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Voorkant Fine 'Testosterone Rex - Myths of sex, science, and society' Cordelia FINE
Testosterone Rex - Myths of sex, science, and society
New York etc.: W.W. Norton, 2017, 276 blzn.; ISBN-13: 978 03 93082081

(6) Introducing Testosterone Rex

"Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that we often think of biological sex as a fundamental force in development that creates not just two kinds of reproductive system, but two kinds of people.
At the core of this way of thinking is a familiar evolutionary story (aptly dubbed the “Biological Big Picture” by one of its sharpest critics, University of Exeter’s philosopher of science, John Dupré.) As we all know, the two parents of every human baby are owed grossly unequal debts for the miracle of life. According to my rough calculations, the mother is due more or less a lifetime of unwavering gratitude in return for the donation of a nice plump egg, forty weeks or so full bed and board in utero, many hours of labor, and several months of breast-feeding. But for the father, who by the time of birth may have supplied nothing more than a single sperm, a quick appreciative nod might well seem sufficient. This fundamental sex difference in biological investment in a baby means that, at least in some respects, in our ancestral past the sexes required different approaches to life to achieve reproductive success. This, of course, is the bottom line—indeed the only line—in evolutionary accounting. Men’s much smaller minimum investment in a baby means that they can potentially reap huge reproductive benefits from having sex with many different women; preferably young, fertile ones. Not so for a woman. What most constrains her is access to resources, to help her care for her biologically expensive offspring.
And so, the various versions of this well-known account continue, a form of natural selection called sexual selection—arising from the edge that some individuals enjoy over others of the same sex when it comes to reproduction—came to shape different natures in the sexes. Men evolved a promiscuous streak, and to be risk-taking and competitive, since these were the qualities that best enabled them to accrue the material and social resources attractive to women, and to turn that sexual interest into a reproductive return. A man could do okay by sticking with one woman, but those nice guys never hit the reproductive jackpot. For women, on the other hand, this kind of rapacious acquisitive behavior would usually have had more costs than benefits. Some authors propose an evolved female strategy of opportunistic affairs with genetically superior men, during the fertile phase of the menstrual cycle, in a “good genes” grab.4 But the ancestral women who most often passed on their genes were the ones psychologically inclined to play a safer game, more focused on tending to their precious offspring than diverting their energy toward chasing multiple lovers, riches, and glory.
All of this appears to be cool, dispassionate, unarguable evolutionary logic. Feminists can rail at the patriarchy and angrily shake their testicle key chains all they like: it’s not going to change the fundamental facts of reproduction."(7-8)

"Indeed, as the number of studies reporting sex differences in the brain pile up, the argument that sexual selection has created two kinds of human brain—male and female—seems to get stronger and stronger. Could John Gray have been right after all when he claimed that men are from Mars and women are from Venus?"(10)

"Here, authors Barbara Annis and John Gray argue that workers need to cultivate a “gender intelligence”—meaning a better understanding of men’s and women’s different perspectives and needs, and proper appreciation of the hardwired female talent for communality, collaboration, intuition, and empathy that provide the perfect balance to men’s intrinsically competitive, goal-oriented, and sometimes socially insensitive approach."(11)

"Although scientific claims don’t tell us how our society ought to be, that being the job of our values, they can give us strong hints as to how to fulfil those values, and what kind of arrangements are feasible."(14)

"But dig a little deeper and you will find that rejecting the Testosterone Rex view doesn’t require denial of evolution, difference, or biology. Indeed, taking them into account is the basis of the rejection. As this book shows, Testosterone Rex gets it wrong, wrong, and wrong again. Contemporary scientific understanding of the dynamics of sexual selection, of sex effects on brain and behavior, of testosterone-behavior relations, and of the connection between our evolutionary past and our possible futures, all undermine the Testosterone Rex view."(15)

"Whenever we say that “boys will be boys,” or accuse progressive interventions of trying to “go against nature” we invoke the assumption that there are such evolutionarily intended outcomes or “essences.”"(16)

"There are no essential male or female characteristics—not even when it comes to risk taking and competitiveness, the traits so often called on to explain why men are more likely to rise to the top."(17)

(18) A note about terminology

"For this reason, I use “sex” when referring to comparisons based on the categories of biological sex, and “gender” to refer to the social ascriptions.(19)

"While “promiscuous” is a highly value-laden term, no moral judgment whatsoever is implied by its application here. Not even for those slutty sandpipers featured in the chapter that follows."(19)


Part one - past


Chapter 1 - Flies of fancy

"Bateman concluded that although male reproductive success increased with promiscuity, female reproductive success did not. His critically important explanation was the now familiar insight that male success in producing offspring is largely limited by the number of females he can inseminate, whereas a female gains nothing from further pairings beyond a single one (since her first mate should furnish her with plenty more sperm than she needs).
Interestingly, Bateman’s study was largely ignored for over twenty years. Then his argument was expanded in a landmark paper by the evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers. (...)
The more highly investing sex—usually females—should therefore hold out for the best possible male, Trivers speculated, as the costs of a poor-quality mating are considerable. But males would do best to compete with other males in order to spread their cheap, mass-produced seed among as many females as possible. A follow-up implication, argued Trivers, is that males usually have less to lose and more to gain from abandoning existing offspring in pursuit of a new mate. The Bateman paradigm, as it’s sometimes known, was for a long time “the guiding principle and cornerstone for much of sexual selection theory.”"(24-25)

"Indisputably elegant, Bateman’s conclusions, elaborated by Trivers, enjoyed the status of universal principles for many years. They also became the bedrock of claims about evolved differences between women and men, in which peacock tails are replaced with Maseratis, corner offices, or big shiny trophies. Just replace the phrase “many females” with “many girlfriends” and “traits possessed by the more successful males” with “Maseratis possessed by the more successful males” and the dots are all connected.(...)
But in the past few decades there has been so much conceptual and empirical upheaval over sexual selection in evolutionary biology that, according to one professor in that field I spoke to, the classic Bateman and Trivers papers are now largely cited for sentimental reasons. And startlingly, the first set of contradictory data we’ll look at comes from Bateman’s own study."(25-26)

"Snyder and Gowaty’s inspection revealed some significant problems."(26)

"With a few exceptions, most subsequent researchers presented and relied only on the data from Bateman’s series 5 and 6 (Bateman’s second graph). General discussions of sexual selection, and even textbooks in animal behavior, almost always presented only the second graph and the discussion was limited to these results, usually as an explanation of why males are promiscuous and females coy and choosy. The results of series 1–4, and any discussion of increases in female [reproductive success] as a function of the number of males the female mated with, for all practical purposes disappeared from the literature."(28)

"Bateman, Snyder and Gowaty reanalyzed data from all six series pooled together. As they drolly point out, if only Bateman had done so himself, he could have proudly laid claim to the first evidence of the reproductive benefits of female promiscuity! Reproductive success increased with number of mates for both females and males, and to a similar degree."(28)

"By 2012, a lengthy table in an academic behavioral ecology journal listed thirty-nine species, from across the animal kingdom, in which research had established that female promiscuity brings about greater reproductive success. And while in many of these species this link is nonetheless stronger for males, sometimes it’s equal (for instance, in the yellow-pine chipmunk and the wild eastern salamander).
This helps to explain why, contrary to the historical understanding that promiscuity is generally the preserve of males, it’s now clear that female promiscuity is abundant across the animal kingdom—from fruitflies to humpback whales—and is “widespread” among primates. This revelation owes a large debt to the DNA paternity-testing techniques that have enabled researchers to part the veils of discretion that previously obscured rampant female promiscuity (most particularly in many supposedly monogamous female birds)."(29)

"Yet somehow observations such as these failed to make much of a conceptual dent: perhaps because, as Hrdy wryly suggests, “theoretically the phenomenon should not have existed.”"(30)

"In short, neither promiscuity nor competition are necessarily the preserve of male reproductive success."(32)

"And the suggestion is certainly not that sex differences in reproductive roles are of no consequence. Rather, the point is the incredible diversity of sex roles across the animal kingdom: across species, biological sex is defined by gamete size but this, in turn, doesn’t determine arrangements for mating or parental care."(36)

(38) Chapter 2 - One hundred babies?

"As University of Notre Dame anthropologist Augustín Fuentes warns:
The use of unrealistic figures of potential male reproductive success is counterproductive because there is no evidence that in humans or other primates such a dramatic lifetime reproductive skew occurs with any regularity in any population studied. Using such assumptions as a jumping off point, even if hypothetical, lays an unrealistic baseline that can then be used to create a variety of scenarios, all of which are faulty given the erroneous basal assumption.
Or to put it a little less academically: Best of luck, Evolutionary Psychology Fantasy Man."(44)

"In Challenging Casanova: Beyond the Stereotype of the Promiscuous Young Male, Wake Forest University psychologist Andrew Smiler observes that “guys who sleep around meet our expectations; guys who are monogamous seem like exceptions.” Yet as Smiler goes on to explain, these beliefs are based on an inversion of reality.
Needless to say, relying solely on what people report about their sexual desires and behaviors isn’t ideal (although ethically preferable, obviously, to spying on them). Men and women tend to manipulate information (like pornography use and masturbation) differently in order to better conform to the sexual double standard. In fact, a major headache for sex researchers is that men reliably report a larger mean number of other-sex sexual partners than do women. This is logically impossible, since heterosexual coitus requires the presence of both a woman and a man."(44)

"The NATSAL survey found that the vast majority of both men and women ideally preferred to be in a sexually exclusive relationship: 80 percent of men, and 89 percent of women. Within the eldest age bracket of the survey (a still sprightly 35–44 years of age), the gap was even narrower (86 percent for men and 92 percent for women). Touchingly, the vast majority of married and cohabiting men were perfectly happy with the idea of sexual exclusivity. This rough similarity between the sexes in the theory of monogamy also seems to translate into practice, at least according to self-report. (...) Finally, contrary to what one might expect on the basis of the assumption that men supposedly strive for social status in order to gain reproductive opportunities, men in the highest social class were the most likely to prefer to be married with no other sex partners, and the least likely to want to exclusively devote their sexual energies to casual sex."(46)

Bespreking van het onderzoek van Russell Clark and Elaine Hatfield uit 1989.

[Zelfs ik zie meteen waarom dat onderzoek zo ontzettend slecht is opgezet dat je de resultaten - die weer zeggen dat mannen meer promiscu zijn - moeilijk serieus kunt nemen.]

"All in all, then, while the “Would you go to bed with me tonight?” findings represent one of the largest sex differences ever observed in psychological research, and it demands explanation, chalking it up to fundamentally different female and male sexual natures may be premature. And recent work by University of Michigan psychologist Terri Conley and colleagues unraveling the factors driving this famous result illustrates a critical point: social realities mean that women and men in these studies are simply not participating in the same experiment. It’s not just that the experiment as experienced by women entails inviting them to put themselves in a situation that, according to years of advice and warnings, is the very epitome of “asking for trouble.” Thanks to the sexual double standard, there are two further disincentives for women."(48)

Die dubbele standaard is er nog wel degelijk, al zijn er onderzoekers die dat ontkennen en ook al is er wel wat veranderd.

"But the double standard does emerge when researchers move beyond fictional vignettes and talk to people. An ethnographic study of college students, for example, “reported that the majority of students believed in heterosexual double standards and classified women into dichotomous categories of ‘good’ women or sluts.” As the ethnographer summarized the typical attitude of the male students:
Men have the right to experiment sexually for a few years. There are a lot of female sluts out there with whom to so experiment. And once I have gotten this out of my system, I will then look for a good woman for a long-term relationship (or for a wife)."(49)

"Follow-up interviews revealed why it was that women had such slim odds of reaching a climax. Students generally agreed that it was important for a man to be sexually satisfied in any context, and for women to be sexually satisfied in the context of a relationship. However, there was no perceived obligation to provide sexual satisfaction to a woman in hookup sex. While many men felt that bringing their girlfriend to orgasm reflected well on their masculinity, they often didn’t feel the same way about hookup partners."(50)

"But these studies perform a useful service in drawing attention to what appears to be easily overlooked: the many different social factors, still unequal for women and men, that feed into sexual decision making. (...) As if sex, in the normal course of events, is separate from, and untouched by, identity, reputation, gendered norms, notions of “conquests” and “sluts,” peer pressure and prestige, power, economics, relationships, culturally shaped sexual scripts, body shame, or any other complex part of one’s inner and outer life. (...) Sex stripped of everything human sounds more like . . . mating, and as we’ll see in the next chapter, it’s not clear how much of that humans actually do."(52)

"The old assumption that sexual selection has created near-universal sex roles—males mostly like this, females mostly like that—has been replaced with growing recognition of the diversity of courtship and parental roles both across and within species.
This across-species variability means that there is no universal template for how genetic and hormonal components of sex play out to affect brain and behavior—a point we’ll come back to in Chapter 4."(54)

(55) Chapter 3 - A new position on sex

"Although some writers apparently find the habit irresistible, within evolutionary biology it’s generally considered rather bad form to attempt to explain the human condition by way of airy gesturing to superficially similar patterns in other animals. Even among nonhuman animals, behaviors that look the same in two different species can have very different functions and evolutionary histories."(55)

"Yes, we are animals, and we have evolved. But the uniquely human dimension we bring to everything we do, including the biological basics of birth, eating, excretion, and death, underscores how misleading it is “to assert the equivalence of, say, bird plumage and sports cars in attracting mates,” argues University of North Carolina at Charlotte anthropologist Jonathan Marks."(56)

"This chapter unmoors us altogether from the traditional view of sexual selection, with the idea that human sexuality is not only—perhaps not even primarily—about bringing together reproductive potentials. As Marks warns:
To confuse human (cultural) sexuality and (natural) reproduction is classically pseudo-scientific. Of course sexuality is for reproduction—if you’re a lemur. If you’re a human, sexuality is far more than for reproduction; that is what evolution has done for human nature."(57)

"There are also many human sexual activities, like touching, kissing, and oral sex that likewise have no reproductive potential. (...) Yes, folks, compared to Pan troglodytes, our nearest relative, human male sex is all about relationships."(60)

[Zelfs dat is en te beperkte visie en gaat er van uit dat seks altijd iets is tussen twee of meer mensen. Is masturberen geen seks dan? Ik zie seks als plezier beleven / geven aan je eigen lichaam of aan het lichaam van anderen. En inderdaad: dat heeft helemaal niets met de voortplanting te maken.]

"Once we stop viewing human sexuality through the narrow frame of simply bringing together two reproductive potentials, it no longer seems so obvious and inevitable that men should strive for success while women fret about looking youthful. For example, Testosterone Rex reasoning holds that only a female’s physical attractiveness is closely linked with her all-important fertility (indicated mostly by youthfulness, the physical correlates of which are taken to be more or less synonymous with female beauty). But from a purely reproductive perspective, there is good reason for women to also be drawn to good looks and dewy youth."(63)

"Of course, physical attractiveness is a significant factor in sexual and romantic decision making, and it’s not merely social convention that says we aren’t looking our best in our eighties. But once released from the assumptions of the old sexual selection story, it becomes more reasonable to question whether men will always care more about physical attractiveness, while women focus more on resources."(63)

"It’s certainly the case that cross-cultural studies reliably find that women care more about a potential partner’s material resources.33 But as Dupré points out:
Given, first, that women in most societies have fewer resources and, second, that women often anticipate dependency on the financial resources of their mates, this is not an observation in obvious need of a deep biological explanation. (...) the greater the gender equity of a country, the smaller the gender gap in the importance of the financial resources of a partner (as well as in the importance of other preferences, like chastity and good looks)."(65)

"the likes-attract hypothesis actually won hands down in terms of its ability to explain people’s preferences."(66)

"A relentless focus on “mating value,” narrowly conceived, also contrasts with an analysis of several data sets reporting what characteristics men and women find more and less important in a partner. These show that for the past seventy-five years, across a number of different countries, the most important attributes in a long-term partner for both women and men have nothing to do with youthful fertility traded for resources. These most-desired attributes, in being unrelated to a person’s reproductive worth, do not force commentators to propose what Dupré describes as “absurd evolutionary fantasies . . . in explanation of homosexuality.” These preferred characteristics do not offensively imply that the “mate value” of your wife—even if she happens to be the woman you love, the mother of your children, and the only person in the world who understands what you mean when you say someone had “‘a beard like McFie’s’ or ‘hair the same colour as that man in Hove who caught me kicking his cat’”—is less when she’s fifty than when she was twenty years younger. They are attributes that can’t be bought, injected into you, or liposuctioned out of you. And they are also traits that have little to do with tax brackets, luxury European cars, or corner offices. Rather, they correspond to factors that reduce the chances you will want to throw a plate at your partner’s head. They are dependability, emotional stability, a pleasing personality, and love."(67)

"Cook notes that in eighteenth-century England, women were assumed to be sexually passionate. But drawing on economic and social changes, fertility-rate patterns, personal accounts, and sex surveys and manuals, Cook charts the path toward the sexual repression of the Victorian era. This was a time of reduced female economic power, thanks to a shift from production in the home to wage earning, and there was less community pressure on men to financially support children fathered out of wedlock. And so, in the absence of well-known, reliable birth control techniques, “women could not afford to enjoy sex. The risk made it too expensive a pleasure.”50 Victorian women turned to sexual restraint to control fertility, argues Cook, “a course of desperation that could be sustained only by imposition of a repressive sexual and emotional culture, initially by individuals of their own accord, and then . . . upon succeeding generations.” Cook describes the trajectory of Victorian women’s sexuality from the mid- to late nineteenth century as one of “increasing anxiety and diminishing sexual pleasure.” Only with the increasing availability of reliable, accessible contraception in the early twentieth century was there a gradual relaxation of sexual attitudes and growing acknowledgment of the existence and importance of female sexual desire, culminating in the introduction of the birth control pill and the sexual revolution. For the first time in history, women were able to join men in sex without the risk of lifelong consequences."(68-69)

"Even today, there are faded remnants of this attitude, in contemporary assumptions that female sexuality is passive and receptive, rather than the active author of its own desire: the coy female of the Testosterone Rex conception of sexual selection. But underscoring the point that a person’s sexuality is exactly that—the sexuality of a person—a growing body of research (led by Rutgers University psychologist Diana Sanchez and her colleagues) suggests that an internalized notion of female sexual passivity can affect women’s bodily sexual experience. For instance, heterosexual women with stronger mental links between sex and submission have greater difficulty getting aroused and achieving orgasm, and women who take a submissive role during sex experience less arousal (a correlation that isn’t due simply to a lack of desire affecting both behavior and sexual excitement). Their sexual dissatisfaction, in turn, reduces their partners’ enjoyment."(69)

"Our sexuality is body, culture, age, learning, habit, fantasies, worries, passions, and the relationships in which all these elements combine. That’s why sexuality can change with age, partner, experience, emotions, and sense of perspective."(70)

(72) Part two - Present

(73) Chapter 4 - Why can’t a woman be more like a man?

"The biological realities of reproduction are never irrelevant, but even for dung beetles and hedge sparrows, other factors can have radical effects even on behavior directly related to mating and reproductive success. These examples point to the surprising conclusion that biological sex may not be the fixed, polarizing force we often assume it to be.
In fact, even scientific understanding of sex determination (that is, how we come to be male or female) has shifted away from this view."(74)

"Social conventions, policies, and laws that require everyone to be either male or female obscure the biological reality that an “either/or” binary view of sex works for most people, but not everyone. A small but significant proportion of the population are “intersex”: they are “like a female” in some aspects of 3G sex, but “like a male” in another, or are in between the male and female form in some aspect."(75)

"Contemporary sex determination science now recognizes that female development is as active and complex a process as male development. And what has also become clear is that many genes are involved in sex determination: SRY on the Y chromosome; a few on the X chromosome (including some involved in male sexual development); and then, surprisingly, dozens of others located on other chromosomes."(76)

"In other words, as soon as we learn that brains differ according to sex, the implicit reasoning is that the brain must therefore also have a sex and, like the genitals, create female and male categories."(78)

"However, new evidence reveals a far more complicated picture, as McCarthy and Arnold explain. Sex isn’t a biological dictator that sends gonadal hormones hurtling through the brain, uniformly masculinizing male brains, monotonously feminizing female brains. Sexual differentiation of the brain turns out to be an untidily interactive process, in which multiple factors—genetic, hormonal, environmental, and epigenetic (that is, stable changes in the “turning on and off” of genes)—all act and interact to affect how sex shapes the entire brain. And just to make things even more complicated, in different parts of the brain, these various factors interact and influence one another in different ways"(79)

"So sex does indeed matter, but in a complicated and unpredictable way. Although there are sex effects that create differences in the brain, sex isn’t the basic, determining factor in brain development that it is for the reproductive system. Unlike the genitals, “human brains cannot be categorized into two distinct classes: male brain/female brain,” Joel and colleagues conclude. Instead, they are “comprised of unique ‘mosaics’ of features.”"(82)

"This might come as a shock to some, especially given the willingness of some scientists and popular writers to conjecture links between sex differences in the human brain and complicated, multifaceted behaviors like mathematics, empathizing, or taking care of children. But these speculations are, to put it politely, optimistic. There are no simple links between a specific brain characteristic and a particular way of behaving. Instead, how we think, feel, and act is always the product of complex assemblies of neural effort, in which many different factors act and interact."(83)

[Heerlijk, al die empirisch gefundeerde kritiek op de simpele schema's die mensen er op basis van vooroordelen op nahouden. Het valt me op hoe veel slechte onderzoeken er zijn. Het verbaast me niet eens: ook wetenschappers hebben vaak helemaal niet door vanuit welke normatieve uitgangspunten ze dingen doen.]

"Yet somehow all of this still gives rise to certain kinds of behavior that are more common in males, and other kinds of behavior more common in females. This is a fair point. But easily passed over as a stabilizing buffer that allows the emergence of sex differences in behavior is the environment."(86)

"It’s simply not possible to designate any one way of life as representative of “male sexuality” or “female sexuality.”(90)

"So, too, for parental care: although greater maternal care seems to be universal across time and place, both mothers and fathers can be negligent and abusive, or loving and attentive, while cultural norms span from wet nurses to breast-feeding on demand, from boarding schools and thrashings to permissive, helicopter parenting. And as Wood and Eagly document, although it’s universal for human societies to have a division of labor by sex, how those roles are shared, and what they involve, vary markedly across time, place, and circumstance, depending on the demands of the “cultural, socioeconomic, and ecological environment.”(90)

"True, human societies’ allocation of sex roles isn’t always arbitrary: some roles are universally performed more commonly by one sex or the other. These, suggest Wood and Eagly, track physical differences between the sexes: in particular, men’s greater upper body strength versus women’s unique ability to grow and, until the invention of infant formula, feed babies. These make jobs like hand-to-hand combat and chopping wood more suited to men’s physiques and, historically, jobs that required stretches of time uninterrupted by hungry babies would have tended to be allocated to men. But even these consistent sex role divisions aren’t absolute."(90)

"What is relatively uncontroversial (although the memo has yet to make it to a number of popular commentators) is that the majority of sex differences in the basic building blocks of behavior—cognition, communication, social and personality traits, and psychological well-being—are relatively small. University of Wisconsin–Madison psychologist Janet Hyde drew attention to this important point in a now classic paper proposing the “gender similarities hypothesis.” This was based on a synthesis of forty-six meta-analyses of sex differences in those fundamental building blocks."(91)

"Another evolving aspect of this debate is that old arguments that sex inequalities are explained by women’s intellectual inferiority have shifted toward claims instead that these inequalities are due to sex differences in values and interests. It’s not that a woman can’t behave like a man; it’s just not in her nature to want to. Yet contrary to the Testosterone Rex perspective, sex differences in both “masculine” values (social status, prestige, control and dominance of people and resources, and personal success) and the “feminine” value of caring for loved ones are also small. Nor are such priorities set in stone."(93)

"A well-worn story is that, since evolutionary dynamics dictate that the nasty guy dominates and therefore gets the girl, men tend to be inherently more aggressive than women. In fact, there are some serious question marks hanging over this chain of assumptions."(93)

"For many decades, researchers supposed that masculinity and femininity are polar ends of a single dimension: someone high in masculinity is therefore necessarily low in femininity, and vice versa. "(95)

"It wasn’t until the 1970s that this assumption was overturned by the development of two new scales. Still in use today, these separately assess “masculine” traits of “instrumentality” (qualities like self-confidence, independence, and competitiveness) and “feminine” traits of “expressiveness” (such as being emotional, gentle, and warm and caring toward others). This revealed that it is possible to be both instrumental and expressive, or neither.(...) Correlations among masculine traits and among feminine ones are often weak or nonexistent. Having one masculine trait doesn’t imply you have another, and likewise for feminine traits."(96)

"This makes the notion of female natures and male natures as unintelligible as that of female brains and male brains. Which of the many combinations of characteristics that males display should be considered male nature? Is it a profile of pure masculinity that appears to barely exist in reality? What does it mean to say that “boys will be boys,” or to ask why a woman can’t be more like a man? Which boy? Which woman, and which man?"(97)

"Sex doesn’t create male natures and female natures, and the next chapter turns to risk taking and competitiveness to complete the case."(98)

(99) Chapter 5 - Skydiving wallflowers

"But even setting such issues aside, unraveling strand by strand this popular account of risk taking as an essential masculine trait reveals that just about every assumption on which it is based is wrong."(101)

"The long-held belief that everyone can be neatly located at a point on a single continuum between “risk taker” and “risk avoider” fits nicely with the expectation for “a taste for competitive risk taking to be an evolved aspect of masculine psychology as a result of sexual selection.” Males, according to this view, are clustered mostly over on the risk-taking side, women on the careful end."(102)

"The importance of subjectivity in the perception of risks and benefits for humanity’s colorful diversity of risk taking turns out to be equally crucial for understanding sex differences. Contrary to what many might assume, women and men have similar risk attitudes, Weber and colleagues found. For the same subjectively perceived risk and benefit, they are equally likely to tempt fate. When men and women do diverge in risk-taking propensity, it is because they perceive the risks and benefits differently. So are men inherently constituted to perceive risks more positively, making them more inclined to take them? A closer look at the actual pattern of sex differences in risk taking reveals important nuances that make this unworkable as an explanation."(106)

"None of which is to say that existing assessments of sex differences in risk taking aren’t informative, interesting, and valid. However, they also reflect implicitly gendered assumptions about what risk taking is."(107)

"Perhaps white males see less risk in the world because they create, manage, control, and benefit from so much of it. Perhaps women and non-white men see the world as more dangerous because in many ways they are more vulnerable, because they benefit less from many of its technologies and institutions, and because they have less power and control."(110)

[Dat is echt geen "misschien" ...]

"Or consider a recent study of young Chinese women and men, who played a risk-taking game either privately or while being were observed by an attractive person of the other sex. In China, the authors argue, the ideal of womanhood strongly precludes risk taking, valuing instead those who are “timid, reserved, shy, obedient, unassertive, humble, attentive, respectful, and, above all, chaste.” In contrast with this feminine ideal, Chinese women were every bit as risk taking as the men when unobserved. But in line with gender norms, men increased their risk taking when supposedly observed by an attractive other-sex observer, while women decreased it."(113)

"That biology clearly doesn’t determine that males should be more competitive than females makes it all the more concerning that, among Austrian children of three to four years of age, boys are already more willing to compete in a running competition than are girls (even though girls can run just as fast). At this age, girls are as eager to compete in a more “feminine” manual sorting task (at which they are slightly superior); but within a few years, even here, boys are more competitive. What messages are children receiving in developed Western countries that, compared with children in some other societies, separates girls’ and boys’ inclination to compete from such an early age?"(116)

"We are now a long way from the bundle of assumptions packed into this familiar vignette. Risk taking is not a stable personality trait, allowing us to assume that the person who would willingly take the physical risks of hunting (or white-water rafting or skydiving) would be a fearless CEO or trader. Nor is risk taking something that only men do, or that only women are drawn to in a potential partner. Meanwhile, the growing evidence that females do compete at equal rates to men when the nature of the task seems to authorize it, and that girls and women from populations further afield than the typical Western samples are no less eager than males to compete, undermines assumptions that this is an “essential” sex difference."(117)

"But when you consider the women who enter and persist in highly competitive and risky occupations like surgery and policing—despite the odds stacked against them by largely unfettered sex discrimination and harassment—casual scholarly suggestions that women are relatively few in number, particularly in the higher echelons, because they’re less geared to compete in the workplace, start to seem almost offensive."(118)

(119) Chapter 6 - The hormonal essence of the t-rex?

"Science writer and behavioral endocrinologist Richard Francis coined the term “Testosterone Rex” to poke fun at the mistaken conception of testosterone as a “super-actor”—the “plenipotent executor of selection’s demands” that simply “takes care of everything.” (...) While scientific views on T’s role in social behavior vary around the edges, they generally point to a link with competition as key. Most obviously, this refers to competition to acquire or defend social status, material resources, and sexual opportunities."(120)

"In short, T certainly does stuff—important stuff. But now we get to the second reason for making you endure that dense last paragraph. Even though it barely begins to scratch the surface of the daunting complexities involved, it already makes clear that the amount of testosterone circulating in the bloodstream is just one part of a highly complicated system—the one that happens to be the easiest to measure. The many other factors in the system—the cofactors, the conversion to estrogen, how much aromatase is around to make that happen, the amount of estrogen produced by the brain itself, the number and nature of androgen and estrogen receptors, where they are located, their sensitivity—mean that the absolute testosterone level in the blood or saliva is likely to be an extremely crude guide to testosterone’s effect on the brain."(127)

"This brings us to another important point. T is often thought of as a “male” hormone, the assumption presumably being that only males have enough for it to be of psychological significance. When, after all, was the last time you heard someone despairingly say “It’s the testosterone” of a woman’s behavior? Unless her transgression was to grow a beard, probably never. This popular T = male perception is both reflected in, and reinforced by, the much greater research attention on males than females.36 But as van Anders wryly asks: “What does its natural occurrence do in females, then?”"(129)

"That is, rather than being a king who issues orders, T is just another voice in a group decision-making process. This, when you think about it, is extremely sensible. Even for animals in which the social situations encountered may seem trivially simple compared with the soap operas of human existence, there are still subtleties of context to be considered."(130)

"Again, the cichlids offer a useful illustration. On first encounter, you’ll remember, it seemed obvious that dominant fish were dominant because they had high androgen levels. But careful experimentation revealed that, in fact, dominant fish had high androgens because the stars of fate had aligned to make them dominant. When male cichlid fish are first put together, their androgen levels tell you nothing about who will end up high versus low in social status. Although from a T-Rex perspective we would assume that the fish with more androgens would “naturally” be more successful in clambering up the social ladder, this simply isn’t the case: the relations between hormone and dominance go the other way around. Only once the fish have had time to interact and jostle do correlations emerge, with successful fish producing more androgens. As Lisbon University behavioral neuroendocrinologist Rui Oliveira, lead author in this study, explains:
Social information is translated into changes in levels of steroid hormones that in turn will modulate the neural network of behavior so that behavioral output is tuned according to the perceived social environment.
In fact, the effects of the social world have even been seen at the genetic level, with social interactions changing androgen and estrogen receptor expression in the brain.51 Testosterone, in other words, is demoted from Rex to being a mere middle man that mediates the influence of the social world on the brain. Change the world, and you can change T—and the brain."(132-133)

"In keeping with other animals, T likewise seems to help us to adapt our behavior to “circumstances and contexts.” So, when it comes to relatively enduring circumstances—basics like partnering and parenting—T levels seem to be in line with the principle of high T being linked with competition, and low T with nurturance."(134)

"The marriage ceremony is the culmination of a more gradual period of courtship and engagement, in which a man accepts the support and consortship of his partner, removing himself from competition with other men for sexual partners. As a result . . . his testosterone declines. In contrast, impending divorce is a time of competition between spouses for children, for material possessions, and for self-respect. Also, it is a time when the divorcing husband may reenter the competitive arena for sexual partners."(135)

"But also notice how we’re not like other animals: our social constructions of gender bring a uniquely human dimension into the mix. As we’ve already seen, gender norms and patterns for sexual behavior and parenting take on widely different forms across time and space. These cultural circumstances are surely entangled in women’s and men’s hormonal biology. Illustrating exactly this situation is a study that compared two neighboring cultural groups in Tanzania—Hadza foragers and Datoga pastoralists—each with very different expectations of fathers. It found lower testosterone levels among fathers from the Hadza population in which paternal care was the cultural norm, compared with Datoga fathers among whom paternal care was typically minimal."(135)

"By the way, lower T levels don’t doom devoted husbands and fathers to a submissive or sexually sparkless life. Contrary to popular belief, in humans there’s little convincing evidence for a significant link between baseline circulating T and social status, and most studies have failed to find relationships between T and sexual desire in healthy men with T levels within the normal range. This may well be because competition and status are more intermittent and situational for us than for some other animals."(136)

"But here again, social constructions of gender will shape both the situations people encounter, and their subjective meaning. We’re used to thinking of testosterone as being a cause of gender, but what if the direction of that familiar pathway also needs to be reversed? Some ingenious recent research by van Anders and her colleagues has started to lay down the evidence."(136)

[Dat is toch al geen vraag meer, als je het bovenstaande in ogenschouw neemt?]

"Claims that men don’t have “the right hormones” for taking care of babies are cast in a whole new light."(137)

[Wat voorzichtig geformuleerd. Die claims zijn pure nonsense.]

"In fact, research with men has already shown the effects of culture and social constructions of gender on hormonal biology. "(139)

(142) Chapter 7 - The myth of the Lehman Sisters

De financiële crisis wordt wel toegeschreven aan teveel testosteron in die financiële wereld. Het argument:

"By now, the argument will be tediously familiar. Men, thanks to past evolutionary pressures, take risks in order to acquire the resources and status that led to reproductive success in our ancestral past. But fast-forward those Stone Age “male brains” to twenty-first-century global finance and the “evolutionary hangover” creates havoc, as Nicholas Kristof summarizes the view in the New York Times. Enter subprime mortgages and credit derivatives, and with the benefit of hindsight it became clear just how dangerous it was to have all that testosterone in charge with barely a woman in sight. (Fully clothed ones, that is.) It may seem a nice tribute to women to suggest that the world’s financial system might not have been brought to its knees if only more of their representatives had been around."(143)

[Maar het punt is dat het allemaal weinig met evolutie, biologie, hormonen, en dergelijke te maken heeft. Meer vrouwen zou het probleem op zichzelf helemaal niet oplossen als er niets zou veranderen aan hoe mannen en vrouwen zich gedragen / interacteren en aan de waarden en normen die ze er op na zijn gaan houden door opvoeding / samenleving etc en aan de kansen die ze krijgen qia opleiding en werk.]

"How do we get from this overlap between the sexes to claims of a fundamental difference? By way of partial explanation, researchers often summarize results from earlier studies in an inaccurately stereotype-consistent way, observes Nelson. Researchers also tend to emphasize their own findings that are consistent with the stereotype of male risk takers, while downplaying (even sometimes to the extent of more or less ignoring) results that aren’t. This aroused Nelson’s suspicion that researchers are “tending to ‘find’ results that confirm socially held prior beliefs”—a classic case of “confirmation bias.” If these results are more likely to be published, the scientific literature becomes skewed toward the expected conclusion."(145)

"Their research protocol is also in perfect keeping with Cass Sunstein’s argument that the consequences of a decision for one’s self-concept and reputation are vital ingredients in the recipe from which preferences emerge.
This aspect of the decision-making context is something that economists, in particular, have not been especially interested in. It was only at the turn of the twenty-first century, in a groundbreaking economics article written by Nobel Prize–winning economist George Akerlof and fellow economist Rachel Kranton, that the concept that social identity and norms have a motivating effect on behavior was formally introduced to economists. (...)
To a social psychologist, this is an almost comically belated revelation ..."(150)

"Differences that may appear at a cursory level to be due to “essential” differences between the sexes may in fact be due (in part or completely) to some additional, confounding variable, such as societal pressures to conform to gender expectations or locations in a social hierarchy of power, or may no longer be seen when the sampling universe is broadened.
Yet researchers may nonetheless treat results as though they reflect categorical, Mars versus Venus differences, Nelson goes on to point out."(153)

"The notion of discreet, T-induced “male” circuits is being replaced with a more complicated, interactive mishmash of factors, out of which emerge a variety of shifting “mosaics” of brain characteristics. This, in turn, fits nicely with what we know about sex differences in behavior. These certainly exist but, again, in ways that create mosaics rather than categories. Put this all together, and it probably shouldn’t surprise us too much that recent meta-analyses and a large-scale study failed to find convincing evidence for correlations between digit ratio and other supposedly quintessentially masculine behaviors: aggression, sensation seeking, dominance, and both aggressive and nonaggressive risk taking in adolescents."(156)

"More equal representation of women at higher levels of the finance industry most likely would be beneficial. Lack of diversity is usually an alarm bell that people are being drawn from a limited talent pool that flatteringly reflects the image of those in charge."161)

(163) Part three - Future

(164) Chapter 8 - Vale rex

Over speelgoed en de specifieke koppeling aan de (biologisch gefundeerde) eigenschappen van meisjes en jongens door marketingafdelingen van speelgoedfabrieken.

"Some academics, meanwhile, bring an evolutionary flavor into the mix, suggesting that marketers are working from an instinctive grasp of our evolutionarily honed differences."(165)

"This sentiment is echoed in the Sunday Express by journalist James Delingpole, who writes that “a toy business’s job is to make profit not engage in social engineering.” Some thoughtful readers might wonder why the laissez-faire philosophy of gender-neutral marketing is “social engineering,” while toy aisles that dictate which toys are for whom are considered to be leaving things to take their natural course. But Delingpole has a further complaint. Gender-neutral marketing is futile, he says, because “those XX and XY chromosomes will out in the end.” In short, calls for gender-neutral toy marketing are seen by some as tantamount to demands that toy companies put themselves out of business by disrespecting boys’ and girls’ true natures."(166)

"And judging from the commentary on talk radio, it seemed that the prime minister of Australia at the time, Tony Abbott, spoke for many when he said that he didn’t believe in “that kind of political correctness.” His advice: “Let boys be boys, let girls be girls—that’s always been my philosophy.”"(167)

"The assumption is that boys are naturally, universally, and immutably drawn to “boy toys” because it is their evolved, timeless, biologically rooted nature to be risk taking, competitive, dominant, and to master the world. For the same reasons, girls are inexorably drawn to “girl toys,” because it is in their nature to nurture others and to want to look attractive. So what is the problem with marketing that simply reflects and responds to those different natures, and what on Earth is the point of politically correct marketing that ignores them? What next? Ads trying to sell hockey sticks to cats?
From the Testosterone Rex perspective—sex as a powerful, potent, polarizing developmental force—this view makes perfect sense. But as we’ve seen, in the evolution of the science of sex and society, Testosterone Rex has not survived."(167)

"If humanity were a factory for producing babies, everyone would be fired. The considerable time and energy costs of our often unproductively nonreproductive sex points to its primary purpose no longer being reproduction .."(168)

"From birth, children encounter endless gender clues and hints in the real world: gender stereotypes transmitted in advertisements; encouraging or discouraging words, expressions, or body language from others; toy stores and packaging; movies; TV shows; the sex-segregation of adult social roles; and so on. Of course, these many influences don’t impose themselves onto a blank slate: every child is different, with their own internal inclinations and understandings. Some influences will leave particular children untouched while affecting others. (Interestingly, it may be that children who have a stronger “lens of gender” may be especially susceptible to the influence of stereotypical information.) Some gender messages will push in opposite directions, and no single influence is likely to be very large. But they accumulate. And they provide a potential explanation for how robust sex differences in toy preferences develop around the age that children develop a firm understanding of which side of the critical social divide of gender they belong. The gendered developmental system has achieved what prenatal testosterone can’t."(176)

"While this is a rightly optimistic message, rearranging the developmental system is no trivial task. Ironically, the rich, stable cultural inheritance that enables us to be so adaptably diverse as a species is also a heavy counterweight to change."(183)

"So what do we want? Do we want a society that genuinely values equal opportunity for development, employment, economic security, safety, and respect, regardless of sex? If so, there’s a glaring contradiction with the messages some marketers are sending to children."(185)

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