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Ember & Ember (2003) define femininity and masculinity as the degree to which individuals see themselves as feminine or masculine given what it means to be a woman or man in a society. Masculinity and femininity are rooted in an individual’s gender and not sex. Members of various societies have decided that masculinity is characterized by being aggressive, dominant, competitive, instrumental, emotional, and brave (Unger, 2001). On the other hand, women are thought to be expressive, cooperative, and passive (Unger, 2001). According to King (2002), female stereotypic gender roles tend to be more restrictive than male stereotypic gender roles. Gender qualities, such as being passive and being dominant, have been found to influence human sexuality (King, 2002). The formation of sexual relationships is influenced by the differences in gender qualities or characteristics, for instance, passive individuals are most likely married to dominant individuals. It has been found that the American society tend to control male sexuality more than they do to female sexuality (King, 2002). Since men are dominant most societies, they are likely to engage in immoral actions such as sexual harassment, sodomy, and rape. Therefore, male sexuality should be controlled in order to avoid various immoral incidents in American society (King, 2002).
Gender identity refers to an individual’s sense of identification with either female or male sex, which is manifested in behavior, appearance, and other aspects of an individual’s life (King, 2002). Gender identity is determined by a combination of sociological and biological factors that are reinforced during the stage of adolescence (King, 2002). Once gender identity has been established, it is usually fixed for the entire life of an individual. Some people confuse gender identity with sexual orientation and gender roles. Whitley & Kite (2010) define sexual orientation as an individual’s sexual or romantic attraction toward other people. Gender identity also differs from gender role in the fact that gender role is a social and psychological concept. The basic biological factor that influences gender identity is the sex chromosomes, which mark males and females (King, 2002). Female or male sex organs and various traits develop under the influence of sex chromosomes. Gender identity is also influenced by environmental factors, such as cultural expectations of females and males (King, 2002). Social learning theory influences gender identity on the basis of the assumption that children develop gender identity by observing gender-linked traits (Unger, 2001). Freudian theory emphasizes that the development of gender identity depends on psychic conflicts rather than external pressures (Unger, 2001). Cognitive-developmental theory emphasizes that an individual’s own cognitive processing influences the development of gender identity (Unger, 2001).
Sexual prejudice against gay men and lesbians is a common feature in the United States society, while the public seems to be progressively opposed to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (Whitley & Kite, 2010). In most cases, sexual prejudice against gay men and lesbians is as a result of violating the expectations of a society on gender roles and identity. Gay men experience more sexual prejudice than lesbians do because being gay is associated to other issues, such as transmission of sexually transmitted infections like HIV/AIDS (Whitley & Kite, 2010). It has been found that more gay men are infected with HIV than lesbians. However, few people tend to associate close relationships between women or girls as lesbianism, while close relationships between men draw more attention from people regarding the sexual orientation of such men (Whitley & Kite, 2010). For instance, it is less likely for close relationships between girls, such as holding hands or dancing together, to threaten people than the close relationships between boys in early high school or junior high. Therefore, people’s beliefs may negatively affect the development of sexual identity and gender roles among boys, which encourages them to develop positive attitudes toward homosexuality (Whitley & Kite, 2010).