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110 CHAPTER 5
Male and Female, Masculine and Feminine
What is the difference between sex and gender?
What is the relationship between gender identity and gender role?
Gender-Identity Formation
Is our sense of being male or female based more on biological
factors or on social learning?
What is the best treatment strategy for intersexed children who are
born with an ambiguous mixture of male and female external genitals?
Transsexualism and Transgenderism
What causes transsexualism, and how is this condition
distinguishable from transgenderism?
What is the relationship between variant gender identity and sexual
orientation?
Gender Role
What are the relative inuences of parents, peers, schools,
textbooks, television, and religion on the socialization of
gender roles?
How do gender-role expectations affect our sexuality?
Transcending Gender Roles: Androgyny
What behavioral traits are expressed by androgynous men
and women?
Is androgyny an ideal state, free of potential problems?
How does androgyny inuence sexuality?
110
AP Photo/Lennox McLendon
5
Gender Issues
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Gender Issues111 111
I was taught early on what appropriate gender behavior was. I remember
thinking how unfair it was that I had to do weekly cleaning duties while all my
brother had to do was take out the garbage. When I asked my mom why, she
said, “Because he is a boy and that is mans work, and you are a girl and you do
woman’s work.” (Authors’ les)
Among the residents of a small island near New Guinea, awareness of gender-appropriate
behavior, as described in the preceding anecdote, is virtually nonexistent. Research by
anthropologist Maria Lepowsky (1994) revealed that inhabitants of Vanatinai Island,
known locally as the motherland, behave in a truly gender-egalitarian manner. Men and
women are considered equal, and there are no separate gender ideologies in this culture.
Women have the same access as men to power and prestige. Both sexes are involved
in important decision making, and both appear to enjoy the same freedom to explore
their sexuality. Furthermore, the Vanatinai language contains no feminine or masculine
pronouns. This pronounced difference between egalitarian roles for men and women in
Vanatinai society and gender-based behavior expectations that predominate in Ameri-
can culture raises certain fundamental questions: What constitutes maleness and female-
ness? How can the expectations and assumptions for each sex differ so greatly from one
society to another? If some gender-related behaviors are learned, do any of the behavioral
differences between men and women have a biological basis? How do gender-role expec-
tations affect sexual interactions? These are questions that we will address in this chapter.
Male and Female, Masculine and Feminine
Through the ages people have held to the belief that we are born males or females and
just naturally grow up doing what men or women do. The only explanation required
has been a reference to nature taking its course. This viewpoint has a simplicity that
helps make the world seem like an orderly place. However, closer examination reveals
a much greater complexity in the way our maleness or femaleness is determined and in
the way our behavior, sexual and otherwise, is influenced by this aspect of our identity.
This fascinating complexity is our focus in the pages that follow. But first it will be
helpful to clarify a few important terms.
Sex and Gender
Many writers use the terms sex and gender interchangeably. However, each word has
a specific meaning. Sex refers to our biological femaleness or maleness. There are two
aspects of biological sex: genetic sex, which is determined by our sex chromosomes,
and anatomical sex, the obvious physical differences between males and females. Gen-
der is a term or concept that encompasses the behaviors, socially constructed roles,
and psychological attributes commonly associated with being male or female. Thus,
although our sex is linked to various physical attributes (chromosomes, penis, vulva,
and so forth), our gender refers to the psychological and sociocultural characteristics
associated with our sex—in other words, our femininity or masculinity. In this chapter
we use the terms masculine and feminine to characterize the behaviors that are typically
attributed to males and females. One undesirable aspect of these labels is that they
can limit the range of behaviors that people are comfortable expressing. For example, a
man might hesitate to be nurturing lest he be labeled feminine, and a woman might be
reticent to act assertively for fear of being considered masculine. It is not our intention
sex
Biological maleness and femaleness.
gender
The psychological and sociocultural
characteristics associated with our sex.
Gender Issues
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112 CHAPTER 5
to perpetuate the stereotypes often associated with these labels. However, we find it
necessary to use these terms when discussing gender issues.
When we meet people for the rst time, most of us quickly note their sex and make
assumptions about how they are likely to behave based on their maleness or femaleness.
ese are gender assumptions. For most people gender assumptions are an important
part of routine social interaction. We identify people as being either the same sex as we
are or the other sex. (We have avoided using the term opposite sex because we believe it
overstates the dierences between males and females.) In fact, many of us nd it hard to
interact with a person whose gender is ambiguous. When we are unsure of our identi-
cation of someone’s gender, we may become confused and uncomfortable.
Gender Identity and Gender Role
Gender identity refers to each individual’s personal, subjective sense of being male or
female. Most of us realize in the first few years of life that we are either male or female.
However, there is no guarantee that a persons gender identity will be consistent with
his or her biological sex, and some people experience considerable confusion in their
efforts to identify their own maleness or femaleness. We will look into this area in more
detail later in this chapter.
Gender role (sometimes called sex role) refers to a collection of attitudes and behav-
iors that are considered normal and appropriate in a specic culture for people of a
particular sex. Gender roles establish sex-related behavioral expectations that people
are expected to fulll. Behavior thought to be socially appropriate for a male is called
masculine; for a female, feminine. When we use the terms masculine and feminine in
subsequent discussions, we are referring to these socialized notions.
Gender-role expectations are culturally dened and vary from society to society. For
example, a kiss on the cheek is considered a feminine act and therefore inappropriate
between men in American society. In contrast, such behavior is consistent with mascu-
line role expectations in many European and Middle Eastern societies.
Gender-Identity Formation
Like the knowledge that we have a particular color hair
or eyes, gender is an aspect of our identity that most
people take for granted. Certainly, gender identity usu-
ally—but not always—comes with the territory of hav-
ing certain biological parts. But there is more to it than
simply looking like a female or a male. As we will see
in the following paragraphs, the question of how we
come to think of ourselves as either male or female has
two answers. The first explanation centers on biologi-
cal processes that begin shortly after conception and are
completed before birth. But a second important expla-
nation has to do with social-learning theory, which looks
to cultural influences during early childhood to explain
both the nuances of gender identity and the personal
significance of being either male or female. We explore
first the biological processes involved in gender-identity
formation, summarized in
Table 5.1.
Do you believe that traditional American
interpretations of femininity and masculinity
have beneted American culture? Have both
sexes beneted equally? In what behavioral
area(s) do you see the most noteworthy
changes?
Critical Thinking Question
gender assumptions
Assumptions about how people are
likely to behave based on their male-
ness or femaleness.
gender identity
How one psychologically perceives
oneself as either male or female.
gender role
A collection of attitudes and behav-
iors that a specic culture considers
normal and appropriate for people of
a particular biological sex.
Gender role expectations may vary widely in other
cultures as evidenced by this photo of two
Arab men
greeting each other with a kiss.
© Annie Griffiths Belt/Corbis
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Gender Issues113 113
Gender Identity as a Biological Process:
Typical Prenatal Differentiation
From the moment of conception many biological factors contribute to the differentia-
tion of male or female sex. In the following paragraphs, we explore how biological sex
differentiation occurs during prenatal development. Our discussion follows a chrono-
logical sequence. We begin at conception, looking at chromosomal differences between
male and female, and then continue with the development of gonads, the production
of hormones, the development of internal and external reproductive structures, and,
finally, sex differentiation of the brain.
At a Glance
TABLE 5.1 Gender Identity as a Biological Process—Typical Prenatal Differentiation
Characteristic Female Male
Chromosomal sex XX XY
Gonadal sex Ovaries Testes
Hormonal sex Estrogens
Progestational compounds
Androgens
Internal
reproductive
structures
Fallopian tubes
Uterus
Inner portions of vagina
Vas deferens
Seminal vesicles
Ejaculatory ducts
External genitals Clitoris
Inner vaginal lips
Outer vaginal lips
Penis
Scrotum
Sex differentiation
of the brain
Hypothalamus becomes estrogen sensitive,
inuencing cyclic release of hormones.
Two hypothalamic areas are smaller in the
female brain
Cerebral cortex of right hemisphere is thinner in
the female brain.
Corpus callosum is thicker in the female brain.
Less lateralization of function in the female brain
compared to the male brain.
Estrogen-insensitive male hypothalamus directs
steady production of hormones.
Two hypothalamic areas are larger in the male
brain.
Cerebral cortex of right hemisphere is thicker in the
male brain.
Corpus callosum is thinner in the male brain.
More lateralization of function in the male brain
compared to the female brain.
Figure 5.1 Human cells contain 22 pairs of
matched autosomes and 1 pair of sex chromo-
somes. A normal female has two X chromo-
somes, and a normal male has an X and a Y
chromosome.
© Custom Medical Stock Photo
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114 CHAPTER 5
Chromosomal Sex
Our biological sex is determined at conception by the chromosomal makeup of the
sperm (male reproductive cell) that fertilizes an ovum, or egg (female reproductive
cell). Except for the reproductive cells, human body cells contain 46 chromosomes,
arranged in 23 pairs (see
Figure 5.1). Twenty-two of these pairs are matched; that
is, the two chromosomes of each pair look almost identical. These matched sets, called
autosomes (AW-tuh-sohmes), are the same in males and females and do not signifi-
cantly influence sex differentiation. One chromosome pair, however—the sex chromo-
somes—differs in females from that in males. Females have two similar chromosomes,
labeled XX, whereas males have dissimilar chromosomes, labeled XY.
As noted, the reproductive cells are an exception to the 23-pair rule. As a result of a
biological process known as meiosis, mature reproductive cells contain only half the usual
complement of chromosomes—one member of each pair. (is process is necessary to
avoid doubling the chromosome total when sex cells merge at conception.) A normal
female ovum (or egg) contains 22 autosomes plus an X chromosome. A normal male
sperm cell contains 22 autosomes plus either an X or a Y chromosome. If the ovum is fer-
tilized by a sperm carrying a Y chromosome, the resulting XY combination will produce
a male child. In contrast, if an X-chromosome–bearing sperm fertilizes the ovum, the
result will be an XX combination and a female child. Two X chromosomes are necessary
for internal and external female structures to develop completely. But if one Y chromo-
some is present, male sexual and reproductive organs will develop (Harley et al., 1992).
Researchers have located a single gene on the short arm of the human Y chromo-
some that seems to play a crucial role in initiating the sequence of events that leads to
the development of the male gonads, or testes. is maleness-determining gene is called
SRY (Marchina et al., 2009; Nishi et al., 2011).
Findings from a study conducted by scientists from Italy and the United States
suggest that a gene or genes for femaleness also exist. ese researchers studied four
cases of chromosomal males with feminized external genitals. All these individuals were
found to have XY chromosomes and a working SRY (maleness) gene. ree of the four
individuals exhibited clearly identiable female external genitals; the fourth had ambig-
uous genitals. If the maleness gene was the dominant determinant of biological sex, the
external genitals of these individuals would have developed in a typical male pattern.
What, then, triggered this variation from the expected developmental sequence? Exami-
nation of these individuals DNA revealed that a tiny bit of genetic material on the short
arm of the X chromosome had been duplicated. As a result, each of the subjects had a
double dose of a gene designated as DSS. is condition resulted in feminization of an
otherwise chromosomally normal male fetus (Bardoni et al., 1994).
ese ndings suggest that a gene (or genes) on the X chromosome helps to push
the undierentiated gonads in a female direction just as the SRY gene helps to start
construction of male sex structures. Such observations contradict the long-held belief
that the human fetus is inherently female and that, unlike male prenatal dierentiation,
no gene triggers are necessary for female dierentiation.
Gonadal Sex
In the first weeks after conception the structures that will become the reproductive
organs, or gonads, are the same in males and females (see
Figure 5.2a). Differentiation
begins about 6 weeks after conception. Genetic signals determine whether the mass of
undifferentiated sexual tissue develops into male or female gonads (Dragowski et al.,
2011; Wilhelm et al., 2007). At this time an SRY gene product (or products) in a male
fetus triggers the transformation of embryonic gonads into testes. In the absence of SRY,
testes
Male gonads inside the scrotum that
produce sperm and sex hormones.
gonads
The male and female sex glands:
ovaries and testes.
sperm
The male reproductive cell.
ovum
The female reproductive cell.
autosomes
The 22 pairs of human chromosomes
that do not signicantly inuence sex
differentiation.
sex chromosomes
A single set of chromosomes
that inuences biological sex
determination.
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Gender Issues115 115
and perhaps under the influence of the DSS or other femaleness gene, the undifferenti-
ated gonadal tissue develops into ovaries (see
Figure 5.2b; Dragowski et al., 2011).
Once the testes or ovaries develop, these gonads begin releasing their own sex hor-
mones. As we will see next, these hormones become the critical factor in further sex
dierentiation, and genetic inuence ceases.
Hormonal Sex
The gonads produce hormones and secrete them directly into the bloodstream. Ova-
ries produce two classes of hormones: estrogens (ES-troh-jens) and progestational
compounds. Estrogens, the most important of which is estradiol, influence the devel-
opment of female physical sex characteristics and help regulate the menstrual cycle. Of
the progestational compounds, only progesterone is known to be physiologically impor-
tant. It helps to regulate the menstrual cycle and to stimulate development of the uter-
ine lining in preparation for pregnancy. The primary hormone products of the testes
are androgens (AN-droh-jens). The most important androgen is testosterone, which
influences the development of male physical sex characteristics and sexual motivation
in both sexes. In both sexes the adrenal glands also secrete sex hormones, including
small amounts of estrogen and greater quantities of androgen.
Sex of the Internal Reproductive Structures
By about 8 weeks after conception the sex hormones begin to play an important role
in sex differentiation. The two duct systems shown in Figure 5.2a—the Wolffian ducts
and the Müllerian ducts—begin to differentiate into those internal structures shown in
Figure 5.2b. In a male fetus, androgens secreted by the testes stimulate the Wolffian
ducts to develop into the vas deferens, seminal vesicles, and ejaculatory ducts. Another
substance released by the testes is known as Müllerian-inhibiting substance (MIS). MIS
causes the Müllerian duct system to shrink and disappear in males (Wilhelm et al.,
2007). In the absence of androgens the fetus develops female structures (Clarnette et
al., 1997). The Müllerian ducts develop into the fallopian tubes, the uterus, and the
inner third of the vagina, and the Wolffian duct system degenerates.
Gonad
Wolffian
duct
Urethra
Ejaculatory
duct
Seminal
vesicle
Fallopian
tube
Male Female
Prostate
Vas
deferens
(testis) Gonad (ovary)
Epididymis
(Cowpers) Glands (Bartholin’s)Vestibule
Urethra
Vagina
Uterus
Müllerian
duct
Origin of prostate
or Skene’s ducts
Origin of Cowper’s
or Bartholin’s glands
(a)
Undifferentiated
(b)
Differentiated
Figure 5.2 Prenatal development of male and female internal duct systems from (a) undifferentiated (before 6th week)
to (b) differentiated.
ovaries
Female gonads that produce ova and
sex hormones.
estrogens
A class of hormones that produce
female secondary sex characteristics
and affect the menstrual cycle.
progestational compounds
A class of hormones, including pro-
gesterone, that are produced by the
ovaries.
androgens
A class of hormones that promote the
development of male genitals and
secondary sex characteristics and
inuence sexual motivation in both
sexes. These hormones are produced
by the adrenal glands in males and
females and by the testes in males.
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116 CHAPTER 5
Sex of the External Genitals
The external genitals develop according to a similar pattern. Until the gonads begin
releasing hormones during the 6th week, the external genital tissues of male and female
fetuses are undifferentiated (
Figure 5.3). These tissues will develop into either male
or female external genitals, depending on the presence or absence of a testosterone
product known as dihydrotestosterone (DHT; Hotchkiss et al., 2008). DHT stimulates
the labioscrotal swelling to become the scrotum and the genital tubercle and genital folds
to differentiate into the glans and shaft of the penis, respectively. The genital folds fuse
around the urethra to form the shaft of the penis, and the two sides of the labioscrotal
swelling fuse to form the scrotum; these fusions do not occur in females. In the absence
of testosterone (and possibly under the influence of a substance or substances triggered
by the DSS, or femaleness gene), the genital tubercle becomes the clitoris, the genital
folds become the inner vaginal lips (labia minora), and the two sides of the labioscrotal
swelling differentiate into the outer vaginal lips (labia majora). By the 12th week the
differentiation process is complete: The penis and scrotum are recognizable in males;
the clitoris and labia can be identified in females.
Because the external genitals, gonads, and some internal structures of males and females
originate from the same embryonic tissues, it is not surprising that they have correspond-
ing, or homologous, parts.
Table 5.2 summarizes these female and male counterparts.
Undifferentiated before sixth week
Seventh to eighth week
Genital tubercle
Urethral fold
Urethral groove
Genital fold
Anal pit
Glans
Area where foreskin (prepuce) forms
Urethral fold
Urogenital groove
Genital fold (becomes
shaft of penis or labia minora)
Labioscrotal swelling
(becomes scrotum or labia majora)
Anus
Male Female
Fully developed by twelfth week
Prepuce
Urethral
opening
(meatus)
Urethral opening
(meatus)
Vaginal
opening
(Penis) Glans (Clitoris)
(Penis) Shaft (Clitoris)
Labia minora
Scrotum Labia majora
Anus
Male Female
Figure 5.3 Prenatal development
of male and female external geni-
tals from undifferentiated to fully
differentiated.
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Gender Issues117 117
Sex Differentiation of the Brain
Important structural and functional differences in the brains
of human females and males are in part a result of prenatal sex-
differentiation processes (Becker et al., 2008; Hines, 2004; Mccar-
thy et al., 2011). Many areas of the developing prenatal brain are
significantly affected by circulating hormones (both testosterone
and estrogen), which contribute to the development of these sex
differences (Hines, 2004; Zuloaga et al., 2008).
At the broadest level, there is a signicant sex dierence in overall
brain size. By age 6, when human brains reach full adult size, male
brains are approximately 15% larger than female brains (Gibbons,
1991). Researchers believe that this size dierence results from the inuence of andro-
gens, which stimulate faster growth in boys brains (Wilson, 2003). Other specic human
brain sex dierences involve at least three major areas: the hypothalamus (hy-poh-THAL-
uh-mus), the left and right cerebral hemispheres, and the corpus callosum (
Figure 5.4).
A number of studies link marked dierences between the male and female
hypothalamus to the presence or absence of circulating testosterone during prenatal
dierentiation (McEwen, 2001; Reiner, 1997a, 1997b). In the absence of circulating
testosterone, the female hypothalamus develops specialized receptor cells that are sensi-
tive to estrogen in the bloodstream. In fetal males the presence of testosterone prevents
these cells from developing sensitivity to estrogen. is prenatal dierentiation is criti-
cal for events that take place later. During puberty the estrogen-sensitive female hypo-
thalamus directs the pituitary gland to release hormones in cyclic fashion, initiating
the menstrual cycle. In males the estrogen-insensitive hypothalamus directs a relatively
steady production of sex hormones.
Research has uncovered several intriguing ndings pertaining to sex dierences in
one tiny hypothalamic region called the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BST) (Chung
et al., 2002; Gu et al., 2003). e BST contains androgen and estrogen receptors and
appears to exert a signicant inuence on human sex dierences and human sexual func-
tioning. One central area of the BST is much larger in men than in women (Zhou et al.,
1995), and a posterior region of the BST is more than twice as large in men as in women
TABLE 5.2 Homologous Sex Organs
Female Male
Clitoris Glans of penis
Hood of clitoris Foreskin of penis
Labia minora Shaft of penis
Labia majora Scrotal sac
Ovaries Testes
Skene’s ducts Prostate gland
Bartholins glands Cowpers glands
Cerebral cortexCorpus callosum
Pituitary
Hypothalamus
Left cerebral
hemisphere
Front
Right cerebral
hemisphere
(a) (b)
Figure 5.4 Parts of the brain: (a) cross section of the human brain showing the cerebral cortex, corpus callosum, hypothalamus,
and pituitary gland; (b) top view showing the left and right cerebral hemispheres. Only the cerebral cortex covering of the two
hemispheres is visible.
hypothalamus
A small structure in the central core
of the brain that controls the pituitary
gland and regulates motivated behav-
ior and emotional expression.
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118 CHAPTER 5
(Allen & Gorski, 1990). Researchers have also reported sex dierences in an anterior
region of the hypothalamus, called the preoptic area (POA). One specic site in the POA
is signicantly larger in adult men than in adult women (Swaab et al., 1995). Evidence
from these and other studies has led some theorists to hypothesize that sex dierences in
both human sexual behavior and gender-based behavior in children and adults result, in
part, from a generalized sex-hormone–induced masculinization or feminization of the
brain during prenatal development (Cohen-Kettenis, 2005; Mathews et al., 2009).
Other key dierences between male and female brains have been demonstrated in
the function and structure of the cerebral hemispheres and the corpus callosum. e
cerebrum, consisting of two cerebral hemispheres and the interconnection between
them, is the largest part of the human brain. e two hemispheres, although not pre-
cisely identical, are almost mirror images of each other (see Figure 5.4b). Both cerebral
hemispheres are covered by an outer layer, called the cerebral cortex, which is a major
brain structure responsible for higher mental processes, such as memory, perception, and
thinking. Without a cortex we would cease to exist as unique, functioning individuals.
As Figure 5.4b illustrates, the two hemispheres are approximately symmetric, with
areas on the left side roughly matched by areas on the right side. A variety of functions,
such as speech, hearing, vision, and body movement, are localized in various regions of the
cortical hemispheres. Furthermore, each hemisphere tends to be specialized for certain
functions. For example, in most people verbal abilities, such as the expression and under-
standing of speech, are governed more by the left hemisphere than by the right. In con-
trast, the right hemisphere seems to be more specialized for spatial orientation, including
the ability to recognize objects and shapes and to perceive relationships between them.
e term lateralization of function is used to describe the degree to which a particular
function is controlled by one rather than both hemispheres. If, for example, a persons abil-
ity to deal with spatial tasks is controlled exclusively by the right hemisphere, we could say
that this ability in this person is highly lateralized. In contrast, if both hemispheres con-
tribute equally to this function, the person would be considered bilateral for spatial ability.
Even though each cerebral hemisphere tends to be specialized to handle dierent
functions, the hemispheres are not entirely separate systems. Rather, our brain func-
tions mostly as an integrated whole. e two hemispheres constantly communicate
with each other through a broad band of millions of connecting nerve bers, called
the corpus callosum (see Figure 5.4a) (Smith et al., 2005). In most people a complex
function such as language is controlled primarily by regions in the left hemisphere, but
interaction and communication with the right hemisphere also play a role. Furthermore,
if a hemisphere primarily responsible for a particular function is damaged, the remain-
ing intact hemisphere might take over the function.
Keeping in mind this general overview of brain lateralization, we note that research
has revealed some important dierences between male and female brains in the structure
of the cerebrum. First, studies of the fetal brains of both humans and rats have found
that the cerebral cortex in the right hemisphere tends to be thicker in male brains than
in female brains (De Lacoste et al., 1990; Diamond, 1991). Perhaps of even greater sig-
nicance is the nding of dierences between male and female brains in the overall size
of the corpus callosum. Several studies have demonstrated that this structure is signi-
cantly thicker in womens brains than in mens brains (Smith et al., 2005). is greater
thickness of the corpus callosum allows for more intercommunication between the two
hemispheres, which could account for why female brains are less lateralized for function
and male brains have larger asymmetries in function (Savic & Lindstrom, 2008).
Research has clearly demonstrated dierences between male and female brains in the
degree of hemispheric specialization for a variety of cognitive tasks. One recent study found
signicant sex-linked dierences in neural activity among men and women as they judged
the aesthetic quality of artistic and natural visual stimuli. Brain activity was bilateral or
cerebrum
The largest part of the brain, consist-
ing of two cerebral hemispheres.
cerebral hemispheres
The two sides (right and left) of the
cerebrum.
cerebral cortex
Outer layer of the cerebral hemi-
spheres that is responsible for higher
mental processes.
corpus callosum
The broad band of nerve bers that
connects the left and right cerebral
hemispheres.
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Gender Issues119 119
symmetrical in the hemispheres of women exposed to stimuli they described as beautiful,
whereas in men aesthetically pleasing stimuli instigated neural activity lateralized in their
right hemispheres (Cela-Conde et al., 2009). Other research has demonstrated sex dif-
ferences in the degree of hemispheric specialization for verbal and spatial cognitive skills.
Women tend to use both brain hemispheres when performing verbal and spatial tasks,
whereas men are more likely to exhibit patterns of hemispheric asymmetry by using only
one hemisphere for each of these functions (Savic & Lindstrom, 2008; Wisniewski et al.,
2005). e stronger communication network between the two halves of a females brain
might explain why women typically exhibit less impairment of brain function than men do
after comparable neurological damage to one hemisphere (Majewska, 1996).
Researchers and theorists are debating whether these structural dierences between
male and female cerebrums can explain dierences between the sexes in cognitive func-
tioning. Females often score higher than males on tests of verbal skills, whereas the reverse
is often true for mathematics and spatial tests (Halpern & LaMay, 2000; Hetzner, 2010;
Nowak et al., 2011). Some researchers suggest that dierences between male and female
hemispheric and corpus callosum structures indicate a possible biological basis for such
dierences between the sexes in cognition (Geer & Manguno-Mire, 1997; Leibenluft,
1996). However, many theorists argue that reported dierences between males and
females in cognitive skills are largely due to psychosocial factors (Hyde, 2007; Kurtz-
Costes et al., 2008). is viewpoint is supported by substantial evidence that such dier-
ences have declined sharply or disappeared in recent years. Several major national studies
have reported few dierences in the science and mathematics skills of male and female
children and adolescents over the last three decades (Kurtz-Costes et al., 2008). A recent
National Science Foundation study found that girls had achieved parity with boys on
standardized math tests in every grade from 2 through 11 (Hyde, 2006). Another national
study found that girls perform as well as boys on state math tests (Hetzner, 2010). Nev-
ertheless, females are markedly less likely than males to enter math-intensive professional
occupations (e.g., engineering, computer sciences, and physics), a discrepancy that may
have more to do with factors related to parental child-rearing practices than to dierences
in cognitive skills (Barnett & Rivers, 2012; Ceci & Williams, 2011; Zakaib, 2011).
Finally, to put the question of sex dierences in proper perspective, we acknowledge
the informed observation of eminent psychologist Carol Tavris (2005), who stated that
the similarities between the sexes in behavior and aptitude are far greater than the dif-
ferences (p. 12).
Atypical Prenatal Differentiation
Thus far we have considered only typical prenatal differentiation. However, much of
what is known about the impact of biological sex differentiation on the development
of gender identities comes from studies of atypical differentiation.
We have seen that the dierentiation of internal and external sex structures occurs
under the inuence of biological cues. When these signals deviate from normal patterns,
the result can be ambiguous biological sex. A person with ambiguous or contradictory
sex characteristics is sometimes called a hermaphrodite (her-MAF-roh-dite), a term
derived from the mythical Greek deity Hermaphroditus, who was thought to possess
biological attributes of both sexes. It is becoming more common to refer to such people
as intersexed rather than as hermaphroditic (Gurney, 2007).
When discussing the condition of being intersexed, it is important to distinguish
between true hermaphrodites and pseudohermaphrodites. True hermaphrodites, who have
both ovarian and testicular tissue in their bodies, are exceedingly rare (Gurney, 2007).
eir external genitals are often a mixture of female and male structures. Pseudoher-
maphrodites are much more common, occurring with an approximate frequency of 1 in
intersexed
A term applied to people who possess
biological attributes of both sexes.
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120 CHAPTER 5
every 2,000 births (Colapinto, 2000). ese individuals also possess ambiguous internal
and external reproductive anatomy, but unlike true hermaphrodites, pseudohermaphro-
dites are born with gonads that match their chromosomal sex. Studies of pseudoher-
maphrodites have helped to clarify the relative roles of biology and social learning in the
formation of gender identity. is intersex condition can occur because of an atypical
combination of sex chromosomes or as a result of prenatal hormonal irregularities. In this
section, we consider evidence from ve varieties of pseudohermaphrodites, summarized
in
Table 5.3.
Sex-Chromosome Disorders
Errors occasionally occur at the first level of biological sex determination, and indi-
viduals are born with one or more extra sex chromosomes or missing one sex chromo-
some. More than 70 atypical conditions of the sex chromosomes have been identified.
These irregularities are associated with various physical, health, and behavioral effects.
We consider two of the most widely researched of these conditions: Turner’s syndrome
and Klinefelters syndrome.
Turner’s Syndrome Turner’s syndrome is a relatively rare condition characterized by
the presence of only one sex chromosome, an X (Knickmeyer et al., 2011; Rivkees et al.,
2011). This condition is estimated to occur in about 1 in every 2,500–3,000 live female
births (Morgan, 2007). The number of chromosomes in the fertilized egg is 45 rather
than the typical 46; the sex-chromosome combination is designated XO. People with
this combination develop normal external female genitals and consequently are classi-
fied as females. However, their internal reproductive structures do not develop fully;
ovaries are absent or represented only by fibrous streaks of tissue. Females with Turner’s
syndrome do not develop breasts at puberty (unless given hormone treatment), do not
menstruate, and are sterile. As adults, women with this condition tend to be unusually
short (Ross et al., 2011; Zeger et al., 2011).
Because the gonads are absent or poorly developed, and because the hormones are
consequently decient, Turner’s syndrome permits gender identity to be formed in
the absence of gonadal and hormonal inuences (the second and third levels of bio-
logical sex determination). Individuals with Turner’s syndrome identify themselves as
female, and as a group they are not distinguishable from biologically normal females
in their interests and behavior (Kagan-Krieger, 1998). is characteristic strongly
suggests that a feminine gender identity can be established in the absence of ovaries
and their products.
Klinefelter’s Syndrome A more common sex-chromosome error in humans is Kline-
felter’s syndrome. This condition, estimated to occur once in about every 1,000 live
male births (Intersex Society of North America, 2006), results when an atypical
ovum containing 22 autosomes and 2 X chromosomes is fertilized by a Y-chromo-
some–bearing sperm, creating an XXY individual. Despite the presence of both
the XY combination characteristic of normal males and the XX pattern of normal
females, individuals with Klinefelter’s syndrome are anatomically male. This condi-
tion supports the view that the presence of a Y chromosome triggers the forma-
tion of male structures. However, the presence of an extra female sex chromosome
impedes the continued development of these structures, and males with Klinefel-
ter’s syndrome typically are sterile and have undersized penises and testes. Further-
more, these individuals often have little or no interest in sexual activity (Money,
1968; Rabock et al., 1979). Presumably, this low sex drive is related, at least in part,
to deficient production of hormones from the testes.
Turner’s syndrome
A rare condition, characterized by the
presence of one unmatched X chro-
mosome (XO), in which affected indi-
viduals have normal female external
genitals but their internal reproductive
structures do not develop fully.
Klinefelter’s syndrome
A condition characterized by the
presence of two X chromosomes and
one Y chromosome (XXY) in which
affected individuals have undersized
external male genitals.
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Gender Issues121 121
At a Glance
TABLE 5.3 Examples of Atypical Prenatal Sex Differentiation
Syndrome Chromosomal
Sex
Gonadal Sex Reproductive
Internal
Structures
External Genitals Fertility Secondary Sex
Characteristics
Gender
Identity
Turner’s
Syndrome
45, XO Fibrous
streaks of
ovarian tissue
Uterus and
fallopian
tubes
Normal female Sterile Undeveloped;
no breasts
Female
Klinefelter’s
syndrome
47, XXY Small testes Normal male Undersized penis
and testes
Sterile Some femi-
nization of
secondary sex
characteristics;
may have breast
development
and rounded
body contours.
Usually male,
although
higher than
usual inci-
dence of gen-
der identity
confusion
Androgen
insensitivity
syndrome
46, XY Undescended
testes
Lacks a
normal set of
either male
or female
internal
structures
Normal female
genitals and a
shallow vagina
Sterile At puberty,
breast devel-
opment and
other signs of
normal female
sexual matura-
tion appear, but
menstruation
does not occur.
Female
Fetally
androgenized
females
46, XX Ovaries Normal
female
Ambiguous (typi-
cally more male
than female)
Fertile Normal female
(individuals
with adrenal
malfunction
must be treated
with corti-
sone to avoid
masculinization).
Usually
female, but
signicant
level of dis-
satisfaction
with female
gender iden-
tity; oriented
toward tradi-
tional male
activities.
DHTdeficient
males
46, XY Undescended
testes at
birth; testes
descend at
puberty
Vas defer-
ens, seminal
vesicles, and
ejaculatory
ducts but no
prostate; par-
tially formed
vagina
Ambiguous
at birth (more
female than
male); at puberty,
genitals are
masculinized.
Sterile Female before
puberty;
become mas-
culinized at
puberty.
Female prior
to puberty;
majority
assume tra-
ditional male
identity at
puberty.
Males with Klinefelters syndrome tend to be tall and somewhat feminized in their
physical characteristics; they might exhibit breast development and rounded body con-
tours (Looy & Bouma, 2005). Testosterone treatments during adolescence and adult-
hood can enhance the development of male secondary sexual characteristics and can
increase sexual interest (Rogol et al., 2010; Wikstrom et al., 2011). ese individu-
als usually identify themselves as male; however, they often manifest some degree of
gender-identity confusion (Mandoki et al., 1991).
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122 CHAPTER 5
Disorders Affecting Prenatal Hormonal Processes
The ambiguous sex characteristics associated with pseudohermaphroditism can also
result from genetically induced biological errors that produce variations in prenatal hor-
monal processes. We consider three examples of disorders caused by hormonal errors:
androgen insensitivity syndrome, fetally androgenized females, and DHT-deficient males.
Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome A rare genetic defect causes a condition known as
androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS), wherein the body cells of a chromosomally
normal male fetus are insensitive to androgens (Zuloaga et al., 2008; Bertelloni et al.,
2011). The result is feminization of prenatal development, so that the baby is born with
normal-looking female genitals and a shallow vagina. Not surprisingly, babies with AIS
are identified as female and reared accordingly. The anomaly is often discovered only in
late adolescence, when a physician is consulted to find out why menstruation has not
started (Gurney, 2007). Recent reviews of many AIS studies reveal that these individu-
als acquire a clear female gender identity and behave accordingly (Mazur, 2005; T’Sjoen
et al., 2010). In one study, investigators compared psychological outcomes and gender
development in a group of 22 women with AIS and a control group of 22 women with-
out AIS. No significant differences were found between the women with AIS and the
matched control subjects for any psychological outcome measures, including gender
identity, sexual orientation, gender-role behaviors, and overall quality of life (Hines et
al., 2003).
At rst glance these observations seem to support the importance of social learning
in shaping gender-identity formation. However, a case can also be made that these nd-
ings indicate the strong impact of biological factors in gender-identity formation. e
lack of receptivity to androgen in individuals with AIS might prevent the masculiniza-
tion of their brains necessary to develop a male identity, just as it results in failure to
develop male genitals.
Fetally Androgenized Females In a second type of rare atypical sex differentiation,
chromosomally normal females are prenatally masculinized by exposure to excessive
androgens—the excess usually caused by a genetically induced malfunctioning of their
own adrenal glands (adrenogenital syndrome) (Achermann et al., 2011). As a result, such
babies are born with masculine-looking external genitals: An enlarged clitoris can look
like a penis, and fused labia can resemble a scrotum. These babies are usually identified
as female by medical tests, treated with minor surgery or hormone therapy to eliminate
their genital ambiguity, and reared as girls.
Numerous studies have revealed that even though a substantial majority of fetally
androgenized females develop a female gender identity, many engage in traditionally
male activities and reject behavior and attitudes commonly associated with a female gen-
der identity (Dessens et al., 2005; Rosario, 2011). A small number of these individu-
als experience such discomfort with the female sex of assignment that they eventually
assume a male gender identity with commensurate male gender-role behaviors (Meyer-
Bahlburg et al., 1996; Slijper et al., 1998). ese various studies of fetally androgenized
females appear to reect the signicant impact of biological factors in gender-identity
formation.
DHT-Deficient Males A third variety of atypical prenatal differentiation is caused by a
genetic defect that prevents conversion of testosterone into the hormone dihydrotestos-
terone (DHT), which is essential for normal development of external genitals in a male
fetus. The testes of males with this disorder do not descend before birth, the penis and
scrotum remain undeveloped so that they resemble a clitoris and labia, and a shallow
androgen insensitivity
syndrome (AIS)
A condition resulting from a genetic
defect that causes chromosomally
normal males to be insensitive to
the action of testosterone and other
androgens. These individuals develop
female external genitals of normal
appearance.
fetally androgenized female
A chromosomally normal (XX) female
who, as a result of excessive expo-
sure to androgens during prenatal
sex differentiation, develops external
genitalia resembling those of a male.
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Gender Issues123 123
vagina is partially formed. Because their genitals look more female than male, DHT-
deficient males are typically identified as female and reared as girls. However, because
their testes are still functional, an amazing change occurs at puberty as accelerated tes-
tosterone production reverses the DHT deficiency. This causes the testes to descend
and the clitoris-like organs to enlarge into penises. In short, these DHT-deficient males
undergo rapid transformation, from apparently female to male! How do they respond?
Research has shown that a majority of DHT-decient males make a switch from a
female gender identity to a male gender identity, usually in adolescence or early adult-
hood (Cohen-Kettenis, 2005; Imperato-McGinley et al., 1979). ese ndings chal-
lenge the widely held belief that once gender identity is formed in the rst few years of
life, it cannot be changed.
ese examples of atypical sex dierentiation appear to provide contradictory evi-
dence. In the rst example of males with AIS, chromosomal males insensitive to their
own androgens acquire a female gender identity consistent with the way they are reared.
In the second example, prenatally masculinized chromosomal females tend to behave in
a typically masculine manner even though they are reared female. Finally, in the third
example, chromosomal males whose biological maleness is not apparent until puberty
are able to switch their gender identity to male, despite early socialization as girls. Are
these results at odds with one another, or is there a plausible explanation for their seem-
ing inconsistencies?
As described earlier, some data suggest that prenatal androgens inuence sex dif-
ferentiation of the brain just as they trigger masculinization of the sex structures. e
same gene defect that prevents masculinization of the genitals of males with AIS might
also block masculinization of their brains, thus inuencing the development of a female
gender identity. Similarly, the masculinizing inuence of prenatal androgens on the
brain might also account for the tomboyish behaviors of fetally androgenized females.
But what about DHT-decient males who appear to make a relatively smooth transi-
tion from a female to a male gender identity? Perhaps these boys’ brains were prena-
tally programmed along male lines. Presumably, they had normal levels of androgens
and, except for genital development, could respond appropriately to these hormones
at critical stages of prenatal development. We cannot state with certainty that prenatal
androgens masculinize the brain. However, this interpretation oers a plausible expla-
nation for how DHT-decient individuals, already hormonally predisposed toward a
male gender identity despite being identied as female, can change to a male identity at
adolescence in response to changes in their bodies.
ese fascinating studies underscore the complexity of biological sex determination.
We have seen that many steps, each susceptible to errors, are involved in sex dieren-
tiation before birth. ere is substantial research evidence that biological factors, espe-
cially prenatal brain exposure to androgens, contribute to gender-identity formation.
But there is more to the question, Just what makes us female or male? To help answer
this question, we now turn to the role of social-learning factors in inuencing gender-
identity formation after birth.
Social-Learning Influences on Gender Identity
Thus far we have considered only the biological factors involved in the determination
of gender identity. Our sense of femaleness or maleness is not based exclusively on
biological conditions, however. Social-learning theory suggests that our identification
with either masculine or feminine roles or a combination thereof (androgyny) results
primarily from the social and cultural models and influences that we are exposed to
during our early development (Lips, 1997; Lorber, 1995).
DHT-decient male
A chromosomally normal (XY) male
who develops external genitalia
resembling those of a female as a
result of a genetic defect that prevents
the prenatal conversion of testoster-
one into dihydrotestosterone (D
HT).
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124 CHAPTER 5
Even before their baby is born, parents (and other adults involved in child rearing)
have preconceived notions about how boys and girls dier. And through a multitude of
subtle and not so subtle means, they communicate these ideas to their children. Gen-
der-role expectations inuence the environments in which children are raised, from the
choice of room color to the selection of toys. ey also inuence the way parents think
of their children. For example, in one study parents were asked to describe their new-
born infants. Parents of boys described them as strong, active, and robust, whereas
parents of girls used words such as soft” and delicate”—even though all their babies
were of similar size and muscle tone (Rubin et al., 1974). Not surprisingly, gender-role
expectations also inuence the way parents respond to their children: A boy might be
encouraged to suppress his tears if he scrapes a knee and to show other manly” quali-
ties, such as independence and aggressiveness, whereas girls might be encouraged to be
nurturing and cooperative (Hyde, 2006; Mosher & Tomkins, 1988).
By age 3, most children have developed a rm gender identity (DeLamater & Fried-
rich, 2002). From this point, gender-identity reinforcement typically becomes somewhat
self-perpetuating, as most children actively seek to behave in ways that they are taught
are appropriate to their own sex (DeLamater & Friedrich, 2002). It is not unusual for
little girls to go through a period of insisting that they wear fancy dresses or practice
baking in the kitchen—sometimes to the dismay of their own mothers, who have them-
selves adopted more-practical wardrobes and have abandoned the kitchen for a career.
Likewise, young boys may develop a fascination for superheroes, policemen, and other
cultural role models and try to adopt behaviors appropriate to these roles.
Anthropological studies of other cultures also lend support to the social-learning
interpretation of gender-identity formation. In several societies the dierences between
males and females that we often assume to be innate are simply not evident. In fact,
Margaret Mead’s classic book Sex and Temperament in ree Primitive Societies (1963)
reveals that other societies may have dierent views about what is considered femi-
nine or masculine. In this widely quoted report of her eldwork in New Guinea, Mead
discusses two societies that minimize dierences between the sexes. She notes that
among the Mundugumor both sexes exhibit aggressive, insensitive, uncooperative, and
non-nurturing behaviors that would be considered masculine by our society’s norms.
In contrast, among the Arapesh both males and females exhibit gentleness, sensitivity,
cooperation, nurturing, and nonaggressive behaviors that would be judged feminine in
our society. And, in a third society studied by Mead, the Tchambuli, masculine and fem-
inine gender roles are actually the reverse of what Americans view as typical. Because
there is no evidence that people in these societies are biologically dierent from Ameri-
cans, their often diametrically dierent interpretations of what is masculine and what is
feminine seem to result from dierent processes of social learning.
Cathy, © 1986 Universal Press Syndicate.
Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.
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Gender Issues125 125
Studies of intersexed children also provide support for the social-learning interpre-
tation of gender-identity formation as described in the following section.
Intersex Children and Social-Learning Theory
Proponents of the social-learning interpretation of gender-identity formation refer to
various studies of intersexed children born with ambiguous external genitals who are
assigned a particular sex and reared accordingly. Much of the early work in this area was
performed at Johns Hopkins University Hospital by a team headed by John Money.
When these treatment approaches were being implemented, Money and his colleagues
believed that a person is psychosexually neutral or undifferentiated at birth and that
social-learning experiences are the essential determinants of gender identity and
gender-role behavior (Money, 1963; Money & Ehrhardt, 1972). Therefore, little atten-
tion was paid to matching external genitals with sex chromosomes. Rather, because the
guiding principle was how natural the genitals could be made to look, many of these
intersexed infants were assigned to the female sex, because surgical reconstruction of
ambiguous genitalia to those of a female form is mechanically easier and aesthetically
and functionally superior to constructing a penis (Nussbaum, 2000; Rosario, 2011).
Money and his colleagues followed these surgically altered children over a period of
years and reported that in most cases children whose assigned sex did not match their
chromosomal sex developed a gender identity consistent with the way they were reared
(Money, 1965; Money & Ehrhardt, 1972). Additional evidence supporting these nd-
ings was recently published. Researchers surveyed 39 adult participants who had under-
gone surgical alteration as infants at Johns Hopkins. All of these individuals are genetic
males who were born with a micropenis with a urethral opening on its underside. Some
of the individuals were altered to be anatomical females and others to be anatomical
males, with gender assigned accordingly. Most of these respondents (78% of women and
© Donna Day/Getty Images
ENVY/Shutterstock.com
Although parents are becoming more sensitive to the kinds of toys children play with, many still choose one set of
toys and play activities for boys and another set for girls.
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126 CHAPTER 5
76% of men) reported being satised with the gender chosen for them and with their
body image, sexual functioning, and sexual orientation. However, 2 of the 39 switched
gender as adults (Migeon et al., 2002).
Research has revealed that at least some intersexed children may not be as psy-
chosexually neutral at birth as originally believed. Long-term follow-ups of several
intersexed children treated under the Johns Hopkins protocol revealed that some of
these individuals have had serious problems adjusting to the gender assigned to them
(Diamond, 1997; Diamond & Sigmundson, 1997). One especially compelling account
involved two identical twin boys, one of whom experienced a circumcision accident
that destroyed most of his penile tissue. Because no amount of plastic surgery could
adequately reconstruct the severely damaged penis, it was recommended that the child
be raised as a female and receive appropriate sex-change surgery. A few months later
the parents decided to begin raising him as a girl. Shortly thereafter, castration and
initial genital surgery were performed to facilitate feminization. Follow-up analyses of
these twins during their early childhood years revealed that, despite possessing identical
genetic materials, they responded to their separate social-learning experiences by devel-
oping opposite gender identities. Furthermore, the child reassigned to the female gender
was described as developing into a normally functioning female child.
If the story of these twins ended here, we would have strong evidence of the domi-
nant role of social learning in gender-identity formation. However, a later follow-up
(Diamond & Sigmundson, 1997) found that, beginning at age 14, still unaware of the
XY chromosome status and against the recommendations of family and treating clini-
cians, this person decided to stop living as a female. is adamant rejection of living as
a female, together with a much improved emotional state when living as a male, con-
vinced therapists of the appropriateness of sex reassignment. His postsurgical adjust-
ment was excellent and, aided by testosterone treatments, he emerged” as an attractive
young man. At the age of 25 he married a woman, adopted her children, and comfort-
ably assumed his role as father and husband. is remarkable story is told in a book by
John Colapinto (2000) titled As Nature Made Him: e Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl.
is case study illustrates the critical importance of long-term longitudinal studies
of children whose sex has been reassigned. e early tracking during the childhood
phase of this person was widely reported in the press and the academic and medical
communities as providing clear evidence that gender identity is psychologically neutral
at birth, as yet uninuenced by social-learning experiences. Now, after many years dur-
ing which this viewpoint predominated, we have learned in subsequent follow-ups how
wrong this interpretation may be. Even John Money, formerly a major proponent of this
perspective, moderated his position in later years (see Money, 1994b).
As a footnote to this famous case of apparent misapplication of the Johns Hopkins
protocol, we mention another, underreported case with a dierent outcome. It concerns
a boy whose penis was burned o during a circumcision procedure. is individual,
also raised as a girl from infancy, was interviewed by professionals at ages 16 and 26.
Although tomboyish as a child and bisexual as an adult, this person has maintained
a female gender identity, unlike the more famous example of the twin who assumed a
male gender identity as an adult (Bradley et al., 1998).
Another study has raised questions about the common practice of surgically assign-
ing a sex to a child with ambiguous external genitals. is investigation reported on the
development of 27 children born without penises (a condition known as cloacal exstro-
phy) but who were otherwise males with normal testes, chromosomes, and hormones.
Twenty-ve of the 27 underwent sex reassignment shortly after birth, by means of cas-
tration, and their parents raised them as females. All 25 exhibited play activities typical
of males, and 14 eventually declared themselves boys. e two boys who were not reas-
signed and thus were raised as boys seemed to be better adjusted than their reassigned
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Gender Issues127 127
counterparts. ese results led William Reiner, lead researcher on this investigation, to
conclude that “with time and age, children may well know what their gender is, regardless
of any and all information and child rearing to the contrary” (Reiner, 2000, p. 1).
Several prominent researchers now argue that prevailing assumptions about gender
neutrality at birth and the ecacy of sex reassignment of children may be wrong. In
fact, more and more evidence has shown that, despite great care in rearing chromosomal
males sex-reassigned as females, some—perhaps many—of them manifest strong male
tendencies in their developmental years and may even change their assigned sex after
they reach puberty (Colapinto, 2000; Diamond & Sigmundson, 1997; Reiner, 1997b).
Concerns about the benets and ethics of standard treatment practices used with inter-
sexed individuals have provoked lively debate among intersexed individuals, researchers,
and practitioners as discussed in the following section.
Treatment Strategies for Intersexed People: Debate and Controversy
People born with ambiguous external genitals are often viewed as biological accidents
that need to be fixed. John Money and his colleagues at Johns Hopkins were the pri-
mary architects of a treatment protocol for intersexed individuals that became standard
practice by the early 1960s and persists to the present. According to this protocol, a
team of professionals, in consultation with the parents, choose which gender to assign
an intersexed child. To reduce the possibility of future adjustment problems or gender
confusion, the physicians usually provide surgical and/or hormonal treatments.
Questions have emerged about both the long-term benets and the ethical appro-
priateness of this standard treatment protocol (Dreger, 2003; Fausto-Sterling, 2000;
Gurney, 2007). Milton Diamond, an outspoken critic of John Money’s treatment strate-
gies, has conducted long-term follow-ups of a number of intersexed individuals treated
under this standard protocol. His research has revealed that some of these individuals
experience signicant adjustment problems that they attribute to the biosocial “manage-
ment” of their intersexed conditions (Diamond, 1998; Diamond & Sigmundson, 1997).
e research of Diamond and others, and the testimony of people who have been
harmed by treatment they have received via the standard protocol, has triggered an
intense debate among intersexed people, researchers, and health-care professionals
about what constitutes proper treatment of intersexed infants (Meyer-Bahlburg, 2005).
Many specialists still support Money’s protocol and argue that intersexed infants should
be unambiguously assigned a gender at the earliest possible age, certainly before the
emergence of gender identity in the second year of life. is position endorses surgical
and/or hormonal intervention to minimize gender confusion. An alternative viewpoint,
championed by Diamond and others, suggests a threefold approach to treating inter-
sexed people. First, health-care professionals should make an informed best guess about
the intersexed infant’s eventual gender identity and then counsel parents to rear the
child in this identity. Second, genital-altering surgeries (which later might need to be
reversed) should be avoided during the early years of development. And third, quality
counseling and accurate information should be provided to both the child and his or
her parents during the developmental years to ensure that the child is eventually able
to make an informed decision about any additional treatment steps, such as surgery
and/or hormone treatments. A distinguished group of intersex researchers has strongly
advocated delaying medical intervention until a child is old enough to have developed a
male or female gender identity (Caldwell, 2005).
Both Diamonds treatment strategy and the standard protocol raise important ques-
tions. Does genital-altering surgery performed on mere babies violate their rights as
humans to give informed consent? Would intersexed children left with ambiguous geni-
tals have problems functioning in schools or other settings where their condition might
become known to others? Might society eventually evolve beyond the two-sex model
Critical Thinking Question
Assume that you are the leader of a team
of health professionals who must decide
the best treatment for an intersexed infant.
Would you assign a gender identity and
perform the surgical and/or hormonal
treatments consistent with the assigned
gender? If so, what gender would you
select? Why? If you would decide not to
assign a gender, what kind of follow-up or
management strategy would you suggest
during the child’s developmental years?
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128 CHAPTER 5
and embrace the legitimacy of a third, intersexed condition located somewhere on the
spectrum between male and female?
A number of case studies have reported instances of people who comfortably
adjusted to their untreated intersexed condition (Fausto-Sterling, 1993, 2000; Laurent,
1995). Furthermore, in recent years a number of intersexed people treated under the
standard protocol have expressed strong resentment over being subjected to medical
intervention as infants (Looy & Bouma, 2005; Rosario, 2011).
Intersex activists, who have established organizations such as the Intersex Society of
North America (ISNA) and Advocates for Informed Choice (AIC), argue that inter-
sexed people are cases of genital variability, not genital abnormality. e ISNA advo-
cates a noninterventionist, child-centered approach in which an intersexed child is not
subjected to genital-altering surgery; he or she may choose such procedures later in life
(Caldwell, 2005; Tamar-Mattis, 2011).
More questions than answers exist about the most appropriate treatment strategy
for intersexed infants. is uncertainty is due largely to a scarcity of long-term out-
come studies on intersexed individuals (Meyer-Bahlburg, 2005). We hope that time and
research will eventually resolve this dilemma.
The Interactional Model
Scientists have argued for decades about the relative importance of nature (biological
determinants) versus nurture (social learning and the environment) in shaping human
development. Today it seems clear that gender identity is a product of both biological fac-
tors and social learning. The evidence is simply too overwhelming to conclude that nor-
mal infants are psychosexually neutral at birth. We have seen that human infants possess
a complex and yet to be fully understood biological substrate that predisposes them to
interact with their social environment in either a masculine or a feminine mode. However,
few researchers believe that human gender identity has an exclusively biological basis.
There is simply too much evidence supporting the important role of life experiences in
shaping the way we think about ourselves—not only as masculine or feminine but in all
aspects of how we relate to those around us. Consequently, most theorists and research-
ers support an interactional model, which acknowledges both biology and experience in
the development of gender identity (Dragowski et al., 2011; Looy & Bouma, 2005). Let
us hope that as we acquire more data from further research, especially from long-term
longitudinal analyses, we will gain a clearer understanding of the relative impact of these
two powerful forces on gender-identity formation and gender-role behavior.
Transsexualism and Transgenderism
We have learned that gender-identity formation is a complex process influenced by many
factors, with congruity between biological sex and gender identity by no means guaran-
teed. We have become increasingly aware of the rich diversity in gender identities and
roles. Many people fall somewhere within a range of variant gender identities. The com-
munity of gender-variant people, composed of transsexual and transgendered individuals,
has acquired considerable voice in both the professional literature and the popular media.
A transsexual is a person whose gender identity is opposite to his or her biological
sex. Such people feel trapped in a body of the “wrong” sex, a condition known as gender
dysphoria. us an anatomically male transsexual feels that she is a woman who, by
some quirk of fate, has been provided with male genitals but who wishes to be socially
identied as female. Some theorists, based largely on their clinical experiences treating
transsexuals, maintain that the trapped in the body of the wrong sex” conceptualization
transsexual
A person whose gender identity is
opposite to his or her biological sex.
gender dysphoria
Unhappiness with one’s biological sex
or gender role.
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Gender Issues129 129
of transsexualism is incomplete or inaccurate, especially as applied to some male-to-
female transsexuals (Bailey & Triea, 2007; Lawrence, 2007). Prominent among them is
psychologist Roy Blanchard (1991, 1995), who maintains that there are two distinct sub-
types of male-to-female transsexuals: (1) those with a homosexual orientation, who are
exclusively attracted to men, and (2) individuals with a paraphilia labeled autogynephilia,
which is a propensity to be sexually aroused by the thought or image of oneself as female.
(See Chapter 16 for a discussion of paraphilias.) is interpretation, while controversial
within the transsexual community, continues to generate research and discussion among
professionals who study and treat transsexualism. For example, physician and researcher
Anne Lawrence (2007), who herself is a male-to-female transsexual, has recently argued
that it is a misconception to view autogynephilia as a purely erotic phenomenon. She sug-
gests that autogynephilia can be more accurately conceptualized as a variety of romantic
love embraced by men who love women and want to become what they love (p. 516).
Many transsexuals undergo sex-reassignment procedures involving extensive screen-
ing, hormone therapy, and genital-altering surgery. However, not all gender-dysphoric
people want complete sex reassignment. Instead, they may want only the physical body,
gender role, or sexuality of the other sex. Many gender-dysphoric individuals, including
most transsexuals, want all three of these aspects of the other sex, but some are content
to take on only one or two (Carroll, 1999). Furthermore, some transgendered people
who manifest variant gender-role behaviors experience little or no gender dysphoria.
e term transgendered is generally applied to individuals whose appearance
and/or behaviors do not conform to traditional gender roles (Dragowski et al., 2011;
Olson et al., 2011). In other words, transgendered people, to varying degrees, trans-
gress cultural norms as to what a man or woman should be’” (Goodrum, 2000, p.
1). ese transgressions often involve cross-dressing, either occasionally or full time.
Variations of transgendered behaviors include:
androphilic (attracted to males) men who cross-dress and assume a female role
either to attract men (often heterosexual men) or, less commonly, to entertain (i.e.,
female impersonators).
gynephilic (attracted to females) men who may have urges to become female but
are reasonably content to live in a male role that may include being married to a
woman and frequently cross-dressing and/or socializing as a woman.
gynephilic (attracted to females) women who manifest masculine qualities (some-
times a complete male identity) but never seek sex reassignment (Carroll, 1999).
Nontranssexual cross-dressers used to be labeled transvestites. is term is now
generally applied only to people who cross-dress to achieve sexual arousal (see the dis-
cussion of transvestic fetishism in Chapter 16). Transgendered people who cross-dress
typically do so to obtain psychosocial rather than sexual gratication.
Some intersexed people, who were born exhibiting a mixture of male and female
external genitals, also consider themselves members of the transgendered community.
is group can include intersexed individuals who have undergone surgical and/or hor-
monal treatments to establish congruence between their anatomical sex structures and
their gender identity (Goodrum, 2000).
e primary dierence between a transsexual and a transgenderist is that the trans-
genderist does not want to change his or her physical body to create a better t with
personal or societal role expectations. Transsexuals often undergo major surgeries to
make their physical bodies congruent with their gender identity. In contrast, most trans-
gendered people have no wish to undergo anatomical alterations but do occasionally or
frequently dress like and take on the mannerisms of the other sex. Some transgenderists
live full time manifesting gender-role behaviors opposite to those ascribed by society to
someone of their biological sex (Bolin, 1997).
transgendered
A term applied to people whose
appearance and/or behaviors do not
conform to traditional gender roles.
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130 CHAPTER 5
Variant Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation
Many people are confused about the difference between gender identity (especially
variant gender identity) and sexual orientation. Simply stated, gender identity is who
we are—our own subjective sense of being male, female, or some combination of the
two. Sexual orientation refers to which of the sexes we are emotionally and sexually
attracted to (see Chapter 9).
Before sex reassignment, most transsexuals are attracted to people who match them
anatomically but not in gender identity. us a transsexual with a female gender iden-
tity who feels trapped in a mans body (and is probably identied as a male by society)
is likely to be attracted to men. In other words, she has a heterosexual orientation based
on her own self-identication as female. If she acts on her sexual desires before undergo-
ing sex reassignment, she may be falsely labeled as homosexual. In terms of postsurgical
sexual orientation, almost all female-to-male transsexuals desire female sexual partners,
whereas male-to-female transsexuals can be sexually oriented to either sex, with most
preferring male sex partners (Zhou et al., 1995). It is important to note that most trans-
sexuals who pursue sex reassignment are motivated primarily by a desire to alleviate
a gender-identity conict rather than to increase their sexual attractiveness to desired
partners (Bockting, 2005).
Although transsexuals are predominantly heterosexual, the transgendered com-
munity is more eclectic, consisting of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and heterosexuals
(Burdge, 2007; Goodrum, 2000).
Transsexualism: Etiology, Sex-Reassignment Procedures,
and Outcomes
In the 1960s and early 1970s, when medical procedures for altering sex were first being
developed in the United States, approximately three out of every four people requesting
a sex change were biological males who wished to be females (Green, 1974). Although
most health professionals believe that males seeking sex reassignment still outnumber
females, evidence indicates that the ratio has narrowed appreciably (Olsson & Moller,
2003). Male-to-female transsexualism has become increasingly common in developed
nations, with an estimated prevalence of about 1 in 12,000 people having undergone
male-to-female sex-reassignment procedures (Lawrence, 2007).
A vast accumulation of clinical literature has focused on the characteristics, causes
(etiology), and treatment of transsexualism. Certain factors are well established. We
know that most transsexuals are biologically normal individuals with healthy sex
organs, intact internal reproductive structures, and the usual complement of XX or
XY chromosomes (Meyer-Bahlburg, 2005). Furthermore, transsexualism is usually an
isolated condition, not part of any general psychopathology, such as schizophrenia or
major depression (Cohen-Kettenis & Gooren, 1999). What is less understood is why
these individuals reject their anatomies.
Many transsexuals develop a sense of being at odds with their genital anatomy
in early childhood; some recall identifying strongly with characteristics of the other
sex at as early as 5, 6, or 7 years of age. In some cases these childrens discomfort is
partially relieved by imagining themselves to be members of the other sex, but many
of them eventually progress beyond mere imagining to actual cross-dressing. Less
commonly, a strong identity with the other sex may not emerge until adolescence or
adulthood.
e etiology of transsexualism is not clearly understood. Moreover, considerable
controversy exists regarding the most appropriate clinical strategies for dealing with
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Gender Issues131 131
this condition. Keeping this debate in mind, we will summarize the tenuous state of
knowledge about this highly unusual variant gender identity.
Etiology
Many theories have tried to explain transsexualism, but the evidence is inconclusive
(Cole et al., 2000; Money, 1994a). Some writers maintain that biological factors play a
decisive role. One theory suggests that prenatal exposure to inappropriate amounts of
hormones of the other sex causes improper brain differentiation (Dessens et al., 1999;
Zhou et al., 1995). Some evidence indicates that in transsexuals, sexual differentiation
of the brain and the genitals occurs discordantly (Krujiver et al., 2000; Meyer-Bahlburg,
2005). Support for this interpretation was recently provided by an Australian study
that reported evidence of a possible genetic link with transsexualism (Hare et al., 2009).
The investigators conducted a DNA analysis of 112 male-to-female transsexuals with
a longer-than-normal version of the androgen receptor gene. Longer versions of this
gene are associated with less efficient prenatal production of testosterone. Reduction
in the action of this hormone may have an effect on gender development in the womb
by under-masculinizing the brain during prenatal development, thereby contributing
to the female gender identity of male-to-female transsexuals. Other research has found
evidence of genetic factors in transsexuals (Bentz et al., 2008; Hare et al., 2009).
It has also been suggested that transsexualism can be induced by abnormal levels of
adult sex hormones. However, this explanation is contradicted by numerous indications
that sex hormone levels are normal in adult transsexuals (Zhou et al., 1995).
Another theory, which has some supporting evidence, holds that social-learning
experiences contribute signicantly to the development of transsexualism. A child may
be exposed to a variety of conditioning experiences that support behaving in a manner
traditionally attributed to the other sex (Bradley & Zucker, 1997; Cohen-Kettenis &
Gooren, 1999). Such cross-gender behaviors may be so exclusively rewarded that it may
be dicult or impossible for the individual to develop the appropriate gender identity.
Respectful Communication With a Transsexual
or Transgendered Individual
LET’S TALK
ABOUT IT
Alexander John Goodrum (2000) wrote an informative
article on transsexualism and transgenderism in which
he discussed how people should communicate or inter-
act with individuals with variant gender identities and/or
behaviors. We summarize his suggestions as follows:
It is important to refer to transsexual or transgendered
individuals appropriately. If someone identies himself
as male, refer to him as he; if she identies herself as
female, refer to her as she. If you are not sure, it is all
right to ask what this person prefers or expects. Once
you know, try to be consistent. If you occasionally for-
get and use the wrong pronoun, make the correction.
Most transsexual or transgendered people will under-
stand slipups and appreciate your efforts.
Never out” someone by telling others, without
permission, that he or she is transsexual or transgen-
dered. Furthermore, do not assume that other people
know about a person’s variant gender identity. Many
transgendered and transsexual individuals pass very
well, and the only way others would know about their
variant gender status would be by being told. Clearly,
the decision whether to communicate gender status
should be made only by the individual, and failure to
honor this right would be highly disrespectful.
Common sense and good taste mandate that we never
ask transsexual or transgendered people what their
genital anatomy looks like or how they relate sexually
to others.
Finally, make no assumptions about whether a person
has a homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual orienta-
tion. A person who believes that it is appropriate to
reveal information about sexual orientation may elect
to communicate this to you.
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132 CHAPTER 5
Options for Transsexuals
The mental health field has traditionally considered only two possible solutions for
overcoming the gender dysphoria of transsexuals: changing gender identity to match
the physical body or changing the body to match gender identity (Carroll, 1999). Other
options exist, however, and clinical evidence has indicated that some preoperative trans-
sexuals have discovered that it may be psychologically sufficient to express themselves
through such activities as cross-dressing (Carroll, 1999). Nevertheless, in most cases, psy-
chotherapy, without accompanying biological alterations, has generally been inadequate
to help transsexuals adjust to their bodies and gender identities. For such individuals the
best course of action might be to change their bodies to match their minds, through sur-
gical and hormonal alteration of genital anatomy and body physiology. However, medical
alteration is not a simple solution, because it is both time-consuming and costly.
A recent study revealed that 33% of major American employers oer transgender-
inclusive benets including sex-reassignment surgery (Gillespie, 2012). is vefold
benets increase from the previous year reects a major push from guidelines provided
by the Human Rights Campaign. In future years we can expect an increase in research
data pertaining to sex-reassignment as a direct result of the increased aordability of
these procedures now often covered under employer benets policies.
Sex-Reassignment Procedures
The initial step of a sex change involves extensive screening interviews, during which a
persons motivations for undergoing the change are thoroughly evaluated. Individuals
with real conflicts and confusion about their gender identity are not considered for
surgical alteration. Individuals with an apparently genuine incongruence between their
gender identity and their biological sex are then instructed to adopt a lifestyle consis-
tent with their gender identity (i.e., dress style and behavior patterns). If, after several
months to a year or longer, it appears that the individual has successfully adjusted
to that lifestyle, the next step is hormone therapy, a process designed to accentuate
latent traits of the desired sex. Thus males wishing to be females are given drugs that
inhibit testosterone production together with doses of estrogen that induce some
breast growth, soften the skin, reduce facial and body hair, and help to feminize body
contours. Muscle strength diminishes, as does sexual interest, but there is no alteration
of vocal pitch. Women who want to become men are treated with testosterone, which
helps to increase growth of body and facial hair and produces a deepening of the voice
and a slight reduction in breast size. Testosterone also suppresses menstruation. Most
health professionals who provide sex-change procedures require a candidate to live
for at least 1 year as a member of the other sex while undergoing hormone therapy,
before surgery (Bockting et al., 2011). At any time during this phase, the process can
be reversed, although few transsexuals choose this option.
e nal step of a sex change is surgery (
Figure 5.6). Surgical procedures are most
eective for men wishing to be women. e scrotum and penis are removed, and a vagina
is created through reconstruction of pelvic tissue (see Figure 5.6a). During this surgi-
cal procedure, great care is taken to maintain the sensory nerves that serve the skin of
the penis, and this sensitive skin tissue is relocated to the inside of the newly fashioned
vagina. Intercourse is possible, although use of a lubricant may be necessary, and many
male-to-female transsexuals report postsurgical capacity to experience sexual arousal
and orgasm (Lawrence, 2005; Schroder & Carroll, 1999). Hormone treatments can
produce sucient breast development, but some individuals also receive implants. Body
and facial hair, which were reduced by hormone treatments, can be further removed
by electrolysis. Finally, if desired, an additional surgical procedure can be performed to
raise the pitch of the voice in male-to-female transsexuals (Brown et al., 2000).
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Gender Issues133 133
A biological female who desires to be male generally undergoes surgical procedures
in which the breasts, uterus, and ovaries are removed and the vagina is sealed o. Con-
structing a penis is much more dicult than constructing a vagina. In general, the penis
is fashioned from abdominal skin or from tissue from the labia and perineum (see Fig-
ure 5.6b). is constructed organ cannot achieve a natural erection in response to sexual
arousal. However, several options are available that can provide a rigid penis for inter-
course. One involves fashioning a small, hollow skin tube on the underside of the penile
shaft into which a rigid silicone rod can be inserted. Another option is an implanted
inatable device, which will be described in Chapter 14. If erotically sensitive tissue
from the clitoris is left embedded at the base of the surgically constructed penis, erotic
feelings and orgasm are sometimes possible (Lief & Hubschman, 1993).
Outcomes of Sex Reassignment
Numerous studies of the psychosocial outcome of gender reassignment provide a basis
for optimism about the success of sex-reassignment procedures. The single most con-
sistent finding of these investigations is that most people who have undergone these
procedures experience significant improvement in their overall adjustment to life
(De Cuypere et al., 2005; Khoosal et al., 2011; Lawrence, 2003).
Gender Roles
We have seen that social learning is an important influence on the formation of gen-
der identity early in life, so that even by the age of 2 or 3 years, most children have no
doubt about whether they are boys or girls. This influence continues throughout our
lives, because we are influenced by gender roles—that is, behaviors that are considered
appropriate and normal for men and women in a society.
e ascribing of gender roles leads naturally to certain assumptions about how
people will behave. For example, men in North American society have traditionally
been expected to be independent and aggressive, whereas women were supposed to be
Figure 5.6 The genitals following
sex-change surgery: (a) Male-to-
female sex-change surgery is gener-
ally more effective than (b) female-
to-male sex-change surgery.
Courtesy of Dr. Daniel Greenwood
Courtesy of Dr. Daniel Greenwood
(a) (b)
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134 CHAPTER 5
dependent and submissive. Once these expectations are widely accepted, they may begin
to function as stereotypes. A stereotype is a generalized notion of what a person is like
based only on that persons sex, race, religion, ethnic background, or similar category.
Stereotypes do not take individuality into account. Stereotypes pertaining to sex dif-
ferences in personality traits were recently examined in a major cross-cultural study,
described in the Spotlight on Research box.
Many traditional gender-based stereotypes are widely accepted in our society. Some
of the prevailing notions about men maintain that they are aggressive (or at least asser-
tive), logical, unemotional, independent, dominant, competitive, objective, athletic, active,
and, above all, competent. Conversely, women are frequently viewed as nonassertive,
illogical, emotional, subordinate, warm, and nurturing. ese common gender-role ste-
reotypes also tend to be found in many dierent cultures (Jandt & Hundley, 2007). For
example, one study found remarkable consistency in how these traditional role stereo-
types are ascribed to women and men in 30 dierent cultures (Williams & Best, 1990).
A recent study of college women found that women who endorse traditional gender
roles view an ideal male partner as one who conforms to traditional masculine roles
involving power over women, self-reliance, emotional control, and risk taking. In con-
trast, women who identied themselves as feminists not supportive of traditional gen-
der roles indicated that an ideal male partner would be one who did not conform to
Social scientists generally agree that sex differences in
traditional gender roles tend to appear early in life and
often persist across the life cycle. However, the origin of
these differences remains controversial. On the one hand,
evolutionary psychologists maintain that many of our
behaviors and personality attributes are innate traits inher-
ited from ancient hunter-and-gatherer ancestors. Alter-
natively, psychologists in the social-learning camp assert
that the personalities and behaviors of both sexes have
been largely shaped by traditional social roles.
Evolution-
ary psychologists might hypothesize that sex differences
in personality traits would be somewhat consistent across
divergent cultures. If a long period of biological evolution
favors selection of genes that contribute to the survival
of the species, there should be a predictable consistency
across various subcategories (cultures) of the human spe-
cies. Conversely, social-learning advocates would likely
hypothesize that sex differences in personality traits will
diminish as women spend more time outside the home in
the competitive workplace and less time in the traditional
female roles of homemaker and nurturer of children.
These two hypotheses were recently put to a world-
wide test in which 17,637 people drawn from 55 nations
were administered the Big Five Inventory (BFI; translated
from
English into 28 languages), a self-report question-
naire designed to assess the traits of extraversion, agree-
ableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness.
The survey’s ndings stand in marked contrast to likely
predictions based on the two psychological perspectives
just described. First, the extent of sex differences in
personality traits was found to vary considerably among
the 55 cultures surveyed, a result that is inconsistent with
the evolutionary psychology viewpoint. Perhaps even
more startling was the nding that personality differences
between men and women were smaller in traditional
cultures like those of Botswana or India than in more egal-
itarian nations like the United States or France.
Thus, con-
trary to the social-learning hypothesis, a working husband
and stay-at-home wife in the patriarchal Botswana culture
are more similar in personality traits than a working
couple in Denmark. Or, stated another way, the more men
and women in a given culture are egalitarian in jobs and
rights, the more their personality traits seem to diverge
(Schmitt et al., 2008).
These ndings are so counterintuitive and inconsistent
with predictions derived from either the social-learning
or the evolutionary psychology perspective that some
researchers have suggested that they result from cultur-
ally based problems with the BFI (Tierney, 2008). However,
lead author David Schmitt and his colleagues conclude
that their study revealed general trends that are valid albeit
controversial in the context of widely held theories. Can we
expect that the personality gap between men and women
will widen further as the sexes become more equal in afu-
ent societies that increasingly embrace egalitarian values
and reduce barriers between women and men?
Hopefully
future research will provide additional insights and help to
clarify this question.
RESEARCH
SPOTLIGHT ON
Cross-Cultural Sex Differences in Personality Traits
stereotype
A generalized notion of what a person
is like based only on that person’s sex,
race, religion, ethnic background, or
similar criteria.
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Gender Issues135 135
traditional masculine norms of aggression and violence, power over women, and self-
reliance (Backus & Mahalik, 2011).
e religious right in America has consistently espoused traditional gender roles as
described in the box, “e Religious Right Embraces Traditional Gender Roles.
In recent years there has been a trend away from strict adherence to gender-typed
behavior, especially among younger people (Ben-David & Schneider, 2005; Lindberg
et al., 2008). Research suggests that women are less entrenched than men in rigid
gender-role stereotypes and are more inclined to embrace positions of equality with
men (Ben-David & Schneider, 2005). In spite of these positive changes in American
culture, stereotypical gender roles still pervade our society. Indeed, many individuals are
comfortable fullling a traditional masculine or feminine role, and we do not wish to
demean or question the validity of their lifestyles. Rather, we are concerned with nding
out why gender roles are so prevalent in society. We turn to this question next.
How Do We Learn Gender Roles?
You have probably heard the argument that behavioral differences between men and
women are biologically determined, at least to some degree. Men cannot bear or nurse
children. Likewise, biological differences in hormones, muscle mass, and brain struc-
ture and function can influence some aspects of behavior. However, most theorists
explain gender roles as largely a product of socialization—that is, the process by which
individuals learn, and adopt, society’s expectations for behavior. In the following Sexu-
ality and Diversity discussion, we see how cultural and ethnic groups within a society
have varying expectations of mens and womens behavior.
SEXUALITY and DIVERSITY
Ethnic Variations in Gender Roles
Throughout this textbook we have focused primarily on gender assumptions that pre-
vail in the traditional mainstream—White Americans of European origin. Here we
look briefly at gender roles among three different ethnic groups: Hispanic Americans,
African Americans, and Asian Americans.
Traditional Hispanic American gender roles are epitomized by the cultural stereo-
types of marianismo and machismo. Marianismo derives from the Roman Catholic notion
that women should be pure and self-giving—like the Virgin Mary. It ascribes to women
the primary role of mothers who are faithful, virtuous, passive, and subordinate to their
husbands and who act as the primary preserver of the family and tradition (Bourdeau
et al., 2008; Estrada et al., 2011). e concept of machismo projects an image of the
Hispanic American male as strong, independent, virile, and dominant—the head of the
household and major decision maker in the family (Bourdeau et al., 2008; Estrada et al.,
2011). Machismo also embodies the notion that it is acceptable to be sexually aggres-
sive and to seek conquests outside the marriage. us Hispanic culture often expresses
The Religious Right Embraces Traditional Gender Roles
SEX &
POLITICS
The religious right in America has long labored to rein-
force traditional gender roles through its efforts to shape
American politics. However, as described in Clyde Wilcox
and Carin Robinsons book Onward Christian Soldiers? The
Religious Right in American Politics (2011), this movement
has had relatively few political successes.
socialization
The process by which our society
conveys behavioral expectations to
the individual.
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136 CHAPTER 5
a double standard in which wives are to remain faithful to one man and husbands can
have outside aairs (McNeill et al., 2001). is double standard has it origins in the
early socialization of Hispanic youth, which encourages boys to be sexually adventurous
and girls to be virtuous and virginal (Bourdeau et al., 2008; Estrada et al., 2011).
Of course, marianismo and machismo are just stereotypes, and many Hispanic Amer-
icans do not embrace these gender-role assumptions (Vasquez, 1994). Furthermore,
assimilation, urbanization, and upward mobility of Hispanic Americans are combining
to diminish the impact of these cultural stereotypes as they reduce gender-role inequities
(McNeill et al., 2001). is is especially true of young Hispanic Americans, who often
do not embrace their parents traditional gender-role beliefs (Cespedes & Huey, 2008).
In a second ethnic group, African Americans, women play a central role in families
that tends to dier from the traditional nuclear family model of mother, father, and chil-
dren (Bulcroft et al., 1996; Reid & Bing, 2000). African American women have tradition-
ally been a bulwark of strength in their communities since the days of slavery. Because
women could not depend economically on men under the system of slavery, African
American men did not typically assume the dominant role in the family. is accounts,
in part, for why relationships between African American women and men have tended
more toward egalitarianism and economic parity than has been true of other cultural
groups, including the dominant White culture (Blee & Tickamyer, 1995; Bulcroft et al.,
1996). e historical absence of economic dependence also helps explain why so many
African American households are headed by women who dene their own status.
Another factor is the high unemployment rate among African American males—
more than double the rate for Whites (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012). e realities
of high unemployment among African American males and their frequent absence from
the family home often result in African American women assuming gender-role behav-
iors that reect a reversal of the gender patterns traditional among White Americans.
A third minority group, Asian Americans, represents great diversity both in heritage
and country of origin (China, the Philippines, Japan, India, Korea, Vietnam, Cambo-
dia, ailand, and others). Asian Americans tend to place more value on family, group
solidarity, and interdependence than do White Americans (Okazaki, 2002; Yoshida &
Busby, 2012). Like her Hispanic counterparts, the Asian American woman expects her
family obligations to take higher priority than her own individual aspirations (Pyke &
Johnson, 2003). us, although more Asian American women work outside the home
than do women in any other American ethnic group, many spend their lives support-
ing others and subordinating their needs to the family (Bradshaw, 1994; Cole, 1992).
As a result, achievement-oriented Asian women are often caught in a double bind, torn
between contemporary American values of individuality and independence and the tra-
ditional gender roles of Asian culture.
Although no typical pattern exists, the diverse Asian cultures still tend to allow
greater sexual freedom for men than for women while perpetuating the gender-role
assumption of male dominance (Ishii-Kuntz, 1997a, 1997b; Pyke & Johnson, 2003).
Asian culture also tends to promote a higher level of sexual conservatism in both sexes
than is typical of other U.S. ethnic groups, including Whites (Benuto & Meana, 2008;
Okazaki, 2002). However, culturally based gender-role stereotypes are less likely to be
embraced by Asian American youth, who increasingly adhere to broader American cul-
tural values (Ying & Han, 2008).
As these accounts illustrate, social learning and cultural traditions inuence gender-
role behaviors within American society. How does society convey these expectations? In
the following sections we look at ve agents of socialization: parents, peers, schools and
books, television, and religion.
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Gender Issues137 137
Parents as Shapers of Gender Roles
Many social scientists view parents as influential agents of gender-role socialization
(Dragowski et al., 2011; Iervolino et al., 2005; Kane, 2006). A child’s earliest exposure to
what it means to be female or male is typically provided by parents. As we saw earlier, in
the discussion of gender-identity formation, parents often have different expectations for
girls and boys, and they demonstrate these expectations in their interactions (Eliot, 2009).
In general, parents tend to be more protective and restrictive of girl babies and provide
less intervention and more freedom for boys (Skolnick, 1992). Furthermore, research has
found that sons are more likely than daughters to receive parental encouragement for self-
assertion behaviors and for controlling or limiting their emotional expression, whereas
girls receive more encouragement for expressing social-engagement behavior (Leaper et al.,
1998). Recent research has also revealed that having a daughter, versus having a son, causes
fathers to reduce their support for traditional gender roles (Shafer & Malhotra, 2011).
Although an increasing number of parents are becoming sensitive to the gender-role
implications of a childs playthings, many others encourage their children to play with toys
that help prepare them for specic adult
gender roles (Jadva, 2010). Girls are often
given dolls, tea sets, and miniature ovens.
Boys frequently receive trucks, cars, balls,
and toy weapons. Children who play with
toys thought appropriate only for the
other sex are often rebuked by their par-
ents. Because children are sensitive to these
expressions of displeasure, they usually
develop toy preferences consistent with
their parents gender-role expectations.
Although more and more parents try
to avoid teaching their children gender
stereotypes, many still encourage their
children to engage in gender-typed play
activities and household chores (Men-
vielle, 2004). “e gendered division of
household labor begins early in life with
girls doing more household work than
boys from childhood on (Berridge &
Romich, 2011, p. 157).
The Peer Group
A second important influence in the socialization of gender roles is the peer group
(Arnon et al., 2008). One element of peer-group influence that begins early in life
is a voluntary segregation of the sexes. This separation begins during the preschool
years, and by first grade, children select members of their own sex as playmates about
95% of the time (Maccoby, 1998). Segregation of the sexes, which continues into the
school years, contributes to sex typing in play activities that helps prepare children
for adult gender roles (Moller et al., 1992). Girls often play together with dolls and
tea sets, and boys frequently engage in athletic competitions and play with toy guns.
Such peer influences contribute to the socialization of women who are inclined to be
nurturing and nonassertive and of men who are comfortable being competitive and
assertive.
By late childhood and adolescence, the inuence of peers becomes even stronger (Doyle
& Paludi, 1991; Hyde, 2006). Children of this age tend to view conformity as important,
The establishment of stereotypical masculine or feminine roles can be inuenced by
traditional child-rearing practices.
© Stephen Simpson/Getty Images
© Ian Shaw/Getty Images
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138 CHAPTER 5
and adhering to traditional gender roles promotes social acceptance by
their peers (Absi-Semaan et al., 1993). Most individuals who do not
behave in ways appropriate to their own sex are subjected to pressure in
the form of ostracism or ridicule.
Schools, Books, and Gender Roles
Studies indicate that girls and boys often receive quite different treat-
ment in the classroom, a process that strongly influences gender-role
socialization. Among the findings of these studies are that teachers call
on and encourage boys more than girls; that teachers are more likely
to tolerate inappropriate behavior of boys than girls; and that boys are
more likely than girls to receive attention, remedial help, and praise
from their teachers (Duffy et al., 2001; Eccles et al., 1999; Keller, 2002).
School textbooks and childrens books have also perpetuated
gender-role stereotypes. In the early 1970s, two major studies of chil-
drens textbooks found that girls were typically portrayed as depen-
dent, unambitious, and not very successful or clever, whereas boys
were shown to have just the opposite characteristics (Saario et al., 1973; Women on
Words and Images, 1972). In the early 1980s, men played the dominant roles in about
two out of every three stories in American reading texts—an improvement from four
out of every ve stories in the early 1970s (Britton & Lumpkin, 1984). A recent review
of childrens books also demonstrated a male bias and a message that women and girls
are less important than men and boys (McCabe et al., 2011).
Fortunately, schools in the United States are now acting to reduce classroom perpetu-
ation of stereotypical gender roles (Meyerho, 2004). An inux of younger teachers who
are products of a more gender-aware generation has aided in this gradual transformation
of classroom environments. One of the most striking examples of this change has been a
concerted eort by American schools to ensure equal educational opportunities for both
sexes in math and science and to create educational environments in which girls as well as
boys are encouraged to participate in these subjects. However, like the culture they repre-
sent, textbooks and childrens books are still not completely free of stereotyped gender roles.
A recent review of illustrations in award-winning childrens books in the period
1990–2009 found that larger proportions of female characters in the books used
household artifacts, whereas larger proportions of male characters used production
artifacts outside the home (Crabb & Marciano, 2011, p. 390).
Television and Gender-Role Stereotypes
Another powerful agent of gender-role socialization is television. Depictions of men
and women in TV dramas are often blatantly stereotypical (Lauzen et al., 2008). Men
are more likely than women to appear as active, intelligent, and adventurous, and to
take positions of leadership. Men are also often featured in work-related roles while
female characters are more likely to be portrayed in interpersonal roles involved with
romance, family, and friends (Lauzen et al., 2008). Furthermore, an analysis of the
sexual content of five prime-time programs found that male characters are commonly
portrayed as actively and aggressively pursuing sex whereas female characters are more
often depicted as willingly objectifying themselves (e.g., exploiting their bodies), thus
conforming to stereotypical conceptions of femininity (e.g., behaving seductively), and
being judged by their sexual conduct (Kim et al., 2007). However, these stereotypes
are in the process of breaking down. A number of TV dramas, such as The Good Wife,
Cold Case, Fringe, and Body of Proof feature multidimensional and competent female
characters. Nevertheless, prime-time television remains largely a male-dominated
One aspect of peer-group structure among American
children that helps to perpetuate traditional gender
roles is the tendency to select same-sex playmates
most of the time.
Elena Elisseeva/Shutterstock.com
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Gender Issues139 139
medium. In television news and political talk programs, men also continue to be
disproportionately represented as the authoritative sources on most topics.
Television commercials also tend to further gender stereotypes. In commercials
for nonhousehold products aimed at adult consumers, men are more likely than
women to appear as the authoritative source of information. However, changes in
gender stereotypes in advertising are beginning to diminish as women are now more
commonly portrayed as powerful and in control rather than as passive sex objects
(Halliwell et al., 2011).
It is safe to assume that the sexist stereotypes depicted by television program-
ming have some impact as agents of socialization, considering that most American
children spend hours in front of the TV each day. Fortunately, the television industry
is gradually reducing gender biases in its programming, partly because of the inu-
ence of media advocacy groups who have worked tirelessly to reduce the portrayal of
traditional stereotypes of male and female roles.
Religion and Gender Roles
Organized religion plays an important role in the lives of many Americans. Despite
differences in doctrines, most religions exhibit a common trend in their views about
gender roles (Eitzen & Zinn, 2000). Children who receive religious instruction are
likely to be socialized to accept certain gender stereotypes, and people who are reli-
gious are inclined to endorse gender stereotypes (Robinson et al., 2004). In Jewish,
Christian, and Islamic traditions these stereotypes commonly embrace an emphasis
on male supremacy, with God presented as male through language such as Father, He, or
King. The biblical conceptualization of Eve as created from Adams rib provides a clear
endorsement of the gender assumption that females are meant to be secondary to males.
e composition of the leadership of most religious organizations in the United
States provides additional evidence of male dominance and of the circumscription of
female gender roles. Until 1970 no women were ordained as clergy in any American
Protestant denomination. No female rabbis existed until 1972, and the Roman Catholic
Church still does not allow female priests.
Movements are afoot to change the traditional patriarchal nature of organized reli-
gion in America, as evidenced by several recent trends. Data from the Bureau of Labor
Statistics indicate that from 1994 to 2009, the numbers of women clergy in the United
States doubled to 73,000 (Lee, 2011). In 2006 Katherine Jeerts Schori was elected
presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in America—the rst woman to lead a
church in the history of the worldwide Anglican Communion (Banerjee, 2006). Female
enrollment in seminaries and divinity schools has increased dramatically. Eorts are
also under way to reduce sexist language in church proceedings and religious writings
(Grossman, 2011; Haught, 2009).
We see, then, that family, friends, schools, books, television (and other media, such as
movies, magazines, and popular music), and religion frequently help to develop and rein-
force traditional gender-role assumptions and behaviors in our lives. We are all aected
by gender-role conditioning to some degree, and we could discuss at great length how
this process discourages development of each persons full potential. However, this text-
book deals with our sexuality, so it is the impact of gender-role conditioning on this
aspect of our lives that we examine in the next section.
Gender-Role Expectations: Their Impact on Our Sexuality
Gender-role expectations exert a profound impact on our sexuality. Our beliefs about
males and females, together with our assumptions about what constitutes appropriate
Boston Globe via Getty Images
The number of women ordained as clergy
has increased dramatically.
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140 CHAPTER 5
behaviors for each, can affect many aspects of sexual experience. Our assessment of
ourselves as sexual beings, the expectations we have for intimate relationships, our per-
ception of the quality of such experiences, and the responses of others to our sexuality
are all significantly influenced by our identification as male or female.
In the following pages we examine some of our gender-role assumptions and their
potential eects on relations between the sexes. We do not mean to imply that only het-
erosexual couples are limited by these assumptions. Gender-role stereotypes can inu-
ence people regardless of their sexual orientation, although homosexual couples might be
aected somewhat dierently by them.
Women as Undersexed, Men as Oversexed
A long-standing, mistaken assumption in many Western societies is that women
are inherently less sexually inclined than men. Such gender stereotypes can result in
women being subjected to years of negative socialization during which they are taught
to suppress or deny their natural sexual feelings. Although these stereotypes are begin-
ning to fade as people strive to throw off some of the behavior constraints of genera-
tions of socialization, many women are still influenced by such views. Some women,
believing that it is not appropriate to be easily aroused sexually, direct their energies to
blocking or hiding these normal responses.
Males can be harmed by being stereotyped as supersexual. A man who is not
immediately aroused by a person he perceives as attractive and/or available can feel
somehow inadequate. After all, are not all men supposed to be instantly eager when con-
fronted with a sexual opportunity? We believe that such an assumption is demeaning
and reduces men to insensitive machines that respond automatically when the correct
button is pushed. Male students in our classes frequently express their frustration and
ambivalence over this issue. e following account is typical of these observations:
When I take a woman out for the rst time, I am often confused over how the sex
issue should be handled. I feel pressured to make a move, even when I am not all
that inclined to hop into the sack. Isn’t this what women expect? If I don’t even try,
they may think there is something wrong with me. I almost feel like I would have
to explain myself if I acted uninterested in having sex. Usually it’s just easier to
make the move and let them decide what they want to do with it. (Authors’ les)
Clearly, this man believes that he is expected to pursue sex, even when he does not
want to, as part of his masculine role. is stereotypical view of men as the initiators of sex
in developing relationships can be distressing for both sexes, as we see in the next section.
Men as Initiators, Women as Recipients
In our society traditional gender roles establish the expectation that men will initiate
intimate relationships (from the opening invitation for an evening out to the first over-
ture toward sexual activity) and that women will respond with permission or denial
(Dworkin & O’Sullivan, 2005). As the following comment reveals, this expectation
can make men feel burdened and pressured:
Women should experience how anxiety-provoking it can be. I get tired of
always being the one to make the suggestion, since there’s always the potential
of being turned down. (Authors’ les)
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Gender Issues141 141
A woman who feels compelled to accept a passive female role can have a dicult
time initiating sex. It could be even harder for her to assume an active role during sex-
ual activity. Many women are frustrated, regretful, and understandably angry that such
cultural expectations are so deeply ingrained in our society. e following comments,
expressed by women talking together, reect some of these thoughts:
I like to ask men out and have often done so. But it’s frustrating when many of
the men I ask out automatically assume that I want to jump in bed with them
just because I take the initiative to make a date. (Authors’ les)
It is hard for me to let my man know what I like during lovemaking. After all, he
is supposed to know, isn’t he? If I tell him, it’s like I am usurping his role as the
all-knowing one. (Authors’ les)
Women as Controllers, Men as Movers
Many women grow up believing that men always have sex on their minds. For such a
woman, it may be a logical next step to become the controller of what takes place during
sexual interaction. By this we do not mean actively initiating certain activities, which she
sees as the prerogative of men, the movers. Rather, a woman may see her role as controlling
her male partners rampant lust by making certain he does not coerce her into unacceptable
activities. Thus, instead of enjoying how good it feels to have her breasts caressed, she may
concentrate on how to keep his hand off her genitals. This concern with control can be par-
ticularly pronounced during the adolescent dating years. It is not surprising that a woman
who spends a great deal of time and energy regulating sexual intimacy might have difficulty
experiencing sexual feelings when she finally allows herself to relinquish her controlling role.
Conversely, men are often conditioned to see women as sexual challenges and to go
as far as they can during sexual encounters. ey too may have diculty appreciating
the good feelings of being close to and touching someone when all they are thinking
about is what they will do next. Men who routinely experience this pattern can have
a hard time relinquishing the mover role and being receptive rather than active dur-
ing sexual interaction. ey might be confused or even threatened by a woman who
switches roles from controller to active initiator.
Men as Unemotional and Strong, Women as Nurturing and Supportive
Perhaps one of the most undesirable of all gender-role stereotypes is the notion that
being emotionally expressive, tender, and nurturing is appropriate only for women. Men
are often socialized to be unemotional. A man who is trying to appear strong might find
it difficult to express vulnerability, deep feelings, and doubts. This conditioning can make
it exceedingly difficult for a man to develop emotionally satisfying intimate relationships.
For example, a man who accepts the assumption of nonemotionality might approach
sex as a purely physical act, during which expressions of feelings have no place. is
behavior results in a limited kind of experience that can leave both parties feeling dis-
satised. Women often have a negative reaction when they encounter this characteristic
in men, because women tend to place great importance on openness and willingness
to express feelings in a relationship. However, we need to remember that many men
must struggle against a lifetime of macho conditioning when they try to express long-
suppressed emotions. Women, on the other hand, can grow tired of their role as nurtur-
ers, particularly when their eorts are greeted with little or no reciprocity.
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142 CHAPTER 5
We have discussed how strict adherence to traditional gender roles can limit and
restrict the ways we express our sexuality. These cultural legacies are often expressed
more subtly today than in the past, but rigid gender-role expectations linger on, inhib-
iting our growth as multidimensional people and our capacity to be fully ourselves with
others. Although many people are breaking away from stereotyped gender roles and
are learning to accept and express themselves more fully, we cannot underestimate the
extent of gender-role learning that still occurs in our society.
Many people are now striving to integrate both masculine and feminine behaviors
into their lifestyles. is trend, often referred to as androgyny, is the focus of the nal
section of this chapter.
Transcending Gender Roles: Androgyny
The word androgyny (an-DRAW-ji-nee), meaning having characteristics of both sexes,
is derived from the Greek roots andr-, meaning man, and gyne-, meaning “woman.
The term is used to describe flexibility in gender role. Androgynous individuals have
integrated aspects of masculinity and femininity into their personalities and behavior.
Androgyny offers the option of expressing whatever behavior seems appropriate in a
given situation instead of limiting responses to those considered gender appropriate.
Thus androgynous men and women might be assertive on the job but nurturing with
friends, family members, and lovers. Many men and women possess characteristics con-
sistent with traditional gender assumptions but also have interests and behavioral ten-
dencies typically ascribed to the other sex. Actually, people can range from being very
masculine or feminine to being both masculine and feminine—that is, androgynous.
Social psychologist Sandra Bem (1975, 1993) developed a paper-and-pencil inventory
for measuring the degree to which individuals are identied with masculine or feminine
behaviors or a combination thereof. Similar devices have been developed since Bems pio-
neering work. Armed with these devices for measuring androgyny, a number of researchers
have investigated how androgynous individuals compare with strongly gender-typed people.
A number of studies indicate that androgynous people are more exible in their
behaviors, are less limited by rigid gender-role assumptions, have higher levels of self-
esteem, make better decisions in group settings, have better communication skills, and
exhibit more social competence and motivation to achieve than do people who are
strongly gender typed or those who score low in both areas (Hirokawa et al., 2004;
Kirchmeyer, 1996; Shimonaka et al., 1997). Research also demonstrates that masculine
and androgynous people of both sexes are more independent and less likely to have
their opinions swayed than are individuals who are strongly identied with the feminine
role (Bem, 1975). In fact, both androgyny and high masculinity appear to be adaptive
for both sexes at all ages (Sinnott, 1986). However, feminine and androgynous people
of both sexes appear to be signicantly more nurturing than those who adhere to the
masculine role (Bem, 1993; Ray & Gold, 1996).
We need to be cautious about concluding that androgyny is an ideal state, free of
potential problems. One study found that masculine-typed males demonstrated better
overall emotional adjustment than did androgynous males (Jones et al., 1978). Another
study, of college professors in their early careers, found that androgynous individu-
als exhibited greater personal satisfaction but more job-related stress than those who
were strongly gender typed (Rotheram & Weiner, 1983). In a large sample of college
students, masculine personality characteristics were also more closely associated with
being versatile and adaptable than was the trait of androgyny (Lee & Scheurer, 1983).
Other studies have also indicated that it may be masculinity, not femininity or androg-
yny, that is most closely associated with successful adjustment and positive self-esteem
androgyny
A blending of typical male and female
behaviors in one individual.
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Gender Issues143 143
(Ungar & Crawford, 1992; D. Williams & D’Alessandro, 1994). is may be because
masculine attributes are viewed more positively and consequently lead to greater social
rewards” (Burn et al., 1996, p. 420). us, although androgyny is often associated with
emotional, social, and behavioral competence, more information is necessary for a com-
plete picture of its eect on personal adjustment and satisfaction.
Androgynous individuals, both male and female, seem to have more positive atti-
tudes toward sexuality and are more aware of and expressive of feelings of love than are
individuals who are traditionally gender typed (Ganong & Coleman, 1987; Walsh &
Myerson, 1980). Androgynous people also appear to be more tolerant and less likely
to judge or criticize the sexual behaviors of others (Garcia, 1982). Studies have found
that androgynous women are more orgasmic and experience more sexual satisfaction
than do feminine-typed women (Kimlicka et al., 1983; Radlove, 1983). However, two
separate investigations have revealed that masculine males are signicantly more com-
fortable with sex than are androgynous females, indicating that biological sex may still
exert a stronger eect than gender typing (Allgeier, 1981; Walsh & Myerson, 1980).
Our own guess is that androgynous people tend to be exible and comfortable
in their sexuality. We would expect such people, whether men or women, to have
great capacity to enjoy both the emotional and the physical aspects of sexual intimacy.
Androgynous lovers are probably comfortable both initiating and responding to invita-
tions for sexual sharing, and they are probably not signicantly limited by preconceived
notions of who must do what—and how—during their lovemaking. ese observa-
tions are supported by research indicating that androgynous couples experience more
emotional and sexual satisfaction and personal commitment in their relationships than
do gender-typed couples (Rosenzweig & Daily, 1989; Stephen & Harrison, 1985).
Research on androgyny continues, and we certainly have good reasons to be cautious
about an unequivocally enthusiastic endorsement of this behavioral style. Nevertheless,
evidence collected thus far suggests that people who can transcend traditional gender
roles are able to function more comfortably and eectively in a wider range of situations.
Androgynous individuals can select from a broad repertoire of feminine and masculine
behaviors. ey can choose to be independent, assertive, nurturing, or tender, based
not on gender-role norms but rather on what provides them and others with optimum
personal satisfaction in a given situation.
Summary
Male and Female, Masculine and Feminine
e processes by which our maleness and femaleness are
determined and the manner in which they inuence our
behavior, sexual and otherwise, are highly complex.
Sex refers to our biological maleness or femaleness, as
reected in various physical attributes (chromosomes, repro-
ductive organs, genitals, and so forth).
Gender is a term or concept that encompasses the behav-
iors, socially constructed roles, and psychological attributes
commonly associated with being male or female. Our ideas
of masculinity and femininity involve gender assumptions
about behavior based on a persons sex.
Gender identity refers to each persons subjective sense of
being male or female.
Gender role refers to a collection of attitudes and behav-
iors a specic culture considers normal and appropriate for
people of a particular sex.
Gender roles establish sex-related behavioral expectations,
which are culturally dened and therefore vary from society
to society and from era to era.
Gender-Identity Formation
Research eorts to isolate the many biological factors that
inuence a persons gender identity have resulted in the
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Editorial review has deemed that any suppressed content does not materially affect the overall learning experience. Cengage Learning reserves the right to remove additional content at any time if subsequent rights restrictions require it.
144 CHAPTER 5
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identication of six biological categories, or levels: chromo-
somal sex, gonadal sex, hormonal sex, sex of the internal
reproductive structures, sex of the external genitals, and sex
dierentiation of the brain.
Under normal conditions these six biological variables inter-
act harmoniously to determine our biological sex. However,
errors can occur at any of the six levels. e resulting irregu-
larities in the development of a persons biological sex can
seriously complicate acquisition of a gender identity.
e social-learning interpretation of gender-identity forma-
tion suggests that our identication with either masculine or
feminine roles results primarily from the social and cultural
models and inuences to which we are exposed.
Most theorists embrace an interactional model in which
gender identity is seen as a result of a complex interplay of
biological and social-learning factors.
Transsexualism and Transgenderism
A transsexual is a person whose gender identity is opposite
to his or her biological sex.
e term transgendered is generally applied to individuals
whose appearance and behaviors do not conform to the
gender roles society ascribes to people of a particular sex.
Most transsexuals are heterosexually oriented. e trans-
gendered community has a more eclectic composition of gay
men, lesbians, bisexuals, and heterosexuals.
e scientic community has not reached a consensus about the
causes and best treatment for transsexualism. Some transsexu-
als have successfully undergone sex-reassignment procedures in
which their bodies are altered to match their gender identities.
Gender Roles
Widely accepted gender-role assumptions can begin to func-
tion as stereotypes, which are notions about what people are
like based not on their individuality but on their inclusion in
a general category, such as age or sex.
Many common gender-based stereotypes in our society
encourage us to prejudge others and restrict our opportunities.
Socialization is the process by which society conveys its
behavioral expectations to us.
Ethnic variations in gender roles are observed among His-
panic Americans, African Americans, and Asian Americans.
Parents, peers, schools, books, television, and religion all act
as agents in the socialization of gender roles.
Gender-role expectations can have a profound eect on our
sexuality. Our assessment of ourselves as sexual beings, the
expectations we have for intimate relationships, our percep-
tion of the quality of such experiences, and the responses of
others to our sexuality are all signicantly inuenced by our
own perceptions of our gender roles.
Transcending Gender Roles: Androgyny
Androgynous individuals are people who have moved beyond
traditional gender roles by integrating aspects associated with
both masculinity and femininity into their lifestyles.
Media Resources
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Editorial review has deemed that any suppressed content does not materially affect the overall learning experience. Cengage Learning reserves the right to remove additional content at any time if subsequent rights restrictions require it.