Writing with Mental Sex

How can we illustrate the Mental Sex of our Main Character? The following point by point comparison provides some clues:

Female Mental Sex: looks at motivations

Male Mental Sex: looks at purposes

Female Mental Sex: tries to see connections

Male Mental Sex: tries to gather evidence

Female Mental Sex: sets up conditions

Male Mental Sex: sets up requirements

Female Mental Sex: determines the leverage points that can restore balance

Male Mental Sex: breaks a job into steps

Female Mental Sex: seeks fulfillment

Male Mental Sex: seeks satisfaction

Female Mental Sex: concentrates on “Why” and “When”

Male Mental Sex: concentrates on “How” and “What”

Female Mental Sex: puts the issues in context

Male Mental Sex: argues the issues

Female Mental Sex: tries to hold it all together

Male Mental Sex: tries to pull it all together

In stories, more often than not, physical gender matches Mental Sex. From time to time, however, gender and Mental Sex are cross-matched to create usual and interesting characters. For example, Ripley in Alien and Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs are Male Mental Sex characters. Tom Wingo in The Prince of Tides and Jack Ryan in The Hunt for Red October are Female Mental Sex characters. In most episodes of The X Files, Scully (the female F.B.I. agent) uses a(n) Male Mental Sex and Mulder (the male F.B.I. agent) uses a(n) Female Mental Sex, which is part of the series’ unusual feel. Note that Mental Sex has nothing to do with a character’s sexual preferences or tendency toward being masculine or feminine.

Sometimes stereotypes are propagated by what an audience expects to see, which filters the message and dilutes the truth. By placing a female psyche in a physically male character or a male psyche in a physically female character, preconceptions no longer prevent the message from being heard. On the downside, some audience members may have trouble relating to a Main Character whose problem solving techniques do not match the physical expectations.

Excerpted from
Dramatica Story Development Software