The Social Construction of Sexuality and Gender

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The categorization of men and women into two binary groups is a universal phenomenon which in many societies favors men thus creating power imbalances and gender inequalities. In Britain as well as throughout much of the world, notions of sexuality and gender have historically been for granted and perceived to be natural. According to Jeffrey Weeks, We learned very early on from many sources that natural sex is what takes place with members of the opposite sex…The social processes through which this is taking place are complex. But the implications are clear, they’re the ones we still live with. In the first place, there is the assumption of a sharp distinction between the sexes, a dichotomy of interest, even an antagonism (‘the battle of the sexes’, which can only be precariously bridged. Men are men and women – and rarely the twain shall meet (Weeks, 1990, 13).Accordingly, while the sex of an individual is innate and established at birth, gender and human sexuality are now understood to be shaped by social forces and socially constructed concepts with important societal ramifications. Social constructivism is the belief that certain ideas, beliefs, behaviors, and concepts are socially constructed and shaped by environmental factors. The argument that gender roles were socially prescribed did not appear in scholarly literature until the 1940s with Klein’s The Feminine Character and thus began an exploration into the arbitrariness of the social categories of male and female. Influential scholars such as Judith Butler, Jeffrey Weeks, and Michel Foucault have sought to shed light onto the socially prescribed nature of gender categorization, and onto the lives men and women throughout the world with an eye to the in the ramifications of the sexual and gender binary.