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Gender Roles

Gender Roles. In this section, we continue to pick apart ideas about how sexual/affectional orientation relate and interact with gender. We’ve been talking about sex , which is whether someone is physically male or female. Let’s define gender role as:

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Gender Roles

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  1. Gender Roles • In this section, we continue to pick apart ideas about how sexual/affectional orientation relate and interact with gender. • We’ve been talking about sex, which is whether someone is physically male or female. • Let’s define gender role as: • a person’s conformity with a society’s rules about what a male or female is “supposed to be or act like” • These rules are known as gender norms.

  2. Gender Roles • Let’s also define two more terms: • Gender identity: a person’s fundamental sense of belonging to one sex And • Sex-typed behavior: observable behaviors typically studied and associated with gender role and identity (affiliation for same vs. opposite sex peers, interest in rough and tumble play, fantasy roles, toy interests, and dress-up play)

  3. Gender Roles: Questions • Do heterosexuals automatically assume gender roles (males take male roles and females take female roles)? • Do gay men assume female gender roles and lesbians male gender roles? • Do boys who play with dolls and “tomboy” girls grow up to be gay and lesbian? • What about bi folks? • And why the hell does cross-gender behavior upset people so much? • Which reminds me…

  4. What does the Research Say? • The article by Bailey & Zucker (1995) reviews many different studies about sex-typed behavior and sexual orientation, and analyzes them. • It looks at two types of studies: • Prospective studies look at children and wonder how they’ll “turn out” • Retrospective studies look at adults and have them recall their childhoods

  5. Prospective Studies • Most studied male children who already displayed significant cross-gender behaviors • 63-80% of them turned out to be gay or bi in adolescence or young adulthood

  6. Prospective Studies • While this seems to show a strong correllation, keep in mind that: • The studies did not involve girls • The samples were drawn from kids already at clinics, and therefore may represent kids who show more extreme cross-gender behavior to begin with • They’re freakin’ expensive studies (due to having to follow around each child for years asking “are you gay yet?” every few weeks until adolescence--at least!) so there aren’t very many of them.

  7. Retrospective Studies • Studies asking women and men, both straight and lesbian/gay, to recall their childhoods have found: • More atypical sex-typed behavior among gays and lesbians • With great consistency

  8. Retrospective Studies • However, there are some problems: • Sampling bias (nonrepresentative samples) • It’s not a “perfect correlation”--some gay men and lesbians don’t recall any cross-gender behaviors in childhood • Recall is not perfect! • Memory distortion: Did I really have this experience in childhood, or might the memory be influenced by my internalizing of stereotypes? • Selective recall: Am I more likely to remember my cross-gender experiences because I’m gay, or less because I’m straight? • Childhood amnesia: Am I really able to remember?

  9. What did the research look like? • Bailey and Zucker analyzed 48 studies (41 published and 7 unpublished), most between 1960 and 1995 (Kinsey’s 1948-1953) • Sample sizes ranged from 34 to 8,751 (median=189) • Culturally, most samples were drawn from Western industrialized countries (2 studies from Brazil, Guatemala, Peru, and the Phillipines)

  10. So does being a tomboy mean I’m gonna be a lesbian or what? • They found: • 6% of girls who are tomboys (or display other types of cross-gender behavior) will become lesbians and • 51% of boys who display atypical sex-type behavior will become gay • Cross-gender behavior is thus more predictive for boys than girls

  11. And um, why? • Biological explanation: • Neural structures that involve both sex and orientation are influenced prenatally by hormones • One neural structure involving sex is influenced prenatally by hormones, and then affects another structure involving orienation • Neither of these are validated. • Psychosocial explanation: • Identification with opposite-sex parent/distant same-sex parent • Parental socialization--parents more tolerant (not validated, and doesn’t explain why cross-sex behavior relates to sexual orientation • Neither of these are validated. There are also other unvalidated ideas too. But I’m not listing them ‘cause I don’t want to. So there.

  12. And what about… • “Within-orientation differences”: Lesbians and gay men who didn’t have cross-gender behaviors in childhood? • Biology: • One brain structure controls sex-type behavior and another controls orientation, or • one structure for both develops each at different times. • Again, not validated. So why am I teaching this stuff? • Biology may only account for children who displayed atypical sex-type behaviors and also became homosexual adults; other explanations may account for children with typical sex-type behaviors who become homosexual adults.

  13. And bi the way… • Okay, that’s an awful pun. • Men becoming bi (or at least straight with gay interest) has some correlation with childhood sex-type behavior, and • Women becoming bi involves less “childhood gender nonconformity” than women becoming lesbians. • In studies, men with childhood atypical sex-type behavior may show lower self-esteem, higher rates of depression and anxiety, and higher suicidality. Why d’ya think?

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