Site Home   Gender and Sexual Diversity       Introduction to Gender and Health   The Gender Lens Tool

What Defines a Female or Male?

1.When you think about a male or a female, what sorts of defining characteristics of each come to your mind? Take a moment to write some of your ideas in the box below.
2.Are there any exceptions to the definitions you came up with?

Consider the following characteristics and how they differ between men and women. Each one of these characteristics have, at one time or another, been used to determine the "true" sex of an individual.[1]

Identify the male and female qualities of each of the following characteristics. List some of the problems with using each characterisitic as a determinant of sex.

1.Problem: changes at puberty
2.Problem: the quality of the voice
3.Problem: hair quality and distribution
4.Problem: breasts
5.Problem: hips and pelvic shape
6.Problem: instincts
7.Problem: sexual desires
8.Problem: gestures
9.Problem: gait
10.Problem:  physical build
11.Problem: facial features
12.Problem: modesty
13.Problem: bravery
14.Problem: uterus
15.Problem: prostate
16.Problem: penis-like vs. clitoris-like behavior of the phallus
17.Problem: size of the phallus
18.Problem: location of the urethral meatus
19.Problem: nocturnal emissions and ejaculations
20.Problem: menses and menstrual molimina

_________________________________

1. Dreger AD. Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex. London: Harvard University Press; 1998.

All references for this section