Sex, in its widest meaning . . . is rather a sociological and cultural force than a mere bodily relation of two individuals.
When we discover each other as men and women, we bring to this experience an understanding of who we are that has been shaped by anatomical, psychological, and sociological influences. The complexity of these influences is perhaps something we do not understand, but it is something we have experienced, for these influences have shaped our understanding of what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman. They have, in effect, determined our definition, our understanding, and our own personal comfort or discomfort with ourselves as men and women.
This chapter focuses primarily on the experiences and understandings about masculinity and femininity that are transmitted to us by the people around us. These can be called common stereotypes or sex roles. As we shall see, these stereotypes can serve as aids to social interaction; they also can be barriers to growing relationships. This is because it is impossible to develop deep relationships with other individuals if we relate to others on the basis of these stereotypes alone. Freedom and authen-