Thursday, March 29, 2007

When Sex Counts

That's the title of a brand new book by Dorf on Law blogger and Rutgers Law Professor Sherry Colb. Actually, as you can see from the cover (left), the full title is When Sex Counts: Making Babies and Making Law. You can buy it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or directly from the publisher.

Beginning with a riff on the Supreme Court's famously obtuse distinction between pregnant and non-pregnant persons in
Geduldig v. Aiello, the book addresses a host of sex equality issues by observing the centrality of reproduction and pregnancy (or the capacity for pregnancy) to nearly all of them. I think this is a rare and successful effort to write across the spectrum of sex equality issues. But don't take my word for it. Here are the blurbs:

"With deft writing, clear thinking, and deep knowledge, Sherry Colb illuminates the dark intersection of law and sex. She displays both journalistic verve and scholarly rigor. The result is a wonderful book that makes advanced thinking about complex controversies nicely accessible to the general reader."—Randall L. Kennedy, Michael R. Klein Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, and author of Interracial Intimacies

"In her feisty and informative exploration of pregnancy, rape, and sex discrimination, Sherry Colb flips the familiar conclusion of 'no easy answers' to the more challenging premise of 'no easy questions.' Are pro-life feminists feminist? Is male circumcision gender violence? Should assisted reproduction be prohibited? In clear staccato chapters, When Sex Counts offers readers thoughtful and thought-provoking analyses of the toughest issues now confronting women and men as their lives intersect with law."—Carol Sanger, Barbara Aronstein Black Professor of Law, Columbia University Law School

"A beautifully written and brilliant exploration of gender in American society. Professor Colb tackles all of the hard questions in a series of provocative and insightful essays about some of the most important and intimate aspects of our lives. A must read for all who care about issues of gender, sexuality, and reproduction."—Erwin Chemerinsky, Alston & Bird Professor of Law, Duke University Law School, and author of Constitutional Law (2006)


egarber said...

Does the book touch on real-world implications and personal stories (like the "Right to Privacy")? Or is it more an academic case law review? I like both types of analysis -- just curious.

Michael C. Dorf said...

Very much real world. It's practically ripped from the headlines. ;-)

Trevor Morrison said...

Congrats Sherry! Glad to see it out in print.

Sherry F. Colb said...

Thanks Trevor! :) Sherry

egarber said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
egarber said...

I may be off-topic, but I was chatting with some friends about the ERA, which is in the news again.
They're "worried" that the ERA will lead to legalized gay marriage -- assuming the courts elevate gender (at least on one side) to a suspect class and see denial of same-sex marriage as gender discrimination.

Not a bad observationn, since the "could be married, but for gender" exclusion would basically be elevated to the equivalent of "but for race".

I think I would prefer a 14th amendment ruling putting orientation into a heightened scrutiny category, like age or gender now.

Wait! I can make this relevant to Mike's post. Circling back to S. Colb, I seem to recall a Findlaw piece where she wrote that Lawrence would have been stronger as an equal protection ruling, not one based on privacy. Was that you?

heathu said...

"Why do people continue to frown upon public breastfeeding, when the law protects it as a mother's right?" (A question that is posed in the Amazon review of the book, so presumably addressed by the book.) Maybe it should be, "Why do people continue to frown upon public breastfeeding WHEN IT KEEPS KIDS QUIET IN PUBLIC?" It is not only a mother's right, it's also a great idea.

PG said...


If the Court followed your recommendation to put "orientation into a heightened scrutiny category, like age or gender now," does that mean my ability to get a same-sex marriage would depend on verifying that I am sexually attracted to people of the same sex? This seems silly to me. Loving says that the race of a couple is irrelevant to whether they should be married under state law; so too should sex/ gender be irrelevant.

egarber said...


I definitely see your point, but I struggle with that argument.

Certainly, yours is a solid reading of Loving, but if we leave it at that, I think we miss something in the larger equal protection battle. Protecting the aggregate rights of a couple doesn't necessarily vindicate the INDIVIDUAL rights of the people involved.

Mere gender equality in defining a couple doesn't (arguably) do anything to prevent the government from say, keeping gay people out of the military, or firing a local police official or teacher via a "morality" clause (some people undoubtedly think homosexuality is immoral). Maybe, I'm wrong -- is there a firm court precedent for protecting gay individuals in these scenarios?

My understanding of Romer is that it forbids facially discriminatory ordinances, but does that translate into the broad protections I'm seeking? I'm not sure.

So anyway, I guess my point is that orientation protections would travel more with the individual.

And to your logical inference about verification of attraction, it wouldn't be any more necessary than it is for heterosexuals.

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