The representation of intersex in the USAs best-selling undergraduate psychology textbooks: Uneven critique in an ongoing scientific and ethical crisis

Hegarty, P. and Vaughan, S. (2024). The representation of intersex in the USAs best-selling undergraduate psychology textbooks: Uneven critique in an ongoing scientific and ethical crisis. Sex Roles (In Press).

Abstract

The field of intersex studies is growing and its demands on psychologist are changing. To examine how psychology students are socialized to regard people with intersex variations, we reviewed best-selling USA psychology textbooks in introductory psychology (n = 8), psychology of women and gender (n = 5), human sexuality (n = 4), and biological psychology (n = 3). All textbooks indexed ‘intersex’ or cognate terms, with alternative terms such as “disorders of sex development” being indexed less frequently. Intersex variations were described as emerging during the stages of sex development, and as challenging binary categories for sex. Several specific variations were commonly described as syndromes with little reference to psychological research or lived experiences. Women and girls with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) were most clearly framed as “natural experiments” in nature/nurture debates. Diverse sex development involving 46 XY genotypes was narrated as difference from norms for male endosex development. However, two texts included lengthy narratives of lived experiences as intersex, and photographs of intersex-identified individuals were common. Photo images of the South African athlete Caster Semenya depicted more of her body than did the images of other intersex-identified individuals included. The textbooks generally included critical reflection on the assumptions of a gender binary, the attribution of ‘ambiguity’ to others’ bodies, genetic determinism, the medical gaze, and the sex testing of athletes. As such, the information in these textbooks can be applied more generally to develop more humanizing representations of intersex across all psychology textbooks.

Viewing alternatives

Item Actions

Export

About