Sexing the body - gender politics and the construction of sexuality - Anne Fausto-Sterling

Sexing the body - gender politics and the construction of sexuality

Biologist Anne Fausto-Sterling sets out a developmental systems approach to gender, refusing false dichotomies of nature-nurture and biology-culture.

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, and as such, should not be forced to compromise their differences to fit a flawed societal definition of normality.

Fausto-Sterling - Sexing the Body.pdf23.23 MB

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Apr 30 2012 19:57


  • The feminist theorist Donna Haraway has written that biology is politics by other means. This book provides an extended argument for the truth of that claim.

    Anne Fausto-Sterling

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May 4 2012 03:41

This is a superb book and I recommend it to anyone. It blends critical approaches to society with a lot of hard science, and cricicism of what poses as hard science, and ends up giving real, practical tools to people wanting to understand the notion of gender and overthrow its negative impact.

Thanks for uploading it.

Joseph Kay
Sep 17 2012 08:16

Yeah, this is generally really good. There's a couple of dodgy bits (e.g. uncritically citing some hoax 'wolf children' as evidence for a hard social constructivist position), but hey, maybe they're in there to encourage the reader to check the sources and critically form their own opinion. But in terms of a 'pro-science' social constructivism it's excellent, embracing the scientific method as a powerful means to knowledge, but one which is inherently socially situated and so framed in terms of dominant social norms.

For example, she looks in detail at how oestrogen and testosterone became known as 'sex hormones'. Today, most of the studies on 'essential gender differences' use 'sex hormone' levels as evidence of innate sexual dimorphism. Yet both oestrogen and testosterone are present in all humans and play a variety of roles at different sites in the body, in response to different environmental conditions, and at different points in development. So Fausto-Sterling goes back to the conference where the definition was decided and shows how the decision was steeped in the social norms of the scientific milieu of the time, and proposes instead that the supopsed 'sex hormones' are in fact multi-puropose growth hormones present in all humans (and just because they play a role in genital development doesn't mean everything they do is sexed, etc).

Jul 18 2013 16:24

You guys are awesome for uploading this. Thanks! I've been looking for this book for ages.