Social Sex is the more accurate term for the concept that most people just call Gender.
There is a reason to use it beyond accuracy, however: people readily and easily conflate sex and gender, and this is especially true when dealing with people who are ciscentric and hostile towards transcentric thought and ideas. By using the term social sex (which takes a few more letters and a space bar hit), it is possible to push the discourse into the proper view, and it also highlights the nature of the division between gender and sex in a way that laymen can grasp, as well as reducing the ambiguity of terminology that using the term gender brings.
Social Sex is not a singular thing. It is a mélange of elements and pieces and parts and it is deeply embedded into the culture it is part of. Social Sex varies from culture to culture, and there are no universal aspects of Social Sex.
Social Sex is tied not merely to language, but also to deep aspects that govern the way relationships are allowed to form in a culture — stuff from friendships to marriage, Social Sex affects it all. A phrase often used by many is that Family is the building block of society. It’s true, too. The building block of Family is kinship — marriage and the ties that create family; relationships developed between people and governed by social rules of interaction.
The building blocks of the rules that govern those relationships are grounded in a culture’s Social Sex. It lies at a part so deep in a culture that a change to it truly does change the culture itself in a markedly dramatic way.
That depth is why sexism is so hard to root out and so pervasive on our thoughts, and why language is tied into the concept, and it even affects the very *idea* of sexual orientation at a level that no one really saw when Kinsey was doing his report.
Most people experience Social Sex as a singularity because it can be difficult to see it otherwise unless you are, in some way, different in your way of dealing with Social Sex than is readily apparent in your culture.
Social Sex is always social. It is always a matter of how other people see you. This is because Social Sex is what you have when you do not see the flesh – sex is two naked bodies on a table, Social Sex is everything else. Social Sex is not about male or female, it is about man or woman, boy or girl.
These three factors all work together, depending on each other and enforcing each other, and its a very strong, very basic level of understanding. Our Social Sex Identity informs our ability to see the difference between what clothing is ours and which clothing goes to the opposite sex. Our Social Sex Expression informs which clothing we choose and how we show the world we are fertile or a good potential partner. Our Social Sex Role is reliant on the other two for our choices in cultural occupation and involvement according to the rules of our particular society.
Those rules can vary. What is masculine in one culture can be feminine in another. Those rules are often unspoken, but we learn them from the time we are born and begin to understand the world around us until we die — as just as a culture evolves and changes, so do the roles and the manners of expression.
Hence the idea that Social Sex is “not real” — it is an intangible thing that cannot be touched, cannot be seen. It’s like emotions — they are there, and now that we know the words for them, we can label them and identify them and describe them to others, but there’s nothing there — they are aether. Yet it is very real, and very much a presence in one’s every day life. You are using Social Sex every single time you talk about being a man or a woman or male or female or boy or girl— you cannot avoid using Social Sex when saying that, and each time you do so, you support and further the cultural process. It is, then, a recursive power structure.
Judith Butler called it performative, using a particular word that strikes people often as strange, but it has nothing to do with performing — there is no putting on a act, and that is not what the word meant when she used it. As anyone with a decent grounding in the social sciences will tell you, the terminology we use has to be specific, and it has to have a very specific meaning. Butler approached things from a basis of speech acts. What she means when she says performative is not an act of performance, like a person on a stage. She is referring to a Performative utterance (or performative) which are defined in the speech acts theory (part of the philosophy of language) as sentences which are not only passively describing a given reality, but they are changing the social reality they are describing. Now, if that’s a little hard for you to wrap your head around, that’s ok – just be aware and note that it has nothing to do with performing in the sense of an act of performance like a person on a stage, it has more to do with how what we say shapes the way it is perceived. One rather simple and weak example of this is the difference between “like a woman” and “am a woman”. They have two very different meanings, but people often colloquially interpret them the same without realizing the differences because of the metacontext that surrounds them (or people “get what you mean”).
All of these concepts are well known, thoroughly understood, and tested both in real world formats and in logical exercises. They are as much a theory as gravity or light are such. Each of them is a distinct part, and when speaking of Social Sex, it is important to remember that you cannot confuse or conflate them or you will inevitably reify Social Sex as a system within a culture.
One of the things people often do not realize is that Social Sex is not limited to a pair, to a binary. Nor is sex. In both cases, cultures have had many different Social Sexes — and many today can have as many as 9 different Social Sexes and 6 different sexes. In order to avoid racism and/or ethnocentrism, it is important to recognize that when one states a particular number of Social Sexes and/or sexes, you have to be clear about the cultural basis in which you are making that assertion. Otherwise, you may be presuming that western ideals of what are men and women are more valid or more real than other ideals — usually without any evidence and despite western science pointing out that there are more sexes and Social Sexes than just two consistently for well over 15 years now — in no small part because of greater understanding within these areas of things like ethnocentrism and the testing that has revealed such flaws.
Social Sex is based on assumptions and presumptions made about a person’s physical sex, and governs the ways in which a person’s socially determined physical sex is dealt with in society at large.
Social Sex Awareness
Then we have Social Sex Awareness, which is about how we inherently expect others to see us in relation to the roles and expression we have. It is more accurately referred to as your social sex self-awareness, and is a part of the idea that tells you that you exist — the ability you have to recognize that you exist as a physical being, to recognize yourself in a mirror, and so forth. It is different from Sex Identity in that it deals mostly in how we see ourselves as being seen by others, and this is why many people often think of trans people as being all about Social Sex roles (they aren’t, but when you try to explain a part of your self-awareness to others, it often tends to rely on such things). While there are studies that have to do with where this is located in the brain, the simple fact of the matter is that it is a function of mind, and it is inherent in all people. It can be tested, revealed, and those tests and revelations can be reliably duplicated and have been for well over 50 years. We also know that it is not a function of how one is raised or acculturated, again through decades of testing within the scientific method, including controls (some of them horrific).
Social Sex Roles
Social Sex Roles are what we call Femininity and Masculinity. They deal in how we expect persons of a particular sex to behave or act within our culture. The three billion ways to be a man, and the three billion ways to be a woman, and all the stuff related to sexism lies here. Social sex roles are a set of social and behavioral norms that are structurally designated as appropriate for either a man or a woman in a social or interpersonal relationship based on their social sex.
Social Sex Expressions
Social Sex Expression is how people present themselves to the wider world, not always in line with their Social Sex role. It has to do with primarily “superficial” stuff — dress and body decoration — that affect things like attraction and courtship. Expressions are the tools by which we convey to others, who cannot see our physical anatomy, that we fit into this particular box for a given physical sex.
Social Sex Behaviors
Social Sex Behaviors are all the little things that social sex influences that are outside the realm of the usual and the commonplace – the indirect effects, so to speak. Inheritance is part of this, kinship is part of this, lineage is part of this, even names are part of this. These behaviors are basic elements, often focused around interpersonal relationships and the interplay between Social Sex Roles and Social Sex Expressions. Male privilege is an excellent example of a Social Sex Behavior.
Internal Sex Awareness
This is the simple concept of knowing that you are male or female or both or none or some combination or variant therein. It is part of you knowing that you exist. This is what most people mean when they talk about “gender identity” – I am a woman or I am a man kind of stuff. It is your self-knowledge of yourself. It differs from social sex awareness by being how you think about you, as opposed to how other people are meant to think about you. It is how we see ourselves in terms of male or female. It is our personal understanding of that concept, void of any external influence. It is not something taught to us — people have had accidents that strip their bodies of any way to sex them, and they still know, even if that stripping happened at a point too soon for them have a knowledge of it. It is not founded in the flesh we can see, it is part of the sense of ourselves that we know.
For many trans people – in particular, the binary sorts – their internal sex awareness and social sex awareness are matched – that is, they are in sync with each other. For many others, however, these are are not in sync.
For when people try to say what gender is, remind them that science shows it is many different things.