K. A. Cortes, W. P. Cockshott
May 2017

1  Heteronormativity


In the preface the author posits that it is a socially possible to have a non hetronormative society and that this is desirable. Butler’s concern with breaking gender from heteronormativity is counterproductive and fails to address the heart of the matter. What is the purpose of gender roles at all if not to reinforce heteronormativity?
The two concepts are bound together to serve the same material purposes: ensuring that women perform reproductive labour and consequently the creation of new workers. In earlier phases of society, gender roles also dictated the control of property in land and animals. They are not, and have never been, simply a method of circumscribing behaviour for its own sake. They are not even a method of circumscribing behaviour in pursuit of male desire. The idea that gender is simply socially sanctioned performance that makes the person intelligible as man or woman, diverts attention from the reason why categories of male and female are economically and socially relevant at all. Performance of gendered stereotypes associated with the opposite sex cannot eliminate either gender roles or heteronormativity, since the underlying material requirements of class society are not being challenged.

Could bourgeois society actually exist as anything other than heteronormative? To reproduce itself it, like any society, needs a mean fertility of adult women of over 2. It has to be over two to allow for child mortality. As child mortality rates fall the replacement fertility rate approaches but never reaches 2. We know further that the fertility rate among lesbian couples is very low compared to among heterosexual women. Black et al. [2000] report that for lesbian couples in the USA the mean number of children in the household is 0.35, for married heterosexual couples the mean is 1.1 per household. Bear in mind that the figures include older couples whose children have left home in each instance. Thus the fertility rate of women in lesbian couples is only 16% of that of women in married couples taking into account that there are two women in each lesbian couple – (0.35/(1.1×2))=16%.

Percentage of number of children per generation
lesbians Per 100 women Children per
Reproduction Lesbian straight non lesbian
requirement mothers mothers woman
5 210 1.68 208.32 2.19
10 210 3.36 206.64 2.296
20 210 6.72 203.28 2.541
40 210 13.44 196.56 3.276
51 210 17.1 192.8 3.94
Assumed fertility rates
Hetro married 2.1
Lesbian 0.16 as fraction
Total lesbian 0.336

Table 1: Implications of non heteronormativity for the remaining fraction of heterosexual women. The last two columns show the number of children straight women would have to have to sustain the population given the known low birthrate among lesbians which is taken from Black et al. [2000].

Figure 1: Historical trend of US fertility.

To say that a characteristic is a norm for a population, means that it is the preponderant trait for a population. So a non-heteronormative population must have less than half of the population made up of hetrosexuals. For a simple analysis we only look at the effect of norms on the population of women. Table 1 projects the demographic implications of different percentages of lesbians in the adult female population. A more sophisticated model would deal with the impacts of male to female and female to male operative or hormonal transexuals, both groups of which, for statistical purposes can be assumed to have close to zero fertility. It would also have to deal with the demographic effect of male homosexuals which becomes significant if they are more numerous than lesbians since that would result in an increase in the percentage of single hetrosexual women, who also have a lower fertility than married women. Suppose we take as an example of a non-heteronormative USA one where 51% of women were lesbians. This would require each straight woman to have 3.95 children. What would be the implication of a return to such large family sizes. It would be likely to imply a substantially lower participation in the labour market and lower cash incomes for these women, whilst at the same time their family costs – feeding and clothing so many children would rise.

The 3.95 figure is the mean, given that there will be a range of family sizes, a mean of that number of children implies many women will actually have 6 or 7 children. Even threshold levels of 51% homonormativity would imply higher child bearing rates for straight women than have occurred at any time in the last 100 years (Figure 1).

Taken literally, the call to erase heteronormativity amounts to is a programmatic demand to reduce straight women to the social position they had as far back as the 19th century. The above argument is a reductio ad absurdum of the idea of abolishing heteronormativity, and the argument relies on an assumption that the homonormative society is able to reproduce itself. In one sense such an assumption is justifiable, since in practice societies unable to reproduce themselves are short lived and, integrated over time and space, very unlikely to be encountered. But this is actually what is observed, homonormative societies are so rare as to be statistically negligible. So the assumption that homonormative societies do have a mode of reproduction can be dropped. There is indeed no evident causal mechanism that would make the straight section of the population have more children just because the gay population increased as a share of each age cohort.

What Butler is suggesting is that the individual, through individual acts of subversion, can change society. There is no collective action against the collective problem, nor even an understanding of what the problem is. The concern, as when she writes of her uncle’s experience as an effeminate gay man, is with the ability of the individual to be his authentic self.

2  History


Butler opens her second chapter with a discussion of how to conceptualise the historical origins of patriarchy. She warns against adopting an over simple view of the past in which there was just a single system of patriarchy that arose world-wide, before going on to look at the underlying assumptions involved in any such search for a pre-patriarchal social order.

Throughout the speculation of Engels, socialist feminism, those feminist positions rooted in structuralist anthropology, there emerge various efforts to locate moments or structures within history or culture that establish gender hierarchy. The isolation of such structures or key periods is pursued in order to repudiate those reactionary theories which would naturalize or universalize the subordination of women.
Levi-Strauss’s structuralist anthropology, including the problematic nature/culture distinction, has been appropriated by some feminist theorists to support and elucidate the sex/gender distinction: the position that there is a natural or biological female who is subsequently transformed into a socially subordinate “woman,” with the consequence that “sex” is to nature or “the raw” as gender is to culture or “the cooked. If Levi-Strauss’s framework were true, it would be possible to trace the transformation of sex into gender by locating that stable mechanism of cultures, the exchange rules of kinship, which effect that transformation in fairly regular ways. Within such a view, “sex” is before the law in the sense that it is culturally and political undetermined, providing the “raw material” of culture, as it were, that begins to signify only through and after its subjection to the rules of kinship. This very concept of sex-as-matter, sex-as-instrument-of-cultural- signification, however, is a discursive formation that acts as a naturalized foundation for the nature/culture distinction and the strategies of domination that that distinction supports. [Butler, 2002,page 47]

There is a slide here from the analysis of Engels [2010] or Meillassoux [1981] to criticising something quite different. You do not find Engels, or those who follow him, writing of sex as matter or an instrument of cultural signification. There follows a long section of polemic against structuralist and psychoanalytic explanations of hetro-sexuality as the norm, or of the exchange of women in systems of exogamy. We have no desire to defend structuralism or psychoanalysis, the starting point of historical materialism is quite different. It starts from the need, that any form of society has, to reproduce its own material existence. Social survival depends upon, in order of priority:
The production of sufficient food to cover energy needs and growth, along with heat and shelter – as hairless apes, this implies we need fire, buildings and in non tropical regions, clothes.
The production of new generations to replace those who die.

The forms of social organisation recorded in history, indicated by archaeology and observed by anthropology are all ways of achieving these requirements that are conditioned by available technologies, population densities and natural resources. These forms of social organisation must simultaneously ensure the production of food and shelter and at the same time ensure human reproduction. It is at this point that a fundamental asymmetry of the sexes makes itself felt. Whereas women can do any task that men can do, the reverse is not true. The inter-generational survival of a community is entirely dependent on its young women, who were, in consequence, the single most important constraining factor for small communities.

The exchange of young women between communities, and before that the capture of young women from other communities arose as the result of a specific stage in the development of technologies. The initial domestication of plants allows a sedentary lifestyle and the formation of groups larger than small nomadic bands, but in the absence of domestication of cattle the small villages are dependent on hunting for additional protein. According to Meillassoux [1981] whilst conflict in patoral society is over cows, in horticultural society the motive for the conflict was the capture not of cattle but young women. Pure hunter gatherer societies are nomadic, with no fixed villages, and mobility of people between wandering small bands. Horticulture ties people down. He argues that the initial form of family in the transition to agriculture is the matrilocal. That means a society in which adult women stay in their mother’s home or community. Insofar as there is mobility between communities, it is the men who move, seeking wives in other communities.
In principle either sex can move. You can have a matrilocal system where women stay in their birthplace and the men move, or patrilocal communities where the reverse happens. Although these seem logically to be no more than mirror images, their economic effects are actually very different. The reproductive potential of a community is set by how many young women, rather than young men, it has. This has serious implications for relatively small communities, ones which are not yet able to fully support themselves through the whole year by agriculture. Such communities have to be small relative to their hinterland to prevent the exhaustion of the available game [1].

Within such small groups the laws of chance mean that the numbers of each sex coming of age will fluctuate. Some communities will have more young men than young women and vice versa. In principle some of young men could leave and try and join another community with a surplus of women, but what often happened, is that the men raid neighbouring communities and abduct young women. Given that the community still depends partly on hunting, the men are skilled in the use of bows and arrows etc, and these skills transfer readily from hunting to raiding.
This leads to endemic hostility and suspicion between communities. Men acquire the social role of warrior both to abduct women from other groups and to protect their `own’ women. Such societies may remain matri-lineal, with children being brought up in a relatively communal household with their uncles playing what we would regard as a paternal role. There may be no system of strict monogamy. But the beginnings of the collective dominance of men over women exist. Men as hunters and warriors develop ideologies that represent them as protectors and hero’s and which justify relegating women to what are presented as menial horticultural tasks. In particular the abducted women, cut off from their own community, are in a very subordinate position.
The combination of hunting with horticulture limits the size of settled communities. Meillassoux claims that the precariousness of reproduction leads to abductions and raiding. Hunters develop warrior attributes and male dominance begins to develop. But this is collective rather than individual. There is not yet the figure of the patriarch, exercising exclusive control over the sexuality of `his’ women. The society may still approve of considerable sexual license, with various orgiastic rituals and very blurred ideas of paternity[Ryan and Jethá, 2010].

The basic contradiction associated with small matrilineal communities could be solved :
by becoming more exclusively agricultural and piscatorial whilst growing in size it is possible to form big matrilineal or even matriarchal communities that do not suffer from frequent random shortages of women of child bearing age;
by moving towards a patrilineal and subsequently patriarchal form of family and clan.

The probability that a community with several hundred people will suffer serious random swings in its sex-ratio is very low. Communities like the Neolithic towns of Anatolia would have been big enough, and sufficiently dependent on agriculture, to avoid the raiding and warrior culture that Meillasoux observed in those recent tribes who combined hoe agriculture with hunting. Such societies would still have had potential problems within individual matrilineal households if there were no daughters. But this is not such a problem for a peaceful community. It could be dealt with by adoption of daughters from other families, as occurs among the modern matriarchal Mosuo[Stacey, 2009]. Whilst we can only speculate as to whether this took place in the early settled communities of Anatolia, it could account for what seems to have been a long period of peaceful development of these communities, without evidence of either stratification or gender inequality in the archaeological record.

2.1  From Souls to Genders

By page 171 of her book, Butler has not yet actually defined gender. Have wandered down various literary paths, she finally comes to it at a rush. But her final path of approach is transparently idealist. She first quotes with approval a passage by Foucault which claims that the soul is not an illusion, but that souls really exist. That they are produced on and around the human body by the power of punishment.
She then goes on to assert that
The redescription of intrapsychic processes in terms of the surface politics of the body implies a corollary redescription of gender as the disciplinary production of the figures of fantasy through the play of presence and absence on the body’s surface, the construction of the gendered body through a series of exclusions and denials, signifying absences.”
Here Butler finally defines gender as the production of a fantasty figure by disciplinary processes. She arrives at this by an explicit analogy between gender and the soul, the existence of which, on the strength of a passage from Foucault, she is willing to accept. Here too she is echoing Althusser:
even if it appears under this name (the subject) only with the advent of bourgeois ideology, legal ideology in particular, the category of the subject (which may function under other names: for example, the soul in Plato, God, and so on) is the category constitutive of all ideology, [Althusser, 1971,page 188]

But the soul has long been rejected, by medicine and biology, as redundant hypothesis, so this is a very shaky terrain on which to sink the founds of gender. At one time the soul, the spirit or pneuma (πνηυμα) was, in ancient Galenic medicine, a scientific hypothesis. Galen knew from vivisection experiments that nerves were vital to the control of muscles. He used to demonstrate that a monkey undergoing vivisection would scream until his scalpel cut the nerve controlling the vocal cords. How did this transmission occur?

By the 19th century doctors were comparing nerves with telegraph wires, and hypothesizing, correctly, that they sent electrical impulses to the muscles. But lacking a knowledge of electricity, classical medicine thought that the mechanism was pneumatic. The nerves, it was suggested, conveyed compressed air (pneuma) from the hollow ventricles of the brain, down through the nerves to the muscles which then inflated. Originally the pneuma or spirit, from latin spiritus for breath, was a mechanistic hypothesis, and a plausible one. After all, when a person dies they expire – or let out their last breath. It was thus reasonable to suppose that breath or spirit was the motive force of brain and muscle. This continued to be the theory behind the labeling of distilled alcohol as ‘spirits’ as these were produced by the condensation of the breath of wine. So these were labelled as aqua vita, uisge-beatha or water of life.

But we now know that although this was a plausible theory, it is wrong. The nervous system is electo-chemical in operation, as are muscles. The soul or spirit is a redundant hypothesis. Everything that it purported to explain can be understood as the result of other material processes. A mere assertion by a philosopher, unless supported by a massive body of experimental data, is not enough to re-establish the relevance of the concept of the soul. Butler rests her concept of gender on an analogy to the redundant idea of the soul, so the parsimonious assumption must be that her concept is equally redundant. Butler writes of a: “corollary redescription of gender” which begs the question of whether there are such things as genders in the first place. In explaining things we should prefer simple explanations over complex ones. As we pointed out in the introduction, the English speaking academic world got along with describing society without the concept of gender until about 1970 when the use of the word exploded. Those writing in Spanish or French however had no equivalent shift in terminology. One can’t just assume that genders exist, you have to establish that inventing this new concept of genders allows you either to categorise new, previously unobserved phenomena, or to explain known phenomena better than previous concepts like sexes, sex roles or sex-stereotypes. Returning to the previous point about souls, once electric spikes were measured on nerve fibres by Du Bois-Reymond the concept of pneuma or its elaboration – elan vital, could be dropped in favour of the new concept of the nerve impulse.

Let us suppose for the sake of argument that the escalation in the use of the term gender in the early 70s was due to Oakley [2015(1972], and further assume that this had established the necessity of a concept of gender distinct from sex and sex roles. If Butler then redefines gender she has to go back to square one and establish that her new concept is necessary. If you change what the concept of gender means, then any prior case which may have established the explanatory utility of the old idea of gender, is lost. The old case supported a different concept. Butler, having given an entirely new definition of gender as the disciplinary production of fantasy figures, must go back and show what actual social phenomena this new idea predicts better than the concepts which predated Oakley. Does this new concept provide a more accurate predictive categorisation of the population than sex does?

Does Butler’s concept help explain and predict the results of empirical research into gender differences2?

Butler’s follow on to her definition suggests not:
We have already considered the incest taboo and the prior taboo against homosexuality as the generative moments of gender identity, the prohibitions that produce identity along the culturally intelligible grids of an idealized and compulsory heterosexuality.

Yes she has considered it in a discussion of Freud and Lacan, but why should we believe them?

Is there any sound experimental data to back up psychoanalytic theories about incest taboos?

Has she produced any evidence that taboos against homosexuality are ‘prior’ to incest taboos?

What does it even mean in empirical terms to say that they are prior?

That disciplinary production of gender effects a false stabilization of gender in the interests of the heterosexual construction and regulation of sexuality within the reproductive domain. The construction of coherence conceals the gender discontinuities that run rampant within heterosexual, bisexual, and gay and lesbian contexts in which gender does not necessarily follow from sex, and desire, or sexuality generally, does not seem to follow from gender””indeed, where none of these dimensions of significant corporeality express or reflect one another.

How does Butler’s idea of gender as performance fit with research?

Well some of what the psychological literature terms gender difference is certainly performative in a narrow sense. People perform psychology tests, are observed performing actions which are recorded. But the socially most important gender differences hardly fit with her framework. Let us take three examples: housework, pay and depression, all of which differ markedly between the sexes. Housework and pay are clearly social phenomena, and depression has, at the least, substantial social causes. All three therefore are gender phenomena, and are treated as such in the literature. Does the notion of gender as performance give any purchase at all on them?

One could say that women ‘perform’ more housework hours than men, but work is hardly performance in the sense used by Butler. Men get paid more than women. This is not a performance by men, at a stretch it might be called a performance by employers, but it would be simpler to just call it discrimination. The only way the gender pay gap could be treated as a performance issue would be to make the sexist claim that women are paid less because they perform poorly. It would be equally insulting to treat women’s higher rate of depression as a mere performance.

Not only is the Butlerian notion of gender as performance useless as an approach to these topics, it is actively harmful. It distracts attention from serious issues of female oppression onto the concerns of a minority of cross dressing men. By focusing of attention away from the economic structure of daily life it robs students of the tools to conceptualize this structure. A century earlier the promotion of marginal utility theory in economics distracted student’s attention from the unequal class distribution of work in capitalism. Butler’s perfomance theory similarly distracts a new generation of students from the unequal sexual distribution of work.

3  Sex and women’s health

With the focus on performance of gendered stereotypes over the materiality of the physical body, the relevance of sex to women’s health gets lost. This leads to misdiagnosis and increased death in biological females. While the typical argument in queer theory circles is to dismiss such claims as “reducing a woman to her reproductive organs,” the facts are that sex matters to women far beyond their reproductive organs. What has been uncovered in medical studies is seeping into mainstream media [Adler, ], but no one is connecting the dots when it comes to claiming that men can become women through mere declaration or “performance”. The sexed body is important beyond the cultural meanings or reproductive functions, and refusal to recognize this is literally costing women’s lives.

“”Most of what we know about diagnosis and treatment of heart disease comes from research done on middle-aged men, so we are extrapolating from that data,’ says Dr. Nadita Scott, a cardiologist and co-director of the Corrigan Women’s Heart Health Program at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. As a result, ways in which the disease is different in women, who tend to be older when they develop coronary artery disease, have been under-recognized and under-investigated, she says.”[Letter, ]

Cardiovascular disease is but one area where researchers have systematically excluded women and girls from medical investigation into non-reproductive diseases. The argument for this has been that the menstrual cycle presented an additional variable. This emerges from the idea that the menstrual cycle is not a human process, but merely a female one that needn’t be considered-even in the realm of women’s health. This has led to diagnostic practices and treatments that do not account for the differences between men and women, leading to unnecessary deaths in the female population. A society that denies that female biology even exists cannot possibly hope to correct this. A doctor more concerned with what pronouns a patient prefers than in the reality of the sexed human body will be of little use.

Medical research shows that endogenous oestrogens have both protective and damaging effects on numerous non-reproductive organs. The reproductive system is not the only system that has oestrogen receptors. Cardiovascular cells, lung tissues, the brain, the liver and bone also express oestrogen receptor-alpha and oestrogen receptor-beta. [Mosca and Wenger, 2001,p499]

The cardiovascular system is the most researched non-reproductive system, when it comes to the differences in development of disease and outcomes for women and men. Since cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of both sexes in the U.S., most research into sex-based differences is related to prevention, risk factors and diagnosis of coronary heart disease and cerebrovascular disease.

Women develop cardiovascular disease seven to ten years later than men. Maas and Appelman write, “It is assumed that exposure to endogenous oestrogens during the fertile period of life delays the manifestation of atherosclerotic disease in women. Before menopause the CHD [coronary heart disease] event rate in women is low and predominantly attributed to smoking.” [Maas and Appelman, 2010,p598]Even after menopause, the type of CHD that occurs in women tends to be different than the type men develop. They are so different, that one doctor suggests that they be given different names. Dr. Bairey Merz of Cedars-Sinai states that men are generally affected by a type of heart disease that is properly referred to as coronary artery disease (CAD) or coronary heart disease (CHD). This is caused by plaque build-up in the large arteries around the heart. However, women do not typically have build-up in these arteries. Instead, they develop difficulties in the small coronary arteries, which no longer constrict and dilate as they should. This prevents the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart, and is more properly referred to as ischemic heart disease, according to Bairey Merz.

These differences are not merely academic. The differences affect diagnosis of heart disease in women, because women can have normal angiograms and stress tests while still suffering from ischemic heart disease. [Cedars, ] The failure to develop and use sex-specific guidelines when diagnosing heart disease in women with symptoms often leads to misdiagnosis and unnecessary deaths. The lengthy delay in studying heart disease in women can be directly blamed for the lack of such sex-specific guidelines. The refusal to consider biological sex as central to women’s lives and deaths will certainly not help.

While endogenous oestrogen protects women from heart disease, exogenous oestrogen- historically referred to hormone replacement therapy, but now called menopausal hormone therapy-has mixed results and may actually increase risk of cardiovascular events for the first several months or years of therapy. (NHLBI) Larger doses of oestrogen may also increase the risk of stroke [Mosca and Wenger, 2001,p501]. Relevant to the male population that identifies as women, attempts to use exogenous oestrogen to prevent cardiovascular disease in men has also proven dangerous, with such treatment leading to a similar increase in cardiovascular events during the first four months of treatment [Mosca and Wenger, 2001,p501]. This would indicate that the sexed body cannot be changed by a declaration and the addition of a few artificial hormones. Furthermore, relatively high testosterone levels prior to menopause, irregular menstrual periods, early menopause (prior to age 40) and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) increase the risk of heart disease for women[Day, 2016,Cedars, ]. One can only guess what the health effects of introducing exogenous testosterone into women who identify as men might be, but the indicators are that they would not be good.

Sex hormones not only influence the development of disease in the pulmonary system, but also have an influence on the development of the system itself from the neonatal period throughout childhood. Pulmonary tissues have androgen receptors and both oestrogen receptor-alpha and oestrogen receptor-beta. In female neonates, lung surfactants develop earlier than they do in male neonates, because androgen restricts the development of such surfactants, while oestrogens stimulate it. Surfactants are responsible for keeping the airways dry by preventing the buildup of fluids. The earlier development of surfactants in female neonates protects premature female babies from developing respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) as often as premature male babies. As children grow, boys have larger lungs than girls of the same age. Once males and females have reached adulthood, the airways of the male are larger than those of the female, even when lung and body sizes are equal[Carey et al., 2007].

In adults, sex hormones are believed to play a role in the development and symptoms of a number of pulmonary diseases. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is usually connected to smoking in both men and women. However, the population of non-smokers who develop COPD are mostly women, indicating that women may be naturally more prone to the disease. In women with asthma, female reproductive processes appear to affect symptoms. An increase in symptoms are reported during pregnancy, the premenstrual period and the perimenstrual period. Finally, men and women tend to develop different types of lung cancer, and women respond better to standard treatments[Carey et al., 2007].

In the case of the gallbladder, one of the primary risk factors for developing gallstones is female sex. Gallstones, which typically consist of cholesterol, are two to three times more likely to occur in women than in men. Specifically, they are most common during a woman’s childbearing years, and pregnancy is a significant risk factor. Sex hormones, especially oestrogen, are related to the development of most gallstones, as Novacek writes, because oestrogen “increases biliary cholesterol secretion causing cholesterol supersaturation of bile.” Older hormonal contraceptives with a higher oestrogen content and menopausal hormone therapy also increase the risk[Novacek, ].

These risk factors only become apparent in the process of epidemiological research, which relies on accurate statistics and accurate case records. It would clearly be impractical to use self declared gender rather than sex as an independent variable in this kind of research. Inclusion of individuals of the opposite sex, merely on the strength of self declaration, in the male and female categories would introduce noise that would weaken the ability to detect real sex specific differences in disease incidence.

Butler’s comments on disease are not a great help, she tends here, as in other areas of discussion to present everything in symbolic or linguistic terms. Writing of AIDS she says:
In a sense, Simon Watney has identified the contemporary construction of “the polluting person” as the person with AIDS in his Policing Desire: AIDS, Pornography, and the Media. Not only is the illness figured as the “gay disease,” but throughout the media’s hysterical and homophobic response to the illness there is a tactical construction of a continuity between the polluted status of the homosexual by virtue of the boundary-trespass that is homosexuality and the disease as a specific modality of homosexual pollution. That the disease is transmitted through the exchange of bodily fluids suggests within the sensationalist graphics of homophobic signifying systems the dangers that permeable bodily boundaries present to the social order as such. Douglas remarks that “the body is a model that can stand for any bounded system. Its boundaries can represent any boundaries which are threatened or pre-carious.” And she asks a question which one might have expected to read in Foucault: “Why should bodily margins be thought to be specifically invested with power and danger?”

If the body is synecdochal for the social system per se or a site in which open systems converge, then any kind of unregulated permeability constitutes a site of pollution and endangerment.”

Well, one needs look no further than the germ theories of Koch and Pasteur to understand this. Bodily margins are indeed essential to the prevention of microbial and viral infection. This danger is not due to the body being a synedoche or figure of speech for society, but because bodies are nutritious meal for pathogens. Injections with dirty needles, unprotected anal sex, and unprotected vaginal sex all, in decreasing order of severity, involve risks of infection by dangerous bacteria and viruses. Butler writes as if all that is involved is symbolism not people’s lives.

“Anal sex among men is an example, as is the radical re-membering of the body in Wittig’s The Lesbian Body. Douglas alludes to “a kind of sex pollution which expresses a desire to keep the body (physical and social) intact,” suggesting that the naturalized notion of “the” body is itself a consequence of taboos that render that body discrete by virtue of its stable boundaries. Further, the rites of passage that govern various bodily orifices presuppose a heterosexual construction of gendered exchange, positions, and erotic possibilities. The deregulation of such exchanges accordingly disrupts the very boundaries that determine what it is to be a body at all.”

Disrupting symbolic boundaries sounds cool, but we have real physical bodies. Our bodies are not figures of speech. If you disrupt their actual boundary you may indeed allow pathogens to determine what it is to be a body at all: a living or a dead body.


[Adler ]
Kayla Webley Adler. Women are dying because doctors treat us like men. Marie Claire.
[Althusser 1971]
Louis Althusser. Ideology and Ideological State Apparattuses. In Lenin and philosophy. New Left Books, 1971.
[Black et al. 2000]
Dan Black, Gary Gates, Seth Sanders, and Lowell Taylor. Demographics of the gay and lesbian population in the United States: Evidence from available systematic data sources. Demography, 37 (2): 139-154, 2000.
[Butler 2002]
Judith Butler. Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity. routledge, 2002.
[Carey et al. 2007]
Michelle A Carey, Jeffrey W Card, James W Voltz, Samuel J Arbes, Dori R Germolec, Kenneth S Korach, and Darryl C Zeldin. It’s all about sex: gender, lung development and lung disease. Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism, 18 (8): 308-313, 2007.
[Cedars ]
Cedars. When it comes to heart disease, men and women are not equal. URL https://www.cedars-sinai.edu/ About-Us/HH-Landing-Pages/When-it- comes-to-heart-disease-women-and-men-are- not-equal.aspx.
[Day 2016]
Jo Ann. Day. Heart disease: Differences in men and women, April 2016.
[Engels 2010]
Friedrich Engels. The origin of the family, private property and the state. ePenguin, 2010.
[Letter ]
Harvard Heart Letter. Heart attack and stroke: Men vs. women. URL http://www.health.harvard.edu/ heart-health/heart-attack-and- stroke-men-vs-women.
[Maas and Appelman 2010]
AHEM Maas and YEA Appelman. Gender differences in coronary heart disease. Netherlands Heart Journal, 18 (12): 598-603, 2010.
[Meillassoux 1981]
Claude Meillassoux. Maidens, meal and money: Capitalism and the domestic community. Cambridge University Press, 1981.
[Mosca and Wenger 2001]
P. Collins D. M. Herrington M. E. Mendelsohn R. C. Pasternak R. M. Robertson K. Schenck-Gustafsson S. C. Smith K. A. Taubert Mosca, L. and N. K. Wenger. Hormone replacement therapy and cardiovascular disease: A statement for healthcare professionals from the american heart association. Circulation, 104 (4): 499-503, 2001.
[Novacek ]
Gottfried Novacek. Gender and gallstone disease. Wiener Medizinische Wochenschrift, 156 (19): 527-33.
[Oakley 2015(1972]
Ann Oakley. Sex, gender and society. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2015(1972).
[Ryan and Jethá 2010]
Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá. Sex at dawn: The prehistoric origins of modern sexuality. Harper Collins, 2010.
[Smith 1978]
Adam Smith. Lectures on jurisprudence. The Glasgow edition of the works and correspondence of Adam Smith, 1978.
[Stacey 2009]
Judith Stacey. Unhitching the Horse from Carriage: Love and Marriage Among the Mosuo. Utah L. Rev., page 287, 2009.

1″In a nation of hunters and fishers few people can live together, for in a short time any considerable number would destroy all the game in the country, and consequently would want a means of subsistence. Twenty or thirty families are the most that can live together, and these make up a village”[Smith, 1978]
2Whatever the ambiguities of that term in the research literature

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