Social Problems Chapter 7: Sexuality

The biological distinction between females and males
Primary sex characteristics
Refer to differences in genitalia
Secondary sex characteristics
Refer to the distinct physical characteristics that develop as we mature
How is sex a biological issue?
Females and males have different organs used for reproduction and also different physical traits
How is sex a cultural issue?
Sexual attitudes and practices vary from one place to another and over time
Sex: A cultural issue
Sociologist point out that sexual activity is also guided by human culture
What are some cultural norms define who can have sex with whom?
-Marital status
-Sex of partners
Cultural norms…
define what is viewed as normative sexual activity
What are some factors that led to increased sexual freedom in the U.S. over time?
-Advances in technology -> more control over
-Industrial era migration to cities
-Kinsey research in the 1940’s and 1950’s
What resulted from these changes?
-Fewer people delaying sex until marriage
-Small “gender gap” in sexual activity
Feminist movement in the 1970s:
-View of sex as men’s power over women
-“Sexism” emerges as a social problem
-Public stands against pornography, rape, incest
-Demand for access to birth control and abortion
Conservative sexual counterrevolution in the 1980s:
“return to family values”
Continuing Sexual Revolution: Older people
Men and women who began the sexual revolution the ’60s are carrying the movement into old age
Those reporting a current sexual partner
-Age 65-74: 85% of men; 62% of women
-Age 75-84: 78% of men; 41% of women
Erectile dysfunction prescriptions
20 million prescriptions a year
-1.5 billion to drug companies
Sex attitudes over U.S history: Early colonist
Early colonists viewed sex rigidly as intended solely for reproduction
Sex attitudes over U.S history: Recent Decades
Sex has become more of a matter of intimacy and personal pleasure
Sex attitudes over U.S history: Sexual Revolution
1960s – encouraged people to be freer and more open about sexuality
Sex attitudes over U.S history: Sexual Counterrevolution
1980s – reflected the country’s more conservative politics as well as fears about sexuality transmitted diseases
Sex attitudes over U.S history: Sexual revolution now
Continuing today among older people, sometimes making use of drugs that treat erectile dysfunction
Sexual Orientation
An individual’s romantic and emotional attraction to another person
Sexual orientation can include partners of:
-Same sex = homosexuality
-Other sex = heterosexuality
-Either sex = bisexuality
-Neither sex = asexuality
Homosexuality in population
How one defines homosexual orientation affects the share of the population considered to be homosexual
Homosexuality history
Long history of prejudice and discrimination
Major shift in public opinion of homosexuality
-Fewer than half of U.S. adults now say that same-sex relations are “wrong”
-Laws now band discrimination based on sexual orientation
-In 2011, the U.S. military ended its ban on same-sex behavior
-60% of U.S. population now lives in a state where same-sex marriage is legal
Hostility and Prejudice still exist for homosexuals
-Many religious organizations refuse to ordain gay men or lesbians
-1/3 of homosexual college students report experiencing harassment
-1,300 hate crimes against gays in 2012
-Homosexual people of color are especially likely to experience violence
Cultural Factors of Sexual Orientation
-Diversity of sexual expression around the world suggest cultural influence
-Patterns of socialization have an impact
Biological Factors of Sexual Orientation
-Sexual orientation largely fixed at birth
-Studies focus on genes, hormones, epigenetic research
1973: American Psychiatric Association
Removed homo-sexuality from list of mental disorders
2003: U.S. Supreme Court
Struck down Texas banning sodomy
Surveying of U.S. population later on
Showed a large decrease in U.S. adults viewing homosexuality wrong
2004: Supreme Court of Massachusetts
Ruled that gay men and lesbian women had the right to marry
By 2015
29 other states (plus D.C.) enacted laws permitting same-sex marriage
Same-Sex marriage globally
There are 17 countries in the world where it is legal
June 26, 2015 SCOTUS
Rules that same-sex couples have the same right to marry as different-sex couples
The Gay Rights Movement
-Gained public attention in the 1950s
-“Stonewall Riot” in 1969
-Introduction of the term homophobia claiming intolerance of sexual orientation is a social problem
Stonewall Riot in 1969
defining moment in growth of the movement
An aversion to or hostility toward people thought to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual
Refers to appearing or behaving in ways that challenge how females and males should look and act
-not the same as sexual orientation
A better term of transgender
These people feel like they don’t match
Ex. People born as a certain sex but don’t feel like they match with sex
Words or images intended to cause sexual arousal
-Differing opinions as what “community standards of decency” should be
Pornography: Conservatives
View pornography as a social problem because it threatens conventional morality
Pornography: Liberals
Defend freedom of expression and support the right to privacy but object to pornography as demeaning to women
1985: US Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography was formed
-Concluded that pornography increases people’s sexual activity and encourages men to be aggressive and more accepting of violent acts such as rape
-Others claim that the evidence does not clearly support a link between pornography and rape
Sexual Harassment
Unwanted comments, gestures, or physical contact of a sexual nature
Sexual Harassment in recent years
-Sexual harassment has been defined as a social problem
-Today laws protect people from sexual harassment, esp in the workplace
-Most but not all cases of harassment involved men victimizing women
What was the rise of women’s movement in the 60s was primarily responsible for?
The definition of such behavior as a social problem
1976: federal court declared…
That sexual harassment amounted to illegal discrimination
The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission identifies two types:
-quid pro quo (one thing for another)
-forms of behavior that create a hostile environment (not just intent, but also effect)
82% cases of sexual harassment
Are men who harass women
Supreme Court (1998):
Employees can be victims of harassment even if they are not obviously harmed by the actions
The selling of sexual services
Where is prostitution most common?
In low-income nations
Most sex workers…
Are women and range from escorts to streetwalkers
In the US how many arrests are for women and men?
2/3 of arrests are of women; and the remaining men are both prostitutes and clients
Sweden and prostitution
Allows people to sell sex but makes it a crime to buy sex
Child Prostitution and “sex tourism”
-For desperately poor children, selling sex is a means of survival
World wide Sex tourism
On the rise with the greatest increases in Africa, Latin American, and Eastern Europe
Child Prostitution and “sex tourism”: In patriarchal societies
Poor girls sent out of the home to work and may end up in the sex trade
Teenage Pregnancy
The rate of teen pregnancy in the U.S. is decreasing, but is still higher than in most other high-income countries
How many teens become pregnant each year in the U.S.?
Off all pregnant teens
Most are not married
-17% have miscarriages
-25% have abortions
58% keep their babies
In who is teenage pregnancy more common in?
Among poor families and most common among poor AA girls
What increases when a teen becomes pregnant?
Increases the odds of remaining poor
How much does teenage pregnancy cost this year?
11 billion/year
Babies of teen pregnancy more likely to what?
-Have lower birth weights and higher risk of physical and developmental problems
-May face poor nutrition, little schooling, inadequate health care
-Grow up at high risk of becoming single parents themselves
Sex education: Critics
Say that level of sexual activity has increased with the adoption sex education
Sex education: Supporters
Say that the biggest cause of teen pregnancy is ignorance
Intentional termination of a pregnancy
How many abortions are preformed annually in the U.S?
1.2 million
-1/4 of all pregnancies
Abortion statistics
-85% of women are unmarried, half have income below or close to the poverty line
-Most are in their 20s and about half have already had at lease one abortion
Abortion: Early time
From colonial era until mid-19th century, early term abortion was legal everywhere
Abortion: 20th century
Laws banning abortion had been enacted in every state
Abortion: 1973
The U.S. Supreme Court struck down all laws that banned abortion
Abortion: Today
Remains a controversial issue
Support for abortion: Gender
Almost same between women (55%) and men (53%)
Support for abortion: Government
Greater among Democrats (63%) then Republicans (35%)
Support for abortion: Ethnicity
Less widely supported among people of Arab and Italian decent (29%)
Support for abortion: Religion
More widely supported by Jewish Americans (89%)
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Disease spread by sexual conduct
How many kinds of STDs?
More than 50 including gonorrhea, syphilis, an genital herpes
How many people are affected by STDs each year?
20 million
-Half under 25
Cost of treatment for STDs per year
about 16 billion
Caused by the human immunodeficiency virus, HIV, which destroys the body’s immune system
AIDS trends
Cases and deaths decreasing
-15k deaths in 2010
-32k new cases in 2011
AIDS total
1.2 million contracted AIDS
and 636k have died
AIDS globally
35 milllion infected
3.2 million are children
Who counts for 71% of AIDS cases?
Sub-Saharan Africa
What gender is at higher risk for AIDS?
Behaviors that put people at risk
-anal sex
-sharing needles when using drugs
-drug or alcohol use because it impairs one’s judgment
AIDS and U.S. history
U.S. government was slow to respond to the AIDS crisis
-AIDS wasn’t given serious attention until the epidemic spread into heterosexual population
Antiretroviral therapy
Improves the health of people with HIV and reduces transmission
Structural-Functional Analysis
Emphasizes society’s need to control sexuality
Structural-Functional Analysis: Controlling Sexuality
Emphasizes the importance of cultural norms guiding sexuality
What does Structural-Functional Analysis explain
Why societies have always paid attention to who reproduces with whom
What does the Structural-Functional Analysis state?
-All societies observe incest taboo
What does Structural-Functional Analysis say about norms?
Traditional norms favor legitimate offspring
Structural-Functional Analysis: Criticism
Ignores gender, diversity of sexual norms, and changing patterns of sexual behavior
What does Structural-Functional Analysis say about sexual patterns?
Some sexual patterns that are widely regarded as deviant, such as prostitution, may also have positive functions, at least for men
Symbolic-Interaction Theory
Highlights the fact that members of a society socially construct sexuality just as they create all reality
Symbolic-Interaction Theory: Defining Sexuality
Highlights the variable meanings people attach to sexuality
-The meaning of virginity
-Learning sexual roles
-People socially construct sexuality just as they create the rest of the reality they experience
Symbolic-Interaction Theory: Criticism
Some patterns are very consistent
Social-Conflict Theory
Focuses on social inequality
Social-Conflict Theory: Feminist Theory
Points out the many aspects of sexuality reflect men’s social dominance over women
-Women as sexual objects
-Violence as manifestation of male dominance
Social-Conflict Theory: Queer theory
Claims that the heterosexist bias in U.S. culture stigmatizes gay men and lesbians, bisexual people, asexual people, and transgender individuals
What does the queer theory challenge?
The heterosexual bias in U.S. societies
Bias that treats heterosexuality as the norm while stigmatizing anyone who violates this norm as queer
Social-Conflict Theory: Criticism
Most people find that sexuality strengthens a relationship to another person; not as a power issue
Conservatives: The value of traditional morality
Support conventional norms
-Overall the conservative answer to sexual social problems is a strong family life
Conservatives: Premarital and Extramarital sex
View them as social problems that lead to teenage pregnancy and STDs
Conservatives: Prostitution and Pornography
Condemn it and states that it violates traditional standards of decency and threaten marriages
Conservatives: Abortion
Opposes it on demand and that it gives one person the power to end the life of another
Liberals: Sex and Individual Choice
All people should have considerable choice in how they express their sexuality
-Attitude is one of tolerance
-Limits of liberal tolerance come when someone is threatened with harm
Liberals: Who do they look for to address social problems
Liberals: Abortion
Support abortion available to all, leaving the decision up to the woman involved
Radical Left: Go to the Root of the Problem
Sexual problems are a dimension of social inequality
-come about because one category of people has power over another
Radical Left: Women
Encourage women to work together to achieve political aims and to avoid dependency on men
Radial Feminism and Queer Theory
Argue the need for basic changes in U.S society in pursuit of equality for all, female and male, gay and straight