Sex in the Library

Besides being an academic network, Out4STEM is all about making gender and sexuality more visible in scientific spaces. At our “Sex in the Library” event for March, we looked at some history to help us think about gender and sexuality in medicine.

Before getting into our Medical Historical Library, we generated a long list of scientific and slang words for male and female genitals. Besides being educational for me, this helped us think more about all the language we use to describe people’s bodies: “limp-wristed,” “broad shoulders,” “apple bottom,” “child-bearing hips.”

Language comes with a history, and medicine, of course, has always played a prominent role in determining how we talk about and think about our bodies. Here’s one example, the “rest cure:”


In the late 1800s, women were often made to stay in bed for weeks and weeks. This was sometimes prescribed for anorexic women, but it was also a way to control independent and outspoken women. They couldn’t get out of bed or even read, and sometimes they were force-fed! Looking at the before-and-after picture above, we can see that she looks less thin, but her hair is also done, and she has a more pleasant expression. It seems that governing properly lady-like behavior was among the many kinds of authority doctors once had.

Looking at this history helps us think about issues around gender and sexuality that still exist today. Transgender people, for example, still struggle to break free of the constraints placed on them by medicine’s (and society’s) assumption that people’s gender identities must align with their anatomy. Our discussion touched on this very recent clip from the Katie Couric show.

These kinds of concerns really matter for LGBTQ youth and allies. As our Out4STEM students begin to connect with professionals in their fields of interest, we will continue to have conversations about how to address these issues and build inclusive and affirming communities. Contact us to get involved with Out4STEM, our academic network for LGBTQ youth and allies.

Our next event on Thursday, April 24th at 5pm will be a celebration of Black Gay Pride with speakers Dr. David Malebranche and Dr. Avery Posey. Afterwards we will be holding a resume clinic, so bring your resume with you! And if you don’t have one, we’ll help you develop one. See you then!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s