Psychology's Feminist Voices
Women PastFeminist PresenceAbout Us

Twitter YouTube Follow us on Facebook Changing Face of Feminist Psychology: watch the video


Sari van Anders


Training Location(s):

PhD, Simon Fraser University, (2007)

MA, University of Western Ontario, (2003)

Hons. BA, University of Western Ontario, (2001)

Primary Affiliation(s):

Queen's University, (2018 - present)

University of Michigan, (2008-2018)

University of Indiana Bloomington, (2007-2008)

Media Links:


Professional Websites


Sari van Anders at Queen's University


The van Anders Lab at Queen's University




Psychology's Feminist Voices Oral History Transcript 



Career Focus: social neuroendocrinology; gender/sex and sexual diversity; sex research; feminist science; queer science.


Sari van Anders was born in 1978 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She was raised in a fairly progressive family; her mother attended consciousness-raising groups and van Anders remembers reading feminist books while in grade school. She also recalls carrying her tampons openly when she first got her period, sharing the idea that girls didn’t have to hide them in their pockets if they didn’t want to, and arguing that girls shouldn’t be required to wear dresses to formal events. Her collective feminist activism began at an early age when she and her 7th grade peers fought to be able to play on the basketball court at school which was initially used only by the boys with girls generally excluded.


In high school, van Anders developed an interest in biology and evolution and spent time in the library reading about scientific racism and sexism, and the ways that “evolution was misused around humans.” She enrolled at the University of Western Ontario to study Biological Anthropology (and Art Criticism, which she thought could be her “night job”) for her undergraduate studies, which she found much less engaging than she had expected. After taking a biologically-oriented introductory Psychology course, she became interested in the field. She was involved with research during the summers in her undergraduate years, and this helped her realize that she wanted to go to graduate school to do research in Psychology. van Anders completed her masters at Western as well, supervised by Elizabeth Hampson. Her thesis work there focused on understanding hormones and sex differences in cognition from an evolutionary perspective, as she worked on side projects in testosterone and sexual desire, and gendered barriers to graduate students becoming professors.


During this time, van Anders had also been reading in the feminist science studies literature, as well as postcolonial feminism, women-of-colour feminisms, and science studies. This was independent of her “laboratory” research and, though she was unsure how to fit them together formally, she described the feminist works she read in graduate school as something she “grew up with” academically. Since social neuroscience didn’t yet exist so far as she knew, van Anders had to decide between pursuing her interest in neuroscience and sex, or socialization and gender. Knowing she wanted to do non-clinical work on hormones in humans led to few potential labs, and she went to Simon Fraser University to do her PhD with Neil Watson. She credits him for suggesting what became the start of the career she has launched since then – the ‘social modulation of hormones.’ There, she continued to read feminist science studies, and started an interdisciplinary discussion group on gender/sex.


After a tenure-track position position at Indiana University in Psychology and Gender Studies and at the Kinsey Institute, and ten years at the University of Michigan, van Anders returned to Canada to become the Canada 150 Chair in Social Neuroendocrinology, Sexuality, and Gender/Sex at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. The van Anders lab is one of the only feminist science labs in North America that incorporates both biomateriality and feminist and queer perspectives. Today, van Anders’ work and that of her students is interdisciplinary, and they have collaborated with researchers in social work, medicine, nursing, midwifery, and psychologists in other fields, among others. They use theoretical frameworks that incorporate evolutionary bioscience as well as social constructionist approaches. The intention is to be doing science that is “bio-legible,” meaning that it can be understood by other bio-scientists, is “biologically expansive,” and is “informed by lived experiences,” especially of minority and marginalized groups.


Much of the work in the van Anders lab is on sexuality incorporating evolutionary, and hormonal and sociocultural perspective. For instance, they study social neuroendocrinology, which considers the multiple ways people are situated in society and how this matters for the multiple directions of causality between hormones and behaviour. There is a specific focus on social modulation of hormones such as testosterone, and how this modulation functions within social phenomena like nurturance, sex, desire, and bonding. She and her lab members are engaged in feminist science by being conscious of gender and intersectional identity related inequities. They also use a queer science perspective as a way to complicate and expand the possible understandings of intimacy, gender/sex, and biology. Everything is “a continual becoming” of thinking and working in feminist and queer ways; the lab guide discusses social location, autonomy, agency, and power dynamics, and many of her papers have undergraduate co-authors, including first authors.


One of van Anders’ major theoretical contributions is Sexual Configurations Theory which is an inclusive, feminist, queer, and scientifically meaningful way to conceptualize and measure gender/sex. “Gender/sex” is a term used to refer to whole people that reflects both gender socialization and evolved sex. It describes the “entanglement” of gender, which is typically the sole focus of sociocultural research, and sex, which is typically the only focus in biology research. It also measures gender/sex sexuality and partner number sexuality, and she along with Alex Iantaffi, Meg-John Barker, and Jules Scheele have developed a zine about the theory (accessible on her website).


van Anders is currently associate editor of Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, and past Editor of the Annual Review of Sex Research. She is also on the editorial board of several other sex research and biological behavioural journals. She is a fellow of the American Psychological Association and has won numerous awards for her research and knowledge dissemination efforts.


As a neuroscientist and social neuroendocrinologist, van Anders is able to utilize her position of authority and expertise in these fields to criticize and question problematic assumptions in science. However, she identifies her main goal as being less to criticize mainstream biological science, but more about building up a body of feminist and queer bio science that helps us understand gender/sex, sexual diversity, and hormones in more sophisticated, situated, and empirical ways.


By Mira Goldstein (2018)

To cite this article, see Credits

Selected Works:


By Sari van Anders


Abed, E. C., Schudson, Z. C., Gunther, O. D., Beischel, W. J., & van Anders, S. M. (2019). Sexual and gender diversity among sexual and gender/sex majorities: Insights via sexual configurations theory. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 48, 1423-1441.


*Herbenick, D., *van Anders, S. M., Brotto, L. A., Chivers, M. L., Jawed-Wessel, S., & Galarza, J. (2019). Editorial: Sexual harassment in the field of sexuality research. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 48, 997-1006. *indicates co-first authors.


Hyde, J. S., Bigler, R. B., Joel, D. S., Tate, C. C., & van Anders, S.M. (2019). The future of sex and gender in psychology: Five challenges to the gender binary. American Psychologist, 74, 171-193.


Chadwick, S. B. & van Anders, S. (2017). Do women’s orgasms function as a masculinity achievement for men?. The Journal of Sex Research, 54, 1-12.


van Anders, S. M., Schudson, E. C., et al. (2017). Biological sex, gender, and public policy. Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 4, 194-201.


van Anders, S. M., Steiger, J., & Goldey, K. L. (2015). Gendered behavior modulates testosterone in women and men. PNAS: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112, 13805-13810.


van Anders, S. M. (2015). Beyond sexual orientation: Integrating gender/sex and diverse sexualities in Sexual Configurations Theory. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 44, 1177-1213.


van Anders, S. M. (2014). Nomenclature and knowledge-culture, or, we don’t call semen ‘penile mucus.’ Psychology and Sexuality, 5, 349-356.


van Anders, S. M., Caverly, N. L., & Johns, M. M. (2014). Newborn bio/logics and legal definitions of gender/sex for US state documents. Feminism and Psychology, 24, 172-192.


van Anders, S. M. (2013). Invited contribution: Beyond masculinity: Testosterone, gender/sex, and human social behavior in a comparative context. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology, 34, 198-210.


van Anders, S. M. (2012). From one bioscientist to another: Guidelines for researching and writing about bisexuality for the lab and biosciences. Journal of Bisexuality, 12, 393-403.


van Anders, S. M., Goldey, K. L., & Kuo, P. X. (2011). The steroid/peptide theory of social bonds: Integrating testosterone and peptide responses for classifying social behavioral contexts. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 36, 1265-1275.

Photo Gallery: