Gender is socially defined

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There are boys and there are girls. That’s it. Very simple, right? Not right, according to sociologist Steven Lance Stoll, who spoke about human sexuality and gender to the Pattaya City Expats Club on Sunday, May 1. Human beings express their sexuality in a variety of ways he said, and gender is in fact socially defined, not a fixed biological phenomenon.

First, you have to differentiate between sex and gender, Lance explained. “Sex” is the biological differences between males and females. Also, about 4% of people are intersexed to some degree, Lance said, which means they have variations in their sexual characteristics that that don’t fit the stereotype. Further, the “sex role” is the behaviour, attitudes and motivations that a particular culture considers appropriate for males and females. We assign roles to males and females. John Wayne is a seen as a typical male; Marilyn Munroe as a typical female, Lance noted.

Sociologist Steven Lance Stoll explains the difference between human gender and sexuality to his PCEC audience.

Your gender identity is your personal sense of yourself as a man (boy) or woman (girl), he said. Gender role stereotypes are oversimplified, rigid beliefs that all members of a particular sex have distinctive behavioural, psychological and emotional characteristics. “Sexual orientation” refers to an individual’s attraction to members of the opposite sex, same sex or both. Lance explained that sexual orientation includes heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality and asexuality. The last refers a person who is not interested in sexual activity with anyone. Further, it can get a little complicated; Bruce Jenner, now Caitlyn Jenner, could be called a lesbian because she identifies as a woman but is still attracted to women. Transvestism is not a sexual orientation, Lance said. It’s a fetish. Transvestites just like to dress up in the clothes of the opposite sex.

Member Roger Fox interviews Steven after his presentation to the PCEC on the topic of human gender and sexuality. To view the interview, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LihiU-UV8xY

We often talk about gender and power in the same breath, Lance said. In most societies, men as a group have power over women as a group. Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “Women should not be regarded as the equals of men; they are, in fact, mere machines to make children.”

Lance talked about the relationship between gender and violence, particularly in the United States. “The U.S. is by far the most violent society on earth,” Lance said, “despite having the highest rates of incarceration and being one of the few industrialized nations still using the death penalty.” Additionally, virtually all violence is perpetrated by men. For example, 99% of those arrested for rape are men; 88% of those arrested for murder are men; and 83% of those arrested for domestic violence are men.

Men learn that violence is an acceptable form of communication with women, Lance explained. Most victims of violence know their attackers. Women are three times more likely to be killed by an intimate than a stranger. In the U.S., Lance said, until 1992 it was not illegal to rape one’s wife. Only 5% of rapists are psychotic, Lance stated. Most rapists are “normal” men because violence against women is seen as normal male behaviour. Lance quoted the sociologist Bernard Lefkowicz as saying that “the most striking characteristic of sex offenders is their apparent normality.”

In the U.S., Lance said, from 1992 to 2006, there were 29 cases of random school violence where a boy or boys opened fire on others. School killers are mostly middle class white boys. Further, this trend has greatly escalated with 78 school shootings already in 2016. Classrooms reproduce and even create gender inequality, Lance said. “Female students receive less attention. Teachers call on boys more and give them more complex questions. In Thailand, boys get everything first from the best seats to the first food!” Also, females are vastly under-represented in textbooks and educational materials. We hear the complaint all of the time that in Hollywood there are no good roles for women.

Lance is a former Adjunct Professor of Social Sciences teaching Sociology at several colleges in the Jacksonville, Florida USA area. He has previously spoken to the club on the topics of “What is Sociology” and “Climate Change.” His last presentation was in September 2015 based on the book “Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Killing.” He presently is teaching English in Chonburi.

After the presentation, MC Roy Albiston brought everyone up to date on club activities and happenings around Pattaya before calling on Ren Lexander to conduct the Open Forum, where questions are asked and answered about Expat living in Thailand, especially Pattaya.

For more information on the PCEC’s many activities, visit their website at www.pcecclub.org.