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Social Sci LibreTexts

12: Gender and Sexuality

  • Page ID
    56481
  • Learning Objectives

    • Identify ways in which culture shapes sex/gender and sexuality.
    • Describe ways in which gender and sexuality organize and structure the societies in which we live.
    • Assess the range of possible ways of constructing gender and sexuality by sharing examples from different cultures, including small-scale societies.
    • Analyze how anthropology as a discipline is affected by gender ideology and gender norms.

    • 12.1: Sex and Gender According to Anthropologists
      Anthropologists are fond of pointing out that much of what we take for granted as “natural” in our lives is actually cultural—it is not grounded in the natural world or in biology but invented by humans. We readily accept that clothing, language, and music are cultural—invented, created, and alterable—but often find it difficult to accept that gender and sexuality are not natural but deeply embedded in and shaped by culture.
    • 12.2: Foundations of the Anthropology of Gender
      Although the terms sex and gender are sometimes used interchangeably and do in fact complement each other, they nonetheless refer to different aspects of what it means to be a woman or man in any society.
    • 12.3: The Gender Binary and Beyond
      One common assumption is that all cultures divide human beings into two and only two genders, a dualistic or binary model of gender. However, in some cultures gender is more fluid and flexible, allowing individuals born as one biologic sex to assume another gender or creating more than two genders from which individuals can select.
    • 12.4: Gender Variability and Third Gender
      Some of the most compelling evidence against a strong biological determination of gender roles comes from anthropologists, whose work on preindustrial societies demonstrates some striking gender variation from one culture to another. This variation underscores the impact of culture on how females and males think and behave.
    • 12.5: Gender Stratification
      The public, extra-family sphere of life is a relatively recent development in human history even though most of us have grown up in or around cities and towns with their obvious public spaces, physical manifestations of the political, economic, and other extra-family institutions that characterize large-scale societies. In such settings, it is easy to identify the domestic or private spaces families occupy, but a similar public-domestic distinction exists in villages.
    • 12.6: New Directions in the Anthropology of Gender
      More-recent research has been focused on improving the ethnographic and archaeological record by re-examining old material. Some have turned from cause-effect relationships to better understanding how gender systems work and focusing on a single culture or cultural region. Others have explored a single topic, such as menstrual blood, cultural concepts of masculinity and infertility across cultures.
    • 12.7: Sexuality and Gender
      Contemporary anthropology now recognizes the crucial role played by gender in human society. Anthropologists in the post-2000 era have focused on exploring fluidity within and beyond sexuality, incorporating a gendered lens in all anthropological research, and applying feminist science frameworks, discourse-narrative analyses, political theory, critical studies of race, and queer theory to better understand and theorize gendered dynamics and power.
    • 12.8: End of Chapter Discussion
    • 12.9: About the Authors

    Image: The rainbow flag is a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) pride and LGBT social movements in use since the 1970s. Image used with permission (CC BY 2.0; Ludovic Bertron).​​​​​