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Is Sexual Stereotyping Affecting Your Relationship?

Sexual stereotypes and their distortions of the sexes are divisive.
Published on February 9, 2012 by Lisa Firestone, Ph.D. in Compassion Matters

Sexual stereotypes are everywhere. We see them in commercials, where happy moms dance around their homes in celebration of a functional mop. We see them in movies, where stoic male heroes are still rescuing clueless heroines. We see them on sitcoms, where single women dream of getting their boyfriends to settle down, and lazy husbands just want to watch sports.

It's true that in recent years we've made advances to establish equality between the sexes. Society is reflecting fewer attitudes that support discrimination and inequality between men and women, and most of us espouse a point of view that is liberated from old sexual prejudices that once bordered on racial bigotry. However, even though we are liberated in our beliefs and attitudes, many of our actions are still influenced by misconceptions about men and women that have been passed down through generations. In spite of their stated values, a surprising number of couples relate to each other based on stereotypical views of the sexes.

It's easy for us to observe the ways the media is guilty of exploiting the differences between men and women and of exaggerating stereotypes to sell products.  Yet, it's considerably harder for us to identify the way our own preconceptions about gender are impacting our interpersonal relationships.

When we look at some of the ways society depicts men and women, we can see that these depictions actually pit men and women against each other. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that people are often criticized or ridiculed for not complying with these stereotypes. For example, men who openly express affection may be teased for being "soft, sappy, or whipped." Women who seek power have been called "ruthless or bulldozers."

Sexual stereotypes and their distortions of the sexes are divisive, and they interfere with our being intimate and loving in our close relationships. The social pressure exerted by these attitudes is as damaging to couple relationships as racial prejudice is to relations between people of different ethnic backgrounds. In truth, men and women are more alike than they are different. Both men and women have essentially the same desires in life and seek the same sort of satisfactions with each other. Both want sex, love, affection, success, dignity and self-fulfillment. They want to be acknowledged first as unique individuals, then as men and women.

celticarchie Featured By Owner Mar 15, 2012
As I'm a 91st Century guy trapped in the 21st...probably not. ;P
DerelictVampire Featured By Owner Mar 15, 2012
I agree. Beneath our differences we're all human beings, and that reality transcends social norms or the myths of gender. Like you mentioned, I know for myself the idea of what it means to be "a man" is something I've struggled with. I've been called "soft," "over-emotional," even "fag" because I don't fit into any category of male. I'm heterosexual, but I got so much teasing as a kid (even how I held a sandwich!) and see so many representations as an adult of what a man is supposed to be that I thought I might be bi-gender (having the emotional characteristics of both male and female; sexual preference isn't necessarily a part of it). In the end, though, I think I'm just me...and haven't sealed myself in some pre-defined expectation. I like being a man. I like being masculine. But I want the freedom to express femininity sometimes, because we all have both aspects to a greater or lesser degree. A person shouldn't fear wearing a bit of eyeliner or crying at a sad movie. If I did either of those in the town I live in, I'd probably get dragged from the bumper of a car.

I do think women have had it worse over the years. And despite the sexual revolution and the feminism of the '70s, we're more inundated today with the sexualization of women than ever...and beyond. Images of women in submissive poses are all over the place. How many are there of men? For those who are into it, I'm not criticizing bdsm necessarily (if it's responsible with two equal and mature people), but the presentation of it involves women in bondage and submission 99% of the time. That bothers me. And it's becoming mainstream.

I think in terms of interpersonal relationships, both men and women need to have a more enlightened view and not force our own learned behavior and preconceptions on our partners. Most women don't want a weepy guy, but allow men to feel free to express that part of themselves. Having emotion isn't a weakness, and though a lot of women want men to express their feelings, I think they need to understand that men sometimes express them differently. And men have to stop making appearance and sex so intrinsic to the equation. You see this happen a lot when a woman has a baby. Sex gets put on hold for a bit and men start thinking intimacy is gone altogether. (I'm making generalizations, but I've seen both phenomena happen more often than not.)
I better end here. Sorry for such a long response, but your journal was very thought-provoking. Hope you don't mind.
JohannaPax Featured By Owner Mar 18, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
your comments are welcomed
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Submitted on
March 13, 2012