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10.2: Gender

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    How Culture Shapes Gender

    Gender expression can often be shaped by the culture a child is raised in. In the United States, children are often raised with the expectation of following their respective gender norms. This means they are expected to act feminine and motherly if they have a vagina, and tough and 'like a man' if they have a penis. Consequently, children are raised with rigid stereotypes of how they should express themselves, which often leads to confusion and unhappiness. This idea can also be explained by heteronormativity, which is the idea that heterosexuality is the only sexual orientation, and that people will follow the gender roles specified by their gender at birth. While this is the unfortunate society we live in, this is not the case around the world, as different cultures have different perspectives of gender expression. For example, the Vezo is a society in Madagascar that determines sexual identity based on the actions of the individuals. Regardless of gender, one who participates in fishing would be considered a man in that society. Views of gender change with adapting culture, and even in the US progress has been made in the importance of breaking gender stereotypes and the fluidity of gender.

    Preferred Pronouns

    The stigma around talking about people who don't identify with their born gender or any gender at all is starting to disappear as we move into an age where people using pronouns like "They/Them" becomes commonplace. People are now starting to be able to identify by their preferred pronouns. In many liberal colleges, many clubs and organizations will ask for a persons preferred pronouns. The way that people are able to relate to each other when they are allowed to express themselves fully and tell people their identity widens immensely. Commonly preferred pronouns include:

    • She/Her/Hers
    • He/Him/His
    • They/Them/Theirs


    Sexual Taboos

    Taboos are actions that are looked down on from the society as a whole. They are often deemed as inappropriate or illegal especially when regarding sexual behavior. They are the ideals in a culture that are seen as inappropriate such as incest, bestiality, necrophilia, pedophilia, and voyeurism. Statutory rape laws also exist where the government has stepped in and enforced norms on society. Incest is considered a taboo in many Western societies, and often cited on the grounds that it can create genetic disorders, via interbreeding. However, this isn't entirely true and is widely circulated to be true (even among scientific communities) because of the strong taboo against incest relationships.[12] There are many cultures where incest via cousin marriage is both accepted and encouraged. Historically speaking, the same western society which now shames incest marriage and sexual relations has a strong past of cousin marriage to keep lineages "pure" and preserve royal blood. But if a genetic mutation occurs within a population, inbreeding will tend to promote that mutation to become more widely distributed.[13]


    Incest is sexual relations between closely related people. Incest is perhaps the most culturally universal taboo. However, different norms exist among cultures as to what constitutes as a permissible sex partner or not. Some cultures allow for sexual and marital relations between certain cousins, aunt/uncle and niece/nephew, and in some instances brother-sister marriages by the elites. Parent-child and sibling-sibling unions are almost universally taboo. Much issue arises with the concept of incest due to the high rate of deformities in children as a result of incest, resulting from the combination of very similar genome in the child.

    In Islam, according to the actions of Prophet Muhammad, marriage between cousins is explicitly allowed and even encouraged in Islam. Even the Arabic culture support this because the family's last name is favored and valued due to tribal history and upbringing similarities. Marrying in the family (cousins) is considered pure blood.


    Nudity is defined as the state of wearing no clothing. The wearing of clothing is a predominantly human characteristic, likely arising from the functional needs such as climate protection but also from other needs such as decoration or prestige. The amount of clothing worn depends on both functional and cultural circumstances. Social considerations involve modesty, decency, and social norms.

    In the current day, to most societies and cultures associate human nudity with sexuality. Nudity is considered an important facet in the expressions and feelings in intimate relationships where there exists physical and/or emotional intimacy, and are considered to be private manners that should be expressed in more private settings. Many cultures which express a level of modesty associate nudity with sexuality and public nudity is seen as taboo depending on the culture’s definition of lewd. Historically though, nudity has been practiced in many cultures without association with sexuality including the Egyptians, Romans, and many hunter-gatherer cultures in warm climates.

    This page titled 10.2: Gender is shared under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Wikibooks - Cultural Anthropology (Wikibooks) .

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