Sex, gender, and embodiment

Sara Heinämaa

in The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Phenomenology

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199594900
Published online January 2013 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

Sex, gender, and embodiment

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This chapter develops an alternative to the dominant articulation of human existence on the basis of classical phenomenology, arguing that Edmund Husserl's phenomenological inquiries into the structures of embodiment provide a very different and more fruitful starting point for the investigation of sexual difference than the ideas of social gender and biological sex. The ways of classifying sex and gender characteristics mark them out on several different conceptual bases, and thus their categories may not correspond or coincide. Moreover historical and biological inquiries indicate that the dimorphic notion of sex is prescriptive and constructive. Finally the sex/gender paradigm is dominated by the explanatory framework of causes and effects. The phenomenological analysis shows that the causal-functional framework is inadequate for the investigation of the plurality of the bodily existence and sexual difference as a dimension of this existence. In the light of the explication of the concepts of sex and gender, and the phenomenological analysis of embodiment, the sex/gender paradigm cannot offer a basis for a comprehensive philosophy of sexual existence.

Keywords: human existence; sex; gender; classical phenomenology; Edmund Husserl; sexual difference; bodily existence; embodiment; sex/gender paradigm

Article.  13147 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Epistemology ; Feminist Philosophy

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