Transcript from First Voice with Donna Ricks.

Transcript, First Voice, August 2, 2004

Click here to listen to the interview

Donna:

The book is Taking Sex Differences Seriously and the author is Steven Rhoads. Steven, welcome to First Voice.

Steven:

It's a pleasure to be here, Donna.

Donna:

I was surprised to read that so many women were involved in studies of sex differences.

Steven:

This is surprising to a lot of people because there are so many prominent women who hate the subject and think it's a sexist agenda of people who do the research. There was a fellow by the name of Robert Pool who wrote a book, oh, six or seven years before I did who argued this research fraternity is really a sorority because people doing the groundbreaking research are overwhelmingly women who are finding these sex differences. And many of them did begin skeptical, they got involved because they felt women had a real stake in this research and wanted to find out what was going on. These are good, biological researchers many of whom consider themselves feminists or sympathizers with feminist goals and they simply think these differences exit in areas like nurturing, competitiveness, aggressiveness, dominance seeking, sex differences about sex, differences about cognition. These are all real differences that show up in peer reviewed scientific studies.

Donna:

You mention two kinds of women who see each other as enemies.

Steven:

That's true. Of course, women hate to see anyone as an enemy. I think they really are more peaceable than men often times. There's no question that different women who have different life plans can interfere with their opposite number. For example, take a woman who is a strong careerist, who wants to achieve every bit as much as her husband and every bit as much as most men. When other women who went to law school or med school with them drop out after they have a child because they want to spend more time with their children, the careerist woman thinks in some sense, "Your letting down the team. Businesses aren't going to promote woman as much or train them as well if they think they're going to drop out at some point." Traditional women are satisfied with doing more at home. They like to make a home look neater and have flowers, often like to cook and take care of the kids. When some women do that kind of work disproportionately, then the careerist woman thinks, well how am I going to get my husband to shape up when he sees all these other women who seem to be perfectly happy doing more than half the work at home. And it goes the other way around, too, women who yearn for their fundamental goal being a homemaker, they may work some but their fundamentally family centered, those more traditional women are put off by careerist women who want to do everything for themselves. I know women who are strong willed and refuse to let men open doors for them. A traditionally woman thinks that's a wonderful courtesy. Men tend to be more selfish and self absorbed, there's good evidence on this, and why shouldn't they be taught to let women go first, to pay more attention to their feelings and notice them. Men can be loners and unsociable and not take into account women or other people socially. The traditional woman really benefited from things like alimony. An end to alimony was argued by many feminists because it kept women dependent. Feminists argued for subsidized daycare, but if you're a homemaker that's just something paid for out of your husband's taxes, it's not any benefit to you. There are different interests between careerists and traditional women. Inevitably, in small and large ways, they let each other know, either "you're letting us careerists down" or you're neglecting your kids." I talk to a number of people, I quote one in the book, there is tension between these two wings of females.

(Beginning of Segment One)

Donna:

A word we're not supposed to use in society is "domination." But sex is about domination.

Steven:

Well, I've had a lot of interviews, Donna, and I must say you're the first person who has picked up on that part of my book and I really appreciate the fact that you've really dug into it. It's hard to talk about, in a sense, because people don't like to think that they want to be dominated, but I think it's true and I quote prominent feminist theorists and other feminists who seem to like a dominate man, and a dominate man in the bedroom. In fact, I'll quote one of them from the book now, Robin West, a feminist theorist and legal scholar, argues that the experience of dominance and submission, with the controlled but fantastic expropriation of our sexuality, is precisely what is desirable, exciting and pleasurable to many women, in fantasy for many and reality for some. She talks about the intense pleasure of eroticised submission. You'll even find a feminist theorist in Cosmopolitan talk about submission, just letting your body be completely at ease for female pleasure. Obviously, I'm no expert on this, a lot of this was news to me. You do find prominent evolutionary anthropologists who say that this is quite common in primates. Feminine sexual surrender is part of a satisfying sexual experience. Even people like C.S. Lewis, a brilliant Christian writer, when he talks about the four kinds of Eros, will hint at this and talk about keeping it within it's realm, but also acknowledge that this is part of what sex is about. It's also the reason powerful men can have their way with women, because women are attracted to powerful men. (End of Segment One)

(Beginning of Segment Two)

Donna:

There was a time in society when mothers taught their daughters not to sleep around. But now women "hook up" and feel rage at men for taking advantage of them.

Steven:

This is true and think it's really, really sad and I've gotten emails about this from women. They look at Friends and Sex in the City and it makes it look like sex is just as much fun for women as it is for men if you watch these shows. And that is simply not true. If you ask teenage girls and boys who are sexual active, if they were in love with their last sexual partner, 71% of girls say yes, 45% of boys say yes. Girls are much more likely to feel that they wished they'd waited longer to have sex, they are less likely to say they enjoyed the sexual experiences they've had to date. I live outside of Washington, so I read the Washington Post and there's a style section. They'll interview people and they seem to be having a wonderful time, these girls. In casual sex situations, you really got to talk to them three years later. Girls these days see a certain thing on the tube and they think, well that looks like fun, maybe I should act like that. You really have to see how it looks in the long term. There was a really good study of this at Syracuse University. After interviewing 250 of the most sexually experienced women he could find, the researcher picked the five most sexually experienced. Every one of them, although they still believed casual sex was fine, had feelings that didn't cooperate with it. They felt hurt and demeaned after sleeping with men who seem to have no interest in them once they'd slept with them. I think this goes deep. Women do feel rage toward men, they report this in multiple ways. It's not always after casual sex. Imagine if you get to be 28 and you've had three or four serious relationships, maybe a couple you cohabited with the guy, and in every one of them he ended up not wanting to marry you. You also feel, this isn't what I want. I want a committed, marital relationship, which is in fact what women in and out of marriage say they want from sex. Men say, much more narrowly, physical reasons for why they like sex, they say sexual release, it's more just a physical act, not to share emotions and love. Woman have to get men to learn how to love, really, and I do think they feel rage toward men and used by men in these situations which women so commonly get them selves into these days. (End of Segment Two)

(Beginning of Segment Three)

Donna:

The idea that women can transform men is out of fashion, but it's the basis of romantic love, which goes back to what you were saying about learning how to love.

Steven:

Yeah, it sure is. I think women improve men remarkably. They do it by teaching them how to love. First of all, they teach them how to love by withholding their sexuality, this is the old understanding and whether you like it or not it's still true. My wife teaches at an all male school. She teaches Shakespeare and tries to get these kids interested in romantic comedies, interested in romance and love. Many women would be appalled at just how crass these guys can sound, but women have got to understand that men see sex as strictly physical, strictly recreational until they get married, unless they're very religious. This is more likely to be the case for men. My wife will say things like "What kind of woman do you think you'll fall in love with?" One guy replied to her " I have no idea, I haven't thought about love yet, I'm not interested in love yet, I haven't slept with enough women yet. Another guy said to her, "Sleeping with a woman you've already slept with is like playing a computer game you've already won." That sounds just awful, but it was kind of a game. It's not "no fun" to go back to that woman but it's more fun to go on to another computer game, or another woman. There are a whole lot of men out there who think like this and many of them can be transformed. My father married at thirty after years of wine, women and song and he was a wonderful, devoted family man. Women can make men better, but they've got to make them fall in love with them before they give them sex, it's that simple. When men do get married, they do become less aggressive, their testosterone levels go down, when they have kids, their testosterone levels go down more, they become more civic minded, good providers. It happens all the time, but it used to happen a lot more because men had a compelling need to get married in order to have sex with a woman as interesting as they were intellectually and other ways. These days men put off marriage. There has never been a time when men married as late as they do now. And there's never been a time when there were so many forty year old women who want most of all a romantic, committed relationship. We now have 29% of forty year old women unmarried, in 1960 it was 13%. This is an astonishing difference over a forty year period, explained in large part by the sexual revolution. Within marriage, I think women teach men how to love. There's two ways to think about how to get men to care about their kids. One of them is, if I go back to work he'll have to do more because I won't have time to do as much. That turns out to be exactly wrong. We have good studies, multiple studies, that when women go back to work in the first year the fathers are less likely to be attached to their kids. I think this is partly again the woman's example, just like the sexual side. Women provide a model of what a wonderful, loving, nurturing parent is, and if they are around and doing, then fathers are more likely to do that. We actually did our own little study of academic families and if we looked at hours of time spent with the kids when the mothers reported spending a lot of time, the fathers reported spending a lot of time with the kids, too. There's not a question in my mind. Romantic love does depend on differences between the sexes and women help make men better and they make them better by being smarter than they are these days about their sexuality. (End of Segment Three)

(Beginning of Segment Four)

Donna:

Men like to talk about women, but they don't like to talk about the power sex has over them.

Steven:

That's also true. And it's something that doesn't come up in radio interviews because it's hard to know how to talk about it delicately. There's no doubt about it. On the Ally McBeal show, one of the characters is always talking about men having a dumb stick and I think lots of men feel that is what they've got, this apparatus which they have no control over, or very little control over. Women aren't in that situation, I quote one author who says the modern, self assured women who parades around in revealing clothes drive men, especially young men, crazy. At any time or place a girl can plunge him into a fever of lust, but he has no comparable power over a woman. I think there's something in that. I have a hard time getting class discussions going about pornography because the boys are embarrassed, to think of this deep, animalistic side. It's hard to get men to talk about how matter of fact they are about sex. How are they going to get a date that way? The girls aren't going to want to hear this. So it's hard to get the truth of what the science shows out there because the girls are defending the men even more than the men are. The men don't want to say what they're like and the girls are saying my boyfriend's not like that. Consider sexual fantasies where men are fanaticizing having sex with strangers or multiple partners, all these things men are embarrassed about. Not every man has these fantasies, but it comes up more frequently than with women. Women will say of these fantasies, my boyfriend's not like that, my father's not like that. Without a question their father isn't like that. The father tries to tell the girl that all men are only after one thing. She's thinking, I'm looking at this wonderful human being, this father of mine, he's not just after one thing, he loves my mother. She may say, "He reminds me a lot of you dad, that's why I love him." What's the father to say? He probably can't say what he's really thinking, "But I'm different than I used to be. You didn't see me when I was his age. I became different because I fell in love with your mother. And that was something that she had a lot to do with. (End of Segment Four)

(Beginning of Segment Five)

Donna:

Some women who never had children are angry at feminists, and feminists don't know how to deal with it.

Steven:

For a whole lot of women who get to be a certain age, everyone says get your career going first. People think if you get married early, you're more likely to get divorced. That's true if you're teenagers, but if you get married at the age of 21 or 22, you're slightly less likely to get divorced than if you're older than that. There's nothing wrong with getting married right out of college. Women should realize that there's a lot more men to pick from when you're that age than when you're 31. Usually women want an educated person, somewhat older than they are. A lot of those guys are married off by the time you're 31 and then you're having to look around for someone 41, and so on. Think about not just getting your career established, but getting your marriage established, which is what women almost uniformly say they care the most about. One survey of women, for example, asked on a scale of one to ten, how important are your children to you. 86% of the women said ten. 30% of the women said their job was a ten. Women care most about personal relationships. Even unmarried women are five times more likely to say what's most important is their friends, mother, family, not their job. Women get trapped in this cycle of I've got to get my career established first and then men aren't interested in marrying them. It's a lot harder to tell women at the age of 28 or 29 that they shouldn't have sex until they're married. The longer is goes on, the harder it is for women to get what they really want: family and kids. It's not to say that's all they want. There was a good study by Sylvia Hewlett who looked at high achieving women who also had families. Almost all of them did the kids and family first and then went to work. For the women who put off kids until they established their careers, a lot of them ended up without any kids. She asked these high achieving women, when they were teenagers, did they want to have children? 14% said they didn't want to have children. 33% in fact didn't have children. Of the highest achieving women, 42% didn't have children. A lot of times they do end up blaming feminists. One of them I quote in my book. A newswoman, nearing her forties. Finding her life pointless, she has a great job, a trendy inner city pad, but she's childless and angry. "Angry that I was so foolish to take the word of my feminist mothers that female fulfillment came with a leather briefcase." Feminists think, you didn't tell me that when I got to be thirty five I would hear the biological clock ticking and care as much as I do about having a child. Even famous feminists like Germaine Greer will say just that. I used to think this was all nonsense and now I'm desperately hoping I'll get pregnant even though I'm too old to get pregnant. Naomi Wolf, another prominent feminist that some of your listeners may have heard of, talked about when she did get pregnant how she felt stupidly domestic and weepy and just different. One study showed that women who are trying to get pregnant and aren't able to are as depressed and women who have cancer. It can be devastating to women. And I don't think anybody's giving them a hint, even though you're now 25 and you don't think it's that big a deal, a lot of women change their mind when they get to be 35, so think long and hard about whether you want to make having a baby a priority. (End of Segment Five)

(Beginning of Segment Six)

Donna:

One of the interesting details in this book that I haven't heard before is about an unusual side effect of the pill.

Steven:

It's a revelation to my female students, too. There are two unusual side affects that I don't think people are aware. This isn't cranky science. First of all, it can block sexual pleasure. There are multiple studies, some of them with animals, but at least one with women. Women on the pill see the world as a far more platonic place than other females. The pill seems to suppress the desire of women for sex. The other one is even trickier and that is an unconscious mechanism with which women choose men with different immune systems different from theirs. It's a good idea for people to marry with different immune systems because then you have proteins that can detect and attack invaders. In all animals species the immune system is stronger when the female mates with a mate with an immune system makeup different than hers. Scientists know we have pheromones, which is a kind of smell, but you're not really conscience of all that you're smelling. One of the interesting tests was that they had a bunch of college coeds smell the t-shirts of men, asking them which one they thought was the best smelling. The women were all over the place, they couldn't agree on the best smelling t-shirt. What was interesting was, they were picking the shirts of men whose immune system was different than theirs. This seems to be an unconscious mechanism driving you to mate with someone with a different immune system. Well, it turns out that birth control pills completely reverses that. When you're on birth control pills you find the smell most attractive that is most like yours. So some people are speculating about this wondering if the difficulty our generation seems to be having producing offspring is because they've been on birth control pills when they met their husband and are marrying people that in some biological sense may not be optimal for them if they want to have children. One of the things doctors report is that some women complain of their husband's odor after they go off the pill. These are both things that are out there, I don't think it's junk science and nobody ever talks about it. In sex education no one ever talks about the fact that women are much more likely to get a venereal disease from sleeping once with an exposed man more than men are from sleeping with an exposed woman. HIV it's eight times more likely. It seems to me that by denying sex differences we're lots of times making women more vulnerable. (End of Segment Six)

Donna: Steven, it's a great book. Do you have a website?

Steven: Yes, it's www.sexdifferences.net

Donna: Thanks for speaking with us today.

Steven: It's a great pleasure, Donna. Thanks for having me.

Click here to read the transcript at the First Voice website

© 2004 Steven E. Rhoads
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