Catalogue


Bodies in doubt : an American history of intersex /
Elizabeth Reis.
imprint
Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009.
description
xvii, 216 p.
ISBN
0801891558 (hardcover : alk. paper), 9780801891557 (hardcover : alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009.
isbn
0801891558 (hardcover : alk. paper)
9780801891557 (hardcover : alk. paper)
contents note
Hermaphrodites, monstrous births, and same-sex intimacy in early America -- From monsters to deceivers : early 19th century -- The conflation of hermaphrodites and sexual perverts at the turn of the century -- Cutting the gordian knot : gonads, marriage, and surgery 1920s and 1930s -- Psychology, john money, and the gender of rearing 1940s, 1950s, 1960s.
catalogue key
6842098
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2010-01-01:
Reis (Oregon) offers an excellent history of attitudes towards intersex persons from the 18th century onward. She shows how American attitudes evolved--often affecting doctors' diagnoses. During the Colonial period those with ambiguous genitals were seen as "monsters"--perhaps God's retribution for parental sins, or the pregnant mother's imagination. Educated people's consensus was that no "true" human hermaphrodites existed; those who appeared so were really male or female. In the 19th century the intersexed were frequently seen as "deceivers" (e.g., a "real" man pretending to be a woman in order to have sex with a male)--showing American culture's longstanding, underlying anxiety about homosexuality. Later medicine could detect internal reproductive organs, but doctors sometimes performed external surgery if the external genitalia did not match the internal ones, assuming "real sex" was internal. In the mid to late 20th century, John Money's ideas prevailed--sex and gender were distinct, the latter based on the person's rearing from infancy. Now that research has proved Money's theories wrong, many scholars believe gender is mostly biological. Some in the intersex community dislike the "intersex" label. Reis observes that doctors use the pejorative phrase "disorders of sex development," and advises that the more neutral "divergence of sex development" replace it. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels. R. W. Smith emeritus, California State University, Northridge
Reviews
Review Quotes
Reis's study is useful precisely because of her broad brush -- it promises to broaden early Americanists' conversations about sexuality and gender and could serve useful not only in courses on the history of sexuality, but in classes on medicine, gender, the history of bodies, and disability studies. Many important moments in intersex history receive more detailed attention elsewhere, but the author's goals of extending our thinking about intersex to an earlier era and linking often separate moments and issues are well realized in this engrossingly readable overview.
"Reis's study is useful precisely because of her broad brush -- it promises to broaden early Americanists' conversations about sexuality and gender and could serve useful not only in courses on the history of sexuality, but in classes on medicine, gender, the history of bodies, and disability studies. Many important moments in intersex history receive more detailed attention elsewhere, but the author's goals of extending our thinking about intersex to an earlier era and linking often separate moments and issues are well realized in this engrossingly readable overview." -- Bulletin of the History of Medicine
Throughout Bodies in Doubt we can see how the understanding of intersex has reflected contemporary cultural concerns about sex, and abnormality.
A highly readable, novel, and interesting history on this topic. Bodies in Doubt helps readers see how the understanding of intersex has reflected contemporary cultural concerns about sex, abnormality, and civil society. It is not often you find a book that is so scholarly and yet so readable.
"A highly readable, novel, and interesting history on this topic. Bodies in Doubt helps readers see how the understanding of intersex has reflected contemporary cultural concerns about sex, abnormality, and civil society. It is not often you find a book that is so scholarly and yet so readable." -- Alice D. Dreger, Northwestern University
"Reis is an engaging writer... informative, engaging, and intersex supportive in tone. It might be most useful as a supplement in a university course on human sexuality or the psychology of gender. It is recommended to anyone interested in the sociological history of intersex, as one of the very few volumes on the subject." -- PsycCRITIQUES
In telling her story, Reis has also provided an excellent collection of illustrations. For scholars and medical students, this pleasantly written history provides an opportunity to view examples of these unusual problems.
"In telling her story, Reis has also provided an excellent collection of illustrations. For scholars and medical students, this pleasantly written history provides an opportunity to view examples of these unusual problems." -- Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 2010
In the end everyone would be well served by a society that accepts, not merely tolerates, ambiguity. Bodies in Doubt is a valuable, important book because it teaches this lesson well.
Offers much-needed voice to the much-silenced lives of intersex Americans... Reis captures their stories as told by a plethora of masculinist and authoritative treatises, including autopsies, legal records, and medical texts, and to a less extent autobiographies.
"Offers much-needed voice to the much-silenced lives of intersex Americans... Reis captures their stories as told by a plethora of masculinist and authoritative treatises, including autopsies, legal records, and medical texts, and to a less extent autobiographies." -- Health and History
Reis is an engaging writer... informative, engaging, and intersex supportive in tone. It might be most useful as a supplement in a university course on human sexuality or the psychology of gender. It is recommended to anyone interested in the sociological history of intersex, as one of the very few volumes on the subject.
Bodies in Doubt undoubtedly deserves a prominent place in the growing body of literature on intersex history and politics. One of Reis's main achievements is that she places present-day intersex politics in the context of a long and complex cultural history. Moreover, her discussion sheds light on the American history of intersex before the 1950s, a period that has not yet received much critical attention... Reis has unearthed a wealth of new American case histories that not only make for interesting reading but also offer fresh insight into the cultural construction of intersex bodies. Bodies in Doubt is an excellent and highly engaging introduction to the medical and cultural history of intersex. In addition, by raising awareness of the multiple ways in which intersex relates to other markers of human experience such as sexuality, race, or class, Reis invites further investigation and opens up a set of questions that might well prove central to intersex studies in the future.
Bodies in Doubt is a valuable, important book.
Bodies in Doubt is the first work to present a comprehensive history of the ways that people and institutions have adjudicated the sex status of atypically sexed bodies in the United States. As such, it is a welcome addition to more contemporary studies of intersex and the history of sex/gender more broadly. Reis has meticulously researched a vast range of sources to discern instances in which physical bodies and/or inconsistently gendered behaviors have been the object of scrutiny, puzzlement, and often scorn. Reis' narrative is filled with rich detail and engaging questions that pull the reader along through an accessibly written monograph... One of the strengths of this work is that it presents such a wide range of cases that we can finally see that bodies, and social responses to bodies, really do vary not only across time and place, but even within any given context.
Bodies in Doubt makes an important contribution to our understanding of early American cultural history. Reis's revelation of the ways that anxieties about perceived violations of sexual borders intersect with anxieties about racial 'mixing' should receive special attention... Reis's treatment of the overlapping medicalization of racial and sexual 'difference' also suggests the number of intersections with which one must reckon in telling the history of the medical management of atypical sex anatomies.
"Bodies in doubt is a thoughtful contribution to the historical analysis of intersex in the US and provides valuable insights for contemporary debates on the ethics of modern medical management of intersex. This linkage makes it an important read for gender scholars, medical historians and health professionals alike." -- Medical History
An excellent history of attitudes towards intersex persons from the 17th century onward.
An excellent history of attitudes towards intersex persons from the 18th century onward.
"An excellent history of attitudes towards intersex persons from the 18th century onward." -- Choice
A thoughtful, engaging, and important addition to the growing body of scholarship that explores the interrelated histories of medicine, sex, and gender.
Bodies in Doubt is a thoughtful contribution to the historical analysis of intersex in the US and provides valuable insights for contemporary debates on the ethics of modern medical management of intersex. This linkage makes it an important read for gender scholars, medical historians and health professionals alike.
An excellent book that treats its subject matter with care and respect, and which encourages critical thinking about the issues discussed.
"An excellent book that treats its subject matter with care and respect, and which encourages critical thinking about the issues discussed." -- American Journal of Human Biology
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, January 2010
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Summaries
Main Description
What does it mean to be human? To be human is, in part, to be physically sexed and culturally gendered. Yet not all bodies are clearly male or female. Bodies in Doubt traces the changing definitions, perceptions, and medical management of intersex (atypical sex development) in America from the colonial period to the present day. From the beginning, intersex bodies have been marked as "other," as monstrous, sinister, threatening, inferior, and unfortunate. Some nineteenth-century doctors viewed their intersex patients with disrespect and suspicion. Later, doctors showed more empathy for their patients' plights and tried to make correct decisions regarding their care. Yet definitions of "correct" in matters of intersex were entangled with shifting ideas and tensions about what was natural and normal, indeed about what constituted personhood or humanity. Reis has examined hundreds of cases of "hermaphroditism" and intersex found in medical and popular literature and argues that medical practice cannot be understood outside of the broader cultural context in which it is embedded. As the history of responses to intersex bodies has shown, doctors are influenced by social concerns about marriage and heterosexuality. Bodies in Doubt considers how Americans have interpreted and handled ambiguous bodies, how the criteria and the authority for judging bodies changed, how both the binary gender ideal and the anxiety over uncertainty persisted, and how the process for defining the very norms of sex and gender evolved. Bodies in Doubt breaks new ground in examining the historical roots of modern attitudes about intersex in the United States and will interest scholars and researchers in disability studies, social history, gender studies, and the history of medicine.
Main Description
What does it mean to be human? To be human is, in part, to be physically sexed and culturally gendered. Yet not all bodies are clearly male or female. Bodies in Doubt traces the changing definitions, perceptions, and medical management of intersex (atypical sex development) in America from the colonial period to the present day.From the beginning, intersex bodies have been marked as "other," as monstrous, sinister, threatening, inferior, and unfortunate. Some nineteenth-century doctors viewed their intersex patients with disrespect and suspicion. Later, doctors showed more empathy for their patients' plights and tried to make correct decisions regarding their care. Yet definitions of "correct" in matters of intersex were entangled with shifting ideas and tensions about what was natural and normal, indeed about what constituted personhood or humanity.Reis has examined hundreds of cases of "hermaphroditism" and intersex found in medical and popular literature and argues that medical practice cannot be understood outside of the broader cultural context in which it is embedded. As the history of responses to intersex bodies has shown, doctors are influenced by social concerns about marriage and heterosexuality. Bodies in Doubt considers how Americans have interpreted and handled ambiguous bodies, how the criteria and the authority for judging bodies changed, how both the binary gender ideal and the anxiety over uncertainty persisted, and how the process for defining the very norms of sex and gender evolved.Bodies in Doubt breaks new ground in examining the historical roots of modern attitudes about intersex in the United States and will interest scholars and researchers in disability studies, social history, gender studies, and the history of medicine.
Back Cover Copy
Bodies in Doubt traces the changing definitions, perceptions, and medical management of intersex (atypical sexual development) in America from the colonial period to the present day. The book breaks new ground in examining the historical roots of modern attitudes about intersex in the United States and will interest scholars and researchers in social and cultural history, gender studies, disability studies, and the history of medicine. "In the end everyone would be well served by a society that accepts, not merely tolerates, ambiguity. Bodies in Doubt is a valuable, important book because it teaches this lesson well."- Journal of American History "The author's goals of extending our thinking about intersex to an earlier era and linking often separate moments and issues are well realized in this engrossingly readable overview."- Bulletin of the History of Medicine "An excellent book that treats its subject matter with care and respect, and which encourages critical thinking about the issues discussed."- American Journal of Human Biology "Undoubtedly deserves a prominent place in the growing body of literature on intersex history and politics."- GLQ: Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies "An excellent history of attitudes towards intersex persons."- Choice "Offers much-needed voice to the much-silenced lives of intersex Americans."- Health and History "Reis is an engaging writer... informative, engaging, and intersex supportive in tone. It is recommended to anyone interested in the sociological history of intersex."- PsycCRITIQUES "An important contribution to our understanding of early American cultural history."- International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics
Table of Contents
Acknowledgmentsp. vii
Introductionp. ix
A Note about the Illustrationsp. xvii
Hermaphrodites, Monstrous Births, and Same-Sex Intimacy in Early Americap. 1
From Monsters to Deceivers in the Early Nineteenth Centuryp. 23
The Conflation of Hermaphrodites and Sexual Perverts at the Turn of the Centuryp. 55
Cutting the Gordian Knot: Gonads, Marriage, and Surgery in the 1920s and 1930sp. 82
Psychology, John Money, and the Gender of Rearing in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960sp. 115
Epilogue. Divergence or Disorder? The Politics of Naming Intersexp. 153
Notesp. 163
Indexp. 209
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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