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The "Sex Role" Concept: An Overview and Evaluation
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Centre for Gender Research.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Biology, Department of Ecology and Genetics, Animal ecology.
2013 (English)In: Evolutionary biology, ISSN 0071-3260, E-ISSN 1934-2845, Vol. 40, no 4, 461-470 p.Article, review/survey (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

"Sex roles" are intuitively associated to stereotypic female and male sexual strategies and in biology, the term "sex role" often relates to mating competition, mate choice or parental care. "Sex role reversals" imply that the usual typological pattern for a population or species is deviates from a norm, and the meaning of "sex role reversal" thus varies depending upon whatever is the usual pattern of sex-typical behavior in a given taxon. We identify several problems with the current use of the "sex role" concept. (1) It is typological and reflects stereotypic expectations of the sexes. (2) The term "sex role" parses continuous variation into only two categories, often obscuring overlap, between the sexes in behavior and morphology, and variability in relation to ecological circumstances. (3) Common generalizations such as "sex role as seen in nature" mask variation upon which selection may act. (4) The general meaning of "sex roles" in society (i.e. "socially and culturally defined prescriptions and beliefs about the behavior and emotions of men and women") is contrary to biological "sex role" concepts, so that confusing the two obscure science communication in society. We end by questioning the validity of the "sex role" concept in evolutionary biology and recommend replacing the term "sex role" with operational descriptions.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013. Vol. 40, no 4, 461-470 p.
Keyword [en]
Mate choice, Mating competition, Sex roles, Sexual selection, Sex role reversal
National Category
Natural Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-213307DOI: 10.1007/s11692-013-9226-7ISI: 000327126200001OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-213307DiVA: diva2:682162
Available from: 2013-12-23 Created: 2013-12-20 Last updated: 2013-12-23Bibliographically approved

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