Sex And The Human Body Essay

Length: 5 pages Sources: 5 Subject: Women's Issues - Sexuality Type: Essay Paper: #77967018 Related Topics: Sex, Transgender, Human Sexuality, Steroids
Excerpt from Essay :

Sexing the Body


Sexing Bodies

What is at Stake in the Continued Scientific Pursuit of the Essential Differences between Males and Females

Right away, what is at stake is the entire life of an intersexual person, which is meddled into and muddled by mainstream medicine's gender biases (Fausto-Sterling, 2000, pp 8, 16). Not only modern America but also the world-at-large demand that a person be either male or female in unquestioning obedience to, or "sublime" conformity with, medicine. A mainstream physician, for example, who comes across the male sex organ of a newly-born hermaphrodite and finds that it measures less than 3 cm, decides that it should be "repaired" to conform to genital norms. He decides to shorten the small phallus to make it look like a clitoris through appropriate surgical procedures and ultimately declares the newborn to be a girl. A hermaphrodite is also called an intersexual, or a person who possesses both male and female external genitals (Fausto-Sterling).

Opposition to the continuing scientific research and position on the genital difference between males and females comes mainly from intersexual adults who were subjected to these surgeries when they were children who could not oppose the decision (Fausto-Sterling, 2000, pp 30, 123). Their overall welfare is at stake in that decision and they doubt that physicians who perform the surgeries are after it or even consider it. These advocates call this assault on their right to be intersexual "sex policing." Physicians, on the other hand, stand their ground and society's that children be declared and formed as either boys or girls. Schools are severely penalized for deviating from these determined categories (Fausto - Sterling).

Findings of two recent studies bolster the seeming differences between the sexes in capabilities and physiological characteristics. The first suggests that males have better or stronger navigational skills and higher reproductive success levels than females (Cooper-White, 2014, web page 1). The study was conducted by Dr. Layne Vashro, a postdoctoral researcher in anthropology at the University of Utah. He traveled with his more than 120 male and female volunteers to northwest Nambia. The volunteers belonged to the Twe and Tjimba tribes. Through the performance of certain navigational tasks and the number of children they had, the male volunteers fared much better both in the distance and expanse of travel and the number of children they had than the female volunteers. The findings also emphasized that having multiple mates is beneficial to males than to females, which may explain the gap between the sexes (Cooper-White).

Males and females also differ in size, function and features, according to other studies. Recent MRI studies found that some regions in women's brains are larger than men's according to the total volume of their cerebrum (Curley, 2014, web p 1). Neuroscientist Larry Cahill of the University of California, Irvine investigated sex differences in the brain of both animal and human subjects. His findings challenged the traditional assumption that males are better research subjects because females' fluctuating hormones did not make them stable subjects. These findings also provided evidence that gender differences in the brain. One conclusion was that sex differences begin as early as in the womb. The early exposure of fetuses of guinea pigs to the sex hormone testosterone triggers their male development. At the same time, this exposure appeared to direct the development of the brain and typical male behavior itself. Female fetuses developed the mating behavior later in life. Animal research also found structural differences between the sexes, specifically in the hypothalamus, the anteroventral periventricular nucleus and the dendrites. These suggest that males and females differ in brain circuitry (Curley).

Other MRI studies showed that the hippocampus in women is larger than in men, while the amygdale is larger in men than in women (Curley, 2014, web p 1). The amygdala is the area in the brain where emotionally charged memories form. The studies revealed that women's amygdala is more strongly stimulated in the left hemisphere while men's amygdale is more strongly affected in the right hemisphere when they were asked to watch a violent film. Men also have greater difficulty recalling details of an emotional story while women found difficulty recalling side details a week afterwards. This conclusion means that men are more capable of recalling the main idea of an emotional story or incident while women are more inclined to recall specific details. And gender has some determining influence vulnerability to


Boys, for example, are more prone to autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD than girls early in life. But women and girls are twice more prone to depression than men and boys. Women are also more vulnerable to Alzheimer's Disease than men. Margaret McCarthy of the University of Maryland School of Medicine who studies the effects of hormones on the development of the brain assumed that differences in sex make one gender more vulnerable at a certain time than the other. Her 2012 article, published at The Journal of Neuroscience, contended that one sex may be vulnerable to a particular disease while protecting the other sex. She concluded on the need to develop sex-specific preventive medicines for better treatment or to identify new drug targets (Curley).

II. Hacking's Concept to Sexed Bodies

Hacking (1999, p 161) could not perceive of an acceptable way of making up people except in separate and peculiar ways, which cannot be generalized. Mental diseases and disorders, for example, did not come to be recognized in the distant past until a certain century. He exemplifies Arnold Davidson's claim that perversions and perverts did not exist before a new functional understanding of disease was officially established in the late 19th century. Making up people is something that occurs only between a doctor and his patient. They represent two poles of development, which are linked together by a host of "intermediary relations (Hacking)." One pole is the patient who is a living and functioning entity presented in the form of the human body. The second pole is the doctor, who is focused on the body of the patient as a species. That focus considers the patient's biological processes, the diseased condition, his or her level of health, life expectancy and longevity and everything else learned in medical school. Their polarity is aptly described as the "bio-politics of the population." The malleable brain of the patient is subjected to the manipulation of the doctor who is trained to impose the differences of the genders, the diseased condition and how it will be treated or dealt with (Hacking).

III. The Role of Scientific and Medical Expertise in Intersex Births

Fausto-Sterling (2000, pp 34, 54-55, 71) explores the basic sciences, which direct the course of medicine, more deeply. Scientists have been in avid search for steroid hormones, which would support their belief in the differences of the sexes have time and again failed. One huge failure was their refusal to recognize the natural occurrence of steroid hormones in both sexes. Another was their stubborn but false assumption that androgens and estrogens, male and female hormones, respectively, should oppose each other. Yet these two hormones coordinate or work together naturally (Fausto-Sterling).

Fausto-Sterling (2000, pp 284, 351) also leans heavily on the famous 1959 report by endocrinologist William C. Young and the findings of his laboratory works. These works revealed that androgens, which drive the brain into configuring what is to become masculine, are in fact contoured by society's attitudes on men and women's fundamentally different and separate roles. The founder of behavioral endocrinology, Frank Beach, performed similar experiments before 1959 but the principle that developed from these revolutionary experiments were never formally and explicitly declared and published. Beach must be raised to the level of a hero for his simple formulation and utter familiarity with the explosive information. He must have perceived sexual behavior as a kind of continuum wherein normal males and females could occasionally behave interchangeably. Beach had the proper vision to infuse diversity into society's dichotomy in gender (Fausto-Sterling). I agree to this concept.

IV. How does Acknowledging Intersexed Bodies Destabilize and Expand our Ideas of Nature?

Recognizing the rational perspective brought to the surface by facts and technologies only leads to an unstable as well as an uncertain perception of the world that is not very reassuring. The rational searcher must contend with living in a world that is deeply immersed in science and technology. We cannot get away from results of medical diagnoses, taking available means of transportation and communication. We just have to take the risk of trusting what we eat and drink. Nonetheless, we seek a better science that can still make sensible decisions in the face of the uncertainty, which characterizes all of life and in reducing human and non-human suffering. Science has been used as a useful means by social advocacies in dealing with inequalities and testing outdated or risky concepts about the biological race. But it is only one of the resources available. But living might be better if we use more…

Sources Used in Documents:


Cooper-White. M. (2014). Sex may explain why men have superior navigational

Skills. The Huffington Post. Retrieved on December 8, 2014 from

Curley, A. (2014). His and hers: sex differences in the brain. Retrieved on December 8, 2014 from

Fausto-Sterling, A. (2000). Sexing the body: gender politics and the construction of sexuality. Basic Books.

Cite this Document:

"Sex And The Human Body" (2014, December 10) Retrieved January 18, 2022, from

"Sex And The Human Body" 10 December 2014. Web.18 January. 2022. <>

"Sex And The Human Body", 10 December 2014, Accessed.18 January. 2022,

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