Documento sin título

Revista Sexologíea y Sociedad. 2013; Vol. 19, No. 1
ISSN 1682-0045
Versión electrónica


ARTCULO ORIGINAL

Studies on sexuality and gender: Its visualization in the Sexología y Sociedad magazine

MsC. Yenisei Bombino Companioni
National Center of Sexual Education (CENESEX)

yeniseibc@infomed.sld.cu

Bachelor and Master Degrees in Sociology, associate researcher and member of SOCUMES.

ABSTRACT

Sexología y Sociedad is a regular CENESEX magazine publishing works on sexuality in Cuba, including articles from foreign authors. The purpose of the research was to assess the gender perspective inclusion in scientific works dealing with sexuality published in the Sexología y Sociedad magazine. The methodology followed was the application of the content analysis technique to the articles published in the magazine, providing a quantitative and qualitative analysis. Outcomes: The analysis shows that gender perspective inclusion in the studies of different topics related to sexuality has been consolidated. The main topics have been: abortion, teenage pregnancy, family planning, HIV/Aids and STDs prevention, education on sexuality, gender violence particularly in couple relations, sexuality in the elderly, climacteric and menopause, and sexual dysfunction in men and women. Studies on different sex populations and nonhegemonic identities (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual: LGBT) as well as sexual and reproductive rights were gradually incorporated. Conclusions: The first editions of the magazine included articles dealing with the analysis of sexuality of men and women as a health problem. Gradually, it began publishing articles on issues such as rights, diversity of sexual expressions and other aspects dealing with gender inequality, masculinities, gender violence, transgenderism, homophobia, and homosexual expressions (lesbian, gay).

Key words: sexuality, gender, content analysis

Introduction

Sexuality and gender categories are socio-cultural and historical constructions that are an important part of a person’s private and public life.  They both build and reinforce systems of socio-political relations based on power imbalance among persons, patriarchy, and heteonormativity. These power structures define what is “normal” and “superior” (androcentrism and heterosexuality) and what is “different” (women, homosexuals and transgenders); they define the former as natural and downgrade and exclude the latter. Power imbalances and inequities hinder harmonic, fair, and developmental human interactions.

The World Health Organization defines sexuality as:

[…] a central aspect of being human throughout life and encompasses sex, gender identities and roles, sexual orientation, eroticism, pleasure, intimacy and reproduction. Sexuality is experienced and expressed in thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviours, practices, roles and relationships […]. Sexuality is influenced by the interaction of biological, psychological, social, economic, political, cultural, ethical, legal, historical, religious and spiritual factors (1).

This definition acknowledges gender as a sexuality dimension and transcends the traditional biomedical/clinical concept of sexuality to provide a holistic and contextualized concept committed to plurality and respect for sexual and reproductive rights.  The gender perspective can contribute valuable experiences both in terms of theory and social transformation in order to achieve this.

The importance of sexual education —prioritizing younger generations, women, and the family— was acknowledged in Cuba since the very first years of the Revolution.  In 1972, the National Working Group on Sexual Education (GNTES its Spanish acronym) was established and it was in charge of coordinating and implementing training, dissemination and awareness-raising activities on topics related to sexuality education aimed at professionals and the population at large.

It is relevant to highlight that the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC its Spanish acronym) played a very important role in institutionalizing sexual education and in its inclusion in the countries social policies.  The committed participation of the FMC in sexual education, since the very first years, promoted social transformation processes that would guarantee gender equality and empowerment of women.

In 1989, the GNTES became the National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX).  With the  establishment of this institution “the scientific bases of sexual education were widened and strengthened and the gender approach was introduced as a  cross-cutting axis of the National Program on Sexual Education (ProNES)” (2). As a result of broadening the social communication strategy of ProNES, CENESEX founded in 1994 the Sexología y Sociedad magazine aimed at disseminating research findings and reflections on several issues related to human sexuality.

As we can see, there is an explicit acknowledgement of the gender perspective inclusion in the sexuality education program.  Now how has this been expressed in terms of developing scientific knowledge on the different sexuality topics?

Objective

Evaluate how the gender perspective has been included in the production of scientific works on sexuality issues published in the Sexología y Sociedad magazine.

Methodology used

A quantitative/qualitative study was conducted  using the content analysis technique.

The study covered 81.6 % of the editions published (40/49), from edition 0 (1994) to edition 49 (2012).  Access to CD-ROM with ISBN 959-7158-12-4 compiling the first 20 editions of the magazina (including edition 0) allowed the author to review the twenty-one editions that were published till August 2002 which represented 100% thereof.  From edition number 21 onwards, the author was able to access 19 out of the remaining 28 editions, representing 67.9%.

In the analysis process, the first thing that was done was to identify the main themes published in the magazine out of which topics related to sexuality and gender were selected.  Articles were grouped around these categories.  Then, the 185 articles dealing with the sexuality-gender couple were analyzed qualitatively.

Brief overview of the Sexología y Sociedad magazine

Sexología y Sociedad is a scientific outreach magazine.1 Edition number 0 was published in 1994 in the framework of the Seventh Latin American Congress on Sexology and Sexual Education and the First Cuban Congress on Sexual Education, Orientation, and Therapy. Since then it has continuously maintained its quarterly free edition, financed by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

The purpose of the magazine is to address the need of professionals dealing with human sexuality issues to disseminate and share theoretical contributions, empirical research findings and methodological contributions, bibliographic reviews and systematized experiences in such areas as sexuality education, sexual orientation and therapy, sexual and reproductive health, community intervention, social policies, gender-related violence, social communication, sexual rights, and other areas.

Moreover, it’s a reference material for adolescents and youth, in particular, and for the population at large.  It has been “a means for raising awareness and fostering debate and new ideas on controversial, misunderstood, unknown and deferred topics that harm society when we do not look into them” (2).

Results

Throughout this 18 years of publication, the magazine has enjoyed the contribution of 320 authors2 (267 Cubans and 53 foreigners)3  from a wide range of professions: psychologists, pedagogues, sociologists, psychiatrists, journalists, social workers, legal experts, sexologists, general practitioners, gyneco-obstetricians, and others.

From the study of women and men sexuality to the study of gender/approach sexuality.

The main themes of the magazine are related to sexual and reproductive health, sexuality education, sex-gender diversity, and sexual and reproductive rights.  The main recurrent topics have been: abortion, teenage pregnancy, family planning, sexually transmitted infections and HIV-Aids prevention, education on sexuality, gender-related violence, particularly within couples, sexuality in elders, climacteric and menopause, as well as sexual dysfunction in women and men. Studies on different sex populations and non-hegemonic identities (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual: LGBT) as well as sexual and reproductive rights were gradually incorporated.

It should be said that woman studies were introduced in academic spaces during the 1980s and gradually became women’s studies and finally gender studies.  The ProNES also underwent this theoretical process.

During the first decades of the Cuban Revolution, sexual education as a social and State policy was mainly focused on the strategic needs faced by women.  ProNES has gradually widened the educational strategy with a gender and rights approach, to cover the entire population and has included special attention to sex-diverse populations. In this regard, Mariela Castro, Director of CENESEX stated:

The struggle for equal rights for women was the starting point towards a more profound and comprehensive concept on sexuality […] CENESEX has fought other non less noble causes during all these years, like educating society to respect free and responsible sexual orientation and gender identity [3].

An analysis of the themes and content of 182 articles published in 40 editions of the magazine from November 1994 to August 2012, reveals how the concept and analysis of sexuality evolved from a clinical and medical care approach focused on genitalia and private space to a concept that incorporates, whether explicitly or not, gender perspective, sexual diversity, and human rights, demanding its inclusion in public policies.

During the first five years of the magazine, some authors explicitly analyzed the incorporation of the gender approach: Mariela Castro in “Voy a tener que ser varoncita” (I’ll have to be a tomboy 4); Alicia González and Beatriz Castellanos, “¿Desaparecerán los géneros cuando muera el sexismo?” (Will genders disappear once sexism has died?)(5), “Armonizar la libertad con la responsabilidad” (Harmonizing Liberty and Responsibility) (6) and “Un enfoque humanista crítico. La sexualidad y los géneros” (A Critical Humanist Approach: Sexuality and Genders) (9); Patricia Arés, “Virilidad. ¿Conocemos el costo de ser hombres?” (Virility.  Do we know the price of being a man?), Part I and II (7-8); Celestino Vasallo, «Disfunción y terapia sexual» (Sexual Dysfunction and Therapy) (10).

In this last article, Dr. Celestino Vasallo states:

We cannot ignore the prejudices, myths, and taboos affecting the full social and sexual development of certain men and women, mainly:
1. “Male chauvinism” which we like to call “the sociocultural dominance of man over woman”, the imposition, “the power of male over female.”
2. Double standard, all rights and privileges for man, subordination and submission for woman [10].

Later on, some authors made valuable theoretical and empirical contributions enabling the visualization and discussion of the relation between the gender and sexuality categories. Three articles are worth mentioning due to their contributions; “Sexualidad, salud sexual y determinantes sociales de la salud: notas para el debate” (Sexuality, sexual health, and social determinants of health: notes for the debate) (11) by Ada C. Alfonso; “Performance de géneros y sexualidades performativas: tensiones y acuerdos en la escuela” (Gender Performance and Performing Sexualities: Tensions and Agreements in School)(12) by Jimena de Garay and Marcio R. Vale; “Del sexo a la sexualidad: apuntes para una historia inconclusa” (From Sex to Sexuality: Notes for an unfinished story)(13) by Giselle Guerra.

Since the very first editions of the magazine, articles have focused on women in the different stages of the life cycle.  The main contents tackled are related to fertility: contraception, pregnancy, and abortion, as well as family planning. There is high concern for female sexual health associated their reproductive capacity.  Some articles deal with parenthood as a shared responsibility.

Out of the total number of articles analyzed, 31 dealt with contraception, pregnancy, and abortion in adolescents. There is also a significant number of papers on the prevention of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unwanted pregnancy regarding adolescents of both sexes.  The first 19 editions of the magazine include at least one article disseminating the findings of research works or sexual education strategies involving schools, the community, and aimed at this sector of the population.

Eighteen articles deal with sexual behavior and sexual health of women during their non-reproductive stage.  Most of them tackle sexuality in elder women and a) recognize the possibility of having erotic-affective relations without sexual intercourse; b) deal with psycho-social and organic-functional (physiological) determinants with a bearing on the decline and deterioration of sexual response in this stage; c) make a joint analysis of men and women, contrary to studies on sexuality in other stages of the life cycle dealing with different problems for each sex.

Publications dealing with the prevention and social perception of STIs are characterized by a) a predominance of studies dealing with infection produced by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV/Aids); b) messages regarding the use of condoms targeting both sexes like “the use of condoms should not be left to men’s alone but should be demanded by women as well […]. Women usually have poor bargaining power in sexual relations, including the use of condoms […]” (14); c) research findings reflected in specific population groups: adolescents of both sexes and men having sex with men (MSM).

Sexología y Sociedad has become a permanent forum for denouncing violence against woman as a social and health problem resulting from the disparities and inequalities in power access, management, and distribution between genders.  Out of 28 articles dealing with violence, 23 denounce gender-related violence by men against women within the family and the couple.

The magazine has also condemned manifestations of violence regarding different sexual orientations and expressions. Three articles reflect about violence on homophobic grounds:  “Es hora de poner fin a los crímenes homofóbicos en América Latina y el Caribe” (It’s time to put an end to homophobic crimes in Latin America and the Caribbean) (15), “La violencia sale del closet” (Violence comes out of the closet) (16) and “Policía del sexo. La homofobia durante el siglo xix en Cuba” (Sex Police: Homophobia during the 19th Century in Cuba) (17). A fourth article deals with violence in couples of the same sex: “HSH y homosexuales travestis: violencia en parejas del mismo sexo” (MSM and homosexual transvestites: violence within couples of the same sex) (18).

A total of 27 articles dealt with sexuality education and educational programs on sexuality, stating positions based on diversity and gender equality: “in the methodological treatment […] should be addressed from the perspective of non-discrimination on the grounds of sex and respect for individuality throughout school years and not only in the curriculum” (19).

The magazine publishes research findings on the reproduction of sexist practices in sexuality education, schools, and the family.  The texts of the articles entitled “El Programa Nacional de Educación Sexual en la estrategia cubana de desarrollo humano” (The National  Sexual Education Program in the Cuban Strategy for Human Development) (20) and “La educación sexual como política de Estado en Cuba desde 1959” (Sexual Education as a State Policy in Cuba since 1959)(21) are an important reference to the evolution of the National Sexual Education Program (ProNES) in accordance with the country’s historical, social, cultural, political, and economic processess.  They also show the evolution of sexual education as a State policy, underpinned by the principles of gender equality, respect for diversity, and rights.

Twenty-two articles dealt with sexual dysfunction studies, most of them related to problems faced by the male population such as premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction. A significant number of articles dwell on risk factors and another group deals with sexual therapy as a result of experiences in dysfunction and sexual therapy practice.

Masculinity, as a result of gender structures and organized by a socially established identity and roles, is the subject matter of 18 articles, and its definition has evolved towards a debate and reconceptualization of hegemonic masculinity. The topic was presented by Doctor in Science Patricia Arés in two articles on virility published in 1996. The author promotes a new thinking on the social, and psycho-affective cost, as well as expropriations  for men as a result of fulfilling the roles and behaviors culturally assigned to them, by pointing out: “[...] men have inhibited and receded from many of the behaviors and attitudes assigned to virility without having, on the other hand, any change references”. (22) The 2012 No. 48 edition of the Magazine was entirely devoted to theoretical debates and research findings on masculinities.

In pace with the debate on the reconstruction of masculinities, lectures and studies on men violating the traditional gender norms and heteronormativity --homosexuals or gays-- increased. The first article on homosexuality “Homosexualidad ego-distónica” (Ego-distonic Homosexuality)(23) by the Peruvian Artidoro Cáceres was published by the magazine in 1997 and article entitled “Prevención del VIH entre hombres que tienen sexo con otros hombres (HSH)” (HIV Prevention Among Men Having Sex with Men (MSM)) (24) by the Cuban Leonardo Chacón was published in 2002.  The author reflects on the social stigma of male homosexuality and advocates the use of the term MSM for STIs prevention among men who do not identify themselves with the homosexual or gay social stereotype.

Since then, publications about non-hegemonic sexuality expressions or orientations analyzed within different themes —right to free sexual orientation, HIV/Aids prevention, historic construction and social representations of homosexuality, and sexual behavior—have increased.

As a result of the process of acknowledgement, awareness raising and visualization of sex-diverse populations, the first articles on transsexuality were published in 2002:  “Experiencia quirúrgica en transexualismo en psiquis femenina” (Surgical experience in female psyche transsexualism)(25) and “La reasignación del sexo al nacer. Análisis e implicaciones clínicas a largo plazo” (Reassigning sex at birth: Analysis and long-term clinical implications)(26), both by foreign authors.

The national strategy for comprehensive attention to transsexual persons was designed in 2005, on the basis of a social and human rights approach.  Since 2006, articles dealing with transsexuality with a multi-dimensional and comprehensive approach, not limited to the clinical aspect (a total of 8 articles) increased.  “La atención integral a transexuales en Cuba y su inclusión en las políticas sociales” (Comprehensive Care for Transsexuals in Cuba and its inclusion in social policies)(27) was published, revealing the Cuban strategy for a multi-disciplinary care for transsexual persons.

In 2011, the magazine published the “Declaración de la SOCUMES sobre despatologización de la transexualidad” (Statement on Depathologization of Transsexualism) (28), submitted at the Fifth Cuban Congress on Sexual Education, Orientation, and Therapy.  Its text reaffirms that transsexuality and other transgender expressions are a manifestation of sexual diversity the sexual rights of which are to be acknowledged, as well as the importance of including care for transsexual persons in comprehensive social policies of the Cuban State and Government.

Conclusions

The 16th World Congress on Sexology held in March 2003 in Havana was a significant event in terms of sexuality studies.  It marked a theoretical evolution in the multidisciplinary approach to human sexuality by introducing the gender and sexual rights approaches. It also generated greater social and political commitment, expressed in the respect for free sexual orientation and gender identity as principles of equality, justice and social wellbeing (29).

The analysis of the articles published in Sexología y Sociedad reveals that:

  • the study of sexuality evolved from a bio-medical-clinical concept to a comprehensive, systemic and multifactorial approach sensitized by the gender and sexual rights approach;
    • studies on women address the different stages of the life cycle covering from adolescence to old age, and that the prioritized topics dealt with fertility (contraception, pregnancy, and abortion) and family planning;
    • studies on men mainly deal with topics related to sexual dysfunction and masculinity;
    • there is a broader analysis of men and women in order to visualize the needs and problems of sex-diverse populations: lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transsexuals (LGBT population);
    • Gays are the most represented sector, linked to topics dealing with HIV/Aids prevention, social representations, and the sexual behavior of male homosexual population;
    • there were no studies on the sexual and reproductive health needs nor of the sociosexual and group identity of the lesbian population, as this group is diluted in the analysis of the rights of LGBT population;
    • multiple manifestations of unequal gender and sexuality: construction of masculinities, gender-related violence, transgenderism, homophobia, and homosexual expressions (mainly of gays);
    • categories such as sexual difference, gender identity, and sexual orientation have a cross-cutting presence in all studies on sexuality and gender.

Some authors, most of them experts working at CENESEX, underpin their reflections on the construction of gender identities and sexual identities and all the mediations in the sex-gender-sexuality continuum.

These reflections on the analysis of studies on gender and sexuality in Cuba are an attempt to encourage in-depth research to reveal the theoretical construction and research on the social and individual identities of persons.

Notas

  1. The magazine’s ISSN (1025-6912) appeared in the pages of the publication from Vol. 1, No. 3, December, 1995 onwards.
  2. Taken from the Editorial Committee: Sexología y Sociedad 2009; 41:58-71. Report updated in 2012 by Dr. Ada de la Caridad Alfonso Rodríguez to obtain CITMA certification for the magazine.
  3. Foreign authors are from Canada, United States, Mexico, Venezuela, Peru, Chile, Uruguay, Spain, Ecuador, Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Brazil, Dominican Republic, and the Netherlands.

Referencias

  1. World Association for Sexual Health. Salud Sexual para el Milenio. Declaración y documento técnico. Washington D.C.: OPS; 2009:157.
  2. Castro Espín M. La educación sexual como política de Estado en Cuba desde 1959. Sexología y Sociedad 2011; 45:10.
  3. Castro Espín M. Carta de la directora. Sexología y Sociedad 2009; 41:3.
  4. Castro Espín M. Voy a tener que ser varoncita. Sexología y Sociedad 1994; 0:18-20.
  5. González Hernández A, Castellanos Simons B. La educación de los géneros. ¿Desaparecerán los géneros cuando muera el sexismo? Primera parte. Sexología y Sociedad 1995; 2:18-19.
  6. González Hernández A, Castellanos Simons B. La educación de los géneros. Armonizar la libertad con la responsabilidad. Segunda parte. Sexología y Sociedad 1995; 3:36-37.
  7. Arés Muzio P. Virilidad. ¿Conocemos el costo de ser hombres? Primera parte. Sexología y Sociedad 1996; 4: 34-38.
  8. Arés Muzio P. Virilidad. ¿Conocemos el costo de ser hombres? Segunda parte. Sexología y Sociedad 1996; 5:18-21.
  9. González Hernández A, Castellanos Simons B. Un enfoque humanista crítico. La sexualidad y los géneros. Sexología y Sociedad 1998; 9:28-33.
  10. Vasallo Mantilla C. Disfunción y terapia sexual. Sexología y Sociedad 1995; 3:9-11.
  11. Alfonso Rodríguez AC. Sexualidad, salud sexual y determinantes sociales de la salud: notas para el debate. Sexología y Sociedad 2010; 42:35-39.
  12. Garay Hernández J de, Vale Caetano MR. Performance de géneros y sexualidades preformativas: tensiones y acuerdos en la escuela. Sexología y Sociedad 2011; 46:27-36.
  13. Guerra Guerra G. Del sexo a la sexualidad: apuntes para una historia inconclusa. Sexología y Sociedad 2011; 46:12-19.
  14. Álvarez M, Almanza C, Abad Machado A. Un enfoque preventivo. Enfermedades de Infección de Transmisión Sexual. Sexología y Sociedad 1996; 5:32-34.
  15. Roses Periago M. Es hora de poner fin a los crímenes homofóbicos en América Latina y el Caribe. Sexología y Sociedad 2005; 29:34.
  16. Alfonso Rodríguez AC. La violencia sale del closet. Sexología y Sociedad 2011; 47:11-19.
  17. Sierra Madero A. La policía del sexo. La homofobia durante el siglo xix en Cuba. Sexología y Sociedad 2002; 21:21-31.
  18. Alfonso Rodríguez AC, Rodríguez Lauzurique RM. HSH y homosexuales travestis: violencia en parejas del mismo sexo. Sexología y Sociedad 2004; 25:6-11.
  19. Mederos Machado M. La educación en población desde la educación de la sexualidad en la escuela cubana. Sexología y Sociedad 1994; 0:16-17.
  20. Castro Espín M. El Programa Nacional de Educación Sexual en la estrategia cubana de desarrollo humano. Sexología y Sociedad 2002; 20:4-9.
  21. Ob. cit. 2:4-13.
  22. Ob. cit. 7:35.
  23. Cáceres Le Breton A. Homosexualidad ego-distónica. Sexología y Sociedad 1997; 7:15-19.
  24. Chacón Asusta L. La prevención del VIH entre hombres que tienen sexo con otros hombres (HSH). Sexología y Sociedad 2002; 20:13-19.
  25. Mac Millan G, Yunge Ducaud P. Experiencia quirúrgica en transexualismo en psiquis femenina. Sexología y Sociedad 2002; 18:10-14.
  26. Diamond M, SigmundsondK. La reasignación del sexo al nacer. Sexología y Sociedad 2002; 20:20-27.
  27. Castro Espín M. La atención integral a transexuales en Cuba y su inclusión en las políticas sociales. Sexología y Sociedad 2008; 36:4-10.
  28. SOCUMES. Declaración de la SOCUMES sobre despatologización de la transexualidad. V Congreso Cubano de Educación, Orientación y Terapia Sexual. Sexología y Sociedad 2011; 47:38-39.
  29. Ob. cit. 2:11-12.

FECHA DE RECEPCIÓN DE ORIGINAL: 2 de mayo 2013
FECHA DE APROBACIÓN PARA SU PUBLICACIÓN: 5 de junio 2013

 

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