Sc2220 lecture 2 2012

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SC2220 Lecture 2 2012

SC2220 Lecture 2 2012

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  • 1. Eric C. ThompsonSemester 2, 2011/2012
  • 2. Tutorials Announcement Manual Registration is today and tomorrow. Try to get it sorted out TODAY! If you are not registered now, you will most likely have to enroll in one of the two 8am Wednesday tutorial slots. If you have questions, please approach the instructor asap (at the break or after the lecture).
  • 3. Outline: Today’s Lecture Facts about Human Sex and Sexuality Biology and Cultural Myth-making When does Biology matter Socially?
  • 4. 1. A Few Facts about Sex
  • 5. What is so good about Sex? Asexual (non-sexual) reproduction relies on mutation to create variety. Sexual reproduction creates new combinations of DNA every time. Variety: Speeds up evolution, allows for more rapid adaptation, allows for emergence of more complex organisms
  • 6. Asexual Reproduction (Example: Hydra) Hydra are small creatures that live in water. Hydra grow “buds” that drop off, grow large, and grow their own buds. Hydra are (Note: This Hydra, a Mythical Greek biologically immortal (they don’t age!). Beast, is not what I’m talking about!)
  • 7. Sexual Reproduction (1): Sequential and Simultaneous Hermaphrodites Clown Fish: Male to Female Sex Change Wrasse: Female to Male Sex Change (Nemo’s deep dark secret?) Hamlet Fish: Simultaneous Hermaphrodites Banana Slug: Simultaneous Hermaphrodites(Take turns during extended, multiple mating Prefers to mate with partner, but self- sessions, lasting several days) fertilizes if necessary.
  • 8. Sexual Reproduction(2):“Dedicated” Heterosexuals Hoverflies Homo sapiens sapiens We are “dedicated” heterosexuals, in the sense that Rabbits from birth onward we remain
  • 9. Human Sexuality Shapes Gender If asexual, we would have no basis for “gender” at all. If clownfish, gender would be an aspirational concept (men would aspire to one day become female). Because humans are “fixed” (unchanging) as male or female from birth, we think of gender as a fixed attribute determined by our biology (even though it is not).
  • 10. Biology does dot Determine Gender. Different cultures create many different interpretations of our biology (for example, two, three or more genders). Different societies deal with biology differently (they put male and female bodies to use in different ways). Gender is our cultural interpretations of and social practices associated with our biological system of sexual reproduction.
  • 11. The Sex / Gender Distinction SEX: Is a biological construct. It is the product of biological processes (reproduction, DNA replication, mutation, selection, evolution, etc.). GENDER: Is a social and cultural construct. It is the ways in which we organize our society, interpret, and give meaning to the fact that we are a sexually reproducing species. There are many, many different ways to organize society around and many different ways to interpret our sexual reproductive biology.
  • 12. Sex at Different Levels Biological Sex is not a simple binary Genetic and Cellular Level  XY and XX Chromosomes Hormonal Level  Testosterone, Oestrogen Anatomical Level  Genitals, Secondary Sex Characteristics See: Fausto-Sterling 2000, p.22
  • 13. Male, Female, and Other Many types people are ‘intersexed’ individuals  They do not follow “normal” sexual development Hermaphrodites (“five sexes”) only refer specifically to “uninterpretable” genitalia. There are many other ways in which typically male and female characteristics can be ‘mixed and matched’; many are at all obvious. Approximately 1% to 2% of all people born are “intersexed” in one way or another. At least 1 of every 100 people is intersexed in one way or another (Fausto-Sterling 2000 estimates 1.7 per 100).
  • 14. “Intersexed” (Hermaphrodites) A small percentage of all humans born are hermaphrodites; or “intersexed” Many, many varieties of intersexed individuals (Reading: “The Five Sexes” only scratches the surface). Intersexed individuals are ‘fixed’ The Reclining Hermaphrodite by modern medicine; but this is 1st century BCE sculpture not always helpful to the individuals involved. Intersexed bodies are required to See the Short Film conform to cultural gender beliefs. XXXY: Intersex Genital Mutilation
  • 15. Human Sexes For every 1,000 people: 491 are female 491 are male 17 are intersexed 1 other?
  • 16. Paths to Intersexuality Some people have extra chromosomes: XXY, XYY Others experience unusual development, for example: In the womb, one set of processes “sexes” the body  “Masculinization” of the body* Another set of processes “sexes” the brain  “Masculinization” of the brain.* In the womb, sometimes a fetus experiences one process but not the other. *For technical reasons, becoming female is considered the ‘normal’ developmental sequence; and “masculinization” is a deviation.
  • 17. Some Terminology Intersexed (or “Hermaphrodite”) – Having both typically male and typically female genitalia Transexual or transsexual – Crossing from one sex to another biologically (e.g. sex change) Transgender – Crossing from one gender to another culturally (e.g. cross-dressing or “transvestite”) Homosexual – Same sex sexual practice or identity Heterosexual – Cross sex sexual practice or identity A major problem is that our vocabulary for talking about these things is limited, vague, and inconsistent
  • 18. 2. Biology and Cultural Myth-makingor How We Turn Ambiguous Biologyinto Cultural Truth
  • 19. Heterosexed Individuals  Most individuals are substantially “heterosexed”; they follow a standard developmental sequence (they are “normal” – in a statisical sense)  Even then, discounting ALL the many unusual cases. There is tremendous overlap in almost every respect between individuals who follow a standard female developmental sequence (i.e. women) and those who follow a male developmental sequence (i.e. men).
  • 20. Why are we obsessed with Biological SexDifferences? They seem (are) more easy to observe – so they seem more “real” than socialization or culture. They give us the comfortable illusion of permanence. So, we look obsessively for biological sex differences, for example . . . We define ourselves and others to a significant degree, based on only “One-percent of the burn chart” (one- percent of our total outward appearance).
  • 21. “Sexing the Brain”* Studies showing difference in brain structures: 13* Studies showing no difference in brain structures: 95* Question: Why focus on difference correlated with sex? What is the specific purpose of the research? Left-handed & right-handed people exhibit as great or greater differences. Focusing on sex/gender difference and highlighting the (minority of) studies that find differences, reinforces cultural sense of difference. *See Fausto-Sterling, Sexing the Body (2000) Chapter 5 (This is among the supplementary readings)
  • 22. Ok, so there is a lot of misleading of scientific information, BUT men and women are still different in many ways, on average, right? ABSOLUTELY TRUE! Men are on average:  Women are on average:  Faster  Less susceptible to illness  Stronger (esp. Upper Body)  Better descriptive memory  Better with directions  Better at listening/recall  Better with math (maybe)  Better with language But, what does “average” mean? Is everyone pretty much average?
  • 23. Problem with Averages  Studies are repeatedly used to claim “men and women are different”  Average differences are always cited.  But, the range is almost never cited; without that, the meaningfulness of the “average” is useless. “Even when scientists themselves are cautious… popular renditions of newscientific findings dispense with linguistic subtlety” (Fausto-Sterling pg.236)
  • 24. How big is the difference? Example of a test of physical ability; emphasizing upper body strength.* 80% FEMALES 20% MALES 80%In US Army physical tests: top 20% of women had the same average as bottom 20% for men. (These statistics then get used both for and against women in the military)
  • 25. How much can you lift? Udomporn Polsak (Female, Thailand, Height 150 cm, Weight 53 kg): Lifted 125 kg* Tang Gonghong (Female, China, Height 172 cm, Weight 120 kg): Lifted 182.5 kg Halil Mutlu (Male, Turkey, Height 150 cm, Weight 56 kg): Lifted 160 kg Hossein Reza Zadeh (Male, Iran, Height 185 cm, Weight 160 kg): Lifted 262.5 kg *All results for “Clean & Jerk” 2004 Olympics
  • 26. “Strong Masculine Bodies” In many cultures, domestic work is considered more appropriate for women than for men. In Samoa, Fafafini are considered excellent at domestic work because of their strong masculine bodies. Bodies can be (and are) used and interpreted in many different ways.
  • 27. Turning Averages into Absolutes Physical strength, especially upper-body strength is the most significant known difference between human males and females (aside from childbearing). Most other differences have much greater overlap. The science of averages is often turned into absolutes in popular discourse (which in turn guides public policy)… “Science” as myth-making… in modern societies, when we call something “scientific” it gains credibility. In almost every case, the abilities of woman and men overlap.
  • 28. 3. Sex Differences that Matter in (Some) Social Contexts *Reproductive Strategies *Sexual Competition *Hormones
  • 29. Reproductive Strategies In mammals (including humans), females are far more limited in the number of offspring compared to males. This inclines females toward “quality” and males toward “quantity” in sexual reproduction and practice. Females are more “selective” (and in this sense, more active in driving human evolution; Hrdy 1981) Note also: Social systems play a strong role in reproductive strategies… social and cultural systems of gender affect biology as much as biology shapes gender.
  • 30. Sexual Competition Sexual Competition (over access to mates) occurs between men and between women; NOT between men and women. Men compete with other men to make themselves attractive to women (based on what women want; or what men think women want). Women likewise compete with other women. At the same time, groups of men and groups of women often cooperate.
  • 31. Some Consequences of Reproductive Strategies and Sexual Selection Physical dimorphism (men being on average larger than women) is an outcome of competition between men. Men’s larger size did not come about in order to physically dominate women; but in some cases it results in physical domination (violence or abuse). Male competition focuses on sexual access to women. Female competition focuses on access to the excess resources men produce (meat, money, etc.). Some of the social and cultural consequences of these differences will be discussed later in the course…
  • 32. Testosterone (Hormone) Theory Male dominance is often attributed to testosterone (e.g. Steven Goldberg, 1993). Testosterone has effects that are important to understanding gender socialization – but they are oversimplified and exaggerated culturally. The oversimplified, exaggerated testosterone explanations perpetuate gendered outcomes and are often inaccurate excuses for gender discrimination.  For example: Goldberg (1993) concludes that because testosterone (may) incline men to be more competitive therefore women should never compete with men.
  • 33. A Few Facts about Testosterone Both men and women have testosterone. Testosterone levels are affected by environment.  Levels of testosterone rise during competition (e.g. sports) – among participants and fans. The members and fans of a winning team have spike in testosterone after the game; testosterone levels in losing teams and fans drop.  Men’s testosterone levels fall after marriage and rise after divorce.  Boys have spikes in testosterone at various stages of childhood and adolescence. Testosterone affects the body and emotional responses.
  • 34. Social Effects of Testosterone Testosterone makes boys more “aggressive” (agitated).  Boys and girls respond equally to physical/aggressive activities, but boys are more likely to initiate them. Aggression contributes to different play styles. Different play styles contributes to self-segregation by gender (boys play with boys, girls play with girls) Segregation leads to different socialization (girls learn from each other ‘how to be girls’; boys learn from each other ‘how to be boys’) The socialization is responsible for the greatest differences; the testosterone is a “catalyst” but not a “cause” (Testosterone would have no effect in the absence of socialization processes).
  • 35. Beyond Testosterone Testosterone is just one example of the complex interactions of biology (hormones), society and cultural contexts. Interactions between sex (biology) and gender (society, culture) are always similarly complex. Correlation between a biological fact and a social and cultural one can never be taken as proving that one causes the other. Reducing gender to biology is myth-making; not science.
  • 36. Summarizing… Sex is a biological construct; Gender is a social and cultural construct. Sex and human heterosexual biology are a basis for gender… but do not determine gender. Ambiguous “facts” (such as average differences) and ambiguous biology is regularly transformed into cultural “truths” (belief taken to be “natural” and unquestionable). Bodies and biology do have effects socially; but in complex, sometimes counterintuitive ways. And society and culture can shape biology too!
  • 37. Final Thoughts… How have this lecture and reading changed your understanding of human sex and sexuality? Is anything here new to you? What questions do you have?  Bring them to tutorials!!!!!