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Sociology of Childhood: Gender and Sexuality

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In this essay I am going to be writing about gender and sexuality and I will be using sociological theories to compare the differences between being a male and what is expected of them and being a female and what is expected of them and I will be writing about how sexuality is dealt with in the school curriculum.

The difference between sex and gender is that sex is the biological factor for example you are born with a penis which makes you a boy and if you’re born with a vagina then you are a girl whereas gender is the characteristics that you believe to deal with masculinity and femininity.

In his book William Little says that a “person’s sex which is determined by his or her biology it doesn’t always match his or her gender in other words the terms sex and gender are not interchangeable.” (Chapter 12, Gender, Sex and Sexuality). In this chapter there is also a section about the terms sex and gender not always being different in the English language and it was not until the 1950’s that American and British psychologists and other working professionals working with intersex and transsexual patients formally began distinguishing between sex and gender.

Sexual orientation is a persons emotional and sexual attraction to other people whether this is a homosexual which is when a male has a sexual attraction to another male or when a female has a sexual attraction to another female, bisexual is when a male or female has a sexual attraction to both males and females and heterosexual is when a male has a sexual attraction to a female and vice versa. According to the American Psychological Association 2008 individuals can usually tell if they are attracted to the opposite or same sex between middle childhood and early adolescence. Alfred Kinsey was among the first to theorise sexuality as a range rather than a strict contrast of being gay or straight. To organise the theory of heterosexuality and homosexuality he devised a six-point rating scale that ranges from being properly heterosexual to being properly homosexual. Later on Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick expanded on Kinsey’s theory and changed the term to ‘homosocial’ instead of ‘homosexual’. She recognized that in North American culture males are often subject to a clear divide between the two sides whereas females enjoy more flexibility. This is shown by females expressing homosocial feelings through hugging, hand holding and having a physical closeness with other females.

The American Psychological Association 2008 says that there is no scientific consensus regarding the reasons why someone holds a heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual orientation and there has been research made to study the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social and cultural influences on sexual orientation. Research does show that homosexuals and bisexuals are treated different then heterosexuals in schools, workplaces and also in the military. In 2009 the Canadian Climate Survery reported that 59% of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) high school students where subjected to verbal harassment in school compared to 7% of non- LGBT students and 25% had also been subject to physical harassment compared to the 8% of students who weren’t LGBT.

The term Transgender is when you are born a male or female but you want to be the opposite sex for example a boy being born a boy but feeling like he is a girl so he identifies as a girl vice versa. A transgender person may have constant feelings of gender dysphoria which is a disconnection from the gender that you are born to the gender that you want to be.

Natacha Kennedy and Mark Hellen did some research into transgender children in their paper called Transgender children: more than a theoretical challenge and in their research they found that the majority of transgender people became aware of their gender identities at a very early age and that transgender children go through most of their time in education knowing that they feel a different gender to what they are. Mark Hellen also did an article about transgender children in school and how teachers should deal with transgender children even if the child does not make it clear that they are transgendered. The Department for Schools, Children and Families guidance on homophobic bullying includes a small amount of information for teachers in regard to transgendered children and it seems from the inclusion in the document which deals with homophobic bullying that it is largely aimed at secondary school teachers and that there is a perception that children who realise that they are transgender is the same process and timing of children who are realising that they are gay or bisexual.

Sexuality education for all teenagers and children is a crucial component of quality education systems and it aims to prepare young people for healthy, responsible and productive citizenship. It is important for children to learn about sexuality in primary school as the majority of girls will experience their first period around the time that they transition to secondary school so learning about periods in year 5/ year 6 will help the girls to understand what is happening to their body and many boys will experience their first erection and ejaculation around the age of 13 so with them learning about it in primary school it is preparing them for what will happen. Also when children are learning about their bodies at a young age they might start realise that they do not find the opposite sex attractive for example a girl moving up into year 7 may not find boys attractive she may find girls attractive so whilst they are learning about periods and erections they should also be told that it is okay for a boy to fancy another boy or for a girl to fancy both girls and boys because it’s what happens and it is normal. Many children may not get the information about sexuality of their parents so the only other way that they can get access to this information is from schools, many parents may not agree with their children being taught abut sex and sexual relationships in primary school but it is going to help the child in the long run for example if a 10 year old girl has been sexually abused by someone for years then whilst she is learning about it in school she is going to realise that what has been happening is wrong so she might feel like she can speak about it to someone.

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During the years gender roles have played a big part in the world, at one time only the male would go to work and be the breadwinner and the woman would stay at home and look after the children, cook and clean etc and then when woman did start going to work they would work in sewing factories and earn way less than what men were earning. There have been many differences in the way in which woman have been treated compared to how men were treated for example woman were not allowed to vote until 1918 in England whereas men have always been allowed to vote. When we are babies, we often get up into gender roles by buying blue clothes for boys and pink clothes for boys it also happens with toys that you buy children as well you will more than often buy boys trains, cars and guns whereas girls would get teddies, barbie dolls, baby dolls and pushchairs. Which is sticking to the gender role of boys and girls.

You can tell by looking through history that men have always had the upper hand on women and women were treated like they were the inferior species, it is even happening in todays society were woman are discovering things but it is not making the news/television purely for the fact that they are women. There are many things that men are still expected to be like being the primary provider for the family even if the women is working the men are expected to work more hours than woman in order to earn more money and stay the breadwinner of the house hold, they are expected to go fight in the Army for their country even though a lot more women are now joining the Army and serving for their county, men are also expected to always be thinking about sex, men are also expected not to speak about their feelings because they will be seen as ‘soft’ to their friends so many men suffer from depression and in the United Kingdom men are three times more likely to take their own lives compared to women because men are afraid to speal up about mental illnesses because it makes them look weak because they’re supposed to be the stronger sex.

Women are expected to do less than men because women are supposedly not able to ‘do a man’s job’ whether that be joining the army or being a boss of your own company. Women are also expected to be able wash clothes and wash the pots or any cleaning because ‘its what women do’ women are also expected to have their boyfriends/husband’s tea on the table for when they arrive home from work and then to wash the dishes whilst the man watches tv.

Feminism has had a big impact on British sociology over the years and it has had significant implications for the intellectual content of nearly all aspects of sociology which includes methodology, concepts and theory. Feminism may be defined as a move to reduce and eliminate gender inequality or to improve the position of women whilst still embracing the gender difference. In 1951 there was a protest by the women’s TUC after the government refused to grant equal pay and the women were met by police officers mounted on horses in an attempted to stop this but in 1954 the government granted equal pay for those who worked within the British government.

Judith Butler wrote a book called ‘Gender Trouble, feminism and the subversion of identity’ and in the book she says that feminist theory has presumed that there is some identity existing which is understood through the category of woman who do not only initiates feminist interests and goals but also constitutes the subject for political representation that is pursued. She also says that the political assumption that there is to be a universal basis for feminism which must be found in an identity that is assumed to exist cross-culturally which comes with the notion that the oppression of women has some singular form because of the structure of patriarchy or the masculine domination.

Bell Hooks wrote that in the United States there are oppressed women and that it is necessary and important that they speak against such oppression but a feminist emphasis on common oppression in the US wasn’t really a strategy for politicization than a appropriation by conservative and liberal women. The impulse towards unity and empathy which informed the notion of the common oppression was directed at building solidarity slogans for example “organize your own oppression” gave the excuse for many privileged women to ignore the many differences between the social status that separated them and many other women.

The difference between a girl and a boys childhood will be different because the boy will be expected to run around, climb trees, ride a bike whereas the girls childhood will be playing families with her dolls, playing in the toy kitchen and playing nicely. Childhood at school is also different for boys and girls because the girls are expected to sit and learn nicely whereas boys are more ‘prone’ to playing the teacher up and being disobedient. Even during history boys and girls had different childhoods, boys would go to work in mines and as chimney sweeps and girls would work in textile mills and factories that was during the Victorian era.

In conclusion I think that men will always have the upper hand when it comes to women because more men are in parliament, there are more male leaders of the world than there are female leaders and I believe that men are always going to have more rights and power than women because it has been historically proven that men have more power than women and I also believe that feminists are always going to protest about women’s rights and that feminism is never going to vanish off the face of the earth and I also believe that schools can do more to help fight the man versus women debate by telling boys that it is okay for them to play with dolls and babies and that girls are also allowed to like cars. I also believe that more can be done in schools to help transgender children to discover who they truly are whether that is a boy wants to be a girl or whether a girl wants to be a boy and I believe that women have the right to go out to work and be paid the same as men especially when the women are doing the same job as what men are. I also agree with what Mark Hellen says in the article that he wrote about teachers needing more understanding about what transgender children have to go through when they are in school whether or not they are transitioning.

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Sociology of Childhood: Gender and Sexuality. (2022, July 08). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 25, 2023, from
“Sociology of Childhood: Gender and Sexuality.” Edubirdie, 08 Jul. 2022,
Sociology of Childhood: Gender and Sexuality. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 25 Sept. 2023].
Sociology of Childhood: Gender and Sexuality [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jul 08 [cited 2023 Sept 25]. Available from:
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