Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

Men and women basically the same February 7, 2013

Filed under: gender,science — Jender @ 2:10 pm

From here.

What’s remarkable about all this is not that men and women have so much in common but that these commonalities persist despite relentless gender policing that usually involves quite a bit of shame. Men face ridicule if they’re perceived as having female-like levels of empathy and concern for their friends, and yet, according to the study, they overcome it. Women are routinely told there’s something wrong with them if they have “masculine” attitudes towards sex and men are emasculated if they aren’t horny all the time or if they desire intimacy alongside their sexual adventures, and yet both genders tend to have a mix of adventurousness and tenderness when it comes to sex. We’re constantly being put in gender silos, and yet, apparently, we keep escaping. (Go us!)


6 Responses to “Men and women basically the same”

  1. “Carothers and Reis may have been well-intentioned, but many aspects of their study were conceptually weak and the conclusion of many media reports that men and women do not differ in their sexuality is empirically very wrong” (Source). Marcotte, by the way, is a rather dubious source of information
    over topics on which evolutionary psychologists have much bearing.

  2. From the source link in #1:

    “Some of the questions—such as the appeal of sex with more than one partner, the appeal of having sex with a stranger, and the willingness to have sex without love—should be reasonably expected to co-vary together. ”

    One issue issue here is that, in many of of our cultures, we (non scientists) don’t expect these things to co vary together. When we hear “men are more promiscuous than women” we interpret this as “men tend to be very (relatively) promiscuous; women tend to not be very (relatively) promiscuous.” And sure, that’s faulty reasoning in our cultural consciousness, but because of it, what “sex difference” means to the person on the street is not what it means to a scientist studying this stuff. So for our everyday conception of sex difference, the conclusion that there is little/no sex difference here because “men and women overlap far more than many people and most network TV shows would like to believe” seems like a decent conclusion. (As far as the standards of reporting on science for the general public go.)

    As a second issue, I don’t see why evolutionary psychology is particularly relevant here. Evo psych is about explaining how evolution might be affecting our psychology, right? But this study just asked people questions about traits that are “gender specific.” Those traits are cultural tropes, too. So I don’t see why we should jump to the whole “here’s how evolution might have influenced this outcome” instead of focusing on “how might culture and social norms have influenced this outcome?” I’m sure I have something of a caricatured view of evo psych, but I’ve never seen it factor in cultural influences, so I don’t see why this (gender difference) is a topic that evo psych has much bearing on.

    To sum up that point, I don’t think we’re looking primarily at “evolved sexual psychologies” here. We’re looking at cultural sexual psychologies.

    Maybe though there’s something in the study that addresses these points but wasn’t in the article I read. (Maybe the study had a cross-cultural, global sample? That would be surprising/impressive.)

  3. EP is relevant, I reckon, because much of the cross-cultural data on sex differences concerning mating-related dimensions is predicted by Sexual Strategies Theory. This paper summarizes the centrality of context-dependency in evolutionary psychology.

  4. Whoops, that second link should be to this.

  5. Echidne Says:

    Actually, the del Giudice piece suffers from some problems, too. This post of mine mentions some of them (in the Hyde quote) and also the popular reception:http://echidneofthesnakes.blogspot.com/2012/01/digging-in-sewers-of-comments-to.html.

    EP is relevant, I reckon, because much of the cross-cultural data on sex differences concerning mating-related dimensions is predicted by Sexual Strategies Theory
    Retrodicted, you mean. The starting point, after all, is in current data and then the explanation is sought in a theory of prehistory. There are alternative theories, too. For example, if certain sexual strategies are adaptations, how come have societies tried to control women’s strategies away from short-term mating (sluts and whores etc) and towards what is presumably the evolutionary female adaptation of choosiness and fewer partners etc?

    I’m not necessarily arguing against EP here, just pointing out that to me the case it makes isn’t the only one that can be made and it doesn’t answer questions such as the one I posed above.

  6. Echidne Says:

    This is what I sent to Professor Buss about that interesting evolutionary psychology and feminism article:

    I have a question about some of your arguments in this paper, especially the sexual
    strategies part. You argue that empirical evidence (Table 1) supports the evolutionary
    basis of certain gender differences in sexual strategies, and that may well be the case.

    But this is something I have trouble with in this context: Societies all over the world
    have policed women’s access to short-term mating strategies very vigorously. History is
    full of examples about this, from the use of chastity belts to virginity tests.
    Certainly the social norms have assigned women very limited agency in this respect, and
    even today women who do resort to such short-term mating strategies are called sluts and
    whores and punished through social disapproval. Why police women’s sexuality in this

    I understand that the cuckolding theory might account for it. However, the difficulty I
    have still remains: Given that women’s sexuality *has* been controlled, we cannot argue
    that even vast empirical evidence of differential expressed preferences or behavior by
    gender necessarily proves an evolutionary explanation. Since women have been controlled
    (and still are in most of the world), the data we get is at best a mixture of
    evolutionary and cultural reasons.

    The second question I have is not about a specific part of the paper but about the
    argument that women look for resources in a man, for reasons that provided an
    evolutionary advantage in some undefined Pleistocene EEA, whereas men look for youth,
    pretty much. Elsewhere I have read that the EEA was a time/place in which prehistoric
    humans lived as nomadic hunter-gatherers. Given that, what WERE men’s resources? What I
    have read about the more recent nomadic tribes suggests to me that they were resource
    poor, and I thought that most resource accumulation was made possible by agriculture.

    It seems to me that the resources in a man would have been embodied, consisting of youth,
    health and perhaps food acquisition skills. Not that different, in other words, from the
    sort of things men would have looked for. I may be quite mistaken by the meaning of
    the search for resources in prehistoric women, but I’m trying to imagine what form they
    would have taken and fail to think of any non-embodied ones. Even something like
    dominance in the tribal unit might not be relevant, given the relative equality of recent
    nomadic tribes.

    This concerns me because of the quotes I have read in various ep popularizations, such as
    “Since an 80-year-old man can sire a child, women wouldn’t look for youth.”
    But that makes no sense. First, before Viagra a high percentage of men over 40 suffered
    from erectile dysfunctions. Perhaps prehistoric older men did not, but perhaps they did.
    Second, we now know that the quality of sperm declines with age. Besides, an
    80-year-old man would have a short life expectancy and would certainly leave the young
    (and possibly pregnant) mate alone very soon. If he had some resources she wanted, do we
    know that she would have been allowed to keep them after his death?

    I also wonder how you take into account the fact that women have had few opportunities to
    accumulate resources themselves during the period of written history. In medieval
    Europe, for instance, women were barred from the guilds. Women have been barred from
    most professions and until fairly recently from higher education. Laws often left women
    less rights to inheritance. For reasons of these types marrying up has been one of the
    sanctioned forms for women to acquire wealth, and this is still true in many countries.
    We see it affecting social norms even in the US. In short, there are alternative
    theories which explain why resources in a man have been important, even if they did not
    take the same form during some EEA.

    Finally, your discussion of women “causing” the patriarchy is interesting. But
    how do we know that women were allowed to choose their own mates? And the above
    mentioned resource question enters into this one, too.

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