In his well-known work Making Sex, Thomas Laqueur contends that the conception of human sexuality evolved from the ancient Greeks’ one-sex model to modernity’s two-sex model as events surrounding the French Revolution prompted a desire to see difference and therefore a need to create difference. In particular, Laqueur argues that it was the struggle for power between those advocating enfranchisement for women and those opposed to this which led to the reconstitution of the human body and in particular the female body. Extrapolating on Laqueur’s assertion that the female was conceived as an inferior version of the male in Antiquity and an opposite but complementary version of the male in the Enlightenment, this work demonstrates how, by the late nineteenth century, woman came to be designated not only the opposite of man—physically, intellectually and morally—but then also opposing man. Expanding the scope of Laqueur’s research to encompass additional fields of scientific inquiry, this study reveals to what extent men of science (mis)read the findings in their respective fields in order to maintain their control of power and of women. Using numerous primary sources, this analysis illustrates how the scientific abstraction and obstruction of woman at the end of the nineteenth century led to yet another reconstitution of the female body—this time a pathologizing and criminalizing that branded “unruly” women as sexual deviants and social miscreants.

Note on the Author

Stephanie E. Libbon, Assistant Professor of German, Elementary German Coordinator, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio