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The Grafenberg spot, or G spot, is a sensitive area felt through the anterior vaginal wall. It is usually located about halfway between the back of the pubic bone and the cervix, along the course of the urethra and near the neck of the bladder. It swells when it is stimulated, although it is difficult to palpate when in an unstimulated state. It was named by John Perry and Beverly Whipple in 1981 to commemorate the research of Ernst Graefenberg, a German-born obstetrician and gynecologist, who in 1944, along with Robert L. Dickinson, described a zone of erogenous feeling located along the suburethral surface of the anterior vaginal wall. In 1950, Graefenberg wrote that:

"an erotic zone could always be demonstrated on the anterior wall of the vagina along the course of the urethra, [which] seems to be surrounded by erectile tissue like the corpora cavernosa [of the penis].... In the course of sexual stimulation the female urethra begins to enlarge and can be easily felt. It swells out greatly at the end of orgasm. The most stimulating part is located at the posterior urethra, where it arises from the neck of the bladder."

Though Graefenberg and others had written about this phenomenon, it was more or less ignored until Perry and Whipple focused renewed attention on it. In teaching women to do Kegel exercises with biofeedback for treatment of stress urinary incontinence, some of the women had very strong pelvic muscles, whereas women with stress urinary incontinence have very weak pelvic muscles. The women with strong pelvic muscles reported that they only lost fluid from the urethra during sexual stimulation and in some cases during orgasm. The women reported that the fluid was about a teaspoon (3-5cc's) and did not smell or taste like urine and looked like watered down fat free milk. The two researchers were encouraged to investigate the subject through conversations with women who described what was sexually pleasurable to them. They also had the fluid analyzed and found it was significantly different from urine from the same woman, and in another study found that the women who experienced, what they called female ejaculation, has significantly stronger voluntary pelvic and uterine muscle contractions.  Since the original report the spelling of Grafenberg has been anglicized.

Perry and Whipple reported that they had a physician or nurse examine more than 400 women who had volunteered to be research subjects, and a sensitive area felt through the anterior vaginal wall was found in each of these women. They cautioned, however, that they could not state with certainty that every woman had such a sensitive area. They called this sensitive area the Grafenberg spot, which was later shortened to the G spot.

Women have reported that it is difficult for them to locate and stimulate the Grafenberg spot in their own bodies (except with a dildo or similar device). A number of women who reported that they were able to locate the Grafenberg spot by themselves say they have done so while seated on a toilet. After emptying the bladder, they explore along the anterior (upper front) wall of the vagina with firm pressure, pushing up toward the navel. Some women have also found it helpful to apply downward pressure on the abdomen with the other hand, just above the pubic bone or top of the pubic hairline. As the Grafenberg spot is stimulated and begins to swell, it can often be felt between the two sets of fingers.

It is easier for women to identify the erotic sensation when the area is stimulated by a partner. The partner inserts one or two fingers (palm up) into the woman's vagina while the woman lies on her back, then applies firm pressure through the upper vaginal wall with a "come here" motion. At the same time, the woman can also apply firm downward pressure on her abdomen just above the pubic hairline. This way the woman and her partner can both feel the swelling: the partner through the vaginal wall and the woman through her abdomen. If a penis is used to stimulate the G spot, the positions most likely to provide effective stimulation are the female sitting on top of the male's penis or the vaginal rear-entry position.

The G spot feels like a small lump or a spongy bean. Stimulation causes it to swell and to increase in diameter from the size of a dime to, in some women, the size of a half-dollar. When the Grafenberg spot is first touched, many women state that it feels as though they have to urinate, even if they have just emptied the bladder. However, within 2-10 seconds of massage, the initial reaction is replaced in some women by a strong and distinctive feeling of sexual pleasure. More recently, Jannini and colleagues have conducted ultrasounds of this area and have called this area the clito-urethro-vaginal complex.

Some women report an orgasm from stimulation of this area, and some also report an expulsion of fluid from the urethra when they experience this type of orgasm. Others report the expulsion of fluid following stimulation of the G spot without orgasm, and there have been a few reports of fluid expulsion with stimulation of other genital areas. Chemical analysis of the fluid and comparison of it to urine have been conducted, and the results have been published in many separate research reports. In some of these studies, the fluid expelled from the urethra was observed by the researchers and subjected to chemical analysis. The chemical analysis reported on concentrations of prostatic acid phosphatase, urea, creatinine, glucose, fructose, and pH.  More recent studies have also identified prostatic-specific antigen (PSA) in the ejaculate and none in the urine samples from the same women. Cabello hypothesized that all women experience female ejaculation but since the amount is so small and most women are lying on their backs during sexual stimulation, the fluid may remain in the urethra. He tested his hypothesis by collecting urine samples before and after self-stimulation and found a significant  difference in PSA. There was none in the urine before sexual self-stimulation but was found in the urine after self-stimulation without female ejaculation, supporting his hypothesis. In 2011, a study from Mexico demonstrated that there is a significant difference between "squirting or gushing" ejaculations and "real" female ejaculation.  The first has the features of diluted urine such as urea, creatinine and uric acid, while real female ejaculation is biochemically different from urine and from "gushing" in that it contains prostatic-specific antigen.

The question of female ejaculate is still being examined and opinions vary, with a few  arguing that the ejaculate is simply due to the relaxation of muscles, allowing for some urinary incontinence. However, analysis of the fluids expelled do not support this in the women studied.

Perry and Whipple estimated that perhaps 10 percent of women ejaculate. Subsequent questionnaire responses have yielded higher estimates, from 40 percent to 68 percent. The questionnaire data, however, may be biased because those women who believed that they experienced this phenomenon might have been more likely to complete the questionnaires.

Some women have reported that they had surgery to stop the expulsion of fluid, while other women reported deliberately avoiding orgasm because they thought there was something wrong with them for enjoying vaginal stimulation, sometimes with a small amount of fluid expelled from the urethra. Disseminating information about current research findings, even though the issue remains controversial, is important in lessening anxiety and in allowing women both to feel better about sexuality and to find pleasure in their sexual responses.

In a physical examination for vaginal sensitivity, Perry and Whipple found that among 47 subjects, 90 percent reported being highly sensitive in their vaginas at the 12 o'clock position (upper or anterior wall of the vaginal vault), 57 percent at the 11 o'clock position, 47 percent at the 1 o'clock position, 30 percent at the 4 o'clock position, and 37 percent at the 8 o'clock position. The G spot is not normally felt during a gynecological examination, because the area must be sexually stimulated in order for it to swell and be palpable and it is covered by a bi-valve speculum. Physicians do not sexually stimulate their patients and therefore do not find the G spot.

Other researchers have also reported findings of vaginal sensitivity, among them Hoch, Alzate and London, and Alzate and Hoch, but the latter concluded that although there is a zone of tactile erotic sensitivity, evidence remains inconclusive. The Federation of Feminist Women's Health Centers describes this area as the "urethral sponge," a sheath of erectile tissue around the urethra that becomes engorged during sexual excitement and protects the urethra during sexual activity. Zaviacic and colleagues in Slovakia reported a specifically sensitive site with a manually detectable tumescence in 27 women who were palpated. Masters, Johnson, and Kolodny observed that only 10 percent of 100 women had an area of heightened sensitivity in the anterior wall or possessed tissue mass that resembled this sensitive area. Hartman and Fithian reported finding sensitivity in large numbers of women at the 12 o'clock, 4 o'clock, and 8 o'clock positions.

In an anonymous questionnaire distributed to professional women in the United States and Canada, Davidson and colleagues found that 786 (66 percent) of their 1, 245 respondents perceived an especially sensitive area in their vagina that, if stimulated, produced pleasurable feelings. Whipple found that of the 800 women who completed a sexual-health questionnaire, 69 percent of the subjects reported 12 o'clock as the most sensitive area.

Perry and Whipple hypothesized that the G spot is probably composed of a complex network of blood vessels, the paraurethral glands and ducts, nerve endings, and the tissue surrounding the bladder neck, but they did not conduct any anatomical studies in this area. Zaviacic and his colleagues have conducted the most extensive immunohistochemical analysis of the paraurethral, or Skene's, glands in women; they found that there was a cross-antigenicity between the male prostate gland and the Skene's gland and that the enzymatic reactions of the male and female prostatic tissues are similar—so similar that Zaviacic held that the term "female prostate" was appropriate. In 2001 the Federative International Committee on Anatomical Terminology (FICAT) agreed on the term female prostate in the new Histology Terminology. Alzate.   Hoch disagreed with such a term, claiming that it is confusing to call the Skene's gland the female prostate.

In a review article in 2012, Kilchevsky et al., concluded that the area of the G spot is not a distinct anatomical entity. This was supported by Perry and Whipple when they named this sensitive area the Grafenberg spot or G spot. Thabet, from Egypt conducted a study to clarify the reality of the G spot histologically, anatomically and sexually to determine the possible effect of female circumcision and anterior vaginal wall surgery on the integrity and function of this area. Based on his study of 175 women, he concluded that the G spot is a functional reality in 82.3%, an anatomical reality in 54.3% and a histological reality in 47.4% of his subjects. He also stated that anterior vaginal wall surgery usually affects the G spot and female sexuality, but female circumcisions rarely affects them. Ostrenski in 2012 claimed to have documented the anatomical existence of the G spot. His claim is based upon his dissection of the vaginal wall of an 83-year-olc multiparous cadaver. In a commentary on the paper by Komisaruk, Whipple and Jannini  and in a letter to the Editor, Levin and Wylie pointed out limitations of this study, including no history of the subject, no histological evidence, and no report of innervations of the tissue dissected.  They also stated that they had all published that the G spot area is not one anatomical entity but a rich complexity of variable anatomical and functional zone of erotogenic complexity, with differently innervated structures.

A word of caution. There is a procedure called the G shot, where collagen is injected into the anterior wall of the vagina. There are no published double blind placebo-controlled studies about the effectiveness of this procedure, however it has been franchised all over the United States and in many other countries. It is reported that women come back every few months for injections to enhance their G spot.

Despite the evidence that specific anatomical structures correspond to the area defined as the Grafenberg spot, its exact anatomical identity remains inconclusive. All we can say with certainty is that some women report pleasurable vaginal sensitivity and that the anterior wall appears to be the most sensitive area of the vagina. A distinct area identified through the anterior vaginal wall that swells when stimulated has not been found universally by all researchers who have conducted sexological examinations. This seems to imply either that not all women have this distinct area or that perhaps different criteria have been used to identify it. Those women who report having a G spot say the orgasm resulting from stimulation of this sensitive area is different from that resulting from clitoral stimulation, the main difference being that it is "deeper" inside. Some also report a bearing-down feeling during orgasm from G spot stimulation. Komisaruk et al, using fMRI of the brain, have demonstrated that clitoral, vaginal and cervical stimulation activate the sensory cortex in the medial paracentral loblule, and that the sites are regionally differentiated and separable and distinct.

Obviously, women do not have to fit one  model of sexual response, and there are many reported sexual responses in women, as discussed by Jannini et al.  Women also have been socialized to believe and accept traditional views about their sexual responses and  pleasure, and often what they have been taught is different from what they experience. For women, the whole body can be sensual and sexual, and women have the potential to experience sensual and sexual pleasure from their thoughts, feelings, beliefs, fantasies, and dreams. Each woman has to be aware of what is pleasurable to her, acknowledge it to herself, and then communicate what is pleasurable to her partner. Women need to be   encouraged to feel good about the variety of ways they experience sensual and sexual pleasure, without setting up specific goals (such as find the G spot or experiencing female ejaculation). By setting such  goals they miss a lot of pleasure along the way. Healthy sexuality begins with acceptance of the self, in addition to an emphasis on the process, rather than the goals, of sensual and sexual interactions.


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Cabello, F. Female ejaculation: Myths and Reality. In: Sexuality and Human Rights. Borris-Valls, J.J. and Perez-Conchillo, M. (Eds), (1997),  Valencia: Nau Libres,

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Beverly Whipple July 2012



Paul Gebhard, born July 3, 1917, is a social anthropologist who received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1947. He is best known for his work at the Institute for Sex Research, in Bloomington, Indiana.

Until 1946, Gebhard conducted his own experiments in psychiatry and did research in anthropology. In 1947, he became professor of anthropology at Indiana University, where he was subsequently invited to join the famous research team headed by Alfred Kinsey at the university's Institute for Sex Research. From 1947 to 1955, Gebhard was a member of this team, interviewing thousands of people about their sexual experiences.

After Kinsey's death in 1956, Gebhard became director of the Institute for Sex Research. By that time, the Institute's primary efforts were focused on analyzing and publishing its accumulated data. On the basis of this data, Gebhard authored and coauthored many articles and books, including Pregnancy, Birth and Abortion (1958), with Wardell Pomeroy, Clyde Martin, and Cornelia Christenson; and Sex Offenders: An Analysis of Types (1965), with Pomeroy, Christenson, and William Gagnon.

In the early 1960s Gebhard initiated a course on human sexuality at Indiana University's medical school that he taught to graduate and undergraduate students. In 1982, he retired from his directorship of the Institute and was succeeded by June Reinisch Gebhard remained at the Institute as Curator of Collections and continued teaching. He retired from teaching as professor emeritus in 1986 and from the curatorship in 1988.

Gebhard has received many prestigious honors, including awards from the Polish Sexological Society and the Czechoslovakian Sexological Society, as well as the Society for the Scientific Study of Sex Award for Distinguished Scientific Achievement (1986).



Gebhard, P.H., W. Gagnon, W.B. Pomeroy, and C.V. Christenson. Sex Offenders: An Analysis of Types. New York: Harper & Row, 1965.

Gebhard, P.H., C.E. Martin, W.B. Pomeroy, and C.V. Christenson. Pregnancy, Birth and Abortion. New York: Harper-Hoeber, 1958.

Kinsey, A.C., P.H. Gebhard, W.B. Pomeroy, and C.E. Martin. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. Philadelphia: Saunders, 1953.


Reinisch, J. The Kinsey Institute New Report on Sex. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991.

Leak Cahan Schaefer


Sex and Gender
The Cultural Anthropology of Gender
Sex Differences

Sex and Gender

In most dictionaries, "gender" is defined as a class of nouns, varying in size from two to more than 20, that covary with sex or animateness. The familiar languages include two or three classes: for example, masculine and feminine in Spanish and French, with neuter added in Latin and German. As a recent language, English does not mark its nouns directly, but only indirectly by means of pronouns such as "he," "she," or "it."

Within the life and social sciences, "gender" is used carelessly as both a synonym and an antonym of "sex." Yet in 1955, the sexologist John Money adopted the concept of gender from philology and linguistics. Money introduced gender to serve as an umbrella concept, encompassing more than the dimorphic components of biological sex, because he wanted to describe the manliness or womanliness of persons born with sexually indeterminate genitals. In his doctoral dissertation, Money studied hermaphrodites, who would grow up to live as women without female sex organs or as men without a male sex organ. A hermaphrodite living as a man did not literally have a male sex role (sexuoerotic role), since he had no functioning penis for copulation, but he could enact the male sex role (sociosexual role) in attitudes, traits, behaviors, interests, and activities. Money believed that without the term "gender," he would get bogged down in statements like this: "John has a male sex role, except that his sex role with his sex organs is not male and his genetic sex is female." Although Money's contribution was historic, it unfortunately was not uniformly adopted.

Currently, Money says sex is one's status as male, female, or intersexed according to the criterion of the external genitalia, and gender is one's status as male or female, masculine or feminine—personally, socially, and legally—according to somatic and behavioral criteria more inclusive than the external-genitalia criterion alone. By these definitions, gender is more inclusive than sex; it includes both genital sex and erotic sex, along with other variables (e.g., chromosomes, gonads) used to describe differences between males and females. For Money, there are four grades of male-female sex differences: (1) sex irreducible, (2) sex derivative, (3) sex adjunctive, and (4) sex adventitious. These grades of sex differences are Money's attempt to avoid a simplistic reductionism in which the coding of gender is split into sex, belonging to biology, lust, and nature, and gender, belonging to social science, romance, and nurture.

In a diecious species—one in which male and female reproductive organs are housed in two distinct individuals—what the individual with male organs does is masculine, what the individual with female organs does is feminine, and what is done by both is sex-shared or ambisexual. Male-only or female-only behavior is rare; statistically, the central tendencies of the sexes as collectivities disperse into overlapping distributions, permitting the relative descriptors "most often" or "more often" to be used when one sex is compared to the other. Given gender ideology, culture-bound dogmas of history still declare, in dichotomous contrast, what males ought to do and what females ought to do. These dogmas of history justify a gender hierarchy of male superiority and female inferiority.

At their scientific best, biologists and social scientists agree that the coding of gender is multivariate, sequential, and developmental, reflecting a complex interaction across the boundaries of disciplines and across so-called biological and social variables. Still, each discipline is tempted to bolster its status by claiming to reduce human complexity to the parameters of its specialty. Such a reductionism to nature or nurture is often strategically employed in the rhetoric of ideological warfare over what men and women ought to be and do.

The irreducible sex differences are immutable, by definition, and few, as revealed by nature. They are specifically linked to reproduction Neither chromosomal nor gonadal sex is irreducible, given a variety of accidents of nature and medical technology. For example, a 46, XY hermaphrodite reared as a woman has had an implanted pregnancy and produced a healthy baby by caesarean section. A demonstration in the male baboon makes it conceivable that a man can support an implanted pregnancy. Genes may be spliced, and hormones reproduced and administered; the science of reproduction advances. But the biological bottom line for sex appears to be the immutable gametes: the male produces sperm for reproduction, and the female produces ova. It is nearly accurate to say that the male irreducibly impregnates, and the female irreducibly menstruates, ovulates, gestates, and lactates. However, it is most accurate to say that fertile male and female gametes combine in the reproduction of humans.

The sex-derivative differences in gender coding originate in the different ratios of steroidal sex hormones in males and females. To call these hormones "male" and "female" overlooks the sequential nature of their synthesis: cholesterol is converted into progestin, which is converted into androgen, which is converted into estrogen. Thus, both sexes have all these hormones, although in males androgen predominates, in females progestin and estrogen.

Scientists agree that these different ratios of sex hormones create differences in body morphology and procreative physiology. A dramatic example of these changes follows from transposing the usual ratios of hormones in transsexuals who are seeking surgery to change their sex. Female-to-male transsexuals grow facial and body hair (even balding later if that is encoded in their genes), lengthen their vocal cords, lessen their body fat, increase their muscle mass (as in the steroid effects sought by some athletes), enlarge their clitoris, and may intensify their orgasms.

Money argued also that sex-shared, but threshold, dimorphic gender coding is a long-term consequence of prenatal and neonatal sex-hormonal effects on the brain. That is, the hormonal effect is to set two thresholds—one higher and one lower—for each sex. The presence or absence of a sex hormone during a critical period of development produces a hormonally coded threshold that is subsequently socially reinforced. A dimorphic (two-formed) threshold (point at which a stimulus has an effect) means that each sex would have different forms of timing in sex-derivative tendencies to respond, for example, to the cries of infants or the pleas of the young. >From the Greek word praxis, meaning custom or practice, Money selected the word "praxon" to refer to sex-derivative, gender-coded ways of doing things. He said that a praxon is identified by (1) wide distribution across species, particularly primate species; (2) alteration in subhuman species through the experimental administration of sex hormones during a critical period of prenatal or neonatal development; and (3) clinical evidence, usually from studies of anomalous prenatal or neonatal development of sexual and reproductive organs, as well as later behavior, that is consistent with the animal experimentation.

The effects of prenatal hormones on the brain are still in the early stages of scientific investigation; thus, disputes abound. Not all scientists accept that the available evidence supports Money's list of praxons. Still, Money believed that he had identified nine sex-shared but threshold-dimorphic praxons: (1) kinesis or overall muscular energy expenditure; (2) roaming; (3) competitive rivalry, assertiveness, and jockeying for position in the dominance hierarchy of one's peer group; (4) intruder aggression in fighting off marauders and predators; (5) parental aggression in defense of the young; (6) nestling the young and providing a sheltered place not only for their birth but also for their subsequent suckling and nurturance; (7) parentalism; (8) positioning in sexual rehearsal play; and (9) visual sexuoerotic arousal.

Money continued his argument by indicating that sex-derivative gender coding is descended from sex-irreducible coding by way of prenatal sex-hormonal coding, and sex-adjunctive coding is descended from sex-derivative coding by way of social coding that is an adjunct or extension of prenatal coding applied to the sex-divergent division of labor. Money believed that the sex-divergent division of labor had evolutionary roots in the diminished mobility of the female, given gestation and lactation, and that men's labor was compatible with mobility for war, work, or adventure. Recent social changes have swept away the gender-coded division of labor, making the occupational roles of men and women interchangeable. Money held that such changes threaten conservatives, as if social change signaled a biological change of sex or a forfeiture of masculinity or femininity. Still, Money viewed the crossing of occupational gender roles as reflecting a predisposition (biological or social?) to gender-transposed careers.

Sex-adventitious gender coding is the culturally and historically variable ways of distinguishing males and females on the criterion of dress and adornment. Money saw such gender coding as an extension of social coding to the sex-divergent distribution of power. Often, adornment signals that women are dependent showpieces of men's wealth and power. Given cultural rules about concealing the genitals, which are the intrinsic signal of sex, these sex-divergent characteristics are arbitrary and extrinsic signals of male or female sex.

Coalesced into a personal biography, the four grades of sex differences constitute an individual's gender identity and gender role. Money defined gender identity as "the sameness, unity, and persistence of one's individuality as male, female, or ambivalent as expressed in self-awareness or behavior." Gender role is everything a person says or does to indicate to others or to the self that one is either male, female, or ambivalent. Gender identity is the private experience of gender role, whereas gender role is the public expression of gender identity. Money viewed gender identity/role as two sides of the same coin, introducing the acronym GI/R to unify them as a singular noun. GI/R includes sexual orientation as heterosexual, homosexual, or ambisexual.

Money noted that his reciprocal definition did not take root. Gender identity, in simplistic form, was reduced to core gender identity—self-statements that "I am male (or female)." Money said gender role became a social script or social stereotype to which the individual did or did not conform.

By sociologists, sex was defined as an ascribed status, assigned to the person at birth on the basis of dimorphism in the external male and female genitals. Gender was defined as an achieved status, with social, cultural, and psychological components, and as either masculine or feminine as a function of the differential socialization of the sexes. For sociologists, sex is ascribed by one's birth as male or female, whereas gender is acquired as a social role, from a social script. Often, the usage of "sex" is limited to the specifically sexuoerotic; gender is everything else. Money lampooned this as Barbie-doll usage.

The Cultural Anthropology of Gender

Cultural anthropologists study no literate cultures. In trying to understand the variations in cultural definitions of gender, they look for underlying patterns in the belief systems that organize gender ideology—a worldview of men, women, and nature. Across cultures, the general features of gender ideologies reveal three important thematic oppositions: (1) males are aligned with culture, females with nature; (2) men control the public domain, women, the domestic; and (3) males are aligned with the social good, females with self-interest or the good of the family. The anthropologists Sherry Ortner and Harriet Whitehead indicated that all three of these oppositions—nature/culture, domestic/public, self-interest/social good—exhibit a central sociological insight: because the sphere of social activity predominantly associated with males encompasses the sphere predominantly associated with females, it is culturally accorded higher value.

Moreover, these anthropologists discussed the general cultural tendency to define men in terms of status and role categories (e.g., warrior, statesman, elder) that have little to do with their relationships with women; in contrast, women are defined almost entirely in relation to men through kinship roles (e.g., sister, wife, mother). Thus, male categories are not drawn just from the public domain but specifically from the sphere of power. To be a warrior or an elder in societies in which these are primary categories of manhood is not just to play a role in the public domain but to be located at the upward end of a hierarchical scheme of culturally ordered prestige. Whenever women are defined as being merely relational dependents of men and the male ranks, they are excluded not only from the structure of masculine prestige but also from other prestige structures in the religious, economic, and political realms. This is so because the gender system not only is a prestige structure but also is meaningfully aligned with all other structures of prestige. The most masculine of men ascend in prestige, whereas entry into the structures of prestige may be denied to the entire female sex.

Furthermore, Ortner and Whitehead noted that women, by contrast, are defined not by roles, such as child-tenders or cooks, derived from their primary activities in the domestic domain but rather by their exclusion from the world of male prestige, except as dependent collaterals to men (wives, daughters) that further foster male prestige. Male honor is often dependent on female behavior; women are often the prize for male prowess. Thus, gender ideology defines man as culture's agent who advances the social good in the public domain and who is to be rewarded by honor and prestige; woman is defined as closer to nature, to domestic nurture, and to particularistic concerns with what is hers in the smaller, private world of family.

In her place—private, domestic, and subordinate—woman is to be protected and warmed by her man's public prestige. Within this ideology of gender, as long as woman's place is encompassed by man's, she remains secondary and he remains primary. Gender ideologies justify this hierarchal arrangement as places (i.e., a ranking of prestige and power) that are given by nature (i.e., separate and unequal natural places).

The concept of gender is situated in a historical context of male dominance. The invidious stratification of the sexes into a hierarchy of gender invests meaning in the concepts of "masculinity" and "femininity." Concepts become meaningful only within a culture. Cultures impart meaning through their forms of language, social processes, and interpersonal transactions Moreover, the psychologist Jerome Bruner pointed out that the central concept of human psychology is meaning and the processes and transactions involved in the construction of meaning. Thus, like all concepts, "male" and "female" or "masculinity" and "femininity" attain their meanings through interpersonal transactions interpreted within a cultural context.

The historically and socially constructed traditional ideology of gender divided humankind into male and female social categories that justified the power of men as grounded in the superiority of masculine, as compared to feminine, nature. Yet the anthropologist Clifford Geertz said there is no such thing as human nature independent of culture. Given that nature is never independent of culture, the ideological claim that "masculinity equals superiority" serves as a gloss to justify inequality between the sexes. In spite of the democratic value placed on equality in America, the sexist claim remains: "Men's advantages in political, economic, and social power over women are justified by real and biodetermined differences in their essential natures."

Sex Differences

The feminist Ruth Hubbard declared that the interest in differences between the sexes is above all an interest determined by differences in power between them. It is these beliefs about "real" differences that have rationalized gender inequality as following from the natures of the sexes, from masculine superiority and feminine inferiority. Thus, in gender ideology, "is-ness" becomes "ought-ness." The concept of human nature does not describe people; instead, it is a normative concept that incarnates historically based beliefs about what human beings are and how they should behave.

Pioneers in psychology, like James McKeen Cattell and Edward Thorndike, thought that biological differences between the sexes explained the rarity of extremely intelligent women. Francis Galton, in his study of hereditary genius, did not find many women; however, if society says woman's place is private, domestic, and family centered, if women are systematically denied equal educational and occupational opportunity, what else could Galton have found? Present-day psychology offers three possible sex differences in cognitive abilities: (1) verbal ability favors females, (2) mathematical ability favors males, and (3) visual-spatial ability favors males.

Psychologists aggregate data across a number of separate studies by using a meta-analytic method that expresses the difference between males and females, divided by the group standard deviations, as a d statistic. Using the d metric, 0.20 is small, 0.50 is medium, and 0.80 is a large difference in standard-deviation units.

In verbal ability, the difference favoring women is small, about 0.18 to 0.24. In mathematical ability, the difference favoring men is medium, about 0.45. In visual-spatial ability, the difference favoring men is medium, about 0.45, but varying considerably with the nature of the specific task. For further comparison, the difference in motor ability between men and women, favoring men, is also medium, about 0.49.

All these statistical distributions show great overlap; differences among men and women are far greater than differences between them. Of course, these measures of ability are not pure measures of innate capacity. Estimates of sex differences can be no better than the tests they are based on. Many abilities appear to be multifactorial and thus are more complex than most of their purported measures. Sometimes, multiple strategies can be used to solve the same problem General ability describes the skill of selecting the best strategy from the repertoire of skills to solve a particular problem; on the spatial-visualization task, the skill most closely aligned with the general-selection skill, the sexes performed no differently, just as tests of general ability have shown no differences in the performance of the sexes.

Moreover, differences in ability or, more accurately, in performance vary with socialization, across cultures, and following special training. For example, assuming women's scores on tests of so-called masculinity (M) reflect socialization experiences, women scoring higher on M performed better on mathematics and much better on visual-spatial tasks in a meta-analysis of sex differences on cognitive tests. Scores on M were about as predictive of performance as sex, improving women's chances of scoring well from 36 percent to 64 percent on mental-rotation tasks and from 40 percent to 60 percent on spatial-perception tasks. Within Eskimo culture, visual-spatial performance was found not to vary across sex, perhaps because the Arctic environment requires spatial acuteness and because parents give both autonomy and unconditional love to girls. In America, special spatial training of preschool and elementary students reduced or even eliminated sex differences on spatial tasks.

Finally, the size of the sex differences in cognitive abilities has declined over the last 20 years. Has the women's movement had an effect? Even the differences between the sexes in athletic performance, certainly affected by steroidal sex hormones, are narrowing in recent Olympic athletic competition as women become more motivated and highly trained.

In the social realm, traits that are candidates for psychological sex differences include (1) aggression, (2) helping, (3) influenceability, (4) verbal communication, and (5) nonverbal behavior. The best single summary statistic from studies of aggression is a d of 0.50, a medium difference favoring boys and men across all types, designs, and measures of aggression. When limited to an analysis of men aggressing against strangers in brief encounters, the d was a smaller 0.29. In comparison to women, men accepted the harm their aggression caused, experiencing little fear of retaliation or little guilt.

In brief encounters with strangers that hold some potential danger, men help more than women (d = 0.34), particularly if the stranger is a woman and an audience is present. Quantitative reviews of social influence, measured in studies that use group pressure to induce conformity to incorrect group opinion, found men to be more resistant to influence than women, with a relatively small d of 0.28.

A narrative review of studies of men's and women's verbal communicative styles concluded that men emphasize hierarchical organization through interactions that are directing and dominating. Women, in contrast, emphasize equality and cooperation through interactions that are expressive, receptive, encouraging, and supportive.

Meta-analytic reviews of sex differences in nonverbal communication favor women's greater skill in decoding emotions from the face (d = 0.41), in encoding emotion in their faces (d = 1.00), in recognizing a face seen before (d = 0.32), and in decoding cues from face, voice, and body (d = 0 52).

These studies of verbal and nonverbal communication reported larger differences when the sexes were in same-sex rather than in mixed-sex groups. Such results are compatible with explanations positing gender socialization into different sociolinguistic subcultures. Well-known for her own work on sex differences, the psychologist Eleanor Maccoby argued that all these sex differences might result from segregation into same-sex groups as playmates. Preferences for same-sex play groups emerge by age three and are maintained at a high level between the ages of 6 and 11. Maccoby believed the rough-and-tumble play of boys, their orientation toward competition and dominance, and their resistance to girls' influence led girls to avoid boys. When children move into adolescence, their communicative styles continue, sometimes creating difficulties between the sexes.

The psychologist Donald Mosher continued Maccoby's theme that male concern with dominance and not showing weakness to other men, as well as men's emotionally restrictive style and lack of self-disclosure, was consistent with a macho personality. Mosher theorized that macho men are socialized and acculturated into hypermasculine scripts. Script formation is supported by a normative gender ideology of machismo and instilled by the differential socialization of discrete affects in boys and girls. Macho men magnify the warrior affects of excitement, surprise, anger, disgust, and contempt, whereas women are socialized to magnify the affects of the oppressed—enjoyment, fear, distress, and shame.


Eagly, A.H. Sex Differences in Social Behavior: A Social Role Interpretation. Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1987.

Hess, B.B., and M.M. Ferree. Analyzing Gender: A Handbook of Social Research. Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage, 1987.

Hyde, J.S. Psychology of Gender: Advances Through Meta-Analysis. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1986.

Money, J., and A.A. Ehrhardt. Man and Woman, Boy and Girl. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1972.

Ortner, S.B., and H. Whitehead. Sexual Meanings: The Cultural Construction of Gender and Sexuality. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1981.

Reinisch, J.M., L.A. Rosenblum, and S.A. Sander. Masculinity/Femininity: Basic Perspectives. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1987.

Donald L. Mosher


The First Generation of Measures
Sex Stereotypes
Second-Generation Measures of M&F
Ending Dimorphic Sexual Essentialism
Gender Dysphoria and Stigmatization

The First Generation of Measures

The history of the measurement of individual differences reveals that some proponents have held a normative ideology in which measurement is viewed as discovering and metricizing the real, as quantifying inner essences. Surely, the history of IQ testing amply demonstrates the thesis that some proponents of differences in intelligence have held racist views. Is sexism implicit in traditional measures of masculinity and femininity?

In 1916, the psychologist Lewis Terman introduced the Stanford-Binet intelligence test to America; two decades later, he introduced a measure of masculinity-femininity (M-F). The early work on M-F was said to reveal an exception to the famous positivist dictum, "If something exists, it exists in some amount and can be measured." In her 1973 review of five measures of M-F, the psychologist Ann Constantinople satirically concluded that if something (M-F) cannot be measured, it does not exist.

Instead of beginning with a theory of gender or of masculinity and femininity as psychological concepts, psychologists, in their first efforts to measure M-F, followed the simplistic strategy of finding empirical differences between the responses of men and women to questionnaire items about their interests and preferences. At its most mindless, such an operational definition equated "masculinity" with men's preferences for taking showers, for work as a business contractor, and for magazines like Popular Mechanics, whereas "femininity" was equated with preferences for taking baths, work as a dress designer, and magazines like Good Housekeeping—just because these items had empirically discriminated between collectivities of men and women.

Not only did this approach enable them, they believed, to discriminate between men and women on psychological masculinity and femininity, but it was also presumed to permit separation of the heterosexual sheep from the homosexual goats. The logic: males and females are opposites; homosexuals are the inverse of heterosexuals. What's more, healthy men would be masculine, healthy women feminine. Since the congruence of assigned sex and normative sexual role defined psychological health, cross-gendered appearance, personality traits, or household or occupational role behaviors came to define deviance and mental disturbance. Of course, given congruence assumptions, same-sexed sexual activity defined homosexuality as deviant and unhealthy. In fact, all those cross-gendered characteristics aroused suspicions of homosexuality, stigmatizing anyone who manifested gender incongruence, even though Constantinople noted that these measures of M-F failed to discriminate heterosexuals from homosexuals.

The assumption of a healthy congruence of sexuoerotic roles and of masculine and feminine personality stem from a belief that the male and female sex must, should, and do display congruent erotic sex and congruent gender characteristics because their biological or God-given natures make it so. This belief is called dimorphic sexual essentialism.

Dimorphic sexual essentialism is defined as a gender-ideological belief that men's and women's natures are two-formed and inherently different, jointly creating a heterosexual and heterosocial complementarity. In such a worldview, men and women necessarily form a complementary whole in heterosexual intercourse and in a heterosocial complementarity of dominance or submission, activity or passivity, and superiority or inferiority. The purpose of intercourse is always to be procreative; all other sex is defined as deviant. Thus, in this patriarchal view, man is head of the household and woman is to serve as his complement.

Although Constantinople recognized that masculinity and femininity were among the muddiest concepts in the psychologist's vocabulary, her critique was more methodological than conceptual. Her review raised two issues: Is M-F a single bipolar dimension ranging from extreme masculinity to extreme femininity or two separable dimensions? With the constructs of M, F, or M-F, are we dealing with unitary or multidimensional traits? The second generation of measures of masculinity and femininity responded to these questions. But before telling that part of the story, an understanding of sex stereotypes would be helpful.

Sex Stereotypes

A sex stereotype is a widely shared, rigid, simplified, and generalized image or conception that is applied to an individual man or woman simply because of gender assignment and that is invested with ideological affect and meaning. Sex stereotypes are components in a widely shared system of gender-ideological beliefs, both descriptive and prescriptive, that characterize what the sexes as collectivities ultimately are and should be. As a component of traditional gender ideology, sex stereotypes assume dimorphic sexual essentialism. Sex stereotypes include both gender traits and gender roles as subtypes, with both being simultaneously descriptive and normative. When the trait or role is descriptive, it is either characterizing (describing one sex but not the other) or differentiating (found in both sexes but differentially distributed between them). When the stereotype is normative, it prescribes for one sex, in dichotomous contrast to the other, what it should do (roles) or be (traits) and proscribes for one sex, in dichotomous contrast to the other, what it should not do or not be. Descriptions as defining essences are used to justify prescriptions; proscriptions keep everyone in their places.

In sociology, role includes the internalized cultural and normative expectations that an individual brings to a particular social location. Sex roles are the normative expectations about the division of labor and the social interactions of men and women existing within an ideology of gender. The sociologist Talcott Parsons described men as fulfilling instrumental roles and women as fulfilling expressive roles in social interactions.

Following World War II, women's lives changed dramatically as they entered the work force in ever-increasing numbers. Yet gender inequalities still remain in earnings, promotion, and prestige. To women's detriment, job-level segregation of the sexes remains, even within similar occupational classifications.

Although women are marrying later, having children later, and divorcing more, they remain principally responsible for household roles and child care. Whether their wife is employed or not, fathers spend far less time with their children. Although the traditional nuclear family is far less common today, many marriages retain a traditional head-complement orientation, with provider and homemaker roles, particularly when the wife is not working. When she works, the senior partner-junior partner model, in which family boundaries are permeable to work for the man and to family demands for the woman, still give the man greater decision-making control. A few marriages employ an egalitarian style, in which all so-called sex roles are up for negotiation.

Psychological research on sex-trait stereotypes used adjectives to characterize the traits that were either "more true" (differentiating) of men or women or "generally true" (characterizing) of men or women. Two clusters of traits similar to Parsons's instrumental and expressive styles emerged from this research on sex stereotypes. men were seen as competent, rational, and assertive, whereas women were seen as warm and expressive.

Pan-cultural similarity in sex stereotypes of the "typical" man or woman emerged from a study of 25 nations. In these 25 countries, men were described in all as adventurous, dominant, and strong, women as sentimental, submissive, and superstitious. Overall, however, the stereotypes of women and men did not differ on an evaluative dimension; men were viewed as strong and active, women as weak and passive.

Both sexes wanted their ideal selves to be more strong and active than their perceived selves. The psychologists John Williams and Deborah Best interpreted this result to mean that both sexes desire, wish, or want to be "relatively more masculine." However, this conclusion conflates the operational definition of a difference score between a perceived self and an ideal self with a befogging idea about desired masculine gender identity. Wanting to be more strong and active, more ambitious and dominant, or more instrumental or agentic is not identical to wanting to be more "masculine" in one's gender identity, just as wanting to be more warm and friendly or more expressive and communal is not the same as wanting to be more "feminine" in gender identity. To want to be the best that any human can be is just to realize the self, to be a fully functioning person, to be an ideal specimen of a human being. It is to discard the dimorphic sexual essentialism of a normative gender ideology in favor of a humanist ideology in which the human being is the measure of all things.

The psychologist Kay Deaux noted that reliance on personality-trait terms to define gender stereotypes has been a persistent but indefensible strategy among social scientists. Gender-linked associations cross a number of realms, permitting a broad range of inferences to be generated from a small amount of information. For better or worse, people use sex assignment as either male or female to organize information. Physical appearance seems to provide cues that strongly weight information about the probability of sexual orientation, occupational roles, role behaviors (e.g., cooking meals), and trait stereotypes. In fact, information about any component of gender influences stereotypic hypotheses about other presumably related components. Although largely ignored in research on sex stereotypes, information about sexuality strongly predicts beliefs about other gender components such as traits or roles. Dichotomous thinking about gender follows from a gender belief in dimorphic sexual essentialism.

Second-Generation Measures of M&F

Two measures of masculinity and femininity introduced in 1974—one by Sandra Bern, the Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI), and the other by Janet Spence and Robert Helmreich, the Personal Attributes Questionnaire (PAQ)—have generated a plethora of research. They appeared to be a promising innovation, in that they separated masculinity and femininity into two separate dimensions. Moreover, Bern said androgyny promised to capture the best of both the instrumental and expressive worlds.

Unfortunately, neither measure was based on a theory of gender. The BSRI was constructed empirically from a list of 400 adjectives by selecting socially acceptable personality traits said to be more characteristic of either men or women. The PAQ was constructed from positive stereotypic items borrowed from the Sex-Role Stereotype Questionnaire; later, the PAQ became the (expanded) EPAQ when negative stereotypes were added.

Much of the appeal of these measures, given the feminist times, was that Bem's androgyny—as a balance between masculine and feminine traits—appealed to many psychologists as a positive definition of mental health. Women would not have to be limited by role and trait congruence as health-defining but could strive to be both instrumental and expressive. Later on, Bem rejected her own concept of androgyny as placing a double burden on women to be both instrumental and expressive. After some initial confusion about how best to measure androgyny, a meta-analytic pattern of results soon revealed that M, but not androgyny or F or even congruence, was related to self-esteem and psychological well-being.

At its worst, the measurement of masculinity and femininity by psychologists engendered and strengthened ideological beliefs in the categorical reality of male and female essences. At its best, this mindless body of research may teach the lesson that assuming psychological meaning-fulness resides in essences called "masculinity" and "femininity" is a blind positivist faith. Rather than relying on an explicit theory of personality for a psychological theory of gender, the first generation of M-F measures trusted in the empirical keying of men's and women's responses to interests, attitudes, and traits to reveal their essences. Learning little, the second-generation measures of M&F continued to trust the empirical keying of desirable, stereotypic traits to assess M, F, and an ill-defined "androgyny." The body of research on M&F suggests that M might be better called "instrumental-agentic-dominance" and F "expressive-friendly-affiliation" when found in individuals of either sex.

Ending Dimorphic Sexual Essentialism

Ideology worked itself deeply into science in the form of dimorphic sexual essentialism. Ideologues seek to justify the traditional hierarchy of gender by discovering biodetermined sex differences that justify men's superior political, economic, and social power and women's inferior status. Biodeterminism is a form of reductionism that falsely explains individual behavior and the characteristics of societies in terms of biological functions. It transforms historically created male superiority into "masculinity," as superior to "femininity." It produced a long line of discoveries of biological differences favoring men that failed, upon further research, to achieve replication, much less a scientific consensus. It still produces a bias in the mass media in favor of reporting biological differences believed to be related to gender. It infiltrated work on sex stereotypes by transforming the concepts of masculinity and femininity from rigid images into essences that people strive to attain. It permeated the study of M-F and M&F by substituting empirical differences in responses for measurement of inner essences and by helping psychologists forget that trait stereotypes are not dimorphic, universal, inner essences of men and women.

In recent years, feminists have urged a new perspective on maleness and femaleness. In their view, gender itself is seen as a principle that organizes social arrangements, cognition, and action. The anthropologist Gayle Rubin argued that it is the system of gender that creates a taboo against the sameness of male and female, a taboo which exacerbates the biological differences between the sexes and thereby creates a belief in gender as encompassing dimorphic sexual essences. Far from being an expression of natural differences, gender identity as cast into dimorphic forms is the suppression of natural similarities for social purposes and by social means.

Within Silvan Tomkins's script theory, gender is defined as a socially inherited ideological script (concerned with the ultimate nature of men and women) that bonds, differentiates, and divides the two sexes into unjustly stratified collectivities. A gender script is a set of rules for ordering information in sets of scenes relevant to ideologies of gender; the psychologically magnified rules (often in the absence of conscious awareness) interpret, produce, direct, defend, and evaluate an individual's actions or interpersonal transactions in gender-relevant scenes.

One component of a gender script is a subset of rules ordering information in scenes using a theory about gender—a gender belief system, including causal explanations, that serves as an auxiliary to many scripts. Following Deaux, a gender belief system is defined as a set of descriptive beliefs (about what is) and prescriptive opinions (about what should be) concerning males and females and the purported gender qualities of masculine and feminine, including stereotypes of men and women; attitudes toward appropriate roles, relationships, dispositions, and actions of men and women; and attitudes toward individuals who do not fit modal social categories of men and women (e.g., homosexuals, transsexuals).

Gender Dysphoria and Stigmatization

Because gender ideology is a component of normative ideology, it includes the belief that men and women should be rewarded with positive affect only when they live up to gender norms. Traditional gender ideology maintains that failure to embody gender norms is caused by deficits in masculinity or femininity. For adults, these norms of gender include physical appearance, dress and adornment, household and occupational roles, stereotypic traits, and sexual orientation; for children, they include affect display and communication, urination posture, dress and adornment, games and toys, and pastimes and playmates. Any display of cross-gender interests, affect, and behavior—characteristics stereotypically belonging to the sex opposite to that of sexual assignment—activates varying degrees of humiliation from an audience.

Of particular importance as social stimuli are any cues about potential or actual homosexual sexual orientation, as well as physical appearance or adventitious sexual coding that appears crossgendered. Traditional gender ideology is a variant of a normative ideology that is often characterized as "traditional family ideology." Beneath that rhetorically chosen label lies a cluster of moral and patriarchal beliefs that can be summarized by recalling the teachings of Thomas Aquinas (see Sexual Values and Moral Development).

What is and what is not morally acceptable in traditional family ideology? The only morally acceptable sexual motive is procreation. The only morally acceptable sexual object is the spouse. The only morally acceptable sexual activity is coitus in the missionary position for procreation with the spouse. The only morally acceptable sexual affect is shame when fulfilling this prescription; sexual guilt must inhibit or, fading moral restraint, follow all other proscribed sexual linkages or sexual objects. The only morally acceptable context for reproduction is the monogamous marriage. The act of intercourse begins a procreative function that is morally fulfilled only when the offspring reach adulthood. The only morally acceptable climate for raising children is the family; therefore, there can be no divorce. The only morally acceptable division of labor places men at the head of the family; men must make decisions that protect their less capable wives, and women must follow the lead of the men, since they are the men's less competent complement. The foundation of traditional family ideology is the assumption of dimorphic sexual essentialism: that God made man, with woman as his complement, to embody essentially different human natures. Originating in sin, these dimorphic but complementary natures require constant inner vigilance and outward correction if they are to meet moral and gendered norms.

When parents accept traditional gender ideology, they must mold their children to meet these norms rather than enjoy the playfulness and affective spontaneity of their children as ends in themselves. Assigned sex becomes a normative gender ideal that must be met, the son must become a real man, the daughter a real woman. Thus, no so-called cross-gender behavior can be permitted.

Given traditional gender ideology, a failure to manifest stereotypic gender behavior produces censure and stigmatization, a stigma soon to be followed by gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is defined as dissatisfaction, unhappiness, dejection, and disaffection with one's gender identity/role.

Although homosexuality is no longer a psychiatric diagnosis, the stigmatization of gay and lesbian youths and adults continues. Traditional family and gender ideology stigmatizes homosexual acts and orientations, creating problems in forming a positive gay male or lesbian identity. The sociologist Richard Troiden describes a four-stage model of homosexual identity formation: (1) sensitization, (2) identity confusion, (3) identity assumption, and (4) commitment. The stage of sensitization occurs prior to puberty; it is characterized by feeling marginal, somehow different and set apart from other boys or other girls. Much of this marginality stems from gender-neutral or so-called gender-inappropriate interests or behaviors. Homosexual youths report that they, as boys, felt less "masculine" than other boys and, as girls, felt more "masculine" than other girls. ("Masculinity" sets the standards, given the existing hierarchy of gender.) Gender dysphoria and gender stigmatization walk hand-in-hand.

Given that traditional gender ideology views homosexuality as the inversion of heterosexuality, signs of cross-gender interests and behaviors become a theory of homosexual predisposition because of gender incongruence. The stronger the gender hierarchy in a culture, the stronger is the presumption that homosexuals must be inverts and display inversion. Dichotomous thinking requires that one be either heterosexual or homosexual, just as one must be either male or female and either masculine or feminine. Given such dichotomous thinking, both sexual orientation and gender are dimorphic, with each class homogeneous to its kind and nature. Stereotypes are just such rigid concepts and images of individuals as necessarily sharing the inner essences of their homogeneous group.

This imagery of hyperfemniinity in gay men and hypermasculinity in lesbians is a caricature arising from social stereotyping, stigmatization, and the enforced secrecy of many gay and lesbian life-styles. Yet it also creates a self-fulfilling prophecy when gay youths seeking acceptance flaunt cross-gender behaviors, either to announce sexual interest, to try to establish gender identity, or to minstrelize the caricature of gays and lesbians. Cross-gender behavior in gay men is associated cross-culturally with the presence of pronounced gender hierarchy in cultural practices celebrating male superiority and female inferiority.

Gender dysphoria is most pronounced in adult transsexualism or in gender-identity disorders of childhood. Considered a psychiatric diagnosis, this form of gender dysphoria is defined by symptoms of persistent and intense distress and discomfort about one's assigned sex, or even insistence that one belongs to the sex opposite to that assigned. It includes (1) denial or repudiation of one's genitals and secondary sex characteristics and (2) preoccupation with and preference for stereotypic cross-gender adornments, interests, and activities. Many transsexuals prefer the radical solution of surgery to "correct" their anatomical sex and to end their gender dysphoria Feeling enchained by gender, they cut their chains.

The chain of gender can be loosened by all who identify themselves more as human than male or female; it can be broken by a successful challenge to dimorphic sexual essentialism. As the psychiatrist Harry Stack Sullivan used to say, "All of us are more human than otherwise."


Bem, S.L. The Measurement of Psychological Androgyny. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol. 42 (1974), pp. 155-62.

Constantinople, A. Masculinity-Femininity: An Exception to a Famous Dictum? Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 80 (1973), pp. 389-407.

Mosher, D.L. Sexual Path Preference Inventory. In C.Davis, W. Yarber, and S. Davis, eds., Sexuality Related Measures: A Compendium. Lake Mills, Iowa: Stoyles Graphic Services, 1988.

Spence, J.T., and R.L. Helmreich. Masculinity and Femininity: Their Psychological Dimensions, Correlates and Antecedents. Austin Univ. of Texas Press, 1978.

Williams, J.E., and D.L. Best. Measuring Sex Stereotypes: A Thirty Nation Study. Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage, 1982.

Williams, J.E., and D.L. Best. Sex and Psyche: Gender and Self Viewed Cross-Culturally. Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage, 1990.

Donald L. Mosher



Gender dysphoria is the term now used by many professionals to describe the psychological state in which an individual does not experience a consistent unity of gender identity and role. Instead, there is confusion or dissatisfaction about self-awareness as male, female, or androgynous In addition, there may be discomfort with the corresponding socially-defined gender roles or with the body image.


Gender dysphoria can include the following characteristics: discomfort with and a sense of inappropriateness regarding the socially-assigned role as male or female, dissatisfaction with sexual morphology, preoccupation with altering gender characteristics or acquiring the characteristics of the other gender, cross-dressing, and desire to change gender. Gender dysphoria may be associated with heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, or asexual orientation. The problems and concerns may be chronic, episodic, or transitory.

The characteristics of gender roles vary among different cultures and periods of history. What is apparently not subject to cultural relativity is that all societies have specified two distinct and complementary gender-coded roles. One role is assigned and transmitted specifically for individuals who are born with a penis, and the other role is for individuals who are not. Gender dysphoria is not simply a dissatisfaction with the content of the gender roles of a given society or time, but rather reflects the lack of unity of gender identity and role for an individual.

Gender dysphoria has been described in many different societies and historical periods—from the ancient Greeks to contemporary Asian cultures, from tribal societies to urban subcultures. Societies also have different provisions for individuals who do not fulfill male-female definitions of gender roles—for example, the hijras of India or Native American berdaches.


Gender dysphoria may be expressed in a number of characteristically different ways.

Transsexualism refers to the process of seeking sex reassignment after at least two years of persistent discomfort with the socially-assigned sex role. Transsexualism is thus chronic gender dysphoria, which involves dissatisfaction with the complete sex role. Transsexuals have a preoccupation with eliminating the sexual characteristics of their gonadal gender and acquiring the secondary sexual characteristics of the other gender. Sex reassignment procedures include social rehabilitation to enable one to live full-time in the other sex role. Hormonal reassignment involves suppression of the hormonal characteristics of the unwanted gender and administration of the hormones of the other gender. Sex reassignment surgeries and other procedures alter the body to emulate the physical appearance of the other gender. This condition is considered to be rare, with an incidence of less than 1 in 30,000, and the sex ratio of males to females seems to vary among different societies.

Gender identity problems of childhood and adolescence usually involve extremes of nonconformity to the conventional gender role. "Sissy" boys and "tomboy" girls show a lack of interest in the play activities or characteristics stereotypically associated with their socially-assigned gender role. Their interests are more typical of the other gender. They may express a dissatisfaction with their gender and a wish to become the other gender. Rarely, they may express the belief that they are a member of the other gender or will grow up to become that gender. This thought pattern may include a repudiation of their genitalia or a belief that they will develop the sexual characteristics of the other gender when they grow up. One of the major problems these children experience is social teasing and rejection. Boys with these problems are brought in for evaluation much more often than girls.

Sissy boys frequently have homosexual identities in adulthood; this is less consistently reported for tomboyish girls. Few individuals with documented childhood histories of gender identity problems have undergone sex reassignment procedures as adults.

Episodic cross-dressing for social or entertainment purposes (i.e., drag) occurs in some homosexuals and to a much lesser extent in heterosexuals and bisexuals. Cross-dressing by itself does not indicate gender dysphoria. However, some individuals who dress in drag may be uncomfortable with their gender identity or sexual orientation and later seek sex reassignment. Lesbians may dress in masculine styles without defining their presentation as drag. Some of these women may experience gender dysphoria and seek sex reassignment. However, drag is predominantly a male activity.

Transvestic fetishism or transvestophilia refers to episodic cross-dressing for sexual excitement (or calming) in heterosexual or bisexual men. Most transvestites are typically comfortable in their masculine gender role and never seek to live more fully in the female role. Others, however, may develop gender dysphoria, although not necessarily ever seek sex reassignment.

Hermaphroditism or physiological intersex conditions include birth defects of the sex organs, hormonal syndromes involving androgen, atypical changes in sexual morphology at puberty, and supernumerary sex-typed chromosomal syndromes. Some individuals with these conditions experience gender dysphoria. However, most affected individuals develop gender identities consistent with their sex of rearing (but not necessarily the chromosomal or gonadal sex), without evident dysphoria These conditions are rare.


The causes of gender dysphoria most likely involve an interaction of biochemical or physiological factors, critical periods, and social experience. There is no single determining factor—neither environment nor heredity, neither mind nor body.

The prenatal influence (at critical times in development) of certain hormones and sex-typed genomes may increase the individual's vulnerability to developing gender dysphoria. But there is no known syndrome or pattern of influence that produces gender dysphoria in a majority of affected individuals.

Postnatal experience also plays a role in the development of gender dysphoria. The social labeling of gender roles as they apply to the child, and the content of those roles, is socially transmitted. Serious inconsistencies in the gender typing or labeling of a young child may have a deleterious effect. Initial gender identity is usually developed around the time of the acquisition of language, about 18 months to 2 years of age. Gender constancy is usually developed by age 5 or 6. The period between these two cognitive milestones seems to be the most critical time of risk for developing gender dysphoria of the type that would lead to transsexualism.

In developing a gender identity, the child learns to identify with individuals of one gender and label this gender as applying to the self. The child complements with individuals of the other gender. The learning processes of identification and complementation define gender identity for the child. The mental schemas for both social genders are learned, and they are differentiated as one applying to self. and the other not applying to self In cases of gender dysphoria, both schemas are learned, but they are not differentiated as identification (for self) and complementation (for other). Rather, the content of both genders' characteristics may apply to the self in some ways, which can lead to confusion and gender dysphoria of the type that in adulthood may become transsexualism.

Other types of gender dysphoria are more partial in their content or episodic in their manifestation, and they may have a later onset. Traumatic social sexual experiences, inharmonious pubertal changes, or sexually confusing cognitions may be associated with gender dysphoria of later onset. For transvestism, juvenile social experiences may become imprinted in a way that contributes to gender dysphoria. Pubertal and postpubertal experiences can also precipitate gender dysphoria, such as struggles to understand problems of atypical pubertal development or the content of atypical erotic imagery.


Gender dysphoria, like conventional gender identity, is relatively intractable and unlikely to change. Spontaneous changes are rare but may occur. Individuals with gender dysphoria, although experiencing discomfort, may not define themselves as having a problem. Instead, they tend to label themselves according to the type of dysphoria which they consider that they experience. They frequently try to learn from others with similar experiences, and may band together in subcultures or support groups.

The process of rehabilitation for gender dysphoria is designed to help the affected individuals find some satisfactory ways of living their lives. Rehabilitation can involve a wide variety of activities, from self-help groups to medical procedures.

Modern medicine has developed medical and surgical techniques that can assist individuals in altering their bodies to mimic those of the other gender. The availability, and effectiveness, of these procedures was first widely publicized following Christine Jorgensen's sex-change surgery in 1952. It was shortly after this time that the clinical terms "gender dysphoria" and "transsexualism" came into general use. Important in the conceptualization of transsexualism as a clinical disorder amenable to medical treatment were Benjamin's influential book The Transsexual Phenomenon (1966) and the research and publications of Money and Green, including Transsexualism and Sex Reassignment (1969).

The first gender identity clinic for the evaluation and treatment of transsexualism was established in 1966 at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, where the first sex reassignment operations in the United States were performed that year. At Hopkins, Money developed the two-year, real-life diagnostic test for transsexualism, which set the basic diagnostic and treatment standards for the transsexual rehabilitation of individuals with gender dysphoria.

Treatment of gender-dysphoric individuals involves therapy and often hormonal and surgical sex reassignment. Hormonal and surgical reassignment for transsexual patients who have undergone appropriate evaluation and rehabilitation has a frequency of satisfaction ranging from about 87 percent in male-to-female to 97 percent in female-to-male transsexuals. Sex reassignment is part of the standard approach to treatment around the world. However, it is still subject to some controversy and professional disagreement. Lothstein, for example, believes that intensive psychotherapy is the primary treatment of choice for females, with sex reassignment being necessary only in a minority of cases.

The diagnostic standards for transsexualism, according to the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, include a "persistent discomfort and sense of inappropriateness about one's assigned sex" and a "persistent preoccupation for at least two years with getting rid of one's primary and secondary sex characteristics and acquiring the sex characteristics of the other sex" in an individual who has completed puberty.

The Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association Standards of Care specify the process an individual should undergo to be a candidate for hormonal and surgical sex reassignment. The following are some of the minimum standards: Other preexisting psychiatric or medical problems should be treated. The person must have been seen by qualified clinical behavioral scientists who can document independently the patient's self-report that the patient's gender dysphoria has continuously existed for at least two years. The clinician should have known the patient for at least three months in a therapeutic relationship before making a recommendation for hormonal reassignment and six months before making a recommendation for surgical reassignment. Prior to sex reassignment surgery, the patient should have lived full-time in the social role of the other sex for at least 12 months.

The standards are designed to maximize the likelihood that the individual with gender dysphoria will be successfully rehabilitated in the other gender role. They protect both the patient and the professionals from unfortunate consequences of sex reassignment. Sometimes, individuals who label themselves as transsexuals attempt to speed up the reassignment process or avoid involvement with professionals. This is believed to be associated in some cases with dissatisfaction with the results of sex reassignment.

During the period of the real-life diagnostic test, mental health professionals help individuals in their struggle with confusing and conflicting beliefs about their gender status and in developing realistic expectations about the process of sex reassignment. Other professionals help gender-dysphoric individuals develop more effective cross-gender styles of presentation, including electrolysis for males, speech therapy, and behavioral retraining for all aspects of self-presentation and interpersonal communication.

Many individuals who begin the process of sex reassignment drop out before surgical sex reassignment, although some of them may later return to treatment. Some individuals with gender dysphoria become satisfied with an in-between condition. For example, some may seek social and hormonal reassignment but not genital surgery For males, some are rehabilitated as "ladies with a penis" and never seek genital sex reassignment. For females, present techniques for surgical construction of a phallus may not produce results they consider satisfactory, and they may forgo or postpone genital surgery while waiting for the development of new procedures. These female-to-male transsexuals may be satisfied with hormonal reassignment and removal of the breasts.

Following sex reassignment, most transsexuals are heterosexual in their orientation, while others are bisexual or homosexual. Sexual orientation is not a criterion in determining suitability for sex reassignment.

In most jurisdictions, after professional treatment transsexuals are able to change their gender legally to correspond to their sex-reassigned status. This includes the right to live, work, and marry according to their reassigned social gender role.


Benjamin, H. The Transsexual Phenomenon. New York: Julian Press, 1966.

Blanchard, R., and B Steiner, eds. Clinical Management of Gender Identity Disorders in Children and Adults. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Press, 1990.

Green, R. Sexual Identity Conflict in Children and Adults. New York: Basic Books, 1974.

Green, R. The "Sissy Boy Syndrome" and the Development of Homosexuality. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1987.

Green, R., and D.T. Fleming. Transsexual Surgery Follow-up: Status in the 1990s. Annual Review of Sex Research, Vol. 1 (1990), pp. 163-74.

Green, R., and J. Money, eds. Transsexualism and Sex Reassignment. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1969.

Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association Standards of Care: The Hormonal and Surgical Sex Reassignment of Gender Dysphoric Persons. Archives of Sexual Behavior, Vol. 14 (1985), pp. 79-90.

Lothstein, L.M. Female-to-Male Transsexualism: Historical, Clinical and Theoretical Issues. Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1983.

Money, J. Gay, Straight, and In-between. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1988.

Money, J., and R. Ambinder. "Two-Year, Real-Life Diagnostic Test: Rehabilitation Versus Cure " In H. Brady and J. Brody, eds, Controversy in Psychiatry. Philadelphia: Saunders, 1978.

Money, J., and A. Ehrhardt. Man and Woman, Boy and Girl. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1972.

Sterner, B., ed. Gender Dysphoria: Development, Research, and Management. New York: Plenum Press, 1985.

Walters, W., and M. Ross, eds. Transsexualism and Sex Reassignment. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1986.

Gregory K. Lehne


The Sex Chromosomes
Sperm and Ovum Production
Chromosomes and Anomalous Sexual Development
Genetics and Anomalous Sexual Development

Genetics, the science of heredity, seeks to explain how characteristics and traits are passed from one generation to the next. Chromosomes, the hereditary material studied by geneticists, are highly structured chains of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) with specific sequences of bases and amino acids. Functional units of these DNA chains are known as genes. Chromosomes and genes are the essential foundation of and mechanism for all structural growth and functioning of individual cells and organisms composed of cells. Chromosomes and their genes also allow a male and a female to transmit their characteristics and produce offspring like themselves. When sexually mature male and female individuals produce sperm and ova, the resulting gametes contain half the number of chromosomes in the adult body cells, so that fertilization, or union of the sperm and ovum, gives the resulting new organism the full chromosome complement of the adult parents.

Our sexuality includes all those aspects of our being—the biological, hormonal, neural, psychological, and social—that make us gendered persons, male or female. The relationship between genes and sex is twofold. At fertilization, when a sperm unites with an ovum, the combination of sex chromosomes (in humans, the X and Y chromosomes) determines the essential sexual character of the resulting embryo. Following fertilization, genes on the X and Y chromosomes regulate and direct the production of proteins and enzymes by other genes on the other chromosomes (known as autonomies) to produce the appropriate sexual anatomy, sexual differentiation, and sexual function, along with the other characteristics and functions of our bodies. The expression of the genes is affected by the ever-changing cellular, maternal uterine, hormonal, and outside environments.

The Sex Chromosomes

In genetics, sex chromosomes are distinguished from other chromosomes, the autosomes, because the former are different in males and females and contain genes related to primary sexual differentiation. Many, though not all, organisms possess specialized chromosomes that are associated with being either male or female. These specialized chromosomes segregate during production of the reproductive cells, the egg and sperm, so that at fertilization when the sperm and egg unite, each sex receives its own appropriate complement of sex-determining chromosomes.

In the animal kingdom, several different types of sex chromosomes exist. In the human male, the normal chromosome complement of somatic cells is 44 autosomes, or 22 pairs of body chromosomes, plus an X and a Y chromosome, for a total of 46 chromosomes in each cell nucleus. Having two complete homologous sets of autosomes and two sex chromosomes is referred to as the diploid condition. Human females have 44 autosomes arranged in 22 pairs plus two X chromosomes.

In humans, the X chromosome is much larger than the Y chromosome. The X chromosome contains many genes responsible for the development of the central nervous system, so at least one is essential for embryonic development and a viable organism. Other genes on the X chromosome are associated with clinically significant disorders such as hemophilia, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and color blindness. Two X chromosomes are essential for the development of ovaries that can produce ova.

The smaller Y chromosome occurs in the human male. The crucial gene on the Y chromosome is known as the Testes Determining Factor gene (TDF). Active in the fifth week of gestation, this gene directs the commitment of the undifferentiated gonads to testicular development in weeks six through nine. If the embryo lacks the TDF gene, its development follows the inherent female path, with ovaries and female sexual anatomy starting to develop in week 12. When the isolated TDF is transplanted into very young mouse embryos, chromosomally female (XX) embryos develop into newborns with normal male anatomy and behavior.

Sperm and Ovum Production

Sexual reproduction, with the offspring developing from the union of a sperm and an egg (ovum), requires that the sperm and egg have exactly half the normal diploid complement of chromosomes that occur in the body cells of the parents. In the male gamete, or sperm, this haploid chromosome number includes 22 autosomes plus either an X or a Y chromosome. The normal egg or ovum has a haploid complement of one set of 22 autosomes and a single X.

To reduce the diploid chromosome number to the haploid status of the sperm or egg, primordial germ cells in the ovaries and testes undergo meiosis, a two-stage process of cell division. During the resting (interphase) stage before meiosis begins, the chromosomes of the primordial germ cell replicate. Homologous pairs of duplicated chromosomes then synapse, or pair up. A bipolar spindle forms as the paired chromosomes arrange themselves on an equatorial plate The spindle fibers then attach to the homologous chromosomes and separate them. At the end of this first stage, one duplicated chromosome from each homologous pair has migrated to one pole of the spindle, while its mate migrates to the opposing pole. In effect, the chromosome number in these intermediate germ cells is haploid.

During the second stage, two new spindles form at each of the two poles of the original spindle. The twinned chromosomes do not replicate themselves a second time. Instead, they arrange themselves on new equatorial plates, and the duplicated strands of each chromosome are pulled apart by the new spindle fibers. After these DNA strands migrate to opposite poles in each of the two intermediate daughter cells, four daughter cells are produced, each with a haploid chromosome complement.

In production of the egg or ovum, meiosis results in three polar bodies that disintegrate and die producing a single ovum. In sperm production, the result is four functional sperm, from a single spermatogonial cell.

Fertilization, the union of the egg and sperm, restores the diploid chromosome complement and gives the offspring the same chromosomal makeup as its parents.

Sometimes, during production of the egg or sperm, two paired or replicated chromosomes may fail to separate. As a result of this nondisjunction, one germ cell ends up with both chromosomes of a homologous pair, while the other daughter cell is missing that chromosome. Fertilization of a sperm or egg with an extra chromosome can result in Down's syndrome (trisomy 21 or 47, 21+) and Klinefelter's syndrome (47, XXY). Fertilization of a sperm or egg with a missing chromosome can result in Turner's syndrome (45, XO). Nondisjunction of a sex chromosome during cell division in the first few days after fertilization can result in a chromosome mosaic condition that may affect sexual differentiation.

An interesting aspect of the sex chromosomes results from the fact that females have two X chromosomes and males only one X. This gives females a double dose of the X chromosome genes and their products. Female body cells compensate for this phenomenon by partially inactivating one X chromosome in a so-called sex chromatin or Barr body on the nuclear membrane of somatic cells. Thus, in normal female body cells, one X chromosome remains active and functional, and the second X chromosome is partially inactivated. In cells with abnormal chromosome complements, such as 47, XXY and multiple X, the number of Barr bodies is always one fewer than the number of X chromosomes in the cell. The presence or absence of Barr bodies in somatic cells obtained by buccal smear, amniocentesis, or chorionic villi sampling is used in ascertaining chromosomal sex status. Individuals with Turner's syndrome (45, X0) and 46, XY males lack a Barr body; 47, XXY individuals with Klinefelter's syndrome have one Barr body.

Chromosomes and Anomalous Sexual Development

The sexual development of a fetus may deviate from the male or female path either because of an abnormal sex chromosome complement or because of a mutated gene. A missing X chromosome in a Turner's syndrome female and the addition of an X chromosome in a Klinefelter's syndrome male provide the more common examples of sex chromosome variations. The mutation of a single gene can result in conditions known as androgen insensitivity, congenital virilizing adrenal hyperplasia (CVAH), and DHT deficiency syndrome.

A female with Turner's syndrome (or ovarian agenesis) has a normal complement of 22 pairs of autosomes or body-regulating chromosomes, but only one X chromosome instead of the usual XX Hence the genetic notation 45, XO. These individuals develop a female body type with undeveloped, nonfunctioning ovaries, persistent juvenile genitals, and other symptoms Although the second X chromosome in a normal 46, XX female is partially inactivated, this second X chromosome is essential for ovarian development Approximately one in 4,000 newborns has Turner's syndrome. This is lower than expected because many fetuses with this condition miscarry.

Although females with Turner's syndrome lack the second X chromosome, they may appear reasonably normal anatomically until puberty, when a lack of estrogen production in the nonfunctional streak ovaries results in a lack of sexual maturation and secondary sex characteristics. Other symptoms may include webbed skin on the back of the neck, low nape hairline, retarded growth, obesity, spinal deformities, triangular-shaped face, prominent ears, small jaw, hearing defects, and myopia. Swollen tissue and dwarfism are common. Language, motor, and learning deficits are often reported, along with a retarded spatial-nonverbal IQ. Right brain hemisphere impairment may result in low self-esteem, reduced self-confidence, and lack of social adept-ness. Reduced spatial and face-interpreting skills may cause adolescent emotional and social problems.

About one in 500 newborn males has Klinefelter's syndrome, characterized by very small, sterile testes. The cells of individuals with this condition have a full set of 22 paired body chromosomes, the usual X and Y chromosomes, and at least one extra X chromosome. Roughly 80 percent are 47, XXY. Much rarer are 48, XXXY and mosaics, with different genotypes in two cell lines and two or more X chromosomes and one or two Y chromosomes. While the condition is often diagnosed in childhood because of the very small testes, diagnosis is more common in adolescence, since clinical symptoms appear mostly after puberty.

Abnormal development of the testes and sterility with no sperm production result when elastic connective tissue replaces the germinal cells in the testes. An affected male is still capable of erection and coitus, although secondary erectile dysfunction may result from response to lowered libido and gynecomastia, or female breast development. Other symptoms include eunuchoid body with poor male secondary sex characteristics, which give a feminine appearance. In half the cases, the gynecoid impression is accented by gynecomastia. Penile size is usually normal, although pubic hair may be sparse and female in pattern. The axillary and facial hair is also usually sparse. Klinefelter's males are tall and slim, with long arms and legs.

Some experts report that most Klinefelter's individuals are retarded, some severely, while others report that a majority have normal intellectual development. Social adjustment may be poor, in part in response to the tall, eunuchoid body and gynecomastia. Personality and character-trait disturbances, emotional and behavioral troubles, alcoholism, minor criminality, and outright psychosis are common, but their frequencies are not documented.

Individuals can have either Turner's or Klinefelter's syndrome because of a mosaicism in their sex chromosomes, with different combinations of sex chromosomes in two or more cell lines. Also, two embryonic masses, one with 46, XX and the other with 46, XY, may fuse as they move through the Fallopian tube prior to implantation. In these individuals, symptoms vary depending on which cells in the body have the XX and which the XY chromosome complement, Fertilization of one ovum by two sperm and other variations can also result in genetic and sexual mosaicism.

Genetics and Anomalous Sexual Development

Some fetuses have a defective recessive gene on the X chromosome that prevents the normal production of receptors that are necessary for testosterone and its derivatives to enter body cells. Affected individuals have a male chromosome complement (46, XY), testes, and a male balance of hormones. However, the cells of their bodies cannot react to the masculinizing message of testosterone circulating in the blood. This condition is known as testicular feminization or androgen insensitivity syndrome.

Since the circulating testosterone cannot enter its normal target cells, the body is not masculinized but follows the inherent female path. In the androgen insensitivity syndrome, testosterone cannot cause the Wolffian ducts to develop into the internal male system. However, the Mullerian inhibiting hormone prevents female development of the Mullerian ducts. The external genitals differentiate as female, except for a short, blind vagina that is usually not deep enough to allow for coitus unless dilated or surgically lengthened during adolescence. At birth, such individuals appear to be anatomically normal females and are so assigned and raised by their parents. Affected individuals have no menstrual cycle and are infertile. Breast and secondary sex characteristic development is normal for a female because of estrogens from the testes and adrenal glands. However, lactation is not possible.

Another genetic variation that alters the path of sexual development is congenital virilizing adrenal hyperplasia. CVAH can occur in either a male or a female, leading to a pseudohermaphrodite condition. An affected newborn female has virilized, ambiguous genitals. Affected males experience premature puberty.

The immediate result of the genetic mutation behind CVAH is varying degrees of deficiency in the adrenal cortical enzymes—cortisol and aldosterone—needed for synthesis of various steroid sex hormones. The reduced sex hormone output triggers an increase in adrenocorticotropic hormone production, which in turn causes overdevelopment of the adrenal glands and overproduction of androgens. Adrenal malfunction begins before birth and continues unless treated. When left untreated, the severe form is lethal. Treatment can prevent premature death and postnatal virilization, although prenatally virilized females require plastic surgery.

A third genetic mutation that alters sexual development is dihydrotestosterone (DHT) deficiency, or 5-alpha-reductase deficiency. This form of pseudohermaphroditism results from a genetic mutation that creates a deficiency of the enzyme needed to convert testosterone into DHT. DHT is responsible for the masculniization of the external genitals from a bipotential set of primordia.

Affected individuals have 46, XY and testes. The newborn has ambiguous external sexual anatomy with a clitoral-like phallus and more or less fused, scrotal-like labia. Internal duct differentiation is usually male. The affected infant is usually gender-assigned and raised as a female However, at puberty, the surge of testosterone in such individuals may be sufficient to trigger partial virilization, with the clitoral-like phallus developing into a small penis; weak male secondary sex characteristics also develop.

In the small rural village of Salinas in the Dominican Republic, where most cases have been reported, the "conversion" of a daughter into a son is acceptable because of the strong patriarchal tradition. The affected children are subject to some ridicule, however, being referred to as quevote ("penis at 12") or machihembra ("first woman, then man"). When the condition occurs in more developed countries, the usual result is much more negative, with severe psychological trauma.

In cases where DHT-deficient children have been clinically and socially raised and conditioned as girls from birth onward with surgical feminization, they become women with a heterosexual orientation as a female, despite chromosomal and gonadal status as male. The extent and success of pubertal psychosexual adjustment, shifting from a female to a male gender identity, is widely disputed and debated.

In summary, the X and Y sex chromosomes and the Testes Determining Factor gene initiate and direct all sexual development, with some latitude of variant developments.


Money, J., and A.A. Ehrhardt. Man and Woman, Boy and Girl: Differentiation and Dimorphism of Gender Identity from Conception to Maturity. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1972.

Moore, K.L. The Developing Human: Clinical Oriented Embryology. 4th ed. Philadelphia: Saunders, 1988.

Reinish, J.M., L.A. Rosenblum, and S.A. Sanders. Masculinity/Femininity: Basic Perspectives. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1987.

Sinclair, A.H., et al. A Gene From the Human Sexdetermining Region Encodes a Protein with Homology to a Conserved DNA-binding Motif. Nature, Vol. 346 (July 1990), pp. 240-44.

Robert T. Francoeur


For a time in the last part of the 19th and first part of the 20th century, German-speaking scholars dominated the field of sex research. Three of these researchers, Richard von Krafft-Ebmg, Magnus Hirschfeld, and Sigmund Freud, are the subjects of individual biographies. Freud was from Austria, not Germany, but he wrote in German, while Krafft-Ebing, though German, taught in Vienna Interestingly, most of the German-speaking researchers were Jewish, although Krafft-Ebing was not. Almost all were physicians.

Several factors, more or less specific to 19th-century Germany, led to the early involvement of German physicians. German physicians had long been interested in the association between physical disorders and sexual problems. They had also attempted to become more specific in their diagnosis of sexual disorders, not only to help their clients but also to refine their testimony before the courts on various sexual matters. A German movement for more effective contraceptives involved a number of specialists in obstetrics and gynecology and led to the invention of the spring-coiled diaphragm. Probably the most important factor, however, was the changing condition of the laws on homosexuality in Prussia (and later united Germany). Much of western Germany had adopted the Napoleonic code, which in effect decriminalized homosexual contacts and relied on such criteria as age of consent and use of force to define illegal conduct. Prussia, however, the dominant German state, under whose aegis a united German Empire evolved in 1870, had not changed its laws and still regarded homosexuality as a criminal act.

Fearful that the movement for German unification might lead to the criminalization of homosexuality in all of Germany, Karl Heinrich Ulrichs (1825-1895), perhaps the world's first "self-proclaimed homosexual," decided in 1862 to devote his life to the defense and explanation of homosexuality. Under both his own name and the pseudonym Numa Numantius, he published some 12 booklets dealing with homosexuality between 1864 and 1879. Ulrichs also appealed to the various German congresses that were considering changes in the law to legalize homosexuality. In his search for allies, Ulrichs aroused the interest of Richard von Krafft-Ebing, and this was a major factor in Krafft-Ebing's subsequent career. Ulrichs was also read by Carl Westphal (1833-1890), the physician usually given credit for putting the study of stigmatized sexual expression on a scientific basis with an article he wrote about two homosexual patients in 1869.

The work of Ulrichs challenged the Hungarian writer Karl Maria Kertbeny (1824-1882) to find a term different from Ulrichs's "urning" and "dioningin" to describe males and females who were attracted to members of their own sex. Kertbeny coined the term "homosexual" which was adopted by Krafft-Ebing. Also heavily influenced by Ulrichs was Albert Moll, a Berlin physician who wrote a book-length study on homosexuality in 1893 and adopted Ulrichs's idea that homosexuality in most cases was inborn; Moll later changed his mind about this, however.

Encouraged by his fellow physicians' willingness to look at sexual issues, Albert Eulenberg published a series of studies on sadism, masochism, and suicide. Other physician writers on sex included Hans Kurella (1858-1916), Hermann Ploss (1819-1885), Albert von Schrenck-Notzing (1872-1919), Enoch Heinrich Kisch (1841-1918), Max Dessoir (1867-1937), and Max Marcuse (1877-1963). Though none of them achieved the reputation of Krafft-Ebing, Freud, or Hirschfeld, most made significant contributions to the study of sexuality. One of the more important of these figures was the German dermatologist Iwan Bloch (1872-1922), who coined the term Sexualwissenschaft, or "sexual science," in 1906 and defined it as including biological, psychological, cultural, social, and other factors. He believed that by studying sexuality in all its manifestations, sexologists could provide answers to physicians to help their patients.

Bloch's concept of sexualwissenschaft had considerable influence on certain segments of the German medical community, and at least one of the major medical journals established a section dealing with advances in sexual science. Magnus Hirschfeld also launched a new sexological journal, Zeitschnft fur Sexualwissenschaft, which solicited articles from Freud, Alfred Adler, Karl Abraham, and Wilhelm Steckel, as well as non-Germans such as Paolo Mantegazze and Cesare Lombroso. Although the high-level scholarly content did not survive beyond the first year, the journal continued to be published under a slightly different tide for a more popular audience.

The result was an outpouring of articles and books in German on various aspects of sexuality. Even Havelock Ellis published the first edition of his book on homosexuality in German. However, much of this German dominance was weakened by the outbreak of World War I, and though the German sexological movement revived for a brief period after the war, particularly in the later Weimar Republic, it was effectively destroyed by the rise of Hider and the Nazis in the early 1930s. One of the first things the Nazis destroyed was Hirschfeld's library and case-study notes in Berlin.


Bullough, V.L. The Physician and Research into Human Sexual Behavior in Nineteenth-Century Germany. Bulletin of the History of Medicine, Vol. 63 (1989), pp. 247-67.

Vern L. Bullough


The gonads are those specialized organs—the testes in the male and the ovaries in the female—that produce the sex cells (gametes) called sperm and ova (or eggs). The gonads also produce many hormones, which are usually called the sex hormones. This definition is misleading, however, because although these hormones are necessary for proper sexual functioning in the individual, they are also produced by other organs of the body and stimulate activities that are not sexual. Both "male" and "female" sex hormones are produced in each sex, although they appear in different concentrations.

The gonads are homologous organs that develop from undifferentiated gonadal tissue that appears during the developing embryo's fifth or sixth week of intrauterine life. Although the sex of the gonad is fixed at the time of fertilization by the presence of a single gene (the Testes Determining Factor) on the Y chromosome, determination of the gonad cannot be made until about the seventh week, when if it is not determined to be a testis, it is presumed to be an ovary. More precise definition occurs at about the tenth week, when the forerunners of the follicles become visible if the gonad is going to mature into an ovary.

The ovaries are nodular glands that, after puberty, have an uneven surface, are about one and a half inches long, weigh about 3 grams each, and are located one on either side of the uterus. They are held in place by folds and ligaments and are attached to the posterior surface of the uterus. The ovary contains thousands of microscopic ovarian follicles, which produce the ova. A female is born with all the immature ova she will ever produce (about 2 million, 40,000 of which survive to puberty; 400 mature during her reproductive lifetime, and only a few are ever fertilized). At puberty, the ova appear at differing stages of development.

The ovaries also secrete two important classes of hormones, the estrogens and the progestins. Estradiol is the most important of the estrogens and progesterone of the progestins, but in common usage, estrogen and progesterone represent the "female" sex hormones. These hormones control the production of secondary sex characteristics as well as other maturational changes that occur at puberty, but they do not seem to be crucial for differentiation of the female reproductive system before birth. They regulate the menstrual cycle and are necessary for reproduction. Their effect on female sex drive and behavior is unclear. They are essential for maintaining pregnancy. They are also important for menopausal women who may suffer from vaginal dryness and loss of calcium from the bones (osteoporosis). Many of these symptoms can be alleviated by the use of estrogen replacement therapy.

The word "testis" is the root word for "witness". in ancient times, a man would place his hand on his testes to swear that he was telling the truth—hence the word testify. They are two small ovoid glands about two inches long, weighing about 10 to 15 grams each, and suspended in a sac, the scrotum, beneath the penis. The left one usually hangs a bit lower than the right one. Attachments to the scrotum and the spermatic cords hold them in place. A fibrous capsule encases each testicle, extends into the gland, and divides it into about 200 conical lobes. Each lobe contains one to three tiny coiled seminiferous tubules, the combined length of all the tubules in both testes is about one-quarter mile. Interstitial cells (Leydig cells) are packed between the tubules. The tubules of each testis coalesce to form a tightly coded tube enclosed in a fibrous casing (the epididymis). The epididymis measures about 20 feet and lies along the top and side of the testis.

The male does not begin to produce sperm (spermatogenesis), a process that occurs in the seminiferous tubules, until he reaches puberty. Sertoli cells are interspersed among the developing sperm within the tubules and provide physical support and nutrition during their development. These cells also help to regulate the secretion of one of the sex hormones. Billions of sperm cells are produced and stored in the seminiferous tubules and eventually are moved into the epididymis by the contractions of the tubules. There they complete their maturation and become motile by the whiplash movement of their tail.

The androgens, of which testosterone is the most important, are the "male" sex hormones that are produced by the interstitial cells. The androgens are responsible for the embryonic development of the male reproductive system. They regulate the secondary sex characteristics that occur in the male at maturity and stimulate protein anabolism that promotes growth of skeletal muscles and bones. They are linked to the male sex drive, and possibly to male aggressive behavior.

The effects of the removal of the testes (castration) have been known for centuries. Eunuchs were created for sexual pleasure and for use as guards for the harem in many ancient cultures. During the 17th century, when women were not allowed to perform on the stage or sing in church, it was not uncommon to castrate young boys to retain their clear, high voices. They became very important in the choirs of the Roman Catholic Church and stars on the grand-opera scene.


Anthony, C.P., and G.A. Thibodeau. Textbook of Anatomy and Physiology. 10th ed. St. Louis C.V. Mosby, 1979.

Bullough, V.L. Sexual Variance in Society and History. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1976.

Katchadourian, H.A. Biological Aspects of Human Sexuality. 4th. ed. Fort Worth: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1990.

James D. Haynes


Ernst Graefenberg (1881-1957) is known for his work in the development of the intrauterine device (IUD) and for his studies of the role of the female urethra in orgasm. Graefenberg began practicing as a gynecologist in Berlin in 1910 and by 1920' was one of the most successful in Berlin, with an office on the fashionable Kurfurstendamm. He also served as chief gynecologist of a municipal hospital in Britz, a district of Berlin mainly inhabited by a working-class population.

In 1934, Hans Lehfeldt attempted to persuade Graefenberg to leave Germany, but he refused to do so, believing that since his patients included wives of high Nazi officials, he would be safe. He was wrong, and he was arrested in 1937, allegedly for having smuggled a valuable stamp out of Germany. His release from prison was negotiated by Margaret Sanger, who paid the Nazis a ransom for his release. He finally was allowed to leave Germany in 1940, whereupon he came to the United States and opened a practice in New York City.

Graefenberg had always been interested in sexology and had been active in the German sexological associations. He was also a strong advocate of contraception and promoted the use of both the IUD and the cervical cap. He retained his interest in sexology in the United States, and his own sex history was among those included in the Kinsey Report.

Hans Lehfeldt
Connie Christine Wheeler


Graffiti Categories
History of Graffiti
Interpretations of Graffiti Content
Sexual Graffiti
Who Writes Graffiti?

Of all the forms of human self-expression, perhaps none is more nearly ubiquitous, more provocative, and less admired than the act of producing graffiti. The term (singular, "graffito") is derived from the Italian graffiare, meaning "little scratchings," and may be applied to at least three types of inscriptions: public, private, and personal. Public graffiti include names, initials, cryptic symbols, and the like, typically painted, carved, or drawn on walls, fences, trees, trains, buses, or any other places likely to be observed by the masses. Public graffiti may serve as boundary markers for gang territories, as symbols of personal pride or courage, or merely as semipermanent reminders of someone's presence. Private graffiti are inscriptions in more secluded locations, usually on the walls of restrooms and toilet stalls, produced in secrecy and usually of intentionally anonymous authorship. Dundes, an anthropologist and noted authority on folkways, has proposed the more graphic term "latrinalia" as a discriminating label for toilet graffiti. Personal graffiti are tattoos and scars that are intended to beautify, to disfigure, to indicate status, or otherwise to adorn the human body.

Graffiti Categories

Students of graffiti content often attempt to categorize their data further, according to a general theme or to the presumed intent of the graffitist. There is no consistent agreement in the literature on how many or which specific content themes best characterize the varied types of graffiti. However, there are a few categories that appear more frequently than the others and seem deserving both of mention and of example.

Heterosexual—Indicating preference for or solicitation of romantic or erotic relations with persons of the opposite sex. Example: I love to suck cock! (women's restroom).

Homosexual—Indicating preference for or solicitation of romantic or erotic relations with persons of the same sex. Example: Blow jobs here—tap foot for blow jobs (men's restroom).

Political—Indicating concern about political institutions, personal power, and local, regional, or national issues, among other matters. Example: No Nukes! People over Technopoly.

Philosophical—Reflecting on the general nature of humankind or the purpose of life. Example: Live each day as if it were your last, and also as if you had a million more to live. With that balance, you can get through life.

Interpersonal—Indicating the graffitist's desire to better understand or interact with people or to cope with problems of everyday life. Example: I am ugly but human. Can anyone love me?

Ethnocentric/racial—Demonstrating positive or negative attitudes toward any clearly indicated ethnic or racial group. Example: Black may be beautiful and tan may be grand, but white is the color of Americans!

General humor—Attempts to be humorous about any nonsexual or nonscatological topic. Example: What do you call a fish with two knees? A tuny-fish.

Sexual humor—Attempts at humor with clearly sexual themes. Example: A woman without a man may be like a fish without a bicycle, but think of all the fun you can have riding a bicycle! (women's restroom).

Humor of elimination—General scatological humor. Example: Be like brother, not like sis. Lift the lid before you piss (men's restroom).

Graffiti about graffiti—Reference to the reading or writing of graffiti, whether scatological or otherwise. Example:

He who writes on shithouse walls,
Rolls his shit in little balls.
And he who reads these words of wit,
Eats those little balls of shit.

History of Graffiti

Graffiti of all sorts have had a long if not entirely honorable history. Recent archaeological efforts on the coast of France have revealed caves, submerged beneath the encroaching seas for perhaps tens of thousands of years, their walls filled with the arcane products of Paleolithic graffitists. In the Great Basin region of the American West are numerous examples of ancient graffiti, called petroglyphs, presumably recording on the walls of cliffs and canyons the comings and goings of some of the New World's earliest human inhabitants. Best known among the graffiti of antiquity are those from the walls of the city of Pompeii, providing a written account of some of the everyday concerns of Roman subjects. Indeed, the ironic inscription of a Pompeiian graffitist, circa 79 C.E., illustrates how common was the event of graffiti writing:

Oh wall, so many men have come here to scrawl,
I wonder that your burdened sides don't fall.
Among the most thorough and entertaining collections of historical graffiti is the anthology The Merry-Thought or the Glass-Window Bog-House Miscellany, published by Hurlo Thrumbo in 1731. Thrumbo transcribed the latrinalia of early 18th-century London inns and taverns to preserve the wisdom and wit that managers of those establishments so callously obliterated with scrub brushes or fresh coats of paint. Despite their quaint turns of phrase, many of Thrumbo's entries demonstrate the same scatological content inscribed frequently in modern toilet stalls:
You are eas'd in your Body,
And pleas'd in your Mind,
That you leave both a Turd and some Verses behind;
But to me, which is worse, I can't tell, on my Word
The reading your Verses, or smelling your Turd.

Interpretations of Graffiti Content

Relatively little empirical research has been conducted regarding the thematic content of graffiti. The psychiatrist Lomas has suggested that the obscene nature of much graffiti has been responsible for this reluctance on the part of most serious students of human behavior to look into the subject. In 1935, Read, an English-language scholar, provided the first rigorous account of American graffiti. Read's interest in graffiti was sparked by a sightseeing trip through western North America, during which he made use of numerous public toilet facilities. Inspired by the varieties of graffiti content and style he observed, Read compiled an extensive glossary that he hoped would contribute to the study of colloquial linguistics.

In 1953, perhaps somewhat in emulation of Read, sexologist Alfred Kinsey and his associates published a study of sex differences in the content of graffiti collected from men's and women's public toilets across the United States. Since Kinsey, a few other social scientists have explored graffiti as unobtrusive, nonreactive indicators of various human attitudes. For example, Sechrest and Flores employed graffiti to measure differences in American and Philippine attitudes toward homosexuality, and Olowu examined similar attitudinal differences in British and Nigerian graffiti. Rudin and Harless explored the sensitivity of graffiti content to current social and political events, and Stocker and his associates provided evidence that graffiti content changes reliably with changes in the political orientations of the population to which graffitists belong.

Sexual Graffiti

Graffiti, especially of the private sort, have the common reputation of dealing overwhelmingly with sexual and scatological topics. Even the graffiti of ancient times seem to be rich in obscenities, sexual insults, and lewd solicitations. Dundes exemplified these recurrent graffiti themes in the very tide in his 1966 paper, a play on one of the most familiar of all graffiti verses:

Here I sit all broken hearted
Came to shit and only farted.
Not surprisingly, then, a large proportion of graffiti research has been devoted to the analysis of its sexual and scatological content in general, as well as to explications of apparent differences in sexual content between graffiti written by men and those written by women. In his pioneering study of female sexuality, Kinsey reported that men wrote far more graffiti than did women and that most of what was written by women was romantic in content, whereas male-produced graffiti typically had erotic themes. Kinsey attributed these results to basic biosexual differences, such as that women innately have more respect for social conventions than do men. He also noted that three-fourths of all the male graffiti he collected had homosexual content, a fact he attributed not so much to literal preference for homosexuality by the graffitists as to their sublimations of latent homosexual conflicts.

The Freudian perspective reflected in Kinsey's analysis has been a common one with regard to the etiology and characteristics of graffiti. Ernest Jones, a noted Freud biographer, has suggested that public graffiti, such as initials carved on trees, are sublimated forms of the infantile impulse to play with feces. Landy and Steele reached a similar Freudian conclusion in their 1967 study of private-graffiti frequency as a function of college-building utilization. They discovered that women's restrooms contained not only more ashtrays but also many more cigarette butts than were found in men's restrooms, and they suggested that the relative scarcity of graffiti in those same women's restrooms might have been because women are more likely to "smoke out" their unconscious fecal impulses. Dundes provided an even more daring, neo-Freudian analysis of graffiti content. He hypothesized that men inevitably are more likely to write latrinalia than are women because of the psychological process of pregnancy envy. According to Dundes, the act of defecation is the male analogue of childbirth, and the writing of graffiti, especially sexual or scatological, while defecating is a symbolic substitute for the birth of a child.

Other investigators also have noted substantial differences in the frequency and content of men's and women's latrinalia. Stacker and coauthors found that the occurrence of female-produced toilet graffiti on college campuses was very rare, owing, they believed, to different socialization processes that suppressed women's needs for self-expression. Lomas reported that women's restroom graffiti are both "sparse and unimaginative." The preponderance of male-produced graffiti, he argued, is a manifestation of the characteristically male need to have an outlet for potentially destructive fantasies. Presumably because women lack the aggressive hormonal constitution of men, they also have less inherent need to deface property.

The majority of pre-1975 investigations concluded that men write far more graffiti than do women; that male-produced graffiti are much more likely to have erotic sexual content, in general, and homosexual content, in particular; and that these differences may be attributed to fundamental, largely biological differences between men and women. More recent studies in a variety of social contexts, however, have revealed profound changes in the nature of American graffiti that may inform new interpretations.

In 1975, Farr and Gordon collected graffiti from the restrooms on and around a major Eastern university campus. They discovered that women had written 50 percent more graffiti than had men overall, that women had written three times as many graffiti with sexual content, and that more than two-fifths of the women's sexual graffiti were erotic in nature. In their 1976 study of four midwestern public high schools, Wales and Brewer found more than seven times as many graffiti in girls' restrooms as they did in boys' restrooms. Bates and Martin conducted their 1980 research on the campus of a major Eastern state university. Slightly more than half of all the 1,200 graffiti they found in an equal number of men's and women's restrooms had female authorship. Forty percent of the women's graffiti were sexual in content, in contrast to 30 percent of the men's graffiti, and 16 percent of the women's graffiti had homosexual themes, in contrast to 9 percent of the men's graffiti. In 1985, Melhorn and Romig examined the frequencies and themes of male- and female-produced latrinalia found in various taverns and private clubs in the vicinity of a small midwestern university. Slightly more male than female graffiti were collected, but the groups did not differ in percentage of graffiti with sexual content. Moreover, only about one graffito in eight, overall, had a sexual theme, and fewer than one in fifty had homosexual referents.

Who Writes Graffiti?

The most recent research has demonstrated substantial changes from earlier studies, both in the relative frequency of occurrence and the nature of the content of private graffiti. These changes require new interpretations, probably informed by a social-cognitive perspective rather than by a biological or psychosexual perspective. It seems likely that graffiti content varies across time and across cultures, depending on the sorts of issues, values, and conflicts common to the graffitists of a place and time. A remaining question, however, is whether the content of any graffito tells us anything more than what happened to be on the mind of its author at the time of writing. The answer to this question depends on what sort of person it is who is likely to engage in graffiti writing.

Very little is known about the nature of the graffitist. Rhyne and Ullman found in 1972 that as few as one man in 15 may write any graffiti at all and that the presence of graffiti generally may not instigate more graffiti. That is, even when naive subjects are exposed to intentionally provocative graffiti content, very few may choose to respond in kind. Many researchers have found, however, that a number of responses nearly as large as the number of original inscriptions themselves may be observed at a given site. In another vein, Loewenstine and his associates surveyed a large sample of college students in 1982 and found that both men and women judged graffitists to be less mature, although perhaps more humorous, than people in general. Taken together, such results could mean that nearly all graffiti are the products of a small subpopulation whose personality characteristics predispose them to the creating of or the responding to graffiti. Those same predisposing characteristics may make the concerns of the graffitist unrepresentative of the concerns of the larger population.

In contrast to this dismissal of graffiti as the chaotic scratchings of a few social deviants, some communications experts suggest that graffitists represent a kind of psychological and political barometer of a society, much in the same way as legitimate artists. Bates and Martin, for example, hypothesized that current differences in the frequency and content of American male- and female-produced graffiti might be due both to women's increased awareness of their sexual, economic, and political status and to their lack of real power to effect change. Loewenstine similarly concluded that "graffiti may be a manifestation of power differences between the sexes." That women tend to write more issue-oriented and advice-seeking graffiti than do men, whereas men are more likely to write about more superficial aspects of everyday life (e.g., sports, humor, scatology), may be because men have the political and economic power to create the issues, and women, even modern American women, have the power only to write about them.

Graffiti can be entertaining, disturbing, insulting, or annoying to those who read them, and they are outright aggravating to those whose task it is to erase them from view. They may be the products of a sort of comic, arrested adolescence, but they also are the products of a larger social-historical context. In this regard, Dundes has argued that graffiti properly should be considered to be components of a culture's folklore. As such, graffiti may provide eloquent expressions of a society's attitudes and values, as transmitted to and by the otherwise anonymous masses. Given the potential of graffiti as mirrors of ourselves, it would seem prudent for social scientists to continue and to expand investigations of graffiti content.


Abel, E.L., and B.E. Buckley. The Handwriting on the Wall. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1977.

Bates, J.A., and M.Martin. The Thematic Content of Graffiti as a Nonreactive Indicator of Male and Female Attitudes. Journal of Sex Research, Vol. 16 (1980), pp. 300-15.

Dundes, A. Here I Sit—A Study of American Latrinalia. Kroeber Anthropological Society Papers, Vol. 34 (1966), pp. 91-105.

Farr, J.H., and C. Gordon. A Partial Replication of Kinsey's Graffiti Study. journal of Sex Research, Vol. 11 (1975), pp. 158-62.

Kinsey, A., W.B. Pomeroy, C.E. Martin, and P.H. Gebhard. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. Philadelphia: Saunders, 1953.

Landy, E.E., and J.M. Steele. Graffiti as a Function of Building Utilization. Perceptual and Motor Skills, Vol. 25 (1967), pp. 711-12.

Loewenstine, H.V., G.D. Ponticos, and M.A. Paludi. Sex Differences in Graffiti as a Communication Style. Journal of Social Psychology, Vol. 117 (1982), pp. 307-08.

Lomas, H.D. Graffiti: Some Observations and Speculations. Psychoanalytic Review, Vol. 60 (1973), pp. 71-89.

Melhorn, J.J., and R.J. Romig. Rest Room Graffiti: A Descriptive Study. Emporia State Research Studies, Vol. 34 (1985), pp. 29-45.

Olowu, A.A. Graffiti Here and There. Psychological Reports, Vol. 52 (1983), p.986.

Read, A.W. Lexical Evidence from Folk Epigraphy in Western North America. Privately published. Paris, 1935.

Rhyne, L.D., and L.P. Ullman. Graffiti: A Nonreactive Measure? Psychological Record, Vol. 22 (1972), pp. 255-580.

Rudin, L.A., and M.D. Harless. Graffiti and Building Use: The 1968 Election. Psychological Reports, Vol. 27 (1970), pp. 517-18.

Sechrest, L., and L. Flores. Homosexuality in the Philippines and the United States: The Handwriting on the Wall. Journal of Social Psychology, Vol. 79 (1969), pp. 3-12.

Stocker, T.L., L.W. Dutcher, S.M. Hargrove, and E.A. Cook. Social Analysis of Graffiti. Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 85 (1972), pp. 356-66.

Wales, E., and B. Brewer. Graffiti in the 1970's. Journal of Social Psychology, Vol. 99 (1976), pp. 115-23.

John A. Bates


The ancient Greeks developed a system virtually unique among literate peoples for educating upper-class youth—institutionalized pederasty. There is no evidence for pederasty among the Mycenean Greeks After the collapse of their civilization during the dark age (1200-800 B.C.E.) and also during the early archaic or renaissance (800-630 B.C.E.), society was enthusiastically if not exclusively heterosexual, as the Homeric and Hesiodic corpuses reveal. But for about a millennium, starting around 600 B.C.E., most upper-class Greek males, forbidden or strongly discouraged from marrying in their 20s, took adolescent boys as their beloveds. In his early 20s, a young aristocrat, the lover (erastes), took a boy of 12 the beloved (eromenos), to love and train, before going on at about age 30 to matrimony and fatherhood. Then the boy, now grown and having completed compulsory military training himself, in turn took another boy to love and train. Most passed through these homosexual phases, passive and then active, for nearly 20 years (from puberty at 12-14 to age 30). Whatever the amount and kind of physical homosexual intercourse they experienced, if any (and it seems to have varied), they grew up without any special psychological problems. Greek pederasty was believed by the Greeks to have positive benefits, in that it fostered heroism as well as genius.

The writer of this article puts forth the following theses about Greek pederastic practices, some of which are more controversial than others: (1) that the Golden Age of Greek civilization was largely due to pederastic pedagogy and its concomitant institutions, gymnasia (for nude athletics) and symposia (elegant dinner and drinking parties); (2) that this system of institutionalized pederasty began in the late seventh century B.C.E., much later than most have thought; (3) that Cretan lawgivers, or "musicians" (those devoted to the Muses), created the system to control the upper-class population explosion as well as to train and bond warriors, and that it spread rapidly to almost all of the rest of Hellas; (4) that the scantiness of explicit sources, many of which were destroyed by Christian zealots, has helped homophobic historians and classicists to ignore, deny, distort, and condemn Greek pederasty and to exaggerate the criticism of carnal pederasty that a few ancient pagan ascetics, most importantly Plato, made, while downplaying the praise that most others bestowed on it; (5) that homophiles have generally confused Greek pederasty with modern androphilia to justify the latter, while social constructionists now deny that homosexuality (in the sense of more or less exclusive androphilia) even existed in ancient times.

As Friedrich Nietzsche long ago realized, the Greek system of pederastic pedagogy was an indispensable ingredient of the Greeks' unparalleled achievements: "The erotic relations of men with adolescents were, as far as our intelligence can understand, the necessary condition, and the unique one, for all masculine education [in Greece]. Never probably have youths been treated with so much solicitude, affection, and regard to their best qualities as in the sixth and fifth century... since mortals in love give the best of themselves."

Some moderns, following Plato, Xenophon, and Plutarch, have theoretized about the usefulness of homoerotic attraction in teaching and in male bonding. In Eros (1921), the first work on the subject in the pederastic tradition in both theory and practice, the German educator Gustav Adolph Wyneken even advocated the resurrection of Greek pederasty to improve the educational system of his day. His work is an apologia for pederasty that stresses the aspects of mentoring and character formation. The positive but informal (not sanctioned by the authorities) role of pederasty in public schools and universities in England and in their all-male American equivalents, as well as on the Continent, has often been noted.

The sources of Greek pederasty have been much debated, but it seems clear that pederasty was not institutionalized by illiterates, whether primitive Indo-Europeans, wandering Dorian warriors, or garrisons in dark age castles. Various types of situational homosexuality in Hellas doubtless existed in early tunes, but on the basis of the surviving evidence, Greek pederasty derived from the Cretans, desirous of controlling the population explosion, who ordained a set of recognized legal and social norms governing the relationship between erastes and eromenos. Concomitants to institutionalized pederasty were segregation or seclusion of upper-class women, athletic nudity of males, late marriage of males, and men's messes or all-male symposia. Only in Crete were boys abducted by their lovers, and only in Crete and Sparta did "herds" (agelai) of teenage boys live in gangs in the wild. The rigid age-class organization of those militaristic societies was not so strictly followed by the other, more relaxed city-states.

Precariousness of food and other necessities, as was experienced in the Aegean region, where insufficient rainfall often caused crop failure, can render growth dangerous, as it did especially after 600 B.C.E., when the population had expanded exponentially. Anal or oral intercourse with women, abortion, infanticide, lengthy postpartum sex taboos, and even bestiality help limit population to available resources. In overcrowded societies, homosexuality itself, as well as delayed marriage, can also be functional in reducing births as well as in providing helpful uncles or other mentoring males without children of their own. Concern about numbers has often influenced attitudes toward homosexuality, whether or not encouragement, toleration, or prohibition actually affects the birth rate.

Modern scholarship has strikingly confirmed the existence of a demographic explosion in archaic Greece. Some would put the multiple as high as 12 from 800 to 500 B.C.E., a rate very rarely so long sustained in any period in history. Summarizing theories about demography and ecology, Sallares argued that the population explosion, most intense in the eighth century, when population increased sevenfold, as one eminent archeologist concluded from grave sites, tapered off to reach the maximum sustainable in the fourth century. He believed that delayed marriages and the age-class system with its pederasty, which he dated to the second half of the first millennium, helped to keep the population in check. The establishment of colonies after 800 B C.E. and the deaths from wars and plagues did not sufficiently diminish the pressing need for more resources. The shift from the meat diet of the Homeric heroes to one of cereals in classical times, from expensive animal proteins to cheap grains, is a clear proof of the scarcity of foodstuff's. One tight little Aegean island, Ceos, ordered those who reached 60 to drink hemlock. Another, Thera, forced some inhabitants to emigrate to the forbidding Libyan shore. The cruel results of overpopulation induced desperate leaders to experiment socially.

A number of ancients, foremost among whom was Aristotle, believed that archaic Cretan sages had institutionalized pederasty to curb the population. These "musicians" evolved a system of interlocking institutions centered on delayed marriage and pedagogical pederasty to hold down the birthrate of "knights" (about 1 percent or 2 percent of the total population) so that their heirs would not overly subdivide their estates, while improving their military training. Each young mounted warrior ritually kidnapped an aristocratic boy of 12 to love and train, dubbed on Crete "the renowned one" to distinguish him from a boy not yet chosen, an "obscure one."

Following the Cretan initiative, it seems probable that other Greeks soon institutionalized pederasty. During or just after the great crisis caused by the revolt of their serfs (helots) in the Second Messenian War (635-615 B.C.E.), Spartans adapted these Cretan institutions designed for cavalry to a wider segment of the population (about 10 percent), the substantial landowners able to afford the expensive heavy armor (cheaper than war horses) and weaponry of the new-style elite infantryman, the hoplite. Because in the phalanx each hoplite's huge shield protected the exposed right of the man on his right, this military reformation, which made knights obsolete on the mainland, required more coordination and male bonding than heroic cavalry charges had. In Crete and Sparta as well as in Elis and Boeotia, which were also agrarian and inward looking, pederastic pedagogy, which concentrated on gymnastics and on instilling courage, inspired heroes, warriors, and athletes rather than scholars and artists.

In Sparta, females, who seemed to have exercised more influence than elsewhere in the Greek world, had more freedom to move about un-chaperoned and also received physical training. They married at 18, instead of 15 to 16 as in most other poleis. Spartan husbands, many of whom were apparently accustomed to pederastic relations before marriage, often sodomized their wives, beginning to do so even on the wedding night. The female choruses and other groups of virgins that were most famous in Sparta and on the isle of Lesbos may well have loved one another or their lady leaders, as attested by Sappho's and Alcman's poetry, but we are otherwise hardly informed about this female counterpart of male pederasty. In fact, we scarcely know anything about women's feelings and opinions, because we have no writings of any significance from any Greek woman except Sappho, who, like Homer, may merely have been a name appended to a collection that evolved orally over a long period. Naturally, lower-class women, in contrast to the secluded women of Athens and the Ionian cities, who could go out unchaperoned only very rarely, went out to work regularly.

Greeks believed that pederasty succeeded in diminishing the upper-class population explosion, which is what the rulers worried about. They did not mind if there were more serfs. They worried that their own estates would be overly subdivided by their heirs. Delayed marriage meant that far fewer families were formed by men of 30 than of 20, because many males perished in that interval. Approximately half of the 30-year-old grooms would die by 55, before those of their wives who survived childbirth had their menopause, at about 35. The average Greek marriage would have lasted considerably less than 20 years, and the average wife would have been widowed in her mid-30s. Upper-class widowers tended to remarry, but of upper-class wives only heiresses normally did so. If a child was conceived every two years, as might have happened if wet nurses were employed, this would have produced seven to nine offspring, whereas in fact the average seems to have been only five or six, half of whom might have died before maturity even if not too many were exposed at birth. Unlike famous Romans, famous Greeks after the institutionalization of pederasty rarely had many grown brothers or sisters. Because infanticide or abandonment of females may have been excessive, there may have been approximately as many brides of 15 as bridegrooms of 30. In contrast, Roman aristocrats, who at 17 on average married girls of 12 or 13, had larger families because they married earlier and practiced less infanticide, especially of males.

No polls, not even Sparta—in many ways the most static and conservative after it received its "Lycurgan" constitution, making it a militaristic oligarchy supported by helots, with delayed marriages and institutionalized pederasty—had a permanent, unvarying policy on birth control. Each city-state varied the rules about ages and conditions of marriage, according either to shortages of people during wars, pestilences, or famines, or to surpluses. Given to rational conduct, perhaps more than any other peoples of whom we know, Greeks adjusted sexual customs such as ages at marriage to make population conform to needs. Absentmindedly, Plato prescribed three different ages for males in his Laws (24 to 30), and Aristotle recommended age 37.

The Ionian maritime tyrannies and oligarchies of Miletus, Euboea, and Samos, and the neighboring Aeolic port of Mytilene, first adapted for mental instruction the system developed for physical, martial, and character training in militaristic Crete and Sparta, that is, the one-to-one tutorial between an erastes and eromenos. Beginning around 600 B.C.E., poets and philosophers from Aegean ports, often dominated by tyrants and enriched by overseas trade, became skeptical and sophisticated. Ionian "physicists," who soon originated Greek prose literature, broke through to rationalism, initiating remarkable progress in science, geography, and history. Aeolian poets exuberantly celebrated pederastic loves.

There is no agreement as to what kind of sexual activity prevailed. While the poets were discreet and ambiguous as to what kind of sex occurred, if any, contemporary graffiti crudely described pedication. Using works on public buildings, sculptors idealized the male nude but rarely portrayed sexual activity. Vase painters, however, frequently depicted intercrural sex, foreplay, and gift giving to boys rather than anal intercourse. Oral-genital sexuality, whether pederastic or heterosexual, was apparently rare and much disapproved, wherever mentioned. The only areas that have produced erotic art on the scale and in proportional numbers to the classical world are pre-Columbian Peru, medieval India, 17th- and 18th-century Japan, and Western Europe from the 18th through the 20th centuries. Only beginning in the fourth century B.C.E. did certain pro-Spartan writers declare that Spartan lovers were chaste. Xenophon proclaimed that "in Sparta there is no more physical love between men and boys than there is between parents and children or brother and brother."

Evidence supports speculation that many other forms of homosexuality also flourished, especially among slaves, metics (resident foreigners), and commoners, many of whom had no regular access to women and could often not support families. About such acts and customs we have, however, no evidence whatever for the archaic period. The word kinaidos, mentioned by Plato, came to mean a much-disparaged adult male, presumed to be extremely effeminate in gait, manner, and dress, who took the passive role. Male adolescent prostitutes (pornoi), first attested to in an archaic graffito on Thera, or more datably in Aristophanes, became common by classical tunes in Athens and other ports such as Marseilles (Massilia). These boy slaves often labored as prostitutes for pimps, but no master is recorded as having had sex with his own male slave before a lone case in Xenophon's Symposium of a middle-or lower-class entertainer and his boy. The prohibition of pornoi from addressing the Assembly, ascribed to Solon, the Athenian lawgiver of the first half of the sixth century, may be of later provenance Cross-dressing shamans common to the steppe peoples, as well as hermaphrodites, appeared in myths and perhaps also in fact. Males isolated in castles or camps or on ships must have indulged with one another in classical times as well as during the dark ages. In any case, such situational acts probably did not reorient men's preferences once they were back in the company of females. Consequently, they are of less importance than upper-class institutionalized pederasty.

Entrenched in gymnasia and symposia, which developed along with it, institutionalized pederasty prevailed among upper-class Greeks for a millennium, until the Christians outlawed all forms of what they came to execrate as "sodomitic vice." Providing each boy a devoted tutor, pederastic pedagogy might well have helped make Greeks the most creative of peoples. Historians have often noted that competitiveness was already evident in the Homeric epics, but the introduction of nude gymnastics—with all males of rank discarding their garments, thus underscoring the equality among gym mates—which came in with pederasty, heightened it. Erudite conversations between lovers in symposia and gymnasia, where many of Plato's dialogues are set, encouraged not only scholarship but also creativity in general. Even the Homeric and Hesiodic corpuses, which evolved orally before the institutionalization of pederasty and the seclusion of women, were probably committed to writing only afterwards, when the stones of the love of Zeus for Ganymede, a boy who never grew up, and the great love between Achilles and Patroclus were perhaps interpolated. Although the latter two were actually of the same age, Greeks of classical and later times perceived them as age-asymmetrical lovers, never agreeing as to who was the erastes and who the eromenos.

The Greeks themselves recognized that what separated them from "barbarians," as they condescendingly called all other people, however civilized, who did not share their language and institutions, was devotion to logic, nude athletics, and their peculiar brand of pederasty designed to instruct noble boys. More than two centuries after most Greeks adapted the Cretan innovations to local needs, Plato distinguished classical Hellenic from despotic "barbarian" civilization: "For the barbarians because of the rule of despots call this [pederasty] ugly, as well as philosophy and nude sports; I suppose it is profitable to their rulers that the subjects should not be great in spirit or make strong friendships and unions, which things love is wont to implant more than anything else" (Symposium 182b). Persians and Jews, whose religions apodictically condemned pederasty, were shocked by the Greek practices. While not prohibiting them, Romans did remark about the strangeness of Greek nudity and pederasty, which those devoted to the mos maiorum (ancestral customs) considered degenerate.

Greek historians and biographers mentioned numerous pairs of lovers who sacrificed themselves for each other or for their city's welfare, or inspired one another to extreme bravery in battle because each wished to be worthy of the highest praise in the other's eyes. Tyrants, who dominated so many poleis between 650 and 550 B.C.E., came to fear assassination by heroic pederastic couples. Bonding its citizens more than any other state, Sparta, the nemesis of tyrants, which compelled every young warrior to oversee a boy's education before marrying, became invincible in sport and war.

Athens, ruled first by pederastic tyrants and then by other pederasts who introduced democracy, became the greatest Hellenic metropolis by defeating the Persians, who had occupied lonia. By then, most upper-class Greek boys, except in such "backward" semi-Hellenized regions as Epirus and Macedonia, and perhaps also in mountainous Aetolia and Arcadia, which only adopted the institutions after 400, had a devoted tutor, whom he in turn often loved, to inspire him mentally as well as morally. Pederasty in the service of the intellect climaxed in the late archaic and classical age, in Athens, which had become the "school of Hellas," as its greatest statesman Pericles bragged in 430. Paiderasteia, as the Victorian homophile scholar John Addington Symonds observed, "at Athens was closely associated with liberty, manly sports, severe studies, enthusiasm, self-sacrifice, self-control, and deeds of daring, by those who cared for such things." Like most other aspects of life, it was in Athens, as in lonia, more voluntary and less regimented than in Crete, Sparta, or certain other Dorian societies.

A few Greeks began to criticize pederasty when the institution was still new. Before the end of the sixth century B.C.E., tyrants from time to time closed gymnasia out of fear that they would become centers of conspiracy, and the Persians, after they seized loma, began to criticize, suppress, and perhaps outlaw pederasty. Claiming that man was the measure of all things and that they could make the better seem the worse, fifth-century sophists, whether refugees from such persecutors or merely drawn to Athens by its wealth and freedom, its gymnasia and symposia, and its devotion to and subsidization of culture, increasingly undermined the commitment to character training and morality that previous patriotic pederastic masters had demanded. To restore civic order and personal morality, Socrates and Plato counterattacked, insisting on absolutes. They defended love between males but demanded "tasteful" limitation or, better still, like Xenophon, total sublimation of the sex drive. The older Plato, who in his earlier dialogues tolerated limited physical relationships, in his Laws denounced any physical contact between erastai and eromenoi, as well as sex between females, as contrary to nature.

After the Spartans seized Thebes, pederastic exiles who fled to Athens later reinfiltrated and liberated their city. The plotters organized the Sacred Band of 150 pairs of lovers who, under their leader Epaminondas, inflicted such severe losses on the previously invincible Spartan phalanx in two crucial battles that Sparta never made them good. Many homophile scholars, such as Symonds, have concluded that the great age of Greek pederasty ended at Chaeronea in 338 B.C.E., when the Sacred Band died to the last man fighting heroically against the overwhelming forces of Philip of Macedon, who ended Greek liberty, but actually pederasty continued to be a part of Greek life long afterwards.

The lethal internecine wars of the late fifth and fourth centuries, along with famines and plagues that accompanied them, may have eventually been even more efficacious in checking the population than pederasty and its concomitant institutions. After the great losses due to the wars and colonization of Alexander the Great (d 323 B.C.E.) and of the Diadochi (his successors) ended, the Greek population on the mainland seems to have continued to decline, especially in Sparta. The greatest historian of the Hellenistic period, Polybius, explained this decline, which was very apparent even in his native Achaea, by the refusal of many men, apparently of all classes, to marry. Many moderns have attributed the Spartiate decline, the most acute, to pederasty, but most ancients blamed it on poverty, which removed Spartiates from full citizenship.

In spite of criticism by philosophers from Socrates on, many Greeks continued to love boys. In the Hellenistic age, when boys were trained more and more for membership in the oecumene rather than in the polls, pederasty did indeed lose some of its original civic, social, and educational raison d'être. The Greek romances of imperial times, which have lost Hellenistic prototypes, even began to stress the love of females. But Greek creativity as well as heroism went on Increased contacts with Egypt and the Near East, which the Greeks now ruled, inspired or underlay extraordinary advances in literature, art, and philosophy as well as in medicine, science, and engineering. The Museum and Library of Alexandria, both sponsored by the Ptolemaic kings of Egypt, descended from Alexander's general and cousin, became a hothouse for philosophers and astronomers. In this "chickencoop," as a contemporary dubbed the Museum, the leading scholars, who often quarreled with each other over the pecking order, penned pederastic verses.

As in classical tunes, the eromenos often succeeded the erastes as head of the Athenian philosophical schools, including the Platonic Academy and Aristotelian Lyceum as well as the newer Stoa. Many if not most upper-class Greeks continued to practice pederasty until Christian condemnation combined with an economic decline impoverished gymnasia, left little surplus to finance symposia, and destroyed them after about a millennium. Particularly in the teeming cities of the East, Greeks may have imitated the sexual habits of others, such as loving eunuchs, trans-vestites, and other effeminates. In the homeland, some middle- and lower-class Greeks may have picked up the pederastic practices formerly restricted to the noble classes.

The collection of verses known as the Greek or Palatine Anthology attests the persistence of boy love to the reign of the Christian emperor Justinian (527-565 C.E.), whose Corpus Juris Civilis prescribed burning for sodomites, and who accused them of causing "earthquakes, famines, and plagues." Its greatest contributor, Strato of Sardis, who lived in the second century C.E., proclaimed:

I delight in the prime of a boy of twelve, but one of thirteen is much more desirable. He who is fourteen is a still sweeter flower of the Loves, and one who is just beginning his fifteenth year is yet more delightful. The sixteenth year is that of the gods, and as for the seventeenth it is not for me, but for Zeus, to seek it. But if one has a desire for those still older, he no longer plays, but now seeks "And answering him back" [to reciprocate, for the boy to exchange active and passive roles with his lover] (XII, 4).
Christians as far back as Tatian in the second century, as well as Marxists, feminists, and other critics, have pointed out that many aspects of Greek civilization were indeed detestable cruelty on the battlefield, slavery and serfdom, misogyny, sexism, seclusion of women, xenophobia bordering on racism, elitism, and class distinctions approaching, in certain states, caste divisions. But what civilization before modern tunes avoided these vices more than the Greeks did? And how many of these criticisms can be blamed on pederasty? Slavery was widespread in the ancient world with or without pederasty.

Keuls blamed pederasty for Athenian misogyny, but Greek misogyny predated pederasty. Women had their place in Greek society, but it was not a particularly high one. As Demosthenes said "Mistresses we keep for the sake of pleasure, concubines for the daily care of our persons, but wives to bear us legitimate children and to be faithful guardians of our households" (Against neaera, 122). In any case, misogyny among the Greeks predated their institutionalization of pederasty, as shown most strikingly in Hesiod's Works and Days. Both may have originated from shortages of goods or of land owing to overpopulation. The difference between Greeks and literate "barbarians" was not that the Greeks had these shortcomings and the others did not, but rather that the Greeks made so many breakthroughs in almost every field of arts, letters, sciences, and politics, while practicing philosophy, nude athletics, and pederasty.

One of the more fascinating historiographical problems is the refusal of so many in the past to report Greek pederasty accurately. Classical literature, which presents the strongest case for a successful form of pederasty among urbanized literates, was bowdlerized. Passages that could not be ignored were reinterpreted to claim that Greek pederasty consisted solely in contemplation of the boy's beauty and entailed no overt sexual contact whatever. In fact, until recently, the majority of those who exalted the so-called Greek miracle denied the existence or at best minimized the role of pederasty.

Increasingly, there is acceptance of a thesis summarized by Dover, who radically changed his opinions between his 1976 book and his 1988 one, that Greek "homosexuality" began late and diffused rapidly by around 600 B.C.E., and that poets and artists then first began to inject homosexual episodes into older myths. Recent scholarship has supported the findings of some of the homophile researchers of the 19th and early 20th centuries, beginning with Heinrich Hoeseli in the 1830s, who described Greek pederasty positively, although few scholars today would accept the analyses on which they and their contemporary critics relied. A host of new reconstructions are being forged out of the crucible into which the old ones were cast when they were discarded. Nagy, for example, has recently argued persuasively that, like Homer, all the other early Greek poets are merely names attached to corpuses that evolved orally: Hesiod, all the other archaic epic writers, and also the early lyricists, including, notably, Terpander ("he who pleases"); Sappho, Alcman, Alcaeus, and Stesichorus ("leader of the chorus"), the early elegists (except Solon), including Callinus, Tyrtaeus, Theognis, and Mimnermus; and the early iambists from Archilochus to Hipponax. Thus, Sappho recedes from history, and a group of males in symposia developed and passed on the lyrics ascribed to her, while a group of females in a chorus, perhaps with female leaders, developed and transmitted the choral odes ascribed to Alcman. One might almost say that Sappho was a group of males and Alcman was a group of females.

Still, no one as yet has succeeded in devising an acceptable conception of the origins or role of pederasty in classical Greece to accord with recent discoveries in archaeology, linguistics, demography, epigraphy, papyrology, biology, and psychiatry. Nevertheless, it is clear that pederasty was deeply imbedded in the Greek culture, although it must be clearly distinguished from later concepts such as sodomy, buggery, sexual inversion, homosexuality, gay, and queer. A proper understanding of Greek history should help to discredit homophobia as such and even the especially virulent hatred of homosexual pederasty, its most persecuted but historically most prevalent variation.


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Bremmer, J. An Enigmatic Indo-European Rite: Paederasty. Arethusa, Vol. 13 (1980), pp. 279-98.

Buffière, F. Eros aolescent: la pédérasty dans la Gréce antique. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1980.

Bullough, V.L. Sexual Variance in Society and History. Chicago Univ. of Chicago Press, 1976.

Dover, K.J. Greek Homosexuality. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1978.

Dover, K.J. The Greeks and Their Legacy. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1988.

Foucault, M. The History of Sexuality. 3 vols. New York: Pantheon, 1986.

Halperin, D.M. One Hundred Years of Homosexuality: And Other Essays on Creek Love. New York: Routledge, 1990.

Keuls, E.E. The Reign of the Phallus: Sexual Politics in Ancient Athens. New York: Harper & Row, 1985.

Licht, H. Sexual Life in Ancient Greece. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1932.

Marrou, H.I. A History of Education in Antiquity. Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1956.

Nagy, G. Pindar's Homer. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1990.

Pogey-Castries, L.R. Histoire de I'Amour grec dans I'antiquité Paris: Stendhal, 1930.

Sallares, R. The Ecology of the Ancient Creek World. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Univ. Press, 1991.

Sergent, B. Homosexuality in Creek Myth. Boston: Beacon Press, 1986.

Sergent, B. L'homosexualité initiatique dans I'Europe ancienne. Paris: Payot, 1986.

Symonds, J.A. A Problem in Creek Ethics. London: n.p., 1883.

William A. Percy


Guilt is a reflexive emotional response when the self judges itself as culpable of violating internalized standards of morality. This is an important factor in human sexuality, since traditional standards of morality prohibit many forms of sexual activity, specifying both immoral sexual objects and immoral sexual acts. Within Western culture, these exclusionary sexual standards limit sexual activity to coitus in the missionary position with a monogamous marital partner for pro-creative purposes, and though commitment should be involved, passionate love or ecstasy should not. Sex is to be neither passionately hedonic nor passionately romantic, since either might interfere with duty to God and God's laws. It is the moral residue from Paul's teaching that it is better to marry than to bum, but it is best to be chaste and celibate.

Thus, in traditional morality, all sexual linkages and all sexual objects except procreative, marital coitus in the missionary position are proscribed. Deviant or immoral sexual acts include childhood sexual play (looking, touching, exploring), sexual fantasy and pornography (imagining, watching, reading), nonmarital heterosexuality (kissing, petting, fornication, and adultery), and sodomy ("unnatural" sexual acts, including touching and fondling breasts, thighs, buttocks, and genitals; women mounted above men or the like in coitus; oral sex; or anal sex) even in marriage. Bans on contraception and abortion highlight that the sexual linkage is to be procreative, and, whether the linkage is marital or non-marital, "innocent" life is to be saved. Immoral sex with deviant objects includes incest; cross-race, -caste, -class, or -kinship sex; sex with demons; adult-child sex; simultaneous or sequential multi-partner sex, prostitution, homosexuality, bestiality, and masturbation.

Traditional morality assumes that such sexual linkages with such sexual objects are sinful and corrupting. At best, they threaten to corrupt the character of the participants, placing them on a slippery slope of sexual sin, where each unnatural act invariably leads to greater debauchery. At worst, they threaten the natural moral order by polluting natural social categories through immoral sexual linkages and by threatening to disintegrate the natural world and its God-given order. These traditional beliefs are the residue of beliefs in demonology as expressed through witchcraft.

Although all Americans do not accept these traditional standards, they remain the point of view, the frame, or the context in which the description, the picture, or the meaning of sexuality is understood. Shifting sexual standards are measured against the traditional moral code. For example, the contemporary marital sexual standard includes many more sexual activities than procreative coitus in the missionary position, and almost any sexual activity may go on between consenting marital partners. However, male preferences may determine what the couple does in a society with a double standard and a hierarchy of gender dominance. Another contemporary community standard is that love justifies the choice of sexual partner and the choice of varied sexual acts. Enjoyment and orgasmic release during any sexual episode have come to be expected, even for women. Contemporary community opinions are divided on the moral acceptability of masturbation, homosexuality, nonmarital heterosexual activity, cross-racial sex, pornography, contraception, and abortion. Still largely taboo are incest, adult-child sex, child-child sexual play, prostitution, and bestiality Coerced or nonconsenting sexual acts are prohibited by both law and morality.

Sexual guilt is defined as self-mediated control that either prevents one from violating internalized standards of moral sexual behavior or generates remorseful feelings of self-blame after one has violated sexual standards. Psychologists regard sexual guilt as both a personality disposition and an affect. Imagining, participating, or remembering violating a sexual standard taggers both the affect of guilt (the emotion or exponential feeling of guilt itself) and the personality disposition that seeks to avoid, manage, defend, or undo the violation of the sexual standard.

In psychological research, the personality disposition of sex guilt is measured by self-reports on inventories developed by Mosher inquiring about sexual beliefs, standards, actions, and emotions. For example, a participant in such research might choose between two alternatives: (a) sexual relations before marriage are wrong and immoral, or (b) sexual relations before marriage were frequent and fun. Scores summed across a set of items inquiring about childhood sexual experiences, sexual relations before marriage, adultery, and sociosexual guilt are used to define the magnitude of the dispositions to sex guilt within a sample of individuals.

Psychological research demonstrated that individuals disposed to sex guilt have engaged in fewer advanced nonmarital sexual activities (e.g., coitus or oral sex) than their less guilty contemporaries. They had less sex with fewer partners, believing premarital sex to be immoral and reporting that they did or would feel guilty for engaging in sexual activities.

Not only are guilty individuals not to engage in sex, they are not to imagine sex or respond to sexual stimuli. Feelings of guilt were reported by high-sex-guilt individuals following exposure to self-generated sexual fantasies or to presentations of explicit sexual materials. Pornography activated sexual excitement and sexual disgust; many of the sexual acts and sexual objects were regarded as abnormal.

Apparently because of the differential socialization of gender, men scored lower on sex guilt than women. Thus, many sexual activities were more desired and accepted by men than women before marriage. Moreover, men's sexual desire and levels of sex guilt affected the decision to have coitus within dating couples more than did the level of sex guilt in women. The traditional socialization of women places them in a bind: they are to uphold restrictive sexual standards, to submit to men, and to make relationships endure as a gender norm.

Although high-sex-guilt women were more reluctant to engage in premarital sex, use contraception, or seek abortions, they faced these dilemmas relatively unprepared. Because of their traditional sexual standards, having sex was un-planned (since they cannot plan to sin, they must be overcome by love, passion, or persuasion). Less likely to use contraception initially and more likely to delay or avoid using contraception later on than low-sex-guilt women, high-sex-guilt women had more unplanned pregnancies that led to either an unwanted child or an abortion. Were it left up to them, high-sex-guilt subjects would not grant many requests for abortion, particularly following casual sex, because they believe immoral sex should be punished— presumably an unwanted child fits the sexual crime of casual sex.

Sexually active high-sex-guilt women had difficulty with moral reasoning or with articulating justifications for their traditional law-and-order morality. Their tendency to avoid sex (a taboo) restricted both thought about sexuality and the development of interpersonal skills that come from confronting sexual choices in everyday interactions with peers.

Guilt over masturbation reduced subjective and psychological sexual arousal to sexual materials. Although men masturbated at greater frequencies than women, they remained equally guilty over it, still believing many myths about masturbation and experiencing guilt and disgust over their own masturbation. Women who scored higher on masturbation guilt avoided selecting a diaphragm as a method of contraception, feeling disgusted when they imagined inserting a diaphragm, which—like masturbation—requires touching the genitals. Masturbation guilt apparently produces adverse psychological reactions to having a sexually transmitted disease, including more stress, fear of telling partner, and outbreaks of herpes that are associated with stress. Although masturbation may teach individuals about their own response to sexual pleasure, prepare them for orgasmic response during coitus, and be a safe-sex outlet, it induces guilt in many men and women. Moreover, the more macho men must avoid masturbation as unmanly, increasing the pressure on them to engage in "real" sex, even coercive sex.

A number of studies demonstrated that the disposition to high sex guilt reduced sexual arousal to several forms of explicit sexual material in the laboratory. Such a reduction might follow both from the processes that instigate cognitive concerns about morality (or that avoid sexual fantasy or desire) and from activated shame, guilt, and disgust over explicit sexual material. Believing that they had drunk an alcoholic beverage even when they had not appeared to reduce such cognitive concerns in high-sex-guilt men; they looked at pornography longer, they had fuller penile erections.

Sexologists are concerned about the socialization of sexuality and the moral development of children. Sexual ignorance, myths, and negative affects associated with sexuality do not prepare youths for coping with their sexuality. Sex guilt was associated with lack of sexual information, belief in sexual myths, and traditional moral and gender standards. Sexual dysfunctions are common in marriage, as the inhibiting effects of sexual guilt do not automatically cease with the marital vow; sexual pleasure requires communication and mutual respect. The disposition to sex guilt appears to inhibit sexual arousal; to produce disgust, shame, and guilt; to contribute to sexual ignorance and unwanted pregnancies; and to activate moral condemnation of self and others for moral violations—all without engaging critical ethical reasoning.

Thus, sexual guilt is a rigidly antisexual script that lacks flexibility in judging context and relationship, just as it lacks rationality in moral socialization. The disposition to sexual guilt and the misery of feeling guilty over sexual thoughts, desires, and contacts follow from a punitive socialization of sexuality that seeks to restrict sexuality to narrow channels of moral purity.

Sexual guilt is implicated not only in sexual dysfunctions; it may also play a significant role in the development of paraphilias. More research is needed on this issue. Certainly, we do know that sexual guilt contributes to general depression and to adolescent suicide in reaction to gender dysphoria.


Kagan, J., and S. Laub. The Emergence of Morality in Young Children. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1987.

Mosher, D.L. The Development and Multitrait-Multimethod Matrix Analysis of Three Measures of Three Aspects of Guilt. Journal of Consulting Psychology, Vol. 30 (1966), pp. 25-29.

Mosher, D.L. Sex Differences, Sex Experience, Sex Guilt, and Explicitly Sexual Films. Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 29 (1973), pp. 95-112.

Donald L. Mosher

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