Anthropology of Sex and Gender

Fall 2005






Required Textbooks:


1.     E. Babatunde, Women's Rights vs. Women's Rites: A Study of Circumcision among the Ketu Yoruba of South Western Nigeria. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press. 1998.

2.     P.J. Caplan & J. B. Caplan, Thinking Critically about Research on Sex and Gender. NY: Harper Collins. 1994.

3.     R.B. Felson, Violence & Gender Reexamined.  Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association. 2002.

4.     S. Nanda, Neither Man nor Woman: The Hijras of India. Wadsworth Publishing Co., 1999.

5.     A. Young, Women Who Become Men: Albanian Sworn Virgins. Oxford University Press, 2000.



Recommended Books:


1.     E. Friedl, Women and Men: An Anthropologist's View.  Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press. 1994.

2.     D. Brazil, No Money! No Honey! A Candid Look at Sex-for-Sale in Singapore. Singapore: Angsana Books. 1998.




  Remember Mom on Mother's Day



Course Description:


This course is primarily concerned with understanding and explaining the differences in gender-related behavior that exist among various human societies and that have existed throughout time.  The criteria used for defining being a man or woman varies dramatically from one society to the next, and even within the same society through time.  The role of men and women in American society, for example, has changed sharply in the past 40 years, more so in some socioeconomic groups than in others.  Changes in gender roles have, likewise, occurred in many other societies, both today and in the past.  Moreover, many human societies recognize 'Third Genders" (i.e., neither man nor woman) that are not recognized in the U.S. or in other Western countries.  A cross-cultural study of the variation that exists in the very definition of sex and gender categories, as well as in the behavior associated with specific individuals within those categories, raises a number of significant and provocative questions about the nature of gender-related behavior and about our society's views regarding sex and gender.  What does this variation have to say, for example, about the biological vs. social basis of gender-related behavior, including homosexual vs. heterosexual behavior?  What does the variation say about commonly accepted beliefs about gender-related behavior in American society?  Many people believe, for example, that men are inherently more aggressive and violent than women and that women are naturally more nurturing than men?  Are these beliefs supported by research, or are they merely stereotypes created by the traditional structure of gender relations in American society?  This course will explore these and other related issues by examining the difference between sex and gender in various societies.  This distinction will perhaps be most clearly highlighted by examining the various forms of sexuality that exist in human societies.


The course begins by distinguishing between sex and gender and by questioning the biological basis of gender-related behaviors.  We will explore both empirical and methodological issues surrounding attempts to assign a relative importance to biological factors in determining gender identity or in explaining gender-related behavior.  We will then examine the social construction of gender in various societies, including in the contemporary U.S.  "Third Gender" (or trans-gender) groups or subcultures that highlight this construction will be explored in some detail.  These will include the Berdache (Two Spirits) among Native Americans, the Hijras of northern India, Fa'fafines in Samoa and Sworn Albanian Virgins in Kosovo.


The course will adopt an explicit materialist, scientific approach to the study of gender-related behavior. Once we explore the variety of socially constructed gender categories and behavior, the course will turn to a consideration of the analytical and methodological requirements that need to be considered before the topic of gender-related behavior can be approached scientifically.  The course will then apply a theoretical model that will attempt to systematically explain variation in gender-related behavior across human societies.  Focusing on the cost/benefit implications of different individual and group-related adaptive behaviors, the model will emphasize the role that basic ecological and economic processes play in determining the organization of human societies, including the effect they have on power relations in society.  The course will then explore the implications that differential power relations have for understanding the pattern of gender relations and the construction of gender categories and identities that exists in various societies, be they hunter-gatherer, horticultural, agricultural or industrial.  In the process, the course will cover gender-related issues surrounding division of labor, occupational structure, marriage rules, family size, domestic organization, fertility and family planning, class and ethnic stratification, as well as social rituals and religious beliefs and practices.



Teaching Methods:

A variety of teaching techniques will be used throughout the course, including lectures, class discussions, small-group discussions, films, and out-of-class assignments. In addition, reading assignments will be given in the form of handouts distributed in class, Internet sites, email messages and both articles and videos placed on reserve in the Trexler Library. These different sources of information and methods of teaching are used to complement and reinforce each other in order to increase the depth and the scope of the student's understanding of the material included within the course. All such material will be considered required reading and will potentially be included on examinations.




The following procedures will be used to arrive at a student's final grade in this course:


1.    Mid-Term Exam (multiple-choice) 

2.    Final Exam (comprehensive, multiple-choice)

3.    Book Review

4.    Research Paper

5.    Class Participation








Essays and Research Papers:

1.     Each student will submit a critical evaluation of  Richard Felson's book, Gender and Violence Reexamined.  In this essay (see research essay), the student will be expected to: (a) succinctly state the thesis of Dr. Felson's book; (b) summarize the argument presented by him; (c) describe the principal examples and/or data that he uses to support his thesis; and (d) critically evaluate his book in terms of both the methodological issues raised within the course and available empirical research. 


2.     Each student will complete a 15 page research paper (3000-4000 words) examining an issue related to the anthropology of sex and gender. 


3.     Students are encouraged to meet regularly with the instructor to discuss the progress of his or her paper.  Frequent consultations can only help to improve the quality of both the final paper --and, thus, the grade that it will receive.


4.     Although the primary concern will be with the quality of the ideas and analysis presented, both the book report and the research paper will be evaluated in terms of their originality, organization and clarity, and in terms of their adherence to accepted writing standards.  Papers must be typed clearly and legibly. They must also be organized, grammatically correct and free from spelling errors.  papers must, therefore, be carefully proof read before they are submitted.  A sloppy and poorly written report will not receive as high a grade as a comparable report which is neat and clearly written, which expresses a coherent theme, and which contains few spelling and grammatical errors.  Having an idea that you cannot express clearly and concisely is little better than not having the idea at all.  Developing good writing skills is, thus, very important.  Students are, therefore, strongly advised to meet with the social science reference librarian and to visit the Campus Writing Center several times during the course of writing their papers!  Students who have not done this in my previous classes, have generally written substandard papers and received less than satisfactory grades.


5.     Research papers must be based on scholarly sources.  Internet sources, except in rare instances, are NOT considered valid sources.  The student should use the reading material assigned in class and class presentations as a guide to the kind of research that is expected.


6.     Students writing research papers will need to obtain research materials that are not available in the Trexler Library in order to complete a satisfactory paper. This will necessitate either travel to other libraries in the Lehigh Valley or extensive use of Interlibrary Loan services through the Trexler Library. Students should be aware that obtaining research materials through Interlibrary Loan may take several weeks and should, therefore, start their research papers as soon as possible.  Not receiving adequate sources in time to analyze your subject and write your paper will seriously affect the quality of the paper you submit and the grade your paper receives.


7.    The following schedule will be followed in completing the research paper. Grades will be calculated for each stage in the production of the research paper and will be combined to calculate the overall grade for a student's research paper.



 September 21:

November 2:

November 9:

December 2:

Research paper topic due

Annotated bibliography due.

First draft of research paper due.

Final revised copy of research paper due



Grading Policy:


1.     All written material submitted as part of the requirements for the class MUST be typed, free of typing and grammatical errors and properly referenced.  Handwritten materials and materials that are sloppily done will NOT be accepted.


2.    All assignments and examinations must be completed or taken at the time scheduled.  Late essays will only be accepted and make-up tests will only be given in the event of an emergency and will receive a 10-point reduction in grade for each day they are late (i.e., a score of 80 on a make-up test will be recorded as a 70, 60, 50, etc.). (Printer dysfunction is NOT a valid excuse for a late paper.  It shows that the student waited until the very last minute to complete  an assignment.)  Similarly, incomplete course grades  will be reduced by 10 points when they are completed.  The grade on any exam not taken or assignment not completed will be zero. Plagiarized assignments will also receive a grade of zero.


3.     Plagiarism constitutes a violation of the Academic Behavior Code and will be dealt with VERY STRICTLY. The Sociology and Anthropology Department treats plagiarism cases very seriously.  Depending on the nature of the plagiarism, a student could receive a failing grade for the course; be referred to the Dean's Office for judicial review; and have a "VF" (violation of Academic Behavior Code) grade entered on their transcripts.  If a student is in doubt about a specific situation, it is his or her responsibility to consult the instructor or some other appropriate person (such as a librarian or writing tutor) for clarification.


4.      Attendance will not be taken, but absence from class is NOT an acceptable excuse for a student's failure to complete an assignment or examination.  It is the student's responsibility to obtain the necessary information on days that he or she misses class.  In addition, a student who regularly misses class cannot expect special consideration in the event of poor grades.


5.     In the final analysis, responsibility for completing all course requirements rests with the student. If the student has any doubt on any matter regarding the course, he or she should contact the instructor BEFORE the problem becomes insurmountable. One of the benefits of the small size of the Muhlenberg Campus is the potential that exist for easy faculty-student contact.





Additional Comment:

Students frequently approach social science classes with preconceived ideas about the subject matter to be covered.  Due to the familiar nature of some of the topics and issues discussed, students often rely on socially acquired concepts and explanations, many of which are
simplistic and ethnocentric. Sociology and anthropology offer specific concepts and methods of social analysis. Students are expected to learn these concepts and methods and to apply them to the material covered in the course.









                      READING ASSIGNMENTS*

8-31 thru 10-5

  Sex vs. Gender

"Adultery is the application of democracy to love."

--H.L. Menken






India's Hijras Demand Rights

(see related articles)




*   *   *





Male or Female?





1.     Money, The Adam Principle. Chapters 1 & 15.  (R)

2.    Williams, "Seafarers, Cowboys and Indians: Male Marriage in Fringe Societies on the Anglo-American Frontier." (R)

3.    Gallagher, "Gay for the Thrill of It." (R)

4.   Fausto-Sterling, "The Five Sexes: Why Male and Female Are Not Enough."  (R)

5.    Fausto-Sterling, "Two Sexes Are Not Enough"

6.    Burr, "Homosexuality and Biology." (R)

7.    Herdt, "Cross-Cultural Forms of Homosexuality and the Concept of Gay."  (R)

8.    Harris, "Why Homosexuality," in Our Kind, pp.235-250.  (R)

9.    Brown, Paris is Burning.


  Films:  "Paris Is Burning"

"Paradise Bent"



*   *   *


10 Levy, "The Community Function of Tahitian Male Transvestitism: A Hypothesis." (R)

11.  Hill, "The Status of the Hermaphrodite and Transvestite in Navaho Culture." (R)

12.  Pinker, "Men and Women." (R)

13.  Lancaster, "A Feminist and Evolutionary Biologist Looks at Women." (R)

14.  Akst, Looks Do Matter.

15.  Imperato-McGinley "Steroid 5x-Reductase Deficiency in man: An Inherited Form of Male Pseudohermaphroditism" (R)

16.  Herdt, "Mistaken Gender: 5-Alpha Reductase Hermaphroditism and Biological Reductionism in Sexual Identity Reconsidered."  (R)


Film:  "Fight to Be Male"



*   *   *   *   *


17.  Nanda, Neither Man nor Woman.


Film:    "Bombay Eunuch"


*   *   *   *   *


18.  Young, Women Who Become Men.


Film:    "Pashke and Sofia"


*   *   *   *   *
























10-12 & 10-19   

Thinking Critically about Sex and Gender

"Suicide is a belated acquiescence in the opinion of one's wife's relatives."    --H.L. Menken




Sisters Unite!



"There are more methodological problems in regards to the study of cognitive sex differences and sex differences in general than there are actual sex differences."

 --Dr. Carolyn N. Jaklin





Occam's Razor




"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."  

--Carl Sagan






Bread Is Dangerous !










3.    Seligman, The Science of Self Preservation.


*     *     *


4.     Gardner, "The False Memory Syndrome." (R)

6.     Jones, "Effacing the Male: Gender, Misrepresen-tation, and Exclusion in the Kosovo War."

7.     Punjab Rape and Indian Hanging

8.     Kuczynsky, 'Arm Candy': One Night Stun.



*     *     *


9.     Kuznar, "Introduction" & "Anthropological Science" in Reclaiming a Scientific Anthropology. (R)

10.     Lastrucci, "What Science Is." (R)

*     *     *


15.     Jaklin, "Methodological Problems Associated with Assessing Sex Differences in Behavior."  (audio tape) (R)

16.     Abruzzi, On Gender Difference Research.

17.     Caplan & Caplan, Thinking Critically about Research on Sex and Gender, Chapters 1-5.



*     *     *


"When the search for truth is confused with political advocacy, the pursuit of knowledge is reduced to the quest for power."

--Alston Chase





Taliban War on Women



*     *     *





Prominent Women in Politics




 Urban Legends Reference Page







Does military service represent gender discrimination against men?  Only men must register for the selective service, and only men have ever been drafted against their will and required to risk their lives and even die for their country.  According to Department of Defense records, 58,185 men died in combat in Vietnam, compared to only 8 women, and as of 6-26-05 1,695 men have died in combat in Iraq compared to only 39 women.





"Every 15 seconds, in the United States . . . someone comes up with a bogus statistic."

--Richard B. Felson





French Hyundai Advertisement




*     *     *     *     *






10-26 & 11-2

Males, Females, Violence and Aggression

"When women kiss it always reminds one of prize-fighters shaking hands."     --H.L. Menken


*     *     *


Armed Iraqi women assembled in Tikrit

to demonstrate their readiness for a possible war.

*     *     *



"What's the point of having this superior military you're always talking about if we can't use it?"

 --Madeleine Albright (former Secretary of State) to Colin Powell (former Secretary of Defense).




"In politics, if you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman." 

--Margaret Thatcher


1.     Felson, Violence and Gender Reexamined.


*   *   *

NOTE:  Readings 2-10 are not required readings, but are included to assist you in writing your review of Richard Felson's book.


*   *   *


2.     Renzetti and Miley, "Violence in Gay and Lesbian Domestic Partnerships. " (R)

3.     Lobel, “Naming the Violence: Speaking Out about Lesbian Battering.”(R)

4.     McNeely & Robinson-Simpson, "The Truth about Domestic Violence: A Falsely Framed Issue." (R)

5.     Dobash,, “The Myth of Symmetry in Marital Violence.” (R)

7.     Isely, "Sexual Assault of Men: College-Age Victims."  (R)

8.     Gross, "Husband Battering"  (R)

9.     Flood, Claims about Husband Battering.

10.     Lisa Lipshires, Female Perpetration of Child Sexual Abuse: An Overview of the Problem.


*     *     *


11.     Pearson, "Girls Will Be Girls." (R)

12.     Niethammer, "Women and War."  (R)

13.    Medicine, "Warrior Women: Sex role Alternatives for Plains Indian Women." (R)

14.     Klein, "The Political Economy of Gender: A 19th Century Plains Indian Case Study." (R)

15.     Wishart, "The Roles and Status of Men and Women in Nineteenth Century Omaha and Payee Societies: Postmodernist Uncertainties and Empirical Evidence." (R)





*     *     *



Statistics on Domestic Violence


Between 1976 and 1996, 64 percent of female intimate partner victims were killed by their husbands, 5 percent by ex-husbands and 32 percent by partners/boyfriends. Of male victims, 62 percent were killed by their wives, 4 percent by ex-wives and 34 percent by partners/girlfriends. From 1976 to 1996 31,260 women and 20,311 men were murdered by an intimate partner.

The National Violence Against Women Survey (1998) reported that the annual rate of intimate partner assaults was 44.2 per 1,000 women and 31.5 per 1,000 men.

Approximately 6 percent of violent chronic criminals account for about 70 percent of all violent crime in America.  . . .  Similarly, in a National Institute of Justice report on intimate partner violence, 8 percent of victims of domestic violence reported repeat victimization that accounted for more than 82 percent of the 9,000 incidents studied.

SOURCE:  Richard Davis, Domestic Violence: On the Front Lines.



*     *     *


Domestic Violence in Gay and Lesbian Partnerships


•    46% of gay and lesbians reported using physical aggression for conflict resolution with their partners. (Kelly & Warshafsky 1986)


    25% of lesbians surveyed reported that they had been physically abused by their lesbian partners. (Brand & Kidd 1986)


    Of  90 lesbian couples surveyed, 46% experienced “repeated acts of violence in their relationships.” (Coleman 1990)


    26% of lesbians reported physical, sexual and emotional abuse in their current same-sex relationship. Reyes (1991)


    22-46% of all lesbians have been in a physically  violent, same-sex relationship. (Renzetti 1996)



*     *     *








How to Check for Testicular Cancer





  Gender: A Theoretical Model

"The most effective way to remember your wife's birthday is to forget it once."  --anon.






1.     Friedl,  "Introduction" and Chapter 1, Women and Men: An Anthropologist's View. (R)

2.     Harris, "Gender Hierarchies". (R)

3.     Nerlove, "Women's Workload and Infant Feeding Practices: A Relationship with Demographic Implications."  (R)

4.     Schlegel & Barry, "The Cultural Consequences of Female Contribution to Subsistence." (R)

5.     Hayden, "Ecological Determinants of Women's Status among Hunter/Gatherers." (R)

6.     Benderly, "Rape Free or Rape Prone." (R)



*   *   *   *   *




Now you know why they call it

the "WHY?" Chromosome!





Men, Women and Labor

"Never go to bed mad. Stay up and fight."  --Phyllis Diller





"I recently read that love is entirely a matter of chemistry. That must be why my wife treats me like toxic waste."  --David Bissonette






Why Women Live Longer than Men



1    Kolata, "!Kung Hunter-Gatherers: Feminism, Diet, and Birth Control." (R)

2.     Lee,  “Population Growth and the Beginnings of Sedentary Life among the !Kung Bushmen.” (R)

3.     Baily and Aunger,  "Net Hunters vs. Archers:  Variation in Women's Subsistence Strategies in the Ituri Forest." (R)

4.     Peacock, "The Mbuti of Northeast Zaire: Women and Subsistence Exchange." Cultural Survival Quarterly.

5.     Brown, "Economic Organization and the Position of Women among the Iroquois." (R)

*   *   *


6.     Hersch and Stratton, "Housework and Wages." The Journal of Human Resources (2002) (see Wilson Web).

7.     Belkin, The Opt-Out Revolution.












Gender, Marriage and Family

"I was married by a judge. I should have asked for a jury."   --George Burns



A young Dobe Ju'hoansi woman nearing the age of marriage.





"Marriage is a great institution, but who wants to live in an institution?" --Katharine Hepburn





1.     Goldstein, "When Brothers Share a Wife" (R)

2.     Cronk, "Parental Favoritism towards Daughters," (R)

3.     Fong, "China's One-Child Policy and the Empowerment of Urban Daughters." (R)

4.     Kishor, "'May God Give Sons to All': Gender and Child Mortality in India", American Sociological Review.

5.     Balikci, "Female Infanticide and Marriage." in The Netsilik Eskimo. (R)







Women need a reason to have sex.  Men just need a place."  --Billy Crystal












1.     Brazil, No Money! No Honey! (R)

3.     Benthall, "The Anthropology of Tourism"

4.     Iyer, "Thailand: Love in a Duty-Free Zone." in Video Night in Kathmandu (R)

5.     Hausbeck & Brents, "Inside Nevada's Brothel Industry." (R)


Film:  Hunt's Point



Dutch Prostitute






Prostitution at Pompeii







*   *   *







Circumcision, Subincision and Other Forms of Ritualized Genital Surgery

"Men are like mascara. They usually run at the first sign of emotion."   --anon.


The Circumcision of Jesus






1.     Abruzzi (ed.), Circumcision, Subincision and Other Forms of Genital Surgery. (R)


a.    Saitoti, "The Initiation of a Maasai Warrior."

b.    Sillah, "Buntu Trap."

c.   Mary Daly, "African Genital Mutilation: The Unspeakable Atrocities" in Gynecology .

d.   Gollaher, "From Ritual to Science: The Medical Transformation of Circumcision in America."  Journal of Social History 

e.  Brown, "A Cross-Cultural Study of Female Initiation Rites." American Anthropologist.

2.     Abruzzi, Circumcision.

3.     Babatunde, Women's Rights vs. Women's Rites.


Maasai Association: Rituals and Ceremonies


Male Circumcision (Africa)


Male Circumcision (U.S.)










*     *     *     *     *



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