Welcome back everybody. While we've discussed gender as a social construct, we've only briefly touched on the category of sex. Today we will critically examine the common presumption that sex is biological or natural. Then we will introduce the idea of sex as a social construct that is intimately tied to but is distinct from gender. >> As a reminder when we first discuss the concept of social construction. One of the key rules that we reviewed is that the concept of social construction helps to differentiate between naturally occurring phenomena and human attempts to classify, categorize, and give meaning to that phenomena. This is especially important to keep in mind, because sex classifies and gives meaning to the naturally occurring features of our bodies. Specifically, these features include chromosomes, hormones, genitalia, gametes, bodily changes that occur during puberty. As well as the ways that each of these features align within or are expressed through our bodies. >> Let's take a closer look at some of these features to get a sense of the complexity they encompass. For example chromosomes, we are commonly taught that humans can and should only have one of two kind of chromosomal pairs. Which determine our sex XX associated with being female or XY associated with being male. However, there are a multitude of chromosomal variations that occur in nature beyond just those two pairs. People can be and are born with XXX or XXY or XXYY combinations to name just three of several possible chromosomal variations. Those born with chromosome combinations other than XX or XY are usually referred to as intersex. We'll talk more about what it means to be and the experience of those who are intersex later. >> There is no disputing that chromosomes are naturally occurring phenomena that help determine both reproductive and non-reproductive aspects of our bodies. However, beyond the acknowledgement that everyone has chromosomes how we decide to categorize certain combinations of chromosomes. And how we assign meaning to having or not having those particular combinations enters into the realm of human invention or social construction. Assuming that everyone should fall into either only the female or the male classification within the category of sex not only assigned social meaning and valued a certain bodily features. But it helps make sex a socially created system of classification appear natural or biological. >> But chromosomes are not the only bodily feature used to classify people within the category of sex. We are also commonly taught the genitals always appear only as one of two possible sets. One set is labeled female and is typically listed as including the vulva, vagina, uterus, and ovaries. Or the other labeled male is typically listed as including the penis, scrotum, and testes. But as in the case of chromosomes, humans can be and are born with sets of genitals that do not match the stringent genital characteristics associated with being female and male, these people are also considered intersex. Or a person can be born with a vulva and vagina but no uterus and one testis and one ovary. Beyond the false assumption that only certain generals always appear together in nature. There are also assumptions about how genitals should look to a qualify as either female or male. Frequently for example, penis or clitoris size is assessed in determining a person's sex. Genitalia is even sometimes surgically altered or removed to conform to social norms and expectations associated with sex. >> While assumptions about what genitals should align with one another or what they should look like maybe based on scientific or statistical information about general patterns found within humanity. Decisions about what should or should not be are expressions of socially designated meaning and value. It is important to note here that we are not saying that the assignment of meaning and value is inherently bad or good. But rather, that it's a product of human initiative rather than natural determination. >> Let's look at yet another feature of sex to further explain this point. As with chromosomes and genitalia, two specific sets of changes in the body that become apparent with the onset of puberty are associated with the female or male categories. These changes are commonly called secondary sex characteristics. The development of breasts, a high voice, increased body fat content, and the growth of body care is typically labeled as female. While increased muscle tone, the growth of body and facial hair and the deepening of the voice are labeled as male. But as personal experience or knowledge tells most of us, our development of certain features during puberty does not necessarily easily fit into these limited sets of features. >> One striking example of this is that some people labeled male cannot grow facial hair after puberty, while some people labeled female can. Bodily characteristics developed during puberty are also often hard to assess, because we are taught to groom our bodies in ways that limit, enhance, or make invisible certain characteristics. Doing so follows and reinforces norms around sex and gender. Other examples of socially imposed or caused changes to our bodies that reveal the sticky relationship between sex and gender include breast enhancement, whether it be through surgery or with the help of a push-up bra. Or targeted exercises that increase muscle mass or maintain a slim waist. Yet another more common example of the alteration of post-pubescent characteristics is the culturally specific expectation for those labeled female to shave the body hair they develop on their legs and in their armpits. >> Any combination of puberty specific characteristics manifest in an individual's body based on another important natural phenomena defined as a part of sex. Hormones, hormones, like the other features we have discussed are complex. Not only does the amount of a certain hormones like testosterone, estrogen, or progesterone matter. But so does our fetal history of hormone intake as well as our body's ability to respond to or read those hormones in both pre and post birth context. >> Despite all of these complex features, a typical definition of sex focuses only on dividing all of them into two classes, male and female. Consider Merriam-Webster online dictionary's definitions of sex as a noun. It reads, a, either of the two major forms of individuals that occur in many species and that are distinguished respectively as female or male, especially on the basis of their reproductive organs and structures. B, the sum of the structural functional and sometimes behavioral characteristics of organisms that distinguish males and females. C, the the state of being male or female. D, males or females considered as a group. This focus on being either only female and male despite common biological variation indicates the extent to which the social construction of gender affects the social construction of sex as a category of human classification. >> Lastly, it is critical to note that each of the individual features we have discussed are assumed to align in two particular sets. If these features frequently do not align in these ways, as just one example of hundreds, if not thousands of possible variations. Someone might have XY chromosomes, a vulva, vagina, and testes but no uterus, produce no sperm, no eggs. Have lots of estrogen and have puberty produced characteristics usually associated with being female. >> Given the realities of natural bodily and genetic variation and the tendency to assign so much significance and meaning to sex. Sex is most appropriately defined as a system of categorization invented to classified people with certain bodily and genetic characteristics related to reproduction. We will continue our discussion of sex as a social construct and its relationship to gender next time. See you then.