The male body has long been taken as the norm (see Standards and Reference Models). Female bodies have often been studied as they deviate from that norm. Often, results from single-sex studies are generalized beyond the sex studied.
Research and design should be set up to identify significant sex differences.
- Example (Science/Medicine): Diagnostic models for osteoporosis have been traditionally been developed for women, and criteria to identify risk in men are not well established. New research is considering disease progression in both women and men by evaluating risk using sex-specific reference models (see Case Study: Osteoporosis Research in Men).
- Example (Engineering): Safety devices, such as safety belts, were first developed to fit the 50th percentile man (taken as the norm). Inattention to humans of different sizes and shapes may result in unintended harm. Conventional seatbelts do not properly fit pregnant women, for example, and vehicle crashes are a leading cause of accidental fetal death due to maternal trauma (see Case Study: Pregnant Crash Test Dummies).