We have many taken-for-granted assumptions about the biology of men and women. So, I offer this, provocative, human anatomy quiz. It’s aimed at unpacking the assumptions we make when telling stories around sex and gender.
- True or false? Women are biologically the weaker sex.
- True or false? Men have male hormones and women have female hormones.
- True or false? Women have testosterone.
- True or false? The anus has an erotic capacity for both men and women.
- True or false? The anus has an erotic capacity irrespective of sexual orientation.
- True or false? The correct name for the female genitals is the vagina.
- True or false? A clitoris is like a tiny penis.
- True or false? The clitoris is the only organ in the human body with the sole function of sexual pleasure.
- True or false? The ovaries and the testes are formed from the same embryonic tissue.
- True or false? Biologically, the ‘default’ value of humans is female.
- True or false? Women are incomplete men.
- True or false? Men and women are so different that they may as well be from different planets.
For a fuller discussion of sex and gender see my book The Psychology of Gender (For US click, For UK click ). In the meantime, here are the answers:
- False. Men are biologically the weaker sex (on account of the Y chromosome which means it doesn’t protect the male so well from hereditary diseases)
- False. Men and women have the same hormones; it is only the relative levels that differ. Furthermore, men differ from other men and women differ from other women in terms of hormone levels.
- True. Women have testosterone. Men also have progesterone and oestrogens.
- True. The anus has an erotic capacity for both men and women. As the genitals and the anus share much of the same musculature and nerve endings, it is often difficult to tell where an impulse originates.
- True. The anus has an erotic capacity irrespective of sexual orientation (gay, straight, bi or indifferent).
- False. The vagina is the birth canal; the collective term for the female genitals is ‘vulva’.
- False. A penis is an enlarged clitoris. See also answer 8.
- True. The clitoris is the only organ in the human body with the sole function of sexual pleasure.
- True. The ovaries and the testes are formed from the same embryonic tissue.
- True. Biologically, the ‘default’ value of humans is female. That is why the penis is an enlarged clitoris and also why men have nipples.
- False. More accurately, men are women who made a bit of a detour (in the earlier stages of development)
- False. From biological evidence, the similarities between men and women are greater than the differences.
So where does this take us?
Well, in the direction of a twelve point personal research plan to check out the answers and then consider how these facts impact on our social interpretation of biological sex, that is our gender roles (and our attitudes to sexuality).
[Material adapted from Sex, Lies and Stereotypes, by Gary Wood]
Updated: 29 May 2019
- The Psychology of Gender (For US click, For UK click ).
- Sex, Lies & Stereotypes: Challenging Views of Women, Men & Relationships
- My Gender Workbook by Kate Bornstein
- The Apartheid of Sex by Martine Rothblatt
- The Chalice & the Blade by Riane Eisler
- The Science/Fiction of Sex: Feminist Deconstruction and the Vocabularies of Heterosex by Annie Potts