This hypothetical sapient species utterly lacks sexual dimorphism, such as due to being synchronous hermaphrodites (male and female at the same time), sequential hermaphrodites (change sex depending on circumstances) or isogamous (similar to hermaphrodites, but gametes are not segregated into ovum and sperm).

How could the species develop anything resembling our concepts of patriarchy, gender roles, homophobia, etc?

  • $\begingroup$ Is the species capable of asexual reproduction or purely sexual? Does the species have identifiable and distinct genitalia? $\endgroup$
    – dunc123
    Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 12:33
  • $\begingroup$ Demographics (percentage of people under different sexual orientation) will dictate culture, culture will hierarchy, and hierarchy will decide the patriarchy/matriarchy. Their ability to reproduce or lack there of will also greatly influence it. Good examples to start would be to look at trends in Thailand, Dominican republic, South Sulawesi, Indonesia and Nepal. If the % population is minor they might enjoy a privileged cultural position without being part of patriarchy/matriarchy, examples included eunuchs in ancient China, Hijra in India. $\endgroup$
    – Chinu
    Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 12:43
  • $\begingroup$ @dunc123: Purely sexual. Identical genitalia. That's why I'm asking. $\endgroup$
    – Anonymous
    Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 12:52
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    $\begingroup$ They couldn't. By definition you need a female and male sex to create such a thing. That's what those words mean. If you mean you want something that crazies talk about as some of that stuff then you are talking about castes which can develop along any differences, made up or otherwise. $\endgroup$
    – Durakken
    Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 12:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Anonymous I think I should have been more clear. I meant distinct genitalia on each individual, for example a penis and vagina. Also, if they were sequential hermaphrodites the opportunity for gender roles is as apparent as in our society. For example, "You hit puberty? Get in that kitchen!" $\endgroup$
    – dunc123
    Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 12:57

3 Answers 3


I'm not sure they could develop our concepts of gender roles etc, but they might have their own. For instance, if there is any genuine behavioural difference in a sequential hermaphrodite or synchronous hermaphrodite when pregnant, then that might get culturally exaggerated. So for example, imagine the pregnant ones have to pluck out their eider down to make a nest (like an eider duck) and peck out the eyes of the dead to get the fatty retina to make their egg yolk (like carrion birds). Their culture might decide any job which can be associated with nest building or the dead is 'pregnant women's work'. Those pregnant guys are just suckers for eyeballs - better send them off to work at the abattoir!

It can't work entirely like our prejudices and assumptions, because they are not female and/or pregnant all the time. It's difficult to treat Janet as a 2nd class citizen because she's a woman, when she might become a man next week, and you might become a woman the week after!

Homophobia could still arise if they creatures have cultural taboos against what type of genitalia are involved when your creatures bump uglies. If Janet and John get it on as male and female, they may have no problem. If John turns into a woman and leaps into bed with Janet again, it could be culturally prohibited.

It gets more complex when they are simultaneous hermaphrodites, but you could try Storm Constantine's Wraeththu Mythos books for inspiration. Although they are hermaphrodite, the Varr tribe adopts masculine and feminine roles (warrior, housekeeper). And the Natawni tribe has religious rules on what gender role they should take in sex at particular points in the calendar.

Meanwhile, even for hermaphrodites, fathering a kid is less effort than bearing offspring. Even when you are a snail and the offspring are eggs which don't require any care. There are species of slug for which the foreplay is trying to bite off each other's penis! Because if the person you are having sex with has no penis then:

  1. You can get them pregnant, but they can't get you pregnant.
  2. Instead of having to spend effort/resources on that clutch of eggs in your belly, you can head off to make more sperm and father more offspring.
  3. The guy who has had his/her penis bitten off will not be competing with you to impregnate the next slug to come along.

(Note for the gentlemen reading this: don't worry, the penises do grow back).

So if they are like sea slugs, your hermaphrodites can create a class of people to be prejudiced at, by chopping off their penises!


I just recently read The Left Hand of Darkness, By Ursula K. Le Guin. I think that if it does not contains the answers you seek, at least it shall be a great source of inspiration.

The story happens in a world where the people are all hermaphrodites. They remain assexual for all purposes for 22-24 days, then go into oestrus for 2-4 days. During oestrus their bodies will develop either male or female secondary characteristics, depending on environmental circumstances and chance. For example, for those who go into oestrus alone they have equal chances of developing male or female characteristics, but if they go into oestrus around other people who are also in oestrus, their bodies will react to keep the numbers of male and female individuals approximately equal.

If they get pregnant, they will keep the female characteristics until a few months after childbirth.

Last but not least, they have no concept of marriage as we know it. They may vow fidelity, but it only means "I will always have intercourse with you whenever our ouestrus is in sync and you are around", not "I will be faithful until death do us part".

Due to this, any person can be a mother to a number of children from many fathers, and also a father to another amount of children from many mothers. They keep a loose track of who is father to whom, but mother-to-child bonds are nearly sacred. Thus clans are "matriarchal". But since everybody has both sexes, the term "matriarchy" is probably not the most appropriate one. The people from the book live in a society where the very concept of gender does not exist outside the physical part of sexual intercourse.

Therefore, every clan centers on a parent individual that has nursed their children.

There is a short story by the end of the book about a clan that takes pride on their children always having their first sexual relationships as females, and pride on not taking vows of fidelity. But this is the same kind of pride that a family from Earth could have about, say, having many engineers or doctors in the family, or making nice pies.

Seriously, go read that book. It's an awesome read. Praise the creation unfinished!


The concept of gender can exist perfectly with a complete lack of biological sex or sexual dysmorphism, the same way there can exist only biological sex but not the ideology of gender.

For example, even if sexual dysmorphism is the nature of the human race, mostly only english countries have this gender ideology,in many dictionaries you can even find over 600 genders with anything from male or female to people who identify as being victims of gentalia amputations even though they actually have their sex system healthy and never damaged or people identifying as being born with a lack of genitals even though they actually have them up to other genders that simply consists of people that like to dress of a certain color ... that's just how they identify.

But as I said those things happen only in particular countries and cultures.

In most parts of the world people will ask you ''what the hell is gender identity?'' and they will not understand even if you try to explain it many times. Just like some people can't understand the concept of religion or even realize what does it mean to believe in magic or spirituality, while some find it natural.

Gender ideology like religion is not inborn in people but starts with particular fashions, some say gender ideology began only in early 1850's while some say it has roots as old as Ancient egypt but for some reason this concept never fully spread through the entire world.

So it's either something incredibly new or something incredibly old that only few people can understand.

What started the gender concept is today unknown but, I gues, just like everything it could happen that someone simply had this strange idea. Somehow it got a relative popularity and survived until today, just like how a music genres or an artistic culture begins, it doesn't have to have a logical and reason for why it exists, someone simply has an idea and then ''poof'' it comes to existance.

If I didn't explain it correctly , I can mike a kind of funny example.

The goth culture Goth started as a bunch of people who folowed a fashion of darkness and mistery,today somehow it became something so abstract that it can have any meaning you want it to have.

That's why today goths strungle to divide this culture in hundred of sub-genres to keep it alive and avoid goth from fading away and becoming just an abstrant meaningless idea.

Why does it happen? simply cause we don't have microcips in our brains telling us what goth or any other fashyon is, and everyone interprets it as they prefer.

I believe the same thing happened with the gender ideology, whenever or wherever it began, I think at first it was just a new fashyoned culture, and since not many people were getting the same original meaning of this ideology they started to divide it in hundreds of sub-genders to make it popular across those who don't share the same phylosophy of who started the cult.

That's why I think your aliens can perfectly just decide that one day they want to implement this gender system in their civilizations without a reason at all.

Alien gender ideology can begin from anything, literally anything like music,religion,diets,politics,games or as the example from before someone simply has an idea that pops up inside their head and so on...

Obviously your aliens will have different genders than us, You won't find an alien indentifying with human genders like eunuch or mahu... they won't even have our same concepts of feminine or masculine, as they are on earth already completelly different from one state to another ,they will hardly be any similar in an alien world.

That's Why I believe even if your aliens have a concept for gender it would be so different than anything we know or have ever imagine to not be recognized as gender for us.

Even humans,us that ivented it don't always understand what gender is , you can't expect them(those who observers this alien universe) to find a logic in something that's not even from their world.

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    $\begingroup$ Your use of spaces has some mistakes that are distracting, FYI. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Aug 7, 2016 at 20:06
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, I get distracted when I read or write everything in blocks ... $\endgroup$
    – Charon
    Commented Aug 7, 2016 at 20:08
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ In blocks? I don’t understand. I suppose your first language doesn’t use spaces the same way so it doesn't appear so obvious/outrageous. I’ve seen that with cheap brocures that were made in China! $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Aug 7, 2016 at 20:11

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