Some Basics


This may seem insultingly simple, but I'd like to introduce some definitions and see if I can get your agreement on the terms used. In the interest of sincere investigation, I think we want to try to stay within some boundaries so that our discussions don't stray too far and become a management problem for Lanny or Christine or the monitors we depend upon. The possibilities are already widely varied under the topic "Gender Issues".

In a recent post I cited Wikipedia as saying that sexuality is the "capacity to have erotic experiences and responses". That definition is generally accepted, but there are finer distinctions that need to be noted.

The terms male and female first relate to the function of sexual reproduction. Whether human or animal or botanical, this first gender identification is in regard to reproduction. So the first (principal) use of sex in humans is penis in vagina sex for the propagation and continuance of the human race. (Let's please disregard the wonders of technological manipulation for now.)

Secondly, male/female and masculine/feminine terms describe characteristics that are typically one OR the other. By typically, I mean things that have been observed over a long term and are generally accepted or agreed upon as appropriately one OR the other. Some of these are natural, inherent characteristics. Some are taught or directed and inhibit natural development. (Girls, pink, dolls/Boys, blue, cars; Snakes, snails and puppy dog tails/Sugar, spice and everything nice.) From these beginnings we can question how we got to where we are and whether or not we need to "do" anything about it.

The definitions below come from The American Heritage Dictionary and are paraphrased for the sake of saving space.

Sexuality: Being characterized and distinguished by sex (male or female); concern or preoccupation with sex; possessing sexual character or potency.

Sensuality: Pertaining to or affecting sense organs; gratification of the senses, especially referring to the sexual appetites; carnal rather than spiritual or intellectual. (I would prefer 'physical' rather than 'carnal'. I think here even the dictionary has gone judgmental.)

So....sexuality has to do with sex which is primarily defined by reproductive function (acceptable definition in scientific and academic work). Sensuality is the natural responsiveness that insures continuation of the human race (enticing us to be gratified by the sexual function). Sensuality is what causes us to build upon the basic sexuality of penis to vagina intercourse in typical male/female relationships and in any other sexual relationships. Variations of desire and gratification can bring more pleasure....and more pain.... ultimate fulfillment or insatiation.... maintenance of a healthy function or loss of libido.

My thought is that we're investigating both of these things and each with subtopics, and we might not make so many missteps in communication if we have the basics established.

I understand that what I laid out here is itself objectionable to many, but these are established definitions and the basis of academic and scientific investigation. "Definition" is intended to establish a basis for communication, not to limit expression or to beat up with oppression. It gives us a place to start.

Thank you for trying to contain and organize such an unruly subject, Bebe. But I'm having a hard time seeing how your scheme is going to improve communication much. I see yours as sort of the classic Judeo/Christian view as is, I suppose, the American Heritage Dictionary’s. Many people believe man/woman sex to be primary, and therefore good, right and proper.

I love, and paraphrased, the Navajo view that females are the “first sex”, and I interpret that as being something much greater than anything having to do with the sexual act. Something like Mother Earth and Father Sky, and all the responsibility that entails. The Vedic religion also describes Shakti as the creative, female energy and the male god Shiva as the destroyer of worlds.

Male/female and masculine/feminine are anything but "one OR the other". Anatomically, there are five known and recognized sexes - three of those being intersexes. And it is not a trivial number of people, but something like 5% of the population. Hormonally, there are more than two sexes as well. Brain researchers have proven beyond doubt that the brains of transsexuals are different. A person’s sexual organs may be male, but their identification of self is female. This is something that cannot be changed, trained or beaten out of them. True hermaphrodites can be truly and equally both. Lesbians identify their self as woman and gay men as men.

Yes, women are the flowers and men are the bees. But queer also exists throughout the animal world. I don’t see any hierarchy about it, but that we all arise together onto this plane, universe, or dimension.

I completely understand how difficult it is to open to these realities when we have been culturally conditioned to find them objectionable. I consider myself a sexual liberal and have no problem imagining the intimate nature of lesbian sex. Lesbian women seem very right and natural to me. The world of gay men, however, completely baffles me, like they come from another planet. However, I recognize that as my problem, not theirs. My cozy, earthy, domestic life would be a nightmare to someone who prefers skyscrapers, nightclubs and lots of anonymous sex. But these are both real and valid preferences. It is the fear and hate of ‘other’ that gets in the way.


And you're right, Christine. I did lay it out as the classic Judeo-Christian point of view which permeates our society and even our 'official' vocabulary. Are most of us on the forum living in an American or European influenced society and haven't Americans taken it on themselves to educate, evangelize and liberate the world (I say, somewhat sarcastically but realistically) so that women all around the world are at least somewhat aware of this point of view? We baby-boomers were born and bred on this stuff so that's why it seemed like a good starting point to me.

I can't defend the use of accepted definitions for the sake of communication when the definition itself is argued against. I'd love to have links to scientific articles that explain how multiple genders are classified/identified. It takes time for me, but I'll wade through scientific articles with my daughter's help who has some background in biology.

You have beautifully laid out what to some will seem like an opposite extreme to the Judeo-Christian point of view. So let the games begin, eh?

Please re-read the last three paragraphs of my initial post. I'm glad the term "queer" was brought up because I think it fits with my use of "variations" that are by sensuality built upon the basic sexual premise.

Regarding the anatomy of multiple sexes, I did a little reading and may have found what you mean by five sexes, three of which you describe as intersexes. Hermaphroditism is referred to as being intersex and is manifested in these ways: (1) Bilateral hermaphroditism is that in which gonadal tissue typical of both sexes occurs on each side of the body. (2) Lateral hermaphroditism is the presence of gonadal tissue typical of one sex on one side of the body and tissue typical of the other sex on the opposite side. (3) Transverse hermaphroditism is that in which the external genital organs are typical of one sex and the gonads typical of the other sex. That makes five when you include simply male and simply female organs.

A fourth description of hermaphroditism is given. It is referred to as false or pseudohermaphroditism. It is described as a state in which the gonads are of one sex, but one or more contradictions exist in the morphologic criteria of sex. In female pseudohermaphroditism the individual is genetically female and has female gonads (ovaries) but has significant male secondary sex characters. In male pseudo-hermaphroditism, the individual is genetically male and has male gonads (testes) but has significant female secondary sex characters. Is this what you meant by your reference to male or female identification above, and is it what you mean by transsexual?

The descriptions above came from Dorland's Medical Dictionary for Health Consumers. © 2007 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved. This source also confirms in the description above a difference between male and female sexes and a difference in male and female morphology and character(istics); and I really think it defends the intent of my original post in the description of the primary sexual function....since gonads (male or female) are reproductive organs. I also think that 5% is few enough to call anatomical hermaphroditism an anomaly.

I agree with you, Christine, that some degree of love between women (haven't come to a conclusion in myself yet what that degree is) seems natural. I don't think that what is still a vague question in me is in agreement with lesbianism, though. I would like to hear how lesbian women describe themselves, but I haven't looked into any articles or other media to find out at this point. It does seem questionable to me in the way that gay men do; but if you'll remember I tried once to make an argument for polygamy and holding strictly to multiple women, not multiple men.

Thank you for researching this a bit and for your thoughtful comments, Bebe. The literature I have on the subject is quite dated now - from the nineties - and buried in storage. I think it is something we can work slowly on, since I'm really maxed out here with work and practitioner training. Transsexuals have normal genitalia, but brains (sexual identity) of the opposite sex. I wouldn't call 5% an anomaly, but...

good grief, I just looked at the Wiki page on the subject and it is extensive. They say 700,000 people in the US are transgender (more appropriate than the earlier term transsexual - but it looks like they distinguish the two as well).

I'm not sure I'm looking forward to a big debate with you, Bebe. I believe these people always lived on the edge of the village as respected seers, shaman, etc. Just as I believe gay people have always lived amongst us. Even our Anglo-Saxon nursery rhymes (a female oral history) allude to their presence, with the more accepting "Robin and Richard were two pretty men, who stayed in bed til half past ten". To the more intolerant, "Rub a dub dub.." It is a fascinating subject, really, and one that needs more understanding. The part I'm most interested in is how women came to be the witches of the world, when it is generally only men who engage in the witchiest behaviors.

Gotta run!


I admit to thinking upon reading in your post about there being five known and recognized sexes that I had somehow missed some big news along the line somewhere. Now that we've confirmed that we're talking about male, female, and three categories of anatomical hermaphroditism....whew! The other "state" referred to as false or pseudo-hermaphroditism is a huge category with a number of subdivisions and descriptions that I'm also aware of and so the fearful mystery (to my thinking) is solved. (These subdivisions are named by wikipedia as transvestite, bi-gender, genderqueer, transsexual, even a subdivision entitled drag queen or king. ) Now we know what we're talking about.

I never thought you and I would engage in a one-on-one debate. There seemed to be so much interest in exploring sexuality that I expected others to comment and question as needed. Of course I know you're especially busy right now. With the current busy-ness and the uncomfortability that's going on under this topic, can we pull back and give it another chance?