Gender/Sex and the Body || Anne Fausto-Sterling

March 23, 2023

Today we welcome Dr. Anne Fausto-Sterling. She is the Nancy Duke Lewis Professor Emerita of Biology and Gender Studies in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology and Biochemistry at Brown University. Her books and scholarly articles are referenced widely in feminist and scientific inquiry. She has received grants and fellowships in both the sciences and the humanities. In 2020, she re-released Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality with updated research.

In this episode, I talked to Anne Fausto-Sterling about gender/sex and the body. During the sixties, the term “gender” was introduced to make a distinction between a person’s biology and psychology. But Dr. Fausto-Sterling believes that these can never really be separate. Biology influences gender—and the opposite is also true. Culture and context can influence our hormones and body systems. We also touch on the topics of gender dysphoria, feminism, intersexuality, trans issues, and child development.

Website: annefaustosterling.com

Twitter: @Fausto_Sterling


  • Dr. Fausto-Sterling’s background and expertise
  • Sexual invert, eonist, & transvestite
  • Gender identity disorder in the DSM
  • Transgenderism and non-binaries
  • The Five Sexes
  • “Gender is always changing the biology”
  • Redefining sex
  • Intersex inclusivity
  • Feminists labeled as TERFs
  • Sex should be functional
  • Moral panic about bathrooms, sports, jail
  • Addressing issues in context
  • Dynamic Systems Framework for Gender/Sex Development
  • Dr. Fausto-Sterling’s call to end sex differences research


4 Responses to “Gender/Sex and the Body || Anne Fausto-Sterling”

  1. Matt says:

    A biologist makes the “Micheal Phelps” argument. This argument says that since we consider biological variations that lead to athletic advantages within sex fair, then it is hypocritical to considering biological variations that lead to advantages between the 2 sexes unfair.

    The worlds top 25 times in the men’s individual 200 meter medley are separated by 2.99 seconds from 1st to 25th (Phelps is second btw). For women 1st is separated from 25th by 3.22 seconds. The worlds fastest female time in this event is 2 min 6.12 seconds. The fastest time for a man is 1 min 54 seconds. A separation of 12.2 seconds. At 14 or 15 top male swimmers begin to compete with the best female times ever recorded by women at the top of their careers. Such differences between sex based athletic categories persists across most sports.

    When Rabinowitz and Wright use the “Michael Phelps” argument it’s motivated ignorance, when a “biologist” makes it, it is straight up fraud. It is in fact dangerous fraud. Ignoring differences between androgenized bodies and non-androgenized bodies in swimmers just crushes women’s chances at athletic success. In rugby, mma, boxing, or other endeavors that come with serious physical consequences women’s bodies will be crushed, even death is a real possibility.

    I’m focused on this small part of the episode because her gross misunderstanding and complete ignorance of the athletic differences between male and female calls into question everything else she has to say about biology or sex. To hold her up as an authority in either is detrimental to your stated goal of turning down the temperature on the trans debate. I understand Fausto-Sterling just has trouble staying in her lane. Many people who understand the obvious physical difference between the sexes will see her as a dangerous ideologically driven liar and as a consequence will reactively be closed off to other reasonable arguments for trans rights which is tragic.

    • Cg says:

      I agree. I feel there is some intellectual dishonesty in the arguments of those that perpetuate 100% gender affirming everything.

      It’s as if acknowledging any meaningful biological differences will pull a thread that will unravel their world so it’s gotta be so hard line that it becomes too conflictual with reality at times.

      I don’t see how this approach serves trans people in the long run.

  2. Karen says:

    I thought this scientist’s grasp and telling of the history of gender/sex studies was informative and really fascinating. Dr. Kaufman conducted a great interview with her, sharing, with Dr. Fausto-Sterling, a cohesive narrative of the development of the field. Agree with others in thread that biological differences between the sexes (generally) exist, but believe that she is such a fluid and nuanced thinker that she may change her mind about that too eventually. I don’t think the one issue about biological athletic differences nullifies 40 plus years of her progressive thinking.

  3. Earnest says:

    Thanks Scott for taking a non partisan approach to these sensitive issues with this series. I found some of last week’s material a bit cringe inducing. I’m relieved by the return to form.

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