are not capable of providing for them financially. A couple of young women raised concerns about being in an unequal, age-disparate sexual relationship: … I have been dated and I am dating. To use or not to use condoms Informants reported that some church leaders opposed both the health messages about condoms and the practice of condom use among churchgoers because this would motivate youths to have sex indiscriminately: … Condom protection?

Indeed, young people would play with sex; therefore it is good if young people can abstain from sex … year-old man In their sexual encounters, several respondents reported that youths did not seem to have much time for condom use; condoms were thought to be poorly manufactured and were sometimes unavailable. Instead, they say if I have sex with my girlfriend, I would like to feel it … year-old man By contrast, only a few youths mentioned using condoms in sexual encounters because they believed that condoms saved lives.

Such girls were viewed as untrustworthy, suspected to be pregnant or deemed to be already infected with HIV: … But if I happen to see a young woman who refuses to use condoms during sex, somebody like me, I will not accept having sex. However, I am first of all afraid of AIDS … year-old man Similarly, some girls also showed agency in refusing unprotected sex in cases where partners did not use a condom.

We trust in the church message A small group of church followers demonstrated their Christian values in two ways. They were fully aware of the existence of HIV in their midst and had therefore committed themselves to undergo voluntary HIV testing and counselling before marriage: … How can I marry a woman that I don't know the HIV status of?

Challenges of church morality for sex The youths acknowledged the church teachings of sexual abstinence and faithfulness, which conflicted with premarital sexual activities that run counter to the teachings of sexuality in most Congolese churches. Transactional and intergenerational sex We found that certain young women perceived sex as a commodity to trade for food. Alternative masculinities Church followers who viewed themselves as agents of change to promote mutual respect and gender equality asserted, for instance, that young woman are also driven by the same feelings for sex as do young men Oriel Study trustworthiness The first author has been living and working in Kinshasa as a HIV church coordinator for some years and his pre-understanding of the local context might have affected his judgements and somehow influenced the answers he received from the participants.

Conclusion In the present study, we have identified five discourses and develop an image of their influence, affects and consequences on church youths. Conflict of interest statements The authors declare that there is no competing interest. References Barbour R. In: Interviewing and Focus Group. Somekh B. London: Sage Publications; Theory and Methods in Social Research.

Barker G. New York and London: Routledge; Ruxton S. Oxford: Oxfam GB; Gender Equality and Men: Learning from Practice. Evidence from Programme Interventions. Geneva: World Health Organisation; Additionally, teachers interrupted girls more and gave boys more opportunities to expand on their ideas Sadker and Sadker Further, in social as well as academic situations, teachers have traditionally positioned boys and girls oppositionally—reinforcing a sense of competition rather than collaboration Thorne Boys are also permitted a greater degree of freedom regarding rule-breaking or minor acts of deviance, whereas girls are expected to follow rules carefully and to adopt an obedient posture Ready Mimicking the actions of significant others is the first step in the development of a separate sense of self Mead Like adults, children become agents who actively facilitate and apply normative gender expectations to those around them.

When children do not conform to the appropriate gender role, they may face negative sanctions such as being criticized or marginalized by their peers. Though many of these sanctions are informal, they can be quite severe.

Messages Men Hear: Constructing Masculinities (Gender, Change and Society Series)

Boys, especially, are subject to intense ridicule for gender nonconformity Coltrane and Adams ; Kimmel Mass media serves as another significant agent of gender socialization. In television and movies, women tend to have less significant roles and are often portrayed as wives or mothers. When women are given a lead role, they are often one of two extremes: a wholesome, saint-like figure or a malevolent, hypersexual figure Etaugh and Bridges Research indicates that of the top-grossing G-rated movies released between and , three out of four characters were male.

Out of those movies, only seven were near being gender balanced, with a character ratio of less than 1. Television commercials and other forms of advertising also reinforce inequality and gender-based stereotypes. Women are almost exclusively present in ads promoting cooking, cleaning, or child care—related products Davis Think about the last time you saw a man star in a dishwasher or laundry detergent commercial.

In general, women are underrepresented in roles that involve leadership, intelligence, or a balanced psyche. Of particular concern is the depiction of women in ways that are dehumanizing, especially in music videos. Even in mainstream advertising, however, themes intermingling violence and sexuality are quite common Kilbourne Stratification refers to a system in which groups of people experience unequal access to basic, yet highly valuable, social resources.

Canada is characterized by gender stratification as well as stratification of race, income, occupation, and the like. Evidence of gender stratification is especially keen within the economic realm. However, as one report noted, if the gender gap in wages continues to close at the same glacial rate, women will not earn the same as men until the year McInturff Additionally, women who are in the paid labour force still do the majority of the unpaid work at home.

In women spent an average 50 hours a week looking after children compared to This double duty keeps working women in a subordinate role in the family structure Hochschild and Machung Gender stratification through the division of labour is not exclusively North American. When a pattern appears in all societies, it is called a cultural universal. While the phenomenon of assigning work by gender is universal, its specifics are not. The same task is not assigned to either men or women worldwide.

There is a long history of gender stratification in Canada. When looking to the past, it would appear that society has made great strides in terms of abolishing some of the most blatant forms of gender inequality see timeline below but underlying effects of male dominance still permeate many aspects of society. Sociological theories serve to guide the research process and offer a means for interpreting research data and explaining social phenomena. For example, a sociologist interested in gender stratification in education may study why middle-school girls are more likely than their male counterparts to fall behind grade-level expectations in math and science.

Structural functionalism provided one of the most important perspectives of sociological research in the 20th century and has been a major influence on research in the social sciences, including gender studies. Viewing the family as the most integral component of society, assumptions about gender roles within marriage assume a prominent place in this perspective.

Functionalists argue that gender roles were established well before the preindustrial era when men typically took care of responsibilities outside of the home, such as hunting, and women typically took care of the domestic responsibilities in or around the home. These roles were considered functional because women were often limited by the physical restraints of pregnancy and nursing and unable to leave the home for long periods of time.

Once established, these roles were passed on to subsequent generations since they served as an effective means of keeping the family system functioning properly. When changes occurred in the social and economic climate of Canada during World War II, changes in the family structure also occurred.

Many women had to assume the role of breadwinner or modern hunter and gatherer alongside their domestic role in order to stabilize a rapidly changing society. When the men returned from war and wanted to reclaim their jobs, society fell into a state of imbalance, as many women did not want to forfeit their wage-earning positions Hawke Talcott Parsons argued that the contradiction between occupational roles and kinship roles of men and women in North America created tension or strain on individuals as they tried to adapt to the conflicting norms or requirements.

The division of traditional middle-class gender roles within the family—the husband as breadwinner and wife as homemaker—was functional for him because the roles were complementary. They enabled a clear division of labour between spouses, which ensured that the ongoing functional needs of the family were being met. Within the North American kinship system, wives and husbands roles were equally valued according to Parsons. As a result, Parson theorized that these tensions would lead women to become expressive specialists in order to claim prestige e.

According to critical sociology, society is structured by relations of power and domination among social groups e. When sociologists examine gender from this perspective, we can view men as the dominant group and women as the subordinate group. According to critical sociology, social problems and contradictions are created when dominant groups exploit or oppress subordinate groups.

It is difficult for women to rise above men, as dominant group members create the rules for success and opportunity in society Farrington and Chertok Friedrich Engels, a German sociologist, studied family structure and gender roles. Engels suggested that the same owner-worker relationship seen in the labour force is also seen in the household, with women assuming the role of the proletariat. Women are therefore doubly exploited in capitalist society, both when they work outside the home and when they work within the home.

Contemporary critical sociologists suggest that when women become wage earners, they can gain power in the family structure and create more democratic arrangements in the home, although they may still carry the majority of the domestic burden, as noted earlier Risman and Johnson-Sumerford Feminist theory is a type of critical sociology that examines inequalities in gender-related issues.

It uses the critical approach to examine the maintenance of gender roles and inequalities.

Radical feminism, in particular, considers the role of the family in perpetuating male dominance. Additionally, women often perceive a disconnect between their personal experiences and the way the world is represented by society as a whole. Dorothy Smith referred to this phenomenon as bifurcated consciousness Smith Patriarchal perspectives and arrangements, widespread and taken for granted, are built into the relations of ruling. As a result, not only do women find it difficult to find their experiences acknowledged in the wider patriarchal culture, their viewpoints also tend to be silenced or marginalized to the point of being discredited or considered invalid.

The men, however, do not experience the sense of bifurcated consciousness under this social structure that modern Canadian females encounter Sanday Symbolic interactionism aims to understand human behaviour by analyzing the critical role of symbols in human interaction. This is certainly relevant to the discussion of masculinity and femininity. Imagine that you walk into a bank, hoping to get a small loan for school, a home, or a small business venture.

If you meet with a male loan officer, you may state your case logically by listing all of the hard numbers that make you a qualified applicant as a means of appealing to the analytical characteristics associated with masculinity. If you meet with a female loan officer, you may make an emotional appeal by stating your good intentions as a means of appealing to the caring characteristics associated with femininity.

Because the meanings attached to symbols are socially created and not natural, and fluid, not static, we act and react to symbols based on the current assigned meaning. Furthermore, the word gay as it refers to a homosexual carried a somewhat negative and unfavourable meaning 50 years ago, but has since gained more neutral and even positive connotations.

These shifts in symbolic meaning apply to family structure as well. In , when only Today, when a majority of women with preschool-aged children are part of the paid workforce Sociologist Charles H. When people perform tasks or possess characteristics based on the gender role assigned to them, they are said to be doing gender. In , Broverman and Broverman conducted a groundbreaking study on the traits mental health workers ascribed to males and females.

When asked to name the characteristics of a female, the list featured words such as unaggressive, gentle, emotional, tactful, less logical, not ambitious, dependent, passive, and neat. The list of male characteristics featured words such as aggressive, rough, unemotional, blunt, logical, direct, active, and sloppy Seem and Clark Later, when asked to describe the characteristics of a healthy person not gender specific , the list was nearly identical to that of a male. This study uncovered the general assumption that being female is associated with being somewhat unhealthy or not of sound mind.

This concept seems extremely dated, but in , Seem and Clark replicated the study and found similar results. Again, the characteristics associated with a healthy male were very similar to that of a healthy genderless adult. The list of characteristics associated with being female broadened somewhat but did not show significant change from the original study Seem and Clark This interpretation of feminine characteristic may help us one day better understand gender disparities in certain illnesses, such as why one in eight women can be expected to develop clinical depression in her lifetime National Institute of Mental Health In the area of sexuality, sociologists focus their attention on sexual attitudes and practices, not on physiology or anatomy.

Studying sexual attitudes and practices is a particularly interesting field of sociology because sexual behaviour is a cultural universal. Throughout time and place, the vast majority of human beings have participated in sexual relationships Broude Each society, however, interprets sexuality and sexual activity in different ways. Many societies around the world have different attitudes about premarital sex, the age of sexual consent, homosexuality, masturbation, and other sexual behaviours that are not consistent with universally cultural norms Widmer, Treas, and Newcomb At the same time, sociologists have learned that certain norms like disapproval of incest are shared among most societies.

Likewise, societies generally have norms that reinforce their accepted social system of sexuality. Societies that value monogamy, for example, would likely oppose extramarital sex. Individuals are socialized to sexual attitudes by their family, education system, peers, media, and religion. Historically, religion has been the greatest influence on sexual behaviour in most societies, but in more recent years, peers and the media have emerged as two of the strongest influences, particularly with North American teens Potard, Courtois, and Rusch Let us take a closer look at sexual attitudes in Canada and around the world.

Cross-national research on sexual attitudes in industrialized nations reveals that normative standards differ across the world. For example, several studies have shown that Scandinavian students are more tolerant of premarital sex than are North American students Grose A study of 37 countries reported that non-Western societies—like China, Iran, and India—valued chastity highly in a potential mate, while western European countries—such as France, the Netherlands, and Sweden—placed little value on prior sexual experiences Buss Even among Western cultures, attitudes can differ.

For example, according to a 33,person survey across 24 countries, 89 percent of Swedes responded that there is nothing wrong with premarital sex, while only 42 percent of Irish responded this way. From the same study, 93 percent of Filipinos responded that sex before age 16 is always wrong or almost always wrong, while only 75 percent of Russians responded this way Widmer, Treas, and Newcomb Sexual attitudes can also vary within a country.

For instance, 45 percent of Spaniards responded that homosexuality is always wrong, while 42 percent responded that it is never wrong; only 13 percent responded somewhere in the middle Widmer, Treas, and Newcomb Of industrialized nations, Sweden is thought to be the most liberal when it comes to attitudes about sex, including sexual practices and sexual openness. The country has very few regulations on sexual images in the media, and sex education, which starts around age six, is a compulsory part of Swedish school curricula.

It would appear that Sweden is a model for the benefits of sexual freedom and frankness. However, implementing Swedish ideals and policies regarding sexuality in other, more politically conservative, nations would likely be met with resistance. In the international survey noted above, 12 percent of Canadians stated that premarital sex is always wrong, compared to 29 percent of Americans.

The average among the 24 countries surveyed on this question was 17 percent. Fifty-five percent of Canadians compared to 71 percent of Americans condemned sex before the age of 16, 68 percent compared to 80 percent condemned extramarital sex, and 39 percent compared to 70 condemned homosexuality Widmer, Treas, and Newcomb North American culture is particularly restrictive in its attitudes about sex when it comes to women and sexuality.

In fact, there is a popular notion that men think about sex every seven seconds. Research, however, suggests that men think about sex an average of 19 times per day, compared to 10 times per day for women Fisher, Moore, and Pittenger Belief that men have—or have the right to—more sexual urges than women creates a double standard. Ira Reiss, a pioneer researcher in the field of sexual studies, defined the double standard as prohibiting premarital sexual intercourse for women but allowing it for men Reiss This standard has evolved into allowing women to engage in premarital sex only within committed love relationships, but allowing men to engage in sexual relationships with as many partners as they wish without condition Milhausen and Herold Due to this double standard, a woman is likely to have fewer sexual partners in her life time than a man.


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  • According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC survey, the average year-old woman has had three opposite-sex sexual partners while the average year-old man has had twice as many Centers for Disease Control In a study of 1, Canadians over the age of 18, men had had an average of Sociologists representing all three major theoretical perspectives study the role that sexuality plays in social life today.

    Scholars recognize that sexuality continues to be an important factor in social hierarchies and relations of power and that the manner in which sexuality is constructed has a significant effect on perceptions, interactions, health, and outcomes. When it comes to sexuality, functionalists stress the importance of regulating sexual behaviour to ensure marital cohesion and family stability. Since functionalists identify the family unit as the most integral component in society, they maintain a strict focus on it at all times and argue in favour of social arrangements that promote and ensure family preservation.

    Functionalists such as Talcott Parsons et al. Social norms surrounding family life have, traditionally, encouraged sexual activity within the family unit marriage and have discouraged activity outside of it premarital and extramarital sex. From a functionalist point of view, the purpose of encouraging sexual activity in the confines of marriage is to intensify the bond between spouses and to ensure that procreation occurs within a stable, legally recognized relationship. This structure gives offspring the best possible chance for appropriate socialization and the provision of basic resources.

    From a functionalist standpoint, homosexuality cannot be promoted on a large-scale as an acceptable substitute for heterosexuality. If this occurred, procreation would eventually cease. Thus, homosexuality, if occurring predominantly within the population, is dysfunctional to society. This criticism does not take into account the increasing legal acceptance of same-sex marriage, or the rise in gay and lesbian couples who choose to bear and raise children through a variety of available resources.

    It is of course not the case that homosexuals are unable to marry or procreate with members of the opposite sex as this has occurred throughout history. From a critical perspective, sexuality is another area in which power differentials are present and where dominant groups actively work to promote their worldview as well as their economic interests.

    Homosexuality was criminalized in Canada in Throughout the s and s, homosexuals were even treated as national security risks and hundreds of gays and lesbians lost their civil service jobs or were purged from the military. Thousands were kept under surveillance Kinsman It was not until that the Criminal Code was amended to relax the laws against homosexuality. It was not until that same-sex couples were given the right to marry. Critical sociology asks why homosexuality, and other types of sexuality, have been the subject of persecution by the dominant sexual majority.

    Sexuality is caught up in the relationship between knowledge and power. The powerful normative constraints that emerged, based largely on the 19th century scientific distinction between natural and unnatural forms of sexuality, led to the legacy of closeted sexuality and homophobic violence that remains to this day. They depended on how scientific types of knowledge, which defined the homosexual as an unnatural type of person, were combined with emerging forms of medical, psychiatric, legal, and state power. However, having a gender or sexual identity only appears natural to the degree that one fits within the dominant gender schema.

    The dominant gender schema is an ideology that, like all ideologies, serves to perpetuate inequalities in power and status. This schema states that: 1 sex is a biological characteristic that produces only two options, male or female, and 2 gender is a social or psychological characteristic that manifests or expresses biological sex. Again, only two options exist, masculine or feminine. No person can be neither. No person can be both. For many people this is natural. It goes without saying. This occurs first of all by the actions of external authorities and experts who define those who do not fit as either mistakes of nature or as products of failed socialization and individual psychopathology.

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    It is also thrown into question by the actions of peers and family who respond with concern or censure when a girl is not feminine enough or a boy is not masculine enough. Moreover, the ones who do not fit also have questions. They may begin to wonder why the norms of society do not reflect their sense of self, and thus begin to feel at odds with the world. For critical sociology, these are matters defined in the context of power relationships in society.

    Interactionists focus on the meanings associated with sexuality and with sexual orientation. Since femininity is devalued in North American society, those who adopt such traits are subject to ridicule; this is especially true for boys or men. Just as masculinity is the symbolic norm, so too has heterosexuality come to signify normalcy. For the homosexual, these transitions are fraught with difficulty. To what degree does the same process apply to heterosexuals? Although the idea of coming out as a heterosexual, or as a masculine man or a feminine woman, might seem absurd, this absurdity is grounded in the norms of heteronormative society that are so deeply entrenched as to make them appear natural.

    Interactionists are also interested in how discussions of homosexuals often focus almost exclusively on the sex lives of gays and lesbians; homosexuals, especially men, may be assumed to be hypersexual and, in some cases, deviant. Interactionism might also focus on the slurs used to describe homosexuals. This subsequently affects how homosexuals perceive themselves. Constant exposure to derogatory labels, jokes, and pervasive homophobia would lead to a negative self-image, or worse, self-hate.

    The CDC reports that homosexual youths who experience high levels of social rejection are six times more likely to have high levels of depression and eight times more likely to have attempted suicide CDC Queer theory is a perspective that problematizes the manner in which we have been taught to think about sexual orientation. Queer theorists reject the dominant gender schema and the dichotomization of sexual orientations into two mutually exclusive outcomes, homosexual or heterosexual.

    Rather, the perspective highlights the need for a more flexible and fluid conceptualization of sexuality—one that allows for change, negotiation, and freedom. This mirrors other oppressive schemas in our culture, especially those surrounding gender and race black versus white, male versus female. In the end, queer theory strives to question the ways society perceives and experiences sex, gender, and sexuality, opening the door to new scholarly understanding.

    Throughout this chapter, we have examined the complexities of gender, sex, and sexuality. Differentiating between sex, gender, and sexual orientation is an important first step to a deeper understanding and critical analysis of these issues. Understanding the sociology of sex, gender, and sexuality will help to build awareness of the inequalities experienced by subordinate groups such as women, homosexuals, and transgendered individuals.

    Sex denotes biological characteristics differentiating males and females, while gender denotes social and cultural characteristics of masculine and feminine behaviour. Sex and gender are not always synchronous. Individuals who strongly identify with the opposing gender are considered transgendered. Gender Children become aware of gender roles in their earliest years. They come to understand and perform these roles through socialization, which occurs through four major agents: family, education, peer groups, and mass media.

    Socialization into narrowly prescribed gender roles results in the stratification of males and females. Each sociological perspective offers a valuable view for understanding how and why gender inequality occurs in our society. Sex and Sexuality When studying sex and sexuality, sociologists focus their attention on sexual attitudes and practices, not on physiology or anatomy. Norms regarding gender and sexuality vary across cultures. In general, Canada tends to be less conservative than the United States in its sexual attitudes. As a result, homosexuals still continue to face opposition and discrimination in most major social institutions but discrimination based on sexual orientation is legally prohibited in the Canadian constitution, gays and lesbians are able to get married in Canada, and school boards across the country have instituted anti-bullying policies to prevent the targeting of LGBT students.

    The Difference between Sex and Gender 1. Gender 6. Which of the following is the best example of a gender stereotype? Which of the following is the best example of the role peers play as an agent of socialization for school-aged children? Sex and Sexuality What Western country is thought to be the most liberal in its attitudes toward sex?

    Which theoretical perspective stresses the importance of regulating sexual behaviour to ensure marital cohesion and family stability? Gender For more gender-related statistics, see the U. New York: Routledge. Ling, Lisa. Weiss, Debra C. Case, M. Cowan, Sharon. Diamond, Milton. Kinsey, Alfred C. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. Poasa, Kris. Ryle, Robyn. Questioning Gender: A Sociological Exploration. Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. New York: Columbia University Press.

    Statistics Canada. Taylor, Catherine and Tracey Peter. Every class in every school: The first national climate survey on homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia in Canadian schools. Final report. Retrieved February 13, www. Gender Coltrane, Scott and Michele Adams. Gender and Families. Davis, Donald M. Etaugh, Clair and Judith Bridges. Farrington, K. Boss, W.

    Doherty, R. LaRossa, W. Schumm and S. New York: Plenum. Hawke, Lucy A. Hochschild, Arlie R. New York: Viking. Kane, Eileen. Kilbourne, Jean. New York: Touchstone Publishing. Lips, Hillary M. McInturff, Kate.

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    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Mead, George Herbert. Murdock, George Peter and Douglas R. National Institute of Mental Health. Unpublished Epidemiological Catchment Area Analyses. Nellie McClung Foundation. Parsons, Talcott. NY: Free Press.