MIT21A_355Js09_assn02_sw2A

MIT21A_355Js09_assn02_sw2A - MIT OpenCourseWare...

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MIT OpenCourseWare http://ocw.mit.edu 21A.355J / STS.060J The Anthropology of Biology Spring 2009 For information about citing these materials or our Terms of Use, visit: http://ocw.mit.edu/terms .
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21A.355 Paper 2 1 The Concurrent Evolution of “Sex” with Biology Three topics of conversation should always be avoided in polite company: income, religion, and sex. If the list had to be shortened, it would contain only the last topic in large capital letters: SEX. Even the word itself carries several negative connotations: notions of impurity, disobedience, and irrationality all come to mind simply upon hearing the word uttered. Fortunately, the development of biology allows academia to discuss sex without all of these complications. However, advances in the same field seem to further obscure the concept of sex. What exactly does the word “sex” refer to? There are two ideas associated with the word: the sex act and the sex type (socially referred to as gender). The sex act is any process through which genetic traits are transferred to produce offspring (Franklin 29). The sex type is a category an organism falls under that describes its role in reproduction. Until recently, sexual reproduction was biologically understood to require two individuals, one providing sperm and another providing an egg, resulting in the establishment of two sex types: male and female (Fausto- Sterling). In humans, these categories were further characterized by the common presence of other attributes—such as facial hair or breast development—among members within a sex type to produce the two-party sex system widely accepted at present. As novel research and new modes of sexual reproduction are developed, one must re- evaluate both the sex act and the sex type. The advent of in vitro fertilization, gestational surrogacy, and cloning has introduced entirely new methods for the sex act. Because sex types are defined by roles in the act of sex, the introduction of new sex acts suggests the formation of new sex types. In addition, advances in embryology, endocrinology, and surgery also have impacts on sex types, simultaneously challenging and reinforcing the previously established two- party system (depending on how knowledge is applied).
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21A.355 Paper 2 2 In vitro fertilization (IVF), gestational surrogacy, and cloning have redefined the sex act. As mentioned earlier, the sex act was traditionally understood to involve two partners for the production of offspring. The most apparent departure from “normal” sexual reproduction resulting from these techniques is a lack of requirement of physical contact between the parties involved. In all three sex acts, the physical process of fertilization is in the hands of an entirely uninvolved party, either a scientist or medical professional. This introduces a new biopower for said scientist/medical professional, who now has the ability to allow sterile mothers to have children. In short, the sex act—previously understood to involve physical contact between a male
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This note was uploaded on 11/09/2011 for the course ARCH 4.401 taught by Professor Utemetabauer during the Fall '06 term at MIT.

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MIT21A_355Js09_assn02_sw2A - MIT OpenCourseWare...

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