Sexuality and gender are social identities which arise from our interactions with people and therefore depend on social interactions and social recognition. They influence how people understand each other through relationships. The society is encompassed with several sets of expectations and norms that are associated with how men and women should behave. These factors directly link to the societal expectations which are never fixed but continue to be constructed and reinforced within the social, political and economic dynamics. The system of sexuality and gender persists in the society especially in US where sexuality and gender are broadly regulated by legislation with issues like gender pay inequality and consequent impacts like violence against women (Rosenblum and Toni 106). The Christian religion is an example of an institution that has with much effort tried to maintain the traditionally male-dominated system and continued to allow gender biases. The differing attitudes among people about the sexual status and acceptable sexual behavior are a phenomenon which has extended the issue of inequality, and this explains the contemporary trends of inequality.
Sexuality and social inequality
In the US and other developed countries, sexuality is based on individual terms which are the moral, medical, and psychological conditions. There has been a tendency of individualizing terms especially on mainstream media discourses, for example, sexual assault, sexual orientations, and STIs.There are various instances where a double standard and gender biases exist. One of them is in the sexual and reproductive health agenda. Therefore, the society is yet to account for the needs and purposes sex fulfills. Gender powered differentials have increasingly influenced sexual behaviors. An example is the assumptions of the society which imply that women and sex is not linked to pleasure while men do not associate sex with intimacy. Similarly, the issue of pleasure and sexual functioning has extended within the public health where women are expected to concentrate on the issue of contraceptive use than men. The health programs target the women to practice safe sex practices and although women do not wear male condoms, sometimes power imbalance may disable them from pressing their partners to use a condom. Due to their believed nature of valuing intimacy and loving desire for sex, they may end up withdrawing from negotiating the use of a condom with their partners. The consequences of unprotected sex through STI and unplanned pregnancy fall heavily on women as men give less concern to them. The society does not view it as the responsibility to prevent and deal with such consequences. This further explains why there are so many birth family planning methods used by women as compared to those used by men. This situation where women are given the burden and sexual responsibility is a real phenomenon that has been encouraged by practices within the reproductive health domain.
Another example is the American attitudes where it seems right for men to have many sexual partners but women are disgraced and called a slut on the same. In fact, men’s reputation is heightened from having many sex factors as women’s reputation is called into question. The notion that men are sex aggressors while women are submissive beings still lingers in the society today. This explains why sex harassment policies apply exclusively to males. There are usually rare cases of female sexual harassment and the ones seen rarely win. Sexual harassment is situated within broader patterns of privilege, discrimination, and power which link harassment to sex-based inequality. According to Wolf (56), the habit of men watching the girls is tied to particular gender relations in work places. Men clients and customers are often the intended audience of sexist gestures. Men view the habit of girl watching as light hearted and normal and sometimes playful, and they do not expect girls are taking offense in it.
Pornography has contributed to a great extend how women are viewed by the society. Pornography has entrenched the various forms of violence against women especially rape and domestic violence. Many feminist activists have revealed pornographic films and magazines to be playing a functional role encouraging sexual assault and exploitation of women. The feminist philosophers and legal theorists of 1980s argued the pornography could create a foundation for sexual assault against women because they communicate how women can be violated and degraded. Pornography portrays how men and women participate in sexual pleasures that try to treat women as less human. The nature of pornography requires that women should be subordinate and submissive to sexual pleasures of men and act like instruments which they can use to satisfy their sexual desires. Pornography is a form of a victim and abuser roles in sexual activities. It represents sexual assaults forced on women, and they are sold only to impact the same assault and be applied in other real women. It promoter’s rights violations to everyone from its consumers to the people that produce it, and it has been made accepted by the society as a form of business.
Prostitution is another issue that is highly gendered with the majority of the people trafficking for sexual exploitation been women and girls. In most cases, women and girls sell their bodies from either coercion or consent from man or boy who pays for the service. Prostitution is a clear activity of social inequality, but the efforts to eradicate it are suppressed by varying attitudes towards it. Some advocates including some women theorist put emphasis that prostitution displays the women’s self-determinations and their willingness to use their body to make a living and therefore it is their right which should be protected. Others focus on the view that women’s bodies are treated as objects where men can fulfill their sexual desires whenever they fell like. Prostitution includes a factor of vulnerability and constitutes a particular from of violence against women. Women and girls have been classified as sexual assets which explain the many cases of abduction of women .Women get sexually exploited, children are trapped through enticements, and others are taken advantage of their vulnerability. The majority of women face economic insecurities who are forced to go beyond limits to take care of their lives and fulfill responsibility to their families. Of all the trafficking cases around the world, it has been estimated that women who are trafficked for sexual exploitation account for 58%.In that case that the UN Special Rapporteur who deals with Trafficking of persons once stated “for the most part, prostitution as actually practiced in the world does not satisfy the elements of trafficking (…).Thus, States Parties with legalized prostitution industries have a heavy responsibility to ensure(…) that their legalized prostitution regimes are not simply perpetuating widespread and systematics trafficking. As the conditions throughout the world attest, States Parties that maintain legalized prostitution are far from satisfying this obligation” (Oppenheimer 112).
Sexuality and social inequality in America take many forms. In political participation, there is still the dominance of male factor. Women rarely get endorsed and acquire the political positions, and when they do, they mostly hold minor positions. The political scientists point out the women responsibilities at home based on societal expectations as the contributing factor that keeps women away from politics. Another factor is the fact that women are viewed as members of demographic groups that should not engage in politics and they are socialized to reject and ignore political interests.
Legislative practices have created a worst case scenario of inequality in America. The overall nation’s treatment of women does not portray a positive picture. The US policies and attitudes portray gender inequality and still treat women as less humans in the society. An example is gender pay inequality, and the gap continues to increase as revealed by The World Economic Forum in 2015.The Global Gender Gap then stood at 64%. From the figure, women earned about 2/3 of what men earned for similar work. The slow pace by which the gender gap narrows means that what women earn today is equivalent to what men earned a decade ago. Women lag behind economic growth with their living standards remaining poor. Another example is the unpaid maternity leave. The U.S and Papua New Guinea and do not consider paid time off for new months. As the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 stipulate, women who work in companies consisting of at least 50 employees must be given three months’ time off following birth but that time is not entitled to remuneration. Just very few companies pay their employee maternity or paternity leave. The roles of women in the society are have been used against the in accessing a stable financial life while men remain to be highest income earners and the most stable gender.
How economic disparity impacts violence against women
According to studies by WHO, violence against women has been the most widespread and persistent violation against humans in the world. According to the 2013 study, it was found out that at least one in every three women experience a physical or sexual violation once in their lifetime committed by a person they know. Many women experience these violations at home and mostly they are committed by their intimate partners. This form of violence is caused by differences in the socio-economic status which include education, income, and occupation. The differences are associated with the historical and structural power imbalances between men and women. Economic stress consequences mostly fall on women due to the discriminating system that impacts their financial status. The low financial status experienced by women when compared to men is a real phenomenon found in America as revealed by many researchers. This phenomenon tends to make women inferior beings which make them vulnerable to violence.
In America and around the world, women bear the brand of financial insecurity and are often found struggling to make ends meet in a culture that treats issues like violence, class, and gender so disproportionately. When these disadvantages are incorporated with the cultural myths that encourage blame for being poor, women find some life situations unfairly falling on to them The economy is usually structured in a way that limits the ability of a poor person from developing and poor folks most of them women suffer a lot from systematic exploitation including domestic violence. Statistics estimate the population of women living in poverty as 1.18 million in America with 18 million women living below the poverty line. The situation further heightens the male dominance giving men power and control in which they try to exercise it by battering their women. If women remain to be economically disadvantaged, they will never gain the power to bargain how they should be treated, and that is why many domestic violence victims remain in the abusive relationship and are forced to be submissive so that their families can receive full financial support from the male partners.
According to United Nations report on socio-economic status, women represented the biggest population staggering in poverty. There basic needs have not been adequately addressed by policies at all levels inclining national, local and international levels. Women continue working under harsh environmental conditions where discrimination is so rampant. The underlying social-economic and cultural factors have precipitated inequality and discrimination had made women more vulnerable to exploitation. According to Lindsey (275), a decrease in wage gap has had positive impacts as it has contributed to the reducing women violence. Violence against women, especially by intimate partners is widely practiced to poor women. An economic theory of household bargaining explains the phenomenon and states that the increase in the woman’s relative wage is likely to increase her bargaining power and reduce violence because of an outside option she gains. Men will less likely harm them either physically or emotionally because they know women do not have to tolerate them, they have the power and ability to be independent. The theory implying that increase in women’s financial independence increase violence due to challenged culturally prescribed male dominance and female dependence is problematic because it ignores the fact that as women independence increase they are likely to withdraw from abusive relationships. If men express their overtaken traditional roles through violence, women on the other hand empress their revolutionized status.
The extensive research done on domestic violence by sociologist and criminologist have developed a theory of impacts of exposure reduction. The theory posits that when partners spend more time together, there are chances of disagreements and misunderstanding that result into domestic violence. Increase of employment among women or men reduces the time the partners spend together with more time spend at work and this reduces cases of violence
America’s number of women workforce lag behind other developed countries. America ranks last on the list of 20 industrialized countries regarding family leave, alternative work arrangements, and part-time employment terms. American women work extremely hard to pay bills and take care of their families. The employers make it hard for women to juggle work and family obligations. There exist dangers of losing a job or promotion in cases of illness, pregnancy and taking off time to take care of children. If these cases cause a woman to lose a job, she is forced to be a stay at home mom and be dependent on her husband or find other alternatives that mostly are lower positions. The wage gap persists to reduce because of such reasons and violence against women continue to be practiced most by domestic partners who end up mistreating women because they are dependent on them with the notion they cannot do without them. Other may feel burdened and express their financial frustrations through violence. The 2007 economic depression is a good example of how women can be exposed to domestic violence in times of financial stress because their male partners start viewing them as burdens by putting the blame on them. During the recession, the domestic violence agencies reported increasing cases of women who called for help from violence from their male partners. To make the matters worse, during the economic recovery women lost jobs as men found them and the result was increased unemployment rate among women by 0.2% points as the unemployment rate for men fell by 1.1% points (Chowdhury, Anis, Iyanatul, and Donald 234). Women lag behind in the economic status, and this disparity exposes them to the contemporary issues including violence against women.
The traditional societal expectations and classifications of women versus men role persist in our society today regardless of so many efforts to eradicate them to swipe out its negative effects. The slow reformation of the society will keep issues like income inequality, women exploitation, and violence against women, sexual harassment, and discrimination prevailing. It is upon every individual, institution and government body to take initiatives that change the negative attitudes towards women and give women the same rights as men. Focus should also be shifted on women’s financial needs and ensure the economic conditions accommodate them and give them same benefits as men, the key is completely closing the income gap and giving women same treatment as men.
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