In the course of researching my dissertation, as I sought to show that Achilles’s rage represented an archetypal aspect of male behavior, I read many scientific studies on sexual difference as well as books considering those studies in the context of current cultural debates. In their book Brain Sex: The Real Difference Between Men and Women, geneticist Anne Moir and journalist David Jessel articulate the essence of this tension between sound science and politically-correct attitudes:
Recent decades have witnessed two contradictory processes; the development of scientific research into the differences between the sexes, and the political denial that such differences exist.
They write that if the reality of these differences make women angry,
. . . it is not because science has set at naught their hard won struggle towards equality; their wrath should rather be directed at those who have sought to misdirect and deny them of their very essence. Many women in the last thirty or forty years have been brought up to believe that they are, or should be, ‘as good as the next man’, and in the process they have endured acute and unnecessary pain, frustration and disappointment.
Those passages came to mind earlier today when I was reading Christina Hoff Sommers’s, The WAR AGAINST BOYS: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men. That feminist scholar offered an argument similar to that put forward by Moir and Jessel:
I would argue that turning a blind eye to real differences and dogmatically insisting that masculinity and femininity are “created by culture” pose even more serious dangers of their own.
Science has shown that differences between men and women derive not from social construction, but our very biology. To be sure, as Moir and Jessel acknowledge, “we all remember girls and boys who did not conform” to the patterns of behavior associated with their own sex. “Indeed,” those writers continue, “they stick in the mind precisely because they were so different from most boys and girls.” To some of the readers of this blog, those memories may be more acute because we were often those very children whose patterns of behavior did not conform.
That said, Sommers’s words merit serious consideration. If men and women are different, then men’s relationships to each other in romantic/sexual relationships differ from those of two women — not to mention from those between individuals of different sexes.
I do not pose the titular question merely as a rhetorical one. While my gut response would be in the affirmative, I’m not entirely sure. Many of us, despite the p.c. rhetoric in our community,d do recognize the reality of the differences. Just listen to most conversations among gay men about our lesbian peers — or listen to lesbian wonderment at the casual way gay men talk about our hook-ups.
I post this more for your consideration than to reach a particular conclusion. And do hope you will treat this post in that spirit.