'Sex' and 'gender' and the relationship between them.

Essay by vallee September 2005

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In psychology many different perspectives seek to explain the differences between males and females. In societies they play distinctive roles and are treated and viewed differently. They behave differently too. To compare and contrast the accounts of sex and gender we need to define the terms sex and gender. To examine further we need to examine the key aspects of the biological, evolutionary, social constructionist and psychoanalytical perspectives focusing on similarities and differences regarding their accounts of sex and gender. Finally need to consider the ways in which these perspectives compliment, conflict or simply co-exist with one another.

Often the term sex and gender are used interchangeably. Often this usage has lead to confusion therefore we have to begin by attempting to draw a distinction between the terms for discussing psychological perspectives in this paper. Traditionally, the word gender has been used to refer to the cultural aspect of what it is to be man or woman.

''Womanly' or 'manly' and 'masculine' or 'feminine' are viewed as not being connected with a person's biological sex, but more in terms of psychological characteristics shaped by individuals experience (EPoCH CD-ROM). The term sex is used solely when referring to biological and physical traits such as primary and secondary sex characteristics or specifically to 'sexual intercourse'. (Hollway,Cooper,Johnston,Stevens ,The psychology of sex and gender p117).

It is important to bear in mind that different perspectives ask different questions and use different methods to examine the basic assumptions made by each perspective with respect to the concepts of sex and gender. In terms of the biological factors that are thought to shape sex and gender include external genitalia, sex chromosomes and genes, hormones and lateralization of brain function. Although it is important to emphasize that anatomy is not necessarily destiny but the most commonly used...