Sunday, 20 May 2007

Sexual Timidity

I've just had to fill out another form asking for my Gender and as usual I am allowed to respond with Masculine, M, Feminine or F. As a nit-picking pedant with a scientific background this never fails to irritate me and cause me to cast aspersions of ignorance or timidity on the source organisation.

In writing this entry, I researched whether I was wrong in thinking people have a Sex, and words have a Gender. I'm not, and Lynch, Guide to Grammar confirms my understanding, talks about how feminists started the newer usage and has the following comment

"It's probably unwise, though, to allow gender to edge out sex altogether. Once gender began to be used to describe people, it became first a synonym, and then a substitute, for sex. The word sex still provokes giggles, and I can understand why people who prepare questionnaires would be glad to see it disappear after finding the "Sex" blank on a form filled in with "Yes, please" for the jillionth time. Still, using gender to refer to biological sex should be avoided, except where it avoids confusion or ambiguity."

So I'm right, but will probably lose the battle.

Singapore inherits the Chinese repressed attitudes to sex. It still goes on, I assure you, but anything lewd is shunned. Singapore used to have a nude revue club, the Crazy Horse, which was in the news recently as announcing its closure. Not enough business. I wondered with a colleague if this was because it was too much for local tastes and his take was it was way too tame, standing in the fallow middle ground between acceptability to a prudish (license granting) elite and the wider market for lively adult entertainment.