A model of a DNA molecule. Credit: Christian Guthier / Flickr Creative Commons
Anthropologists who study gender across cultures find that males have a higher propensity to express violent tendencies and “driven sexuality” than their female counterparts. According to Professor Melvin Konner, this explains why women have a biological advantage over men.
Konner’s new book, Women After All: Sex, Evolution and the End of Male Supremacy, explains why hormones and genetics may explain the rising power of women in everything from politics to business.
“What I'm focused on is two differences that I think are essential, in the sense that you will find them in every culture. And those two things are violence - a tendency to violence - and what I call 'driven sexuality.' Which can, and often does, unfortunately lead to exploitative sexuality, for reasons having to do with how the brain develops. Those two categories of behavior are partly influenced by biology and hormones and genes."
After studying development for two years in Africa, Konner, who teaches at Emory University, says he began to question the notion that culture is the real cause of differences between the sexes. He notes that "anthropology and historical studies have shown that you don't find a culture where there's a reversal of the predominance of males in violence.”
But violence often doesn't get rewarded in modern societies. Instead, women's tendency to cooperate and maintain an even temper give them an edge.
“Women are in a majority graduating from high school," Konner notes. " They're in an even bigger majority entering college, and they're in an even bigger majority graduating from college.”
He says that in many ways, our general conception of masculinity is evolving, which could contribute to feelings of alienation among men.
“I am not far from the point where we're going to start talking about the vulnerability of boys and men in the face of this huge change in the role of women. But I think we're still in a place where women have a long way to go before they really get an even playing field.”