Monday, December 6, 2010

Pink Boys with Puppy Dog Tails

What to do with a "pink boy"?

In my e-mail in-box a few weeks ago, I received a polite message from a woman named Sarah Hoffman who was writing to ask why I was being such a gender conservative. Sarah didn't quite put it that way, but that was the gist of her message, and given that I'm usually accused of being a gender radical, I sat up and listened. And as I read the whole of Sarah's message, I realized she was absolutely right.

Sarah identifies herself as a mother of a "pink boy" - a boy whose manner of play and dress has often tended toward what's common in girls. Sarah was writing to me specifically in response to a piece I'd written for the Hastings Center Report called "Gender Identity Disorder in Childhood: Inconclusive Advice to Parents." There I had outlined the two basic clinical approaches taken to children labeled as having "gender identity disorder," and had mentioned my sympathies for and reservations about each.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Meet the Hebephiles, the Missing Link between Pedophiles and the Rest of Us

Consider the little-known group falling between pedophiles and the rest of us. But first, their sponsors....

Like the dinner party guest who manages to put more feet in his mouth than he even has, on Tuesday, the Vatican equated pedophiles and those who seek the ordination of women, at least in terms of their place in Church doctrine. Yes, apparently priests who use their office to repeatedly sexually assault children are now officially akin to those who might dare to suggest women are capable of serving the Lord in the same manner as men. The mind reels.

This whacked worldview is at least sort of cohesive. To do the Vatican Hustle, you just pair up any non-normative gender behavior with the devil (or his alleged earthly representatives), and dance! Damn to hell any women who might actively seek power, and tell the world that the root problem of the sexual abuse of young boys is gay men, not pedophilia

For those of you who haven't been following the Vatican edition of "Dancing with the Stars (around Your Head)", the issue of the ordination of women has arisen in this context because some have suggested that introducing women into the priesthood might help stem the problem of sexual abuse. And indeed, if the guys at the Vatican knew any sexology, they'd know there's something to this idea.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Hot Cosmo Piece Screws Nasty Men!

Why do some women pay to let scummy men get into their pants?

I've been bemoaning the death of the free press a lot lately. With Internet competition, newspapers just don't have the resources to support good investigative journalism much anymore. So imagine my surprise when, on the check-out line of my grocery store yesterday, I discovered that the free press is alive and well in the form of . . . Cosmo?

"VAGINAS UNDER ATTACK," screams the cover of the July issue: "Don't Let Greedy Gyno Talk You Into This Horrible Mistake." So I'm going to forgive Cosmo the mistake of capitalizing a preposition in a title. Because Molly Triffin's on-the-ground reporting for Cosmo has the potential to save scores of young women from unnecessary pain, scarring, and loss of sexual function.

Inside the magazine, Triffin's story gets the title "WARNING: These Doctors May Be Dangerous to Your Vagina." Again, I'm going to forgive Cosmo, this time for using the word "vagina" to talk mostly about vulvas. Why? Because Triffin kicks ass. She bothered to go for herself to the International Society of Cosmetogynecology's Global Symposium on Cosmetic Vaginal Surgery.

And what did she see there?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Notes Home

What if we admitted to children that sex is primarily about pleasure?

A couple of months ago, the sex education notice came home in my nine-year-old son's backpack. I didn't realize that, in our district, sex ed starts in the fourth grade. Another sign of the state having more access to my baby than I sometimes wish.

When I handed the note to my mate at the dinner table, our son said with something of a proud smile, "I told Mrs. Reverby we've already talked about it at home."

The mate and I looked at each other and obviously had the same thought. Two weeks before, the class had been learning about electricity. The teacher had gotten stuck on some questions about batteries, so she had turned to our son, who was able to explain to the class exactly how batteries charge, recharge, and discharge. He's learned a lot about electricity at home.

And quite a lot about sex.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

To Have Is to Hold

What's wrong with trying to engineer your child's sexual orientation?

Or more specifically, what's wrong with taking a steroid, while you're pregnant, to try to increase the odds that your female fetus will someday grow up to be a straight woman who gives you grandchildren, and not a lesbian daughter more interested in puppies?

I have a funny feeling I'm about to get hit by various versions of that question, since Ellen Feder of American University, Anne Tamar-Mattis of Advocates for Informed Choice, and I just submitted a new post to Bioethics Forum revealing what we think is the first organized medical "paradigm" for attempting to prevent homosexuality in the womb.

Let me give five answers to that question. Maybe six.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Can You Hear Us Now?

Why is a Cornell doctor vibrating little girls' clitorises . . . and is this really medicine?

In a brief article entitled "Bad Vibrations" just posted at the Hastings Center's Bioethics Forum, my colleague Ellen Feder and I express our shock over the follow-up techniques being used by pediatric urologist Dix Poppas at Weill Medical College of Cornell University on girls whose clitorises Poppas has cut down in size.

There's no point in my repeating here what we say at Bioethics Forum. Instead, I want to use this space to answer some questions I'm already getting from people about this scene.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sugar, Boys, and Sugar Boys

Ok, here goes: I'm going to see how many people I can offend by suggesting that maybe many little gay boys, like many little girls, are made up of sugar and spice and everything nice.

In North America, I suffer from a terrible disease. When the disease flares up, I am virtually incapacitated by the symptoms. But if I go to many other parts of the world-for example, most of Asia, I am miraculously cured. There's something in the North American environment that makes me sick, and that thing is largely absent in Asia. What is it?

Milk. It took me a long time to figure out that my body can't tolerate lactose, the sugar in milk, long enough that I also managed to develop an allergy to the milk protein casein. If I lived in a part of the world where milk was not part of the adult diet, I'd be fine. In fact, that's most of the world; scientists estimate that eighty percent of the world's adult human population is lactose intolerant. Thus, most of the world's cuisines skip milk. Frankly, from an evolutionary perspective, it's rather freaky to keep eating milk past the age of weaning. Y'all are freaks. I'm normal.

Except in North America, that is, where I live in constant fear of accidentally ingesting milk. I've learned the hard way that Americans sometimes hide milk in margarine, Cool Whip, baba ganoush, "vegan" muffins, Tums (Tums!), French fries, and, increasingly--tragically--beer.

Now, as my good friend Paul Vasey, the super sharp Canadian sex researcher, packs to head off for his annual research trip to Samoa, I have been thinking about how my milk problem is analogous to what Paul has been tracing in his work with regard to male androphilia. "Androphilia" refers to being sexually attracted to males. Paul uses the term "male androphilia" where other researchers talk about "male homosexuality" because Paul studies a special population of people in Samoa, the fa'afafine.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Of Kinks, Crimes, and Kinds: The Paraphilias Proposal for the DSM-5

When is a kinky interest really sick?

That’s the central question the Paraphilias Sub-Work Group of the American Psychiatric Association has had to face as they’ve developed proposed revisions for the DSM-5. Pity those given the task of trying to figure out how, when, and why to medicalize or de-medicalize everything from asexuality to zoophilia (the latter being the sexual interest known to less progressive types as bestiality).

Looming over the whole task is the ugly history of the pathologizing of homosexuality. As I teach my students every year, it took until 1973 for the American Psychiatric Association to stop officially categorizing all forms of homosexuality as mental disorders. And that official demedicalization happened not because a happy and spontaneous consensus emerged that the science supported the change, but because gay psychiatrists understandably had had enough.

Nowadays, you can find self-appointed representatives of every sexual interest who will try to align their history with homosexuality, because, like the gay psychiatrists of the early 1970s, they want out of the DSM. The bondage folks, the zoophiles – even the pedophiles want out. At least the vocal ones do. They’ll tell you that, like gay men and lesbians, they never should have been in the book in the first place.

I would have been watching the progress of the Paraphilias Sub-Work Group regardless; as an historian of sexuality, I’m professionally fascinated to see where it will all go. But as it turns out, I’ve had something of a ringside seat, because my friend Ray Blanchard has been serving as the chair of the sub-work group.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Intersex and Sports: Back to the Same Old Game

More craziness around sex divisions in sports.

If you’re trying to make sense of the “decisions” just made in Miami about sex-typing in sports, and you’re struggling, join the club.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) presumably tasked the group of expert physicians who just met in Miami with the job of coming up with a fair way to decide who should be allowed to compete as a woman in cases of sex ambiguity. Instead, the group “did not address fairness” according to Dr. Joe Leigh Simpson of Florida International University.

What the group did apparently conclude is this: anomalous sex is always primarily a medical condition, athletes must submit to “treatment” if they want to compete, and expert doctors will play by an “I know it when I see it” approach as these doctors personally decide, on a case-by-case basis, who will and won’t compete.