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Gender and Sexuality Essay: The Social Constructionist Approach

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Sex, sexuality, and gender have been argued about throughout history. Often the debate of “nature versus nurture” is most popular. However, as time passes, new concepts are produced. Social constructionism is the belief system that sexualities, which change over time, are historically and socially constructed. The history of sex, sexuality, and gender hold different meanings for different times and places. The examination of certain identities, understandings, and categories aid in dissecting the power relations that underlie them. Understanding the significance of history shows that there is a moral and political view associated. To tie in, essentialism comes from our bodies and promotes the idea that there is something intrinsic to us as individuals. The social constructionist approach is part of the foundation to understanding how sexuality is a social construct. To discuss the topic of gender and sexuality, this essay will use the social constructionist approach.

Social constructionism is derived from the essentialist context, therefore, to truly dive in, one must be well versed in essentialism. The conceptualization of sex is an overpowering force that is fundamental to who we are. Essentialism stems from the body. For example our psyche, hormones, and genes. The idea that there is something innate to who we are describes essentialism. The concept of normative sexuality is located within human nature and one’s sexual expression must be expressed to prevent neuroses or perversions. “Social constructionism, which covers a broad range of approaches that emphasize that the social, cultural, and the historical, is crucial to the making of our genders, sexualities, and sexual identifications” (Kinsman, 2017).

Social constructionism itself is part of the foundation of sexuality. Historically, sexuality been deemed to be something that was biological. Sex, sexuality, and gender have, and continue to be, seen as a product of nature. However, sexuality is a product of society. Through politics, culture, and media one’s sexuality is governed by society. The notion that one’s sexuality is biological simply is part of the little “t” truths. Sexuality is ever changing, therefore, fluid. Kinsman speaks about “commonsense” in media over the course of time as it is a crucial part of the social constructs and practices of hegemony, consent, and coercion. Kinsman also argues that, “… sexualities are socially and historically made and are not determined by our hormones or genes” (Kinsman 2017). Social constructionism deeply analyzes how society has shaped sexuality throughout history. As Fausto-Sterling puts it, “without human sociality, human sexuality cannot develop” (Fausto-Sterling, 2000). She further goes on to explain, “Truths about human sexuality created by scholars in general and by biologists in particular are one component of political, social, and moral struggles about our cultures and economies” (Fausto-Sterling, 2000).

The importance of social constructionist approach to sexuality is evident as it is the core of queer theory. “And if viewpoints about sex and sexuality are already embedded in our philosophical concepts of how matter forms into bodies, the matter of bodies cannot form neutral, pre-existing ground from which to understand the origin of sexual difference” (Fausto-Sterling, 2000). Queer theory aims to resist the categorization of people, especially into binaries, such as male versus female or gay versus straight. “We have to engage actively in the breaking down of social power relations and inequalities within our movements, communities, and societies” (Kinsman, 2017). Fausto-Sterling main arguments pertain to the binaries that exist in our society. These beliefs manifest their ways into our core belief systems which affect our physiological beings. This knowledge embodies our beings as it is political, social, and moral. “To talk about human sexuality requires a notion of the material. Yet the idea of the material comes to us already tainted, containing within it pre-existing ideas about sexual difference” (Fausto-Sterling, 2000). Most information given to us contain biases. No matter how unbiased scientific knowledge claims to be, there are still preconceived ideas in the scientific method. Social constructionists move beyond the attempt to be categorized as big “T” truths. It is there to provide a more meaningful understanding of sex, sexuality and gender. “Social constructionism must move beyond the stifling polarities of the “nature versus nurture” debate to see how our physiological potentialities get built upon, organized, and developed as they become part of our social bodies and worlds” (Kinsman, 2017). Social constructionism seeks the physiological potentials that are embedded in our social understandings. “This way of developing social constructionism allows us to see the interactions and transformations between the physiological and the social, historical or cultural – which cannot be reduced to “nurture” or to the notions of the “external environment” (Kinsman, 2017). The nature argument on sexuality and gender requires for there to be no change. However, one’s thoughts, feelings, likes and dislikes are constantly changing. “Describing some of the ways that social constructions of gender and sexuality enter the body, she tells us that sensations, thought, feelings, movements, and social interaction can change the structure of the brain” (Kinsman, 2017). Society has never stayed the same throughout history. The things that are deemed as “socially acceptable” have altered. Social constructionism understands that change and embraces it. Sex, sexuality, and gender now will quite possibly change in the future. Society and social norms dictate what is considered “normal” and “okay”.

The social constructionist approach is part of the foundation to understanding how sexuality is a social construct. The conceptualization of sex is an overpowering force. “… both “biological sex” and “social gender” are social constructions” (Kinsman, 2017). Everchanging with time, the fluidity of sexuality cannot be contained within the binary system that it is forced into. “Social construction approaches not only make much better sense of the available information we have on gender and sexuality and of our experiences of them, they also can provide grounds for optimism and hope” (Kinsman, 2017). Social constructionism aims to further explain and better understand the information it is given. As society grows and time moves forward, things will change. The concepts that exist now may not exist in the same context later. As seen from the essay, to analyze sex, sexuality and gender, the social constructionist lens must be applied.

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Gender and Sexuality and Sexual Orientation: Queer Theory. (2022, May 17). GradesFixer. Retrieved August 16, 2022, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/gender-and-sexuality-and-sexual-orientation-queer-theory/
“Gender and Sexuality and Sexual Orientation: Queer Theory.” GradesFixer, 17 May 2022, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/gender-and-sexuality-and-sexual-orientation-queer-theory/
Gender and Sexuality and Sexual Orientation: Queer Theory. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/gender-and-sexuality-and-sexual-orientation-queer-theory/> [Accessed 16 Aug. 2022].
Gender and Sexuality and Sexual Orientation: Queer Theory [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 May 17 [cited 2022 Aug 16]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/gender-and-sexuality-and-sexual-orientation-queer-theory/
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