Myths of Sex, Science, and Society
Email this review


A cerebral assessment of gender, society, and sexuality.

Lighter and more readily accessible than her former tome on the differences between male and female brains, Delusions of Gender (2010), this book offers an impressively nuanced and balanced amalgam of research, case studies, and anecdotal material on how the hormonal monster of her title, with all its impulses and hard-wired biological processes, is an antiquated beast. In three lucidly rendered sections, Fine (Organized Psychology/Melbourne Business School) discusses outmoded principles of sexual selection based on tenets developed through early teachings of evolutionary biology, fruit fly observations, and the promiscuous male “reproductive success” paradigm espoused by British biologist Angus Bateman. Fine is most compelling when she addresses more progressive views of gender construction, the flexibility and dynamism of sex, gender socialization, and how the notion of sex differentiation encompasses much more than we previously thought. These theories are, of course, appropriately buttressed by new, eye-opening research that basically declares, “sex isn’t the basic, determining factor in brain development that it is for the reproductive system”—nor is it the same for male competitiveness or financial risk-taking. Throughout her book, Fine looks beyond sexuality and astutely argues that testosterone, formerly thought of as the built-in power source for top-down dominant behavior sets, is now challenged as “neither the king nor the king maker” and, in fact, readily and uniformly “reinforces an unequal status quo.” The author intelligently excavates this terrain to expose pointed truths about misled gender expectations related to child care and workplace hierarchies, and she dismisses the tropes and the societal dinosaurs keeping sexual inequality afloat today. A concluding chapter on the future looks forward to the prospect of gender equality through the lens of biological sex while noting that “words are nice, but often deeds work better.”

A fascinating, greatly contemplative discussion of sex and gender and the embedded societal expectations of both.

Pub Date: Jan. 24th, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-393-08208-1
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2016


NonfictionTHE FATE OF GENDER by Frank Browning
by Frank Browning
NonfictionGENDERSHOCK by Phyllis Burke
by Phyllis Burke
NonfictionGENDER INTELLIGENCE by Barbara Annis
by Barbara Annis