Sex steroid receptors are ligand-triggered transcription factors. Oestrogen, progesterone and androgen receptors form, together with the glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid receptors, a subgroup of the superfamily of nuclear receptors. They share a common mode of action, namely translating a hormone-i.e. a small-molecule signal-from outside to changes in gene expression and cell fate, and thereby represent "natural" pharmacological targets.For pharmacological therapy, these receptors have originally been addressed by hormones and synthetic hormone analogues in order to overcome pathologies related to deficiencies in the natural ligands. Another major use for female sex hormone receptor modulators is oral contraception, i.e. birth control.On the other side, blocking the activity of sex steroid receptors has become an established way to treat hormone-dependent malignancies, such as breast and prostate cancer.In this review, we will discuss how the experience gained from the classical pharmacology of these receptors and their molecular similarities led to new options for the treatment of gender-specific diseases and highlight recent progress in medicinal chemistry of sex hormone-modulating drugs.