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Humane images: visual rhetoric in depictions of atypical genital anatomy and sex differentiation

Abstract

Visual images are widely used in medical and patient education to enhance spoken or written explanations. This paper considers the role of such illustrations in shaping conceptions of the body; specifically, it addresses depictions of variant sexual anatomy and their part in the discursive production of intersex bodies. Visual language—even didactic, ‘factual’ visual language—carries latent as well as manifest content, and influences self-perceptions and social attitudes. In the case of illustrations about atypical sex development, where the need for non-stigmatising communication is crucial, it is especially important to consider the implicit messages conveyed by imagery and compositional strategies.

  • Sex differentiation disorders
  • medical illustration
  • stigma
  • visual culture
  • art and medicine
  • health care education
  • transgendered health
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