The terms ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ are sometimes used interchangeably because they are closely linked. However, it is important to note that these two terms are not synonyms, and should therefore not be used interchangeably in most of the cases. The term sex refers to the natural biological characteristics that identify an individual as either male or female, particularly based on the differences in the organs directly related to the reproduction function. Changing one’s sex is difficult because it is biologically determined. Conversely, the term gender refers to those differences between sexes (male and female) that are culturally or socially constructed or defined. Therefore, gender refers to the social differences between males and females as determined appropriate by a particular society. While sex as a biological difference is universal in nature, gender as a social difference between the sexes can vary through different times in history. Since gender is culturally and socially constructed, it is often evident through the differences in attitudes and behaviors. Thus, gender identity can be viewed as a product of the socialization process, rather than biology. Therefore, it is evident that sex is biologically determined, while gender is socially constructed.
Biology and socialization have significantly influenced the formation of sexual behavior and gender identity in the modern western society. The contribution of biology to sexual behavior is largely linked to hormones and brain differences. For instance, the androgen hormones in males have been closely linked to their aggressive sexual behavior such as having multiple sexual partners. The perception that men are naturally more assert and aggressive in sexual relationships than women has been attributed to their higher levels of hormone testosterone. Secondly, the men’s natural massive bones and muscles have been blamed for the higher rates of sexual violence perpetrated by men against women. The socialization process has also influenced the formation of sexual behavior and gender identity significantly. For instance, the western society’s perception that sexual orientation is an individual choice that should be respected has increasingly encouraged homosexuality and bisexuality sexual orientation in a significant proportion of its population. This is evident through the increasing popularity of same-sex relationships and marriages. The gender identity of individuals in the modern western society has also been influenced considerably by its socialization process. For instance, its higher degree of flexibility when it comes to performing gender roles has made both men and women assume feminine and masculine roles without compromising their gender identity. The emphasis on gender equality in the western socialization process has strived to ensure equal enrollment in occupations that were traditionally restricted to men and women only. For example, more women are joining the security forces traditionally dominated by men and more men are joining the nursing profession that was dominated by women. It has enabled individuals to identify with roles that are opposite of their biological sex without facing much or any discrimination. These individuals are normally called the transgender. Some of the transgender individuals have altered the biological characteristics of their bodies through medical interventions, for instance, surgery and/or hormonal therapy, in order to better align their physical being with their gender identity. Other individuals that are unwilling to alter their physical bodies to align them with their gender identity often resort to other strategies, for example, adopting dressing code, hairstyles, and even manners that are unique to individuals of the opposite sex. Therefore, while it is evident biology influences the formation of sexual behaviors through physical appearance and the release of sex specific hormones, socialization is influencing gender identity and sexual behavior through individual self-perception and peer/social pressure.