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How do sociological perspectives on sexuality differ from biological explanations?

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Introduction

HOW DO SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES ON SEXUALITY DIFFER FROM BIOLOGICAL EXPLANATIONS? (Word Count: 1,811) 01/06/06 Human beings are first and foremost social entities that function within wider social units. The social unit in the family, peer, gender or wider social context provides security through its inclusion, its sense of 'belonging'. However, it also imposes its own set of rules upon an individual's behavior. Our current western culture theoretically values individuality to an unprecedented degree. Yet in any culture, including our own, a common set of values and 'normal' behavior patterns must be adhered to. Without these qualities social cohesion would not be possible. Within the context of our social environment we learn to 'role-play' the gender, personal and character traits with which we feel most comfortable. One of the most dynamic areas of social interaction is that of sexuality and sexual identification. We recognize certain character traits, behavior patterns, dress codes, body language and even language usage as 'feminine' or 'masculine'. But are these gender differences instinctive or socially acquired? Sociobiologists like Wilson (1975a) and Barash (1979) follow Darwin's footsteps who purports that there is a biological basis for gender-specific roles and that human sexuality and gender roles can be explained by their role in the reproduction cycle of our species. ...read more.

Middle

Yet Rose, Kamin and Lewontin have noted that 'the human infant is born with relatively few of its mental pathways committed'. Also, gender roles, sexual relations, gender values and even nuclear family cohesion are not homogenous across cultures. If the only factor governing our gender relations were biological in nature, then there would be no cultural divergence from the norm and yet we have numerous examples of non - homogeneity. If sex is motivated only by the underlying biological need, then it would follow that sex practices would not change and yet we see that amongst men and women the age of first copulation has changed over the last 50 years from 18 to 16 and 19 to 16 respectively (Juliet Richters & Chris Rissel, Deakin Uni. Reader, 'Sex in Australia', p.113). Sexual mores and standards are also changing from one generation to the next although the prevailing double standards affecting the two sexes remain (Susan M Jackson & Fiona Cram, Deakin Uni. Reader 'Disrupting the sexual double standard: heterosexuality' pp.113-114). Furthermore, work by anthropologists Malinowski, Benedict and Mead on the allocation of social and labor roles claim that 'there is no natural division on the basis of biological sex nor are all societies male dominated to the same degree'. ...read more.

Conclusion

No matter the influence that biology has on sexuality, it only has meaning and expression within social relationships. In fact, it seems that there is a current tendency in sociology to no longer focus on the argument of the extent to which gender roles are influenced by either biological or social factors, and to focus on marginalized groups. Postmodernism identified the active role-playing and continued identity remake that individuals engage in. The feminist movement drew attention to the specific nature of women within the social framework but then splintered into a number of specific groups representing different aspects of feminine thought. R.W. Connell (2005) has shown how the concept of masculinity has been transformed in the last few centuries because of historical social developments and splintered into a dominant and 'orderly' masculinity. Numerous essays on gay gender and sexual identity have been conducted with the same results, that in fact there is no one 'gay gender' but in fact a variety of male homosexual forms. 'Levi-Strauss structured man in an Anthropological way by saying that man makes a passage between a natural and a cultural state by learning. In this passage man obeys laws he does not invent, rather it's a natural mechanism of the mind. Sociology, by virtue of its subject matter is an ever-expanding discipline and will no doubt diatribe on new gender and social phenomena as they emerge' (http://www.cs.oswego.edu/~blue/hx/courses/cogsci1/s2001/section05/subsection7/main.html). ...read more.

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