Women's bodies and the making of sex in seventeenth-century England

Laura Gowing*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Histories of sexual difference have dated the invention of modern sex, with its binary opposition of male and female, to the eighteenth century: before then, following the models of classical medicine, sexual difference was contingent on humors and somewhat flexible. This piece argues that the social context of sexual difference modifies this narrative. In early modern England, the corporeal and social side of sex anchored female bodies firmly to their domestic, cultural, and economic context. The contingency of anatomical sex was offset by a rigid patriarchal landscape and a world of pervasive touch whereby women’s bodies were overseen by other women.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)813-822
Number of pages10
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 23 Aug 2012


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