Front cover image for Making sex : body and gender from the Greeks to Freud

Making sex : body and gender from the Greeks to Freud

This is a book about the making and unmaking of sex over the centuries. It tells the astonishing story of sex in the West from the ancients to the moderns in a precise account of developments in reproductive anatomy and physiology. We cannot fail to recognize the players in Thomas Laqueur's story--the human sexual organs and pleasures, food, blood, semen, egg, sperm--but we will be amazed at the plots into which they have been woven by scientists, political activists, literary figures, and theorists of every stripe. Laqueur begins with the question of why, in the late eighteenth century, woman's orgasm came to be regarded as irrelevant to conception, and he then proceeds to retrace the dramatic changes in Western views of sexual characteristics over two millennia. Along the way, two master plots emerge. In the one-sex story, woman is an imperfect version of man, and her anatomy and physiology are construed accordingly: the vagina is seen as an interior penis, the womb as a scrotum, the ovaries as testicles. The body is thus a representation, not the foundation, of social gender. The second plot tends to dominate post-Enlightenment thinking while the one-sex model is firmly rooted in classical learning. The two-sex story says that the body determines gender differences, that woman is the opposite of man with incommensurably different organs, functions, and feelings
Print Book, English, 1992, ©1990
1st Harvard pbk. ed View all formats and editions
Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1992, ©1990
x, 313 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
9780674543553, 9780674543492, 0674543556, 0674543491
Of language and the flesh
Destiny Is anatomy
New science, one flesh
Representing sex
Discovery of the sexes
Sex socialized