Cover image for Sexing the body : gender politics and the construction of sexuality
Sexing the body : gender politics and the construction of sexuality
Fausto-Sterling, Anne, 1944-
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : BasicBooks, [2000]

Physical Description:
xii, 473 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Reading Level:
1530 Lexile.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HQ1075 .F38 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Why do some people prefer heterosexual love while others fancy the same sex? Is sexual identity biologically determined or a product of convention? In this brilliant and provocative book, the acclaimed author of Myths of Gender argues that even the most fundamental knowledge about sex is shaped by the culture in which scientific knowledge is produced.Drawing on astonishing real-life cases and a probing analysis of centuries of scientific research, Fausto-Sterling demonstrates how scientists have historically politicized the body. In lively and impassioned prose, she breaks down three key dualisms - sex/gender, nature/nurture, and real/constructed - and asserts that individuals born as mixtures of male and female exist as one of five natural human variants and, as such, should not be forced to compromise their differences to fit a flawed societal definition of normality.

Author Notes

Anne Fausto-Sterling, Ph.D. is Professor of Biology and Women's Studies at Brown University.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

As the old complaint that men's long hairstyles make it impossible to tell "if it's a boy or a girl" reveals, gender ambiguity is socially unsettling to many people. Boldly stepping into the breach, Fausto-Sterling contends that the fear of gender confusion has pushed science and medicine to go to extreme lengths in constructing solid concepts of sex (i.e., an individual's anatomical attributes) and gender (i.e., the internal conviction of one's maleness or femaleness). As in her now classic book, Myths of Gender, Fausto-Sterling draws on a wealth of scientific and medical information, along with social, anthropological and feminist theory, to make the case that "choosing which criteria to use in determining sex, and choosing to make the determination at all, are social decisions for which scientists can offer no absolute guidelines." Further, she adds, "our beliefs about gender affect what kind of knowledge scientists produce about sex in the first place." While the book encompasses a wide range of topics--including a cultural history of hermaphroditism (now more properly termed "intersexuality") and the recent medical interventions used to "cure" it, an account of the emergence of sex hormone research and its use to create changes in sexual orientation, and the history of how science has (mis)understood the brain in terms of gender--Fausto-Sterling's cogent use of concrete historical examples, her simple language and personal anecdotes keep this complex synthesis accessible. Her insightful work offers profound challenges toscientific research, the creation of social policy and the future of feminist and gender theory. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

Biologist, feminist and historian of science Fausto-Sterling (Brown Univ.) brilliantly approaches the old nature-versus-nurture debate from both human and natural science perspectives and includes political, historical, philosophical, and sociological perspectives as well. She postulates that one's biological-sexual characteristics do not necessarily equate with his or her gender. The author argues that gender arises neither universally from nature or nurture but from the way our society views human beings. She poses some very important and interesting questions as she critiques both scientific and medical research, citing examples from the natural sciences and daily life to buttress her arguments. The reader will be moved by the author's passion for the subject matter and may be compelled to respond to many of Fausto-Sterling's points aloud. It is this type of engaging dialogue that allows us to discover what it means to be human. A human being cannot be defined by his or her genitalia but as a consequence of his/her culture, history, purpose, and values. And it is this type of persuasion that makes Sexing the Body both a good read and an important contribution to the literature on human sexuality. It is extremely well illustrated, researched, and referenced, containing nearly 100 pages of notes and bibliography. Upper-division undergraduates through professionals. ; Wilkes University

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
1 Dueling Dualismsp. 1
2 "That Sexe Which Prevaileth"p. 30
3 Of Gender and Genitals: The Use and Abuse of the Modern Intersexualp. 45
4 Should There Be Only Two Sexes?p. 78
5 Sexing the Brain: How Biologists Make a Differencep. 115
6 Sex Glands, Hormones, and Gender Chemistryp. 146
7 Do Sex Hormones Really Exist? (Gender Becomes Chemical)p. 170
8 The Rodent's Talep. 195
9 Gender Systems: Toward a Theory of Human Sexualityp. 233
Notesp. 257
Bibliographyp. 381
Indexp. 451