Cover: Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud, from Harvard University PressCover: Making Sex in PAPERBACK

Making Sex

Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud

Add to Cart

Product Details

PAPERBACK

$34.00 • £27.95 • €30.50

ISBN 9780674543553

Publication Date: 02/01/1992

Short

336 pages

6-3/8 x 9-1/4 inches

66 halftones

World

This is a book about the making and unmaking of sex over the centuries. It tells the astonishing story of sex in the West from the ancients to the moderns in a precise account of developments in reproductive anatomy and physiology. We cannot fail to recognize the players in Thomas Laqueur’s story—the human sexual organs and pleasures, food, blood, semen, egg, sperm—but we will be amazed at the plots into which they have been woven by scientists, political activists, literary figures, and theorists of every stripe.

Laqueur begins with the question of why, in the late eighteenth century, woman’s orgasm came to be regarded as irrelevant to conception, and he then proceeds to retrace the dramatic changes in Western views of sexual characteristics over two millennia. Along the way, two “masterplots” emerge. In the one-sex story, woman is an imperfect version of man, and her anatomy and physiology are construed accordingly: the vagina is seen as an interior penis, the womb as a scrotum, the ovaries as testicles. The body is thus a representation, not the foundation, of social gender. The second plot tends to dominate post-Enlightenment thinking while the one-sex model is firmly rooted in classical learning. The two-sex story says that the body determines gender differences, that woman is the opposite of man with incommensurably different organs, functions, and feelings. The two plots overlap; neither ever holds a monopoly. Science may establish many new facts, but even so, Laqueur argues, science was only providing a new way of speaking, a rhetoric and not a key to female liberation or to social progress. Making Sex ends with Freud, who denied the neurological evidence to insist that, as a girl becomes a woman, the locus of her sexual pleasure shifts from the clitoris to the vagina; she becomes what culture demands despite, not because of, the body. Turning Freud’s famous dictum around, Laqueur posits that destiny is anatomy. Sex, in other words, is an artifice.

This is a powerful story, written with verve and a keen sense of telling detail (be it technically rigorous or scabrously fanciful). Making Sex will stimulate thought, whether argument or surprised agreement, in a wide range of readers.

Awards & Accolades

  • Thomas Laqueur Is Recipient of the 2007 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Distinguished Achievement Award
Out of My Skull: The Psychology of Boredom, by James Danckert and John D. Eastwood, from Harvard University Press

From Our Blog

9780674238084

Who We Might Have Been, and Who We Will Become

Who among us hasn’t considered what our lives would be like if we had taken alternate paths, made different decisions? Storytellers of every stripe write of the lives we didn’t have, says Andrew H. Miller, author of On Not Being Someone Else: Tales of Our Unled Lives. As we live through a worldwide pandemic, the ideas of what might have been are even more appealing. Much like the adolescents on the verge of adulthood in Sally Rooney’s novel Normal People, Miller tells us, we wait to see what comes next.