AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is caused by a retrovirus, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), identified in 1984. It is currently estimated that over 35 million people are living with HIV, the vast majority living in low- to middle-income countries. HIV/AIDS is not evenly distributed and prevalence rates range from 1 percent to 25 percent […]
Sociology of Gender and Sexuality
Approaches to understanding sexuality are categorized as either essentialist or social constructionist. Essentialism, focusing on the individual expression of human desire and pleasure, favors a biological explanation. Social constructionism, focusing on the relationship between individual and society, explores how sexuality is embedded in historical, political, and social practices. Attention is paid to the ways in which sexual desires, practices, identities, and attitudes are conceptualized, categorized, deployed, and regulated through the social institutions and practices of society.
Sex is related to the biological distinctions between males and females primarily found in relation to reproductive functions.
Gender is a social definition of expected behavior based on one’s sex category. Because gender can be enacted in an infinite variety of ways, and indeed is, we know that gender is a social construction and, therefore, learned behavior.
Most people live their lives with unquestioned assumptions about men and women based on an overemphasis of the role of biology in shaping thoughts and actions. Yet, research has shown that there is a profound social influence on sex and gender with the effects of social interaction far overriding biology on human behavior.
Dorothy Smith’s influential feminist essay, ”A sociology for women,” begins by calling attention to a ”line of fault”: ”a point of rupture in my/our experience as woman/women within the social forms of consciousness – the culture or ideology of our society – in relation to the world known otherwise, the world directly felt, sensed, responded […]
There are at least four different meanings associated with the term bisexuality. Firstly, in early sexology bisexuality was conceived of as a primordial state of hermaphroditism prior to sexual differentiation. Secondly, bisexuality has been invoked to describe the co-presence of ”feminine” and ”masculine” psychological traits in a human being. Thirdly, bisexuality has provided the concept […]
Black feminist thought is a collection of ideas, writings, and art that articulates a standpoint of and for black women of the African diaspora. It describes black women as a unique group that exists in a ”place” in US social relations where intersectional processes of race, ethnicity, gender, class, and sexual orientation shape black women’s […]
The sex, gender and sexuality of the human body have both intertwined and disjointed histories within society, deeming some classifications as normal/healthy and others as pathological/sickly. Eighteenth-century science especially exacerbated the oppositional nature between categories of sex, gendered experiences and sexuality, constructing them as universally biologically determined. The discovery of the hormone in 1905 provided […]
Bringing the two sensitive areas of childhood and sexuality together ends a dominant and ideological taboo, especially when the issue of childhood sexuality highlights the rights of all children to make informed choices about their own bodies, sexual desires, practices, and identity and when it challenges heterosexual norms. There is a limited understanding of childhood […]
The term coming out and the metaphor of the closet are closely connected. Both concepts have played a significant role in sexual politics since the 1950s. The idea of coming out was popularized in the radical politics of gay liberation movements throughout the 1960s and 1970s. On its most basic level, coming-out refers to a […]
Popularized by Rich (1981), compulsory heterosexuality is the cultural assumption that both males and females are biologically predisposed to heterosexuality. The assumption that biology excludes a naturalized explanation of homosexuality limits humans to only heterosexual attraction. Therefore, the operation of compulsory heterosexuality usually involves the hegemonic manner in which heterosexuality is reified and naturalized, while […]
Consciousness raising (CR) was a cornerstone of radical feminist organizing in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Many of the women involved in the anti-war, new left, and civil rights movements were disillusioned as they found themselves relegated to the role of providing services to men. As a result of this awareness, they began small […]
Just as when photography and film were first introduced they generated the pornographic photograph and film, so as soon as the newer information technologies appeared, an erotic world of cybersex and intimacy appeared alongside and embedded within it. New information technologies are used in ways that can facilitate new patterns of sexualities and intimacies. Surfing […]
Candace West and Don Zimmerman introduced the concept ”doing gender” in an article of the same title in 1987. They were the first to articulate an ethnomethodological perspective on the creation and affirmation of gender inequality between males and females in western society. The purview of ethnomethodology includes the study of the socially managed accomplishments […]
Drag queens and drag kings are men, women, and transgendered people who perform femininity, masculinity, or something in between. Drag queens have long been part of gay life, but drag kings are a relatively recent phenomenon. Drag in various forms can be found in almost all parts of the world, and increasingly a transnational drag […]
Emotion work refers to the management and regulation of one’s own feelings, or the personal effort expended to maintain equilibrium in relationship, through the production, transformation or inhibition of feelings. The term ”emotional labor” is sometimes used interchangeably with ”emotion work,” which can be confusing. To differentiate the terms, emotional labor takes place in a […]
The debate over constructionism and essentialism is a longstanding philosophical argument, from Plato and Aristotle to contemporary debates over deconstruction in literary theory. Broadly and simply, essentialism suggests that qualities are inherent in objects of study, with little reference to contexts, ambiguities, and relativities. It is a ”belief in the real, true essence of things” […]
Everyday life, in the field of sociology, has been positioned as a condition, a social space, a political goal, and a methodological analytic. Its meaning has shifted with time, and its potential consequences have shifted with its meaning. One thing that has not changed has been the home of the concept, under the wing of […]
Female masculinity refers to a range of masculine-inflected identities and identifications. Debates over the status and meaning of female masculinity and the bodies and selves to whom the terms may be ascribed emerge in the context of analyses of sex, gender, and sexuality. Social and cultural history has documented the lives of individual women who […]
Femininities and masculinities are acquired social identities: as individuals become socialized they develop a gender identity, an understanding of what it means to be a ”man” or a ”woman.” How individuals develop an understanding of their gender identity, including whether or not they fit into these prescribed gender roles, depends upon the context within which […]
Feminism is the system of ideas and political practices based on the principle that women are human beings equal to men. As a system of ideas, feminism includes several alternative discourses – liberal, cultural, materialist or socialist, radical, psychoanalytic, womanist, and postmodernist – of which liberal and materialist have been most important to sociology. Liberal […]
The women’s movement in the USA is generally broken into waves of protest, each set in different time periods with diverse tactics, ideologies, and goals. The waves are divided into a first wave, starting in the 1840s; a second wave, beginning in the late 1960s; and the third wave, emerging in the mid-1990s. Each wave […]
Feminist methodology has been developed in response to concerns by feminist scholars about the limits of traditional methodology. Feminist social scientists have raised questions about separation of theory and method, gendered biases inherent in positivism, and hierarchies that limit who can be considered the most appropriate producers of theoretical knowledge. Feminist methodology includes an array […]