Sex By Degrees

Let’s imagine a society in which sex is not binary–not at all binary. People differ in respect of sex in the way they differ in respect of height–by degree. Thus gamete size is a matter of degree (not the small and large gametes we see as things are); breast development is by degree for everyone; genital anatomy varies in all sorts of merely quantitative ways into which I will not now enter. Some people may have large breasts and somewhat “male” genitals, while others are flat of chest but possessed of “female” type genitals, but with tiny gametes, etc. That is, there is just no way to sort these individuals into two groups labeled “male” and “female”, just as there is no way to sort people into two groups called “tall” and “short”. We might speak of one person as “more female” than another, having in mind some sort of ideal type, but in fact no one falls neatly into either category. What would this do to questions of sexual discrimination, sexism, homosexuality, and anything else that depends on a strict male-female dichotomy? Isn’t it just contingent that animals on planet earth exhibit this duality? In other possible worlds there is no such thing as the male-female distinction–that is is just a dogma of binary-ism.

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12 responses to “Sex By Degrees”

  1. Henry Cohen says:

    We could still have sex discrimination. I bet that we currently have height discrimination, at least with respect to men. If two identically qualified men applied for the same job, and one man was notably taller than the other, then, all other things being equal (race, age, comeliness, personality, articulateness), then I bet that he’d be more likely to get the job. And we certainly have age discrimination–there are laws against it–even though age is not binary.

  2. That is very true, but it would be subtly different, would it not? It would be harder to draw a sharp line and it would look more arbitrary. And I wonder if it would exist in any pronounced form, given that it would be hard to tie it to any feature deemed superior, such as height or youth. Still, people will discriminate based on anything, silly or not.

  3. jgkess@cfl.rr.com says:

    Its also a matter of degree in respect of which sex one finds oneself sexually attracted to. I’ve read that the genes that control for the expression of sexual anatomy do not always correlate, timing-wise, with the genes that control for the kind of neural-wiring responsible for the “direction” of sexual desire (influences of environment always a confounding variable). There are degrees of sexual orientation—from exclusively strong feelings of hetero-sexual desire, on through bi-sexuality, to exclusively strong feelings of homo-sexual desire. There is no convincing evolutionary argument (if one really thinks about it—see the influences from environment) against the norm being bi-sexuality. As Gore Vidal quipped: “Jack on Monday, Jill on Tuesday, and both on Wednesday.”

  4. jgkess@cfl.rr.com says:

    Variation in the genetic expression of sexual/gender anatomy probably compromises reproductive potential much more than, say, variation in the genetic expression of sexual orientation. Where reproductive success is the more unlikely, the less the gene-linked variants responsible for that lack of success exhibit themselves in a population. I’ve vowed to keep my Comments on your blog fewer and shorter, but I cannot resist floating this Election Day thought: if the Democrats re-take the House things will only get worse. I used cynically to answer, whenever anyone asked me how I voted, that I always voted the straight Republican ticket—the better to hasten our demise. I do not, ofcourse, hope for the decline of my country. But perhaps the best way to forward the decline of Trump-style Republicanism is to let it run its unfettered course, and let the Republican party reap fully the consequences. Bad as that unfettered course might be, I do not think it would be catastrophic. If the Democrats win, however, Trump might feel himself driven to Extremities he might not otherwise have considered.

  5. Henry Cohen says:

    I think that letting Trump and the Republicans run unfettered would be catastrophic to millions who would lose their health insurance and to migrant parents whose children Trump would kidnap, and, of course, to the kidnapped children. In addition, voter suppression could increase to the point that the Republican party would face no consequences.

    If, however, the Democrats win, then they could investigate Trump’s crimes. On a side note, it seems insane that only the members of Congress in the majority party may investigate (including subpoena) members of the executive branch. That enables the majority party to allow the President to engage in all the corruption that he wants. Even if members of the minority party cannot impeach and convict the President, if they uncover enough corruption, then they might embarrass members of the majority party enough to do something about it.

  6. jgkess@cfl.rr.com says:

    Politics, these days, goads one’s Comments ever forward (irrespective of vows)—just as the forth-coming House investigations into Trump and his corrupt Cabinet will goad the President ever forward. But to what Extremity?—that was my concern. I fairly agree with Henry Cohen, but the House has only so much leverage, and Nancy Pelosi, in particular (worthy in intention though she is), only so much appeal.

    • Yesterday’s press conference, and the treatment of Jim Acosta, set new standards for Trump and his gang–the lowest point yet. The constant lying, the false allegations against people, the authoritarian tendencies: how do people tolerate it? No country in which this is accepted can survive as a center of civilization. Trump proved himself (yet again) to be an idiotic spoiled child, a psychopath, and a laughing-stock.

  7. jgkess@cfl.rr.com says:

    Spastic recourse to lies, threats, racism, self-aggrandizement—the very flower of Trumpian grace under pressure. His supporters love it. This is the more worrisome.

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