Sexuality of Hermaphrodites Human Beings Research Proposal

Excerpt from Research Proposal :

So, rather than deny the existence of non-male/female attraction we have to examine for a deeper understanding the very nature of attraction itself. Is the sex of the person to whom you are attracted important or even relevant? "Sexuality [is not] learned in the same contexts, it is not practiced for the same purposes, it is not maintained by the same social forces, and it does not cease to be practiced at the same moments in the life course for the same reasons. The social construction of sexuality (and even if sexuality exists as a separable domain in a culture) and its connections to nonsexual conduct are specific to the cultural and historical circumstances of a particular social order," (Kauth 223).

We, then, cannot accurately predict our own sexual behavior as it is absolutely mixed together with a truly infinite number of variables.

For the hermaphrodite, sexual attraction can sometimes be very clear-cut while sexual identity is very confused, while at others the opposite is true. One of the most interesting features of human sexual behavior is the phenomenon of sudden, powerful, and seemingly inexplicable attraction to particular people, while no definition of sexual attraction actually requires opposite-gonadal-sex in the definition of attraction. "The linkage between physical convenience and heterosexuality is relatively light and may be easily upset by environmental or psychological factors," (Ellis 119). Hermaphrodites, like the rest of the world, often find themselves attracted to members of either sex for the same physical, mental, intellectual and spiritual reasons that anyone else is attracted to someone. The designated gender of the target person is not as important overall to the situation as is reciprocity - which, again, is true for anyone's feelings of being attracted to another person. but, attraction is not just based on these amorphous things that combine in some manner, attraction is often a learned behavior based upon the history of the individual and what it is that they respond to in others.

For intersex individuals, sexual identity and attraction hinges upon self-perception. "Most of us take for granted a harmony between our biological sex and our psychological experience of being female or male, our gender identity. We just are women and men, and the relative effortlessness of this identity can lead us to reify a simple, dichotomous view of gender. People are meant to be either female or male, both physically and psychologically," (Looy and Bouma III 172). From ancient history, we know that hermaphrodites have been both a symbolic and very real element of sexual life. For the Indians, hermaphrodites represent the Primal Force, the perfect blending of man and woman into a single being. In China, Iran, Australia and throughout the Middle East, androgyny is symbolically linked to the duality of the soul, the unification of the genders and a representative of mythic time (Haft-Pomrock). Throughout western cultures, however, the androgynous or the hermaphrodite imagery has been treated as an abomination of nature, thus confirming a freak-like status upon the intersex individual. Thus, when the intersex individual looks to define his/her sexuality, it is often filtered strongly through a cultural lens, perhaps more even than a biological or mental one.

Attraction, then, begins with a sense of the self and a set of triggers to which we respond that provide us with an impulse toward a particular person. This begins, necessarily, with an understanding of the nature of gender identity and how it plays a role for the intersexed individual. Research is showing that for the intersexed person, sexual attraction is often influenced more strongly by the sense of self-identity and accompanying social conventions based upon that identity than upon biology. but, when it comes to brain chemistry, there the answers may be more readily found.. "A consensus is emerging that a key predictor of gender identity in intersexes is the ratio and amount of hormones, especially androgens, present during sensitive periods of brain development. In some cases, the presence, amount, or functioning of receptors for the relevant hormones are also factors. Precisely when the relevant sensitive periods for gender identity occur is unclear, but probably include the latter part of prenatal development and at least the first several months after birth," (Looy and Bouma III 173). So, if chemistry is affected by hormonal washes, then so is identity. and, sexual identity can be modified at various stages of development - particularly during puberty.

The intersexed individual is a complex person - they are truly not of either gender and not of a "third" but are of a combined biology whose hormonal levels play a distinct role in the development of sexual identity (which can be distinct from biological sex or gonadal sex). It is quite possible for the hermaphrodite to be exclusively attracted to one gender or another and that attraction is not directly tied to their own gonadal sex. It is always quite possible for the hermaphrodite to be attracted to both genders. However, as we have demonstrated, attraction and sexuality are largely a mental construct. Therefore, as we approach the idea of who the intersexed individual is attracted to, that answer comes more from the individual themselves. Ultimately, as we examine the nature of the issue, we see that while there is confusion in society about how to label the intersexed person, there is much less confusion in the mind of that person as they simply know to what and to whom they are attracted. This leaves us with the understanding that while there may be confusion in science and society about the identity of the individual and a desire to firmly categorize people, the truth is that sexuality is not controlled strictly by the gonads, but by the heart and mind as well.


Dreger, Alice Dormurat. Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex. Boston: Harvard University Press, 2000.

Ellis, Albert. "The Sexual Psychology of Human Hermaphrodites." Psychosomatic Medicine 7 (1945): 108-125.

Gilbert, Scott F. Hermaphroditism. 2008. 18 Nov 2008

Haft-Pomrock, Yael. "Is it the Age of the Hermaphrodite?" Oct 2002. 18 Nov 2008

Intersex Society of North America. What's the History Behind the Intersex Rights Movement? 18 Nov 2008. 18 Nov 2008

Kauth, Michael R. True Nature: A Theory of Sexual Attraction. Chicago: Springer, 2000.

Looy, Heather and Hessel Bouma III. "The Nature of Gender." Journal of Psychology and Theology 33.3 (2005): 166(13).

Reis, Elizabeth. "Divergene or Disorder? The Politics of Naming Intersex." Perspectives in…

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