Review of ‘Sex Scandal’ by Ashley McGuire

Men and women are different. The extent and significance of their differences has long been a matter of considerable dispute. If Ashley McGuire is to be believed, some now deny that any meaningful differences even exist.

A 2014 article in the online magazine Slate, for example, was titled, “Don’t Let the Doctor Do This to Your Newborn.” The author, Christin Scarlett Milloy wrote, “Obstetricians, doctors, and midwives commit this procedure on infant every single day, in every single country. It reality, this treatment is performed almost universally without even asking for the parents’ consent, making this practice all the more insidious.”

What insidious procedure was Milloy talking about? “It’s called infant gender assignment: When the doctor holds your child up to the harsh light of the delivery room, looks between its legs, and declares his opinion: It’s a boy or a girl, based on nothing more than a cursory assessment of your offspring’s genitals.”

Look, I get that a person’s sex should not trap them in rigid gender roles. I’m the son and brother of strong women, I married a strong woman, and I’m raising my two daughters to be strong women. I’m even an ordained minister in a Pentecostal denomination that ordains women. I get that society places constraints on women that are rooted in cultural traditions and prejudices rather than in realities about their sex.

By the same token, however, a doctor looking at a baby’s genitalia is looking at a biological fact, not just a social construction or a parental fantasy. It’s foolish to deny this. Unfortunately, as McGuire points out, “we live in a world of sexual denial. We are increasingly trying to treat men and women as if they were exactly the same. And then we’re surprised by the growing sexual confusion.”

Milloy’s article is just the opening example in an example-rich book. As the examples pile up—from infant gender assignment to gender-normed firefighting tests to transgender youth athletics—you begin to see McGuire’s point. And as a parent, I’ve got to admit that it’s not an encouraging one.

Men and women are different. Rather than denying this elementary biological fact, let’s celebrate it. After all, without those differences, none of us would be here today.


Book Reviewed:
Ashley McGuire, Sex Scandal: The Drive to Abolish Male and Female (Washington, DC: Regnery, 2017).

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