Sari Irni

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Sex Transformations as Side Effect: Anabolic Steroids, Ageing, and Sports Politics in Finland, 1950-1976
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This study contributes to feminist theory, gender and sports history and science and technology studies. This study takes a new look to the history of bodily sex as a transformable phenomenon, and to the history of the hormonal moulding of bodies. This study focuses on a case which has not yet received attention in the gender-sensitive, critical histories of hormone technologies: the scientific, technological and political developments related to ‘sex hormones’, where their effects on the so-called sex characteristics of bodies were not regarded as the essence of what these phenomena are. In the projects studied here, the effects on ‘sex characteristics’ were instead considered unwanted side effects.


This study focuses on both scientific and public debates related to anabolic steroids, synthetic products where such ‘side effects’ were minimized. The study contributes to the analysis of how hormone technologies have been used – intentionally or unintentionally – in blurring the boundaries between female and male, and how such boundary-crossings have been negotiated both within science and in public. The study concentrates on the time period from 1950s onwards when the idea of anabolic effects of steroids was explored enthusiastically for various purposes, and before anabolic steroids were classified as ‘doping’ in sports. The discussions around 1976 are included, when anabolic steroids were for the first time prohibited and tested in the Olympic Games


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