The English language has a problem (and thus, due to the dominance of English, much of the world has a problem) with the word “sex” meaning both the basic biological division of humanity and sexual acts.
I can recall that about two decades ago the late Larry Auster criticized me for summarizing my blog as being, among much else, interested in “race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation etc etc,” when I should have said “race, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation etc etc.”
Larry had a good point. But I chose the word “gender” rather than “sex” so that Google would categorize me as an intellectual rather than as a porn purveyor.
My guess is that the efflorescence of pornography over the last half century has rendered the old word “sex” radioactive by giving it a hubba hubba sense. I’d imagine that when, say, Henry James 130 years ago offered some urbane reflection on a countess’ sensibility as reflecting that of “her sex,” only the horniest denizens of 1893 would respond by instantly calling up pornographic imagery.
But these days, due to the pervasiveness of video pornography, a lot of people can’t stop thinking about “sex” as meaning sex acts. So, the kind of people who took four years of French have substituted “gender” as a polite euphemism for “sex,” with catastrophic results for trusting adolescents.
My suggestion is that we English speakers should come up with different words for “male vs. female” and “sexual acts.”
Unfortunately, I’m neither creative nor cool, so whatever I come up with would be disastrous. But I implore those of you who are creative and cool to work on this problem.