Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Differences between gender and sexuality

Gender and sex (sexuality) are two words that are used quite often in place of each other. It is common to find blanks in forms asking you for your sex or gender and your response in both the cases would be the same. Does that mean that gender and sex is the same thing? In actuality, they are not, despite the casual way that we use the two words interchangeably. It is true that the two words are linked and it can even be said that until the sex is known, the gender cannot be determined.

In simple words, the word sex refers to the physical, biological and chemical makeup of an individual. Differentiating two individuals on the basis of sex will incorporate all differences due to chromosomes, genes, hormonal profiles, sex organs (both internal and external) etc. Gender, on the other hand, includes the roles that people of each sex have in the society. It describes all those characteristics that are attributed to males or females by the society or the culture. Therefore, it can be concluded that gender roles can vary across different cultures, religions, societies, countries and so on. Usually the gender roles attributed to males are known as masculine whereas those attributed to a female are known as feminine. A simple example to further clarify this distinction is that if we say that a female can give birth to a baby, then that would be a sexual trait; men cannot do so. However, if it is said that about a century ago, women were not allowed to vote, then that is a distinction between the two sexes established by society and not because of the biological composition of an individual. Hence, it is a gender role.

Sites on social media such as Facebook etc. usually have this checkbox where you have to select ‘interested in’. This is referred to as a person’s sexual identity, that is, what sex is one interested in. A common argument is to say that a person’s sexual identity is due to the person’s sex. This is not always the case; gender also has to play a large role in a person’s sexual preference. This accounts for the fact that although sex is something that is ‘built in’ in an individual, gender depends on the society you live in. In other words, sex is due to nature and gender due to nurture as well as society.

A sex difference would refer to sexually dimorphic adaptations which do not take into account cultural socializations based on the traits of individuals. Gender differences refer to those set of differences that are due to sexually monomorphic psychological adaptations which are combined with culturally dimorphic socialization. Therefore gender differences are more variable.

As has been the case in modern societies these days, differentiating on the basis of sex has been encouraged, that is, men are encouraged to give their seats to pregnant women and there are special nursing rooms in most places these days. Gender differences have been discouraged a lot; it is said that men and women are equal in terms of what they can do or achieve in life. For example, if a man can be in a security force or be a fire fighter, so can a woman.

It is also necessary to use certain examples to differentiate the two. Sexual differences would be to conclude that a man has a penis, testicles, and a deeper voice whereas a woman has a vagina, breasts (they can breastfeed), can get pregnant and can give birth to a baby. In contrast, gender differences would include women doing more housework than men, most of the nurses being women, most of the fire fighters being men etc.

Summary of differences expressed in points

  1. Sex-the physical, biological and chemical makeup of an individual, incorporates all differences due to chromosomes, genes, hormonal profiles, sex organs (both internal and external) etc; gender- the roles that people of each sex have in the society
  2. sex differences- sexually dimorphic adaptations which do not take into account cultural socializations based on the traits of individuals; Gender differences- differences due to sexually monomorphic psychological adaptations which are combined with culturally dimorphic socialization
  3. sexual identity not based on one of sex or gender; depends on both
  4. differentiating: sexually-okay in society; on the basis of gender-discouraged
  5. Examples-Sexual differences-a man has a penis, testicles, and deeper voice; whereas a woman has a vagina, breasts (they can breastfeed), can get pregnant and can give birth to a baby; gender differences- a woman does more housework than men, most of the nurses are women, most of the fire fighters are men etc.

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