I just read Taking Sex Differences Seriously, by Steven E. Rhoads, and although it was interesting, as usual with such books I found everything too black and white to be convincing.
It has all the usual stuff about men being predatory sexual beasts while women are gentle creatures who need love and commitment and who are invariably hurt by casual sex, and if a woman sleeps with a man before he's committed to her he won't stay with her etc. None of this relates to my own experience at all. When I was young, I quite often treated boyfriends quite badly; frequently I was the one who dumped them, not the other way around. I was often the one who didn't want to see a man again after sleeping with him once, while he was keen to see me again. And as for men not wanting to marry women they have slept with too soon, this does not apply to me either, since I usually slept with men on the first date, and quite often didn't even bother with the date, nevertheless some of them (including my present husband) did want to marry me. And women are supposed to love reading romance novels, so how does that explain someone like me, who can't stand them? Aren't people really more of a mixture than books like these will admit?
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| 2. Look at the American Male|
Steven E. Rhoads seems to have a somewhat rosy view of life in the past. His view of life in the fifties is of happy well-adjusted young people dating and then marrying, with nobody having any problems at all. A slightly less sunny picture of the 50s is given in Florence King's He: An Irreverent Look at the American Male in which she describes her own years at a co-educational college “My four years in a Penile Institution” as a seething hotbed of sexual tension, with young women obsessed with marriage and motherhood constantly terrified of losing the respect of men, worrying about going too far, not going far enough, and frantically counting on their fingers to work out the date of their last period. “Satisfying the boys was something we did with the utmost reluctance because we were all scared to death of semen. If it got on you, anywhere near you, you could get pregnant, it had happened. We cranked ourselves up into such a state of terror that we visualized each individual sperm cell as a grinning demon armed with pontoons, ladders, scaling hooks wire cutters, and an ability to incubate indefinitely in everything from wool to nylon tricot.”
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| 3. People classifications|
Steven Rhoads tells us that women are more interested in babies than men are – hardly a startling piece of news – and that most women are happier concentrating on their families than on careers. Men want wives who are young and beautiful, women want men who are successful and earn good money. This may be true of most people, but it doesn't explain a relationship like, for instance, my sister has. For the past 15 years she has lived with a man 23 years younger than she is, and who is utterly devoted to her. When she goes away he sleeps in a tent in the garden because he hates being in the house on his own. He doesn't have a career or any professional status at all, and my sister, though beautiful, will be 61 this year so is a bit short on youth. This is the main trouble with books like these, they talk about people as if they can all be tidily divided up into this and that ‘men are this, women are that’ when a lot of people don't fit into these tidy classifications. Human beings are more varied than Rhoads makes allowances for.
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‘Women respond more readily to babies cries’, is a frequently-expressed opinion in this book, and I certainly agree with that for myself. I always hear the children crying before my husband does. Nevertheless, I have a certain admiration for women who are able to override this biological imperative.
And I do think it is true that women have more patience with children than men do. My husband is always happy to spend hours doing things with the children when it is something that interests him, helping them make things or showing them how things work, but he is much less willing to do things that they want to do but he doesn't. For instance, neither of us likes playing ball games, but if the children want someone to kick a ball around with the, it's always me who ends up doing it, he won't. But then, according to Steven Rhoads, men are far more interested in sport than women, so it ought to be he who wants to play ball with the children, but he doesn't. The only sport that interests him is sailing.
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| 5. Complexity of human beings.|
Women are supposed to be better at housework than men, but that's not true of me. Men are likely to be dissatisfied with women who don't do well at cooking, housework etc. Yes, I can identify with that; it's certainly true of my own marriage, but, all the same, other things have always mattered more to my husband than my lack of interest in housework. Can he really be unique in this respect? Are men really so obsessed with women being good housekeepers, and are women really so obsessed with men's earning power and professional status? Are human beings really as easy to classify, and as tidily compartmentalized, as Steven Rhoads seems to think? I am skeptical. Hormonal differences may explain some things, but they can't explain the infinite variety and complexity of human beings.
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| 6. Generalities Don't Trump Specifi|
This sounds like yet another of those odd duck self help books where in an attempt to help the "relationship illiterate" the author has laid out certain very rough overviews of males versus females in the usual "one size fits all" sort of way.
It seems obvious to me that no one is going to find the answer to his or her relatiosnhip problems in one of these books (and men seem to know this since they do not read these books).
It makes much more sense to look at the individual you are and the individual he is, and work things out from there, rather than making everyone fit onto these Procrustean beds.
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I actually have spoken to Dr Rhoads by telephone (on a subject unrelated to his book, but the book came up in discussion too). I told him I appreciated his book because it helped me understand WHY I have always had certain male psychological traits (I have elevated testosterone for a woman, due to two medical conditions I have.) What many people do not realize is that testosterone not only can affect how men and women LOOK...it can also affect how they THINK.
I have been a lifelong tomboy, and one thing that was pointed out (I think) in his book, was that girls/women who were lifelong tomboys either were exposed to testosterone in utero from their mothers, or have congenital adrenal hyperplasia (I have it), and Polycystic ovarian syndrome (I have it.)
I LOOK feminine but tend to often THINK like a man. I didn't even realize it until certain things were pointed out to me.
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| 8. Testosterone and Behavior|
You might want to check out Dr Dabbs book, Heroes, Rogues, and Lovers: Testosterone and Behavior. While it is true that a man has far more testosterone than a woman, a significant enough drop in his testosterone can impact him in ways men are usually not impacted---he can become submissive, passive, nonaggressive. It has happened in prostate cancer studies, and scientists generally recognize that certain behaviors are affected by the level of testosterone or estrogen (the sex hormones.)
Just because a man has a lot more doesn't mean he has ENOUGH at all times.
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