Learn About Sexuality

Diversity: our sex, our personality and our gender

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.

Women may bully and abuse others. But they do not have the same motivation (that men have) to obtain sexual gratification from others. In this sense women are not sexually motivated as men are. This is the main reason that it is important to know a person’s sex. Men have the potential to pose a threat to others because of their desire for penetrative sex.

For most of us, there is a sexual differentiation process that ensures we are born either male or female. But there are rare exceptions of those who are born intersex. Intersex babies display physical characteristics of both sexes at birth. The 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 considered typically 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 strong emotional objections to being identified as their biological sex.

A woman cannot become a man because a woman lacks a phallus that can be used for penetration. But a person who is born male can have surgery and hormone treatment to transition to a female. Transsexuals are biological males who identify with typically 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.

Cross-dressing is the behaviour of some heterosexual men to dress in women’s clothes. 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. When women wear masculine style clothing it is for social or political reasons. Women typically engage in behaviours aimed at arousing men rather than arousing themselves.

Some transvestites are homosexual and others are heterosexual. Homosexuals who dress in women’s clothes are called ‘drag-queens’. Some men dress like 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).

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)

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