Social Problems Ch 7

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Tracking the Trends: Sexuality
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Massachusetts became the first state to permit same-sex marriage in 2004. Within ten years, thirty states had enacted same-sex marriage laws.
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Sex
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the biological distinction between females and males.
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Primary sex characteristics
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refer to differences in genitalia.
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Secondary sex characteristics
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refer to the distinct physical characteristics that develop as we mature.
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Sex: A Cultural Issue
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Sociologists point out that sexual activity is also guided by human culture. Cultural norms define who can have sex with whom: -age -marital status -sex of partners Cultural norms define what is viewed as normative sexual activity.
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Factors that led to increased sexual freedom in the U.S. over time:
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Industrial era migration to cities Kinsey research in the 1940s and 1950s Advances in technology –> more control over reproduction
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Sexual freedom changes resulted in:
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fewer people delaying sex until marriage smaller \”gender gap\” in sexual activity
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Feminist movement in the 1970s:
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View of sex as men’s power over women \”Sexism\” emerges as a social problem Public stands against pornography, rape, incest Demand for access to birth control, abortion
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Conservative sexual counterrevolution in the 1980s:
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\”return to family values\”
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Sexual revolution (old people)
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Men and women who began the sexual revolution in the ’60s are carrying the movement into old age Those reporting a current sexual partner: -Aged 65 to 74: 85% of men; 62% of women -Aged 75 to 84: 78% of men; 41% of women 20 million erectile dysfunction prescriptions a year; $1.5 billion to drug companies
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Sexual orientation
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an individual’s romantic and emotional attraction to another person.
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Sexuality Can include partners of:
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the same sex: homosexuality the other sex: heterosexuality either sex: bisexuality neither sex: asexuality
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(Homosexuality) Major shift in public opinion:
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Fewer than half of U.S. adults now say that same-sex relations are \”wrong.\” Laws now ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. In 2011, the U.S. military ended its ban on same-sex behavior. 60% of U.S. population now lives in a state where same-sex marriage is legal.
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(Homosexuality) Hostility and prejudice still exist:
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Many religious organizations refuse to ordain gay men or lesbians 1/3 of homosexual college students report experiencing harassment 1,300 hate crimes against gays in 2012 Homosexual people of color are especially likely to experience violence.
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Cultural Factors (sexual orientation)
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Diversity of sexual expression around the world suggests cultural influence Patterns of socialization have an impact
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Biological Factors (sexual orientation)
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Sexual orientation largely fixed at birth Studies focus on genes, hormones, epigenetic research
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Homosexuality and Public Policy
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1973: American Psychiatric Assn. removed homo-sexuality from list of mental disorders 2003: U.S. Supreme Court struck down Texas law banning sodomy. Surveys show large decrease in U.S. adults viewing homosexuality as \”wrong\”
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Same-Sex Marriage
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2004: Supreme Court of Massachusetts ruled that gay men and lesbian women had the right to marry. By 2015, 29 other states (plus D.C.) enacted laws permitting same-sex marriage. There are 17 countries in the world where same-sex marriage is legal.
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The Gay Rights Movement
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Gained public attention in the 1950s \”Stonewall Riot\” in1969: defining moment in growth of the movement Introduction of the term homophobia
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Homophobia
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homophobia (an aversion to or hostility toward people thought to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual) claiming intolerance of sexual orientation is a social problem.
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Transgender
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appearing or behaving in ways that challenge how females and males should look and act.
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Pornography:
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words or images intended to cause sexual arousal
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Conservatives view pornography
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as a social problem because it threatens conventional morality.
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Liberals (pornography)
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defend freedom of expression and support the right to privacy but object to pornography as demeaning to women
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1985: US Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography was formed
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Concluded that pornography increases people’s sexual activity and encourages men to be aggressive and more accepting of violent acts such as rape. Others claim that the evidence does not clearly support a link between pornography and rape.
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Sexual Harassment
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Unwanted comments, gestures, or physical contact of a sexual nature
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Sexual Harassment (Policy)
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The rise of the women’s movement in the ’60s was primarily responsible for the definition of such behavior as a social problem. 1976: federal court declared that sexual harassment amounted to illegal discrimination
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The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission identifies two types:
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quid pro quo (one thing for another) forms of behavior that create a hostile environment (not just intent, but also effect)
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Sexual Harassment stat:
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82% of cases are men who harass women Supreme Court (1998): employees can be victims of harassment even if they are not obviously harmed by the actions.
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Prostitution:
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the selling of sexual services
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In the U.S., 2/3 of arrests for prostitution are of women;
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the remaining men are both prostitutes and clients.
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Prostitution (Sweden)
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allows people to sell sex but makes it a crime to buy sex.
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Child Prostitution and \”Sex Tourism\”
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For desperately poor children, selling sex is a means of survival Worldwide, \”sex tourism\” is on the rise with the greatest increases in Africa, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. In patriarchal societies, poor girls sent out of the home to work may end up in the sex trade.
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The rate of teen pregnancy in the U.S.
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decreasing, but is still higher than in most other high-income countries.
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Of all pregnant teens,
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most are not married 17% have miscarriages 25% have abortions 58% keep their babies
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Teenage pregnancy is more common among
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poor families and most common among poor African American girls.
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Becoming pregnant as a teen
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dramatically increases the odds of remaining poor.
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Teenage pregnancy costs $11 billion a year, but highest cost is to the babies:
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have lower birth weights and higher risk of physical and developmental problems may face poor nutrition, little schooling, inadequate health care grow up at high risk of becoming single parents themselves
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Sex education
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Critics say that level of sexual activity has increased with the adoption of sex education. Supporters say that the biggest cause of teen pregnancy is ignorance.
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Abortion:
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the intentional termination of a pregnancy
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Who has abortions in the US?
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1.2 million abortions are performed annually in the U.S., ¼ of all pregnancies 85% of women are unmarried, half have income below or close to poverty line Most are in their 20s and about half have already had at least one abortion.
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Abortion (laws)
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In the U.S., from colonial era until mid-19th century, early-term abortion was legal everywhere By the early 20th century, laws banning abortion had been enacted in every state In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down all laws that banned abortion Remains a controversial issue in the U.S.
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Support for abortion is:
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almost the same among women (55%) as men (53%) greater among Democrats (69%) than Republicans (35%) less widely supported among people of Arab and Italian descent (29%) more widely supported by Jewish Americans (89%)
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STDs
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Diseases spread by sexual contact More than 50 kinds of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) including gonorrhea, syphilis, and genital herpes 20 million new sexually transmitted infections each year Half of those infected are under age 25 Cost of treatment: about $16 billion a year
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AIDS
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Caused by the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, which destroys the body’s immune system Trend in reported cases and deaths in the U.S. is decreasing: 15,529 deaths in 2010 32,050 new cases in 2011 A total of 1.2 million people have contracted AIDS; 636,000 have died.
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AIDS (more stats)
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Globally, 35 million are infected, 3.2 million of whom are children. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 71% of the world’s cases. Girls are at higher risk than boys.
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HIV is infectious
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but not contagious
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Behaviors that put people at risk for HIV:
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anal sex sharing needles when using drugs drug or alcohol use because it impairs one’s judgment
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AIDs crisis:
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The U.S. government was slow to respond to the AIDS crisis. AIDS was not given serious attention until the epidemic spread into heterosexual population. Antiretroviral therapy improves the health of people with HIV and reduces transmission.
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Structural-Functional Analysis: Controlling Sexuality
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Emphasizes the importance of cultural norms guiding sexuality Explains why societies have always paid attention to who reproduces with whom All societies observe incest taboo Traditional norms favor legitimate offspring
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Structural-Functional Analysis: Controlling Sexuality (criticism)
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ignores gender, diversity of sexual norms, and changing patterns of sexual behavior
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Symbolic-Interaction Analysis: Defining Sexuality
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Highlights the variable meanings people attach to sexuality The meaning of virginity Learning sexual roles People socially construct sexuality just as they create the rest of the reality they experience
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Symbolic-Interaction Analysis: Defining Sexuality (criticism)
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Some patterns are very consistent.
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Feminist Theory
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Women as sexual objects Violence as manifestation of male dominance
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Queer theory
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Challenges the heterosexual bias in U.S. society
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Feminist/Queer Theory Criticism:
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most people find that sexuality strengthens a relationship to another person; not as a power issue.
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Conservatives: The Value of Traditional Morality
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Support conventional norms Premarital sex and extramarital sex are social problems lead to teenage pregnancy and STDs Condemn prostitution and pornography violate traditional standards of decency and threaten marriages Oppose abortion on demand gives one person the power to end the life of another Overall, the conservative answer to sexual social problems is a strong family life.
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Liberals: Sex and Individual Choice
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All people should have considerable choice in how they express their sexuality Attitude is one of tolerance Limits of liberal tolerance come when someone is threatened with harm Look to government to address social problems Support abortion available to all, leaving the decision up to the woman involved
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Radical Left: Go to the Root of the Problem (Sex)
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Sexual social problems are a dimension of social inequality come about because one category of people has power over another Encourage women to work together to achieve political aims and to avoid dependency on men

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