Lecture 7: Gender and Sexuality

19th Century / The invention of Companionate Marriage

  • Men’s friendship as the noble virtues of bravery and loyalty: Greek and Roman myths to Renaissance
  • Women’s friendship was considered inferior and shallow in comparison. They were considered not good at forming deep bonds among themselves
  • Men before were the owners and subjects of intimacy. The intimacy among men (deep friendship) during the Greek and Roman times. Friendship was celebrated as the highest expression of the noblest virtues (bravery, loyalty, heroism, duty), which only men were thought to possess
  • Women might gather to gossip and quilt, but their emotions were simply not as profound as those of men (Ex. Hunting-and-gathering societies. Due to division of labour, it led to deeper and durable friendships among men. Hunting and warfare, the domain of male activity, required deep and enduring bonds among men for survival)   
  • Even today, women and men have different experiences and expectations in friendships in love, and in sex
  • Psychologists argue that in the developmental stage, the young boy must separate himself from his mother to establish independence
  • Whereas the girls continue connection with their mothers, which ensures a continuity of love and nurturance
  • When boys and girls turn 1 & 2 years old, girls continue intimacy with their mothers. Boys realize that they are different from their mothers, and begin to compete with their fathers
  • Hence, boys need to establish the separation from mother, independence for self
  • As a result, separation and individuation are more difficult for women; connection and intimacy more difficult for men
  • As sociologists, they think of in what type of social society is this norm. This psychology was born between 18th and 19th century of Europe
  • Sociologists examine the larger-scale historical and social transformation, especially that of the 19th century. They examine the separation between public and private sphere
  • The emergence of home as a refuge and the family as the haven in a heartless world
  • The fear of homosexuality in the case of male friendships. Homosexuality became a threat to male friendship (people thought it was inappropriate for men to stay too close to each other)

The 19th century / The Cult of Domesticity

  • North Americans reversed the historical notion of intimacy since the early 1970s, fueled by two developments: Feminism began to celebrate solidarity among women. On the other hand, a new generation of male psychologists and advocates had arisen, liberating men from the traditional barrier of emotional intimacy
  • Women’s experiences in friendships and women’s virtues. Emotional expressiveness, dependency, and the ability to nurture, intimacy, were now desirable
  • Women as the Domestic Experts: They become charge of the emotional domain (husband and children are happy). This way, expressive and nurturing became the norm
  • Four barriers to emotional intimacy among men had arose. Competition, the need to be in control, homophobia; and lack of skills and positive role models for male intimacy
  • Today, women are often considered emotional experts relative to men
  • Men had different social interaction in the public sphere. They had instrumental relationships by sharing activities rather than self-disclosure (personal gain). This includes networking (beneficial for work space, promotion)
  • Now, as men left their homes and went to work in factories or offices, they socialized in male groups and developed new forms of sociability
  • Women became increasingly expressive. Adept at emotional communication, as men were abandoning that style
  • Men now expressed traits and emotions associated within the workplace (Ex. Competitiveness, individual achievement, instrumental rationality). Whereas women were develop softer domestic virtues of love, nurturance, and compassion
  • Love itself changed meanings, coming to mean tenderness, powerlessness and emotional expression

Gendered (Romantic) Love

  • When we feel obsessed with, and absolutely focused on uniting with our love object, these feelings are accompanied and facilitated by chemical changes including the elevation of dopamine levels
  • Culturally scripted experience of romantic love. After one or two heartbreaks along the way lead to marriage, after which we settle down into a less passionate but still, ideally, deep romantic attachment
  • The Difference in Connection between Love and Marriage: Most women and girls are attracted ‘up’: men and boys who are in some way above them, whether in terms of wealth, worldly power, age, achievement, or simply body size. Men, traditionally, have been attracted down, to women of lesser achievement, size, and age
  • Men are more likely to believe myths about love at first sight, tend to fall in love more quickly than women, and are more likely to enter relationships out of a desire to fall in love. Romantic love, to men, is an irrational, unplanned, and compelling emotion that demands action
  • Whereas women choose and commit themselves more slowly than the male
  • However, men fall in love sooner but also fall out of love sooner than women
  • Women initiate the majority of break-ups. They have an easier time accepting their former romantic partners as friends than men do. After a break-up, men report more loneliness, depression and sleepless than women do (even though they are supposedly the less emotional gender)

Gender Differences in Friendship: Real and imagined

  • Women seem far more likely to share their feelings with friends than were men. They engage in face-to-face interactions instead of men’s preferred side-to-side style. Women discuss a wide array of issues than men
  • Women’s friendships seem to be more person-oriented; men’s more activity- oriented
  • These differences are not great (Ex. When women and men choose a best friend, they look for the same virtues, communication, intimacy, and trust) Majority of us choose someone for the same sex as our best friend
  • We tend to choose friends of our own ethnic group
  • Unmarried men are more likely to maintain close and intimate friendships with both women and other men than are married men
  • Three gender differences in friendships
  • Sexual Tension: Sex does show up in cross-sex friendship among heterosexual women and men. Men and women can still be friends, but it’s more work
  • The Impact of Homophobia: To be emotionally open and vulnerable with another man. Homophobia is more than simple the irrational fear and hatred of gay people; it is also the fear that one might be misperceived as gay by others. Being emotionally vulnerable and open to another man are acts opposite to traditional notions of masculinity
  • Same-sex friendships-cross-sex and same-sex friendships often have different styles. There are significant similarities in the same-sex friendship patterns of gay men and lesbians. Both value close, intimate friendships, define intimacy in similar ways, and behave similarly with their friends
  • Yet lesbians have far more friendships with heterosexual women than gay men have with heterosexual men. Lesbians’ friendships tend to be entirely among women, straight or gay. Gay men, by contrast, find their friends among straight women and other gay man

Gender / Power: Gendered communications

  • Language and communication are heavily gendered
  • Deborah Tannen: Men and women use language differently and for different goals. Men use language to establish their position in hierarchy. To them, conversations are negotiations in which people try and achieve and maintain the upper hand if they can
  • Women, by contrast, use conversations as negotiations for closeness in which people try and seek and give confirmation and support, and to reach agreement
  • The Amount of Speech: Do women talk more?
  • The Content of Speech: Disclosure of personal information and direct statements (more common among men)
  • Men disclose less personal information, and make direct and declarative statements
  • Women negotiate in private. They ask more questions to maintain the flow of conversation

Men Explaining: A term that refers to the tendency of male to explain everything to female.

  • Styles of Speech: Pitch, intonation, etc. (Ex. Among women when they are talking, they change their speech when a man appears)
  • Men, in conversation with women, tend to do more topic rejection, by deciding what’s going to be talked about. Men interrupt women far more than women interrupt men
  • But these gender differences depend more on the gender of the person to whom one is speaking, rather than the gender of the speaker. It is power talk (when women are in position of power, they talk differently), rather than gender talk
  • Speech pattern therefore is embedded in the social context since men and women are taught how to speak

The Emergence of Companionate Marriage (Based on Romance)

  • The shift in the institution of marriage from one of pragmatic interests (making “in-laws”) to that of “romantic love” (18th and 19th century)
  • Prior to the period, romantic love was generally outside of marriage. Romantic love was seen as socially disruptive, a threat to the power of church, the state and the family. Yet increasingly, romantic love became the basis of marriage by the end of 19th century (Ex. In many European cultures, before parents provided a dowry for their daughters (a bride price). Parents provided goods and wealth to ensure a good match, and also carefully considered candidates.)
  • Marriage at the time was referred to as a way to hold families together (Ex. economically)
  • The Idea of Marrying for Love: It became a radical idea. If you said that you are marrying for economical gain, it will be considered not appropriate
  • Companionate marriage became the norm in Western Society. From 18th century on, we viewed love as the primary purpose of marriage
  • Romantic love became the basis for marriage, sexuality, and family. It is relatively recent
  • It was when marriage moved into the emotional sphere in the 19th century that it suffered as an institution just as it began to thrive as a personal relationship. Basing marriage on emotion makes it unstable, and can lead to divorce
  • The Gottman Couples Therapy for the Contemporary Families: They place couples in love labs, and observe from outside to see how the couples interact with each other. In their findings, they claim that if you observe such couples, it can indicate which couples will divorce or not. It is not the content of the conversation, but instead it is about who rebuttals the other partner’s opinion or statement

Closing the Sexual Gender Gap

  • Men’s sexual behaviour has hardly changed, but women’s sexual behaviour has changed dramatically, moving increasingly closer to the behaviour of men
  • Safe birth control and legal abortion have made it possible to separate sexual activity from reproduction. Men were always able to pursue sexual pleasure for its own sake. Thus, in this sense, women’s sexuality has come to more closely resemble men’s
  • Virginity is no longer a treasure to be safe-guarded. Now it is a problem to be solved. Men and women therefore increasingly have sex before marriage
  • Hooking Up: A culture which has virtually erased the older pattern of rating-dating-mating. No longer do students meet and mate with the intention of marrying. Hooking up is common today
  • Dramatic increase of oral sex among teenagers is visible, especially for girls
  • However, teenage girls today often face a dilemma: Because guys rule in teen land, they get to set the rules for sexual engagement. Girls must service the guys if they are going to be able to hand out with them, get invited to the right parties, and the like

The Modern Invention of Homosexuals

  • Homosexuality emerges not as a behavior (such as sodomy), but as a fixed sexual orientation
  • Homosexual was coined to describe those with a persistent sexual orientation toward the same sex
  • Foucault: The sodomites had been a temporary aberration. The homosexual was now a specie
  • Before, homosexuality was not considered a group of people, but instead a social activity that did not define a person.  Before, it was a behaviour that the society believed was inappropriate and against the norm
  • Now homosexuals have become a particular group of people that define society, because it became significant
  • Gay men have the lowest rates of long-term committed relationships, whereas lesbians have the highest
  • Stone Butch: Individual who focuses on pleasuring his / her partner but prefers not to be touched her / himself
  • The word homosexual was coined late in the 19th century to refer to this group of people
  • Homophobia became increasingly significant in men’s lives
  • Kinsey Scale: Used to rate sexual objects from 0 (exclusively heterosexual) to 6 (exclusively homosexual). A 3 means someone being attracted equally to either men or women. This leads to the existence of bisexuals, which has been disputed against for years

Gendered Desires: Sexuality

  • As friendship and love have become feminized based on models of intimacy, sexuality has become masculinized
  • Masculinization of Sex: The pursuit of pleasure for its own sake, the increased attention to orgasm, the multiplication of sexual patterns, and the separation of sexual behaviour from love. This is partly a result of the technological transformation of sexuality (from birth control to the Internet), and sexual revolution’s promise of greater sexual freedom with fewer emotional and physical consequences
  • Double Standard: Men gain status and women lose status from sexual experience. He’s a stud who scores, she’s a slut who gives it up
  • The double standard makes sex something men get from and do to women, as is recognized by the expression, he did her
  • The sexual double standard is itself a product of gender inequality, of sexism. Sex becomes a contest, not a means of connection. When sexual pleasure happens, it’s often seen as his victory over her resistance
  • Heterosexual men report many more partners than do women
  • Though the gender gap in infidelity (betrayal) has decreased in the past two decades, North American men are still more likely to stray than women (Ex. Having sex outside primary relationships)
  • Intercourse and orgasm seem to be more important forms of sexual expression for men than they are for women. Men develop relationships with their genitals

Phallocentric: men’s sexuality revolving around the glorification and satisfaction of the penis.

  • Real Sex: Refers to penile-vaginal intercourse taking place. This is real sex since it brings him orgasm
  • Heterosexual men and women often think about sex differently. Thinking about sex itself is gendered activity because men have far more sexual thoughts than women
  • Men, straight and gay, seem to want more sex than do women. Therefore, men want more sex in the start of relationship, in the middle of it, and after many years of it
  • Also, men are more represented among those attracted to abnormal sexual practices, or paraphilias
  • Pornography: Tells lies about women, but it tells truth about men. For some men it changes the truth, shaping their desire for sexual practices, body characteristics, and sexual partners (Ex. The popularity of bukkake pornography and so-called facials has affected the attitudes, desires, and practices of youth)

Compulsory Heterosexuality: A social institution for the sexual socialization of children. Adrienne Rich described how heterosexuality Is made compulsory through a variety of social mechanisms. This includes the cultural assumption, the lie, that heterosexuality is natural or innate. Women in Western Society are inevitably drawn to men, and that they need men as social and economic protectors. Secondly, it renders invisible or represents as abnormal all other forms of sexuality.

Date Rape: The term coined by Mary Koss, refers to young women who are raped the first time they have intercourse. This is commonly due to the lack of agreement between partners

  • Peers provide sexual socialization to adolescents, but so too do the media. In early age, children learn from media how to perform their appropriate sexual roles. For boys this means learning heterosexual assertiveness; for girls, it means developing self-objectification
  • Pornofication of mainstream society makes sexual messages readily available in mainstream media (Ex. Magazines, video games, and even children’s toys such as the infamous Bratz)

Compulsory Heterosexuality: Feminist Theorist Adrienne Rich

  • Heterosexuality is made compulsory (required, mandatory) through a variety of social mechanisms, to make the heterosexuality as natural and innate, particularly in ways that denounce (criticize) intimate connections among women, sexual or otherwise

A Sexual Double-Standard

  • While men are expected to desire and pursue sexual opportunities regardless of context, women are expected to avoid casual sex-having sex only when in relationships and in love
  • The Slut Stigma: Guys can have sex with all the girls and it makes them more of a man, but if a girl does than all of a sudden she’s not as quality of person

Do Men and Women Express Love Differently?

  • The gendered script for love: instrumental vs. practical
  • For men it is more instrumental. They experience love as doing it with someone else (Ex. Heterosexual relationship). For women it is more practical and it takes them more time to fall in love
  • According to this script, for men it is doing. When women and men enter a committed relationship, the chances of doing something extraordinary diminished. In a way, men fall out of love. For women what matters is not extraordinary activities. It can be everyday affection and activity like housework and childcare from men which can make them happy
  • Extraordinary things, and for women, it is everyday act of nurturing and care
  • In a heterosexual relationship, there is a feminized script of love
  • Beyond the narrow gendered script to broader definition of love. Mutual support and intimacy
  • When there is no gender difference (Gays, Lesbians), there is more freedom of sexuality, sexual expression

Laura Hamilton and Elizabeth Armstrong

  • In our society today, there is less dating and more hook ups
  • Dating culture is less prevalent today
  • There is also the increase in friends with benefits

Sociological Research on Hook-ups

  • There is some shift in how sexuality happens. More hook-ups occur today
  • Young people’s sexual activities have changed drastically with the baby Boom generation (born after 1948) who came of age in the 1960s
  • Sociologist Paula England conducted a survey of 14,000 students from 19 universities in the US. 72% reported at least on hookup by their senior year. But the number was not huge (40% were three or fewer. 40%: 4-9, 20%: 10 or more in four years)
  • Therefore, hook-ups are not as huge as expected
  • Hooking up bad for women? When it comes to pure sexual satisfaction, the hook-up wasn’t great as long-term relationship. Long-term relationship allows male partner to provide more please for the female. In hook-ups, there is less effort when it comes to sex

Hooking Up vs. Relationships

  • Relationships, as compared to hook-ups, bring a higher level oF sexual satisfaction, especially for women
  • However, relationships also come with disadvantages, as young women report various constraints, such as not being able to focus on school work, control over their mobility and social life, controlling boyfriends, and in some cases, intimate partner violence
  • Persistence of sexual double standard


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