What is the difference between males and females? We notice the different dressing styles, different roles in the workplace and how we spend our leisure time, how we wear our emotions, and also how differently we think. But a question arises. Are males and females really different in every aspect? The first question we ask when a baby is born is: “Is it a boy or a girl?” Though most people accept most of the socially prescribed roles for the gender they were born with, some struggle against what they see as rigid and arbitrary social norms. In this essay, I will describe and give my input on the roles of human sexuality and gender.
Most people think of sex and gender as one and the same when in fact they are not. Wood, Wood, and Boyd (2005) define sex as “a biological term, while gender is more commonly used to refer to the psychological and social variables associated with one’s sex” (p. 410). In the biological approach, when defining the sociocultural characteristics of masculinity and femininity, cultures look into the behaviors each gender should act upon. Males should be the dominant figure. They should be strong, competitive, be able to stand their ground, confident, and independent. Women on the other had are expected to be the exact opposite. They should be dependent, caring, encouraging, emotional, and nurturing. As children approach the age of two or so, they start to realize the roles such as attitudes, interest, and behaviors, in which males and females are supposed to portray. This is referred to as gender typing. When understanding which roles are to be taken, then they can start their development.
In the psychoanalytic theory, Freud asserts that children’s thoughts about gender occur out of a clash relating to their feelings about their parents. Generally, they would like to tie a bond between the opposite-sex parent but end up doing so with the same-sex parent in order to settle this clash, taking on that’s parent’s gender-related behavior and ideas. “At the same time, they defer their love for the opposite-sex parent in the hope that someday they will be able to achieve a sexual relationship with a partner who is similar to him or her” (Wood et. al., 2005, p. 411).
I can agree with Freud’s psychoanalytic theory to a certain extent. What would the opposite-sex parent do in a family with no boys or no girls? Would he/she take over some traits that the same-sex parent would give to the children? My mother and father had four boys including myself. Being in the situation my mother was in considering there were no girls, she felt a need to rub off some of her traits to us boys. While my father taught us the game of baseball and how to mow the lawn, my mother taught us our table manners and to how to do the laundry. We shared a bond to both of our parents equally. But overall, we all feel the same way in which we want our future wives to be close to, if not exactly like our mother.
In the social learning theory, children look for role models to follow, where they imitate that person and want to be like him/her. But say if a boy started doing something that is out of his gender role, such as trying on his mother’s high heels, he will be informed by his father that it is not appropriate for him to do such a thing. Psychologists say that yes imitating and reinforcing may play a part in the gender role development, but it does not offer a complete clarification of this occurrence.
Lawrence Kohlberg’s cognitive developmental theory “suggests that an understanding if gender is a prerequisite to gender role development” (1966; Kohlberg & Ullian, 1974, p. 412). This theory explains that children go through three stages that are necessary to developing the concept of gender. The first stage happens when the child is around the ages of two and three, which is gender identity, or the sense of being male or female. The next stage occurs at four and five, which is gender stability, the understanding that boys will be boys and girls will be girls forever. Then the last stage is when the child has reached six and eight.
It is known as gender constancy, or the knowledge that gender will not change, despite the clothes they wear or the activities they participate in. But Kohlberg failed to mention “why many gender-role appropriate behaviors and preferences are observed in children as young as age 2 or 3, long before gender constancy is acquired” (Bussey & Bandura, 1999; Jacklin, 1989; Martin & Little, 1990, p. 412). I guess it just depends on the educational techniques used on the children. My brothers and I were taught a lot at a very young age, so we had a little bit of a head start.
Like the cognitive developmental theory, Sandra Bem’s gender schema theory (1981) emphasizes that children begin to use gender as a way to pick up and sort out information. But the gender schema theory says that this process happens earlier with the gaining of gender identity other than gender constancy. Also like social learning theory, the gender schema theory indicates “young children are motivated to pay more attention to and behave in ways consistent with the gender-based standards and stereotypes of their culture” (Wood et. al., 2005, p. 412). I think television can become a major factor in a child’s behavior because they can watch shows that are unsuitable for their viewing, and while growing older they can become more fascinated with sexual activity.
When becoming sexually involved with another person, both males and females experience four phases of when engaged in sex, called the sexual response cycle. The first phase is the excitement phase, and this is simply when the female undresses for the male and the male uses verbal expressions of affection to stimulate the female. The blood flow starts pumping and the heart beats faster and faster until they reach the second phase, which is the plateau phase. Here excitement keeps rising for the preparation of the third phase, the orgasm. While males only have one, females can have multiple. After that, everything starts to slow down and goes back to its unaroused state. This is known as the resolution phase or the tapering-off period. Sexual activity varies from culture to culture. Furthermore, “what is perceived as sexually attractive in males and females may differ dramatically” (Woods et. al., 2005, p. 421).
Agreed, differences in attraction may occur, even with the same sex. Someone’s sexual orientation describes the preferences at which someone is attracted to either the opposite or that of their own sex. Studies show that males are twice as likely to be homosexual than females. Berenbaum & Snyder (1995) say that if the androgens, or hormones that make one masculine, are too high or too low, can make the brain develop more masculine or feminine which homosexual orientation is more likely. Most of the time it is all in the genes, but other times it is that person’s choice to be homosexual, even if others may not be on the same page.
Some people can be homophobic, which in my view is extremely improper. Whoever thinks that it is wrong should take a step back, let those people live their lives and start worrying about their own. I have known many people who were homophobic and it just pushed my buttons to see how cruel they can be to someone with a different sexual orientation. I do see where they are coming from, on the other hand. I do think it is weird to see two homosexual men holding hands or kissing, but I always come to an understanding that they are who they are and nothing can change that. They want to feel the comfort of another. In general, they want to love just as much as heterosexual couples do, so I praise them for that.
With homosexual activity and even heterosexual activity, there comes a price if a couple chooses to have unprotected sex. There are many sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), but the major ones are Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, which all can be cured by antibiotics. Chlamydia and gonorrhea are critical to women because if they in fact do have any of these, they do not have any early stages of infections. Since they do not treat it on time, then it can lead to infertility.
Viral STDs include genital herpes, genital warts, and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), which cannot be cured. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the virus that causes AIDS. It attacks the immune system, and can cause cancer or other dysfunctions. In order to prevent spreading STDs one should avoid sex with multiple partners, and also use a latex condom with a spermicide.
With the growing rate of STDs nowadays, and the amount of television commercials informing teenagers and adults to practice safe sex and get tested for HIV or AIDS, I do not understand why people still have unsafe sex. It is not that difficult to “strap up” before “doing the deed” or “keep it in your pants,” that is unless you are prepared to have a child and have been tested along with your partner.
I have known many males and females who have had unprotected sex and regret ever doing so, a couple of which becoming pregnant. From their point of view, they feel lost because they cannot support their children and give them the attention they need in order to have a secure, fulfilling childhood.