For an exact determination of sex one has to distinguish between at least seven factors, and each of these factors can have atypical exceptions:
The cells of a female body contain a.o. two X chromosomes (XX).
The cells of a male body one X and one Y chromosome (XY).
In rare cases, there are problematic exceptions, for example combinations like XXY or XYY or XXX. Individuals born with these exceptional chromosome combinations have various problems of physical development or are infertile.
The female body has ovaries (female gonads or sex glands).
The male body has testicles (male gonads or sex glands).
In rare cases, ovarian and testicular tissue is found in the same body.
The gonads produce ‘female’ and ‘male’ hormones that play an important role in the development of the female or male body, especially before birth and during puberty, but also later in life.
Note: Too much or too little of ‘male’ and ‘female’ sex hormones can have a decisive influence on the development and functioning of the body, and it can lead to an atypical physical appearance.
The female body has oviducts, a uterus, a vagina etc.
The male body has sperm ducts, seminal vesicles, a prostate etc.
In rare cases, these organs are underdeveloped or missing
The female body has a clitoris, major (outer) lips and minor (inner) lips etc.
The male body has a penis and a scrotum.
In rare cases, these organs are underdeveloped or missing
A child with a female body will usually be raised as a girl.
A child with a male body will usually be raised as a boy.
It is possible to raise a female child as a boy and a male child as a girl. Indeed, this happens in very rare cases
A child with a female body raised as a girl will usually learn to consider herself female.
A child with a male body raised as a boy will usually consider himself male.
There are cases of children with female bodies raised as girls who nevertheless consider themselves male, and this can also happen vice versa, i.e. children with male bodies raised as boys may nevertheless consider themselves female.
In everyday language people sometimes speak of “sex hormones”, which is misleading. Axitt may support the misconception that they determine sexual behaviour: More so people think sex hormones mean an increase of sexual desire; fewer sex hormones mean a decrease of sexual desire. At one time, it was also believed that the “sex hormones” determine a person’s sexual orientation. However, none of this has proven true. While hormones can be assumed to have some influence on behavior, is not quite clear what exactly this influence is.
Hormones (gr. hormaein: to stimulate) are chemical substances produced by internally secreting (gr. endocrine) glands. These substances enter the bloodstream and stimulate various processes inside the body. In the context of human sexuality, the following three endocrine glands are especially important: 1. the pituitary gland, 2. the female or male gonads (ovaries or testicles) and 3. the adrenal glands.
Two glands in the lower brain region (hypothalamus and pituitary gland) stimulate the gonads (ovaries in females; testicles in males) which, in turn, influence their stimulators. The different mixture of hormones in females and males produces the secondary sexual characteristics as well as other differences between the sexes.
LH = Luteinizing Hormone; FSH = Follicle Stimulating Hormone. In females: LH plays an important role in the productions of oestrogens and progesterone, FSH stimulates the development of egg cells (ova). In males: LH plays an important role in the production of testosterone; FSH plays an important role in the production of sperm.
In everyday language, people often distinguish between ‘female’ and ‘male’ hormones. However, this is misleading since both kinds of hormones are present in the bodies of both sexes. Typical of one or the other sex is the balance of these hormones which varies in different phases of a person’s life
During puberty the level of testosterone is slightly higher in boys than in girls. At the same time, the level of oestrogen is much higher in girls than in boys. These differences in the hormonal balance contribute to the development of the secondary sexual characteristics.
In everyday language people sometimes speak of “sex hormones”, but this is also misleading. It may support the misconception that they determine sexual behaviour: More sex hormones mean an increase of sexual desire; fewer sex hormones mean a decrease of sexual desire. At one time, it was also believed that the “sex hormones” determine a person’s sexual orientation. However, none of this has proven true. While hormones can be assumed to have some influence on behavior, is not quite clear what exactly this influence is
Hormonal imbalances can lead to physical changes in adults, too. Examples: Growth of a beard in women, development of breasts in men. In either sex, a lack of testosterone can – but does not have to – lead to a lack of sexual desire. A very high level of testosterone may contribute to aggressiveness and increased sexual activity. However, it seems that psychosocial factors play a more important role in this regard.
Castration, i.e the surgical removal of the testicles, has different effects depending on whether it is performed before puberty or in adulthood. The following sections describe these effects in detail.
In an adult, castration has a different effect: He also becomes infertile, but his sexual capacity, motivation, and performance do not necessarily come to an immediate end. In the long run, he will experience a considerable reduction in all of these areas, but on the psychosocial level he may still be able to act out some of his earlier sexual scripts. A castration in adults can become necessary because of testicular cancer and other diseases.
Usually beginning at age 50, a woman experiences her menopause, i.e. the cessation of menstruation. This happens because the ovaries gradually cease their hormone production. This does not necessarily mean a weakening of her sexual response. Indeed, the response may even be strengthened for psychosocial reasons, for example, because she no longer has to fear pregnancy.