Making Sex

Making Sex

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. Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud .


l. Sex role-History.
2. Sex differences-Social aspects-History.
3. Sex differences (Psychology)-Social aspects-History.
4. Sex (Psychology).

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Book Details
 326 p
 File Size 
 8,826 KB
 File Type
 PDF format
 0-674-54355-6 (paper) 
 0-674-54349·1 (alk. paper) (doth)
 1990 by the President and Fellows 

This book began without my knowing it in 1977 when I was on leave
at St. Antony's College, Oxford, doing research for what was to be a
history of the life cycle. I was reading seventeenth-century midwifery
manuals-in search of materials on how birth was organized-but found
instead advice to women on how to become pregnant in the first place.
Midwives and doctors seemed to believe that female orgasm was among
the conditions for successful generation, and they offered various suggestions
on how it might be achieved. Orgasm was assumed to be a routine,
more or less indispensable part of conception. This surprised me. Experience
must have shown that pregnancy often takes place without it;
moreover, as a nineteenth-century historian I was accustomed to doctors
debating whether women had orgasms at all. By the period I knew best,
what had been an ordinary, if explosive, corporeal occurrence had become
a major problem of moral physiology.

My life-cycle project slowly slipped away. I got married; we had a child;
I spent a year in medical school in 1981-1982. Precisely how these
changes in my life allowed this book to take me over is still not entirely
clear, but they did. (Its relevant intellectual origins are more obvious: a
group of friends started Representations; I taught a graduate seminar on
the body and the body social in nineteenth-century literature with Catherine
Gallagher; I encountered feminist literary and historical scholarship;
my almost daily companion in the rational recreation of drinking
cappuccino, Peter Brown, was working on his book about the body and
society in late antiquity.) At first the question of disappearing orgasm was
the focus of my research'\ and what follows still bears some marks of its
pressed into service as the foundation fer sex, the less solid the boundaries
became. With Freud the process reaches its most crystalline indeterminacy.
What began with a history of female sexual pleasure and its attempted
erasure has become instead the story of how sex, as much as gender, is made.

A book that deals with so broad a range of time and materials as this
one owes a multitude of debts. In the first place I could not have written
it-bodt because the required scholarship was not in place and because
the subject would not have been taken seriously-without the intellectual
revolution wrought by feminism since World War II and especially during
the past twenty years. My work is in some sense an elaboration of Simone
de Beau voir's clairn that women are the second sex. It could also not have
been written without the sustenance of my intellectual community at
Berkeley and elsewhere. My colleagues on Representations, among whom
I first went semipublic on this topic back in 1983, have offered advice,
encouragement, criticism, and good company. Several of my friends and
colleagues have not only read and offered detailed criticism of my manuscript
but discussed it with me tirelessly in its many, many avatars over
the years: Peter Brown, Carol Clover, Catherine Gallagher, Stephen
Greenblatt, Thomas Metcalf, Randolph Starn, lrv Scheiner, and Reggie
Zclnik. Wendy Lesser would not read it all, but she talked me through
many drafts, published part of Chapter 1 in the Threepenny Review, and
consistently represented the views of the general reader. My colleague
David Keighdey, leader of the Yuppie Bikers, has heard lots about sex
over the miles and offered the perspective of ancient China. Marjorie
Beale, Mario Biagioli, Natalie Zemon Davis, Evelyn Fox·Keller, Isabel
Hull, and Roy Porter provided detailed comments on the manuscript in
its penultimate form and greatly helped me to refine my arguments and
the book's architecture.

The graduate-student History and Gender Group at Berkeley also read
a draft and, although I have not accepted its suggestion that I bare my
innermost feelings about the polymorphous perverse and erotic desire, I
have profited greatly from the astute suggestions and numerous references
provided by Lisa Cody, Paul Friedland, Nasser Hussain, and Vanessa
Schwartz. And then, of course, a book that covers so many topics
over so long a period is beholden to specialists: David Cohen, Leslie
Jones, and Gregory Vlastos offered tough criticism, only some of which
I accepted, on Chapter 2. Susanna Barrows, Andre Burguiere, William
Bouwsma, Caroline Bynum, Joan Cadden, Roger Chartier, Alain Corbin,
Laura Englestein, Lynn Hunt, Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, Susan Kent, Jack
Lesch, Emily Martin, Regina Morantz-Sanchez, Joan Scott, Nancy Vickers,
and Judith WaJkowitz have been immensely generous with references
and advice. My research assistants since the early l980s-Mary McGarry,
Jonathan Clark, Eric Steinle, Ramona Curry, Jan Matlock, Catl1erine
Kudlick, Russ Geoffrey, M.D., Alice Bullard, and Dean Bell-made it
possible for me to read and begin to understand a wide range of sources.
Alexander Nehamas not only answered many questions about Greek
words but offered the support of an old friend and the lintpid intelligence
of a philosopher. My editor Lindsay Waters at Harvard University Press
saw a book when none was there; he read early drafts with intelligent care
and rightly forced a reluctant author back to the drawing board. Patricia
Williams became my editor by adoption-she was on the spot in Berkeley-
and, in addition to timely hand holding, helped me enormously in
understanding what had to be done to rum what I thought was the final
draft into the present book. Joyce Backman was a dream of a manuscript
editor: funny, erudite, and careful.

I dedicate this book to my wife Gail Saliterman, who typed none but
read most of it, and to my eight-year-old daughter Hannah, who recently
pointed out that I have been working on it all her life. In ways too deep
to articulate, they made my work possible.

Table of Contents

1 Of Language and the Flesh l

2 Destiny Is Anatomy 25

3 New Science, One Flesh 63

4 Representing Sex 114

5 Discovery of the Sexes 149

6 Sex Socialized 193

Notes 245
Credits 303
Index 305

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The first thing that strikes the careless observer is
that women are unlike men. They are "the opposite
sex" (though why "opposite" I do not know; what
is the "neighboring sex"?). But the fundamental
thing is that women are more like men than anything else in the world.