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  • Fuckology: Critical Essays on John Money’s Diagnostic Concepts by Lisa Downing, Iain Morland, and Nikki Sullivan
  • Elizabeth Reis
Fuckology: Critical Essays on John Money’s Diagnostic Concepts. By Lisa Downing, Iain Morland, and Nikki Sullivan. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014. Pp. 224. $85.00 (cloth); $27.50 (paper); $7.00–$27.00 (e-book).

If you prefer vilifying or glorifying the pathbreaking New Zealand–born psychologist John Money, then this nuanced book of essays by three prominent researchers is not for you. Lisa Downing, Iain Morland, and Nikki Sullivan have each written two essays for this important volume, which provides a humanities-based analysis of John Money’s three diagnostic concepts: “hermaphroditism,” “transsexualism,” and “paraphilia.” The authors are experts in queer theory, gender studies, and ethics broadly defined, and they bring to this work a deep understanding of Money’s unique place in the history of sexology, or “fuckology,” a word Money coined himself in an effort to bring the field of study from its scholarly and clinical enclave to a lay audience.

It is easy to disparage John Money because we know now that many of his recommendations for babies born with ambiguous genitals turned out to be misguided and harmful, leading to lasting physical and psychological damage and pain. Downing, Morland, and Sullivan do not succumb to [End Page 517] simple Money bashing, though they are certainly critical. Money was prolific and complicated, and he sometimes contradicted himself in his published writings. The authors masterfully decode what Money was trying to say and assess the meanings, implications, and inconsistencies of his positions on a variety of topics.

The sections that will probably interest most general readers concern Money’s development of the G-I/R concept, Gender-Identity/Role, the foundation for his theories of gender difference. Given how influential Money’s model came to be, it is disturbing to learn that his presumption of male and female as “naturally dimorphic” was just that, an assumption that corroborated and sustained prevailing cultural attitudes about gender stereotypes. In the first essay, Nikki Sullivan aptly quotes Anne Fausto-Sterling’s cautionary words, applicable to John Money’s approach: “Scientists in analyzing male/female differences peer through the prism of everyday culture. More often than not their hidden agendas that are unarticulated bear strong resemblances to broader social agendas” (28). Money’s interpretation of male and female as polar opposites, supposedly supported by “science,” rendered certain variance or nonconformity abject and subject to medical intervention.

Money’s theories went beyond gender role and identity to explore so-called sexual abnormalities such as “perversion” or homosexuality. Ironically, as Lisa Downing points out in the chapter on paraphilias, though Money warned against employing rigid dichotomies between biological and social constructionist explanations for various sexual proclivities, he often did just that himself, wavering back and forth, offering alternative approaches and treatments, depending on which model he preferred at different times throughout his career. Whatever the explanation for paraphilia, Downing shows how Money interpreted it as “the sick counterpart to healthy sexual desire” and linked it to nonnormative bodies and congenital difference (51).

Mapping the relationship between congenital nonnormativity and psychological and sexual health was at the heart of Money’s research (he wrote his dissertation on “hermaphroditism”), and it has become his legacy, for better or worse. Iain Morland skillfully contextualizes Money’s assumption that infants’ bodies and minds were malleable, a theory that justified his protocol of infant genital surgeries for babies born with ambiguous genitals. His theories, in essence, demanded that the gender of rearing match the infant’s surgically corrected anatomy so that the child, with the parents’ help, would form an unequivocal gender identity. Along with his colleagues, Money wrote a series of influential articles about intersex, gender psychology, and genital surgery, insisting that an intersex person’s psychological health depended on the parents’ ability to raise an undisputed boy or girl, despite whatever internal incongruities the child’s body might evidence. [End Page 518]

As Morland explains, Money’s ideas about malleability were influenced in part by a concomitant interest in his transsexual patients, adults who wanted to undergo...