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Should Prostitution be Legal?

Many research findings surrounding prostitution do not contain empirical data as to how it is degrading to society or how it is improving society; mainly, the research articles speak about the history of prostitution, and the social disapproval that most of society has towards this section of the sex industry. Specifically two research articles that I found that analyze the underground commercial sex economy wanted to provide an understanding of the structure and size of it in major cities  Much of the findings in this essay will feature articles that speak about how prostitution may/may not be beneficial to American society, and some are reflections by former sex workers who are on both sides of the debate.

Against prostitution 

Historical Significance of the Profession 

Since the beginning of World War II in the United States, a large section of the American population viewed prostitution (amongst young females) as a source of many things, chief among them venereal disease and corruption to young men and the family unit. (Esseltyn 124). Often associated with gambling, drugs, selling alcohol and illegal dance halls, prostitution was seen as an evil to be ridden of and many legislators, public officials and vast numbers of ordinary people created crusades in order to ban and prevent further trafficking of women, red light districts and brothels (124). Since the perception of sex workers in prostitution changes a great deal across time, one cannot rely on statistical evidence as easily in terms of relying on the trends and volume. For example in post colonial New England, sex outside of marriage was so rampant and commonplace that prostitutes (especially female) were considered to be excessive and nonessential (125). During the nineteenth century was when this all changed. As cities began to expand and become more industrialized, prostitution was regarded as more positive, as it became associated with the pioneer business woman (125). This time was really prominent for the moving frontier, the vice crusade and the prohibition movement. Galveston, Chicago and New Orleans were known for their variety of prostitutes. However by the end of World War II their popularity had greatly diminished and police raids became all but unknown for the next twenty years. In 1960 there were 18,995 arrests related to prostitution and by 1965 that number had increased by 30% to more than 26,000 prostitution related arrests. The number of women in college are prostitutes is not grand, but it is not an uncommon occurrence. Furthermore, the rate of venereal diseases per capita in countries where prostitution is legal is significantly higher than those of other countries where it is not legal (126).

Psychological Findings 

According to clinicians, there are many psychological reasons why women become prostitutes: (1) she failed to charm her father so she has impulses that lead her towards self-debasement or self-destruction (2) she’s getting revenge on a father who failed to love her (3) mother hatred (4) homosexuality (5) sadomasochistic tendencies from parental neglect and indifference (6) delayed reaction of adult to childhood traumas imposed upon by parents (Downey 26).

In addition to this, a study conducted by Mimi H. Silbert discovered that adult prostitutes usually experience childhood abuse, approximately 2/3 of those sampled reported that they were sexually exploited by a father figure and that it resulted in significant emotional and physical impacts (Silbert 1). This report confirms that prostitution is an antecedent o sexual abuse, and according to 70% of those surveyed that occurrence affected their decision to become a prostitute. By legalizing prostitution, we would not be allowing the women to process their pain in a productive way, we would not be granting the women the space to attain optimal psychological health.

Socioeconomical Reasoning 

Another source has assessed other reasons why women and pimps enter the sex trade. One of the most popular reasons for entering prostitution among women according to Dank, Kotonias, Khan and Downey has to do with providing for her children or supporting her family, peer encouragement, childhood trauma and social acceptance. As a matter of fact, according to this source, many women in a Miami brothel for instance, were coerced into the trade and smuggled across the Mexican border from many countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico and Honduras. They work at the brothel to pay off their smuggling debt and most of the women and children pay it off but continue to work at the brothels due to a lack of lucrative opportunities. Pimps enter the business in order to secure lucrative opportunities that they otherwise would not have access to (23).

Relationship between Pimp and Employees 

A negative association with being a prostitute is the one that she would have with her boss, or pimp. The pimp utilizes various forms of extortion and intimidation in order to manage and recruit women to work for him. Examples include faking romantic interest in the female, encouraging women to have sex for money and to not just “give it away for free”,  promising financial security and emphasizing the fact that they both need each other (Downey 2).

Connection to the drug trade 

According to UCSE, 5/8 cities that they researched the underground commercial sex network had pimps (25%) who were previously drug dealers.

Reasons to Decriminalize Prostitution 

The exact reason why someone would want to keep prostitution illegal is the same reason why another person would say to decriminalize it: there are a great deal of injustices that occur within the sex industry, and many of them cannot be reported because much of the crime is being done by those in authority (Young 1). Randall Tobias is a prime example. He stepped down as chief of foreign aid programs in the Bush Administration for “personal reasons”, following the fact that he just had slept with two escorts and prior to that had shown public support for abstinence based AIDS prevention programs. Tobias insisted that he had not had sex with either woman, but no one believed him and the Bush administration was taken less seriously than ever before. Pamela Martin, owner of the DC escort business where Tobias found his escorts, released his name to news organizations in order to help pay for legal defense team for her company (Young 1).

According to Prostitutes and Politics: Why is it still Illegal to Pay for Sex by Cathy Young, the difference between prostitution being victimless crime and an actual crime is that the woman will have a choice as to whether she wants to sell sex, but the person asking or willing to pay cannot coerce her in any way. From a feminist point of view, this makes perfect since; both the consumer and the server ought to have an equal amount of control in the situation. In Sweden, the crime lies with the person who wants to buy sex and not with the person who wants to sell sex, because that person has the choice to consent or not (Young 1).

The only two places in which prostitution is legal in the United States is Nevada and Rhode Island, if the place of transaction in Rhode Island is private and not public.

A visible threat to prostitution would typically be the spreading of HIV/AIDS amongst the population. However in Australia, prostitution has been taken off of the list of threats to the population in terms of being a large distributor of HIV/AIDS on the HIV/AIDS surveillance list, because the number of female prostitutes in that country with HIV/AIDS is very low (Young 1).

Some would also argue that dating and prostitution are very similar. The only difference is that the aim of dating is ultimately to secure a family or a spouse, and the end goal of prostitution is purely financial. Brandy Britton’s case perfectly exemplifies this. She chose to be an erotic masseuse and charge clients up to $2,500 for her services per day. She was also a “girlfriend experience” escort, in which people pay for an experience, or for temporary companionship. She was arrested on prostitution charges in 1999 and a week before her trial she killed herself. Much like the connection between erotica and pornography, dating is a socially acceptable form of prostitution. If her sexually discrete encounters with men were paid for through various gifts or dinners, would she have been arrested?

Others see it in a similar light. Although there are no concrete numbers that tell us how many women and men are in prostitution in the United States, there are sources that say that the contact (initiated by men) to female prostitutes is less frequent (Esselstyn 1).According to “A Theory of Prostitution” by Lena Edlund and and Evelyn Korn, many research studies are the reason why people see prostitution as a bad thing; many of those studies interview prostitutes who are in trouble and contribute to this image of a lesser woman. The two propose that prostitution is mainly a womens’ field, and that because they do not get married, they will have to be well compensated in order to “forgo the option of marriage” (Edlund 181). In the article the two discuss the correlation between prostitution and poverty, as well as mens’ sex ratios, implications for marriage patterns, and how prostitution could decrease with male income if women were drawn from the same pool of people (Edlund 185).

However, a great deal of prostitutes are actually making huge sums of money and that is why most of them enter the sex trade anyways, according to John Paulos who wrote “Who’s Counting: Sexconomics”. He agrees with the notion of legalizing prostitution, and reasons that since women do it just for money, that we ought to contribute to their being autonomous and exercising economic free will, rather than denouncing their decision with notions of moralistic ideals. Jessi Winchester, a former prostitute (legal one) and political candidate wrote about the guise of people who claim to have “family values”. She says that many people will say that prostitution combats the family unit, but she would argue that men do not want to marry ex prostitutes, so women must be financially independent to support their families (children) and thus spend more time with her kids than working moms (Winchester, 12). And also she encouraged the U.S. to look to Europe as an example and not place legal brothels next to homes, churches or schools (13).In “Vice Versa”, an article written by Fiona Godlee, editor of British Medical Journal, she explains how the UK has been bad with regulating smoking in public places and prostitution. Godlee specifies that prostitution is not inherently abusive, and that regulating the act would make for a better society for those who are working, encouraging the prostitutes to get better healthcare, while also taking on other problems such as child sex trafficking and slavery (Boynton and Godlee).


I believe that if it is under a legal domain, then prostitution is okay to do. I am aware that people who are against prostitution would argue that the more legalized prositution is the more demand there will be for it, and I disagree with this notion. Anne Bissell is a former prostitute and founder of Sex Industry Survivors Anonymous and asserts that the legalization would only bring about more trafficking (WOTL). Legalization could bring about a great social change in the United States; in terms of sexual harassment awareness, as well as consent. There does not have to be more organized and legal rapes happening against children and women if we have greater awareness and a less dismissive attitude towards prostitution. The bible demonizes prostitutes in proverbs 5:3-5, “For the lips of an immoral woman drip honey, And her mouth is smoother than oil; But in the end she is bitter as wormwood, Sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death, Her steps lay hold of hell” (Nelson). The fact that the bible mentions prostitution throughout its chapters signifies that this has been a common way for women to make money for a long time. One hundred years ago in the United States, many people had the same mentality of prostitution as that of the bible, because many people thought that prostitutes only brought people down and destroyed the family unit. I also believe that legalizing prostitution will cause people to see it as more of a business, and there would have to be more rules and regulations that govern that particular workplace. I think imposing a more rigid structure would help protect the women involved, who are usually the victims, and the consumer as well. If the structure helped educate the employees and consumers about how to respect boundaries, (2) defines acceptable and unacceptable behavior (3) respects the autonomy of each party involved, then that would make for an effective and efficient model for sex workers to follow.

I believe in the free will of each gender in any form, sexual or economic. Both are necessary constructs of society, without either we would not be alive or be able to do anything. They have always been around and will never leave us; however I do not agree with the exploitation of vulnerable individuals (Godlee). And, I disagree with the corrupt business practices of pimps. The exploitation involved, and the feigning interests as well as theother ways they manage or recruit women to pimp are not only destructive to the womens’ emotional, mental and physical health but also a way to strip the woman of her individual free will. Mimi H. Silbert’s article about child abuse is valid, however I do not agree with the keeping prostitution illegal because the problem will not stop. Unfortunately, people will always face some sort of trauma as a child and that is oftentimes difficult to manage or prevent, however a woman can still decide whether or not she wants to be a prostitute. The cycle will not end. The right thing to do involves educating people on the risks and providing more opportunities for them to succeed outside of prostitution, if they think that is their only option. Otherwise, making prostitution more safe and imposing more rules and regulations will force people to see it as a workplace, rather than just a way to make money while exploiting others who are psychologically impaired or vulnerable.

I agree with Paulos because I agree with women having their own sexual and financial free Young also incorporates good points in her article about why prostitution isn’t legal yet; politicians can be hypocritical, so thinly veiled girlfriend experience or companionship ads are just gateways to unregulated and unsafe work environments for anyone in the sex industry. I also agree with Boynton and Gadlee because I believe that people are able to do what they have to in order to raise a child, and that people should have access to health care, especially in a risky profession such as prostitution. I also agree with Winchester, because she speaks about prostitution as if it is not a threat to the family unit–it is not. It’s about the choice of the individual, the morality of the single person and what they decide to do. The mother is an individual, and many people will not marry her because of her chosen profession, so she ought to make the right amount of money to spend more time with her children. For women who need or want to be independent and raising a family, this shouldn’t be such a morally denounced or politically denounced issue, it should not be an issue that politicians use morality as a defense; it should be an issue discussed with everyone in an honest way and for what it is: a way to gain enough income to support a family.

The studies conducted by Downey and Khan which asserted that women enter the sex trade with having issues attached to their childhood and parent would be a good reason to keep prostitution illegal in 48/50 states of the United States; however, sex trafficking will not stop, especially if it has been referenced in the bible times, and it is also known as “the world’s oldest profession”. The best way to manage the problem is to try and live with it the best way we can, through imposing a structure that protects the workers.  According to Downey, a great deal of trauma precedes prostitution and affects a woman’s decision to enter the sex trade. There needs to be a greater dialogue in order to fix these problems, and there also should be therapy and a space for women to work out their issues because a lot of the time, women do not realize when they are being manipulated or coerced due to traumatic childhoods or not knowing the difference between negative and positive attention. There ought to be a greater source of education that prioritizes teaching young girls and men about how to spot a predator, and greater consequences for people who try to coerce anyone into sex trafficking or any sector of modern day slavery. If we gave people the freedom to choose what they want to do and impose the right structure to do so that benefits the individual and the economy, then we would live in a less dangerous and a more egalitarian society.



Beast, T. D. (2009, January 6). 20 Forgotten Bush Scandals. Retrieved April 28, 2015, from

Bissell, A. (Producer). (2004, September 23). Sex Industry Comes to Toledo [Television broadcast]. In Weather Toledo Ohio Live. Toledo, Ohio: Toledo News Now.

Dank, M., Khan, B., Downey, P. M., Kotanias, C., Mayer, D., Owens, C., . . . Yu, L. (2014, March 12). Estimating the Size and Structure of the Underground Commercial Sex Economy In Eight Major US Cities (Rep.). Retrieved April 19, 2015, from The Urban Institute website:

Edlund, L., & Korn, E. (2002). A Theory of Prostitution. Journal of Political Economy, 110(1), 181-214. doi:10.1086/324390

Esselstyn, T. (1968). Prostitution in the United States. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 376(1), 123-135. doi:10.1177/000271626837600112

Boynton, L. Godlee, F. (2006). Vice versa. Bmj, 332(7535), 0-f. doi:10.1136/bmj.332.7535.0-f

Paulos, J. (2006, May 7). Who’s Counting: Sexonomics — Prostitutes’ Incomes A Look at the Economics Behind the World’s Oldest Profession. Retrieved April 28, 2015, from

Proverbs. (2007). In NKJV study Bible: New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Silbert, M. H., & Pines, A. M. (1981). Sexual child abuse as an antecedent to prostitution. Child Abuse & Neglect, 5(4), 407-411. doi:10.1016/0145-2134(81)90050-8

Winchester, J., & Startin, W. L. (2001). From bordello to ballot box: A first-hand account of legal prostitution and political corruption: An autobiography. Philadelphia: BainBridgeBooks.


Is BDSM Healthy?

BDSM has recently come to the attention of mainstream America; many have heard of it through the popular novel “Fifty Shades of Grey”, written by E.L. James. The book’s content is very “risque” and includes aspects of human sexuality that have not been popularized or even decriminalized until now; the BDSM community have been pathologized in therapeutic settings for many years now, especially in the United States where currently it is legal too invoke electroshock therapy for people who are fetishists or considered a sexual minority. However, abroad in France specifically, there is a history of literature that endorses flagellation and other subsets of erotic activity deemed “too provocative” for American media and its people to see. In contrast to the mainstream culture’s attitude towards BDSM there are a great deal of empirical data that supports the notion of BDSM practices being a healthy avenue in which an individual can explore his or her sexuality.

This brings about the question of whether or not BDSM is a healthy erotic practice for people to use.

In America we have a history of prudence that is often endorsed through the media, arguably the largest rhetorical platform that exists, especially for the generations with higher exposure to televisions, video games, and the internet.  This is what contributed to the negative or shocked expressions that people had when they first heard of a book called “Fifty Shades of Grey” about the D/S relationship  between a wealthy businessman named “Christian Grey” and a 22 year old undergraduate student named “Anastasia Steele”. Although both the book and the movie (of the same name) were a mainstream success, the BDSM community has problems with the book as it does not accurately capture the spirit of how they view BDSM: a healthy avenue in which an individual can explore his or her sexuality (Smash).

BDSM is an acronym for Bondage and dominance, and Sadomasochism or Sadism and Masochism (Psychology Today). These acronyms are compounded in order to denote an array of erotic activities that can be done within the context of interpersonal relationships. B/D stands for Bondage and Dominance. D/S stands for Dominance and Submission. S/M stands for either “sadomasochism” or “sadism and masochism”.

“Unhealthy” Aspects of BDSM

One could argue that BDSM is a way to push the agenda of the patriarchy within the confines of interpersonal relationships; since male domination is so prominent and maintained through laws and institutions in the United States, it is no surprise that this sense of male superiority would bleed through to more intimate parts of a BDSM practitioner’s life. For instance, in BDSM there is a ‘dominant’ and a ‘submissive’, or a ‘top’ and a ‘bottom’. These roles imply two things: (1) that BDSM endorses what are considered to be characteristics of a masculine society, such as competition, achievement or success (2) That there is a constant power dynamic between the two people who are interacting. The United States ranks highly in masculinity and individualism, (62 and 91, respectively) meaning that they place high priority on masculine traits such as success, achievement and competition, as well as looking out for oneself (The Hofstede Centre). The masculinity of the culture is in direct competition with other cultures that consider themselves ‘feminine’ and ‘collectivist’ which champion companionship and working in groups while looking out for others (The Hofstede Centre). Radical feminists would argue that sadism and masochism is a mode of sexual expression that makes woman feel as if they are free women when in reality they are only perpetuating the influence of male domination within intimate settings, or patriarchal sadism. As Dee Graham suggests in “Loving to Survive”, sexual submission can be likened to Stockholm Syndrome, in which females form their sexual identity around the notion of submissiveness in order to survive and accommodate male sexuality, which is associated with dominance. She likens the development of female sexuality to the development of Stockholm Syndrome, which is formed amongst those who are dependent on their captors (Graham). The parallels are clearly drawn out, from how women are to be dependent on men in US society, and how women’s magazines are a lot like the survival manuals given to women who are victims of Stockholm Syndrome, both in which result in resonating with the male gaze and winning them over for what the book or literature will advertise as ”in the interest of the woman” . Because of this women (especially submissives) come to eroticize their own fear (Graham). And this phenomenon, according to Sheila Jeffreys, contributes to the eroticization and glamorization of male dominance in the form of sexuality. She implies that subordination is equivocal to sexual terrorism because a great deal of women that have been abused attempt to lose themselves in scenarios where sadomasochism is involved (Jeffreys).

This brings about the topic of consent playing a big part in the BDSM realm; consent plays a huge role in one’s psychological, physiological and physical well being. In BDSM, there are three types of consent: temporary, indefinite/long term, and the most controversial one, consensual non-consent. Consensual non-consent can be defined as a type of consent in which one person gives up the ability to prevent what the other person desires to do with or to the other person; it is a type of consent in which the ability to revoke consent is given up (Dictionary of BDSM terms). According to the The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, BDSM is seen as violent, not as sex, and this is why it is not considered the same thing as rape even though some “rape play” occurs within BDSM. In a BDSM case, the act alone is considered assault, even with consent (National Coalition for Sexual Freedom). In the eyes of the law, consent is a factor that can psychologically impair an individual. Consensual non-consent directly opposes Category B Criteria in the DSM-5 which is a section about concerns about sexual paraphillic disorders.

BDSM is still considered a psychiatric disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (Connolly). Pamela H. Connolly conducted a study in which she questions/surveys 32 self  people who self identify as BDSM practitioners and found higher amounts of people who practice Bondage and Dominance rather than Sadomasochism (Connolly). Other findings support that the sadomasochistic aspect of BDSM is the most psychologically harmful because it is linked to violence (Federoff) and homicidal acts.  Sadism, sadomasochism, violence and sex by J. Paul Federoff concludes that the sadomasochism is correlated with violence and this heavily opposes the DSM 5 criteria for paraphillic disorders. It focuses on non-sexual aggression (violence) correlates to people who self- identify as masochists.


Demographic and Psychosocial Features of Participants in Bondage and Discipline, Sadomasochism or Dominance and Submission suggests that BDSM is attractive to a sexual minority and conducted a study in which a tota of 4% of men and women self-identified as practitioners. The findings suggest that it is attractive to a minority of the population that participates in sex, and that BDSM was more common amongst people who were bisexual, gay or lesbian. Also, they found that BDSM practitioners had more sexual intercourse, and were more sexually adventurous, with more fistings, and higher rates of both oral and anal sex (Richters). They also express that men were less psychologically distressed in the BDSM community, and overrall more the practitioners were less neurotic, and experienced less sexual coerciveness.

A study called Consent vs. Coercion: BDSM Interactions Highlight a Fine but Immutable Line conducted by Dulcinea Pitagora concluded that consent is integral to non-pathological BDSM interactions and that coercion is a prominent force in pathological sexual assaults (Pitagora). BDSM helps elucidate the role of power for people and forces them to reflect on power dynamics within intimate settings. According to Pitagora, the renegotiation of sexual activities, mutual definitions given to power roles and activities and agreements about redistribution of power all contribute to BDSM being a cathartic and soothing experience for anyone involved (Pitagoria). This article asserts that the historical pathologization of BDSM has contributed to its being seen as a taboo and continues its analysis in comparing BDSM practices to non-BDSM or mainstream ones and then asserting that the fundamental and universal rule of BDSM is consent itself. This allows it to be a healthy practice that invokes self-awareness and meaning-making powers that are caused by acknowledging the emphasis of a power dynamic.



After conducting thorough research that explored both why BDSM is healthy and why it is not, I would have to conclude that it is. There is a great deal of empirical data that explains why BDSM is healthy. Most of the data that I found that says that BDSM is unhealthy are not recent and are mostly based on snap judgments, meaning that they conclude that people in this sexual minority are sexually deviant and pathological because usually they conduct studies that are biased on people who were sexually abused as children. Most recent studies suggest that it is not a pathological interest; most of the studies emphasize that consent is a universal and fundamental requirement in the BDSM community. The three types of consent that are mentioned above (consensual non consent, indefinite/long term and temporary) are all analyzed and known amongst people in the community according to the BDSM dictionary, and the most controversial one is the one in which one of the participants agrees to revoke his or her ability to prevent what the other person wants. The study by Pitagora that describes BDSM as being a practice that endorses self-awareness and meaning making is also a valid source of information that corraborates my viewpoint because it can be likened to religious or spiritual practices, such as meditation, which has been proven to help people live longer lives, contribute to grey matter in the brain, and generally help with lowering stress levels.

Barker, M., Iantaffi, A., & Gupta, C. (2008). Kinky clients, kinky counselling? The challenges and potentials of BDSM. In L. Moon (Author), Feeling Queer or Queer Feelings: Radical Approaches to Counselling Sex, Sexualities and Genders (pp. 106-124). London: Routledge.
Connolly, P. H. (2006). Psychological Functioning of Bondage/Domination/Sado-Masochism (BDSM) Practitioners. Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality, 18(1), 79-120. Retrieved March 8, 2015.
Federoff, J. P. (2008). Sadism, sadomasochism, sex and violence. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 53(10), 637-646.
Federoff, J. P. (2011). Forensic and Diagnostic Concerns Arising From the Proposed DSM-5 Criteria for Sexual Paraphilic Disorder. The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law,39(2), 238-241. Retrieved March 8, 2015, from
Jeffreys, S. (n.d.). How Orgasm Politics Has Hijacked the Women’s Movement. Retrieved March 8, 2015, from
National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. (2015, January 7). CONSENT and BDSM: The State of the Law. Retrieved March 8, 2015.
Pitagora, D. (2013). Consent v Coercion: BDSM interactions highlight a Fine but Immutable Line. The New School Psychology Bulletin, 10(01), 1-10. Retrieved March 8, 2015.
Richters, J., Visser, R. O., Rissel, C. E., Grulich, A. E., & Smith, A. M. (2008). Demographic and Psychosocial Features of Participants in Bondage and Discipline, Sadomasochism or Dominance and Submission (BDSM): Data from a National Survey. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 5(7), 1660-1668. doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2008.00795.x
Richters, J., Visser, R. O., Rissel, C. E., Grulich, A. E., & Smith, A. M. (2008). Demographic and Psychosocial Features of Participants in Bondage and Discipline, Sadomasochism or Dominance and Submission (BDSM): Data from a National Survey. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 5(7), 1660-1668. Retrieved March 8, 2015.

Should Parents be allowed to select the gender or sex of their child?


This is my second blog post and I’m really excited about exploring the topic of gender and sex because it has been a hot topic recently in social media and in most of my classes, and before studying it in school I never really got the opportunity to really learn about the topic enough to where I felt comfortable and familiar with the notions/origins of gender and sexuality and how each operate within American society.

First, let me explain that sex and gender are NOT the same thing.

According to the World Health Organization, sex “refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women” (World Health Organization).

Gender, on the other hand, “refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women” (World Health Organization).

To call something ‘male’ or ‘female’ would be a sex category, and to call something ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ is considered to be a gender category (World Health Organization).

Now that we have established the distinction between gender and sex, it is time to discuss the real matter at hand. The debate is whether parents ought to be allowed to decide the sex or gender of their baby. I would say no and I will explain why.

According to, Gender “is our social and legal status as girls and boys, women and men… [Gender] is how you feel about and express your gender, and culture determines gender roles and what is masculine and feminine” (Planned Parenthood).

But back to the topic at hand! There are a great deal of sources that tell why or why not sex selection is not a viable process; because nature ultimately controls more than humans can. For example, According to the guardian, the probability of having a boy or a girl varies according to when and how one makes love, the environment, and one’s partner. Studies have shown that male conceptions are more likely during spring and wartime and at the beginnings and ends of ovulation periods in women; however female conception are more likely to happen in the middle of ovulation periods.

On the other hand, according to scientists, two ways of selecting the sex of one’s child is through either artificial insemination (AI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF). Both are very costly processes, in terms of time, money and safety, because one also has to take and know the potential risks of taking fertility drugs. AI has various methods of operation, meaning there are many ways to do it, but the most popular is called intrauterine insemination. For intrauterine insemination, the doctor will place a tube into your uterus and shoot the sperm closer to this area. For IVF, depending on ones age, the doctor will transfer an appropriate number of enbryos (usually its more than one). (Baby Center).

According to Dr. Valerie J. Grant, women who have higher levels of testosterone are more likely to produce boys (Grant). That is to say that women who are more domineering are also more likely to have higher levels of testosterone, and thus will have more boys. Grant studied a sample of 353 women and found that high stress levels in women led to producing more females than males, which explains why there were a lot of wartime data that supported the claim that more women were born during high levels of political turmoil. What Vivienne Perry claimed is that in-vitro fertilization being a viable option in being able to select a gender of a child is far-reaching because there are too many elements outside of human control.


In her book called “The Truth about Hormones”, Vivienne also spoke about the Trivers Willard Hypothesis, which asserts that high status parents favor sons over daughters and low status parents (economically, popularity), favor daughters (Duncan). Apparently there is a strategy to this theory: poor quality females are more likely to pass on advantageous traits (or any kind of traits) than poor quality males, who re more likely to be rejected and not pass on anything. There are studies from animals like caribou that corroborate this notion (.Also, what best determines a child’s level of educational and economical success is investment by the parents and their resources (Blau and Duncan). Both of these claims utilize Darwinism as a basis of finding a hypothesis and research questions to guide their research. Darwinism is what drives a great deal of the American mentality; objectivity, rationale and reason are often placed high in our society, as showing too much emotion is deemed “immature” or inefficient (Geert-Hofstede). This notion of people being able to create the perfect child is ideal and highly compatible for the American citizen because they were raised in a society that praises “masculine” traits (achievement, competition and success) over feminine ones (caring for others and quality of life) and individualism (looking out for yourself and immediate family) over collectivism (focusing on “we” and a group setting”). Being an individualistic society is compatible with the notion of selecting a child’s gender because it takes into account the idea that one is looking out for oneself and immediate family, ensuring they have a legacy and that their legacy is advantageous over others’.

I believe that one should not be allowed to select the gender or sex of a child because I only personally believe in gender constructs to an extent. Gender expression has a great deal of external objects that the child uses to make an association between their intrinsic gender and the external one that is reflected in society. However, I was not always a child that conformed to girly things, like playing with barbies or playing dress up, or even using my imagination. Since we live in a highly individualistic society, why is it that we must emphasize conformity in terms of gender and sex? Shouldn’t we be allowed to do what we want and express ourselves freely? Plus, according to Vivienne Parry and Valerie Grant, there are a great deal of forces out of our control. Gender is a cultural construct in which society or the culture that a person is raised in decides how the person is to act, think and behave based on an individual’s body parts (WHO). Now since society has that power over an individual and decides how that person is to express themselves, then why should the parents put even more pressure on the child to conform to an idea or mode of expression (whether that be through toys, pasttimes, or other interests) just for them to fulfill a “role” that is not true to the intrinsic self-image of a young boy or girl? After all, there is a community of people whose mental or intrinsic sex is not in unison with the genitalia that they have at birth. This population are known collectively to the rest of the population as the “trans” community (GLAAD), and their presence is emerging in social media venues and in books, movies, and television.

All in all I simply do not believe, nor do I feel comfortable with the notion that parents ought to be allowed to select their child’s sex or gender. In the end, the culture has a greater say in how that person’s life will be and how that person can express themselves, as well as how to act and even think. I also am not comfortable with the notion of parents trying to play God for some sort of Darwinian contrived notion of advantage to pass on to future generations. Plus, there are a great number of cons that are associated with in-vitro fertilization. One single round of in vitro fertilization pre-genetic testing can cost around $20,000. There are numerous side effects to fertility drugs such as weight gain, bloating, etc. Having one’s eggs removed can be very invasive and painful, there will also be unused embryos that one has to decide how to use (donate, research or adoption), in women younger than 35 years old approximately 46% of the time the embryos result in births that are live and then that number goes down drastically as time goes on.

I hope this was as interesting and informative for you as it was for me!


Jasmin Crentsil


Baby Center. (2014). Choosing your baby’s sex: What the scientists say | BabyCenter. Retrieved February 22, 2015, from

Blau, P. M., & Duncan, O. D. (1967). The American occupational structure. New York: Wiley.

Freese, J., & Powell, B. (1999). Sociobiology, Status and Parental Investment in Sons and Daughters: Testing the Trivers Willard Theory. American Journal of Sociology, 104(6), 1704-1743. Retrieved February 22, 2015, from

GLAAD. (2011, September 09). GLAAD Media Reference Guide – Transgender Issues. Retrieved February 16, 2015, from

Grant, V. J. (1996). Sex determination and maternal Dominance. Human Reproduction, 11(11), 2371-2375. Retrieved February 25, 2015, from

Hofstede. (2012, February 3). THE HOFSTEDE CENTRE. Retrieved February 23, 2015, from

Parry, V. (2005). The truth about hormones. London: Atlantic.

Planned Parenthood. (2014). Gender Identity | Stereotypical Masculine & Feminine Traits. Retrieved February 25, 2015, from

World Health Organization. (2015). What do we mean by “sex” and “gender”? Retrieved February 16, 2015, from

Post1: Is Sexual Orientation Biologically Based?


Have you ever wondered whether sexual orientation is a biological construct or a product of one’s environment? I sure have! An I’m sure I’m not the only one

There are two perspectives through which we can explore this issue: First, biological (nature). Surprisingly, many studies have been conducted that compare the concordance of sexuality between identical and fraternal twins. According to the Free Dictionary concordance is  “the presence of a given trait in both members of a pair of twins” (Dictionary). In 1991, J. Michael Bailey and Richard Pillard conducted a study on identical and fraternal twins. Their findings were interesting! Whenever one identical twin was gay, the other was gay approximately 56% of the time (29/54), and that number decreases (22%) for fraternal twins and even further (11%) for adoptive brothers and for siblings who were not twins but biologically related (9.2%) (JAMA). 

Another study conducted about whether homosexuality is biologically dependent asserts that genes inform and influence one’s sexual orientation, specifically “at least two chromosomes affect whether a man is straight or gay” (the Guardian). Various biological elements play a role in forming a man’s sexual orientation such as DNA on chromosome 8 and a specific region of the X chromosome called xq28, which has evolutionary power. Evolutionary success–meaning a trait (in this case homosexuality)–was passed on because it helped one survive. Allegedly, researchers assert that the genes related to homosexuality in males were passed on through generations and for so long because it helped women who carried these genes be more fertile than other women without this gene. And since this gene is passed on only from mothers to sons, this gene has a similar natural occurrence. This study was also conducted by Michael Bailey at Northwestern University.

The findings of this study from Northwestern University only corroborates that of Dean Hamer, who in 1993, concluded that homosexuality was inherited after analyzing a sample of 100 gay men and found that 10% of the time the brothers of the men being analyzed were gay themselves. Hamer noticed that male cousins and uncles on the maternal side of the family had a higher probability of being gay and this caused him to observe and study the X chromosome because of the maternal link. He analyzed another sample in followup work and  discovered that 33 out of 40 homosexual male siblings (brothers) inherited the xq28 gene. (The Gay Gene: Assertions, Retractions and Controversy).

In 1957, Karen Hooker studied the relationship between homosexuality (sexual orientation), illness and psychological development in human beings. Hooker used people of two sexual orientations for this study: heterosexuals and homosexuals. Factors such as age, intelligence, level of education were taken into account and similar amongst the two groups of homosexuals and heterosexuals. The National Institute of Mental Health gave her a grant to conduct this experiment. Using the Make-A-Picture Test (MAPS), the Roscarch and the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), she surveyed the two groups and received similar answers with little variation between each and as a result of her findings (main conclusion being that sexual orientation was not a product of one’s environment), the American Psychiatric Association decided to declare that homosexuality was not a psychological disorder. They removed it from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Disorders in 1973.

Despite all of this evidence that suggests sexual orientation’s dependence on biology, we still must discuss the environmental influences on sexual orientation. Childhood Gender Nonconformity (CGN)  is a huge factor in determining homosexuality in adulthood, according to a great deal of studies. Daryl Bem was a psychologist and professor who studied Childhood Gender Nonconformity by analyzing a sample of 1000 lesbians and homosexual men with a control group of 500 heterosexual people and found that 63% of lesbians and homosexual men did not conform to gender normal activities (playing with barbie dolls for girls, playing with violent action figures or cars for boys), as compared to 10-15% of heterosexual men and women. Bem also came up with the Exotic Becomes Erotic Theory, which asserts that people have biological dispositions to enjoy the activities that they do. Some children will like things typical of their sex, and others will not. According to Bem’s theory, gender conforming children feel different from the opposite gender and gender non-conforming children feel different from children of their same gender. So when the child is near the different or “exotic” gender, then they become physiologically and eventually sexually aroused. As adults, they will view the gender that was most different to their own as sexually attractive (Exotic Becomes Erotic: a Developmental Study of Sexual Orientation).

Another study that asserts that environment affects sexual orientation was conducted by Danish epidemiologist Morten Frisch and statistician Anders Hviid. Their study challenges the popular conclusion to a Canadian one that asserted that the more older brothers a person had the more likely that person was to be gay. This new study conducted by Frisch and Hviid asserts that the more siblings a person has (brothers and sisters), the more likely that a person will marry heterosexually, not homosexually. The research strongly implies that there is a positive correlation between birthplace and homosexual orientation. A child who is raised or lives in an urban setting is more likely to marry homosexually and less likely to marry heterosexually. They also reported that children of divorce were less likely to marry heterosexually than children in non-divorced families. According to the study, for men, various things contributed to the likelihood that they would be gay: father’s absence, living shortly with parents, not knowing who their father is and living without father but with mother for too long. Homosexuality amongst women was more prevalent amongst ones who experienced abandonment periods by mother or whose mothers died during teenage years. (Childhood Family Correlates of Heterosexual and Homosexual Marriages: A National Cohort Study of Two Million Danes).

Now, I’m sure you’re asking, ‘which side does Jassy agree with?’ I have to agree with the environmental side because I see my view of how sexual orientation is developed reflected in the assertions of the scientists who argued about the environment cementing biological pre-dispositions to things that do not relate to sexual orientation, but gender assigning products (barbie dolls for girls, toy cars for boys) that later on help in developing a person’s views of the world, and of other people which I believe informs a person’s sexual identity as well as likes and dislikes in terms of what (and who) they find sexually attractive.

I very much agree with Bem’s Exotic to Erotic theory. I personally identify with it because as a child I did not always agree with the toys that were expected to be liked and played with by members of my gender, specifically barbies. I never liked barbie and found the entire idea of playing with dolls and playing dress up childish and a waste of time. Make up was ok, but toys were generally a childish enterprise that I wished to leave behind. And I have always identified as somewhat bisexual, so I believe Bem was onto something! Because of my personal identity and story I find it easy to believe that 63% of Bem’s sample of lesbians and gay men were non-conforming gender children. Back to the study! I agreed with his choice to use an observational/survey style of experimentation because it would help garner reliable evidence from the sample. I also like that Hviid and Frisch emphasized the positive correlation between geographical birthplace and sexual orientation. I like how they measured multiple environmental elements such as relationship to family members (not biological), as well as the probability that a person would marry homosexually or heterosexually in relation to that. I like how they analyzed the relationship between parents who were known and alive on the subject’s 18th birthday because I think it gives them a fair chance of assessing the strength of the relationship in the most ideal setting (parents alive, known whole life, still married) as opposed to the other extreme circumstance (parents divorced, absent due to abandonment or death).

I did not agree with the notion that sexual orientation is biologically dependent for a variety of reasons; mainly they had to do with how the researchers went about conducting their study. For example, I do not like the way that Katherine Hooker used the MAPS and TAT test on the homosexuals in her study because the requirement of either is for people to interpret a situation from a visual and based on their explanation that they dictate, their unconscious or conscious motives, desires, past experiences or concerns will be revealed. That’s great and all, but this might be a tedious process that is circuitous and indirect in solving something that does not have to be solved in the first place ( homosexuality). I guess I mean to say that either this study implies that homosexuality is a problem or that the subject will think this in their answers, which I do not think the objective of the study ought to be.

The main weakness that I attribute to the studies that favor the notion that sexual orientation is fostered by genetics ( or is biologically dependent) is self-selecting bias. The biological dependent studies all could have suffered from self-selecting bias which makes it more difficult to prove that genetics cause homosexuality  because gay siblings of homosexual twins are more likely to volunteer for studies (Schacter, Gilbert, Wegner “Psychology). Another criticism I have concerns Dean Hamer’s study. I do not find that the numbers that he came up with (10% of sample’s brothers’ were gay) because I do not find 10% to be a significant enough number to explore.

I hope this informed your perspective of whether sexual orientation depends more on nature (genetics) or nurture (environment). I can say that it surely helped me learn about myself!

Until Next Time,




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