Gendered Constructions on Intimate Relationships in the 21st Century


Gendered Constructions on Intimate Relationships in the 21stCentury

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Gendered constructions of intimate relationships in the 21stcentury

In the 21st century, love can be defined as the drivingforce for an intimate relationship (Harrison &amp Shorthall, 2011).An intimate relationship can be defined as a relationship in whichthe two partners are romantically in love and so close to each otheremotionally to an extent that they openly share all their feelings.Romantic love justifies marriage and partnership and creates the needfor legal contracts two people either of the same sex or oppositesex. However, researchers such as Cancian (1986) and Duncombe &ampMarsden (1993) argue that women and men use different approaches inintimate opposite sex relationship. Such arguments are based ongender lines since gender, love and intimacy are connected. Thisessay aims to argue and provide an explanation as to why studies ofgendered constructions, which surround sexuality, are still relevantin the 21st century. Therefore, the discourse reviews thevarious studies on various ideas of love held by men and women inintimate relationships.

Gendered Constructions of love

The fact that gender diverse people have an easier and strongeraccess to support systems compared to earlier decades binaries havechanged to include gender identities that are far more broad andcomprehensive (Karantzas, Feeney &amp Wilkinson, 2010 Kimmel,2004). This consists but not limited to those who refer to themselvesas ‘queer’ or under the umbrella of LGBTQI labels(Renn, 2007). Despite all the positive changes in theprovision of new definitions and understanding, personalcharacteristics are still consigned within stereotypical masculine orfeminine connotations (Giorgi, &amp Giorgi, 2008). As Cancian pointsout, concepts of intimacy prioritize a perceived “feminine style”(1986). This can be viewed as a relationship between two people in asame-sex relationship where one’s ‘feminine’ main concern wouldbe to uphold the “real sharing of feelings” in addition to trueemotional susceptibility and dependency (Cancian, 1986). Throughlooking at this feminine style in relation to personality attributesrather than indicative of biological sex, gendered constructions canbe said to be still relevant to individuals, regardless of how theypinpoint themselves in relations of gender and sexual construction.It is by looking at gendered construction in spiritual terms andfiguratively, that their function can still be viewed relevant in the21st century.

In order for gendered construction to be viewed effectively, one mostisolate biological status as a direct indicator of feminine andmasculine personality attributes. It is relevant when analysinggender constructions to create a division between relevant terms.Aarseth (2009), points out that the first step when evaluatingsexuality issues is to distinguish between ‘sexuality’ and‘gender.’ The term gender has various definitions from theexisting literature. A general definition of gender is thesociological influences creating the approach in which culturedefines and constraints (Kimmel, 2004). On the other hand, sexstrictly refers to one’s biological status. The notion of sexrevolving around anatomical division “carries these suggestions ofan unchangeable division between men and women (Rostosky &ampRiggle, 2011). At the same time as these suggestions are consideredconcrete, there is a strong argument surrounding there being vastoverlaps in the attributes that each exhibits (Schreier &ampLassiter, 2010). These overlaps do not have to be seen as creatingconfusion surrounding gendered construction. To the contrary, theoverlaps serve, to summarize, the argument that males and femalesengage with variable attributes. Varying traits can be considered asincluding masculine and feminine connotations despite the biologicalsex of the person in question. It is through becoming less strictwith contemporary views of biological status in relation to masculineand feminine features that gender constructions can still beconsidered as relevant in the 21st century.

Being privy to the qualities that are allocated to various gendersuggestions gives an insight into believable miscommunications, whichcan occur within intimate relationships. As Cancian (1986) noted, afeminine style of feminine style of intimacy typically involves“admitting dependency, sharing problems and being emotionallyvulnerable.” Ryle, on the other hand, argued that a masculine styleof love being expressed “instrumentally” (Ryle, 2012).Instrumental love was contrasted with affectual love under Ryle’spoint of view, being more comparable to Cancian’s feminine views ofintimacy as surrounding constant communication and the revelation ofhow one feels. It is through the understanding of these differentfeminine and masculine ideals of the representation of love thatindividuals can benefit from and truly be contented within anintimate relationship (Stephenson &amp Sullivan, 2009).

The concepts of gender are now shown as encompassing a multitude ofindividuals who do not simply resonate with male or female labels(Duncan &amp Phillips, 2008). Rather than an obstacle, thisexpansion of terms can verify that gendered constructions of love arestill relevant in the 21st century. This can be perceivedas due to the introduction of the notion of what some researchers arereferring to as plastic sexuality. This term encompasses theacknowledgment that every individual has momentary experiences. Theseexperiences, which relate to both sexual orientation and identity,consist of various changeable traits that move between gender andconstructions. When gender constructions are perceived as separate tobiological sex, there is no problem in viewing their significance asimportant to the 21st-century individuals. As studies byDuncombe &amp Marsden (1993) suggest, women may experiencedissatisfaction at the lack of some male’s readiness to commit toupholding emotional tasks perceived as necessary to maintain anintimate relationship. When the term “woman” and “man” istaken from this example of a typical study, it becomes an indicatorof a common problem possessed in many deteriorating relationshipsbecause of miscommunication (Garcia &amp Markey, 2007). Despitethere being intrinsic masculine and feminine features in thisexample, biological status does not need to be taken as concrete tolearn the lesson the study highlights. All individuals possessmasculine and feminine qualities as ‘plastic sexuality’ placespeople’s orientation in states of flux. Therefore, because aheterosexual couple appears in a study does not simply dictate thelack of inclusion of same-sex couples. Same-sex relationships consistof individuals who have intrinsic masculine and feminine qualities.From biological status, people can perceive themselves as havingeither masculine or feminine traits. When studying genderedconstruction less in regards to people’s changing personalattributes, people can still see a purpose in the function thatgendered construction play in creating effective communication.

Miscommunication cannot only lead to dissatisfaction but thetermination of feelings of intimacy between partners. Withouteffective communication, couples cannot share their feelings. It isargued that dissatisfaction is possible to occur within thoserelationships in which the partners are seen to fail the other’sideas of what closeness involves (McCarthy, 2012). In order tosatisfy a partner’s personal ideas of what intimacy entails and howit is sustained one must realize the expectations of their partner(Parker, 2007). Such expectations can be made more easily reached bybeing privy to gendered constructions as two various styles of whatlove involves is articulated. In spite of biological sex, one canwitness gendered constructions as being relevant imminent into theways whereby which individuals can become disappointed withinintimate relationships.

Gendered Construction and sexuality

Sexuality rotates around the sexual behaviour of individuals. AsKontula and Haavio-Mannila (2009)argue, sexuality, namely sexual orientation can be defined by one’s“responsive to sexual stimuli.” Additionally, the two researcherspoint out that it is most easily identifiable by the sex of one’spartner. Sexuality becomes an intrinsic characteristic of masculinityand femininity as most look to their roles played within sexualrelationships to establish their perceivable masculine and femininetraits. Where self-disclosure of feelings is perceived feminineautonomy, independence and being withdrawn in a relationship toestablish their perceivable masculine and feminine traits. Whereself-disclosure of feelings is perceived as feminine autonomy,independence and being withdrawn in a relationship may be seen asmasculine (Cancian, 1987 Duncombe &amp Marsden, 1993).

A step towards clarity is whatAarseth call the uncoupling of the ideas of sexual orientationto sexual identity. As theorists promise to maintain thedifferentiation of terms (Aarseth, 2009 Duncan &amp Phillips,2008) Finkel, Eastwick &amp Matthews, 2007), there becomes a strongsense that gendered constructions of intimacy should become lesssignificant to the biological sex they relate to. What begins tooccur is that masculine and feminine attributes are seen as equallymagnificent and present within all individuals. Such characteristicsare present in such a manner that fluctuates. These attributes are inconstant motion and states of flux whereby a woman may aim to assertmore masculine qualities within herself to feel empowerment such as“higher agency in making personal choices” (Berzonsky et al.,2011). Gendered Constructions remain significant in so far are takento be representations of vacillations within people rather than astrict biological status.

Currently, the society people live in is full of struggles toarticulate how gender identity is shaped in relation to biologicalsex and sociological influences. With new gender identities cominginto awareness and insight into difficulties such as gender identitydisorders, it can be emphasized that gender has undergone majorchanges in terms of theoretical developments (Garcia &amp Markey,2007). This has not only been exemplified through the establishmentof professional organizations but in the way whereby which peoplestretch and push the limits of gender markers and groups (Berzonskyet al., 2011).

Currently, gender categories have been more formally recognized insocial media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. In the 21stcentury, sexuality has been opened up and made easily accessible tothe development of varying lifestyles (Duncan &amp Phillips, 2008).In terms of same-sex relationships, slogans such as ‘two-spiritpeople’ invented by Native-Americans covers a newly founded yetunknown conventional idea of sexuality(Renn, 2007). Not only does this phrase downplay theimportance of sexual orientation but it lays emphasis on thespiritual aspects of one’s life (Stephenson &amp Sullivan, 2009).It is through terms such as these that individuals can be persuadedto feel less pressure of definite grouping. Institutionalizations ofterms have the potential to teach individuals that genderedconstructions can serve to demonstrate sides of oneself. Terms suchas ‘two-spirit people’ can allow individuals to ceaseexperiencing “periods of self-interrogation or feelings ofsegregation (Finkel et al., 2007). This is being in favor of aharmonious balance in considering oneself as two-faced. Through beingat ease with knowing that one contains both genders in terms ofspirit, gendered construction can be seen as important to bothheterosexual and same-sex relationships.

Just because sexuality has become “a malleable feature of self”Kimmel, (2004), doesn’t mean gendered constructions of sexualitiesshould be deemed elementary. As gender identity refers to an internalsense of being male or female, or somewhere between the two ‘genderexpression’ can refer to all of the behaviors and characteristicsthat are “socially classified” as masculine or feminine (Schreier&amp Lassiter, 2010). Whilst it could be argued that new genderidentity categories have created bewilderment-surrounding categoriesthat have in the past been seen as only ‘male’ or ‘female’,it should serve to demonstrate that labels change within people’sexperiences (Harrison &amp Shorthall, 2011). Same-sex relationshipsconsist of two individuals continually changing roles in terms ofsubmissiveness and assertiveness. As Renn (2007) asserts, the ideathat same-sex couples assume the roles of typical ‘husband’ and‘wife’ is simply erroneous. In addition, the fallacy that suchrelationships are destined to failure because of the lack ofunambiguous gender dynamics is false (Parker, 2007). Parker furtherarticulates that adequate communication is extremely important inupholding an intimate and flourishing relationship. GenderedConstructions of intimacy can generate a structure for the furtherunderstanding of feminine and masculine dynamics at play within thesociety.

It is through less categorical views of gender that less pressure isexerted to conform to a specific gender identity role (Schreier &ampLassiter, 2010). Whilst studies conducted by Duncombe and Marsden(1993) discuss individuals with harsh perceptions of their genderidentity and sexuality, people can choose to review these studiesthrough a modern structure that is less factual and not in terms ofbiological sex. The females and males in the study were biologicallyas they appeared (Duncombe &amp Marsden, 1993). Rather thanindividuals viewing these participants as being a representation oftheir biological self, people can alter the focus. By perceivinggendered constructions as more figurative, it can be seen that peoplecan perceive the study participants as representatives of both‘spirits’ within humanity (Kimmel, 2004). Therefore, same-sexrelationships can be seen as being able to take benefit from suchstudies surrounding gendered constructions as the acknowledgement andformalization of individuals as spirits rather than binaries continueto be encouraged (Giorgi &amp Giorgi, 2008). When looked at throughthe view of a sociologically affirmed time of sexual variability,gendered construction can still be significant when viewed asmetaphorical rather than factual.

Contemporary gendered construction

Whilst new gender identities provide newfound considerations andsupport for individuals who do not simply perceive themselves ascorresponding to male or female, the matter of aspects pertaining tomasculine and feminine qualities persists (Karantzas et al., 2010). This can be seen as being regardless of whatever biological sex orgender identity an individual is born with and resonates. Withinpeople there exist masculine and feminine sides. In spite ofbiological sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation can beconsidered as in constant states of instability. With reference tosame-sex relationships, in particular, gender construction should beseen as operating in a more metaphorical structure. This frameworkconsists of the idea that individuals have spirits, which areconsidered as containing both masculine and feminine sides (Renn,2007). Advocating of viewing gendered construction less in terms ofbiological sex and more in terms of figurative personalcharacteristics creates addition for all individuals. This creates anewfound significance for the existence of gendered constructions. Itallows such constructions to act as an aid for the propercommunication of same-sex couples and serve as sufficient ideas ofthe representational different types of what intimacy involves.

Karantzas et al. (2010) agree that in the 21st century,men have the capability of relating intimately. The three researchersargue that couples are experiencing what is currently labeled as “atransformation of intimacy” that is promoting more equality in bothpersonal relations and the structural level. Society’s increasingobsession with bodies and sexuality account for this alteration ofintimacy and indicates a move toward what can be defined as purerelationship. According to McCarthy (2012), in the 21stcentury, gendered constructions are still relevant since women arestill the driving forces behind the changes being experienced inintimate relationships. In the current society, the widely sharedcultural belief is that both men and women want equality andintimacy. According to Duncombe &amp Marsden (1993), one of thegendered constructions is that women lack feelings of intimacy whenthey feel that men lack “emotional participation” in therelationship. According to these two researchers, women are irritatedwhen men intellectualize, but do not appear to experience emotion.This is a gendered construction of the past, which even in the 21stcentury remains a common problem in many heterosexual intimaterelationships. The analysis of emotional needs is gendered in thatmen’s emotional needs (for instance the emotive want tointellectualize) are reduced while women’s emotive desires arehighlighted. In addition, women’s needs are advantaged over thoseof men. McCarthy (2012) asserts that “Even in the 21stcentury, there is a benefitting of a precise way of connecting one“way” (the woman’s way) that is overlooked as better thatanother “way” (the man’s way.” Recent research also supportsthis argument by pointing that gendered construction still shape the21st intimate relations.


From the essay, it is quite clear that gendered constructions arestill relevant in the 21st century. With the improvingtechnology, gender diverse people have an easier and stronger accessto support systems compared to earlier decades binaries have changedto include gender identities that are far more broad andcomprehensive. In heterosexual intimate relations, women and men arestill struggling for equality in terms of intimacy. Women’semotions are still influenced by how the men remain committed andparticipative in their relationships. Miscommunication remains acommon problem that negatively affects intimate relationships in the21st century. Gendered Constructions revolve around howmen and women express themselves in intimate relations and this isstill very significant in the 21st century. It can,therefore, be concluded that gendered constructions are and willremain relevant in intimate heterosexual relations as long there aredifferences in how men and women express their emotions.


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