Chapter 12. Gender, Sex, and Sexuality

Chapter 12 Resources and Activities

Key Terms

bifurcated consciousness: The experience of a division between the directly lived, bodily world of women’s lives and the dominant, masculine, abstract, institutional world to which they must adapt.

binary opposition: Deep and structures of language that take the form of paired terms and carry opposed or opposite meanings.

cisgender: A term that refers to individuals whose gender identity matches the gender and sex they were assigned at birth.

compulsory heterosexuality: A social condition in which heteronormativity is enforced by formal and informal measures that encourage heterosexuality and penalize sexual variation.

doing gender: The way people perform tasks based on assigned gender scripts and gendered feedback from significant others.

dominant gender schema: An ideological framework that states that there are only two possible sexes, male and female, and two possible genders, masculine and feminine.

double exploitation of women: Women are doubly exploited in capitalist society when they work outside the home for wages and within the home as unpaid domestic labour.

double standard: A concept that prohibits premarital sexual intercourse for women, but allows it for men.

emphasized femininity: The dominant styles of femininity, which express women’s subordination to men within a particular culture at a particular time.

gender: A term that refers to social or cultural distinctions of behaviours that are considered male or female.

gender-based violence: Harmful acts directed at an individual based on their gender.

gender dysphoria: A psychiatric classification describing persons experiencing a strong and persistent incongruity between their anatomy (their sex) and the gender with which they identify.

gender identity: An individual’s sense of being either masculine or feminine.

gender role: Society’s concept of how men and women should behave.

gendered sexuality: Sexual orientation which takes into account both sexes and genders of people.

glass ceiling: An invisible barrier that prevents women from achieving positions of leadership.

hegemonic masculinity: The dominant male ideal within a particular culture at a particular time.

heteronormativity: The belief and practice that heterosexuality is the only normal sexual orientation.

homophobia: An extreme or irrational aversion to homosexuals.

intersex:  Individuals with a mixture of male and female sexual organs or physical characteristics.

intimate partner violence: Emotional, sexual and physical violence by one intimate partner against another.

LGBTQ2+:  Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, two spirited and other minority sexualities.

machismo: A style of masculinity characterized as virile, aggressive, intransigent, and hyper-masculine.

pariah femininity: A type of femininity, often stigmatized, defined by non-compliance with male domination.

pleasure principle: The principle that individuals are guided by instinctual drives for immediate gratification.

postgenderism: The idea of a society in which sex and gender distinctions no longer matter.

queer theory: A scholarly discipline that questions fixed (normative) definitions of gender and sexuality.

reality principle: The principle that individuals must regulate instinctual drives for gratification according to the reality of the restrictions, rules and moral codes of the social order.

sex: A term that denotes the presence of physical or physiological differences between males and females.

sexism: The prejudiced belief that one sex should be valued over another.

sexuality: A person’s capacity for sexual feelings and the orientation of their emotional and sexual attraction to a particular sex (male or female).

socialization: The process wherein people come to understand societal norms and expectations, to accept society’s beliefs, and to be aware of societal values.

stereotypes: Oversimplified ideas about groups of people.

transgender: A term that refers to individuals who identify with the behaviours and characteristics that are the opposite of their biological sex.

transsex: Transgender individuals who alter their bodies through medical interventions such as surgery and hormonal therapy.

Section Summary

12.1 The Difference between Sex, Gender, and Sexuality
The terms “sex” and “gender” refer to two different identifiers. 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 transgender.

12.2 Gender and Society
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.

12.3 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.


Quiz: Gender, Sex, and Sexuality

12.1 The Difference between Sex, Gender, and Sexuality

  1. The terms “masculine” and “feminine” refer to a person’s                              .
    1. Sex.
    2. Gender.
    3. Both sex and gender.
    4. None of the above.
  2.                                is/are an individual’s self-conception of being male or female based on their association with masculine or feminine gender roles.
    1. Gender identity
    2. Gender bias
    3. Sexual orientation
    4. Sexual attitudes
  3. Research indicates that individuals are aware of their sexual orientation                              .
    1. At infancy.
    2. In early adolescence.
    3. In early adulthood.
    4. In late adulthood.
  4. A person who is biologically female but identifies with the male gender and has undergone surgery to alter her body is considered                              .
    1. Transgender.
    2. Transsex.
    3. A cross-dresser.
    4. Homosexual.
  5. Which of following is correct regarding the explanation for transgenderism?
    1. It is strictly biological and associated with chemical imbalances in the brain.
    2. It is a behaviour that is learned through socializing with other transgender individuals.
    3. It is genetic and usually skips one generation.
    4. Currently, there is no definitive explanation for transgenderism.

12.2 Gender and Society

  1. Which of the following is the best example of a gender stereotype?
    1. Women are typically shorter than men.
    2. Men do not live as long as women.
    3. Women tend to be overly emotional, while men tend to be level-headed.
    4. Men hold more high-earning, leadership jobs than women.
  2. Which of the following is the best example of the role peers play as an agent of socialization for school-aged children?
    1. Children can act however they wish around their peers because children are unaware of gender roles.
    2. Peers serve as a support system for children who wish to act outside of their assigned gender roles.
    3. Peers tend to reinforce gender roles by criticizing and marginalizing those who behave outside of their assigned roles.
    4. None of the above.
  3. To which theoretical perspective does the following statement most likely apply: Women continue to assume the responsibility in the household along with a paid occupation because it keeps the household running smoothly (i.e., in a state of balance)?
    1. Conflict theory
    2. Functionalism
    3. Feminist theory
    4. Symbolic interactionism
  4. Only women are affected by gender stratification.
    1. True
    2. False
  5. According to the symbolic interactionist perspective, we “do gender”                              .
    1. During half of our activities.
    2. Only when it applies to our biological sex.
    3. Only if we are actively following gender roles.
    4. All of the time, in everything we do.

12.3 Sex and Sexuality

  1. What Western country is thought to be the most liberal in its attitudes toward sex?
    1. United States
    2. Sweden
    3. Mexico
    4. Ireland
  2. Compared to most Western societies, U.S. sexual attitudes are considered                              .
    1. Conservative.
    2. Liberal.
    3. Permissive.
    4. Free.
  3. Sociologists associate sexuality with                              .
    1. Heterosexuality.
    2. Homosexuality.
    3. Biological factors.
    4. A person’s capacity for sexual feelings.
  4. Which theoretical perspective stresses the importance of regulating sexual behaviour to ensure marital cohesion and family stability?
    1. Functionalism
    2. Conflict theory
    3. Symbolic interactionalism
    4. Queer theory

[Quiz answers at end of chapter]

Short Answer

12.1 The Difference between Sex, Gender, and Sexuality

  1. Why do sociologists find it important to differentiate between sex and gender? What importance does the differentiation have in modern society?
  2. How is children’s play influenced by gender roles? Think back to your childhood. How “gendered” were the toys and activities available to you? Do you remember gender expectations being conveyed through the approval or disapproval of your playtime choices?

12.2 Gender and Society

  1. In what way do parents treat sons and daughters differently? How do sons and daughters typically respond to this treatment?
  2. What can be done to lessen the effects of gender stratification in the workplace? How does gender stratification harm both men and women?

12.3 Sex and Sexuality

  1. Identify three examples of how Canadian society is heteronormative.
  2. Consider the types of derogatory labelling that sociologists study and explain how these might apply to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Further Research

12.1 The Difference between Sex, Gender, and Sexuality
For more information on gender identity and advocacy for transgender individuals see the Global Action for Trans Equality.

12.2 Gender and Society
For more gender-related statistics, see the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website and browse through to pictures like “gender and education” and “gender and health.” (Include quotation marks when searching.)


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Solutions to Section Quiz

1 B, | 2 A, | 3 B, | 4 B, | 5 D, | 6 C, | 7 C, | 8 B, | 9 B, | 10 D, | 11 B, | 12 A, | 13 D, | 14 A, [Return to Quiz]


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