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Gender and Sexualities: Identities, Behaviors and Society Report (Assessment)


In terms of medicalizing sex, ‘the corporate-sponsored definitions of “female sexual dysfunction” are being criticized as misleading and potentially dangerous’ (Moynihan 2009:450). Do you agree to Discuss either popular culture trends in your everyday experience/knowledge? What part do pharmaceutical companies play in constructing ‘disease’?

Female sexual dysfunction is one of those disorders which have been turned into a source of income for many pharmaceutical companies. Modern psychologists as well as medical workers criticize the idea that drugs are the only solution to this problem. They point out that modern businesses have successfully convinced women from all over the world medication will enable them to retain their femininity (Moynihan, 2005, 192). It is frequently argued that such an approach to female sexual dysfunction or any other disorder is inherently wrong and it may imperil the health of many women. In my view, such criticism is quite justified because researchers and medical workers do not know for sure if female sexual dysfunction is caused by the lack of hormones (Moynihan, 2005, 193). One should not disregard the hypothesis that it can be associated with some psychological peculiarities of the patient rather than some physiological deficiency.

Another issue is that the producers of such drugs trivialize their aftereffects. For example, they are very reluctant to mention that this medication can disrupt metabolism in the human body and result in many illnesses. More importantly, many people are not aware of the fact that the clinical trials of such drugs are often conducted by people who are closely affiliated with pharmaceutical companies (Mamo & Fishman, 2001). Therefore, one may assume that such tests are not quite objective. Unfortunately, these issues are frequently overlooked by people who buy these drugs. In part, such an attitude can be explained by the enormous role, played by modern mass media. They help pharmaceutical companies to construct the public image of sex-related diseases and convince both men and women that the medication is the only way out. For instance, women are often told that sexual dysfunction is a problem that affects approximately 43 percent of the female population and for instance hormone replacement can assist a patient, irrespective of her age. This is one of those situations that can be regarded as a criminal act because misinforms the person and this misinformation can threaten her health.

It is quite possible to say that pharmaceutical companies play a pivotal role in the construction of disease. They need to find consumers for their products and they create such a demand by using mass media. Overall, there are several recommendations that we can make. First of all, people should not take the promises of pharmaceutical companies for granted; they should read the books or articles which are written by those people, who are not affiliated with the manufacturers of drugs. Only in this way, they will be able to avoid the risks for their health or even life. Moreover, a person, who is suffering from sexual dysfunction, should primarily consult a physician who would be able to recommend a viable treatment model. This person is interested in a positive treatment outcome, rather than the promotion of a certain drug.

“Marriage became the dominant issue in lesbian and gay politics in the 1990s, but not before. If marriage is so fundamental to a program of rights, why did gay men and lesbians resist it over the twenty-five year period of their most defiant activism?” (Warner 2000:87) Discuss some of the other points raised by Warner, combined with your own opinion. What is marriage anyway?

In his book, Michael Warner strives to reassess the notion of gay marriage and tries to explain why many homosexual people were very reluctant to struggle for it in the past, for example, in the seventies or eighties. According to Warner, homosexual people believe that their struggle for the right to marry one another will increase the animosity toward them (Warner, 2000). In part, such an attitude can be explained by the fact that prejudice against homosexuals is still deeply inherent in modern society (Fields, 2004). Probably, it has recently become more concealed but it has yet to be fully irradiated. To some extent, they understand that by advocating the right for same-sex married they may provoke those aggressive-minded people who will never tolerate homosexuality. This is one of the theories which explain the reasons why homosexual people were not actively advocating their right to marry in the past.

However, in his book Michael Warner attracts the reader’s attention to another important issue, namely to the modern concept of marriage. One of his arguments is that for many people the right to marriage is a certain kind of privilege, something that makes them special. Thus, if homosexual people receive this right, they would achieve equal status in society. The key problem is that many heterosexual vehemently resist it. In their opinion, such social change is utterly impermissible. Michael Warner believes that the legalization of gay marriage would require the government to make a great number of changes to the existing legislation; we can speak about such issues as the adoption of a child, taxation laws, and so forth. To some extent, this radical transformation of the legislative and social norms can cause discontent among the heterosexual population of the country, and the government does not want to do it. On the whole, in modern society marriage is often considered as a sign of privilege, legal or civic right but not as the unity of people who love one another. This is one of the tragedies of the modern community. Michael Warner points out that nowadays marriage requires the consent of more than two people (2000, p 115). Modern people always have to receive the agreement of the third party, in other words, society or community, which is governed by heterosexual people.

To a large extent, Michael Warner’s book touches upon a very important characteristic of modern people, who are more willing to turn a blind eye to a certain phenomenon rather than face it. For example, many people say that they think well of gays and lesbians, as long as they do not talk about their sexual orientation and their civic rights. When homosexual people start struggling for their rights, they display their otherness, and this is frequently not tolerated. This article suggests that xenophobia and discrimination very often hider under the disguise of political correctness. Same-sex marriage is one of those issues which uncover this xenophobia in contemporary society.

“While Viagra reinforces dominant cultural narratives about sex, gender, sexuality and hegemonic masculinity it also constructs sites of resistance” (ammo and Fishman p30). Discuss in comparison to treatments for female sexual dysfunction(Moynihan). How does the binary of ‘normal’ and ‘dysfunction’ speak in the gendered discourse?

Biotechnologies as well pharmaceutical products are now being designed and marketed in such a way that would best suit the ultimate customer. For instance, such Viagra is a drug that has become famous throughout the world due to the successful marketing campaign. This drug emphasizes the masculinity of the buyer and most importantly his ability to gain control over his body (Mamo & Fishman, 2001). It would not be an exaggeration to argue that modern drugs are becoming increasingly gendered; in fact, even the manes of the disorders reflect our perception of genders. For instance, the very word impotency suggests the state of being powerless, weak, helpless, and so forth. These characteristics are never tolerated in the world of men. More likely, they will be viewed as shameful. Therefore, a person, who buys this medication, regards it as a symbol of power, control, or maybe even prestige. Such marketing strategies are used to promote other products but Viagra sets enormous stress on the masculinity of the consumer. This is the main reason why this drug has been of such interest to sociologists and people who are interested in gender studies.

In contrast, the medications, which are marketed to women frequently, are supposed to help them feel sexy once again and derive pleasure from sex (Moynihan, 2005). Still, in both cases, pharmaceutical companies avoid speaking about the side-effects produced by their drugs. They continuously set stress on the idea that this medication is life-enhancing but they do not speak about the dangers of using them. An advertisement, urging a patient to buy Viagra will never mention that the frequent use of this drug may lead to cardiovascular diseases.

Overall, we can argue that the concepts of sexual “normality” and “dysfunction” are still marked by traditional gender roles. As it has been mentioned before, male patients associate the idea of being normal with ability power and the ability to exercise control over one’s body. In turn, dysfunction is understood as helplessness or weakness. As far as women are concerned we can argue they associate normality with the ability to derive pleasure. These perceptions are the most dominant ones, and the developers of medication take these perceptions into account. Apart from that, such drugs as Viagra are oriented toward heterosexual patients, although this drug can be gay male users.

Modern sociologists emphasize the idea that the marketing of drugs frequently reflects predominant perceptions of sex, and gender roles. Most importantly, they reinforce these perceptions. This is one of the reasons heterosexuality is regarded as a norm, while homosexuality is often labeled as an abnormality. The example of Viagra indicates that the language and rhetoric of commercials continue to be gender-oriented. Unfortunately, such an approach only strengthens common stereotypes about sexes. Furthermore, as we have shown before it may pose a great threat to the health of people who take these drugs.

Sexual identity

This course has compelled me to reevaluate some aspects of sexual identity. It has shown to me that it is a constructed notion which frequently is created by people who want me to behave only in a certain way. Such notions as masculinity and femininity are imposed upon us from outside, and every person, who decides to depart from this standard, is considered to be deviant and abnormal. For example, every male person, displaying the signs of weakness or indecision, is frequently treated as an outcast. Similarly, a woman, who tries to acquire a position of leadership, may not be tolerated by others. Certainly, nowadays such a tendency has become less conspicuous but no one can argue that it has disappeared entirely.

I may say that sexual identity is constructed by a great number of socialization agents such as family, school, immediate environment, mass media, and so forth. To some of them, each of these agents has shaped my worldview and especially, perception of gender roles. I have frequently asked myself a question of whether I believe these people or not. I cannot deny the fact that I have been significantly influenced by the views of gender, expressed by my parents, friends, or even mass media. Yet, I continuously try to question them at least in those situations when they seem to me old-fashioned or prejudiced. For me, a rule or tradition cannot exist for its own sake; it must contribute to the wellbeing of the community. If it does not, this rule is no longer mandatory.

At this point, I would like to discuss how common stereotypes affect not only our behavior patterns but our physical appearance as well because this is one of those cases when a person has to question traditional views of sexes. Commercials show us how a woman or a man should be dressed and what is considered to be the norm. Physical appearance is not the only example; one may also mention hobbies, artistic preferences, political views, and so forth. Apart from that in many cases, people buy products or services to comply with these stereotypical perceptions of genders. In my view, such behavior strongly resembles the so-called herd instinct, which is typical of people who cannot make independent decisions. I do not want to say that I am rejecting every kind of authority, but for me, the authority has to prove its legitimacy as well as its right to impose stenotypes on me. This is one of those principles that has always helped me immensely.

We are living in a world where people have multiple identities, which can include occupation, social status, hobbies, ethnic origin, gender, and so forth. Unfortunately, people attach importance to only one of these identifies, while disregarding others. At the given moment, I see myself mostly as a student of sociology, who intends to earn an academic degree. At least, such a form of identity speaks much more about me.


Fields Jessica. 2004. Same sex marriage, sodomy laws, and the sexual lives of young people. Journal of NSRC. (1) 3, pp 259-269.

Kimmel. M. & Rebecca Plante. 2004. Sexualities: identities, behaviors, and society. Oxford University Press.

Mamo L. & Fishman. J. 2001. Potency in all right places: Viagra as a technology of the gendered body’ Body & Science. 7 (4), p 13 – 35

Moynihan Ray. 2005. Marketing of a disease: female sexual dysfunction. BMJ. 330, 192- 184.

Rich A. 1994 ‘Compulsory heterosexuality and lesbian existence’. NY: Norton Paper Back.

Warner. Michael. 2000. “Beyond Gay Marriage”. in The trouble with normal: sex, politics, and the ethics of queer life. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Gender and Sexualities: Identities, Behaviors and Society." March 19, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/gender-and-sexualities-identities-behaviors-and-society/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Gender and Sexualities: Identities, Behaviors and Society'. 19 March.

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