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INTRODUCTION TO SOCIOLOGY

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Introduction

UNIVERSITY OF SUNDERLAND SCHOOL OF HEALTH, NATURAL AND SOCIAL SCIENCES SOC 101 INTRODUCTION TO SOCIOLOGY MODULE LEADER: Dr CHERRIE STUBBS ASSIGNMENT 3 QUESTION 2: HOW COULD YOU ARGUE THAT OUR UNDERSTANDING OF SEXUALITY AND GENDER IS LINKED TO OUR UNDERSTANDING OF FAMILY FORMATIONS. STUDENT: JENNIFER GARTLAND NO: 032805136 The investigations in the determinants of gender and sexuality are ongoing; some are biologically orientated while others believe that they are socially constructed. This essay will discuss the idea that our understanding of sexuality and gender is linked to our understanding of family formations. It will highlight the diversities and the relationships of sexuality, gender and the family. It will also draw attention to the theory of how gender is biologically determined and fixed and the family has no influence on gender, but on the other hand the belief that gender is socially constructed, fluid and subject to change and we have to learn gender through processes such as the family. Sexuality will also be addressed and how heterosexuality and the need for a family shaped and still shape societies norms about sexual preference. Gender is defined in the Collins English Dictionary (2003) as 'state of being male or female'. Sociologists would argue that it is not so easily defined and that the origins of gender are constantly being investigated. Biological determinists attach biological characteristics to gender differences (Bilton et al, 2002: 132; Giddens 1998: 91). ...read more.

Middle

Although Lorber (1994 cited in Giddens 1998: 100) identifies as many as ten different sexualities such as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, transvestite and transsexual for both men and women. Furthermore sexuality varies across different cultures, heterosexuality, which is predominant in western culture, is not necessarily the norm in other cultures such as the Batak people of northern Sumatra where homosexuality is commonly seen and openly permitted (Giddens 1998: 105). Although heterosexuality is dominant in contemporary Western societies its impact, like gender, differs between men and women (Bilton et al 2002: 154). Bilton et al (2002: 154) states that 'Sexual activity, even promiscuity, is seen as tolerable and admirable in boys, while-except in the context of love and domesticity- an active sexual life brings girls into disrepute'. Sexuality influences the way we dress and the way we act combined in a way we like people to perceive us. This can certainly be said for females who, as Rich (1984, cited in Bilton et al 2002: 155) states, '...place men at the centre of their lives', and want to 'attract' them. Both sexuality and gender have considerable influences from culture. Many diversities of sociology argue that sexuality and gender are socially constructed and that biological definitions are only used to discriminate between the sexes. Society plays a highly defining role in shaping who we all are. ...read more.

Conclusion

Using psychoanalytical approach, Chodorow (1978) explains gender in relation to the attachment and the subsequent breaking of this attachment to the mother (Bilton et al 2002: 127; Giddens 1998: 98). She explains how this happens differently for boys and girls. The attachment between girls and their mother is gradually 'eased off' and not completely broken; they remain close emotionally and physically (still able to hug and kiss). Chodorow identifies that this heightens femininity traits, such as sensitivity, emotional compassion and ability for childcare. Whereas for boys the attachment is broken as a means of the boys repressing the feminine aspects of themselves and taking hold of their masculinities. Chodorow argues that this explains men's inability at expressing emotion and in relating closely to others (ibid). She also suggests that it is this form of gender identity that is the cause of the 'sexual division of labour' and that 'women are subordinated through this division' (Muncie et al 1995: 273). The family is seen as a place of gender socialisation and gender inequality. There is only room for one sexuality in the traditional sense of the family although it has been identified that many types of sexualities exist. Family is not the only factor to influence sexuality and gender and family formations are themselves greatly shaped by society and the norms and values of the current time. This essay has identified the biological determinants, social and cultural determinants and psychoanalytical approaches to gender development and sexuality. It has shown that neither is exclusive and all have valuable points. ...read more.

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