Skip to main content


Log in

Academic Freedom Is Social Justice: Sex, Gender, and Cancel Culture on Campus

  • Special Section: “Cancel Culture”: ITS Impact on Sex/Gender Teaching, Clinical Practice, and Research
  • Published:
Archives of Sexual Behavior Aims and scope Submit manuscript


I teach in and co-direct the undergraduate program in the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. During the promotion of my recent book on testosterone and sex differences, I appeared on “Fox and Friends,” a Fox News program, and explained that sex is binary and biological. In response, the director of my department’s Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging task force (a graduate student) accused me on Twitter of transphobia and harming undergraduates, and I responded. The tweets went viral, receiving international news coverage. The public attack by the task force director runs contrary to Harvard’s stated academic freedom principles, yet no disciplinary action was taken, nor did any university administrators publicly support my right to express my views in an environment free of harassment. Unfortunately, what happened to me is not unusual, and an increasing number of scholars face restrictions imposed by formal sanctions or the creation of hostile work environments. In this article, I describe what happened to me, discuss why clear talk about the science of sex and gender is increasingly met with hostility on college campuses, why administrators are largely failing in their responsibilities to protect scholars and their rights to express their views, and what we can do to remedy the situation.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others

Data Availability

Not applicable.

Code Availability

Not applicable.


  1. I am a lecturer, not a professor, but I’ll take it.

  2. “Because no other community defines itself so much in terms of knowledge, few others place such a high priority on freedom of speech. As a community, we take certain risks by assigning such a high priority to free speech. We assume that the long term benefits to our community will outweigh the short term unpleasant effects of sometimes noxious views. Because we are a community united by a commitment to rational processes, we do not permit the censorship of noxious ideas. We are committed to maintaining a climate in which reason and speech provide the correct response to a disagreeable idea.” (Free speech guidelines, 1990).


Download references


The author wishes to thank Pamela Paresky and Alex Byrne for comments on an earlier draft.


Not applicable.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Carole K. Hooven.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The author declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Springer Nature or its licensor (e.g. a society or other partner) holds exclusive rights to this article under a publishing agreement with the author(s) or other rightsholder(s); author self-archiving of the accepted manuscript version of this article is solely governed by the terms of such publishing agreement and applicable law.

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Hooven, C.K. Academic Freedom Is Social Justice: Sex, Gender, and Cancel Culture on Campus. Arch Sex Behav 52, 35–41 (2023).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: