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Critically discuss evolutionary perspectives on essential gender differences and human sexuality

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Introduction

Critically discuss evolutionary perspectives on essential gender differences and human sexuality Gender and sexual behaviour are the most common "arenas" for a battle between essentialists and social constructionists' stance. Are the gender differences and sexuality biologically predetermined or they are socially constructed phenomena? The stand point taken by Essentialism implies that certain phenomena are natural, inevitable, universal and biologically determined (Irvine, 1990 in DeLamater and Hyde, 1998). Berger & Luckmann (1966) stated that sexuality is "grounded in biological drives", thus our sexual behaviour is driven by those drives (DeLamater & Hyde, 1998). The opposing camp, social constructionist stance argues that "reality is socially constructed" (Berger & Luckmann, 1996 in DeLamater & Hyde, 1998, p 13). According to Gagnon & Simon (1990) sexuality is created by culture and varies through history and cultures (Delamater & Hyde 1998). Perhaps, sexuality is the reason for existence of two genders (Oliver & Hyde in Baumeister, 2001). Socio-biological theories argue that what shapes human sexual behaviour is the reproductive success. Hence, the tolerance (or approval) from society towards male or female sexual behaviour lays in biology. Trivers (1972) explains why society tolerates male promiscuity, but disapproves female promiscuity as following (Baumeister, 2001). Because of the unlimited sperm and very limited egg production, it makes sense from the evolutionary perspective that male tries to inseminate numerous females, while females should be careful when choosing a male to inseminate her precious egg. ...read more.

Middle

Michel (1966) used principal o social learning theories to explain gender roles and gender differences in behaviour ( Baumeister, 2001). Our behaviour is formed by appraisal for gender roles consistent behaviour and by ignorance and punishment for gender role inconsistent behaviour, which consequently lessen in frequency (Baumeister, 2001). Also, children imitate behaviour of adults, for example, boys learn heterosexual behaviour which emphasises masculinity in male-dominant societies is rewarded, while girls learn that promiscuous behaviour is punish by labelling of sexually free women as "sluts" (Segal in Squire, 2000). The changes over time on behavioural patterns of society are accounted to other sources, such as media. People imitate behavioural patterns of their role-models and what was a desirable behaviour at some moment in the past is no more at the present. Daly & Wilson's (1988) theory of male violence and homicide states that according to the notion of "kin selection" a co-operative and caring behaviour is exhibited towards those who are genetically related. The theory gives and explanation why is it more likely that husband would murder their wives, than their biological children. But, the theory does not explain why the reported violence "in the US and Britain" against women frequently starts when the woman is pregnant with a man's child (Squire, 2000). Essentialists argue that sexuality is determined by biology and the support for those claims come from genetic studies. ...read more.

Conclusion

The Mundugumors lived in the harsher climate; therefore they culturally built up the behaviours which are the result of environmental predisposition, i.e. local adaptation. Each society has different "things" to adapt to. Whilst not trying to present essentialist's stance and their theories invalid and unsound, social constructionists argue that gender cannot be differentiated only through biology but should be defined by "interaction between people by language and by discourse of a culture" (DeLamater & Hyde, 1998, p 16). Biologically we are constrained (humans cannot fly), but nevertheless our brains have evolved and out thinking allows us freedom away from our biological constrain. Why we behaved and how we behave, it all starts from biological nationalism, from modern literature such as "Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus" by Gray (1990) and similar self-help "educational" literature and blinds the issues of power and oppression of one sex by another (Potts, 2002). Culture does influence our reproduction, as Sperling & Beyene (1997) pointed out that "there is no universal biological pattern for the female reproductive cycle" (Segal in Squire, 2001, p 40). In the Western societies women's adulatory cycle is approximately thirty-five years, while in underdeveloped societies the reproductive cycle is four years, showing the difference of thirty-one years. This refuted the essentialist's views that "biology is destiny". Reproduction and sexuality are not the same entity, ninety-nine per cent of the time our sexual activities are not of a reproductive nature. ...read more.

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