Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Sex Definition:

The predominant sexual identity of an individual, as in male or female. Also refers to sexual intercourse.

Related Terms: Sexual Intercourse, Sexual Harassment, Gender

Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (emphasis added):

"Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status."

A 2001 version of Alberta horse-racing rules stated (emphasis added):

"55. Before a horse is entered in a horse race, the following information must be registered with the licensed operator .... (f) information about any alteration of the sex of the horse."

Another example of the term used in statute: Northern Ireland has a "sex shop" regulation which says:

 "Sex shop means any premises, vehicle, vessel or stall used for a business which consists to a significant degree of selling, hiring, exchanging, lending, displaying or demonstrating sex articles, or other things intended for use in connection with, or for the purpose of stimulating or encouraging sexual activity or acts of force or restraint which are associated with sexual activity."

One area where this term raises controversy is human rights legislation. Where "sex" (i.e. gender) is a prohibited ground of discrimination, are transsexuals covered?

A related but distinct term is sexual orientation.

In some cases, the word "sex" refers to sexual intercourse, as is the case with the term sexual harassment.

In Flying Eagle Publications Inc. v USA 273 F 2d 799 (1960), the postal laws prohibited mailing of "obcenity", which was stated to include "material having a tendency to excite lustful thoughts (or) ... which excites an unwholesome or unhealthy interest in sex, and ... which portays sex with a loose-lipped sensuous leer".

The appellant in the case published Manhunt, which had as a cover a "lurid picture of a partially clothed woman..."

Justice Woodbury opined for the Court, perhaps reflecting on his own conception, that "sex and obscenity are not synonymous" and that although Manhunt was "crude, vulgar and on the whole disgusting", it was not "obcene".

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