Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Social Construction of Sex and Me

I keep running into smart people who seem to think I believe that sex “isn’t real” because it is all “socially constructed.” Allow me to correct this erroneous social construction of me by summarizing here what I think about sex and gender. I’m tempted to say “what I know about sex and gender” because there are few things I feel as sure about as this.

Testes are real. Ovaries are equally real. They sometimes make real gametes. (I don’t mean to imply they sometimes make fantasy gametes—just that they sometimes don’t make gametes.) Chromosomes and genes are also real. As anyone who’s every forgotten to wear a pad on the right day knows, menstrual blood is real. To the delight of this straight woman, penile erections are real. So are clitoral erections. I’m equally delighted about those.

When I say these are “real,” what I mean is that these things have a material existence independent of our ability as humans to notice, study, deny, politicize, or categorize them. I can’t believe I even have to assert this claim, but some academics have gone over the deep end and disagree. (I don’t hang out with such people unless there I have some form of pain killer at the ready.)

So why would I write a book with the phrase medical invention of sex in the title?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Is a Small Penis in the Hand Worth Three in the Bush?

OK, that title may be too cheeky. But it got your attention. Here’s what I’m thinking about….

The internationally-syndicated sex-advice columnist Dan Savage recently asked me to help out with a reader who thought he had a small penis and was considering “enhancement” surgery or pills. As a consequence, I’ve gotten a bunch of mail from guys with penis size questions or comments. A man I’ll call Bob wrote to say this:

“I am one of the people with extreme small [penis] size but am proof it doesn’t cause problems if you learn to work with it. I have 3 grown children now and am happily married. We are all given many differences in life and how we deal with them is what makes the difference. Keep sending the messages…your work is important.”

When I wrote Bob to thank him for his mail and to ask him if I could quote him, he followed-up: