It’s not sex, dammit!


I was just reading an issue of the magazine Psychology Today and was surprised to notice an article named something like, “Sex and Autism.”

That’s pretty strange, I thought. People are catching the disease of autism from unprotected sex? Or people who don’t get enough sex are more prone to becoming autistic? Or have sex may result in a child who may or may not be autistic (related headline: “Eating may lead to obesity”)?

Actually, it was none of the above. The article actually was discussing how autism relates to GENDER.

Gender. Gender. Gender! Is that such a difficult word for the scientists and journalists to use? It’s much more specific and straightforward than “sex,” and certainly prone to fewer doubletakes and misunderstandings.

Really, I know it may seem petty, but as someone interested in social science and psychology issues among other things, I’m sick and tired of reading news stories and journal articles talking about “sex” when they should be using the word “gender.” And I’m annoyed (okay, and disappointed) when I see an Web page titled “Sex in the classroom” and there aren’t any pictures of naked college students.

So what’s the deal here? Why are even some highly esteemed medical journals using the word “sex” instead of “gender” when there’s such a possibility for confusion AND the latter word carries so much less unnecessary baggage? Am I missing something obvious here, or are a hell of a lot of writers just friggin’ clueless?

Yes, I know that historically the word sex was used in prestigious social science and medical journals and such to refer to one’s gender. But new words enter our lexicon and often rightly replace older, more ambiguous or charged words. Witness “rape.” It used to refer not only to a forcible sexual assault, but also a generic kidnapping (which, I might add, certainly leads to some confusion and horrific expressions when some people see the older musical “The Fantasticks” for their first time, in which there’s a song about a harmless kidnapping called “The Rape Ballet.”)

So what’s the deal with “sex”? And is it just me, or are others annoyed as well by the whole issue?

Then again, maybe I just need to get laid.

3 comments… add one
  • jinnseibakuchi Jan 31, 2004 Link Reply

    fuck you!

  • Matt Hendrickson Jan 31, 2004 Link Reply

    My! The hostility, jinnseibakuchi! Never has so much hostility been so poignantly phrased in two, monosyllabic words.

    An interesting history behind our little word, “fuck”. Back in Anglo-Saxon times, “Fuck” “Piss” and “Shit” were as commonplace words in olde England as “Dog” “Cat” and “WMD.”

    Then when the Normans conquered England in the late 1100’s, they went about “normanizing” the English. One of the best ways to do this was by replacing commonplace words with their Norman counterparts, thus “Fuck” became “fornicate”, “Piss” became “urinate”, and “Shit” became “Defecate”. Pretty good story huh?

    Of course, you realize I’m being a smart-ass by giving you this unwarranted semantics history lesson. But I figure its a bit more tasteful than replying, “Fuck you and the shittin’ horse you rode in on!” But that’s just me! 😀

  • Adam Lasnik Jan 31, 2004 Link Reply

    I think he has the wrong “fuck” for this entry. 😉

What do you think?