November 3, 2008


I will focus this blog on the Kessler piece considering intersexed infants. First of all medical establishments differ widely in how they “treat� intersexed infants. If the infants are born in a urban city with a variety of different medical professionals available the infant will have a whole team of professionals that treat their “intersexed disorder�. Whereas, if the infant was born in a rural area they may just be left they way they are because they do not have the “medical technology or knowledge� to place the infant into one specific gender role.

Kessler explains that “Doctors make decisions about gender on the basis of shared cultural values that are unstated, perhaps even unconscious, and therefore considered objective rather than subjective.� Therefore, the intersexed infant is given its gender based on two major (and arguably the only factors). First, that the infant is compared with a male view in mind only focusing on the micropenis. And secondly, the infant is given its gender based on the cultural “Normal� body. This normal body for a male is a penis that is not so called micro and a clitoris that is not enlarged and can be a part constructed solely to take and pleasure the male penis.

This cultural “normal� male and female body is extremely important in our culture. Parents often push doctors into making a fast choice so they can explain to everyone what sex or “normal gender role� their new baby is occupying. Therefore, even though modern medicine is wonderful and needed the intersexed infants born in the rural less medically advanced town that are left intersexed may be better off than the ones “treated� by a whole comrade of medical professionals.

Blog eight

The Kessler article has to do with gender and the stress society puts on fitting in today. When a child is born with unknown genitalia, the medical doctors seem to pressure the parents to chose a sex for the baby. This is done so that the baby can then grow up either male or female and live a “normal� life. They don’t want to child to grow up different or unique to this society, they want them to fit in the norms in order to live their life like they are supposed to, like everyone else does. But the question here is that why is this pressure so strong for parents to decide what sex their child should be without knowing anything about what they will turn out like or what the child’s preference might be later on in life. The children should be able to live their life the way they feel is right and decide that for themselves. Our society doesn’t help with the fact that if people aren’t so called “normal� they are not welcome or treated well. By deciding so soon, it could create even more problems if the child is living their life one way, when they feel the total opposite. Physical appearance isn’t something we as a society should dwell on, let alone live by. By waiting and allowing the child to decide when they know could get our society to eventually accept intersexed people.

Blog 8

Both Koedt in The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm, and Rich in Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence address that women's sexuality and the ways in which they are allowed to think about their sexuality are defined by patriarchy and heterosexuality. They both call for an adjustment of the system where women and their rights and desires can be acknowledged.

Koedt does this by addressing the physical act of sex and how it is the clitoris, not the vagina that is the "center of sexual sensitivity". Because men orgasm through friction with the vagina, a myth has been perpetuated that women should also orgasm through the vagina, and that there is something wrong with those that don’t. The fact that women orgasm through the clitoris, and therefore do not require a penis for sexual satisfaction disrupts the patriarchal values that govern the act of sex (“real sex� means vaginal penetration by the penis, men’s desires are the most important, women are defined by how they benefit men, etc.). The “expendable penis� means women can benefit from either male or female lovers, which Koedt argues makes heterosexuality an option, not an absolute. Therefore, she says sexuality must be redefined so that guidelines are established for “mutual sexual enjoyment�.

Rich also addresses the problems with heterosexuality as an absolute. Heterosexuality needs to be recognized as a political institution, not a preference or an innate part of a person. The “lesbian continuum� acknowledges not only sexual relationships between women, but the experiences throughout their lives that women have with each other. Because of this, and specific oppressions women face, lesbianism cannot be equated as the female version of male homosexuality. The “lesbian continuum� can be used to adjust the institution of heterosexuality (not necessarily overthrow it) so that we can recognize that heterosexuality is not the only option, and allow choice in relationships and sexual desire.

Week Eight Blog

When looking at both Koedt's essay, "The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm" and Dworkin's essay, "Pornography" you may notice that both essays centralize on women's bodies basically existing because of the fact that they must please men. It says in "The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm" that "Women have thus been defined sexually in terms of what pleases men..." (Koedt 176). Similarly to this quote in the "Pornography" piece, Dworkin states "In the male system, women are sex; sex is the whore� (Dworkin 185). Koedt continues to go into detail about this idea that the vagina is a source of please when really women receice their sexual pleasure through clitoral stimulation. This myth is then continued because of the fact that men depend on this part of the woman for their sexual needs and desires. Koedt then continues by explaining that men won't really care if they dont know that they are not pleasing the woman sexually becuase as long as they are getting something out of thats all that matters, right? This seems similar to Dworkin's essay because she centers on the fact of pornography and that women exist to serve men. She describes men as the primary character and women to be sort of a secondary character, meaning that mens needs and wants come first.

It was good to read both articles together because while each of the authors seems to take a different route in pointing out that women's bodies are a significant aspect in pleasing a man, it is interesting to look into each of these different ways. They compliment each other's articles more than contrast them which helps in trying to look at the key aspects of both pieces.

Koedt and Dworkin

Koedt and Dworkin share similarities in that they both view sexuality as being a patriarchal concept.

Koedt argues that the clitoris is equivalent to the penis (meaning orgasms occur via the clitoris), and since men dominate women, the female’s penis (clitoris) is ignored so as not to threat men’s masculinity. Women are thought to have psychological problems if they do not experience orgasms via the vagina, which is to say that women are supposed to be pleased with whatever works for the man (missionary position). Men define sexual normalcy. Some women fake vaginal orgasms as a way to “catch� a man, which emphasizes the idea that women are expected to win men over by impressing them sexually. Koedt also argues that foreplay is strictly for the man’s pleasure. And she says that we’re living in a society that is unwilling to change the roles of men and women.

Dworkin argues that pornography involves the lowest of whores. The problem with pornography is that real women are objectified in order to maintain these depictions. There’s a sexual framework of male domination in which whores exist. Dworkin goes on to argue that all women are in fact whores due to the real women used in pornography. “The debasing of women is held to be the real pleasure of sex.� There’s this idea that women love to be exploited.

Both Koedt and Dworkin seem to believe that women’s sexual needs are placed on the backburner in order for men’s needs to be met. Men define (whether consciously or not) sexuality as a whole; they determine what it means to be sexual and what stigmas are attached to men and women’s roles in sexuality. Lastly, change in this patriarchal sexual system does not seem to be in the stars for us anytime in the near future.

Blog Week Eights

The birth of an intersexed child brings into question many factors that are not just biological for both family members and the medical practitioners. “Indeed, biological factors are often preempted in their deliberation by such cultural factors as the “correct’ length of the penis and capacity of the vagina.� Medical procedures seem to be considered first before consultation with parents, announcement of the gender of the child at birth, and consideration of counseling during the child’s teen years.

The medical field is influenced by cultural expectations of what a female or male should look like and be within the current limitations of our society’s expectations. Without considering all the factors, diagnosistic mistakes can be made. These medical procedures are Consideration of one sex or the other (male or female) are made the primary consideration of what sex the child should become. These two sexes are the only “natural� options that physicians see are acceptable. They are acceptable because this is what western society thinks is acceptable and normal. In other words, western medicine only considers there are two sexes make determinations for a person’s entire life using these cultural factors.

Since the medical field accepts the “binary� system of either one or the other, there is also an acceptance of how a body “should� be or “should� look. The child and parents have a life choice made for them within the guidelines of a society that limits it views of either male or female and nothing in between. Then this person is expected to live the life of either a male or female. This child is the one who needs to live life as this body and all the emotional and physiological impact.

Week Eight Blog

In Kessler’s essay she talks about the fact that the medical community determines the gender of an intersexed child by the size of the penis, rather than by the chromosomes. This clearly shows that our society is obsessed with making sure everyone is normal and able to be put into a box. However, no one can say what the child will grow up to be. So the doctors should not change the baby, they should just let it be and grow up into whatever its supposed to be. If they did that then we would eventually start to accept the fact that intersexed children are born all the time and they deserve the right to choose who they want to be.

We as a society get all of our information about being normal physically from the medical society. Basically whatever they tell us we believe. So when they are making decisions about the gender of a baby they are using their authority to continue the norms in our society. However, if there are so many children being born this way who’s to say it’s not normal? The medical society would never look into intersexed children being normal because there isn’t a place to put them in our society. Its boy or its girl and that’s it.

Blog Eight

The Kessler text was a very interesting way of looking at gender and really begins to go hand in hand with the medical idea of nurture over nature. The piece simply illustrated our society’s stress on a binary gendered system. When children are born with ambiguous genitalia, medical doctors immediately put pressure on the parents to choose a gender for the infant because it is for the best interests for the child. This decision needs to be made quickly so immediately the parents can begin to raise the child as the specific gender. I suppose it is believed widely be the medical world that one can MAKE a child be whatever gender they want them to be. It is an interesting hypothesis however; I do not think it works well for the child in all cases. But it is the fact that parents are pressured into making that decision for the best interests of the child where I would have to disagree. This so called “best interest� has to do with whether or not the child will fit in to our society and be ‘normal’. However, many probably would not know if the child was not normal until they looked at the genitalia. And it is the genitalia of a typical male, genitalia that is capable of having heterosexual sex that becomes the rubric of whether or not the intersexed infant is a male or female child. And sometimes that forced decision that harms the child more than help them. No one encourages the child to be who they are, an intersexed person, but that is because we live in a society that does not encourage that, or accepts in at all. So these intersexed children are forced to either be squeezed into a category they are not, or be oppressed by society. This is because we define a “normal� body by genitalia capable of heterosexual sex, nothing else is acceptable.

Blog Eight

The two pieces I selected, "Pornograpy" by Andrea Dworkin and "Toward a Feminist Theory of the State" by Catherine MacKinnon share many similarities. Both view pornography as a way of objectifying women. They also agree that it is men who have created the industry and maintained it in order to show male's sexual dominance over women. The womens' sexuality is used and abused in order to satisfy the male audience. They tend to regard this kind of sexuality as men's way of debasing women.

However, the two author's views also differ in some aspects. For example, the idea of sexuality in and of itself. Dworkin claims that porngraphy attempts to make sexuality seem dirty; pornographer exploit the idea in order to sell tapes. Nevertheless, Dworkin doesn't seem to think that sexuality is inheritantly bad in and of itself, but rather has been corrupted by "male patriarchal dominance."

Contrarily, Catherine MacKinnon believes that all sexuality involving a man and a woman constitutes male dominance, no matter what the circumstances. She even believe that sexual relationships between gay men is an example of male dominance. She calls the women of these sexual relationships abused and compares them to victims of the Holocaust (real classy way to make one's case).

So, while MacKinnon goes more indepth with how sexuality itself is harmful, Dworkin merely seems to be against the exploitation of sexuality via pornography or other forms of sexual abuse.

Blog 8

Koedt and Dworkin both address how patriarchy is extended into sex and sexuality. As Koedt argues, the physical act of sex serves no pleasurable function for a woman. It is meant for procreation, of course, but when it is recreational, it only serves to satisfy a man. Coital sex, as she argues, does not provide an orgasm for women, because it does not stimulate the clitoris. A “myth� is created by society though, that a woman does, or should have an orgasm. If she does not, she is frigid. It is the belief that there isn’t anything wrong with the design of coital sex, so there must be something wrong with the woman. Society blames the woman because it threatens an act that serves men.
Dworkin argues that the sole function of pornography is to degrade women. It supports a dualism, like Koedt contends, which steps on a woman at the expense of male desire/domination. Pornography makes sexual women whores. Not only are they whores, but they are brutalized and submissive to their male counterparts. Like Koedt, Dworkin asserts that a woman’s sexual needs are inconsequential, but takes it a step further by saying a woman who is sexual at all is made a harlot. Pornography makes tangible the cultural dualistic values of society, and she argues that it should be put to a stop altogether. What both women do not address is that women can enjoy both sex and pornography, so long as they are set up in a way for a woman to enjoy. The pieces are both somewhat dated though, so the sexuality of women today versus the time the articles were written is quite different. I feel that women today are granted much more sexual freedom and judged less than they were 30 years ago, so some of the arguments would not be valid in modern discourse.

November 2, 2008

Intersexed Infants: a Taboo Predicament

Kessler argues that medical professionals fail to consider the well-beings of inter-sexed children when deciding which sex the child will be. Rather, they decide based on the size of the penis and whether or not it would develop to be a standard and desirable size. This is extremely degrading to not only the child but also gender in general. It sends a message that smaller penises are less masculine, when masculinity is still highly regarded in today’s society. Someone brought up a good point in discussion during lecture: penises have one main purpose which is to reproduce. If all size penises are able to do so, what difference does it make what size it is? It is just that smaller penises are frowned upon by society; men are most typically embarrassed when their penis is not “up to par.�

Parents are at a disadvantage when having to make decisions concerning their inter-sexed infants. The majority of parents have nothing but the best interests of their child in mind, wanting their child to have the easiest and most fulfilling life possible. Yet they are not at fault for doing as medical professionals advise. Most parents probably do not expect to have an inter-sexed child; therefore, when the situation does come about, parents have no knowledge of how to handle the predicament. Of course they would act on medical professionals’ advice; doctors have more experience with the situation as well as more knowledge of it.

week Eight Blog

Even with progressive ideas of today, the medical communities as well as many people outside that community have strict ideas as well as standards of how to treat cases of intersex infants. Today the majority of people have the idea that an infant who is born as intersex baby should be made into either a boy or girl, immediately. Doctors encourage the confused parents to pick the sex of their child sooner rather than later. Beside the chromosomal factors of the infant doctors use “cultural factors as the “correct� sixe of the penis and the capacity of the vagina� (The medical Construction of Gender: Case management of intersexed infants, 155) The medical community believes that female and male are the only “natural options� for the child, with the advancement in technology and progress of surgery creating the child into one of two genders is the only option. Parents are encouraged not to refer to the child as boy or girl, but baby. Some doctors go as far as telling the parents to tell loved ones they have had twins, a male and female. When the gender of the intersex infant is determined, they are encouraged to tell the loved ones that one of the children has died. Many doctors lead the parents to choose a gender based on if the child has a better chance as passing as a girl or boy. They also encourage the parents to treat that child as that gender stronger than parents with a non intersexed child. Not only do the children go through surgery they go through a life time of hormone treatments and go the process of understanding that they were intersex infants. There are many stages in surgery to “reassign� the gender and in many cases the gender the doctors turn the child into is wrong. There have been many cases in which an intersex child has grown up as one gender do to operations, yet have felt the opposite gender. Another big factor in this situation is the psychological toll it takes on the child. They are basically created into something that they have no say in and have to learn to be a person that they may or may not be able to be. The medical community defines the sex of children; they create norms and literally turn infants into either boy or girls. They believe that males could not live with micro penises or girls with large clitoris, because that goes against society. They believe that there are only two sexes and there is no room for ambiguity. The medical community does not take into account the well being of the child but instead performs surgery to correct the child to make the boy or girl. They never leave a child to grow up as an intersexed individual and pick a sex even if it might be the wrong sex which the child grows up and has no control over their lives.

Week Eight Blog

Adrienne Rich’s piece both addresses and challenges the ideas about heterosexuality and patriarchy posed by Catharine Mackinnon. On the one hand, Mackinnon strongly believes that sexual objectification that women face “the way fish live in water�, which is a product of patriarchal oppression, is dealt with by their attempt to “meet the male standard, and measure their self-worth by the degree to which they succeed� (356). While Rich acknowledges the patriarchal pressures put on women in the form of assumed or “compulsory� heterosexuality, she argues that, in fact, women have formed bonds with other women throughout time and space. Those bonds have less to do with male supremacy or the need for women to cope with patriarchal oppression, than they do a special female experience, one that Rick calls the “Lesbian Existence� or the “Lesbian Continuum.�

She argues that this continuum has existed across cultures, and although heternormativity tries to erase the history of this, it is impossible to overlook. When Rich says that “woman-identification is a source of energy, a potential springhead of female power� I think she negates Mackinnon’s idea that women feel the need to succeed in relation to men in order to have self-worth (Rich, 323). Rich illuminates another system of relations that exists alongside patriarchy and in some ways has challenged it.

Furthermore, I think that Rich challenges Mackinnon to think about desire and the erotic outside of a heteronormative framework. While Rick notes that this framing has been imposed on us, she highlights the way that collective power as women can enable change and “determine the meaning and place of sexuality in their lives� (325).

Week Eight

In the articles we read this week I had similar feelings for both Koedt's and Dworkin's pieces. I felt reading both essays that they were written in the belief that the gender binary existed, and possibly that even a sexuality binary existed. Koedt’s piece led me to these feelings because the essay was based on the belief that women have sex with men. (excluding a small paragraph at the very end of the article) Koedt doesn’t detail other important aspects in sexual activity (that are also important to orgasms) such as, mental stimulation and masturbation. Koedt’s essay is based only on the fact that women have and want to have sex with men. She over looks bisexuals, homosexuals, pansexuals, etc. Likewise, in Dworkin’s piece she does the same thing. Dworkin looks at pornography as something that only men view and a tool that men use to oppress women. Dworkin never discusses porn made for women by women (although this may not have existed at the time) or porn viewed by homosexuals. Dworkin’s essay leaves out a wide variety of porn and an even wider variety of people. This being said, these articles support each other. Koedt’s view of the vaginal orgasms being a myth works strongly to support Dworkin’s view on pornography. Both articles view women as being sexual oppressed. Perhaps a lot of the flaws in the articles are because of the dates of these articles, but either way these two binary based articles compliment each other quite nicely.


Modern medicine's treatment of intersexed babies is itself a discourse on what a normal body is. Generally speaking when a child is born and not clearly defined as either male or female, the baby is often altered, if at all possible, to conform to 'standard' male/female perceptions. one of the main checks in this is the size of the penis/clitoris. if it is large enough, the infant may be passed off as a male; if it is deemed too small, the child is passed off as a female, and the genitalia may be further reduced in size.

Using this a number of things can be inferred about what medicine is telling society about a normal body. The first is that one must be either a full male or a full female. It is unacceptable to be intersexed, else there would be no need to alter intersexed infants. Second, that doctors will reduce the size of what is determined to be a clitoris (that is, a phallus too small to be considered a penis) enforces the dualism between men and women. some variety is allowed in the size of penises, but all clitorides must be small and of about the same size. Finally, this same practices tells us that the maleness of an individual is determined in no small part by the size of the phallus. To have a small penis makes one less of a man, and as a corollary, to have an enlarged clitoris makes one less of a woman.


Andrea Dworkin explains in 'Pornography' that women are seen as objects used only to please men. The word pornography comes from greeks words: porne and graphos. Porne means least regarded and least protected of all women. Graphos means writing, etching, or drawing. She is trying to say that pornography means the lowest regarded women and the art of using them. Thus meaning, the use of sex. Anne Koedt explains in 'The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm' that sex is only to please men, and women that do not climax during 'regular' vaginal sex are seen as inadequate and not normal. She argues that a woman only climaxes from clitoral stimulation.

Each author agrees that men are still seen as superior during sex, and this again follows the system of patriarchy. Although, the authors are arguing different points. Dworkin talks about the disrespectful display of women in porn, while Koedt elaborates on the fact that sex is seen only to pleasure men. Men know what pleases women, yet they still choose to do what pleases themselves. Thus, women are defined in terms of a man's pleasure. This is where Koedt and Dworkin are very similar.

Each author brings up in depth arguments, yet each differ. Dworkin takes it to a level beyond rational thinking, where as Koedt reevaluates attention and interworkings of sex.

Week Eight Blog

The medical community "treats" intersexed infants and encourages "norms" that already exist within our society. The first norm that is largely displayed within gender construction is the size of the penis. The article states, "male is defined as having a 'good-sized' penis, more infants will be assigned to the female gender than to the male." When a baby is born with an underdeveloped phallus they see if it will grow when treated with testosterone. If it does grow the problem is resolved, but later there may be problems at puberty where the penis wouldn't develop to an "appropriate" size. Having a small penis would affect his "manliness." Many of the children born with this problem are assigned to be female because a small penis isn't acceptable.

The article also discusses how infants who are born with XX chromosomes but developed a "perfect" penis should keep the male genitals because if they kept the female organs they would become tomboys. This implies that a girl acting like a boy in any way is wrong in our society. It also says that the the perfect penis is more important than what the chromosomes say.

Another aspect of "norms" addressed in this article is "good penis equals male; absence of good penis equals female." In the medical world there is a lack of size and shape requirements for the female genitals, "other than that the vagina be able to receive a penis." Basically they're saying the lack of a perfect penis makes the child a female, or the not perfect choice.

The article also addresses how parents react to the situation and the ambiguity of the child's gender. It's a complicated situation for them because they can't tell people the gender of their baby, and when a child is born people ask about the name and sex all the time. The physicians suggest to not fully answer people's questions and leave them a little frustrated with not knowing rather then telling the truth about not knowing the baby's gender. The doctors also try to make the situation seem not extreme by avoiding words like hermaphrodite or abnormal, but they try to perform the surgeries and create the sex of the child as quickly as they can. All of this suggests that ambiguity of gender isn't at al acceptable and a child either needs to be male or female.

Week Eight Blog!

Kessler’s arguments about how intersexed infants are treated in the medical field are thought-provoking because she and others sought to prove that doctors were not adequately treating infants who seemed to have abnormal genitals. I was rather appalled to learn that more often than not when a baby has abnormal genitals and they are treated, they are usually changed into a female. I thought it was so unfair and shocking that even if the baby was originally a boy, they were forced to become a female without their knowledge. I mean how can a doctor do something so cruel and not think of what it would be like for that “female� to grow up probably having issues and always not feeling right in their own body.
The polls that Kessler did on a bunch of college students about corrective genital surgery done on infants shows that many if not most of the people would never want corrective surgery done without even if their genitals were deemed abnormal. In some respects I can see a positive to altering a girl who has a large clitoris to be smaller, and that is not that horrible in my opinion because at least the girl never loses her birth given gender. However, I just cannot agree with making a male into a female just because he was born with a small penis. It’s not like a boy cannot function in society with a small penis, and it is truly going to be a mental burden for any male to try and live as a female when they weren’t born that way. I just think that doctors try to fix people's bodies so that they fit some kind of a norm, and doctors appear to make changes to a person without regard to how it will affect their patient in the long run of their life.

Blog Eight

In Suanne Kessler’s piece called “The Medical Construction of Gender: Case Management of Intersexed Infants�, the way in which the medical establishment decides whether an infant is male or female is laid out. She also describes how the doctors “fix� intersexed infants and how they treat the parents of these intersexed infants.
A big deciding factor in whether an infant is male or female is based upon the size of the penis. If the penis is not large enough, measurements decided by the medical establishment, the infant is female. As stated in the article, “in the absence of maleness you have femaleness�. This statement only encourages the patriarchal society that we live in. It is stating that males are the dominant individuals in our society and if you are not “good enough� to be male, you are female.
The big question arises when an infant does not fall into either the male or the female category. The medical establishment feels compelled to change any ambiguous genitalia so that the child will fit into the normal categories of sex, male or female. If the infant’s penis is not large enough to be considered normal, the infant is transformed into a female. The doctors in the article also expressed the importance of quickly changing the infant so that they can be introduced into society as a “normal� human being. It was brought up that if the genitalia of a boy is changed at a later point the individual will have memories of castration. Also in the article, the doctors interview said that whichever way the infant is changed will most likely not matter because the way in which the individual is raised is the decided factor in the gender association and performance of the intersexed individual. Kessler points out that most medical professionals are not trained well enough to handle these situations appropriately, especially when dealing with the parents. The parents are told to dodge question of whether the baby was a boy or a girl until all procedures are done.
I was very disturbed by the story of the parents that had an intersexed baby and told everyone that they had twins, one boy and one girl. When the sex was determined and fixed, the parents told everyone that the other twin had died. I can’t imagine having to do this but this only proves the pressure of our society on everyone to fit into the two categories of sex. It shows the great lengths that some will go to, to cover up such an event.

Week Eight Blog

The issue of intersexed babies is a sensitive one and also creates knowledge on how the medical establishment wants and expects us to recognize a body as normal. First of all, it is almost impossible for a parent or a doctor to know for sure that they are making the right decision in determining the sex of an intersexed infant, but at the same time it is also almost impossible to not make a decision. Even though it seems more reasonable and scientifically correct to determine the sex of someone solely on their chromosomes, this article made me realize that you can't always do that because of the way our society categorized and judges people. Doctors say that if the penis is a certain size or smaller it should be named a girl. This is because if it is too small, a "micro penis," it will not properly function in the act of heterosexual sex. This shows us that in order for a male's body to be considered normal; it must have a certain sized penis. The same goes for females. If their clitoris is determined to be too big it will be unattractive and abnormal in their future.

As you can see, in determining the sex of intersexed infants, the body is the sole basis of the decision. This shows us that society judges your sex based on your body and nothing else. If you don't look or have "normal" parts of a certain sex you must not be that sex and in turn you must be the opposite. This also reinforces the idea that there are and always will be only two sexes, male and female. Considering that they will sacrifice a girl having an enlarged clitoris instead of a boy having an unsatisfying penis says that we still base things off the needs of men, but at the same time it is still taking into consideration the desires and feelings of women. Yes, it may be “wrong� and not the most successful to base the sex off the body; it is pretty much the only thing that they have to base it off until the infant is much, much older. I think it would be more harmful for a child to not be named a sex over being named the wrong sex. In our society today everything needs to be named, labeled, and put in a category, even if its one that may change years later.


Kessler’s piece addresses the issue of intersexed children at birth and how doctors deal with the situation. Rather than defining the gender of a child with abnormal genitals by their chromosomes, they base their decision on the body. If the child doesn’t have a penis, it’s a woman. If the child has a penis but it is too small to perform heterosexual sex later in life, the child is said to have a “mirco penis� which they often reconstruct into a clitoris and make the child into a woman. I feel that it is extremely wrong to classify someone based on their genitals and the ability of the penis to make a woman happy.
I also find it very interesting that they believe that this method works and that if all of the appropriate steps are followed the child will develop into the gender they are assigned, and “will not question her or his assignment and request reassignment at a later age� no matter their chromosomal gender. Really? I do not agree with this, especially when they also say that the child must be kept informed about their gender and their body. I would imagine the child would somewhat question their gender, and if they feel strongly enough, I believe they would change their gender.
By telling parents what they should do about their child’s gender, I feel that doctors are misusing their power and authority. People respect doctors and value their opinion, but I really feel the decision should ultimately be up the child when the time is right. Choosing your child’s gender for them before the age of 18 months as recommended, can ultimately make life worse for the child. Its not going to help socialize them, when they do not know whether they are really a boy or really a girl.
This article really reinforces that gender is a construction of society. Every decision for the child is based on what is “normal� in society and what people will accept. Thus, this reinforces the idea that there are only two genders, and only one way for sexuality, and that is the way of the penis and the vagina. Intersexed individuals must be fixed to fit into the norms of society because there is no room anywhere else for them.

In Dworkin's essay about pornography and its effects upon sexuality and society, she claims that pornography is 'objective and real and central to the male sexual system'. The male system is one that is a patriarchal oppression of women as nothing more than objects to fulfill men's sexual desires. She also goes on to say that 'in the male system, women are sex; sex is the whore. The whore is porne, the lowest whore, the whore who belongs to all male citizens: the slut, the cunt.' Dworkin believes that pornography is just one way for men to debase women and make them into mere objects, it is a self perpetuating system because watching pornography makes the depictions of women and sex 'real' and those expectations fuel the further objectification of women. MacKinnon supports this view of a perpetuating system in her essay about 'sexualities'. 'Women cope with objectification through trying to meet the male standard and measure their self worth by the degree to which they succeed.' MacKinnon relates objectification to hierarchy in her essay as well, 'what is sexual is what gives a man an erection...Hierarchy, a constant creation of person/thing, top/bottom, dominate/subordination relations, does.' The two essays support one another in their appraisal of some of the causes of objectification.

Week 8 Blog

Two of the articles we read this week really focused in on women being defined in terms of men’s sexual pleasure. Both articles by Koedt and Dworkin did this. Koedt focused in on the “myth of the vaginal orgasm� – basically, how the idea that women can have vaginal orgasms has been perpetuated by men. Women, she states, cannot have vaginal orgasms. Their spot for stimulation is actually the clitoris, but as this spot is not a pleasure point for men, who receive their pleasure from penetration, it is ignored. Women are made to feel bad and even go through therapy or surgery to fix their “inadequacies� sexually. Dworkin, on the other hand, briefly discusses pornography and women’s connection to it. Her belief is that women are looked upon as “low whores.�

Both these articles work well with each other, since women are basically just for men’s pleasure. Dworkin takes it even further than Koedt though. Not only are women for men’s pleasure, but they are also dirty and low. She says, “…pornography embodies and exploits this idea [that female sexuality is dirty]; pornography sells and promotes it.� So both are just arguing that women are the objects of men’s sexual wants. This all, of course, goes back to Plumwood’s dualism system. Women only exist for the pleasure of men.

The two articles do not really contradict each other, or argue against each other. As stated earlier, Dworkin simply furthers Koedt’s original argument, although in a mental state not so much physical. Koedt deals with the physical issues of female sexuality. Dworkin deals with it mentally and emotionally.

blog 8 yo

What I am interested in, is how Koedt and Dworkin use existing structures of knowledge to support their argument. In both articles, the authors use what “society� considers as strong soures of knowledge to support their claims. Koedt’s article The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm, and Dworkin’s essay Pornography, use external structures of knowledge, in Koedt’s case, the medical industry as a source of knowledge, and in Dworkin’s, Greek root words. In both cases the source of knowledge is a constructed one. The way we think of doctors and medical technicians is as all-knowing entities that can impart to us the inner-workings of the world. And the Golden Age of Greece we think of today as the source of rational and natural philosophy. We think of Plato and Aristotle, and other masters of logical thought, and though they were brilliant in their time, we have to take in to account the social confines that produced them, and the structures within which their ideas operate.
While Koedt’s article is about pushing against the constructions that the medical industry has created around gender, her argument is still using the same tools that she is refuting. She is using medical study citations, and physical “facts� about the body, as posed by doctors. She refutes Freud by saying he focused too much on his assumptions on the inferiority of women to men, rather than her anatomy. She then goes on to list the physiological “functions� of the vagina. While the studies she cites may seem factual to us today, Freud’s findings were thought to be factual as well. She uses the same kind of arguments that she is refuting.
Dworkin’s entire first paragraph is about the Greek roots of the word pornography. She gives a very graphic and literal meaning of the word within the context of ancient Greek society, and her thesis then is “Contemporary pornography strictly and literally conforms to the word’s root meaning.� This is hard, because most of me agrees completely with her. However, she is using the ancient Greeks and their construction of knowledge only because today we regard the Greek philosophers as symbols of intellectuals. It is problematic because the solution she is asking for is social reeducation about systems of patriarchy, yet she is basing her argument within a culture and lingo that is firmly patriarchal. She, like Koedt, is using the same arguments she is refuting. She is not trying to redefine pornography in terms we might use today, or see it as a mutable, and possibly positive source of change.


We can look at the Koedt article “Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm� as a more concrete example of the effects of Rich's described heteronormativity. Rich points out that while there is a 'preference' or 'choice' which draws women toward me, this 'preference' is viewed to be the norm; indicating that other 'choices' need justification. This need of justification is a good example of problems with the current heterosexual normative, but this is still a mental effect. Koedt brings out an example, the movement of the clitoris, that is very physical. The idea that heteronormativity has effected not just a mental aspect, but has also caused individuals to go so far as to alter their body. While I don't think this is a more serious effect, it is much more concrete (less abstract) then the alteration of mentality, and provides a very strong objective example of how heteronormativity shapes our being.

Lesbianism, as portrayed by Rich, is a way under which women experience affiliations outside of the heteronormative structure. Koedt's article also furthers this statement by elaborating on how the heteronormative concept of sex (i.e. penis penetrating the vagina) is not the most pleasurable for women. This helps challenge the idea that the current norms are there for a reason. Both articles take care to elaborate on how why the current norm has no foundational basis that isn't skewed to favor males.

As a quick summary, Koedt's article provides very power examples of Rich's more generally abstract definitions of heteronormativity. Koedt's piece greatly aids Rich's argument against this normative structure.

Week Eight Blog

In both Koedt’s The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm and Dworkin’s Pornography one thing is clear. In our society, women are valued as sexual objects, existing solely for the pleasure of men. Koedt says, “…men have chosen to define women only in terms of how they benefit men’s lives� (181). When you consider the way Dworkin defines the origins of the word pornography, it is clear that Koedt’s observation has been true since the early development of Western society. If the perpetuation of male dominance is evident in the depiction of women as gross spectacles, it is not hard to see why such myths of female sexuality have also been perpetuated in order to secure such dominance.

Both articles also say something else that is particularly significant. Neither author leaves room for an opposing view. Koedt presents an argument that shows the construction of social and medical myths about female sexuality. In doing so she cites men as he main transgressors. However, she fails to recognize sexual pleasure that females may receive from coitus and completely devalues the importance of the male sex organ. In Dworkin’s argument she gives us a short history of pornography and cites the extreme debasement of the women who originally held the role of porniea. She does not, however, truly explore the possibility that the circumstance may have changed due to the progression of pornography. She does note that the industry has grown extremely large. I think it is important to note the way porn stars now have a certain degree of celebrity. They have award ceremonies and some individuals, like Jenna Jameson or Carmen Electra, are household names. It is possible that the value society place on modern day porneia is greater than it has been in the past, so the message pornography is sending may have changed. Both articles took somewhat limited stances on there interpretation of sexual relationships and depictions of women.

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What I found very interesting is Kessler’s text about, “The medical construction of gender: case management of intersexed infants� she talks about how medical doctors are treating infants as a… I want to say it’s like a child’s clothed whom the parents decides to put on her/him and so soon she/he will grow out of them, to decide whatever they feel like wearing. They are babies now, who don’t know yet what clothes to choose. So later on when they get older the society kind of decides for them if they want to dress like boy or girl. They have to choose one of the two to be. I don’t mean like they have to choose to be like the boy or the girl but it’s like the bathroom part where they have to decide which one to go in.

Kessler talks about how doctors have to decide a gender for infants who have ambiguous genitalia, because this society, where you have to choose weather is a boy or a girl. It very bad I want to say that the infants are being force by this society to choose what they are. Sometimes I wish that there are no such things to choose from and you can be whatever you feel like being without any hatred. Doing this medical surgery on infants as for the boys, it also talks about in the long run, where there are sizes the penis has to be and that if it’s small is consume that their something else. That’s one part that really disturbed me a lot because now they decides the sex for the infant already, now there are certain sizes too.. What’s going on now?

I feel the toughness of this article though, because I feel that in away it’s good to have a infant to do surgery if they have this ambiguous genitalia and so the parents and the doctor have to decides if it’s a boy or a girl but the other half of me, feels that it’s bad because what if they turn out not to like their body the way it is and so they have to change it the way they like it to feel good about themselves. Now as they are older they decide what body they are comfortable in. Now they have with to go through this society where they are being judge all over.

chole005 Blog Eight Assignment

What stood out to me most in the article by Suzanne J. Kessler titled “The Medical Construction of Gender: Case Management of Intersexed Infants� is that being born with extra or ‘ambiguous’ genitalia (i.e. those that were neither completely male nor completely female) was treated like a disease or a deformity. When the medical establishment reacts to this infant, they are doing so in a society that considers male and female to be the two sexes, with no grey areas in between.

Kessler talks about how many medical workers are ill-trained on how to deal with such a situation, though within this male/female binary context, I don’t feel that this is really possible. Not only do doctors and nurses and those who assist with the birth need to change their idea of the sexual binary being the norm, society itself has to accept the fact that intersexuality is not a disease, and can’t truly be ‘cured’ by hormones or surgery.

Although the medical establishment is partly to blame on how we deal with intersexed infants, they are trying to cater to society and ultimately make the lives of the child and parents easier in the long run. If they were not to do this, the parents, if they were desirous of a ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ child, would go to a doctor that would.

One thing that upset me about this article is that the way Kessler describes how our bodies are sexed, which I would summarize as:

Penis = male (of ‘proper’ size)
Lack of penis=not male

Anyone with any medical training should know just how untrue this is. Things will not get better until the medical community as a whole accepts the idea of intersexuality, and society is able to accept a human being that identifies as such.

Week Eight

Mackinnon states that, "all women live in sexual objectification the way fish live in water." This relates to Dworkin writing about women as pornography and as whores. They both argue that sexuality is a political institution created by men which erocticises hierarchy. Being a woman means going about one's daily life in a permanent state of objectifying pornography and with the constant threat of physical violence on one's person. Dworkin writes: "In the male system, women are sex; sex is the whore. The whore is porne, the lowest whore, the whore who belongs to all male citizens. Having her is having pornography. Seeing her.... is seeing pornography..... Using her is using pornography. Wanting her means wanting pornography. Being her means being pornography." Dworkin clearly views pornography as violent anti-female propaganda. This parallels the conclusion reached by Mackinnon that all coitus is essentially rape; that there cannot exist in a patriarchal world relationships between men and women that are equal, unpatriarchal, or in some way violent and harmful. Both site part of the reproduction of patriarchy in male created images of women that erase the realities of women's live and histories and that portray them as subhuman. Although Dworkin does not heavily delve into what these things mean for relationships between men and women, Mackinnon goes so far as to suggest that women may have to choose between freedom and sex and association with men.

November 1, 2008

Blog 8

In Kessler's piece, she describes how medical establishments come up with different ways of classifying an individual with ambiguous genitals. In this case, the body is used to determine gender and sexual development. The medical field suggests that parents raise children with ambiguous genitalia based on how big the 'penis' is being developed. If the so-called 'penis' is not of a certain size, it's referred to as a 'micro-penis.' Of course, individuals and doctors believe that a micro-penis would not be good for their son's development of becoming a man with masculine traits; therefore, the child's genitals are surgically made into a clitoris, classifying the baby or child as a girl. They want the child to be able to engage in heterosexual sex as an adult and want the child to feel confident about their genitalia. Doctors also encourage parents to not name the child until they are certain of what the sex is. In this case, they might suggest that the parents wait to perform surgery to officially determine the child's sex until the child starts to develop. Then, they base what the child's sex should be off of what he/she starts to look like, what activities he/she likes to do, and how the child acts. In the end, parents and doctors hope that the choice they made for the child's sex is appropriate. In certain cases, parents feel ashamed later in life because they believe they've chosen the wrong sex for their child. Parents wish they would've left the surgery to determine the child's sex until later in life when the individual is grown. Waiting for a long period of time could also increase the risk and difficulty of surgery since the genitalia will be more developed. All in all, one's sex is related to its gender and leads to an individual's desires. An example would be a woman with a vagina is identified as a woman with femininity and she desires men.

October 31, 2008

Blog 8, Kelsey Hippen

I want to assign a personal perspective to what we’re learning. When we read about men, women, sex, rape, and so on, we read about real people and situations, most of which we can associate someone from our lives to match that experience. When we read such an academic perspective on sexuality, remembering that is challenging, but I think it’s crucial if we are to glean real-world perspective. Koedt and Rich challenge one another from an academic standpoint, and I lose a sense of the humanity behind the subjects they discuss. However, Rich stays the truest to the people behind her writing.

In “The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm�, Koedt describes how women are trapped in a patriarchal relationship to men. Her writing does not acknowledge that, in some cases, a woman can A) maneuver around patriarchy with a willing partner to create an equally enjoyable experience for both partners, and B) experience trauma even if she recognizes that the vagina is not the source of the orgasm, and that the clitoris is. Koedt’s perspective is exceedingly factual (yet probably based on improperly conducted studies) and it misses the point. The point is that, yes, misinformation on the woman’s (in)ability to vaginally orgasm has shaped heterosexuality, but once heterosexual women recognize this, they need to situate themselves within their sexuality with a partner who not only also recognizes this, but recognizes it to the extent that the woman knows it.

Unlike Koedt, Rich captures the personal essence to the sexuality she describes. She says that “female friendship and comradeship have been set apart from the erotic, thus limiting the erotic itself�. I want to extend this to heterosexuality as well. Friendship and comradeship between a man and a woman has somehow been lost in this discussion, singled out from the sexuality, limiting sexuality itself. To understand heterosexual sex, we need to apply Rich’s concept of lesbian relationships to heterosexual relationships, recognizing that in each sexual encounter, two people are interacting in a dynamic way. After all, both Koedt and Rich would not be able to write about these dynamics if they had no sexual experience themselves.

Blog Eight

The Koedt and Dworkin piece support each other in the sense that women are merely objects of pleasure for men. In Koedt’s piece, “The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm� she argues about women only being able to achieve clitoral orgasms. She states that females, “must discard the ‘normal’ concepts of sex and create new guidelines which take into account mutual sexual enjoyment.� Females are supposed to recreate their sexual standards for men’s pleasure and they do. They have come to believe that they can achieve a vaginal orgasm, an orgasm which Koedt explains “does not exist.�
In Dworkin’s piece, she explores females in the role of pornography. Not only are they in porn for men’s pleasure but in the working field, they get paid less than men on average. Pornography was created for men’s sexual desires and fetishes and this demonstrates how females are treated poorly and placed in these films for nothing other than male pleasure. Dworkin states, “Woman as whore exists within the objective and real system of male sexual domination. The pornography itself is objective and real and central to the male sexual system.� This relates to Koedt’s article because in both cases: sex and pornography, women’s pleasures and desires are not considered. In both of these instances, they are merely placed in the act to be objects of pleasure for men, regardless of their perceptions and expectations of the situation.

Blog Eight Assignment Instructions

Blog Eight Assignment

We began our discussion of sexuality this week. We focused on four, interrelated readings by Koedt, Dworkin, MacKinnon, and Rich. Take two essays of your own choosing and demonstrate how they either challenge or support one another. For example, you may want to look at how MacKinnon’s argument that our consciousness around sex cannot be changed is challenged by Rich’s argument for the acknowledgement of a lesbian continuum- another system of desire, affiliation, and pleasure that is not heterosexual or patriarchal in nature.

If you are not so interested in talking about sexuality but want to instead focus on the Kessler text (the piece left-over from our week on the body), you can write a blog that considers how the way the medical establishment “treats� intersexed infants also produces knowledges about what a normal body is. Either way, make sure you write 250-300 words.