Gender, Sex, and Sexuality

Read this chapter for a review of gender, sex, and sexuality. As you read through each section, consider the following points:

  • In the "Introduction to Sex and Gender", read about Harry's journey to becoming Hailey. Write a personal reaction to your thoughts on Hailey's parents allowing her to make this transition. Also, write a sociological reaction to Hailey's parents allowing her to make the transition. Remember: A sociological reaction will be one without bias or judgment.
  • Take thorough notes on the differences between sex and gender. Which one is ascribed? Which one is achieved? Also, take note of gender identity and what populations of people fall under the transgender umbrella.
  • Take note of how socialization plays a role in gender identity and gendered behaviors. Focus on the stratification of gender within the United States. In addition, explore the various theoretical perspectives on gender, taking note of feminist theory as it relates to gender-related issues.
  • Take note of varying attitudes associated with sex and sexuality. Define sexual inequality. What has been the greatest influence on sexual behavior in most societies? How have those influences recently shifted? Also, take note of Queer Theory as it pertains to sex and sexuality.


Sex and Gender

The terms "sex" and "gender" refer to two different identifiers. Sex denotes biological characteristics differentiating males and females, while gender denotes social and cultural characteristics of masculine and feminine behavior. Sex and gender are not always synchronous. Individuals who strongly identify with the opposing gender are considered transgender.


Children become aware of gender roles in their earliest years, and they come to understand and perform these roles through socialization, which occurs through four major agents: family, education, peer groups, and mass media. Socialization into narrowly prescribed gender roles results in the stratification of males and females. Each sociological perspective offers a valuable view for understanding how and why gender inequality occurs in our society.

Sex and Sexuality

When studying sex and sexuality, sociologists focus their attention on sexual attitudes and practices, not on physiology or anatomy. Norms regarding gender and sexuality vary across cultures. In general, the United States tends to be fairly conservative in its sexual attitudes. As a result, homosexuals continue to face opposition and discrimination in most major social institutions.