It is no secret that there is more than just a biological difference between men and women. They are equal only in their common membership of the same species, humankind (Moir 5). The sexual revolution did much to reverse the instinctive concept that men and women are inherently different. Sexual equality, while an admirable aspiration, is a physiological impossibility. Men and women are essentially completely different creatures. Our bodies are regulated by different chemicals. Our brains are organized in a distinctly different arrangement. Zoologist/sexologist, Alfred Kinsey was one of the first to recognize and make public the absolute physiological and sociological uniqueness of the human species.
Beyond this universal distinctness, there is an even further biological separation between the sexes. It would be quite an understatement to simply say that men and women are different. In some cases, we are polar opposites, viewing life from completely different perspectives. The organization of our brains, as a result of chemical interactions that took place before we were even born, engineered us for different functions and abilities. If men and women are so different, why do we say that we need each other? Its not just for the sake of procreation of the species, but for companionship and emotional discourse. Each has something that is missing from the other. Its like a puzzle with only two pieces. The tricky part is finding the right piece and getting along with it.
The social interaction of children on a playground is an excellent example of the distinction between the sexes. Boys are rough and aggressive, responding to high levels of testosterone that is helping them to grow and mature. Girls are more interested in people and building relationships, a result of the estrogen output in their bodies. Womens senses are much more acute than mens, especially the sense of touch. In some cases, the differences dont even overlap; meaning the most sensitive boy still feels less than the least sensitive girl. Women can even smell scents that a man has no perception of. They are also six times as likely to sing in tune.
In the most basic of terms, women are attracted to relationships and people and men are attracted to objects and things. This is evident even a few hours after birth. Boys are just as likely to focus on an object as they would a person. Girls hold eye contact longer and seem to have a greater interest in the people around them. At four months old, most baby girls can distinguish photographs of people they know from photographs of strangers; boys usually cannot (Moir 56). Boys are interested in the how and why of things. They take things apart, much to their parents dismay, in an effort to figure out how things work. This is another example of the spatial curiosity of boys. Girls play role-playing games that involve a curiosity of people and relationships.
The right side of the male brain is visual, while the left is verbal. As a result of this, males can do spatial tasks such as puzzles better with their left eye, which is controlled by the right side of the brain. Since the emotions are controlled by the right side of the brain, men are more emotionally stimulated by vision from the left eye, which is controlled by the right side of the brain. The organization of the male brain tends to be more specific and defined. This leads to a greater understanding and mastery of spatial concepts such as math and science. At the very highest level of mathematical excellence, according to the biggest survey ever conducted, the very best boys totally eclipse the very best girls (Moir 16). In terms of mathematical brilliance, for every exceptional girl there are at least thirteen exceptional boys. Males are also better at spatial projections and judgments such as reading and interpreting a map. Due to a stubborn sense of pride, however, they might be more reluctant to use one.
The female brain is less specialized and specific in terms of spatial abilities. They use both hemispheres of the brain for most tasks, with the exception of language skills, which is specific to the left, front hemisphere of the brain. There is an upside and a downside to this arrangement. Using both sides of the brain is an inefficient method for tasks such as spatial reasoning. That is why girls are not as good at math and science. At the same time, it strengthens abilities that require use of both sides of the brain. That is why females are better with language and communication skills. The more feminine the brain, the more diverse the brain functions. An extreme case of exaggerated feminine behavior is called Turners syndrome (Moir 43). These girls have ultra-feminine tendencies and their brain organization is even more diverse. Girls that suffer from Turners syndrome usually have a normal IQ in terms of verbal skills but score far below normal girls in math and science. They also have a poor sense of direction due to a lack of spatial abilities. These girls are especially not good with a map.
Inevitably, the question of nature vs. nurture comes into play. Sociologists would argue that a persons behavior is shaped by their social upbringing. Science is proving that we are who we are as a result of biological design. A delicate combination of hormones released while we are still in the womb dictates the neurological composition and organization of our brains. Our genetic framework is already in place by the time we are born. As this blueprint maps out the individual-to-be, it is still necessary to trigger certain functions within the brain. The brain of an infant is somewhat like a menu at a restaurant. If certain items arent ordered by a certain age, they are taken off the menu. The language skills needed for speech and grammar, if not developed by the age of four or five, are greatly diminished and can never be fully developed.
One such case was a little girl from California who was kept in isolation and confinement for over thirteen years. A team of scientists studied her brain activity and concluded that she had no more activity in the left side of her brain than if she had part of it removed. The skills of language and grammar are located on the left side of the brain. Since she had never used these skills, the left side of the brain was atrophied. In this girls case, brain activity was almost exclusively conducted in the right hemisphere of the brain. That being the case, her spatial abilities were extremely acute and highly developed. She scored extremely high in tests that record a persons abilities to make sense out of chaos and visualize patterns (Ward).
The chemical makeup of an infants brain is not a blank slate, as some sociologists suggest. We are who we are as a result of precise amounts of hormone secretions. The brain is inherently female. The introduction of male hormones is the key factor in determining the sex of a child. Six weeks after conception, if these male hormones are present, special cells develop which produce more male hormone, especially testosterone. Between the development of the male/female genitalia and the development of the male/female brain, exceptions do occur. A child can be born with the proper sexual equipment for a male, but not receive the proper dosage of male hormone for a male brain. He would essentially have a mans body with a female brain. It is also possible for hormone levels to be too high during brain development, creating extremely aggressive males and overly feminine females, as is the case in girls with Turners syndrome. Between the ages of forty and fifty, we begin to balance out hormonally. Mens testosterone levels decline and they become less aggressive. After menopause, womens estrogen levels decline as well, bringing them to a more consistent emotional state.
Men are fueled by aggression. Some are better than others at channeling this aggression into productive activities. They may not appear aggressive, but the fuel is just the same. Its what makes boys play so rough on the playground. There is a natural instinct for dominance and power, to be the leader of the tribe. Likewise, promiscuity is a natural instinct to men. They must procreate and add numbers to the tribe. Although such practices are now unnecessary and socially unacceptable, they are still a part of the male blueprint. Alfred Kinsey came to the conclusion that the human male would be promiscuous all his life if there were no restrictions (Moir 132). Men love to have sex, while women have sex to love. Men can separate sex and love due to the specific locations of the brain functions. Women find the two intertwined. A happily married woman almost never has an affair, while a happily married man is almost three times as likely to have an extra-marital affair. A young mans sex drive is higher than a young womans, making her feel as if its all he ever thinks about. With age, his sex drive may fall below her more constant level. The tables turn, making him feel as if he cant keep up with her desires.
Women are much better at reading people than men. Their senses are more acute. Their understanding of people is more refined. Women notice things that men might never notice, such as quick facial gesture after a lie. Their heighten perception of people is often referred to as female intuition. A womans social intelligence far surpasses that of a mans. As men are better equipped to solve tangible problems and fix things, women are the fixers of people.
One of the biggest problems in relationships and marriages is the failure to acknowledge these differences between the sexes. Women expect men to act a certain way, and they never will. Men are just wired differently. Men expect women to approach situations in a certain way, and they never will. Women approach life from a different perspective based on the neurological and functional peculiarities specific to the female brain. Coexistence of the sexes is dependent on the acknowledgment of these differences.
Women cite a lack of communication as one of the biggest problems in relationships. The mans brain, however, is not as well programmed for communication skills. The aptitude of speech and grammar are located in the front and back left hemisphere of the brain in males. In females, its located specifically in the front left hemisphere. This specific location results in efficient communication abilities in women. With men, emotion functions are located in the right side of the brain. With women, emotion is controlled by both sides of the brain, therefore its easier for women to express their emotions verbally because less communication between the two hemispheres of the brain is necessary. Not only that, but the corpus callosum, the bundle of nerve fibers connecting the left and right hemispheres of the brain, is slightly larger in women. This is due to the diverse geographic locations of brain functions in women. The left and right sides of the brain talk to each other more often in females, thus they are more efficient at any activities that require communication between both sides of the brain.
Despite all of our differences, it seems necessary to the continued interests of both men and women that we find a way to coexist in harmony. That delicate balance is only achieved when we realize and admit our differences, accepting the fact that while some things need to be worked on, some things will never change. More so, it would be wrong to attempt to change that which is inherent to who we are as individuals. We are who we are, but we should all strive to have a greater understanding of ourselves and for each other.