Sexual Assault Awareness Month: gender norms

Published 3:02 pm Friday, April 20, 2012

Editor’s note: In observance of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Steps to HOPE has submitted several articles on related topics during April. The following is the third of these articles.
Gender norms are a set of “rules” or ideas about how each gender should behave, determined by a culture or society rather than biology. For example, women are not necessarily better than men at doing housework but often are expected to perform those tasks. Gender norms can be very different from one culture to another. What may be acceptable behavior for a male in one culture may be unacceptable in another. Gender norms impact sexuality.
How could healthier, less restrictive gender norms create healthier sexual interactions?
• Improve communication. Less restrictive gender norms would allow for individuals to express themselves more freely and assertively. Communication in relationships and sexual interactions would likely improve.
• Improve body image and self-esteem. Gender norms that allow for various body types and ideas of attractiveness would allow individuals to feel good about themselves and how they look.
• Eliminate double standards. Less restrictive gender norms would allow for a fair and equal view of sexuality, not one that is split by gender. Women would be free to enjoy their sexuality just like men.
• Provide balance and respectful sexual behavior. It is important that all genders behave in a way that respects the rights of others. Behavior should be assertive, not aggressive.
• Lessen sexual risks. If all genders are taught to be assertive and communicate around issues of sexuality and sexual health, the result is likely to be more safe and consensual sexual interactions.
• Support LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning) individuals. If gender norms were less limiting, bullying would likely decrease. Everyone deserves the freedom to be who they are and be treated with respect.
For more information, visit or call Steps to HOPE at 894-2340.
– article submitted by Debra Backus, Steps to HOPE

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