Biology of Sex and Gender: Sex Differences and Behaviour

egg+sperm

I’m still flirting with the idea that females, somewhere, perhaps unconsciously, deep within the psyche of every human being, are truly the more powerful sex. That patriarchy as suggested before was merely the result of ‘womb envy’ in males which somehow resulted in them gaining political power in almost every sense of culture and society. It is still females who must menstruate, it is still females who carry infants for 9 months, it is still females who give birth, it is still females who control sexual activity and it is still females who are biologically in shape and physical features more desirable then males. We have more naked flesh, curves, soft soldiers, and swollen breasts even without a child. We can accentuate our features through make-up, which is still considered a female activity and have a wider variety of clothing styles. Many cultural customs are female we could be ruling the Earth!

However, we are still in many ways seen as the weaker sex and expected to behave and act differently to males.  I want to consider the biological differences between the sexes further. How do the differences in the male and female reproductive juices impact behavior? Do these differences still support a patriarchy society where males will dominate and females obey? Are these sexual differences really to blame for sexual inequality? Why do males and females behave in certain ways? Is it biological or cultural? The debate continues.

The sociobiological analysis of sexual difference and sexual inequality is based on the fact that only the number of fertile females that a male can manage to inseminate biologically limits the number of offspring he can produce.  Otherwise a male can continue to reproduce and pass on his genes throughout his life given he can mate with as many females as possible. Meanwhile, females can only produce a limited amount of offspring, a maximum of 20 in the case of humans. (Lipsitz Bem p.16). This sexual difference in itself presents an unjust and a reason to why males are more aggressive and promiscuous and females more coy and careful.  In ‘On Human Nature’ (1978) by Wilson he writes:

“During the full period of time it takes to bring a fetus to term,…one male can fertilize many females but a female can be fertilized by only one male. Thus, if males are able to court one female after another, some will be big winners and others will be absolute losers, while virtually all healthy females will succeed in being fertilized. It pays males to be aggressive, hasty, fickle, and undiscriminating. In theory it is more profitable for females to be coy, to hold back until they can identify males with the best genes. In species that rear young, it is also important for the fe- males to select males who are more likely to stay with them af- ter insemination. . . . Human beings obey this biological prin- ciple faithfully.” (p. 129)

And so the cultural expectation and acceptance of men being ‘players’ and promiscuous and women being coy could be due to biological differences between the sexes once more. However, I’d like to suggest that as women’s eggs are more exclusive and in less quantity, this makes women more precious. And therefore, the stronger sex. Men can carry on reproducing but  it’s more about quality over quantity. Just a thought.

References:

Lipsitz Bem, S (1993) ‘The Lenses of Gender: Transforming the Debate on Sexually Inequality’. Yale University: Yale University.

Wilson, E . O (1978) ‘On Human Nature’ Harvard University Press.

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