Scientific term for the male and female "ends" of biological sex
November 29, 2021 11:58 PM   Subscribe

What is the scientific term describing "the poles", i.e. male and female, of organisms that reproduce sexually? I'm almost certain I've seen a term for it once when reading an article about intersexuality, which stated something to the effect of "'male' and 'female' are MISSING_WORD", where MISSING_WORD may have been "SOMETHINGtypes", in the vein of "genotypes", "phenotypes" or "haplotypes", though I'm not sure. I've been unable to find it since.
posted by jklaiho to Science & Nature (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Gametes? Dimorphs?
posted by Pechorin at 12:23 AM on November 30, 2021

Response by poster: > Gametes? Dimorphs?

Based on the definitions, neither of those. The Wikipedia articles on those did lead me to other interesting articles though, and I'm seend the terms "genotypic sex" and "phenotypic sex" thrown around a lot.

An example, from NCBI: " If everything proceeds according to plan during development, the XX genotype leads to a person with ovaries, oviducts, uterus, cervix, clitoris, labia, and vagina—i.e., a phenotypic female. By the same token, the XY genotype leads to a person with testicles, epididymis, vas deferens, seminal vesicles, penis, and scrotum—a phenotypic male."

So the word I'm looking for, if it indeed exists and I'm not misremembering, is likely one that refers to the "typical phenotypes" of male and female. Intersex genotypes like XO, XXY and XYY also have their own phenotypes, so the term "phenotype" itself isn't limited to "the poles" of biological sex.
posted by jklaiho at 12:51 AM on November 30, 2021

posted by Freelance Demiurge at 2:56 AM on November 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Nothing in it fits the construction you're talking about, but what you're describing makes me think about Julia Serano's writing about bimodal distribution (in her book Whipping Girl--but someone has quoted the bit about it here) and sexual dimorphism.
posted by needs more cowbell at 4:27 AM on November 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

posted by sagc at 5:27 AM on November 30, 2021

There is a rare [botanical] term gametotype. It has been used in a context of human genetics.
Gendertype might work although nobody is using that . . . yet.
posted by BobTheScientist at 6:02 AM on November 30, 2021


"By definition, males are organisms that produce small, mobile gametes (sperm); while females are organisms that produce large and generally immobile gametes (ova or eggs)"
posted by ook at 6:07 AM on November 30, 2021

Best answer: If Serano's stuff about bimodal distribution is indeed the right concept, then your missing word is "modes." Male and female phenotypes are the two modes in a bimodal distribution (meaning roughly "the two combinations that are more common than any of the others").
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:56 AM on November 30, 2021 [2 favorites]

posted by fluttering hellfire at 4:24 PM on November 30, 2021

Response by poster: Thank you all. I'm pretty convinced now that the word I was looking for was indeed a figment of my imagination, and that it was phenotypes that were being referred to, and I'm just misremembering the sentence structure. However, your responses have been illuminating, and especially the "modes" will be useful in conversations going forward.
posted by jklaiho at 11:57 PM on November 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

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