Making gametes just one of many characteristics defining sex prevents us from describing reality correctly and clearly.
It really is pathetic just how full of shit these people really are. When you consistently change the narrative to legitimize a claim, that is blatant proof that you are telling lies. First it was “there’s a difference between sex and gender”. Now it’s, “sex is a spectrum. Not a distinct, unchangeable trait”.
Ask this bozo what other mammalian species does sex exist on a spectrum. Can a lioness impregnate a lion? Are some roosters female? Are some hens male? How does a forensic scientist characterize an unknown body when one is found at a crime scene or confirm it to be that of a missing individual? Good grief, these people are so got damn stupid. And liars.
Dr. Fuentes shows rather convincingly that his first love is sophistry not science.
I really appreciate this article, and can understand why the author has published it under a pseudonym.
But where are the senior, tenured biologists? That “sex is a spectrum” is now orthodox belief in progressive circles, where it is now fashionable to sneer at the bigots and troglodytes who cling to outmoded and simplistic concepts derived from 8th-grade biology textbooks. And the lack of pushback by professional biologists lends credence to activist claims that the sex binary has been replaced by something altogether sexier and more complex.
So why don’t more biologists speak out? I can think of a couple of (not necessarily mutually exclusive) explanations:
1) Although their jobs are secure (I am speaking here only of the comfortably tenured), their reputations are not. They can still be smeared, deplatformed, ostracized, unpersoned, and so on.
2) They assume (wrongly, I’m afraid) that “sex is a spectrum” is just a passing fad, something the kids are saying on TikTok or what have you, but nothing they need take seriously. Indeed, it would be beneath their dignity to even take notice of such errant nonsense, which, again, is merely a passing fad.
My fear is that, without some effective pushback by experts in the field, “sex is a spectrum” really will become, well, the stuff of 8th-grade biology textbooks…
"I believe Dr. Fuentes and other political progressives prefer this definition of sex because it makes it impossible to legally protect single-sex spaces." Exactly! These continuing attempts to redefine sex are politically driven, not scientifically; they are, indeed, "a kind of anti-science that makes biology less capable of making sense of the world around us." They're a smokescreen, an attempt to obstruct and divert from a biological truth that throws a real wrench in their political works.
I greatly appreciate the effort and intelligence -- and humor -- invested in this essay. (Though I failed in getting my eggs into contact with sperm, it's only because I'm lesbian, and that is totally on me. :) I'm still unequivocally female.)
DOG-HORSE SPECTRUM!!!! I die dead 🤣🤣🤣 Great article.
Thanks for this analysis. It's a reasonable. science-based pushback on cockeyed theories used to retrofit bad psychology into physiology. Since the time of Harry Benjamin, Alfred Kinsey and John Money, the field of "sexology" has been rewriting history and scientific method to make their grand scheme of "sex change" work. Except it does not. In the famous Amy Bloom article in The Atlantic Monthly, (2002, scrubbed from their archive but saved at childrenoftransitioners.org) Dr. Ray Blanchard, the big guru who got "The Blanchard Protocols" named for him (2 years of cross-dressing, presenting as opposite sex 24/7, keeping your job as your new sex--except they didn't actually do that, my experience with my ex is proof.) said implicitly, that the middle aged men he was mostly treating had sexual fetishes.
Blanchard's own words: " They have to disconnect between reality and their fantasy. Otherwise, their desires are too disruptive. It's too disruptive to acknowledge that you wish your penis was part of your wife's body and not yours. It's too disruptive to acknowledge that this is a sexual compulsion."
For me, this meant that I got to spend about 40k on legal fees for a divorce on the grounds of mental cruelty, which I suffered for 3 years while my then husband went cross-dressing in gay bars, pretended gay men were straight for his sexual encounters, lied to me about where he was and what was going on with the money, irritably yelled at our young sons, all with tacit approval of said "sexologist," taking a fee of $200 per session back in the 1990s. Get real, Fuentes.
Why is this written under a pseudonym? Unless the people in the scientific community are willing to stand up in public and write pieces like this the progressives like Dr. Fuentes will get exactly what they want.
Just excellent. We need more who are willing to speak clearly
Wait, isn’t there another word for this? This following description??? Oh wait, maybe it’s personality? “We should think of sex as a combination of many biological and social characteristics that make it “dynamic, biological, cultural, and enmeshed in feedback cycles with our environments, ecologies, and multiple physiological and social processes.”
It seems like the problems largely stem from the tendency to merge our understanding of sex binary with our understanding of gender.
Excellent article, Catherine. You raised a few points that really clarified the concepts of sex that have become so muddled in the current discourse. I have a question if you have the time to answer -- there is a recurring refrain about sex being "assigned at birth". While I understand that it's more fair to say that sex is "observed at birth", how would a doctor know that a baby's body is male or female since they only can observe their secondary sex characteristics at that time? How do they establish that the child will produce eggs vs. sperm?
As PJ O'Rourke used to say: "What the f*ck? I mean, what the f*cking f*ck!?" That we have to live through days like this ... Thankfully, people like Colin and Catherine stand athwart this madness!
Catherine: "Definitions are human inventions and can certainly change to incorporate new understanding."
Amen to that. Many people don't seem to realize that all of our definitions are, in fact, "socially constructed", but that some are clearly more useful than others. Catherine makes a more or less solid, and quite amusing, case that defining the sexes as two distinct categories is far more useful than as a spectrum -- particularly one so open-ended that the terms "male" and "female" become so vague or cumbersome as to be useless, if not worse than useless.
As Stephen Pinker once put it:
"An intelligent being cannot treat every object it sees as a unique entity unlike anything else in the universe. It has to put objects in categories so that it may apply its hard-won knowledge about similar objects, encountered in the past, to the object at hand." [How the Mind Works; pg. 12]
However, while the "gamete-based definition of sex" clearly has substantially more benefits than an open-ended spectrum, I'm not sure -- in fact, I'm quite sure -- that neither Catherine nor Colin, nor most people realize that Colin's definition based on "gonads of past, present, or future functionality" (see Emma Hilton's tweet below) also turns sex into a spectrum -- not a binary -- even if a somewhat more usefully circumscribed one than Fuentes is peddling:
While the rather idiosyncratic lexicon of Hilton and company at least makes the sexes into a binary -- the same way we might talk about the "reddish-bluish binary colour spectrum 🙄" -- their definition also makes each sex into a spectrum of three "sufficient conditions" for category membership. Basically, they are defining each sex as a polythetic category (see below). Which is in notable contradistinction to the standard biological definitions -- as promulgated in reputable biological journals like Molecular Human Reproduction (not the letter section of the UK Times ...) -- which make each sex into a monothetic category with a single "necessary and sufficient condition" for sex category membership, i.e., functional gonads of either of two types:
"Female: Biologically, the female sex is defined as the adult phenotype that produces [present tense indefinite] the larger gametes in anisogamous systems.
Male: Biologically, the male sex is defined as the adult phenotype that produces [present tense indefinite] the smaller gametes in anisogamous systems."
"Gamete competition, gamete limitation, and the evolution of the two sexes" (Lehtonen & Parker [FRS]):
See also my Substack post on Binarists vs Spectrumists for some details on the profound and seriously problematic differences between polythetic and monothetic categories:
While one might also argue that the differences between the two types are somewhat academic, at least at first blush, a more honest assessment provides ample if not damning evidence of serious problems with the polythetic versions. For one thing, they conflict rather seriously with the view that sex is all about reproduction since, by their definitions, some "males" and some "females" are incapable of actually reproducing.
Somewhat more damning is when their definitions are applied to the many species which actually change sex over the course of their lives -- BECAUSE they change the type of gamete ACTUALLY produced. Clearly, it is the actuality and not the potentiality or previous state of the gonads that is the relevant criterion in play, that is the "necessary condition" for category membership. IF one insists on "past, present, or future functionality" THEN one is obliged to talk, for example, about "functional males" and "non-functional males" -- a clear binary -- as Wikipedia is obliged to do in their article on sequential hermaphroditism:
"Both protogynous and protandrous hermaphroditism allow the organism to switch between functional male and functional female."
So then newly hatched clownfish are both non-functional males AND non-functional females? Some of whom then become functional males AND non-functional females, some of whom then turn into non-functional males and functional females? What a joke. All predicated, apparently, on a desperate and quite risible aversion to saying "sexless".
Houston, we have a problem. Which too few seem willing to address or consider. Largely because they seem to "think" -- or "feel" -- that the sexes should qualify as "participation trophies"; that everyone has to have a sex; that they constitute "immutable" identities -- and that foundational principles of biology, linguistics, logic, & epistemology be damned.
No more Sox changes, please. It is the (Boston) “Red Sox” not “Red Socks.”
I agree with the gamete-based definition and that queer/progressive definitions don't make sense, but why do we keep using teleological language to express or communicate science? I think this is harmful because it gives the impression that we are coming from a place where a creator/organizer/etc. determines how sex came to be (and maybe implies how the sexes should act/be (gender norms or stereotypes)). This impression puts off our target audience (I'm assuming we are trying to educate progressives) at a rapport level because they are generally not religious or view religious-like narratives in a negative way.
I'm certain that more liberals and progressives will come to understand the gamete-based definition and its importance if we stop implying design and purpose in our narrative.
This isn’t hard at all. People are conceived and born either male or female, as are all other creatures that reproduce sexually.
As I read once (and will paraphrase here) heterosexual reproduction is a strategy of Nature. Nature does not put her energy into longevity. It would not work as far as keeping the human race (or any other sexually-reproducing creature) on the earth. Living bodies are frail. We’re living things, not inanimate rocks. So Nature ingeniously puts her energy into reproduction for survival of the species, hence the sexes, sperm and ova.
Nothing could be more simple or straightforward than this, yet the gender ideologists try to make the simple and natural artificial and complex. So complex that a Supreme Court nominee under questioning about what is a woman hems and haws and finally says she’s not a biologist so can’t answer the question. Oh, Lord. What is wrong with “a woman is an adult human female.”
Toddlers have always had an intuitive grasp of this since forever, but today men and women are afraid say what is plain and obvious in front of their faces.
This emperor is buck naked and should be ashamed to appear in public so.