Chapter 7 Summary

  1. Gender is the entire collection of mental traits that differ between men and women. Gender identity is a person’s core sense of being a man or a woman. Gender role is the social expression of gender identity.
  2. Men outperform women in some cognitive traits, such as visuospatial skills. Women outperform men in fine movements, verbal fluency, and some aspects of memory. Personality differences include greater aggressiveness in men. In the area of sexuality, men and women differ in frequency of masturbation (men masturbate more frequently), attitudes toward casual sex (men are more approving), and styles of jealousy (women are more likely to experience emotional jealousy; men are more likely to experience sexual jealousy). All these gender differences show considerable overlap between the sexes, and their significance is debated.
  3. Many gender differences arise early in life. Most children distinguish perceptually between males and females by 1 year of age, can identify their own sex by 2 to 3 years, and understand the immutability of sex by 3 to 4 years. Males are more active than females beginning in fetal life. Boys are more aggressive than girls. Boys and girls prefer different toys, and both prefer to associate with children of their same sex. Sex-specific interaction styles develop within these same-sex groups. Differences in other cognitive traits emerge gradually during childhood.
  4. Biological factors influence gender. These include genes that have evolved to help men and women improve their reproductive success. A role for sex hormones, especially during prenatal life, is illustrated by experiments on animals, by observation of humans affected by endocrinological disorders, and by the study of anatomical markers (such as finger-length ratios) that are correlated with gender traits.
  5. Socialization influences gender. This can happen through the innumerable rewards and punishments that children receive from parents and others. Imitation is also an important mediator of gender learning. The feminist movement has discouraged gender stereotyping and may have had the effect of lessening gender differences.
  6. A variety of cognitive developmental models stress the importance of children’s thought processes in the development of gender. The understanding of gender develops sequentially in young children. Gender schemas are frameworks of beliefs that influence perception and that tend to encourage either/or thinking about gender. In sexual script theory, gender learning involves the social negotiation of roles, such as those to be played by the man and woman in heterosexual relationships.
  7. Transgender people are those whose gender identity does not match their biological sex. Transexuals are transgender people who seek to change their anatomical sex: They may transition from male to female (M-to-F) or from female to male (F-to-M).
  8. All F-to-M transexuals and some M-to-F transexuals have a childhood history of strong gender-nonconformity. They dislike the bodily changes induced by puberty and may attempt to conceal them. They are usually homosexual in the sense that they are sexually attracted to persons of the same birth sex as themselves. They usually identify not as gay, however, but as heterosexual individuals of the other sex. Some heterosexual M-to-F transexuals have a different developmental history, in which the desire to change sex develops out of a wish to incorporate their sexual targets (women) into their own bodies (autogynephilia).
  9. Sex reassignment is a multistage process involving living for some period in the identity of the other sex, followed by hormonal treatments and sex-reassignment surgery. Genitals can be transformed into those of the other sex, but the procedure is expensive and, particularly in the case of F-to-M reassignment, yields imperfect results. Nevertheless, many transexuals are satisfied with the results of sex reassignment and are able to surmount the social and sexual challenges of post-transition life.
  10. Other transgender people do not seek sex reassignment for a variety of reasons. Some believe that sex reassignment would be unnecessary if society could be persuaded to loosen its rigid ideas about gender. All transgender people face discrimination and the risk of violence, and most states and the federal government fail to offer them specific protections.