Gender and Sexuality
We will keep gender and sexuality
separate from one another; including
separate from physical sexual
Cultural construction of gender
• Physical sex characteristics and gender are different
• Different roles, behaviors, personality characteristics,
emotions, and development of men and women not
universal and not a function of physical sex differences.
• Gender as performative
• Some cultures recognize more than two genders: a
third gender (hijra of India, xanith of Oman, mahu of
Tahiti, two-spirit among Native Americans. A gender
identity, not a sexual identity.
Caster Semenya,
South African 800m runner
Hijras of India: A Third Gender
• Hijras born as men but dress
and live as women (including
in sitting and walking
• Their genitals are removed as
a sign of religious devotion.
• They are followers of a Hindu
goddess and members of a
religious cult.
• They earn their living
performing at life cycle
rituals (marriages, births)
Two-spirits among Native Americans:
A Third Gender
• Man who dressed in women’s clothing, engaged
in women’s work, and had special supernatural
powers and privileges
• Some women also were two-spirits, but less likely
to happen
• Documented among 130 Native American groups
• Different special roles: conveyors of oral
traditions and songs; foretellers of the future;
conferrers of lucky names on children or adults;
matchmakers; makers of feather regalia for
dances; special role players in the Sun Dance
“Female Husbands” in Africa
• Among Igbo (of W Africa) and
Nandi (of East Africa)
• Usually, a post-menopausal,
childless wealthy women married a
woman to gain status and children
to whom to pass on their wealth
• In a sense these women became
Men and Women in Nicaragua
“Gender is not only the social construction of
social difference, that is, of distinctions between
male and female, but also a primary site for the
production and inscription of more general
effects of power and meaning, a source of
tropes that are key to the configuring of
domination and subjection.”----Ana Maria
Alonso, Thread of Blood (1995), p. 76
Dulce Mendez
Andrew Campbell
Sara-Ashley Kinney
What views of formal marriage
illustrate about gender relations
• Mckayla Justice
What desmoche illustrates
about gender relations
What Zelmira illustrates about gender relations
Cultural construction of sexuality
• Diversity in sexual practices, explicit
discussion or silence around, sexuality and
marriage, as well as same-sex or other-sex
• In the West: homosexuality/heterosexuality
(gay/straight) as opposites; later
modification with LGBTQAI (recognizing a
plurality of sexualities)
• In Nicaragua: cochón
• Spanish coming into American
villages were shocked to see
men dressed like women
• They justified conquest
through native Americans’
sodomy (as a sin)
• An example of how sexuality
can be intertwined with
• The cochón is due to
syncretism between Iberian
and indigenous sexual role
• What is a synonym for
• How does this sexual identity differ from “gay”
in American usage?
• Does “homophobia” exist? p. 269
• Normally stigmatized but different kind of
stigma than “homosexuals” in the West
• E.g., they have a prominent role in annual
festival of Santo Domingo
• Lancaster’s sexual status: Qs by Mary Ellen
LaRosa and Anon
Did the Revolution change norms
about gender and sexuality?
• Question by Julio Clemente
Western worldview on sexuality as a
form of globalization
• Are Western
conceptions overrunning local
• Lancaster’s view, p. 25455