September 20, 2012
Biological genitals vs. Cultural genitals
When considering the ideas of both sex and gender, it is universally understood, by most, that they are both intertwined; that is to say that gender cannot be discussed without bringing sex into the conversation, and vice versa. Here it is understood that the term “sex” is being used to signify the existing genitalia on an individual’s material body, and that the term “gender” is relating to markers of social difference between men and women (Halberstam 118). However, many scholars have attempted to create a distinction between sex and gender, which now many socialization scholars speak of as a body/consciousness distinction (Gatens 144). Both sex and gender, in theory, can be thought of as two separate entities, but it is important to keep in mind that an individual’s genitalia and material body are instant sources of proof when questioning one’s biological sex for gender to fall back on, when needed. The declaration of an individual’s biological sex (i.e. It’s a boy/It’s a girl) must first take place, and, once it does, their gender begins to slowly map itself out on the body, and essentially helps the individual create their own set of ‘cultural genitals’ that will be used to express their gender within society.
As stated by Suzanne Kessler, “The cultural genitals (not some configuration of biological material) are the foundation for any gender attribution made” (1998: 86). These ‘cultural genitals’ are possessed not underneath clothing, but rather outside “as a legitimate member of their gender category” for others to visually see (Harrison 38). In other words, our ‘cultural genitals’ are ways in which we are able to express femininity and masculinity; ways of which are not attached to the physical body. This can be shown through the clothing that a person wears, their personality traits, behaviors, self-identity, mannerisms, and posture, in addition to many...