back to part 3
What Does it Mean?
If you want to say it with political correctness,
here it is: Nature is a sexist pig. There are quite a few people,
as you may have noticed, who are afraid of that fact. They dont
want you or me to know about this research, and for a very good
reason. This information can be used in fact, has
been used to justify unkind, unfair, or intolerant treatment
of one sex or the other (usually women, since men have been using
the information more aggressively).
But thats not a good reason to ignore
a fact. Perfectly valid and potentially useful facts are misused
all the time: It isnt a comment on the danger of the facts,
its a comment on the danger of a closed mind. A closed
mind is only seeking to reinforce an already existing bias. And
biases exist in the absence of facts just as readily (and maybe
even more readily) than they do in the presence of facts.
Also, to say we are influenced by our biology
is to imply we have less free will than wed like to think.
It may threaten womens suffrage. It might erode our concept
of personal responsibility (I couldnt help it! I
was pumped up on my own testosterone at the time.). These
are some of the reasons people dont want the research on
the biological differences between the sexes to be well known.
A group of anthropologists met to discuss
this issue. Some of them were intrigued by these findings, and
some were against them for political and social reasons (as well
as, Im sure, the fact that these findings put the socialization
theory in question, and many liberal scholars hold that
theory very dear). One of the scholars said into the microphone
that these findings and the new theories coming out of them are
an attempt to justify genetically the sexist, racist, and
elitist status quo in human society! He said it will ruin
our children. It is a deterministic scam, a political plot, a
vicious, pernicious disease!
Facts, said Aldous Huxley,
do not cease to exist because they are ignored. Just
because something is ugly and has horrible implications doesnt
make it untrue. You can make whatever you want out of a fact,
useful or unuseful, but it doesnt change the fact.
The purpose of this article is not to discuss
what society ought to do about these facts. Im
concerned with you and your relationship with your significant
other, and I can tell you that an ignorance of these facts
whether deliberate or not will make it more difficult
to be happy in your relationship.
I dont believe these facts should
be used to force someone into a limitation. Women may be better
communicators, but some men are pretty good, and I dont
think we should prevent a man from getting a job as a negotiator
if he can do it well enough. Being a cop may require a certain
amount of strength and aggression, but when a woman can do the
job, obviously she should be hired and paid the same as a man
for the same position. Thats only fair, as any rational
person can see.
No pursuits ought to be denied to someone
who wants to pursue it and is capable of pursuing it, for sexual,
religious, race, or any other dumb reasons. Recognizing differences
is not the same as defining differences and forcing everyone
to confine themselves to the defined roles. The amount of male
and female hormones in each of us varies quite a bit, so we will
each have strengths and weaknesses, superiorities and inferiorities,
interests and lack of interests in different things between
sexes and within each sex.
Our biology may determine how we feel and
what we want, but we determine what we do. And if someone
can do a job, she or he should be free to do it. And also, we
are each responsible for what we do, regardless or how we feel
or what sex we are. I may be more likely than a woman to feel
like hitting someone, but if either of us actually hit
someone, we should be punished just the same.
Whats In a Gene?
Genes dont influence our behavior
directly. They act through the medium of our feelings
what we like and what we dont like; what were drawn
to and what we have no interest in; whats comfortable and
whats not. Little boys fidget because its uncomfortable
not to. It was probably adaptive at some time. Maybe it builds
coordination faster to keep boys constantly moving.
Genes code for hormones and brain proteins
and levels of neurotransmitters. They code for structure
rather than specific behaviors. Most behaviors are learned in
humans. In other words, genes dont program very much specific
behavior in humans. They program feelings, urges, drives, likings,
interest what we will and will not enjoy. Our genes dont
give us thoughts like I should help my relatives,
they give us feelings: I want to help my relatives.
Some of our masculine or feminine
behaviors are open to learning. But desires and preferences may
not be as changeable. Deep-seated preferences cannot be
argued about, said Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., you
cannot argue a man into liking a glass of beer. You cant
convince someone to like something she or he doesnt like.
One or more of the differences Ive
described in this article may not fit your particular relationship.
If one doesnt, I recommend you pay more attention to the
reality in front of you than to something you read.
If, however, this information hits home
with you and your mate, and if you've found a trait you have
resisted, fought against, or tried to make your mate get over,
thats where this information becomes useful. If you knew
it wasnt your mates fault, and the trait isnt
causing you harm its just different and you cant
understand it then there is a possibility of reconciling
yourselves to each other in a new, more intimate way. This information
gives you a way of understanding things that seemed incomprehensible
I remember years ago Klassy and I got into
an argument because she criticized me. At least in my mind, thats
what started it. In her mind, it was probably because I did something
stupid and she criticized me justifiably.
But after a lot of (sometimes heated) discussion,
I realized that I was assuming she is like me. I assumed that
she was feeling like I would have to feel (intense anger) before
I would approach her with a criticism.
But the fact is, she lives in a different
world, hormonally speaking. Thats incontrovertible. When
researchers hook up men and women in an argument to biomeasuring
machines, they find that during conflict, men are experiencing
more stress than the women are. And there is plenty of evidence
to suspect that this difference is a biologically-based difference,
rather than a result of socialization.
So if I assume Klassy is experiencing things
the way I am, my assumption will miss the mark it will
be false and when I take action on a false assumption,
my actions are liable to be inappropriate. In this case, inappropriate
actions on my part were then misunderstood by Klassy: She thought
I was overreacting or I misunderstood her or something. It became
confusing. We then tried to clear up the confusion, but no matter
how much we restated our positions and tried to understand each
other, it remained confusing because you have to back up all
the way to the beginning assumption (that we are experiencing
this event similarly because we are the same) in order to clear
Later, when the fight was over, I just
wanted to say, Oh well, lets be friends and forget
about it, and go on about our day. She doesnt let
go of things so easily. This also seems to be a genetically-caused
difference. Chimpanzees, who share 99.6% of our active DNA, show
the same pattern: Males make up after a conflict fairly quickly.
A female can hold a grudge against another for years.
Males doing battle with other males, defending
territory and hunting cooperatively (as chimpanzees do) cant
afford to hold grudges, so somewhere along the line, the tendency
to try to reconcile conflict quickly was developed.
Nowadays, it may be useful or not, I dont
know. But what I do know is this: It is a lot easier to deal
with Klassy when I assume she is different than when I assume
she is like me. Much less of her behavior frustrates or confuses
Lets get off each others backs
about our differences. Lets quit trying to make each marriage
partner do an equal amount of everything. Whoever thinks
marriage is a 50-50 proposition, said Franklin P. Jones,
doesnt know the half of it. Let yourselves
specialize into different divisions of labor if thats what
seems natural and easy and pleasant. If you have one person who
really cares about having a clean house, and whose standards
are high, and the other partner doesnt care about having
a clean house and whose standards are low anyway...guess whos
going to end up doing more housework? If a woman was willing
to let the house get as dirty as hes willing, then there
wouldnt be a conflict, would there? If he likes fixing
the car and she likes doing the housework, and he likes working
more hours at his job and she likes spending more time with the
kids, whats wrong with that?
Its a difference in interest. Why
are some people interested in computers and some people interested
in astronomy? Who knows? But one thing is for sure: They will
be happiest pursuing their interest and not trying to force themselves
down a path that doesnt give them enjoyment.
Does this mean were at the mercy
of our biology? No. What biology is doing is affecting our feelings.
But you can do something even when you dont feel like it,
and you can feel like doing something and yet refrain from doing
it. Its called self-discipline. Its obviously a genetic
compulsion to eat when were hungry, yet people have been
known to deliberately refuse to eat until they died of starvation.
But some genetic impulses are not worth
resisting. And what we like to do most is one of those.
Yes you can go without food, but you still feel hungry. You can
behave as if you like things or are interested in things you
arent, but pretending is an unpleasant experience. Not
only that, in a relationship, it causes confusion and resentment.
And besides, its dishonest.
Im taking it for granted you wouldnt
do something that harmed another person. But given that qualification,
why should you do something you dont like to do and keep
yourself from doing something you like, when it doesnt
harm anyone? Thats not a prescription for happiness.
Maybe the differences between the sexes
could be a strength. Maybe its not a bad thing at
all. Maybe its a blessing.
Its true that men could act more
like women and women could act more like men. But what kind of
an empty life would that be? I dont like being something
Im not. I dont like acting or pretending. It is an
unsatisfying way to live. Not only that, but behaving incongruently
with the way you really feel is a formula for a superficial relationship:
Just be phony and act the way your lover wants you to, pretend
you like things you dont, and you are sure to have a shallow,
But we dont have to be the same to
Where We Go From Here
Socialization is something youve
learned, and it can be changed by learning something new. Genetics
is not learned, its built in, and you have to work around
it. Our species has a genetic predisposition to male dominance
of females, for example. We work around it with laws and social
attitudes. Birth control is another example. The desire to mate
cant be changed. Its genetic and unchangeable. But
we have worked around it with contraception: The purpose of sex
(from a genetic standpoint) has been circumvented.
If your partner seems unable to change
some particular characteristic, it is possible, especially if
it fits a sex-role stereotype, that its genetic and unchangeable.
So what are you supposed to do?
First Take the Blame Out
Men and women are not to blame for their
differences. Do you blame men for being hairy? Do you blame women
for being short? If you had two people, one of whom was color-blind
and one who had a good sense of color, who would you ask to decorate
your house? Would anyone be blamed? Mocked? Bashed? Would anyone
be pushed to change?
If there are things you would like your
mate to change (and there are), and you come to him or her in
an attitude of blame, you create resistance, not cooperation.
If what you want your mate to change is unchangeable, the resistance
turns into resentment and frustration. But the information in
this article can help you take the blame out of your request,
and together you can find ways of working around those characteristics
if they cant be changed. No one is at fault. Its
just life. Its just what survived the billions of years
of evolution. No one is to blame.
I dont verbalize my feelings very
easily. Given that Im a male, the evidence suggests that
this is probably because male hormones compartmentalize my brain
and gave me a smaller corpus callosum and made me less sensitive
in the womb. Klassy used to get annoyed with me (and frankly
I was annoyed at myself) and she would say, Why didnt
you just tell me you felt that way?
Well, I didnt really know
I felt that way. Or, I sort of knew. I knew how I
felt nonverbally. But it wasnt there as something I could
say. Its hard to put something in words that doesnt
seem to be available in words.
I now compensate for this by taking the
time to concentrate and ask myself what I feel and try to articulate
it. And as long as Ive been doing this, Im not much
better at it.
Klassy has a genetic strength where I have
a weakness and she no longer gets annoyed with me. She helps
I dont get annoyed at her for being
unable to reach the top shelf. I help her instead.
Lets not only give up blame, but
venture far beyond it. Lets see what kind of relationships
we can develop given our realities rather than our cultures
myths and fantasies. Every step you take in that direction will
make you more satisfied with each other, more comfortable and
relaxed around each other, and less phony. And youll have
less futile conflict.
Klassy helps me build business relationships
and relationships with my family. I help her accomplish her goals.
She helps me think things through. I help her stay on track.
Not only have we finally stopped fighting against our differences,
were learning to use each others strengths.
Men and women work well as a unit, like
a pilot and navigator. When flying a plane, pilot and navigator
dont try to be fair. The pilot doesnt make the navigator
do his fair share of the piloting. Its inefficient.
It wouldnt work as well. Instead, they each do what they
do best because when they do, each is better off as part of the
team than either would be alone. They fly the plane better than
if they were each trying to do their fair share of each task.
Researchers at Stanford University found
women and men have different responses to depression and that
these differences may help explain why the rate of depression
among women is twice that of men (and, by the way, why alcoholism
in men is twice that of women).
Men try to distract themselves from their
bad feelings; women tend to ponder their bad feelings. The researchers
found that mens diversionary tactics made their depression
When a woman is depressed, she will tend
to focus her thoughts on what is causing the depression and think
about possible consequences. Men tend to use an activity that
requires their attention to help them avoid thinking about the
problem (or use alcohol to reduce their ability to think about
You can see that neither option is the
best one for everything. If the problem is small and/or cant
be changed, it is better to distract yourself with a challenging
or engaging, and maybe even productive task. But if the problem
is big and/or can be changed, it is better to think it
through and make some decisions.
We have a lot we can learn from each other.
We can lean on each other and find strength.
There are genetically determined differences
between all of us, even between people of the same sex. Lets
develop a little more tolerance for each other. Lets learn
to resist the urge to fight against those differences or try
to make everyone the same and instead, lets try to discover
the advantages of our differences, and in this way, help to realize
and enjoy the full benefits of being human.