Sexuality includes our sex, our personality and our gender. The reason we have two sexes is for diversity. Some people like being different. They like the attention they get and they may take steps to differentiate themselves from others by dressing or behaving differently. Others have no choice in being different from others and they may resent being treated differently.
We need to be sensitive to remarking on people who are different. We need to think about how we would feel if we were excluded for being different. Children should consider how they might include others who do not fit naturally in a social group. Equally they should learn to respect individual privacy and the choice each of us has to opt out of group activities.
Sex determines a person’s biological status as male or female. Sex is defined by biological facts: chromosomes, balance of hormones, internal and external anatomy. No one can change their sex. They cannot acquire a reproductive function different to the one they were born with. Men produce sperm from their testes. Women produce eggs from their ovaries.
For most of us, there is a sexual differentiation process which ensures that we are born either male or female. Very rare exceptions are those who are born intersex. Intersex babies display physical characteristics of both sexes at birth. The current clinical recommendation for intersex infants is to raise them as girls, with surgery to feminise the appearance of the phallus.
Gender is a person’s internal sense of being male or female. Gender identity is concerned with a sense of belonging. From an early age we want to be identified according to our gender. We align our personal preferences with specific characteristics. Most girls align themselves with a personal presentation that enhances their attractiveness and an accommodating demeanour (smiling and docile). Boys align themselves with a practical personal presentation and an assertive demeanour (competent and serious).
Gender is a more fluid concept than sex and is influenced by culture, class and race. Gender refers to the behaviour and attributes that are considered male or female in one social group but may be viewed otherwise in another. Most people identify with the sex they were born even if they do not always behave in ways that are stereotypical for their sex. Other people have a strong emotional objection to being identified as their biological sex.
A woman cannot become a man because a woman lacks a phallus capable of penetration. But a person born male can have surgery and hormone treatment to transition to a female. Transsexuals are biological males who identify with feminine personality traits. They cannot change their genes nor can they acquire the reproductive capabilities of the opposite sex.
Transgender is a term for people whose identity, expression, behaviour or general sense of self does not conform to what is usually associated with the sex they were born in the place they were born. It is often said sex is a matter of the body, while gender occurs in the mind. A transgender man does not think of changing his sex but likes to dress like a woman.
Some heterosexual men like to dress in women’s clothes, which is called cross-dressing. Men can be aroused by the feel of clothing or by dressing as woman. When a man has a clothing fetish it is called transvestitism. Men’s sexual behaviours are typically driven by their own arousal. Whereas women engage in behaviours aimed at providing turn-ons for men. Women wear masculine style clothing for social or political reasons.
Some transvestites are homosexual and others are heterosexual. Homosexuals who dress in women’s clothes may be called drag-queens. Some men like to dress as women to communicate their submissiveness (amenability to being penetrated by a lover) and a willingness to please a lover (by putting their lover’s arousal and orgasm before their own).
Men pose a potential threat to others because of their desire for penetrative sex. This is the main reason it is important to know a person’s sex. Women may bully and abuse other people, especially those weaker than they are. But women are not capable of penetration. So women do not have the same motivation (that men have) to obtain sexual gratification from others.
We are all different in the sense that we each have a unique set of genes we inherit from our parents. But saying that every woman is different when it comes to sexual response is due to ignorance over female sexuality. Most of women’s sexuality is defined by behaviours, which are consciously employed and so cause the variations we see between individuals.
For the most part, our minds and bodies function in similar ways regardless of sex or orientation. That is to say, the processes involved in urinating, yawning and sneezing are the same for everyone. Likewise orgasm is an instinctive response that we cannot control consciously. As long a person is responsive (most men after adolescence and a very few women), orgasm arises as a subconscious response when the correct stimuli are present.
No one who knows how remarkably different individuals may be … would conceive of erotic capacities (of all things) that were basically uniform throughout a population. (Alfred Kinsey 1948)