Human Sexuality


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Defines sex and gender; looks at human sexuality as basis of culture and society; discusses cultural restrictions on sexuality; honor killings and clitoridectomy are two sanctons relating to sexuality.

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Human Sexuality

  1. 1. Human Sexuality The Biological Foundation of Kinship
  2. 2. A Cultural Universal: Sex and its Cultural Derivative, Gender <ul><li>If there is a universal among all cultures, let alone most animals, it is sex. </li></ul><ul><li>Because we are cultural beings, gender differences is everywhere present. </li></ul><ul><li>This section looks at the following: </li></ul><ul><li>The differences between sex and gender </li></ul><ul><li>The range of sexual restriction (sorry, we won’t look at people “doing it” across cultures) </li></ul><ul><li>The incest tabu and explanations of why this tabu is so widespread in the world’s culture. </li></ul><ul><li>The question of gender status </li></ul><ul><li>The gender division of labor </li></ul>
  3. 3. Gender and Sex <ul><li>Sex refers to all the physical attributes that distinguish women and men </li></ul><ul><li>They include the reproductive systems and the body attributes of each sex. </li></ul><ul><li>Gender refers to the cultural attributes derived from sex differences. </li></ul><ul><li>The clothing styles that women and men wear is cultural. </li></ul><ul><li>The stereotyped personality differences is cultural; the kind of behavior expected from each gender </li></ul><ul><li>The tasks assigned to one gender or the other is derived from cultural expectations. </li></ul><ul><li>And, finally, the question of status between the two genders is a cultural one. The genders are nearly equal in status in some cultures and very unequal among others. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Where It All Begins: Sex Characteristics <ul><li>There are two types of sex characteristics: </li></ul><ul><li>Primary sex characteristics are the reproductive organs. </li></ul><ul><li>Secondary sex characteristics are the body attributes of each sex. </li></ul><ul><li>Sexual dimorphism refers to the extent to which the secondary characteristics are evident between women and men. </li></ul><ul><li>What follows is a refresher on sex education. </li></ul>
  5. 5. A Refresher on Male Sex Characteristics <ul><li>Males of our and all species have: </li></ul><ul><li>Testicles that produce sperm </li></ul><ul><li>Sperm that fertilizes the ovum </li></ul><ul><li>And contributes half the genes </li></ul><ul><li>The penis transmits sperm to the vagina when reproducing. </li></ul><ul><li>To overstate the obvious, the male role is brief, measurable in minutes. </li></ul>
  6. 6. A Refresher on Female Sex Characteristics <ul><li>Females of our and all species have </li></ul><ul><li>Ovaries that produce ova (sing. ovum, or egg) then send them through the </li></ul><ul><li>Oviducts or Fallopian tubes that convey the egg to the </li></ul><ul><li>Uterus, “the “reception area” of the egg where, once fertilized by the sperm, the zygote (fertilized egg) is implanted. </li></ul><ul><li>Beforehand, the vagina has received the sperm which goes through the cervix and into the uterus. </li></ul><ul><li>Starting as the zygote, the lifeform as embryo then fetus develops in the uterus for the next nine months. </li></ul><ul><li>To state the obvious again, the reproductive role of the female takes much longer than that of the male </li></ul>
  7. 7. Reproductive Process: The Implications of Cooperation Between the Sexes <ul><li>The sperm enters the cell wall of the ovum and fertilizes the nucleus, starting the process of mitosis that will lead to the embryo, fetus, and infant (upper left) </li></ul><ul><li>Of course, there are misconceptions as to the facts of life. . . (upper right) </li></ul><ul><li>In any event, it is clear why conception involves two constants that kinship has to address. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Secondary Sex Characteristics <ul><li>Definition: Those physical characteristics that define the two sexes but not directly related to reproduction. </li></ul><ul><li>The associated characteristics may be quite pronounced among some species and barely perceptible among others. </li></ul><ul><li>Culture plays a role in defining their importance; nudity is allowed in some societies (mostly in tropical regions) whereas it is illegal in our own. </li></ul><ul><li>The Yanomamo and other societies in and near Amazonia allow near-nudity; yet even then Yanomamo males feel immodest without a penis string. Dani and other Western New Guinean males wear a namba or penis sheath. </li></ul><ul><li>In one sense, this shows that nudity is separated from sexual behavior; jealousy does occur among the Yanomamo, as does the incest tabu and mother-in-law avoidance. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Secondary Sex Characteristics: Animal Species <ul><li>Sexual dimorphism varies from barely noticeable to the extreme. </li></ul><ul><li>Gibbons : Females and males are indistinguishable from each other (top photo) </li></ul><ul><li>(Burning question: would a gibbon buy Playboy or Playgirl —for the interviews, of course.) </li></ul><ul><li>Peacocks: Males have showy feathers—with functions of sexual attraction—while females are neutrally colored </li></ul><ul><li>Here, a peacock woos a peahen (bottom) </li></ul>
  10. 10. Secondary Sex Characteristics: Human Species <ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Censored </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Human sexual dimorphism falls somewhere in the middle range of all animal species </li></ul><ul><li>Women have the following </li></ul><ul><li>Pendulous breasts for lactation </li></ul><ul><li>Wide pelvis for childbirth </li></ul><ul><li>Men have the following </li></ul><ul><li>Facial hair </li></ul><ul><li>Greater grip strength </li></ul><ul><li>Larger hearts and lungs </li></ul><ul><li>Narrow pelvis </li></ul><ul><li>(Censorship courtesy of Ethnocentrity, Inc. ) </li></ul>
  11. 11. Gender Characteristics <ul><li>Gender: the cultural attributes arising from sex differences </li></ul><ul><li>Haviland define gender as the “Cultural elaboration and meanings assigned to the biological differentiation between the sexes” </li></ul><ul><li>Examples include the following </li></ul><ul><li>Gender roles: bread winning among the men until the mid-20 th century; child rearing among women until about the same time. </li></ul><ul><li>Behavior: emotional expression (women), assertiveness (men) </li></ul><ul><li>Clothing, ornamentation, make-up were distinctive in 1940s North America (upper). </li></ul><ul><li>Morocco: Both men and women wear caftans; women’s caftans are more decorative; and most women also wear the veil (lower). </li></ul>
  12. 12. Rules Governing Sexual Behavior <ul><li>All societies restrict sexual behavior in one way or another </li></ul><ul><li>Only 5% of the world’s cultures limit sexual behavior to marriage (including us, despite the “Sexual Revolution) </li></ul><ul><li>Of course, how we behave differs from the norm, in sexual as well as other matters. </li></ul><ul><li>Severity of punishment is more widespread, such as the “honor homicides” in the Middle East (next panel) </li></ul><ul><li>Clitoridectomy removes source of sexual pleasure in women throughout the Middle East and Africa (next panel) </li></ul><ul><li>Incest tabus are de facto restrictions, such as tabus in the family and the wider kin networks. </li></ul>
  13. 13. Enforcing Sexual Prohibitions: Honor Homicides <ul><li>Honor homicides occur across the Middle East, usually in stoning the victim, usually but not always women. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Offense” is adultery, even in rape cases where a raped woman at least precludes her marriage </li></ul><ul><li>Upper left: A biblical scene of a mob threatening to stone Mary Magdalene for adultery. </li></ul><ul><li>This is the scene in which Jesus, on being asked about stoning her, says “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” </li></ul><ul><li>Both men and women could be stoned to death, as in Afghanistan (lower left) </li></ul><ul><li>Here, a man is being stoned to death; the already dead woman is in the circle. </li></ul><ul><li>A question of ethical relativism ; do we as anthropologists suspend our judgment of this practice? </li></ul>
  14. 14. Clitoricectomy and Circumcision <ul><li>Clitoridectomy is the removal of the clitoris in women; it eliminates sexual pleasure </li></ul><ul><li>Often, the term “circumcision” is applied to both women and men, but it obscures the distinction; in men, only the foreskin of the penis is opened and removed. </li></ul><ul><li>Above: Kipsigis girls (in veils) of East Africa are preparing for clitoridectomy. </li></ul><ul><li>Often, parts of the vulva are sewn afterward to ensure virginity. </li></ul><ul><li>Circumcision in males has also been questioned as a valid practice as well, as suggested in this political cartoon. </li></ul><ul><li>For more information, log on to EE030 </li></ul>
  15. 15. On Human Sex and Sexuality <ul><li>No matter the culture, two persons must always get together to reproduce offspring. </li></ul><ul><li>There are restrictions everywhere on mating. </li></ul><ul><li>Some sanctions may be preventive (clitoridectomy, for example), and others may be punitive (honor killings by stoning, to cite an example) </li></ul><ul><li>The most universal prohibition is the incest tabu, which we take up next. </li></ul>