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Male (♂) refers to the sex of an organism, or part of an organism, which produces small mobile gametes, called spermatozoa. Each spermatozoon can fuse with a larger female gamete or ovum, in the process of fertilization. A male cannot reproduce sexually without access to at least one ovum from a female, but some organisms can reproduce both sexually and asexually.

Not all species share a common sex-determination system. In humans and most animals, sex is determined genetically] but in other species it can be determined due to social, environmental, or other factors. The existence of two sexes seems to have been selected independently across different evolutionary lineages]. Accordingly, sex is defined operationally across species by the type of gametes produced (ie: spermatozoa vs. ova) and differences between males and females in one lineage are not always predictive of differences in another.

Male/Female dimorphism between organisms or reproductive organs of different sexes is not limited to animals; male gametes are produced by chytrids, diatoms and land plants, among others. In land plants, female and male designate not only the female and male gamete-producing organisms and structures but also the structures of the sporophytes that give rise to male and female plants.


A common symbol used to represent the male gender is the Mars symbol, ♂ ([Unicode: U+2642 Alt codes: Alt+11)—a circle with an arrow pointing northeast. This is often called a stylized representation of the Roman mythology|Roman god Mars' shield and spear.

Sex determination

Main article: Sex-determination system

The sex of a particular organism may be determined by a number of factors. These may be genetic or environmental, or may naturally change during the course of an organism's life. Although most species with male and female sexes have individuals that are either male or female, hermaphroditic animals, such as worms, have both male and female reproductive organs.

Genetic determination

Most mammals, including humans, are genetically determined as such by the XY sex-determination system where males have an XY (as opposed to XX) sex chromosome. It is also possible in a variety of species, including human beings, to be XXY or have other intersex/hermaphroditic qualities. These qualities are widely reported to be as common as redheadedness (about 2% of the population). [1]During reproduction], a male can give either an X sperm or a Y sperm, while a female can only give an X egg. A Y sperm and an X egg produce a boy, while an X sperm and an X egg produce a girl. The ZW sex-determination system, where males have a ZZ (as opposed to ZW) sex chromosome may be found in birds and some insects (mostly butterflies and moths) and other organisms. Members of Hymenoptera, such as ants and bees, are determined by haplodiploidy, where most males are haploid and females and some sterile males are diploid.

Environmental determination

In some species of reptiles, including alligators, sex is determined by the temperature at which the egg is incubated. Other species, such as some snails, practice sex change: adults start out male, then become female. In tropical clown fish, the dominant individual in a group becomes female while the other ones are male.

In some arthropods, sex is determined by infection. Bacterium|Bacteria of the genus Wolbachia alter their sexuality; some species consist entirely of ZZ individuals, with sex determined by the presence of Wolbachia.

Secondary sex characteristics

In those species with two sexes, males may differ from females in ways other than production of spermatozoa. Males are generally smaller than females in seed plants (the pollen grain is the male plant) and in many species of insects and fish. In mammals, including humans, males are typically larger than females. In birds, the male often exhibits a colorful plumage that attracts females.

Socio-psychological definitions

Male refers also to gender characteristics, in relation to roles within society, typically authority roles (in any given relationship).

Male can be used to mean masculinity, which again is largely a societal invention, and relates to a mix of physical attributes and gender role.

It is very important when contemplating transgenderism to understand what is meant by male and its relationship to gender identity, and its relationship to birth sex.

From a very crude perspective, a transvestite man would perceive himself as male. A MTF transsexual is however female. A FTM transsexual is (despite a birth sex of female) male, and will (typically) display "male" attributes.

Society as a whole is irrationally attached to concepts of "male" and "female" and transgendered people often cause distress (leading to aggression, lack of acceptance or other societal breakdowns) by causing confusion against those concepts.

Furthermore, there are classical stereotypes and stigmas that males are told to follow, I.E. Having short hair or being the latter -- Bald, not being able to express your full emotions (Like crying which is typically seen as "Feminine") and that men should work while the other loved one stays at home. Usually by breaking these barriers some people will argue and fight with you, this just goes to show though that with subtle changes of expressing yourself, people around the world will be more willing to embrace YOU! Which then in turn will give males more freedom to express and expand themselves.

See also


  1. See, Dallas Denny, Current Concepts in Transgender Identity


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This page was originally authored by members of Susan's Place Wiki Staff.