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Models of sex and gender


There are three possible models of sex and gender. 


  1. The idea that both sex and gender are biological givens - you are born either male or female, and your gender is the same as your biological sex;
  2. The idea that sex is a biological given, but gender is socially constructed - so  it is natural to divide humans into male and female, but how your gender role is played out depends on upbringing, culture and social environment.
  3. Both sex and gender are socially constructed - the importance accorded to the category of sex (and some of its physical aspects) are socially constructed, and gender is a performance (Judith Butler and Queer Theory).


Clearly your model of sex and gender determines how you see the divine and the gender of deities.  It might also affect your ideas about reincarnation (e.g. do we always reincarnate as the same gender?)


If you believe that both sex and gender are biological givens, you probably also believe that there are masculine and feminine qualities and powers in the universe, and in the union of the God and the Goddess in a heterosexual embrace.


If you believe that sex is a biological given, but gender is socially constructed, you might believe in Yin and Yang, but be aware that each contains a bit of the other.  You may be open to different images of the divine, perhaps even gender-bending ones.


If you believe that both sex and gender are socially constructed, then you are more likely to believe that the divine takes on a multiplicity of forms, possibly of shifting genders, or perhaps has no gender (and you are unlikely to believe in "The God" and "The Goddess" or the masculine and feminine principles).


Key points


  • The focus of modern Paganisms on the divine feminine and goddesses has gone hand-in-hand with the rise of feminism.
  • Ironically, the “Great Mother Goddess” was an icon for social conservatives like Jacquetta Hawkes
  • Both men and women are beginning to appreciate the diversity of deities and archetypes
  • Queer theory is also beginning to have an impact on Pagan thinking about gender and sexuality


Further reading



See also:



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