John Money (1921-2006)

John Money

John Money was a psychologist and sexologist who researched gender identity and sexual preferences and coined the terms ‘gender identity’ and ‘gender role.’

Professional Life

John Money was born July 8, 1921 in Morrinsville, New Zealand. He taught philosophy and psychology as a junior lecturer at the University of Otago before relocating to the United States to pursue graduate studies. Money received his PhD from Harvard University in 1952. He became a professor of medical psychology and pediatrics at John Hopkins University, where he was heavily involved with the Sexual Behaviors Unit, which studied sex reassignment surgery.

Money devoted much of his research to sexual preferences, sexual orientation, and gender and sex differences. He was the recipient of many awards throughout his career, including the American Psychological Association Distinguished Scientific Award for the applications of psychology in 1985; the Masters and Johnson Fourth Annual Award, Society for Sex Therapy in 1988; and an award for his contributions to sexology research from the International Academy of Sex Research in 1991. The Kinsey Institute offers an annual John Money Fellowship for research in sexology.

Money was married briefly in the 1950s. He passed away in Maryland in 2006 from complications related to Parkinson's disease.

Contribution to Psychology

John Money’s work continues to be referenced in the fields of gender and sex research. Money coined the terms “gender role” and “gender identity.” He emphasized that one’s gender role—traits associated with one’s public presentation of gender—had to be learned. For example, a woman who wears a dress and high heels is publicly displaying a culturally accepted female gender role, which is a learned behavior. Gender identity, on the other hand, illustrates one’s internal experience of sexuality. Money was one of the first scientists to acknowledge that one’s biological sex may not correspond with his or her gender identity.

Money urged researchers to move away from a strict dichotomy between heterosexuality and homosexuality. He developed the concept of the lovemap to characterize a person's idealized partner and sexual preferences. There are heterosexual and homosexual lovemaps, as well as lovemaps associated with sexual preferences and kinks. For example, Money developed paraphilic, klismaphilic, and zoophilic lovemaps—sexual preferences for and preoccupations with atypical or taboo practices, enemas, and animals, respectively.

Money studied pedophilia, in particular, and he identified a distinction between love-based attraction to children and sadistic pedophilia. Sadistic pedophiles, according to Money, abuse and sometimes even kill their victims. Affectional pedophilia, by contrast, was due to eroticized parental love, and Money emphasized that this type of pedophilia had little to do with sex. Some critics claim that Money was tolerant of pedophilia, though others have welcomed his research as a better way for understanding inappropriate sexual attractions.

Sex Reassignment Controversy

Because Money believed that much of gendered behavior was arbitrary and learned rather than the product of biological drives, he was interested in the effects of sex reassignment surgery. In the 1960s, the son of Janet and Ronald Reimer experienced a botched circumcision that left him with a severely mangled penis. When John Money was consulted, he suggested that the boy be raised as a girl, and the child underwent sex reassignment surgery to remove his penis and testicles and create a rudimentary vulva.

Money used the case as evidence that gender is learned and not innate, demonstrating that the child had fully adapted to a female role as Brenda. However, Reimer claims he always felt more like a boy while growing up; in fact, as soon as the truth was revealed to Brenda as a teen, Brenda began to identify as male and changed his name to David. David Reimer later committed suicide at age 38.

Many researchers have pointed to the case as evidence that gender is at least partially biologically determined, and intersex activists have used the case to point to the damage that genital surgery can cause to children. The dramatic interventions into Reimer's life have been heavily criticized on all sides of the political spectrum.

References:

  1. Carey, B. (2006, July 11). John William Money, 84, sexual identity researcher, dies. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/11/us/11money.html
  2. Dr. Money and the Boy with No Penis. (n.d.). BBC News. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/tvradio/programmes/horizon/dr_money_prog_summary.shtml
  3. John Money. (2006). Contemporary Authors Online. Retrieved from http://www.gale.cengage.com/InContext/bio.htm

Last Update: 07-08-2015

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