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And that even their physical appearances are exactly the same? This seems very counterintuitive and goes against many people's personal experiences and observations when they were kids. But i have comes across claims that prior to puberty, there are no differences in size, strength, speed or even physical appearance. How true is this?
All About Puberty
OK, so it's a funny word &mdash but what is puberty, anyway?
Puberty (say: PYOO-ber-tee) is the name for the time when your body begins to develop and change as you move from kid to adult. We're talking about stuff like girls developing breasts and boys starting to look more like men. During puberty, your body will grow faster than at any other time in your life, except for when you were a baby.
It helps to know about the changes that puberty causes before they happen. That way, you know what to expect. It's also important to remember that everybody goes through these changes. No matter where you live, whether you're a boy or a girl, whether you like vanilla or double-fudge-chunk ice cream, you will experience them. No two people are exactly alike, but one thing everyone has in common is that we all go through puberty.
Usually, puberty starts between ages 8 and 13 in girls and ages 9 and 15 in boys. This wide range in ages may help explain why some of your friends still look like young kids whereas others look more like adults.
When your body is ready to begin puberty, your pituitary (say: pih-TOO-uh-ter-ee) gland (a pea-shaped gland located at the bottom of your brain) releases special hormones. Depending on whether you're a boy or a girl, these hormones go to work on different parts of the body.
Changes for Boys and Girls
For boys, the hormones travel through the blood and tell the testes (say: TES-teez), the two egg-shaped glands in the scrotum (the sac that hangs under the penis), to begin making testosterone (say: tess-TAHS-tuh-rone) and sperm. Testosterone is the hormone that causes most of the changes in a boy's body during puberty, and men need sperm to be able to reproduce (be the father of a baby).
In girls, these hormones target the two ovaries (say: OH-vuh-reez), which contain eggs that have been in the girl's body since she was born. The hormones cause the ovaries to start making another hormone, called estrogen. Together, these hormones prepare a girl's body to start her periods and be able to become pregnant someday.
Boys and girls both begin to grow hair under their arms and their pubic areas (on and around the genitals). It starts out looking light and thin. Then, as kids go through puberty, it becomes longer, thicker, heavier, curlier, and darker. Eventually, boys also start to grow hair on their faces.
It's Just a Growth Spurt
A spurt is a short burst of activity or something that happens in a hurry. And a growth spurt is just that: Your body is growing and it's happening really fast!
When you go through puberty, it might seem like your sleeves are always getting shorter and your pants are creeping up your legs. That's because you're having a growth spurt that lasts for about 2 to 3 years. When that growth spurt is at its peak, some kids grow 4 or more inches (10 or more centimeters) in a year! At the end of your growth spurt, you'll have reached your adult height &mdash or just about.
But your height isn't the only thing that changes during puberty.
With all this quick growth, it can seem like one part of your body &mdash your feet, for instance &mdash are growing faster than everything else. This can make you feel clumsy or awkward. This is normal, too! The rest of your body will eventually fill out and shape up, and you'll feel less klutzy.
Your body also fills out and changes shape during puberty. A boy's shoulders will grow wider and his body will become more muscular. He may notice a bit of breast growth on his chest. Don't worry, this is normal &mdash and it goes away for most boys by the end of puberty.
In addition, boys' voices crack and eventually become deeper, their penises grow longer and wider, and their testes get bigger. All of these changes mean that their bodies are developing as they should during puberty.
Girls' bodies usually become curvier. Their hips get wider and their breasts develop, starting with just a little swelling under the nipples. Sometimes one breast grows more quickly than the other, but most of the time they even out. Girls may start wearing bras around this time, especially if they are involved in sports or exercise classes.
With all this growing and developing going on, some girls may be uncomfortable with how their bodies are changing, but it's unhealthy for girls to diet to try to stop any normal weight gain. If you have any questions about puberty or are worried about your weight, talk to your parent or doctor.
One question a girl will have is: When will I get my first period? This usually happens about 2 years after her breasts start to develop. The menstrual (say: MEN-strul) period, or monthly cycle, is when blood is released through the vagina. That may sound alarming, but it's normal and it signals that a girl is growing up and her body is preparing so that she can have a baby someday.
Here's what's going on: Each of a girl's two ovaries holds thousands of eggs. During the menstrual cycle, an egg is released from one of the ovaries and begins a trip down the fallopian (say: fuh-lo-pee-un) tube to the uterus, also called the womb. A girl has two fallopian tubes, one connecting each ovary to the uterus.
Before the egg even leaves the ovary, though, hormones stimulate the uterus to build up its inner lining with extra blood and tissue. If the egg gets to the uterus and is fertilized by a sperm cell, it may plant itself in that lining and grow into a baby. The extra blood and tissue nourishes and protects the baby as it develops.
But most of the time the egg is only passing through. When the egg doesn't get fertilized, or if the fertilized egg doesn't become planted in the lining, the uterus no longer needs the extra blood and tissue, so the blood leaves the body through the vagina. This blood is known as a girl's period. A period usually lasts from 2 to 7 days. About 2 weeks after the last period, a new egg is released as the cycle repeats itself.
Face Up to Changes
Another thing that may come with puberty is acne (say: AK-nee) &mdash or pimples &mdash caused by all those hormones at work in the body.
Skin gets oilier and pimples sometimes start showing up when puberty begins, and you may get them throughout the teenage years. You might see pimples on your face, your upper back, or your upper chest.
To help control pimples, wash your face twice a day with warm water and a mild soap or cleanser. Don't squeeze, pick, or pop your pimples. Your doctor can also offer suggestions for clearing up acne. The good news is that acne usually gets a lot better as you get older.
Putting the P.U. in Puberty
P.U.! A lot of kids notice that they have a new smell under their arms and in other places when they hit puberty &mdash and it's not a pretty one. That smell is body odor (you may have heard people call it B.O.) and everyone gets it.
As you enter puberty, the puberty hormones stimulate the glands in your skin, including the sweat glands under your arms. When sweat and bacteria on your skin get together, it can smell pretty bad.
So what can you do to feel less stinky? Well, keeping clean can stop you from smelling. You might want to take a shower every day, either in the morning before school or at night before bed. Wearing clean clothes and showering after you've been playing sports or exercising is also a good idea.
Another way to cut down on body odor is to use deodorant. If you use a deodorant with antiperspirant, it will cut down on sweat as well.
Boys and girls will also notice other body changes as they enter puberty. Girls sometimes might see and feel white or clear stuff coming from the vagina. This doesn't mean anything is wrong &mdash it's called vaginal discharge and is just another sign hormones are changing your body.
Boys will begin to get erections (this is when the penis fills with blood and becomes hard). Sometimes erections happen when boys think about sexual things or they can happen for no reason at all. Boys also may experience something called nocturnal emissions (or wet dreams). This is when the penis becomes erect when a boy is sleeping and he ejaculates. When a boy ejaculates, semen &mdash the fluid that contains sperm &mdash comes out of the penis. That's why they're called wet dreams &mdash they happen when you're sleeping and your underwear or the bed might be a little wet when you wake up. Wet dreams occur less often as boys move through puberty and they eventually stop.
Change Can Feel Kind of Strange
Just as those hormones change the way your body looks on the outside, they also create changes on the inside. During puberty, you might feel confused or have strong emotions that you've never had before. You might feel overly sensitive or become upset easily.
Some kids lose their tempers more often and get angry with their friends or families. You also may feel anxious about how your changing body looks.
Sometimes it can be hard to deal with all these new emotions. It's important to know that while your body is adjusting to the new hormones, so is your mind. Try to remember that people usually aren't trying to hurt your feelings or upset you on purpose. It might not be your family or friends &mdash it might be your new "puberty brain" trying to adjust.
You might also have sexual feelings that you've never felt before. And you will probably have lots of questions about these new, confusing feelings about sex.
It's easy to feel embarrassed or nervous when talking about sex. It's important to get your questions answered, but you need to be sure you have all the right information. Some kids can talk to their parents about sex and get all their questions answered.
But if you feel funny talking to your parents about sex, there are many other people you can talk to, like your doctor, a school nurse, a teacher, a school counselor, or some other adult you feel comfortable talking with.
People are all a little different from each other, so it makes sense that they don't all develop in the same way. During puberty, everyone changes at his or her own pace. Maybe some of your friends are getting their period, and you haven't developed breasts yet. Maybe your best friend's voice has changed, and you think you still sound like a kid. Or maybe you're sick of being the tallest girl in your class or the only boy who has to shave.
In a few cases, kids who are developing very early or who are very late in starting have a problem that may need to be checked or treated. If you are concerned about that possibility, talk with your parents and schedule a visit with your doctor. Your doctor knows all about puberty and can help determine if you are developing normally.
But just about everyone catches up eventually, and most differences between you and your friends will even out. Until then, hang in there. Puberty can be quite a wild ride!
Puberty First Signs, Symptoms, Ages, and Stages in Girls and Boys
Puberty is the period during which growing boys or girls undergo the process of sexual maturation. Puberty involves a series of physical stages or steps that lead to the achievement of fertility and the development of the so-called secondary sex characteristics, the physical features associated with adult males and females (such as the growth of pubic hair). While puberty involves a series of biological or physical transformations, the process can also have an effect on the psychosocial and emotional development of the adolescent.
7 Signs and Symptoms When You Start Your Period (Menstruation)
Some women get symptoms leading up to and during menstruation (period), for example
- cramps or pains low in the abdomen,
- bloating or swelling in the abdomen,
- constipation before your period,
- diarrhea when your period starts,
- tiredness, and
- mood changes.
At is the timing of puberty in girls and boys?
Doctors do not completely understand the timing of the onset of puberty a number of factors likely determine its onset. One theory proposes that reaching a critical weight or body composition may play a role in the onset of puberty. The increase in childhood obesity may be related to the overall earlier onset of puberty in the general population in recent years.
Leptin, a hormone produced by fat cells (adipocytes) in the body, has been suggested as one possible mediator of the timing of puberty. In research studies, animals deficient in leptin did not undergo puberty, but puberty began when leptin was administered to the animals. Further, girls with higher concentrations of the hormone leptin are known to have an increased percentage of body fat and an earlier onset of puberty than girls with lower levels of leptin. The concentration of leptin in the blood is known to increase just before puberty in both boys and girls.
Leptin, however, is likely only one of multiple influences on the hypothalamus, an area of the brain that releases a hormone known as gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), which in turn signals the pituitary gland to release luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). LH and FSH secretion by the pituitary is responsible for sexual development through regulation of the production of estrogen and testosterone.
Genetic factors are likely involved in the timing of puberty, and the timing of puberty tends to "run in families." Additionally, a gene has been identified that appears to be critical for the normal development of puberty. The gene, known as GPR54, encodes a protein that appears to have an effect on the secretion of GnRH by the hypothalamus. Individuals who do not have a functioning copy of this gene are not able to enter puberty normally.
What age does puberty start in girls and boys?
The onset of puberty varies among individuals. Puberty usually occurs in girls between the ages of 10 and 14, while in boys it generally occurs later, between the ages of 12 and 16. In some African-American girls, puberty begins earlier, at about age 9, meaning that puberty occurs from ages 9 to 14.
Adolescent girls reach puberty today at earlier ages than were ever recorded previously. Nutritional and other environmental influences may be responsible for this change. For example, the average age of the onset of menstrual periods in girls was 15 in 1900. By the 1990s, this average had dropped to 12 and a half years of age.
What are the physical stages of puberty in girls and boys?
The body changes that happen during the process of puberty have a typical pattern in both boys and girls, with a generally predictable sequence of events. In most girls, the first sign of puberty is the beginning of breast development (breast buds), which occurs at an average age of approximately 11 years. In girls, the growth of pubic hair typically begins after breast development, followed by the growth of hair in the armpits. A minority of girls, however, begin to develop pubic hair prior to breast development. The onset of menstruation (having periods) usually happens later than the other physical changes and usually occurs around two and a half years after the onset of puberty.
A regular pattern of ovulation, corresponding to achievement of fertility, usually develops rapidly once a girl begins having menstrual periods (the onset of menstruation or first period is known as menarche). However, girls who have a later onset of menstruation (after age 13) tend to have lower rates of regular ovulation in the years following the onset of menstruation. Studies have shown that one-half of adolescent girls who first begin to menstruate after age 13 will not ovulate regularly over the next four and a half years.
In boys, an increase in the size of the testicles is the first change observed at the onset of puberty. Enlargement of the testicles begins at an approximate average age of 11 and a half years in boys and lasts for about six months. After enlargement of the testicles, the penis also increases in size. Enlargement of the testicles and penis almost always occurs before the development of pubic hair. The next stage is the growth of pubic area hair and hair in the armpits. Next, the voice becomes deeper and muscles increase in size. The last step is usually the development of facial hair.
Fertility is achieved in males near the onset of puberty, when a surge in testosterone triggers the production of sperm.
The sequence of changes in puberty has been characterized by physicians and is referred to as sexual maturity rating (SMR) or Tanner stages, named after a physician who published a description of the sequence of physical changes in puberty in 1969. Tanner stages are determined by the development of the secondary sex characteristics and encompass changes in the size and appearance of the external genitalia, the development of pubic hair, and breast development in girls. Tanner stages allow doctors to classify the extent of development of sex characteristics into five distinct steps ranging from stage 1 (prepubertal) to stage 5 (mature adult type).
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What other changes in the body occur during puberty in boys and girls?
The "growth spurt"
A rapid increase in height, referred to as a growth spurt, usually accompanies puberty. This rapid increase in height typically lasts for two to three years. About 17%-18% of adult height is attained during puberty. Although the increase in height affects both the trunk and the limbs, growth in the limbs usually happens first. The growth spurt characteristically occurs earlier in girls than in boys, with girls having the growth spurt approximately two years prior to boys, on average. In girls, the growth spurt typically precedes the onset of menstruation by about six months.
Bone growth and mineralization
Growth of bones and increases in bone density in both boys and girls accompany puberty. In girls, bone mineralization peaks around the time of the onset of menstrual periods, after the time of peak height velocity (growth spurt). Studies have shown that bone width increases first, followed by bone mineral content, and lastly by bone density. Because of the lag between bone growth and achievement of full bone density, adolescents may be at increased risk for fractures during this time.
Changes in weight and body composition occur in both boys and girls. Adolescent girls develop a greater proportion of body fat than boys, with redistribution of the fat toward the upper and lower portions of the body, leading to a curvier appearance. While boys also have an increase in the growth of body fat, their muscle growth is faster. By the end of puberty, boys have a muscle mass about one and a half times greater than that of comparably sized girls.
Maturation of the cardiovascular systems and lungs results in an increased working capacity of these organs, associated with an overall increase in endurance and strength. These changes are more pronounced in boys than in girls.
What emotional changes occur in puberty in boys and girls?
Both boys and girls can experience emotional changes that accompany the myriad physical changes of puberty. These changes are not the same for all adolescents. Changes can occur in the way a teen responds to family or friends and views him- or herself. Many adolescents are self-conscious and may experience mood swings, anxiety, confusion, and sensitivity. On the other hand, not all emotional changes of puberty are related to negative thoughts or feeling upset. Puberty is also a time in which the young person learns about his or her own interests and goals and learns to relate to others in a more mature way. While some emotional changes are a normal part of puberty, it is important to seek medical help if these emotional changes are unusually severe, affect day-to-day functioning, or result in thoughts of harming oneself or others.
What are the medical concerns associated with normal puberty in girls and boys?
While puberty is a normal condition and not an illness, many medical conditions and illnesses may first appear during puberty. Some conditions potentially associated with puberty include the following:
- Acne: Acne is an inflammation of the sebaceous glands and hair follicles of the skin, which is most pronounced on the face but may occur on the neck, back, chest, or other areas. The hormonal changes in puberty lead to the development of acne in many adolescent boys and girls.
- Gynecomastia: Gynecomastia is the term used to describe enlargement of the male breasts. The hormonal changes of puberty can cause a transient gynecomastia in normal boys that typically lasts for 6 to 18 months. Pubertal gynecomastia occurs at an average age of 13 in boys and affects up to one-half of normal adolescent boys.
- Anemia: The normal pubertal progression in males is associated with increases in the ferritin (iron) and hemoglobin concentrations in the blood, but this increase is not observed in females. Adolescent girls tend to consume less iron-containing foods than boys, and this, combined with blood losses through menstrual bleeding, may place adolescent girls at risk for anemia.
- Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs): If teens become sexually active at puberty, they are at risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
- Scoliosis: Because of rapid growth during puberty, scoliosis (abnormal curvature of the spine) can be worsened or may first become apparent during puberty.
- Vision changes: Nearsightedness (myopia) has a high incidence during puberty because of growth in the axial diameter of the eye.
- Musculoskeletal injuries: Adolescents may be particularly prone to musculoskeletal injuries during the growth spurt and during growth of muscle mass. Since bone growth usually precedes full bone mineralization, adolescents are at risk for fractures. Also, since the growth in the limbs usually occurs prior to growth in the trunk, some joints may be left with a limited range of motion that increases the risk for sprains and strains.
- Dysfunctional uterine bleeding: Girls who have recently begun menstruating may have irregular, prolonged, or heavy menstrual bleeding. Anovulation (not ovulating) is the most common reason for abnormal menstrual bleeding in adolescent girls.
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What are medical conditions associated with early or late puberty in girls and boys?
Precocious puberty is the medical term for early puberty. This is sometimes referred to as central precocious puberty or CPP when it is due to the brain releasing hormones that control puberty at an earlier age than normal. While medical professionals are not in full agreement about the age ranges for the definition of precocious puberty, many doctors believe that a medical evaluation for precocious puberty should be performed if the signs and symptoms of puberty (breast or pubic hair development) occur prior to age 7 in Caucasian girls and prior to age 6 in African-American girls. Boys who show signs of developing secondary sex characteristics prior to age 9 are also considered to have precocious puberty. Precocious puberty can be associated with psychological difficulties that may impact a child's emotional development.
Precocious puberty is much more common in girls than in boys. Many girls experience precocious puberty in the absence of any disease or condition. In boys, however, precocious puberty is more likely to be associated with an underlying medical problem. While in many cases the exact cause of precocious puberty cannot be determined, a small number of cases are related to abnormalities of the ovaries or testes, thyroid gland abnormalities or other hormone problems, genetic conditions, tumors or infections of the brain, and injury to the brain.
Precocious puberty may be treated by treating the underlying condition that is responsible for the condition or by lowering the high levels of sex hormones with medications (known as GnRH agonists) that block the production of sex hormones to stop sexual development from progressing.
Delayed puberty is the late onset of puberty. Puberty is usually considered to be delayed when there has been no increase in testicular volume by 14 years of age in boys and no breast development by 13 and a half years of age in girls. Sometimes, delayed puberty tends to "run in families," and normal adolescent development proceeds normally after the delay. This is sometimes called a constitutional delay and is responsible for the vast majority of cases of delayed puberty. Constitutional delay that affects both growth and achievement of puberty is much more common in boys than in girls.
Chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes or cystic fibrosis, may also cause the delayed onset of puberty. Genetic conditions, problems with the pituitary or thyroid glands, problems with the ovaries or testes, and malnutrition are other causes of delayed puberty. Many girls who exercise strenuously have very little body fat and also experience a delay in the onset of puberty, since a certain amount of body fat appears to be required for the initiation of puberty. Girls who are competitive athletes may have a delay in the onset of menstruation of up to one year or more when compared with nonathletes.
Explainer: Sometimes the body mixes up male and female
At birth, doctors (and parents) assign a child&rsquos gender, based on what the baby's body parts look like. But sometimes those body parts may not signal one&rsquos biological sex clearly.
Boys and girls are different. It seems so obvious. Yet some medical conditions may cause some of those differences to become confused. And then telling apart boys from girls can prove challenging.
It’s one measure of how complex human biology is.
When it comes to whether someone looks like a boy or girl, hormones clearly run the show. For instance, a newborn girl’s genitals may appear somewhat or totally male if that baby had encountered too much of the hormone testosterone (tess-TOSS-tur-own) in the womb. Similarly, too little of this hormone can impair the development of a boy’s reproductive organs.
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But male hormones shape other organ systems as well. These include the kidneys and bladder — but most importantly the brain. At birth and throughout life, for instance, the size and function of certain regions in the brain will differ between males and females.
Testosterone is an androgen, or male sex hormones. So how can it end up in the womb of a woman? She might have become exposed during pregnancy to a medicine containing this hormone. More commonly, genetic changes — called mutations — will tell her fetus to produce too much testosterone or to make this hormone at the wrong time. (Both males and females make the hormone, but in very different amounts). This could trigger a small but critical change in how a girl’s body develops.
When this happens very early in development, a baby may be born with one of several conditions. Collectively, they’re known as differences or disorders of sex development, or DSDs. (There is no scientific evidence showing that DSDs cause or are linked to transgender identity.)
DSDs are rare, notes William Reiner. He is a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City. He is also a pediatric urologist, specializing in diseases affecting the urinary tract and conditions affecting male reproductive organs.
The best studied DSD is something known as congenital adrenal hyperplasia, or CAH. The grape-size adrenal glands manufacture small amounts of testosterone — in everyone. A mutation in genes might instruct these glands to produce an oversupply of androgens. This mutation would not likely affect boys. They already make lots of androgens, so their bodies would hardly notice a little more.
Girls born with CAH, however, can appear masculinized — more boy-like. In some cases, their reproductive anatomy might slightly, or even strongly, resemble a boy’s. Doctors refer to this condition as intersex.
In severe cases, a baby that is genetically a girl may at birth visually appear to be a boy. Babies born with characteristics of both sexes sometimes undergo surgery soon after birth. This would make their genitals look more characteristic of their genetic sex. Other times, doctors and parents together must decide which gender to assign a baby.
Reiner often sees patients who are born with DSDs and have intersex features. He also studies children and teens who transition to a different gender (the opposite of the one they had been assigned at birth, based on their apparent biological sex). Some of these children are transgender. Others may have encountered conditions in the womb that altered how parts of their body (such as the genitals) developed.
Another type of genetic error, or mutation, prevents the body from making an enzyme needed to produce DHT. This hormone is more powerful than testosterone in differentiating the male body. So too little of this enzyme could cause the bodies of male children to appear feminized. That means their genitals may somewhat — or even totally — resemble a girl’s.
What does this all mean? Says Reiner, “You cannot necessarily tell by looking at the genitals whether you’re going to have a child who has a male or a female gender identity.”
(for more about Power Words, click here)
adolescent Having to do with the transitional stage of physical and psychological development that begins at the onset of puberty, typically between the ages of 11 and 13, and ends with adulthood.
adrenal gland Hormone-producing glands that sit at the top of the kidneys.
androgen A family of powerful male sex hormones.
congenital A term that refers to conditions that are present from birth, either because they were inherited or occurred as a fetus developed in the womb.
congenital adrenal hyperplasia A genetic disorder that causes the adrenal glands to make too much testosterone. This could create developmental changes in the womb that cause baby girls to be born with features that made them appear partly or totally male.
development (in biology) The growth of an organism from conception through adulthood, often undergoing changes in chemistry, size and sometimes even shape.
dihydrotestosterone (DHT) A male sex hormone, or androgen, that plays an important role in the development of male physical characteristics and reproductive anatomy.
enzymes Molecules made by living things to speed up chemical reactions.
feminize (in biology) For a male person or animal to take on physical, behavioral or physiological traits considered typical of females.
fetus (Adj. fetal) The term for a mammal during its later-stages of development in the womb. For humans, this term is usually applied after the eighth week of development.
gene (adj. genetic) A segment of DNA that codes, or holds instructions, for producing a protein. Offspring inherit genes from their parents. Genes influence how an organism looks and behaves.
genitals or genitalia The visible sex organs.
gonads The reproductive organs that make eggs (in females) and sperm (in males).
hormone (in zoology and medicine) A chemical produced in a gland and then carried in the bloodstream to another part of the body. Hormones control many important body activities, such as growth. Hormones act by triggering or regulating chemical reactions in the body.
intersex Animals or humans that display characteristics of both male and female reproductive anatomy.
masculinize (in biology) For a female person or animal to take on physical, behavioral or physiological traits considered typical of males.
mutation Some change that occurs to a gene in an organism&rsquos DNA. Some mutations occur naturally. Others can be triggered by outside factors, such as pollution, radiation, medicines or something in the diet. A gene with this change is referred to as a mutant.
ovary (plural: ovaries) The organ in the females of many species that produce eggs.
pediatrics A field of medicine that has to do with children and especially child health.
psychiatry A field of medicine where doctors study and treat diseases of the human mind. Treatments may consist of talking therapies, prescription drugs or both. People who work in this field are known as psychiatrists.
sex A person&rsquos biological status, typically male or female. There are a number of indicators of biological sex, including sex chromosomes, gonads, internal reproductive organs, and external genitals.
testis (plural: testes) The organ in the males of many species that makes sperm, the reproductive cells that fertilize eggs. This organ also is the primary site that makes testosterone, the primary male sex hormone.
testosterone Although known as male sex hormone, females make this reproductive hormone as well (generally in smaller quantities). It gets its name from a combination of testis (the primary organ that makes it in males) and sterol, a term for some hormones. High concentrations of this hormone contribute to the greater size, musculature and aggressiveness typical of the males in many species (including humans).
transgender Someone who has a gender identity that does not match the sex they were assigned at birth.
urology The medical field that deals with diseases of the male and female urinary tract and conditions affecting male reproductive organs. Doctors who specialize in this area are known as urologists.
womb Another name for the uterus, the organ in which a fetus grows and matures in preparation for birth.
S. Ornes. “Half rooster, half hen.” Science News for Students. March 29, 2010.
What happens to my body during puberty?
There’s no way around it — your body’s gonna change a lot during puberty. Here’s what to expect.
You may get acne (AKA zits or pimples) on your face and body. If pimples are stressing you out or causing problems in your life, talk to a doctor.
You start to sweat more, and you may have body odor (when your sweat smells bad). You may want to shower more and start using deodorant.
Hair grows under your armpits.
Hair grows around your genitals — this is called pubic hair .
You may grow more hair on your arms and legs, and the hair may get darker.
You may feel some pain in your arms and legs as you grow (AKA “growing pains”)
Your voice gets lower or deeper. It may crack sometimes while it’s changing, but that’s totally normal and eventually goes away. Your Adam’s apple (bump in your throat) might get bigger and more visible as this happens.
Your penis and testicles get bigger.
Hair may grow on your face, chest, and back.
Your chest and shoulders get broader.
You may have swelling around your nipples during puberty. This can look like the start of breasts, but it usually goes away. This happens to about half of males, and it can last for a few months or up to a few years.
Your breasts develop and get bigger.
Your hips get wider and your body may become more curvy.
You start getting your period .
Your labia may change color and grow bigger.
"Explanations" of Male Dominance
To explain the origins of female subordination we need a theory that accounts for the control of women's work by men.
Published in 1986, Women's Work, Men's Property: The Origins of Gender and Class, edited by Stephanie Coontz and Peta Henderson, comprises five essays by a group of French and American feminist historians and anthropologists, in search of the sociohistorical basis of gender inequality. The editors' introduction, reproduced below, surveys previous efforts — anthropological, sociobiological, psychological, and historical — to exhume the origin of male dominance before outlining the conclusions of their own study.
Male dominance is one of the earliest known and most widespread forms of inequality in human history. To some, the very idea of a book on the origins of sexual inequality is absurd. Male dominance seems to them a universal, if not inevitable, relationship that has been with us since the dawn of our species. A growing body of evidence and theory, however, suggests that this is not the case, and a number of scholars have begun to address the issue of male dominance as a historical phenomenon, grounded in a specific set of circumstances rather than flowing from some universal aspect of human nature or culture. The essays in this volume offer differing perspectives on the development of sex role differentiation and sexual inequality (the two are by no means identical), but share a belief that these phenomena did have origins, and that these must be sought in sociohistorical events and processes. Before turning to these theories, we would like critically to review some of the alternative explanations of sexual inequality.
A starting point for many theories of gender inequality is the assumption that biology is destiny: the roles men and women play in society, and the different privileges attached to these roles, are said to be fundamentally determined by our genes, which are in turn the product of natural selection. One common approach within this general framework of biological reductionism is to explain human sex role patterns and inequalities by reference to our primate heritage. The most popular model for this approach is the baboon. The scenario is as follows: Male baboons are twice as large as females this sexual dimorphism (differentiation in secondary physical characteristics) is related to differences in both function and status male size, strength, and aggression are adaptive traits for defending the troop and maintaining order within it, and a tight male dominance hierarchy also reproduces this aggression, the most dominant/ aggressive animal being the one that gets the greatest access to receptive females and to food. With minor differences in emphasis and use of evidence, a whole series of authors imply that male aggression and dominance (with their necessary accompaniment, female passivity or dependence) are therefore part of our genetic primate heritage. Male aggressive instincts are also said to have served early humans well in their role as "predators." 1
There are a number of problems with this approach. In the first place, there is much more variability in primate behaviour than these authors admit. Some species are highly dimorphic some are not. Mating patterns range from monogamy to promiscuity (by both males and females), while parenting and socialization behaviours are extraordinarily diverse among different species, or even in the same species under different environmental conditions. 2 Forest baboons, for example, are very different from the savannah baboons so beloved by the theorists cited above: "Aggression in general is very infrequent, and male dominance hierarchies are difficult to discern. Intertroop encounters are rare, and friendly. When the troop is startled . . . it flees, and, far from forming a rearguard, the males – being biggest and strongest — are frequently up the trees long before the females." 3 Adult females, far from being passive followers of the males, actually determine the direction and timing of troop movement. Similarly, chimpanzees, with whom humans share ninety-nine percent of our genes and from whom we may have diverged as little as five million years ago, are highly social animals who display a very low degree of male dominance, hierarchy, or aggression. 4
Where aggression and male dominance are found in primate groups, there is some question as to how much of this is natural and how much a response to stress. The male dominant savannah baboons live in game parks where predators and humans are concentrated in numbers far beyond those likely in aboriginal conditions. There is considerable evidence that such stressful circumstances, especially captivity, markedly increase hierarchy and aggression. Indeed, the noted researchers who filmed Baboon Social Organization (1963) only induced what they called "latent" dominance behaviour by artificial feeding, while forest baboons placed in cages and fed with clumps of food that had to be competed for showed a great increase in fighting, aggression, and dominance behaviour. 5 Is such behaviour natural or pathological? Many scholars now suggest that the normal behaviour patterns of our primate ancestors involved sharing and cooperation rather than aggression, male dominance, and competition. 6
Finally, there is little evidence that aggressive or dominant behaviour gives males privileged access to females, thus allowing them to pass on their supposedly more aggressive genes. 7 Gorillas and chimpanzees are not normally sexually aggressive and males tend to wait patiently for an oestrous female to make herself available. Among chimpanzees and orangutans, sex is usually initiated by the females, and their choices seem to have little to do with the males' rank.
Of course, the capacity for aggressive and dominant behaviour was undoubtedly an important part of primate survival, but this is not the same thing as having such behaviour determined by our genes. In general, research is demonstrating that the primates are capable of highly adaptive learning. Not only have chimpanzees been taught to talk (sign) and rhesus males to parent in captivity, 8 but increasingly sophisticated techniques of wildlife observation have shown primates to be capable of inventing new cooperative behaviours. 9 If primate behaviour is this plastic, it is only reasonable to suppose that plasticity is more pronounced in humans, whose much longer period of neotony (physical immaturity at birth) makes them almost totally dependent on learning.
A no less reductionist approach to the origins of gender inequality is found in the theories of sociobiology. 10 Starting from species (such as ants, bees, and slime moulds) that operate only by instinct and whose members cannot make individual decisions or even survive alone, sociobiologists have come to believe that certain behaviours are determined by the genes and selected because of their survival value for the species. Individuals are believed to be driven by their genes to maximize their "inclusive fitness" they strive, that is, to maximize the number of their genes passed on to the next generation, even if this lessens their individual fitness. This explains why bees and ants engage in "suicidal" behaviour that ensures the survival of their group (and therefore, since all are related, the survival of more of their genes than if they had saved themselves at the expense of this group). Thus there is a genetic base for altruism, and such behaviour will be directed toward those to whom the organism is most closely related, with proportionately less investment in more distant kin or strangers. Applying these theories to humans, E.O.Wilson suggests that occasional examples of helpful behaviour toward non-related persons are explained by an additional concept that takes care of the residual cases: "reciprocal altruism." This suggests that sometimes individuals will act favourably toward unrelated people from whom they can expect an equivalent or more generous response at a later date. Such behaviour is said to be genetically programmed, and Wilson also speculates that there may be a genetic basis for a number of other traits that he alleges to be universal, including "spiteful intrigue," aggression, national chauvinism, female monogamy, male promiscuity, and the fact that humans "are absurdly easy to indoctrinate" since they "would rather believe than know." 11 Through this combined theory of "inclusive fitness," individual (Darwinian) fitness is translated into a theory of how cultures, rather than species, survive. Successful cultural behaviour is transmitted between generations and cultures through the genes.
Predictably, sociobiologists assume a biological/genetic basis for the division of labour by sex, male dominance, and the double standard. The origins of sexual inequality are seen as an outcome of genetically programmed male behaviour derived from the species' hunting heritage and continuously selected for since by war and imperialism. According to Wilson:
In hunter-gatherer societies, men hunt and women stay at home. This strong bias persists in most agricultural and industrial Societies and, on that ground alone, appears to have a genetic origin. . . . My own guess is that the genetic bias is intense enough to cause a substantial division of labor even in the most free and most egalitarian societies. . . . Even with identical education and equal access to all professions, men are likely to continue to play a disproportionate role in political life, business, and science. 12
Thus sexual selection acting on the prehistoric division of labour by sex tends to create dominant, public-oriented males and passive, home-centred females. This is reinforced by the different genetic strategies required by males and females in order to maximize their inclusive fitness. Since males produce literally millions of sperm, any male has a better chance of fathering many individuals if he spreads his sperm widely rather than investing in a few children, who could be killed. There is thus a genetic base for male promiscuity. Females, on the other hand, can produce relatively few eggs over a lifetime. The sociobiologists thus argue that it is an adaptive genetic trait for females to desire a monogamous union. Women also, they assert, have a genetic bias toward concentrating their reproductive interest on men who are socially, economically, or educationally superior to them, as well as physically fit enough to provide for them and their children. Thus patterns of male domination and female subordination, as well as the sexual double standard, are seen as an outcome of genetically determined mate selection.
The fundamental assumption of sociobiology is that "similar" behaviours are manifest in animals and humans (Wilson talks about ants having wars and slaves) and that they must therefore have similar origins (genetic programmes). This assumption suffers first of all from a confusion of analogy (similar traits due to similar functions) with homology (common genetic ancestry). 13 Even if we agree that there are behavioural similarities, this does not necessarily mean that there is a common genetic basis. As Richard Lewontin, specialist in population genetics at Harvard, notes: "Certainly the fact that all human societies cook is a result of their genes, not because they have genes for cooking but because they have genes for solving problems in their world." 14 Sociobiologists, moreover, draw very sloppy analogies between distinct animal and human behaviours, projecting anthropomorphic motivations onto animals, who are said to exhibit "xenophobia," "altruism" and "spite." 15 Since these "traits" in animals have demonstrable genetic links, it is argued that they must have in humans as well. The logic is circular. Since "the outcome of the model is determined by the assumptions underlying the model," 16 the possibility that there can be a cultural, as opposed to a genetic, explanation for similar behaviours is "systematically excluded." 17
Furthermore, like the other biologically determinist theories, sociobiology tends to ignore the variability that exists among cultural systems and cultural behaviour. As one critic has shown, 18 nowhere do people actually behave in the manner predicted. For one thing, it is well known that in societies based on kinship as an organizing principle, expediency rather than actual blood relationship dictates the interactions between individuals. Through the fiction of adoption, complete strangers are assimilated into the group and treated as if they were brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, etc. Although mutual aid is certainly a factor in most relationships between people, genetic relatedness is clearly not the primary factor in such kinship systems. Among the Trobriand Islanders, for example, a sister's son has more rights to a man's goods than his own son, though his own son carries more of his genetic material. Among the Lakher of Southeast Asia, a child is considered related to his mother only by virtue of her marriage to his father. If they are divorced, the cooperation and interaction of mother and child cease. In some African and Native American tribes a woman becomes a female husband, and is considered the parent of the children her wife bears by various lovers. The child's loyalty is to the social, not the biological, parent. And in many societies, of course, loyalty and sharing extend far beyond the family.
In answer to these criticisms, sociobiologists have recently attempted to explain cultural variability through the theory that genes and culture "co-evolve." 19 The implication of this theory is not simply that genes and culture interacted initially in the development of the human brain ("mind"), or even that cultural behaviour is limited and shaped by our biology (genes), both of which concepts are uncontroversial what it purports to demonstrate is that even past and present differences among human cultures and behaviour have genetic origins. 20 This means that not only the aboriginal division of labour by sex, but also the variability found in male-female interactions throughout history today can be explained as outcomes of natural selection.
As various critics have shown, this theory is seriously flawed. 21 First, it rests on an inadequate knowledge of the precise relationship between our genetic structure (genotype) and our physical traits (phenotype), and of how these affect behaviour. 22 Genes are not the units of evolution and several genes, located on different chromosomes and acting in combination, influence the physical trait. Moreover, the mechanisms of inheritance are complex and poorly understood. Biologists are beginning to recognize that they are an outcome of the dialectical interaction of biology with environment. 23
The sociobiological theory of gene-culture "co-evolution" also depends on an inadequate conception of culture that sees it as being composed of a series of unitary traits ("culturgens") each of which evolves independently of the others "through populations by way of the adaptive force of natural selection." 24 According to this view, culture traits such as a particular ritual, or a conception of women as polluting, are an outcome of natural selection working through the particular populations and facilitating the survival of the group. Such an atomistic view fails to take account of culture as a system of interrelated traits. 25 Moreover it is, once again, a basically circular argument: if institutions survive they are adaptive if they are adaptive they were selected for therefore institutions that survive derive in some measure from genetics. It is an explanation that discounts the inventiveness of human minds and ignores the fact that lack of genetic programming is probably the most important adaptation humans have made. There is evidence from recent ecological research, for example, that rates of change in the incidence of genetically determined traits in a population are very low, and that it takes even longer for a trait to become established at the level of the group than in the case of individual selection. If it took genetic changes in a population to adapt to new circumstances, humans would probably have died out long ago. Most acquired cultural behaviour is thus likely not genetic even if it is adaptive. 26
In sum, although few would dispute that human behaviour is genetically constrained (humans can't fly without the aid of an aeroplane), sociobiological theory fails to provide a satisfactory demonstration that either similarities or differences in cultural behaviour can be explained by genetic determination. The evidence suggests only that the big brain provides the potential for problem-solving ability (such as the invention of the aeroplane), not the determination of specific behaviour (such as male promiscuity), however widespread its manifestations in time and place. 27
It is true, of course, that there are some readily visible physical differences between men and women that seem to a large degree genetic in origin, and some would argue that these mandate different roles and statuses for the sexes. In most (though not all) populations, the average male is taller than the average female, both at birth and after puberty, though the average difference between the sexes is a matter of inches, while the normal range of variation within each sex is more than two feet. Males are also heavier and seem to have greater physical strength, though again the variation among individuals of the same sex is far greater than the average variation between the sexes. But physical sexual dimorphism cannot explain the different roles of the sexes, and far less male dominance, as Leibowitz points out in this volume and elsewhere. 28 Although males tend to do the fighting in many primitive societies, women do as much "heavy" work as men, if not more. 29 Western history testifies, moreover, that the strongest workers and best warriors often serve the dominant members of society, who may be physically very weak. Among a group like the seventeenth century Iroquois, a strong emphasis on male physical prowess was fully compatible with a high position for women, and indeed there is little evidence that men in most foraging societies use either their strength or their weapons as a means of controlling women. 30
Some authors argue, however, that males are innately more aggressive than females. Although recent studies have repudiated the idea that there are significant sex differences in intellect, analytical powers, social skills, or personal motivation, there does seem to be a strong difference in physical aggression that appears at least as early as the kindergarten years. Some observers suggest that this is partly biological in origin. 32
Attempts to demonstrate a biological tendency toward aggression (as opposed to a biological capacity, which obviously exists) have centred on studies of hormones. High levels of the male hormone testosterone have been correlated with high levels of aggression, and injections of testosterone increase fighting behaviour in rats. But a hormonal explanation of sexual inequality is hardly admissible, since even in animals aggression does not guarantee dominance 33 and in many societies aggressive individuals are social outcasts or face severe sanctions. 34 In addition, cross-cultural studies show some important variations in rates of male aggression. Margaret Mead found that women among the Tchambuli were more aggressive than men, that women and men were equally fierce among the Mundugamor, and that neither men nor women were aggressive among the Arapesh. 35 The explanation for such variability can only be that socialization is more significant than hormones in determining appropriate behaviour among both men and women.
The explanation of social behaviour such as aggression by a single biological factor, moreover, reflects a central weakness of almost all biological determinism. The methodology of such reductionist theories generally involves introducing a disruption of the organism's normal functioning and then explaining the normal working of the organism by its response to the disturbance. The result "confuses the nature of the perturbation itself with the 'cause' of the system's normal functioning." 36 If, for example, injection of a hormone increases aggressive behaviour, it does not follow that the ordinary levels of that hormone in the animal cause its other aggressive behaviour. Thus, injections of the female hormone oestrogen also increase fighting behaviour in rats while injections of testosterone into the pre-optic area of a male rat's brain stimulate maternal nest-building behaviour.
Studies of humans do not show consistent correlations between hormone levels and aggression. 38 Even where correlations are found, it is unclear whether the aggression or the hormone level came first. When low dominance monkeys are placed with monkeys toward whom they can safely act aggressively, their testosterone levels go up when they are returned to an established group to whom they must defer, their testosterone levels fall dramatically. 39
Even granting that hormone levels or other chemical changes in the body affect mood, the interpretation of that mood and the behaviour it "induces" depends upon the social environment. Researchers at Yerkes Primate Centre, for example, were able to locate an "aggression centre" in the brain of chimpanzees. When this was stimulated electrically in laboratory animals, increased fighting resulted. However, when this was done in monkeys who were released into the wild the result was increased grooming behaviour. 40 Similarly, people injected with adrenalin (the "fight or flight" chemical), but placed in a peaceful setting, displayed sociable behaviour. 41 As one of the pioneers in hormone research has concluded: "Hormones are often necessary but never sufficient cause for the occurrence of behaviour." 42
All human behaviour, of course, has a biological base, else it could not exist. But the dominance in humans of the cerebral cortex means that what we do with our biological capacities is almost entirely a matter of learning. The difference in aggression between boys and girls should be considered in light of the different socialization given them. Significantly, Sears, Maccoby, and Levin 43 found that the greatest parental distinctions between kindergarten boys and girls were made in the area of permitted aggression. Many studies have shown that people's sex role expectations determine their earliest assessment of infants' capacities and behaviours (even at one day old), creating differences where none can in fact be measured by any objective criteria, 44 and undoubtedly establishing a number of self-fulfilling prophecies. The vital impact of expectations can be seen in studies of persons born as hermaphrodites: in ninety-five percent of the cases the person's sexual identity and corresponding social behaviour depended not on actual genetic makeup but on the choice the parents had made in rearing the child as either male or female. This was true "even for those individuals whose sex of rearing contradicted their biological sex as determined by chromasomes, hormones, gonads, and the formation of the internal and external genitals." 45
We conclude that evidence is lacking for clearcut mental or temperamental differences between the sexes. Even where such differences may be established, it is by no means justified to assume, as most of these theories do, that a sex difference explains a sex inequality. This is a conceptual leap made by a number of other authors, who start from the fact that most societies do recognize and define different social and symbolic functions for the sexes. These authors argue that the origins of inequality lie not in naturally different abilities or temperaments, but in cultural attempts to explain or control women's central role in reproduction. Woman's biology does not make her weaker, less intelligent, or more submissive than man, but it does make her society's source of new members. According to this school of thought, cultures tend to interpret or organize motherhood in ways that accentuate differences between the sexes and lead to sexual assymetry. There are quite a number of variations on this theme, offering a cultural or symbolic explanation for gender inequality,
One such variation is the psychoanalytical interpretation that postulates a universal male fear of female reproductive powers. Starting from the fact that large numbers of primitive societies believe menstruating women to be dangerous to men and animals, proponents of this view argue that men fear and hence attempt to control female sexuality and reproduction. 46 One problem with this theory is that such beliefs have often been interpreted in a male biased and ethnocentric fashion, leaving the impression that women are unclean or evil instead of recognizing that certain substances, such as blood, are considered dangerous, whether shed by women or men. 47 Another problem is that some of the simplest foraging societies lack such beliefs altogether, while in other societies males try to imitate rather than avoid female reproductive practices. Elizabeth Zelman 48 has argued that female pollution beliefs validate extreme sex segregation while male rituals imitating female reproduction, such as the couvade, support a high degree of role flexibility. This suggests that fears about female sexuality and reproduction are less cause than symptom of social tensions in male-female relations. 49 A suggestive finding is reported by Raymond Kelly, who notes that pollution beliefs abound in areas of New Guinea where male power and prestige depend on female labour. 50
A richer psychoanalytical perspective is taken by Nancy Chodorow, 51 who suggests that the primary role of women in bearing, nursing, and socializing children leads to a different psychological dynamic for each sex. Girls learn their gender identity by imitation of a particular, individual female, which leads them, she argues, to relate to others in a particularized and personalized way. They become more present-oriented and subjective than boys, who must learn to identify with a sex that is frequently absent and less accessible and who can only do so by learning an abstract male role. In the attempt to gain this "elusive" male identity, the boy tends to define himself as not-woman, repressing his own feminine qualities and denigrating femininity in general.
Although Chodorow perceptively analyzes the reproduction of sex roles in male dominant societies, her work does not really address the origins of male dominance, as she assumes much of what needs to be explained: for example, the confinement of women to a private domestic sphere cut off from the public sphere of male activity and authority. Even where women are primarily responsible for child care, however, and males do work away from the domestic arena, it does not follow, except in an already sexist society, that a boy should move from defining himself as not-woman to denigrating women in general and it is even less logical that such childhood denigration (which females also frequently direct against males) could in and of itself produce the institutionalized subordination of adult women.
Another theory based on reproductive roles emphasizes symbolism rather than psychodynamics. Sherry Ortner 52 attempts to show how gender identification can lead to a denigration of adult women on the part of both sexes by arguing that women's biology and domestic role make her appear closer to nature. Nature, she argues, is in turn seen as lower than culture, so that women are perceived as lower in the social scale and subject to the restrictions that culture puts on both nature and the domestic unit. Other authors build on Ortner and Chodorow in suggesting that there is a "universal, structural opposition between domestic and public spheres" 53 that juxtaposes the fragmented, private interests of women to the higher universalistic and integrative activities of men. Men are concerned with collective affairs — politics, governance, and external relations — while women individually tend hearth and children. Ortner and Whitehead assert that "the sphere of social activity predominantly associated with males encompasses the sphere predominantly associated with females and is, for that reason, culturally accorded higher value." 54
Formulations such as those above, however, tend to impose a Western dualism and hierarchy that do not do justice to the complexity of other cultural behaviour and belief systems. In the first place, the association of women with nature and men with culture is far from universal. Many ancient societies had androgynous deities that reflected an integration of both male and female principles with natural and cultural forces. 55 Among the Mandan and the ancient Sumerians, the earth is a female symbol, but among the Iroquois and ancient Egyptians the sky — surely a transcendent symbol — is considered female. Among the Sherbro, children are considered close to nature, but both adult men and women are associated with culture. 56 Australian aborigines attribute such qualities as passivity, ferocity, and sweetness to membership in a kinship section rather than to gender. Sperm, incidentally, are thought to belong to a kin section designated as passive and associated with the moon, calm water, and temperate weather. 57
Not all societies, moreover, devalue nature. For the Haganers, the wild and domestic "are in an antithetical rather than a hierarchical, processual relationship. The . . . development of social consciousness in persons is not represented as culture transcending nature." 58 The adversary approach to nature is linked to the rise of state society, as is the idea that both women and nature are forces to be tamed. 59 The latter is an effect, not a cause, of male domination.
It is true that men tend to be associated with the political sphere in most societies where this sphere exists. The political arena, however, is not the only public arena in non-state societies, for many vital collective decisions are made within the domestic grouping. 60 The idea that politics is a higher social sphere derives from state societies where the political realm can coerce the domestic one. But a remarkably consistent aspect of simple societies is the fact that political leadership confers neither power nor prestige, and is frequently ignored by domestic groups. 61 It might be more reasonable to describe political affairs as peripheral in such societies rather than as paramount.
Where male political activities do exert an important influence on wider social interactions, it is still not inevitable that males are exclusively associated with "integrative, universalistic sorts of concerns" 62 that give them prestige and/or power. Denise Paulme points out that in many African societies
. . . men never seem to conceive of ties other than those of kinship linked with common residence . . . whereas among women the mere fact of belonging to the same sex is enough to establish an active solidarity. An appeal addressed by a woman to other women will reach far beyond the boundaries of a single village, and a movement of revolt among women will always be a serious matter, even if its immediate cause should be of minor importance. 63
In nineteenth century America it was men who were stereotyped as rebels against (or refugees from) the social order, whose continuity was often represented by women. Men may also be associated with the destructive acts of war and personal rivalry. Among the Iroquois, men were more likely to engage in individualistic behaviour that required social control, while "feminine activities . . . coincided with the cooperative and pacific principles upon which the League was built." Indeed, it has been suggested that it is typically male-centred activities and organizational principles that are individuating, competitive, and fragmenting, while female ones are associated with integrative social concerns and cooperation. 65
To be sure, there is much ethnographic evidence that women are perceived as particularistic and fragmenting in many societies. Once again, however, this is likely to be not cause but consequence of processes in which female labour and reproduction are privately appropriated for the aims of male household heads — aims often called "social" but more appropriately labelled as clan or patriarchal family. Thus among the Haganers the view of women as particularistic, even anti-social, and men associal, corresponds to the fact that women change residence at marriage and cannot always be counted on to place the interests of their husbands' clan ahead of their own. 66
Attempts to explain women's low status by psychological or symbolic processes associated with female reproduction often provide insightful analyses into how male dominance is perpetuated and why male-female relations are so complex and fraught with tension. They help us understand the dynamics of sexual inequality in a way that the articles in this volume do not even attempt. Ultimately, however, they cannot explain the origins of gender inequality, as they assume universal psychological associations that do not withstand detailed examination. A seemingly more historical and materialist theory is presented by William Divale and Marvin Harris, 67 who believe that population pressure on resources, especially following the Neolithic Revolution (the transition from food collecting to food production for example, horticulture and herding) led in an elaborate sequence of cause-effect to the subordination of women.
Divale and Harris assert "the existence of a pervasive institutional and ideological complex of male supremacy in band and village sociocultural systems. " 68 This complex includes patrilineal inheritance and descent, patrilocal residence, marriage by capture, polygamy, brideprice, postmarital sex restrictions on women, property rights in women, male secret societies, male age grades, men's houses, and a preference for male babies. What, they ask, are the origins of such a phenomenon? They suggest that the origins of the male supremacist complex lie in warfare, which places high value on male qualities and allows women to be used as rewards for male valour. Warfare, in turn, stemmed from population pressure, especially after the Neolithic Revolution resulted in a more sedentary life style and starchy diets, causing an increase in fertility. The most efficient way to limit population, in the absence of birth control, was to reduce the numbers of potential mothers through female infanticide. To justify killing female babies, however, the male supremacist complex outlined above was necessary. Warfare, "always" present in human societies, now became increasingly important to "sustain" the male supremacist complex. Warfare elevated maleness and allowed women, already in scarce supply due to infanticide, to be used as reward for male feats of war. This necessitated rearing females to be passive. In short, Divale and Harris argue that the subordination (devaluation) of women was necessary to justify female infanticide (required for population control), and that warfare functioned to sustain this system both by reinforcing "macho" values and by keeping the adult sex ratio somewhat in balance, through male deaths in battle.
In important ways, the argument advanced here seems to us to be circular. In this analysis, warfare arises to enforce female subordination yet warfare also presupposes female subordination, in order for women to be used as rewards for male warriors. Warfare is a consequence of female infanticide, helping to create balanced sex ratios through the death of adult males but it is also a cause for such infanticide, providing its main justification. One reads Divale and Harris in vain for an actual explanation of the origins of male domination and warfare. We only learn their supposed functions. But to say that a phenomenon sustains male dominance is not to say that it caused it. And the consequences of a male supremacist complex or of warfare should not be used to explain their origins. Equating the two, as functionalist theories like this do, allows the specific historical developments to be interpreted as inevitable, when in fact the question is why alternatives were not chosen.
Indeed, a major flaw in the argument of Divale and Harris is the assumption that the route of warfare and patrilineal organization was the most common or most successful path for Palaeolithic and Neolithic societies. Their sample of band societies is drawn mostly from twentieth century ethnographies of collecting economies severely influenced by Western culture and imperatives it undoubtedly distorts our concept of the nature of Palaeolithic band and Neolithic village society. Thus the prevalence of warfare asserted in their Table IX (p.532) is a likely consequence of the heightening of cultural stress due to capitalist penetration in many areas of the world in this century. For example, Napoleon Chagnon, the original ethnographer of that prototypical macho' and warlike society, the South American Yanomamo, suggests that warfare was a recent introduction, and this view has been corroborated by other researchers. 69 Similarly, in asserting the predominance of patrilineality, Divale and Harris fail to acknowledge recent research questioning the model of the "patrilineal band" and suggesting, rather, that in many instances collecting societies have a highly flexible bilateral organization which allows men and women to choose their place of residence according to circumstances, and to move freely between groups. The Bushman band, for example, has at its core a group of related brothers and sisters, but its membership is highly variable and fluctuates according to seasonal conditions. 70 The patrilineal band that features in twentieth century ethnographies may well have been introduced by trade and colonialism. 71
A more historically oriented study comes to quite different conclusions, showing that warfare is frequent in only eight per cent of hunting and gathering Societies, becoming more common in advanced horticultural systems but only "endemic" in the early agrarian states. 72 The archaeological record suggests that high levels of warfare did not follow the adoption of horticulture or agriculture per se, but developed only after the evolution of complex sociopolitical systems. 73 Catal Huyuk, one of the best-documented examples of an early Neolithic urban settlement, was notably free of defensive structures. 74
Furthermore, the precise relationship between warfare, food production, and population growth is highly controversial. 75 Divale and Harris cite only their own work as evidence for the assertion that warfare in band and village societies "represents a systematic attempt to achieve stationary or near stationary populations." 76 There is little evidence of endemic population pressures in Palaeolithic society and no reason to think that early Neolithic cultures would have accelerated any problem that did exist. Indeed, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, one might assume that improved farming techniques might have eased population pressures in some areas.
In short, this "theory" of the origins of male dominance is unsatisfactory at all levels of analysis. Even if we accept the assumption that population increase was the problem faced by Palaeolithic and Neolithic societies, we would question first whether female infanticide was the only solution. It is well known that pre-industrial cultures have many artificial means of controlling births, apart from infanticide. 77 Second, supposing a cultural need for female infanticide, why was it necessary to devalue adult women in the process of constructing such an elaborate complex of institutions and ideology? Many primitive societies abandon the aged and infirm without faltering in their extreme respect for old age. 78 We suggest that "the male Supremacist complex" arose under specific historical conditions interacting with particular types of social structures, not as a mechanical solution to justify killing female babies. (Indeed, one could as easily read the evidence presented by Divale and Harris to show that female infanticide arose to balance out deaths from warfare, though we decline to use the same mechanical approach even in reverse.) We must look elsewhere for an explanation of the historical evidence for increasing male dominance in advanced horticultural and early state societies.
A more complex theory purporting to explain that evidence is offered by Parker and Parker. 79 They propose that the early development of differential power and prestige for men was as reward for male risk-taking (in hunting, warfare, and so on), and that this was reinforced and intensified by technological developments in the first complex societies. The Parkers believe that human biology and sexual dimorphism predisposed men and women to play certain roles in the division of labour. They characterize the male role as involving men in work requiring greater physical strength, high levels of risk and danger, mobility, cooperation, and technological skill — in short, a combination of brains and brawn. 80 Women, on the other hand, tended to engage in activities that involved less danger and mobility, required less concentration or skills, and were more easily interruptable and substitutable. 81 While not saying that the tasks were intrinsically unequal in the sense that one sex made a more important contribution than the other, the Parkers believe that throughout most of history men have been asked to make consistently more difficult and risky contributions (p.299). The requirements of male tasks, combined with a biopsychologically-based male vulnerability (greater susceptibility to disease, death, and so on) resulted in a situation where the male labour supply was relatively costly and inelastic (not easily substitutable). In order to induce males to come forward in adequate numbers and with the requisite skills to perform the social tasks needed by an increasingly complex socioeconomic system, it was necessary to devise some sort of reward. Thus the 'myth of male dominance' was created as compensation and reward (in a kind of social exchange).
In addition, the Parkers assert that male dominance had adaptive advantages which were reinforced through time associeties became more complex, requiring ever greater levels of technological skill. However, although they believe that this situation has prevailed since the establishment of a division of labour by sex, and, in fact, that it intensified with increased complexity, they think that "efficient means of birth control and other technological aids" of modern industrial society can and will lead to its elimination, and thus to the demise of the "myth of male superiority."
Parker and Parker may be criticized for their uncritical acceptance of a universal patterning of sex roles as an outcome of sexual dimorphism. A growing body of research lends credence to the counter-assertion that women in collecting and in simple horticultural societies undertook tasks that demanded as much brawn, as well as brain, as did male tasks. 82 Other research suggests that women were just as mobile as men, at least when they were not pregnant or nursing, and that in band societies this was quite a bit of the time. In non-sedentary Bushmen bands, for example, a combination of birth-spacing (average of four years) and sharing of child care tasks enables many women to range far from home in search of food. 83 West African women are well-known for their success — and mobility — as traders and entrepreneurs in their own right, proving that women, even those with children, do not have to be sedentary. In any case, the cross-cultural record demonstrates more variability in the assignment of tasks, and much greater socio-political variation, than is suggested here.
We would not deny that there is a general pattern in the division of labour. Indeed, our own article suggests that there were some consistent patterns in early societies in which males took on more geographically far-ranging assignments that frequently involved more risk (though not more brain or brawn) than women's tasks. But the social exchange theory fails to explain why male tasks "universally" receive recognition and valuation. If male supremacy was a reward, what precisely was being rewarded? The Parkers seem to think that in early societies it was the male capacity for heavy work, whereas they suggest that later it was male "skill." But females engage in heavy work along with men in many societies, and they certainly take risks in childbirth, which is surely a socially necessary kind of labour. Furthermore, skill is a matter of training, so we have to ask why males were given that training and assigned tasks requiring a high level of skill. It is commonly accepted that women were the first potters: How and why did pottery become a male-dominated craft, and why weren't the inventors of this important manufacture given social rewards? It was not skill, but the social relations accompanying the development of craft specialization that must have determined that men should be trained in these tasks.
Furthermore, in the more complex societies — where the Parkers say male dominance was intensified by rewards for male skill and risk — it was increasingly only some men, not all, who were given prestige and power. What kinds of work did slave owners or family patriarchs do that justified their power and prestige vis à vis slaves, wives, and junior men? Why did women have low status in slave societies, such as fifth-century Athens, where free men took few risks and did little work? Why, conversely, have women had high status in many societies, from ancient Crete to the seventeenth century Iroquois, where males undoubtedly did take great physical risks? The answers to these questions must lie not in the nature of the work itself, which the Parkers themselves admit is not intrinsically hierarchical, but in the origins of the hierarchy itself. These, we would suggest, lie in the relations of work, the issue of who controls whose labour. To explain the origins of female subordination we need a theory that accounts for the control of women's work by men. Such a theory cannot be derived from the nature of men's and women's tasks on their own, nor from any inevitable technological tendency, because human cultures have exhibited too much variation to postulate any necessary relation between a task or a tool, on the one hand, and a particular social relationship of superiority or subordination on the other.
This brings us to a central assumption of all the preceding theories that we have so far failed to challenge — the assertion that "in every known society, men and women compose two differentially valued terms of a value set, men being as men, higher." 84 Although this assertion seems supported by an extremely large body of anthropological and historical observation, there are good grounds for challenging the idea that male dominance has been a universal in human societies over time.
In the first place, many observers have simply been unable to divest themselves of their own cultural preconceptions. Male ethnographers have dealt with male informants, accepting any uncomplimentary remarks these may make about women as the social reality, and ignoring equally disparaging comments about men made by women. 85 A number of anthropologists have recently gone back to the original anthropological sources on various cultures and found that the "masters" had reported almost exclusively on male activities and prerogatives, ignoring or downplaying equivalent female activities, rights, and prestige systems. 86 Among the pre-colonial Ashanti, for example, the head of state was a female position but in accounts of Ashanti life this is often only "mentioned in passing, designated by the misnomer "queen mother," although she was never the king's wife, and was not necessarily his mother. She did not hold her position by virtue of her relationship with him indeed it was she who appointed him, and was above him in the state hierarchy." 87
Proofs of male dominance, moreover, frequently rest on fuzzy or inconsistent criteria: if women are excluded from some activity, that is considered proof of male power when males are excluded, it's considered evidence of women's "restriction" to a subordinate sphere. Considerable selection is also used in choosing examples. While Rosaldo emphasizes Yoruba women "bowing and scraping" before their husbands, 88 Suderkasa adds that the same behaviour is engaged in by males, who "prostrate themselves before their mothers, older sisters, and other females whose age or position demand that they do so." 89 Similarly, observers who stress that only males engage in trance dancing among the Bushmen neglect to mention that the dance cannot go on unless the women agree to make the music for it. 90
Western authors also seem unable to understand a world that lacks a conception of hierarchical relations among different things. Pre-state societies often have a concept of "separate but equal" that state societies lack 91 and male/female distinctions may best be described in terms of complementary functions rather than superordination/subordination. 92 Indeed, the very attempt to define "equality" may obscure the dynamics of societies where "equality exists in the very nature of things, not as a principle to be applied. . . . Often there is no linguistic mechanism whatever for comparison. What we find is an absolute respect for . . . all individuals irrespective of age and sex." 93
A second major problem with the collection of cross-cultural examples "proving" the universality of male dominance is the ahistorical nature of such evidence. Two major geographical areas where extreme male domination of women is well-documented in non-state societies are Melanesia and South America. But Melanesia is an area where rapid socioeconomic and status differentiation had taken place prior to Western observations, and the status of women seems to have been declining from a previously higher position. 94 In South America, devolution from larger political entities had taken place 95 and there was extreme (and atypical) population pressure and warfare. 96 In both these cases, the low status of women should probably be related to the tensions and pressures consequent on economic, political, and demographic transformation, not to "the state of nature." On close examination, in fact, many cases of male domination in "primitive" societies seem to have evolved only under the pressure of trade or warfare following contact with expanding groups, or under the direct impact of colonialism. 97
Finally, there are examples of societies in which asymmetry between the sexes is difficult or impossible to discern. Among the Mbuti "both men and women see themselves as equal in all respects except the supremely vital one that, whereas the woman can (and on occasion does) do almost everything the male does, she can do one thing no male can do: give birth to life." 98 John Nance reports that among the Tasaday "decision-making apparently was based on discussion in which men and women expressed views equally, with age and experience determining degree of influence." 99 And Peggy Sanday describes five societies that offer or offered "scripts for female power." 100 Summing up a review of recent anthropological research on women, Naomi Quinn comments: "Together, the bias of male informants in reporting, ethnographers in describing, and cross-cultural workers in interpreting various disparate customs . . . and the depressive effects of colonialism on many aspects of women's lives, may seem to leave very little cross-cultural female subordination to explain." 101
This is, of course, an overstatement. Male dominance is a material fact, with concrete repercussions for women, in most of the world, and our egalitarian examples come from relatively isolated simple societies. Long before Western trade and colonialism had even arisen, ancient societies in the Middle East, Mediterranean, and British Isles had gone through earlier processes in which the position of women had deteriorated. What is required, then, is a theory that explains why male dominance, though not inevitable, was a likely outcome of processes connected with socioeconomic expansion and increasing social complexity.
One theory that has been advanced to explain the evidence suggesting a decline in a formerly high position for women is that of the matriarchy. According to this view, women were once pre-eminent in economics and politics, but matriarchal rule was overthrown by men at some early point in human history. 102 Engels asserted that "mother right" was a general phase of human pre-history that was overthrown when men developed movable wealth and created patrilineal inheritance in order to pass it on to their own children. 103
We do not have the space to consider the various theories of matriarchy here, but simply note that there is no evidence for a matriarchal stage in human history. The theories cited above all contain one or both of the following fallacies: 1) Matriarchy is confused with matrilineality, and traces of matrilineal descent in the historical record are, without other justification, asserted as proof of an ancient matriarchy 2) The importance of women in ancient myths and religious artifacts is often said to reflect a "survival" of prior matriarchal social organization. Pomeroy 104 points out, however, that the role of women in myths has been subject to much misinterpretation, and Monique Saliou (this volume) suggests that such myths may indicate greater equality for women in the past but are not evidence of actual female rule. Childe 105 asks: "are female figurines any better evidence for matriarchy than are the Venus figures and Virgins of undeniably patriarchal societies?" (See Fleuhr-Lobban 106 for a further critique of theories of matriarchy).
The search for origins will never be definitively settled. But if we are to counter the assertions of inevitable and universal male dominance we must suggest some concrete reasons for the historical appearance and spread of male domination in ancient cultures. Probably no single historical account will suffice to explain every case: we will need to look at different time periods and processes, as Rapp points out in an excellent survey of the problem. 107 The two most important recent attempts at a historical explanation have been made by Peggy Sanday and Eleanor Leacock. 108 Both have combined a historical approach taking into account the variability of sociocultural experience with an explanatory framework that identifies underlying recurrent patterns of development.
Peggy Sanday focuses on the ways in which gender is used by many societies as an organizing principle on both the structural and symbolic levels. She has presented a complex account of the conditions under which balanced and symmetrical power relations between the sexes are replaced by asymmetry and male dominance. Basing her analysis on the evidence of both quantitative cross-cultural data and in-depth case studies, she finds that characteristic "cultural configurations" result from the interaction of natural environments, child-rearing practices, and sex-role behaviour. For example, hunting societies and societies in which large animals play an important part tend to produce distant fathers, masculine creator symbols, and an "outer," animal orientation toward the powers of the universe. Gathering societies, and societies in which animals are less important, tend to produce involved male parents, feminine or couple creator symbols, and an "inner," plant orientation. A "dual" orientation sometimes occurs in societies that combine "a ritual concern with both plant gathering or incipient cultivation and the predatory activities of men." 109
Sanday believes that the natural environment and mode of subsistence fundamentally "cause" the symbol system and sex role plan of any society. However, she is also concerned to emphasize the independent role that symbols play in determining subsequent sex role behaviour and authority relations. She suggests that there is an underlying bio-psychological basis for gender concepts that, in turn, provide "scripts" for behaviour. For example, she suggests that in all societies women are associated with the power to give life, while men are associated with the power to take life. Depending upon natural and historical conditions, one or both powers may be culturally valued and receive ritual emphasis. Where food is abundant and fertility is desired, women tend to have ascribed power and female principles are stressed. On the other hand, where the taking of life is important, as in hunting or warlike societies, men tend to exercise power and male principles are elevated in ritual and social life. However, a high value on male aggression does not automatically or necessarily translate into male dominance, as women may achieve power under some circumstances.
According to Sanday, men and women tend to be more segregated and competitive in societies that have a masculine/outer configuration. Higher levels of integration and cooperative relations between the sexes are more likely to be found in societies with an inner/plant orientation. 110 Sexual segregation, like male aggression, does not necessarily create male dominance. Some societies may segregate the sexes but relations between them may still be balanced and cooperative. However, Sanday thinks that male dominance is a likely outcome of the outer/segregated configuration where historical conditions have favoured an expansion of the male sphere leading to increased dependence of women on men.
Such conditions have arisen in a variety of historical contexts. Increased technological complexity, warfare, famine, migration, and colonization — all conditions leading to heightened social stress — have resulted in an expansion of the male role. Here Sanday borrows from the "social exchange" model in suggesting that "real" male dominance arises from the political rights that are granted to males as compensation for their role and as "a privilege for being the expendable sex." 111 However she says "adaptation to stress does not always include the subjugation of women." 112 In inner-oriented or dual societies, where women still exercise some power, stress may lead to "mythical" male dominance where "conflicting sexual power principles coexist." 113 For example, external pressures may lead to the projection onto women of cultural fears associated with female fertility. Under such circumstances, women may voluntarily cede mythical power to men because it is more reproductively efficient to do so and allows both sexes manoeuvering room. Thus for Sanday the determinants of male dominance are the conjunction of stressful historical circumstances with a prior cultural configuration.
The great value of Sanday's book lies in her attempt to show how gender is used as a "powerful and available metaphor" to organize society, and how the system of sexual symbols interacts with environment and social institutions to influence the relations between the sexes. She offers interesting insights into the richness and complexity of sex role plans and the mechanics of sexual inequality. We do not, however, feel that she has been totally successful in her claim to explain the origins of inequality, even while she has done much to elucidate its dynamics. As we have seen, she seeks the origins of sexual inequality in the pressure of stressful historical conditions on prior cultural configuration/sex role plans. But since externally generated stress does not, she argues, automatically or necessarily lead to male dominance, in the final analysis it seems to be the prior cultural configuration that determines the outcome. We have some difficulty with her emphasis on the independent role of such configurations, which she tends to treat as separate from changing social relations within the culture. Rather than examining the dialectical interaction between a culture's internal evolution and its sex role configuration, Sanday treats the sex role configuration as though it arises independently from internal social processes, determines internal social relations, and changes those internal relations only when it interacts with externally generated sources of stress, such as famine, invasion, or colonialism. We remain unconvinced by her tendency to give primary emphasis to environmental factors in her analysis of the origins of those configurations. We also question her contention that societies react to stress in fundamentally different ways depending upon their prior cultural configuration.
To explain the origins of the prior cultural configuration, Sanday relies on a somewhat awkward combination of environmental and bio-psychological factors, neither of which, taken separately or in combination, can account for the ambiguities of the data. Why, for example, do the Copper Eskimo, a hunting society par excellence, have an
"inner" orientation? Why do twenty-eight percent of societies with a feminine orientation hunt large animals? Why do seventy-three per cent of fishing societies have masculine orientation, 114 while fifty-four per cent of these same societies have equality between the sexes and only fifteen per cent have inequality? 115
Furthermore, Sanday does not really demonstrate that societies with diferent cultural configurations have qualitatively different reactions to stress. She gives no examples of inner-oriented or dual societies that reacted to stress without undermining the status of women. Even the Cheyenne and the Iroquois failed ultimately to resist the social tensions of colonialism and the pressures toward male dominance. Her distinction between "real" and "mythical" male dominance does not really help to explain the ambiguities of the evidence. Does the fact that women cede power to men voluntarily make "mythical" male dominance any less real than that which develops in outer-oriented societies? At times, Sanday herself seems to suggest that "mythical" male dominance is but a transitional state: "a waystation where opposing and conflicting sexual power principles may coexist." 116 If so, then the critical issue in explaining the origins of male dominance lies less in the prior cultural configuration than in the nature and origin of the stress.
Although Sanday does show that certain kinds of stress, such as war, migration, or environmental conditions, elevate the male role and lead to new sexual fears and tensions, she tends to ignore internal sources of stress that may help to account for increased social competition and a fearful attitude towards the environment. These are most likely to be associated with the breakdown of community reciprocity, and with the development of differences in rank or property ownership. For example, in her discussion of the Bellacoola she suggests that they perceived the environment as hostile and threatening due to seasonal food scarcity. This, in turn, accounted for the Bellacoola's cultural perception of women as dangerous. But it is unclear why this should have been a cultural response among the Bellacoola, while it was absent among the Bemba, a society which suffered more extreme seasonal food shortages, but where female principles were ritually elevated. 117 Surely the Bellacoola environment (the Pacific Northwest Coast of America) was lush by comparison with other societies where there was/is no institutionalized need to control or dominate women? In fact, it is by no means the case that environmentally-caused scarcity always results in increased conflict and competition within groups. In some, it may lead to heightened cooperation and sharing. 118
In the case of the Bellacoola, Sanday might have considered both the control of women and the fear of the environment as consequences of other social tensions that were breaking down cooperative interaction and trust. Her own account mentions, in fact, 119 that they were a ranked society with slavery. This certainly might indicate that they were suffering from heightened competition for resources and tensions over social status. Such internal socially-based sources of stress might help us explain the evolution of the group's sex role plan and the changes in women's position better than Sanday's environmental analysis, especially since the aggression was directed against only some women, while others participated as men's equals. In other instances too such an approach might better explain the anomalies in her data and would allow her to make better use of her valuable insights.
The primary achievement of Sanday's book is to show us that a mechanical explanation of sex roles and status is not possible. Because gender is such a powerfully charged way of organizing social interactions, and involves so many basic bio-psychological processes, disruption in social organization and male-female roles may have far-reaching and complex repercussions. Male dominance cannot be understood as simply a matter of economic interest or political power it interacts with every thread in the fabric of social life and may thus have a different dynamic in each society where it is set into motion.
No review of theories of the origins of sexual inequality would be complete without reference to Eleanor Leacock, who has done pathbreaking work in applying a historical materialist framework to the ethnohistorical record, and in formulating an alternative vision of the social relations of foraging societies. On the basis of her research among the Montagnais-Naskapi Indians (a society based on fur trapping), she challenged the widely accepted model of the patrilineal band, with its accompanying assumption of sexual inequality, and proposed in its stead that relations between the sexes were both flexible and egalitarian. 120 She argued that there is no reason why there should be gender hierarchy just because there is a division of labour by sex in fact, she has shown that the social relations of many foraging societies are necessarily egalitarian and communal. 121 Taking its cue from Leacock, a whole generation of feminist anthropologists has begun to explore the implications of her model of the "primitive commune," which includes a rough equality in the social relations between the sexes.
Leacock has, in addition, taken a leading role in efforts to revise and build on Engels's original theories about the origins of the patriarchal state. 122 Again beginning with her own fieldwork among the Montagnais-Naskapi, she has explored the historical processes whereby formerly egalitarian cultures were transformed by contact with patriarchal state societies, and especially by capitalist colonization during the past two centuries. 123 Basing her early theory of the evolution of sexual inequality on Engels's central insight that it was connected with the breakdown of kinship (clan) social organization and successive transformations of the division of labour, she has worked for a decade to refine her model. Her most recent and evolved statement is presented in her article "Women, Power and Authority." 124
Leacock believes that male dominance was a consequence of the development of commodity production, which accompanied the evolution of ranked, and then stratified, societies:
The direct producers lost decision-making powers over their lives when the specialization of labor and production of commodities for exchange led to the formation of slave, aristocratic, and merchant classes. Women in particular lost out because the new economic relations based on exchange were in the hands of men (the first important commodity exchanged, in Engels view, was men's responsibility, cattle) because these relations undercut the communal households women had controlled and transformed women's domestic work into private service and because the privatization of property through individual inheritance in the budding upper class required control of women's sexuality. 125
According to Leacock, as the importance of inter-group exchange increased, especially as groups became more sedentary, there was a growing need for products that could only be obtained through exchange. In the process, some people were better placed than others to take advantage of the new relations of production. Leacock, then, following Fried, 126 sees a close relationship between the development of social ranking and the institution of centralized redistribution of products. She believes that women lost public authority as exchange and economic inequality developed, in particular because they tended to provide the labour that produced the goods exchanged by men (for example cattle, or pigs in New Guinea). She also notes that warfare may have increased as ranked societies expanded, and this may have given males additional control. Furthermore, she suggests that women unwittingly participated in the process of their own "commoditization" because it was in their interest to ensure that their own husband was a "big man," successful in trade exchange, and because they, too, could benefit from the labour of low ranking men. In sum, women lost autonomy as labourers when processes of economic differentiation were already transforming labour into a commodity. Commodity production, in turn, aided in the process of subversion of kin-based organization and the development of private property, as described by Engels.
We are in basic agreement with Leacock on this overall outline of the historical evolution of male dominance, and of the effects of commodity production on the primitive commune. However, we see a need for a more detailed explanation of how and why, in the "pristine" case, societies that were transitional between egalitarian and ranked began to produce for exchange, and of why women in particular seem to have lost political and economic autonomy in such societies. In other words, we need a theory of why, by the time that true ranking had emerged in the form of institutionalized inequalities of access to production, exchange, and distribution, it was already "big" men, and only rarely big women, who usually achieved the institutionalized leadership statuses. We agree with Leacock that women's status in ranked societies is quite variable, and that there is no reason to assume a "conspiracy theory" of the emergence of sexual inequality. But the underlying question of what stimulated men to commandeer the productive activities of women in order to engage successfully in trade exchanges is still not clearly answered. Even if cattle were the first exchangeable commodity, they were certainly by no means the only trade item nor was warfare inevitably the accompaniment of the transition to ranking. It is therefore necessary to examine more closely why men were able to privatize the services of women and why women in many societies did not successfully resist.
These questions and others are analysed by the authors in this volume from the standpoint of their respective disciplines (history and anthropology) and scholarly traditions (French and American). In the first contribution, Leibowitz, an American physical anthropologist, presents a model of the origins of the division of labour by sex, which she sees arising out of the early conditions of production and long antedating any formal or informal sexual inequality. Two papers, Chevillard and Leconte "The Dawn of Lineage Societies: the Origin of Women's Oppression," and Coontz and Henderson "Property Forms, Political Power, and Women's Labour in the Evolution of Class and State Societies," then offer contrasting analyses of the origins of sexual inequality in pre-state kinship-based societies. These are followed by a second contribution by Chevillard and Leconte, "Slavery and Women," which discusses women's status in early slave-based state societies. Finally, Monique Saliou, a French historian of religion, looks at the evidence from pre-Classical and Classical iconography and literature concerning "The Processes of Women's Subordination in Primitive and Archaic Greece." We turn now to a consideration of the different views presented in these articles. (The following section of the Introduction was written jointly by us and two of the French contributors, Nicole Chevillard and Sébastien Leconte.)
It is striking that, though working independently within two different scholarly traditions, empirical data bases, and language systems, the authors find themselves in substantial agreement on many fundamental aspects of the development of female subordination. First, the point of departure for all is that the explanation of gender inequality must be sought in social rather than biological imperatives. Leibowitz argues that the division of labour by sex was not biologically determined but was a social construct arising from changes in the techniques and relations of production. The other authors emphasize various social determinants of different male and female activities, agreeing that biology does not mandate an invariable division of labour between the sexes. They also agree that even where a division of tasks and activities does occur, that is not grounds, in and of itself, for assuming gender inequality. Indeed, they point to various indications suggesting that the earliest societies were based on interdependence and egalitarianism.
Second, following their rejection of biological explanations for male-female social relations, the authors agree that the origins of sexual stratification should be sought in women's role in production, and not in her powers of reproduction. Women indisputably played a central productive role in early foraging and horticultural communities, and the authors suggest that the origins of male dominance were bound up with the struggle to control women's labour and products. Control of women's reproductive powers followed from this. There was no demographic reason, dissociated from this social one, for men to oppress women simply because women bear children.
A third point of agreement accompanies the authors' rejection of biological determinism in favour of explanations emphasizing social production. They agree that while male dominance was not present in the earliest communal societies, it was already present in the earliest class societies as defined in the traditional sense of the term (for example, slave societies). They thus reject analyses which move directly from communal societies to advanced class systems based on individual private property without identifying an intervening social formation or mode of production. Though differing in their conception of such intervening societies, the authors agree that societies based on true private property were preceded by other forms of social organization based on the development of collective or group property. In these lineage or kin corporate societies, ties of kinship determined the organization of work and the appropriation of goods, and it was in these societies that male domination was first elaborated.
It follows from this that the dialectic of kin relations must be relevant to the origins of gender inequality. Although diverging in their reconstruction of the processes involved, the authors agree in seeking the origins of male dominance in some aspect of the rise of these kin corporate or lineage societies. Specifically, they agree on the critical importance of post-marital residence rules in determining gender relations within unilineal kin corporate societies. They argue that patrilocality — the system in which women move to their husband's kin group at marriage — enabled men to utilize and appropriate women's labour and products in ways that ultimately enhanced the authority of the senior males within the husband's kin group.
The authors agree, in short, that without patrilocality, there were limits on the ability of any kin corporation to utilize or appropriate the labour and products of women. Because they stress the importance of residence rules over unilineal descent, they agree in characterizing matrilineal, virilocal systems, in which the woman after marriage goes to live with her husband's mother's brother, as equally conducive to male dominance as patrilineal, patrilocal societies, in spite of the rule of descent through females. The effect on adult women of such a residence rule is similarly to sever her ties with her natal kin group and to encourage her dependence on her husband's kin group. The authors interpret matrilineal, virilocal systems as a contradictory social formation, rather than as proof that "natural" male dominance will assert itself even in matrilineal societies, as is often claimed. Instances of such societies, therefore, make interesting case studies of transitional processes at work.
Having located the source of female oppression in the mechanism of patrilocality, the authors were still faced with the need to explain why this became the dominant mode of organizing social relations in kin corporate society (and hence why male dominance, though not "natural," became so widespread). Although differing as to how this happened, the French and American authors again find themselves in substantial agreement as to the overall evolutionary dynamic which led to the reinforcement and institutionalization of male dominance. They agree that patrilocal societies, where women moved at marriage, had greater potential for expansion because they offered more opportunities and incentives to intensify production beyond the level necessary for everyday subsistence. This was due to the greater value of women's labour and reproductive potential in pre-plow agricultural systems. The more productive the society, the more expansionary it could become, absorbing or conquering more stable, "steady state" societies. It is important to stress, though, that this analysis implies no value judgment that patrilocal societies were somehow "better." Rather, they were simply more capable of exercising coercive power over their own members (women, junior men, children) to intensify production than were more egalitarian social systems.
The above points of agreement lead to one final area of commonality. The authors agree that female subordination actually preceded and established the basis for the emergence of true private property and the state. The historical processes involved varied in time and place, but once set in motion, the evolution of sexual and social stratification was closely intertwined. The oppression of women provided a means of differential accumulation among men, which in turn gave some men special access to the labour and reproductive powers of women, as well as to the services of other men. As class stratification became institutionalized, we find that lower class men were often assimilated to the status of women, while women as a category were assigned to the juridical status of the propertyless in a system increasingly based on private property. The authors of this book offer different historical and sociological perspectives on these processes, but they agree that the oppression of women was a foundation for the emergence of traditional class society, and that sex and class oppression have developed in ways that render them analytically virtually inseparable.
Despite these broad areas of agreement, the authors in this volume differ in important respects. One area of disagreement is over how to explain and analyse the development of a division of labour by sex. Leibowitz argues that the earliest hominid cultures rested on non-gender-specific production, while later an informal sexual division of activities developed with projectile hunting and other technological inventions that led to hearth-centred activities. A full-fledged sexual division of labour, with codified rules for males and females in marriage and work, she argues, arose when Exchange between groups began to take place, and served to facilitate and regularize this Exchange. (She uses the capital E to distinguish this from the informal exchange between individuals that would have taken place on an irregular basis.) Neither the sexual division of tasks nor the sexual division of labour, however, constitutes a cause or a symptom of male dominance, whose origins must be sought elsewhere.
Coontz and Henderson largely accept this account, in which a sexual division of work is related to diversification of productive techniques allowing some members to hunt, trap, or trade as others engage in hearth-based activities, while a more formal sexual division of labour develops as groups need to regularize the production and circulation of goods and services. They agree that the circulation of spouses, of whatever sex, among groups is a means to establish increased social interaction, not male dominance.
Chevillard and Leconte, however, believe that the presence of a well-defined social division of labour between men and women, if accompanied by the circulation of female spouses, is already a symptom of male dominance. They thus reject an analysis which places the origins of the sexual division of labour so far back in history. They argue that Leibowitz's analysis covers a very long period in the history of humankind. There was little chance of absolute continuity, especially in the realm of social behaviour, between peoples of such widely differing periods, and locations. One must therefore be cautious when analysing the role of technological inventions such as the use of fire or projectile weapons in social organization. The implementation of certain techniques was probably greatly influenced, or conditioned, by the social organization of the human groups in which they were "invented." In other words, the link that Leibowitz establishes between these inventions and the sexual division of tasks, then of labour and social roles, appears too rigid and minimizes the influence of other evolutionary factors. Chevillard and Leconte view the sexual division of labour as a concept that is neither very precise nor illuminating with regard to the dynamics of the structure and evolution of the first human groups.
Another area of difference among some of the authors concerns the degree to which male dominance was a conscious creation of men who wished to exploit female labour, or a less consciously planned outcome of social processes whose original dynamic did not rest on sex oppression. For Chevillard and Leconte, for instance, the central contradiction leading to the dissolution of the earliest communal societies lies in the relations between (some) men and (all) women. As primitive communities developed a higher material standard of living, a surplus and an accentuation of the division of tasks by sex and age, they began to codify kinship rules that permitted the formation of larger and more stable human groups. These societies came to be based on both matrilocality and matrilineality, and in them, therefore, there was a tendency for the surplus to accumulate under the control of women. This accumulation engendered contradictions that in the end led to confrontations between women and men (probably from different kinship groups), who desired to gain control of this surplus. Since the natural evolution of matrilocal and matrilineal societies would be toward a certain amount of female control, a reversal of this, they argue, can only be explained by some sort of masculine victory over women, which turned over to a group of dominant men the control of the surplus and also of the female labour force. Thus partrilocality was instituted. There need not have been a generalized confrontation between men and women, for even if this overturn occurred in only a few instances, patrilocality and male domination would then spread by virtue of example and force of arms. Monique Saliou suggests that Greek mythology and tragedy provide evidence of outright conflict between males and females over power.
For Coontz and Henderson, on the other hand, male domination is the outcome of more gradual and peaceful social and economic processes. As surplus accumulated or techniques of production changed, communal societies developed a variety of residence and descent rules, which in and of themselves implied no immediate subordination of one sex by the other. But the emergence of kin corporate property and a kin corporate mode of production created a potential contradiction between kinship and residence. The new kin corporate mode of production was based on the appropriation of the labour of non-owning producers — the in-marrying spouses — by the corporate descent group, or its head. Coontz and Henderson do not believe that patrilocality, where it occurred, developed out of any confrontation between men and women or was necessarily instituted in order to oppress women and appropriate their labour.
However, they list a number of features of patrilocality which, they argue, allowed the potential inequalities of the kin corporate mode of production to develop more rapidly than alternative methods of circulating labour (for example, matrilocality). And they argue that the resultant worsening of women's position was forcibly maintained, first by lineage heads and later by the state.
For Chevillard and Leconte, then, the emergence of male dominance, achieved by an overthrow of the older matrilocal system, inaugurates a new mode of production. They hold that there was a decisive rupture with the first egalitarian societies (which tended to be matrilocal and matrilineal). This rupture created a new mode of production based on the exploitation of the female labour force (with the understanding that a certain number of attempts were probably made before the new mode of production emerged in all its characteristics). Coontz and Henderson, by contrast, stress the development from within the communal society of a new mode of production based on kin corporate property and the circulation of labour through marriage. In their view, male dominance develops more gradually, after the rise of a new mode of production, out of the dynamics of labour, ownership, and exchange in kin corporate societies, matrilocal or patrilocal.
No final resolution of these differences appears likely. Proponents of the first approach can point to the prevalence of myths about a violent overthrow of women by men, suggesting that these myths represent historical memories of such events proponents of the second would stress the actual variability in women's status among kin corporate societies, suggesting that an evolutionary continuum is involved. Even the same phenomenon can be interpreted in diametrically opposed ways. Chevillard and Leconte point to the contradictions of matrilineal virilocal societies (where descent is reckoned through the female line but residence is with the husband's maternal relatives) as evidence for the forcible imposition of patrilocality. Such societies are too illogical and contradictory to have arisen naturally, they argue: "These complexities are, as we will see, the sign that patrilocality doesn't just evolve of its own accord, but that it intervenes as a radical rupture in societies that must formerly have been constituted on the basis of matrilineality and of matrilocality."
Coontz and Henderson, conversely, hold that the contradictions of matrilineal virilocal societies testify to their transitional nature. The shift to virilocality, they argue, may take place gradually within a formerly matrilineal, matrilocal society, creating conflicts between the individuating tendencies of virilocal residence and the collective practices of matrilineal structures and ideology.
Despite their differences over the origins of male dominance and the character of early social formations, both sets of authors identify a category of pre-state society in which the primary forms of oppression are those of sex and age. They differ, however, over how to characterize the subordination of women in such societies. Though they are describing the same objective phenomenon — the appropriation of women's products — Chevillard and Leconte describe this as class oppression, while Coontz and Henderson call it sex oppression. Chevillard and Leconte prefer to treat women as an oppressed class because this stresses the permanence of women's exclusion from control over the means of production Coontz and Henderson prefer the term oppressed sex because this leaves more room for analysis of what they consider to be significant variations in the status and interests of women according to their age and marital status.
This difference is purely semantic in discussions of kin corporate societies it becomes significant, however, in relating the oppression of women to that of other social groups once kin corporate society gives way to a society stratified along other socioeconomic lines. Chevillard and Leconte think that socioeconomic class is modelled upon and derives from the subordination of women. Coontz and Henderson think that in post-kin corporate Societies women are divided by class as well as united in a common experience of subordination to males.
According to Coontz and Henderson, the original contradiction in virilocal kin corporate societies is between, on the one hand, men and women of the corporate property-owning group, and, on the other hand, the women who marry in. The subordination of women as a sex is the outcome of social processes whereby patrilocal lineages begin to exercise control over the labour and reproductive power of in-marrying wives. Older women as well as men benefit from this labour, even though for most women the benefits come at the cost of having had to experience an earlier stage of oppression as a wife. Coontz and Henderson see women as having contradictory interests as owners in one kin corporation and producers in another. In this analysis, the growth of socioeconomic stratification may exacerbate these contradictory interests, even though women as a sex may remain inferior to men. For in early class societies, they argue, aristocratic women may exercise significant power over both men and women of the lower class, even if they remain permanent juniors in relation to male members of the aristocracy, Upper and lower class women may therefore be divided in their interests and their consciousness, at the same time that sexual oppression may disguise some of the common interests of men and women within the lower class.
For Chevillard and Leconte, on the other hand, the contradiction is between some men and all women as a social group. There are no contradictory interests among women in either kin corporate or aristocratic class society. Aristocratic women do not share the socio-economic status of aristocratic men, as they do not have independent access to the means of production and may even be reduced to slave or lower class status if they offend against male prerogatives. The interests of upper class women are not at all antagonistic to those of lower class men or women, but do conflict directly with those of upper class men. Like high ranking servants, aristocratic women are artificially attached to the class of their husband or father, while in fact they belong to the dominated classes of society, even if they are not conscious of this.
Again, this is probably not a difference that can be settled. It is a question of analytical emphasis. Clearly, the difference has implications for the analysis of the role of upper class women in any feminist or class struggle, but since upper class women constitute only a minority of the female population, both analyses still affirm the interconnections between the "woman question" and the class struggle.
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8. Leibowitz, Females, Males, Families.
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50. Sherry Ortner and Harriet Whitehead eds., Sexual Meanings: The Cultural Construction of Gender and Sexuality, Cambridge 1981, p. 20.
51. Nancy Chodorow, "Family Structure and Feminine Personality," in Michelle Zimbalist Rosaldo and Louise Lamphere eds., Women, Culture and Society, Stanford 1974, pp. 43-66 Chodorow, The Reproduction of Mothering: Psychoanalysis and the Reproduction of Mothering, Berkeley 1978.
52. Sherry Ortner, "Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture?," in Rosaldo and Lamphere, pp. 67-88,
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54. Ortner and Whitehead, pp. 7-8.
55. Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God, New York 1962, 1964 James Melaart, Catal Huyuk: A Neolithic Town in Anatolia, New York 1967 Eleanor Leacock and Jill Nash,"Ideologies of Sex: Archetypes and Stereotypes," in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, no. 285, 1977, pp. 618-45 Peggy Sanday, Female Power and Male Dominance. Cambridge 1981.
56. Carol MacCormack, "Proto-Social to Adult: A Sherbro Transformation," in Carol MacCormack and Marilyn Strathern, eds., Nature, Culture and Gender, Cambridge 1980, pp. 95-118.
57, Maurice Godelier, "Modes of Production, Kinship and Demographic Structures," in Maurice Bloch ed., Marxist Analysis and Social Anthropology, New York 1975. w
58. Marilyn Strathern, "No Nature, No Culture: The Hagan Case," in MacCormack and Strathern, pp. 174-222.
59. Leacock and Nash MacCormack and Strathern.
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62. Ortner, "Is Female to Male," pp. 67-88.
63. Denise Paulme, Women of Tropical Africa, Berkeley 1960, p. 7.
64. B. H. Quain, The Iroquois, in Margaret Mead ed., Cooperation and Competition Among Primitive Peoples, Boston 1961, p. 277.
65. Karla Poewe, Matrilineal Ideology, London 1981.
67. William Divale and Marvin Harris, "Population, Warfare and the Male Supremacist Complex," in American Anthropologist no. 78, 1976, pp. 521-38.
69. Napoleon Chagnon, "Yanomamo: The True People," National Geographic 150, 1976, p. 213 Shelton Davis and Robert Mathews, The Geological Imperative, Cambridge 1976.
70. Dorothy Lee, Freedom and Culture, Englewood Cliffs 1959.
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72. Gerhard Lenski and Jean Lenski, Human Societies, New York 1974, p. 138.
73. Gordon V. Childe, What Happened in History, Harmondsworth 1942 Julian Steward, The Theory of Culture Change, Urbana 1955 Robert M. C. Adams, The Evolution of Urban Society, Chicago 1966.
75. Ester Boserup, The Conditions of Agricultural Growth, Chicago 1965.
76. Divale and Harris, p. 531.
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78. Stephanie Coontz, "Insult and Injury: Growing Old in America" in Coontz and Frank eds., Life in Capitalist America, New York 1975 Leo Simmons, The Position of the Aged in Primitive Society, New Haven 1946.
79. Seymour Parker and Hilda Parker, "The Myth of Male Superiority: Rise and Demise," American Anthropologist, no. 81, pp. 289-309.
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81, Parker and Parker, p. 293.
82. Frances Dahlberg, Woman the Gatherer, New Haven 1981.
83. Richard Lee, The !Kung San: Men, Women and Work in a Foraging Society, Cambridge 1979 Patricia Draper, "Kung Women: Contrasts in Foraging and Sedentary Contexts," in Reiter, 1975, pp. 77-109.
84. Ortner and Whitehead, p. 16.
85. Naomi Quinn, "Anthropological Studies on Women's Status" in Annual Review of Anthropology, no. 6, 1977, p. 183 Susan Rogers, "Woman's Place: A Critical Review of Anthropological Theory," in Comparative Studies in Society and History, 20, 1978, pp. 143-7.
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Exactly What Happens to Your Man's Body When He Orgasms
It takes a complex combo of signals from the penis and the brain.
Getting to O-town can be complicated, not just for women, but guys too. In fact, there&aposs a lot that has to happen in a man&aposs body before he climaxes. As urologist Aaron Spitz, MD, explains his new guide The Penis Book, both the penis and brain must generate a specific combination of signals that "jump from nerve to nerve, zipping along to meet in a specialized part of [the] lower spine known as the ‘spinal ejaculation center.&apos" The spinal ejaculation center then pulls the trigger to "fire off the big guns."
So what are those specific signals needed to launch an orgasm? Dr. Spitz details the whole process in his book. Of course, sensations of touch, pressure and vibration in his penis prime your guy. But other sensory info plays a big role too: "Sight is one of the most important senses for arousing a man," says Dr. Spitz𠅊nd the visual cues that set a guy off (say, a glimpse of the back of your neck) can be uniquely his own.
Also factor in "lusty, musty erotic smells (is that latex?), erotic touches (light brushes, deep massage, or perhaps a spanking), erotic sounds (breathing, moaning, or dirty talk), and erotic tastes (salty skin, wet lips, or perhaps some drizzled honey.)" Then there&aposs what&aposs happening in his mind: "Add to the mix the fantasies, thoughts, and memories all bouncing around the cerebral cortex, making all kinds of interesting connections," says Dr. Spitz.
That&aposs not all though. The hypothalamus and pituitary gland—which sit deep in the brain, below the cerebral cortex—release hormones into the blood that cue the testicles to produce sperm and testosterone. “Testosterone circulates back to the brain, where it stokes the fire of sexual desire,” writes Dr. Spitz, conjuring steamy thoughts and fantasies, and making all that sensory stimulation flooding in even hotter.
The deep-brain center also releases oxytocin, aka the love hormone. This is the final key that commands the spinal ejaculation center to do its thing and . boom!
Now let&aposs back up a tiny bit: Just moments before climax, "the semen cocktail," as Dr. Spitz calls it (a shot of sperm and two mixers), began collecting in the urethra. When a guy reaches orgasm, muscles at the base of the penis squeeze the urethra to pump the semen out. “These contractions are what most men associate with a primary source of pleasure during orgasm,” says Dr. Spitz.
How can I help with research?
Consider joining a clinical study. Both healthy individuals and those with a disease or condition can participate in medical research studies (sometimes called clinical trials or protocols) to help researchers better understand a disease and perhaps develop new treatments. For information about clinical studies on disorders including Tourette syndrome and how to participate in one, please contact the NIH&rsquos Patient Recruitment and Public Liaison office at 800-411-1222 or visit the Clinicaltrials.gov website at http:// www.clinicaltrials.gov .
The stages of the ovarian cycle in the female are regulated by hormones secreted by the hypothalamus, pituitary, and the ovaries.
Explain the function of female hormones in reproduction
- As in males, GnRH secreted by the hypothalamus triggers the release of FSH and LH from the pituitary however, in females, this signals the ovaries to produce estradiol and progesterone.
- FSH stimulates the growth and maturation of follicles on the ovaries, which house and nourish the developing eggs the follicle, in turn, releases inhibin, which inhibits the production of FSH.
- Progesterone stimulates the growth of the endometrial lining of the uterus in order to prepare it for pregnancy a strong surge of LH at around day 14 of the cycle triggers ovulation of an egg from the most mature follicle.
- After ovulation, the ruptured follicle becomes a corpus luteum, which secretes progesterone to either regrow the uterine lining or to support the pregnancy if it occurs.
- During middle age, a woman’s ovaries become less sensitive to FSH and LH and, therefore, cease to mature follicles and undergo ovulation this is known as menopause.
- corpus luteum: a yellow mass of cells that forms from an ovarian follicle during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle in mammals it secretes steroid hormones
- menopause: the ending of menstruation the time in a woman’s life when this happens
- endometrium: the mucous membrane that lines the uterus in mammals and in which fertilized eggs are implanted
- estradiol: a potent estrogenic hormone produced in the ovaries of all vertebrates the synthetic compound is used medicinally to treat estrogen deficiency and breast cancer
- menstruation: the periodic discharging of the menses, the flow of blood and cells from the lining of the uterus in females of humans and other primates
The control of reproduction in females is more complex than that of the male. As with the male, the hypothalamic hormone GnRH (gonadotropin-releasing hormone) causes the release of the hormones FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinizing hormone) from the anterior pituitary. In addition, estrogens and progesterone are released from the developing follicles, which are structures on the ovaries that contain the maturing eggs.
In females, FSH stimulates the development of egg cells, called ova, which develop in structures called follicles. Follicle cells produce the hormone inhibin, which inhibits FSH production. LH also plays a role in the development of ova, as well as in the induction of ovulation and stimulation of estradiol and progesterone production by the ovaries. Estradiol and progesterone are steroid hormones that prepare the body for pregnancy. Estradiol is the reproductive hormone in females that assists in endometrial regrowth, ovulation, and calcium absorption it is also responsible for the secondary sexual characteristics of females. These include breast development, flaring of the hips, and a shorter period necessary for bone maturation. Progesterone assists in endometrial re-growth and inhibition of FSH and LH release.
Hormonal control of the female reproductive cycle: The ovarian and menstrual cycles of female reproduction are regulated by hormones produced by the hypothalamus, pituitary, and ovaries. The pattern of activation and inhibition of these hormones varies between phases of the reproductive cycle.
The Ovarian Cycle and the Menstrual Cycle
The ovarian cycle governs the preparation of endocrine tissues and release of eggs, while the menstrual cycle governs the preparation and maintenance of the uterine lining. These cycles occur concurrently and are coordinated over a 22–32 day cycle, with an average length of 28 days.
The first half of the ovarian cycle is the follicular phase. Slowly-rising levels of FSH and LH cause the growth of follicles on the surface of the ovary, which prepares the egg for ovulation. As the follicles grow, they begin releasing estrogens and a low level of progesterone. Progesterone maintains the endometrium, the lining of the uterus, to help ensure pregnancy. Just prior to the middle of the cycle (approximately day 14), the high level of estrogen causes FSH and, especially, LH to rise rapidly and then fall. The spike in LH causes ovulation: the most mature follicle ruptures and releases its egg. The follicles that did not rupture degenerate and their eggs are lost. The level of estrogen decreases when the extra follicles degenerate.
Follicle: This mature egg follicle may rupture and release an egg in response to a surge of LH.
If pregnancy implantation does not occur, the lining of the uterus is sloughed off, a process known as menstruation. After about five days, estrogen levels rise and the menstrual cycle enters the proliferative phase. The endometrium begins to regrow, replacing the blood vessels and glands that deteriorated during the end of the last cycle.
Following ovulation, the ovarian cycle enters its luteal phase and the menstrual cycle enters its secretory phase, both of which run from about day 15 to 28. The luteal and secretory phases refer to changes in the ruptured follicle. The cells in the follicle undergo physical changes, producing a structure called a corpus luteum, which produces estrogen and progesterone. The progesterone facilitates the regrowth of the uterine lining and inhibits the release of further FSH and LH. The uterus is again being prepared to accept a fertilized egg, should it occur during this cycle. The inhibition of FSH and LH prevents any further eggs and follicles from developing. The level of estrogen produced by the corpus luteum increases to a steady level for the next few days.
If no fertilized egg is implanted into the uterus, the corpus luteum degenerates and the levels of estrogen and progesterone decrease. The endometrium begins to degenerate as the progesterone levels drop, initiating the next menstrual cycle. The decrease in progesterone also allows the hypothalamus to send GnRH to the anterior pituitary, releasing FSH and LH to start the cycles again.
Stages of the menstrual cycle: Rising and falling hormone levels result in progression of the ovarian and menstrual cycles.
As women approach their mid-40s to mid-50s, their ovaries begin to lose their sensitivity to FSH and LH. Menstrual periods become less frequent and finally cease this process is known as menopause. There are still eggs and potential follicles on the ovaries, but without the stimulation of FSH and LH, they will not produce a viable egg to be released. The outcome of this is the inability to have children.
Various symptoms are associated with menopause, including hot flashes, heavy sweating, headaches, some hair loss, muscle pain, vaginal dryness, insomnia, depression, weight gain, and mood swings. Estrogen is involved in calcium metabolism and, without it, blood levels of calcium decrease. To replenish the blood, calcium is lost from bone, which may decrease the bone density and lead to osteoporosis. Supplementation of estrogen in the form of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can prevent bone loss, but the therapy can have negative side effects, such as an increased risk of stroke or heart attack, blood clots, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer, gall bladder disease, and, possibly, dementia.
What research is being done?
The mission of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke ( NINDS ) is to seek fundamental knowledge about the brain and nervous system and to use that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological disease. The NINDS is a component of the National Institutes of Health ( NIH ), the leading supporter of biomedical research in the world. NINDS and several other NIH Institutes and Centers support research on autism spectrum disorder.
Nearly 20 years ago the NIH formed the Autism Coordinating Committee (NIH/ACC) to enhance the quality, pace, and coordination of efforts at the NIH to find a cure for autism. The NIH/ACC has been instrumental in promoting research to understand and advance ASD. The NIH/ACC also participates in the broader Federal Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), composed of representatives from various U.S. Department of Health and Human Services agencies, the Department of Education, and other governmental organizations, as well as public members, including individuals with ASD and representatives of patient advocacy organizations. One responsibility of the IACC is to develop a strategic plan for ASD research, which guides research programs supported by NIH and other participating organizations.
NINDS and several other NIH institutes support autism research through the Autism Centers of Excellence (ACE), a trans-NIH initiative that supports large-scale multidisciplinary studies on ASD, with the goal of determining the causes of autism and finding new treatments. NINDS currently supports an ACE network focused on ASD and tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC). ASD occurs in approximately half of TSC patients. In particular, the ACE investigators are studying whether certain brain imaging and activity measures in infants diagnosed with TSC can predict the development of ASD. Such biomarkers could aid in understanding how and why ASD occurs in some children but not others, and help to identify patients who might benefit from early intervention. Other ACE centers and networks are investigating early brain development and functioning genetic and non-genetic risk factors, including neurological, physical, behavioral, and environmental factors present in the prenatal period and early infancy and potential therapies.
NINDS funds additional research aimed at better understanding the factors that lead to ASD, including other studies on genetic disorders associated with ASD, such as TSC, Fragile X Syndrome, Phelan-McDermid syndrome (which features such autism-like symptoms as intellectual disability, developmental delays, and problems with developing functional language), and Rett syndrome (a disorder that almost exclusively affects girls and is characterized by slowing development, intellectual disability, and loss of functional use of the hands). Many of these studies use animal models to determine how specific known mutations affect cellular and developmental processes in the brain, yielding insights relevant to understanding ASD due to other causes and discovering new targets for treatments.
NINDS researchers are studying aspects of brain function and development that are altered in people with ASD. For example, NINDS-funded researchers are investigating the formation and function of neuronal synapses, the sites of communication between neurons, which may not properly operate in ASD and neurodevelopmental disorders. Other studies use brain imaging in people with and without ASD to identify differences in brain connectivity and activity patterns associated with features of ASD. Researchers hope that understanding these alterations can help identify new opportunities for therapeutic interventions. Additional NINDS researchers are studying the relationship between epilepsy and autism.
Through the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences ( NCATS ) Rare Disease Clinical Research Network (RDCRN), NINDS and other NIH Institutes and Centers support a research consortium focused on three rare genetic syndromes associated with ASD and intellectual disability, including TSC and syndromes involving mutations in the genesSHANK3 (Phelan-McDermid syndrome) and PTEN. The goals of the consortium are to understand shared mechanisms across these syndromes, which may suggest common approaches to their treatment.
NINDS supports autism spectrum disorder research through clinical trials at medical centers across the United States to better our knowledge about ASD treatment and care. Information about participating in clinical studies can be found at the &ldquo NIH Clinical Trials and You&rdquo website at www.nih.gov/health/clinicaltrials. Additional studies can be found at www.clinicaltrials.gov. People should talk to their doctor before enrolling in a clinical trial.
More information about research on ASD supported by NINDS and other NIH Institutes and Centers can be found using NIH RePORTER (projectreporter.nih.gov), a searchable database of current and past research projects supported by NIH and other federal agencies. RePORTER also includes links to publications and resources from these projects.
Freud’s Stages of Psychosexual Development
This article will tell you about Sigmund Freud's five stages of psychosexual development that are still debated in the field of psychology.
This article will tell you about Sigmund Freud’s five stages of psychosexual development that are still debated in the field of psychology.
Do you think your personality is greatly influenced by the sexual pleasure you receive throughout your life? Well, that’s what Sigmund Freud believed. His theory of psychosexual development focuses on the effects of sexual pleasure on one’s psyche. According to him, every child is full of energy that needs to be channelized in the right direction. The overall development of a child depends on the way he/she controls or directs this energy. He named this energy as libido. He believed that libido provides the basic platform for the mind to run on.
Freud’s five stages of development essentially showcase how sexuality starts from a very young age in humans, and how it develops till adulthood at different stages. If these stages are not completed or are unsatisfied, a person may get fixated, which may lead to a conflicted personality in the adulthood. Given below are the five stages of psychosexual development in chronological order as described by Sigmund Freud.
This stage occurs from birth to around the age of one year. As the name suggests, in this stage, a child tries to gratify his libidinal energy through his/her mouth by sucking, biting, chewing, etc. You would observe children putting everything in their mouth at this age, be it food, toys, or soil. Oral fixation has two possible outcomes. According to Freud, if a person is dissatisfied at this stage, he/she is characterized by pessimism, suspicion, and sarcasm and grows into an adult who reduces tension or anxiety through chewing gum or the ends of pens and pencil. Such a person is said have an oral receptive personality.
On the other hand, an overindulged person is known to have an oral aggressive personality, which is characterized by optimism, gullibility, hostility, etc. A normal person, with an oral passive personality is characterized by indulging in smoking, kissing, eating, oral sexual pleasures, etc.
This stage occurs between two to four years when a child starts toilet or potty training. According to Freud, the child becomes aware of his/her anus at this stage and tries to gratify this zone with retention or expulsion of the feces. Anal fixation may occur due to strictness showed by the child’s parents while toilet training, which can have two possible outcomes. The first can be a person with an oral retentive personality, which is characterized by stinginess, excessive tidiness, perfectionism, and stubbornness. The other possible outcome is an anal expulsive personality, which is defined by a lack of self control, carelessness, and messy behavior.
This stage occurs between four to six years of age when the erogenous zones of the body, i.e., the genitals, start developing. At this stage, children frequently indulge in playing with their genitals in order to explore them. How parents react to this behavior of their children decides the outcome of the fixation at this stage. According to Freud, boys and girls experience Oedipus complex at this stage and the boys suffer from castration anxiety.
According to Carl Gustav Jung, who did not agree with Freud about girls too experiencing the Oedipus complex, girls experience Electra conflict and suffer from a penis envy. According to Freud, a boy is more attracted towards his mother and the daughter is attracted towards her father at this stage, and both dislike the same-sex parent. It may be a stage when children idolize their parents, which Freud interpreted as sexual desire. This is one of the most debatable parts about this theory that is still discussed today.
This stage occurs from the age of six till puberty when children express no sexual feelings. According to Freud, children at this stage suppress their sexual energy and direct it towards asexual pursuits, such as, school, athletics, hobbies, social relationships, friendships with same-sex, etc. Fixation at this stage results into sexual unfulfillment in later life.
This stage occurs from puberty till death, which is also the period when children reach sexual maturity. How children explore and experiment their sexuality at this stage defines their adult behavior. Children with more resolved psychosexual development have greater capacity to develop normal relationships with opposite sex, whereas a fixation at this stage results into the child being frigid and impotent in later life, while also having unsatisfactory interpersonal relationships.
For better understanding, take a look at the following chart that would help you understand the stages in a glance.
|Oral Stage||0 – 1 years||A child derives pleasure through mouth by sucking, biting, and swallowing etc. Conflict arises when the oral needs of child are not met.|
|Anal Stage||2 – 4 years||Anus becomes the center of gratification as toilet training starts and the pleasure is derived by defecating or retaining faces.|
|Phallic Stage||4 – 6 years||Genitals become the center of gratification and children develop attraction towards the parent of opposite sex. Boys and girls suffer from Oedipus complex (according to Freud) and girls suffer from Electra complex (according to Carl Gustav Jung).|
|Latency Stage||6 years – puberty||No psychosexual development occurs in children. The libido is diverted towards asexual activities.|
|Genital Stage||Puberty – death||It is the puberty period when sexual urges reawaken that may lead to children exploring their sexuality.|
Freud’s theory states that a person’s development is completed by the time he/she reaches adulthood. Sexual experiences of individuals dominate their behavior throughout their life. However, this theory of psychosexual development was and is still criticized by experts due to its overemphasis on sexuality without any corroborative data. Instead, psychologists today believe that personality development is a continuous process that happens throughout life.