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Reconstructing gender to transcend shame: Embracing human functionality to enable agentic and desexualised bodies

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe bright side of shame.
Subtitle of host publicationTransforming and growing through practical applications in cultural contexts.
EditorsClaude-Hélène Mayer, Elisabeth Vanderheiden
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-13408-2
Publication statusPublished - 12 May 2019

Bibliographical note

Sergio A. Silverio is an academic Psychologist and Registered Scientist of the Science Council. His primary research interest lies in the ‘Female Psychology’ branch of ‘The Psychology of Women’ and he adopts a lifecourse analysis approach, using qualitative methodologies to examine women’s mental health and social wellbeing outcomes in relation to changes in gender identity, across the lifespan. Having graduated from the University of Liverpool in 2016, his Master’s research into older never married women, later-life femininity, and ageing social networks attracted critical acclaim from his learned academy: The British Psychological Society. Since moving to the University College London in 2018, and assuming the role of Research Assistant in Qualitative Methods within the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Institute for Women’s Health, he has been able to further pursue his wider interests into women’s experiences of motherhood and bereavement. This has only supported his endeavours to bring women’s health to the forefront of academic debate, whilst continuing to strive for better provisions of psychological health and greater female empowerment.

King's Authors


Now more than ever, our bodies are being used as radical tools with which we negotiate our place and status in society.  No longer is it the case that the body is purely a functional, reproductive, machine – passing on genetic information from one generation to the next; but rather they have become a form of language in their own right.  Our bodies are increasingly recognised as individual emblems, each with powerful and political meaning.  In Western Society in particular, the quest for the “eternal feminine” endures, rendering women passive, sexualised, and objectified; without the opportunity to subvert the shame they are forced to withstand.  If women were afforded the opportunity and social standing to overcome the pressures of living in patriarchal and phallogocentric societies; they could instead become members of our civilization who are the subjects, allowed to act and experience, rather than be gazed upon, and experienced as the objects of hegemonic, heteronormative, and masculinist desire.  It is in this regard that we, as a society, must change the entrenched conscious practices of sexualisation, and should expose the unconscious biases towards women’s bodies such that women can embrace their bodies, their bodily agency, and the multiple functions of their body (such as athleticism, breastfeeding, childbirth, menstruation, & orgasm) rather than feeling abject shame, which for so long has been the case. It is the aim of this chapter to advocate the reconstruction of gender in society, allowing for an understanding of fluid gender identity and context-specific gender construction to permit the desexualisation of the body and the removal of body-specific shame.  It shall further argue for society to instead favour the acceptance of the body as a multi-functional entity, which can be sexual without having to be sexualised.

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