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Sex Differences

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, “A Vision of Fiametta,” 1878

1,195 words

Translations: FrenchRussian

This essay is from Michael Polignano’s book Taking Our Own Side, available in hardcover, paperback, and PDF download here.

October 21, 2003

A few days ago I had a heated discussion about sex differences with a female friend of mine who calls herself a feminist. She agrees with me that races differ on a variety of traits and that genetics play a large role in shaping these differences. Yet she found it impossible to believe that behavioral differences between the sexes might also have a genetic basis rather than a cultural one.

She began by decrying “sexism,” which she sees as ubiquitous in American culture (and even worse in many European cultures.) As evidence, she pointed out that nearly all mainstream advertisements use women, rather than men, for sex-appeal. She finds such advertising “degrading to women” and asked “why don’t they use men just as much?” She expressed the opinion that society teaches men to treat women as sex objects through such advertising, saying “it’s no wonder such men hit their wives when they get married.” She also expressed a belief that societal expectations and traditional gender roles were “sexist” as well, holding women back from achieving their potential. She used the fact that women are underrepresented in certain fields as evidence of gender discrimination and “sexism” at work, calling me “sexist” to think otherwise.

The more she continued, the more bellicose she became. After mentioning domestic abuse, she remarked, “I’d hit back if that ever happened to me.” Then she looked at me in the eye with a fiery glare and said, “You think women can’t fight?” She then expressed a dangerous and destructive feminist sentiment: “When cloning becomes available, women won’t need men. We could let men die off if we wanted. We’ll be able to take care of ourselves.”

It would be otiose to pick apart the logical flaws in her reasoning about sexism, since they essentially mirror the flaws made by those who decry racism in society. Her main premise, namely, that biology has nothing to do with observed differences in gender representation, is untenable given what science knows about sex. Yet her statement about cloning provoked me to consider sex differences further: specifically, their origins, their future, and how society should deal with sex and sex differences.

Evolutionarily speaking, it’s not clear at first why sex arose in the first place. Searching for a mate takes time and energy, and may increase the searcher’s risk of being killed by a predator. Once found, a potential mate may demand additional exertion or investment before agreeing to cooperate. Sex itself may expose the parties to sexually transmitted diseases. And after all that, the mating may prove to be infertile. Why not avoid all the trouble and risk, and simply reproduce asexually instead?

The current prevailing view of why sex came about is called the “Red Queen hypothesis.” It holds that sex arose as a result of a host/parasite “arms race”: hosts (usually larger, more complex organisms) have to continually adapt to prevent parasites (usually smaller, single-celled organisms or viruses) from targeting a specific genotype.

Sex allows for genotypic variation between parent and child, since children are genetically distinct from their parents and from one another (except in the case of identical twins). If we reproduced asexually, and had families comprised of identical individuals (barring chance genetic mutations), then a parasite that could kill one member of the family would kill the others just as rapidly. If humanity were comprised of merely large families comprised of identical individuals, then parasites would have a much easier job.

So why do the sexes differ with regard to size, appearance, and behavior, not only among humans but among every other sexually reproducing organism? Sexual reproduction places very different selection pressures on females versus males. Simply put, eggs (or pregnancies) are more expensive than ejaculates. In more general terms, females typically make a larger parental investment in each offspring than do males. “Parental investment” refers to the time and energy expended in creating and caring for offspring. Parental investment increases the reproductive success of a particular offspring while simultaneously decreasing the parent’s future reproductive successes.

In more than 90% of mammalian species, females provide substantial parental care and males provide none whatsoever. One extreme example is the orangutan. After a brief tryst, including about 15 minutes of copulation, the male and female go their separate ways. If a pregnancy results, the mother will carry the fetus for eight months, give birth, and nurse and protect the baby for about seven or eight years. For the father, on the other hand, the beginning and end of parental investment is a few grams of semen.

Sex differences came about as a result of these differing demands. A female’s potential reproductive success is relatively small, and is limited more by the number of eggs she can make (or pregnancies she can carry) than by the number of males she can convince to mate with her. In contrast, a male’s potential reproductive success is relatively large, and is limited more by the number of females he can convince to mate with him than by the number of ejaculates he can make.

These facts allow predictions about differences in the mating behavior of the two sexes:

Males should be competitive. If the reproductive success of males is limited by access to females, then we expect males will compete among themselves for opportunities to mate.

Females should be choosy. If the reproductive success of females is not limited by opportunities to mate, but any given mating may involve the commitment of the female to a large investment in offspring, females should be selective about with whom they mate.

The competitiveness of males and the choosiness of females have manifested themselves in the physical and behavioral differences between the sexes. That advertisers choose to use women rather than men in sex-appeal advertising is no surprise: women, being choosier than men, aren’t as responsive to pictures of attractive men as men are to pictures of attractive women. Advertisers simply do what sells.

Sex has been around for far, far longer than the 140,000 or so years human races have. That people still argue that behavioral differences between men and women result purely from cultural influences (or that such a belief ever arose in the first place, given the ubiquity of sex and sex differences in the animal kingdom) highlights just how irrational some so-called “progressive intellectuals” can be.

On a closing note, it’s worth noting that the sexes are designed to complement one another, both physically and mentally. Humanity is only half complete with one or the other missing. Thus, it’s nonsense to talk of one sex being superior to another: Each has qualities the other lacks. Discord between the sexes stems from a lack of proper understanding and respect for these differences. Since sex is and will probably always be the simplest, cheapest, and most pleasurable form of reproduction, such discord (seen far more among Whites than any other race, and far more among the more intelligent than the less) can only hurt the future of the race.

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  1. Jeff
    Posted February 22, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    Good article. Your friend’s comment about cloning, set me to speculating the process’s potential role in the survival of our kind. The environment may become so hostile and adverse to the the survival of the white race, that we will have to create “sperm & egg” banks to weather the coming storm. When conditions become more ameniable to our survival we could then make use of what-ever indigenous female bipeds available to increase our numbers and start over. But, that is more in the realm of science fiction; I do not see conditions becoming that bad. Still, we will not leave any stone unturned in our quest of survival.

  2. Lucius
    Posted February 23, 2011 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    Good article, but men still must ask what they say and do to evoke the feminist drive/response. There are far more feminists than not. Why is this? What drives women to it? There must be a reason other than false hopes and lies, no? Women are getting “something” desirable from feminism or they would not engage in it to the extent they do. Apparently women care more about achievement than child-rearing and homemaking, or they would not work and go to school. What has caused this? The male factor has been left out here.

    Think transference/countertransference, or how certain responses are created by certain statements and actions.

    I am not taking sides, just pointing out my own observations.


    • Amanda Bradley
      Posted February 24, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

      I’ve met a lot of women who don’t like feminism and needing to focus on a career. But it’s almost a necessity. Unless you marry someone rich (and are confident he won’t lose his money!), then there is always the chance of divorce or death. Most women have seen housewives after the loss of a spouse through divorce or death–Sometimes they end up working full-time, and also take on little part-time jobs, because they don’t have the skills to get a decent job. If society was structured so that being a homemaker wasn’t “the riskiest profession,” then I think we’d see more women interested in staying at home.

      • Lucius
        Posted February 25, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Permalink


        I agree. But we still have to ask why it’s so appealing to the majority of women. Is it just because they cannot find a husband who’s rich or because they’re divorced? Maybe for some this is true. But not for the majority.

        Most married women still want to work. They also like to write, be adventurous, create, think, philosophize — to “do things” like men do. Thus, I do not believe women just want to be moms and homemakers. The real issue seems to be one of loss of personality and expression to family: women were expected to be selfless while men were expected to be selfish. This was inevitably going to lead to failure at some point.

        There is something else at work here and we all need to figure out what it is. Did women revolt because they felt they had to give up their “self” for family? If so, what induced that belief and is feminism the response to said induced belief?


        • wifey
          Posted February 28, 2011 at 1:14 am | Permalink

          lucius –

          Is it just because they cannot find a husband who’s rich or because they’re divorced? Maybe for some this is true. But not for the majority.

          i think you may have misunderstood amanda’s response. the other “necessity” that drives women to “do things” is the “risk” of divorce/death. not the actuality of it. many married women maintain a job while married “just in case.” just like men learn from seeing other men go through divorce theft, women learn from seeing other women (who have given up careers/jobs/etc. in favor of homemaking and child-raising) left destitute after some type of disaster.

          although, yes, i agree with you that feminism is at least partly a response to the idea that women were previously expected to rest their identities on children/family, while men were expected to rest their identities on themselves.

          – wifey

  3. April Gaede
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

    You are wrong, the vast majority of women are NOT feminist. They are the exact opposite when you really delve deep into what they want. I recently worked in an office situation with over 600 people, the majority of them women. In almost every single situation the reason that woman was at work was because of being single unemployed husband, or having to be the second income in the family. The conversations in the break room and on the public chat were almost exclusively about domestic issues of child rearing, cooking and other household duties. It drove even me slightly crazy because no women knew anything about politics, economics, current events or even literature. I had all those conversations with my male fellow employees.

    And I think you would not find that unusual. Most women want to be stay at home wives and mothers. They have been brainwashed into the same false idea of their importance in the workplace just as the blacks have grown to believe that America was built on the backs of “black slaves”. But with just a small amount of suggestion, the conversation always reverts back to Kinder, Kirche and Kuche.

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