Sexual Orientation refers to “an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes.” According to the American Psychological Association “it also refers to an individual’s sense of personal and social identity based on those attractions, behaviors expressing them, and membership in a community of others who share them.” Sexual orientation is usually classified according to the sex or gender of the people who are found sexually attractive, and is therefore usually discussed in terms of three categories: heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual. “However, some people may use different labels or none at all.” The most common forms exists along a continuum that ranges from exclusive heterosexuality (being sexually attracted to members of the opposite sex) to exclusive homosexuality (being sexually attracted to members of the same sex) and includes various forms of bisexuality (being sexually attracted to members of either sex).
Most definitions of sexual orientation include a psychological component, such as the direction of an individual’s erotic desire, or a behavioral component, which focuses on the sex of the individual’s sexual partner/s. Some definitions include both components. Some people prefer simply to follow an individual’s self-definition or identity.
Some scholars of sexology, anthropology and history have argued that social categories such as heterosexual and homosexual are not universal. Different societies may consider other criteria to be more significant than sex, including the respective age of the partners, whether partners assume an active or a passive sexual role, and their social status.
Sexual identity and sexual behavior are closely related to sexual orientation, but they are distinguished, with identity referring to an individual’s conception of themselves, behavior referring to actual sexual acts performed by the individual, and orientation referring to “fantasies, attachments and longings.” Individuals may or may not express their sexual orientation in their behaviors. People who have a homosexual sexual orientation that does not align with their sexual identity are sometimes referred to as closeted.
Bisexuality is sexual attraction to people of both sexes.
Asexuality is no sexual attraction to people of either sex.
Homophobia is the dread of close personal interaction with people though to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual.
2) Multiple Choice Questions (1-10)
Regardless of its significance in social life, discussing sexuality is a cultural taboo. Sexuality as a pervasive cultural theme juxtaposed with social norms that restrict open discussion of sexual issues results in sex being a cause of pleasure but, also, a cause of much confusion and fear.
Because sexuality is about the condition of being female or male, sex is a biological issue. Sex refers to the biological distinction between males and females. From the biological perspective, sex is how humans reproduce.
The biological differences that allow society to distinguish females from males are classified into two categories. Primary sex characteristics are the genitals, organs used for reproduction. Secondary sex characteristics are bodily development, apart from the genitals, that distinguishes biologically mature males and females.
Sometimes the development of the two types of sex characteristics is ambiguous, or is not distinctive enough to allow the classification of an individual as male or female. The result is an intersex person. Intersex people, formerly known as hermaphrodites, are people whose anatomy includes both female and male characteristics.
Sexual identity as defined by our biology can come in conflict with gender identity as defined by culture. Gender is the personal traits and social positions that members of a society attach to being male or female. A person who believes that they have a gender identity that does not match their anatomical reality is called a transsexual. Transsexuals believe that their true sexual and social identities are trapped in the body of the wrong sex.
It is important to note that neither intersexuality nor transsexuality speak to a person’s sexual orientation. Intersexuality and transsexuality are not indicators or predictors of a homosexual sexual orientation. In fact, these phenomena have nothing whatsoever to do with a person’s sexual desires. Intersex people and transsexuals, like all people, can be heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or asexual – concepts we discuss latter in this lecture. Because our society expects two clear-cut sexual categories that align with two clear-cut gender identities, violations of these expectations produce confusion and misunderstanding. The expectations regarding sexuality and the disquiet produced when these expectations are not met is evidence that sex is not only a biological issue but also a social issue.
Sociologists who study human sexuality find that norms about sexual practices, sexual desirability, sexual identity, and sexual potency vary greatly within and between cultures. For example, American’s kiss in public, Chinese kiss only in private, and Nigerians and Maoris do not kiss at all.
While sexual variation is a global norm, a norm forbidding sexual relations or marriage between certain relatives is found in all cultures. The incest taboo is a cultural universal. But exactly which family members a person can or cannot marry or have sexual relations with varies by social group and by culture. For example, no U-S state allows marriage between a brother and sister but only twenty-four U-S states outlaw marriage between first cousins. The universality of the incest taboo and the variation in its application is evidence that the incest taboo is governed by social goals and not by biological concerns. The common understanding that the incest taboo exists because sexual relations with close blood relatives will result in offspring with lower intelligence is a myth that has no basis in scientific fact. The incest taboo reflects strictly social concerns which include the reduction of sexual competitiveness, the defining of peoples’ rights and obligations toward each other, and the integration of the family into the larger society. The study of human sexuality shows that people’s attitudes about sexuality have been inconsistent across time and are subject to change. Still the debate surrounding proper sexual attitudes commonly exhibits a dichotomy with sexual permissiveness on one side and sexual restriction on the other.
The sexual revolution refers to changes in the sexual attitudes of a society. There were four important sexual revolutions in the United States. Early twentieth century industrialization caused the growth of large urban areas and massive migration to factory towns. Living apart from families, young people enjoyed considerable sexual freedom. This era of sexual permissiveness was called the Roaring Twenties. The post-World War Two era ushered in a more scientific focus on sexual attitudes and behavior. Biologist Alfred Kinsey conducted extensive survey research on human sexual practices. His best-selling books which provided proof that Americans were, in general, not sexually conservative fostered a new openness about sexuality. The third sexual revolution took place in the nineteen-sixties. Technological advances that produced the birth control pill gave people – especially women, more freedom to engage in carefree sexual interaction. These technological advances coupled with the youth culture that dominated public life produced a new freedom about sexuality and sexual relations.
Chapter 8 Essay Question
What was the sexual revolution? What changed? Can you point to the reason for the change? The sexual revolution came of age in the 1960s. During this age the youth culture expressed a freer attitude towards sex. This generation believed that sex was a part of life; married or not. One reason for this attitude was the introduction of the birth control pill. This allowed women greater freedom sexually without the worry of pregnancy. This was somewhat more important for women as they had long been exposed to the double standard where men could be sexually active and women were expected to be virgins when they married and faithful to their husbands after they were married. (Macionis, J., 2005, p. 118-119)
1) Select any Five (5) Key Concepts (2 pts. each) from the end of the chapter and ELABORATE upon them, using specific FACTS as cited in the course material text;
Deviance is the recognized violation of cultural norms. Responses to deviance are conditioned by social definitions which define categories of people as being inherently deviant. We will address the issues of difference, gender, race and ethnicity in illustrating the social construction of deviance.
Crime is the violation of a society’s formally enacted criminal law. The criminal justice system is society’s formal social control response to crime.
Social Control is the attempts by society to regulate people’s thoughts and behavior.
Criminal Justice System is a formal response by police, courts, and prison officials to alleged violations of the law
Stigma is a powerfully negative label that greatly changes a person’s self-concept and social identity.
Multiple Choice Questions (1-10)
Deviance is the recognized violation of cultural norms. Norms guide almost all human activities and are both informal and formal in type. Hence, the concept of deviance is broad and includes the violations of folkways, mores, and laws.
When people violate norms, society responds with social control. Social control responses are attempts by society to regulate people’s thoughts or behavior.
The study of deviance requires attention to three sources that researchers have proposed as causes of deviance.
Caesare Lombroso and William Sheldon theorized that deviance was a function of individual biology. Lombroso hypothesized that deviance in individuals could be confirmed and predicted by the presence of atavistic features. Atavism is the expression in modern humans of features that occurred at earlier stages in the evolutionary process. Sheldon hypothesized that body structure could be used to confirm and predict deviance. Eleanor and Sheldon Glueck undertook the task of assessing Sheldon’s earlier work. Although they agreed in part with Sheldon’s conclusions, they suggested that the environment contributed to criminality.
Although the theories of Lombroso and Sheldon were widely used for decades, current research shows that biological theories of deviance suffer from a lack of supporting empirical evidence and are limited by the practice of studying deviance only in the individual and not in the population.
Personality factors as a cause of deviant behavior, also, have been a focus for researchers. The work of Walter Reckless and Simon Dinitz applied Freud’s theory of the emerging personality to the analysis of deviance. Reckless and Dinitz proposed that conformity was the result of a well-developed super-ego while deviance was caused by a weak super-ego.
Although psychologists have shown a correlation between personality disorders and deviance for specific types of criminals, empirical evidence overwhelming confirms that most deviance is committed by people with ‘normal’ personalities.
Sociologists who study deviance find that deviance has three common social foundations in all cultures.
Deviance varies according to cultural norms; People become deviant as others define them that way; and Norms and the way people define rule-breaking behavior involve social power. Building on the work of Lemert, Erving Goffman showed that secondary deviance may mark the start of a deviant career for stigmatized individuals. Stigma, which is a powerfully negative label, greatly changes a person’s self-concept and social identity causing them to respond with deviant behavior that aligns with that negative label.
Extending Goffman’s theory of stigma, Thomas J. Scheff’s work showed that once stigmatized, the behavior of individuals is reinterpreted by others in that negative light. This reinterpretation of a stigmatized individual’s behavior has two processes. Retrospective labeling refers to the process of reinterpreting the past behavior of stigmatized individuals as deviant. Projective labeling refers to the process of predicting the future behavior of stigmatized individuals as potentially deviant.
Thomas Szasz pointed out that attaching labels to people’s behavior, also, can be used as a strategy of social control. Szasz’s work on mental illness showed that many people who are merely different are labeled as mentally ill or insane. In doing this, society enforces conformity by assuring a social control response to those labeled individuals as actual deviants.
Applying the work of Goffman and Szasz to current social practices, sociologists find that the influence of psychiatry and medicine on everyday life has resulted in the medicalization of deviance. The medicalization of deviance refers to the transformation of moral and legal deviance into a medical condition. Behavior once labeled as deviant is now labeled as illness or disease. Alcoholism, drug addiction, and obesity are examples of behaviors that are now considered medical conditions rather than deviance.
Relabeling some types of deviance as illness or disease has broad affects. The new label changes who responds to the deviance, how the deviance is responded to, and how accountable the deviant individuals are seen to be for their behavior. Edwin Sutherland’s work showed that associating with people whose behavior is deviant results in the learning of norms that encourage deviant behavior. Differential Association Theory holds that frequent contact with deviant individuals results in the learning of deviant behavior.
Travis Hirschi took a different approach to deviance by focusing on the causes of conformity rather than the causes of deviance. Control Theory holds that there are four fundamental controls that act to keep people conforming to norms. According to this theory, conformity is promoted by the controls of attachment, opportunity, involvement, and belief.
The application of the Social Conflict perspective to the analysis of deviance demonstrates the relationship between deviant behavior and social inequality.
Social Conflict analysis shows that power affects deviance in three ways. First, the norms of any society reflect the interests of the rich and powerful. Second, the rich and powerful have the resources to resist the imposition of deviant labels. Third, the interests of the rich and powerful not only cause laws to be unequally applied but they may cause the laws themselves to be inherently unfair to those with less wealth and power.
Using a Marxian perspective, Steven Spitzer showed a relationship between capitalism and deviance. Spitzer’s work showed four ways that those who interfere with the goals of capitalism are the likely candidates for social control responses by the capitalist system.
Sociologists, also, find that crimes committed by individuals or entities with great influence, power, and resources are treated differently than crimes committed by the less powerful.
Crimes committed by the wealthy or privileged rarely involve violence and often depend on the better access to funds that a professional occupation affords. White-collar crime is crime committed by people of high social position in the course of their occupation. Where the crimes committed by the less influential often harm individuals, the crimes committed by the more influential often cause broad social harm. Yet, white-collar crime is much less likely to result in any significant social control response even when thousands of people are harmed by crimes such as embezzlement.
Essay Question Chapter 9
How does a sociological view of deviance differ from the common sense idea that bad people do bad things? A sociological view allows us to look into the reasons for deviance. The effects of culture, social standing, and lack of opportunities can have an effect on how a person behaves. For example, people with lower income status are more likely to commit crimes in order to get what they may think is their fair share. Children with single parents may have less supervision and as a result may take cues from others around them and therefore be more involved in criminal activity. Finally people of higher status usually aren’t prosecuted to the extent that people of lower status are punished.
1) Select any Five (5) Key Concepts (2 pts. each) from the end of the chapter and ELABORATE upon them, using specific FACTS as cited in the course material text;
Social stratification is a system by which society ranks categories of people in a hierarchy. Analyses of social stratification reflect the value judgments theorists impose when they take a position on the relative fairness or unfairness of the system of social stratification.
Status Consistency is the degree of consistency in a person’s social standing across various dimensions of social inequality.
Structural Social Mobility is a shift in the social position of large numbers of people due more to changes in society itself than to individual efforts.
Ideology is cultural beliefs that justify particular social arrangements, including patterns of inequality.
Davis-Moore Thesis is the assertion that social stratification is a universal pattern because it has beneficial consequences for the operation of society.
2) Multiple Choice Questions (1-10)
Social stratification is a system by which society ranks categories of people in a hierarchy. The sociological study of social stratification across cultures shows that it has four basic principles.
Social stratification is a trait of society, not simply a reflection of individual differences. This means that a person’s position in the stratification hierarchy is as much a function of social organization as it is of personal ability and achievement.
Social Stratification persists over generations. Social mobility which is a change in one’s position in the social hierarchy is constrained by social stratification processes.
Social stratification is universal but variable. Stratification is found in all societies but the extent of social inequality and what makes someone worth more than another in any society varies.
Social stratification involves not just inequality but beliefs. Social inequality reflects cultural beliefs about worth and worthiness.
Sociologists who study stratification classify societies as either open systems which allow social mobility or closed systems which restrict social mobility.
A caste system is social stratification based on ascription, or birth. A caste system is closed to social mobility.
For example, India formerly had a caste system that was composed of four castes called ‘varna’. Once born into a varna, a person lived out their entire life there.
Until recently, South Africa had a policy of apartheid which produced three castes. White Europeans were on the top, Black Africans were on the bottom, and mixed-race people were in the middle.
In all caste systems, birth shapes people lives in four ways. Caste restricts people to specific occupations. Caste determines who people can marry. Caste limits whom people may interact with socially. Caste relies on moral beliefs which hold that people should accept their fate, whatever it might be.
Caste systems are common in agrarian societies. Agrarian life requires a rigid sense of duty and discipline. The inflexible structure and demands of agrarian life lead to social stratification based on ascription and a closed social system.
A class system is social stratification based on both birth and individual achievement. Class systems are considered open systems where acquiring skills can lead to social mobility. Class systems make use of ascription to limit social mobility. For example, women and people of color have equal rights before the law in the United States but they still suffer from a lack of social prestige and wage discrimination.
Class systems are found in most industrial societies. Industrial societies rely on meritocracy as a principle of stratification. Meritocracy is social stratification based on personal achievement.
The greater social mobility of class systems results in less status consistency than that found in caste systems. Status inconsistency is the degree of consistency in a person’s social standing across various dimensions of social inequality. For example, a college professor may have high social prestige but may earn less money than a hairdresser does.
The mixture of caste and meritocracy in class systems is illustrated with four examples.
Historic England had a caste-like system of three estates. The first estate was hereditary nobility who owned most of the land and had most of the wealth. The second estate was the clergy who had spiritual power and controlled the wealth of the church. The third estate which comprised the majority of the population was the commoners. Most commoners worked for the nobility and were illiterate.
Currently, the United Kingdom has a class system but retains elements of the former feudal system. A small cluster of families still own inherited lands and the traditional monarchy still exists but with much reduced power.
Feudal Japan was an agrarian society with four castes. All were ruled by an imperial family. Below the imperial family were the samurai who were a warrior caste who served the nobility. Below the samurai were the commoners and at the bottom of the system were the Burakumin or outcasts. Burakumin traditionally were an occupational group whose work was considered tainted with death. For example, executioners and leather tanners were occupations that classified one as Burakumin.
Modern Japan, like the United Kingdom has adopted a class system but retains elements of the old caste system. For example, Japan still has an imperial family and family background or history is still the basis for social standing.
Russia’s feudal system was overthrown during the nineteen-seventeen Russian Revolution led by Vladimir Lenin who used the work of Karl Marx to guide him. However, the institution of communism that replaced the feudal system and was claimed to be classless was flawed. Analysts point out that occupations in the Soviet Union fell into four unequal categories. Each category was associated with a different standard of living and different degree of social prestige.
After decades of social organization based on the work and ideas of Marx, the Soviet Union was restructured as a class system. This restructuring resulted in structural social mobility in the Soviet Union. Structural social mobility is a shift in the social position of large numbers of people due more to changes in society itself than to individual efforts.
Structural social mobility, also, is found in China. The communist revolution in China greatly reduced the social inequality of the former feudal system. But like the former Soviet Union, the system was imperfect and resulted in the creation of a small political elite that held most of the power and a number of strata beneath them such as factory managers, industrial workers, and rural peasants.
Essay Question Chapter 10:
How do caste and class systems differ? How are they the same? Why does industrialization introduce a measure of meritocracy into social stratification? The caste system is a closed system that determines a person’s place in society at birth. The class system differs in this regard as it is more of an open system that allows social mobility. They are both systems that rank persons on their status in society. Industrialism will introduce a measure of meritocracy into social stratification due to the fact that industrialism creates jobs that require skill and performance. By offering higher incomes to people that perform these jobs, the opportunity to move from one status to the other is possible.
Macionis, J., (2005) Introduction to Sociology, Prentis Hall, Tenth Edition
Lecture Notes Chapter 3
Week 4 Part I and Part II-III Slides from www.strayeronline.edu