Most discussions of sexuality today assume that differences between men and women are insubstantial, and that the boundary between the masculine and the feminine is highly porous. To reflect the idea that male and female roles have been “socially constructed,” they speak of gender instead of sex, and ridicule the double standard of “studs” and “sluts.” Because men and women are virtually interchangeable, it is argued, men should do an equal share of domestic work so that women can compete equally with men outside the home.
This vision of androgyny has compelling aspects. But Dr. Steven Rhoads finds one problem: whatever we might like to believe, sex distinctions remain a deeply rooted part of human nature. In Taking Sex Differences Seriously, he assembles a wealth of scientific evidence showing that these differences are “hardwired” into our biology. They range from the subtle (women instinctively carry babies on their left side, near the maternal heartbeat) to the profound (women with higher testosterone levels are more promiscuous, more competitive, and more conflicted about having children).
Rhoads explores male/female disparities in aggression and dominance, in sexuality and nurturing. He shows how denial of these differences has affected phenomena such as the sexual revolution and fatherless families, and policies such as Title IX and the call for universal day care. But he also says that society is improved by discouraging some natural tendencies, like men’s temptation toward predatory sex, and encouraging others, like women’s greater interest and talent in caring for babies.
Steven Rhoads dispels social clichés and spotlights biological realities in this provocative book. Meticulously researched and elegantly written, Taking Sex Differences Seriously is a groundbreaking look at the way we are.
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