Creating Sex

From Ovid's Hermaphrodite to the Gnostic Eve


  • Jonathan Cahana


Thomas Lacqueur’s influential yet controversial study Making Sex has, in many ways, revolutionized our understanding of sexuality in antiquity. Yet, most ofLaqueur’s critics and supporters stressed the one-sex body, while the crux of his argument is the primacy of gender. Moreover, a systematic attempt to apply his work to mythical literature – in contradistinction to medical literature – has not yet been undertaken. This article thus traces the problem-atic reception of Laqueur’s book and attempts a preliminary heuristic appli- cation of the concept of the primacy of gender to ancient mythical accounts ofsexual origin. While such an application confirms, in broad terms, Lacqueur’sparadigm, it also introduces many important nuances to the system. Most intriguingly, some of the myths seem to resonate with poststructural Butlerian analysis of gender and thus call into question the supposed rift between modern and ancient sexualities presupposed in Lacqueurian analysis, and challenged, on different grounds, by many of his critics


Jonathan Cahana

Aarhus Universitet, Institut for Kultur og Samfund, Jens Chr. Skous Vej 7, Bygning 1467, 4. etage, 8000 Aarhus C