Synopses & Reviews
Most discussions of sexuality today assume that differences between men and women are insubstantial, and that the boundary between the masculine and the feminine is highly porous. To reflect the idea that male and female roles have been "socially constructed," they speak of "gender instead of "sex, and ridicule the double standard of "studs" and "sluts." Because men and women are virtually interchangeable, it is argued, men should do an equal share of domestic work so that women can compete equally with men outside the home. This vision of androgyny has compelling aspects. But Dr. Steven Rhoads finds one problem: whatever we might like to believe, sex distinctions remain a deeply rooted part of human nature. In "Taking Sex Differences Seriously, he assembles a wealth of scientific evidence showing that these differences are "hard-wired" into our biology. They range from the subtle (women instinctively carry babies on their left side, near the maternal heartbeat) to the profound (women with higher testosterone levels are more promiscuous, more competitive, and more conflicted about having children). Rhoads explores male/female disparities in aggression and dominance, in sexuality and nurturing. He shows how denial of these differences has affected phenomena such as the sexual revolution and fatherless families, and policies such as the sexual revolution and fatherless families, and policies such as Title IX and the call for universal day care. But he also says that society is improved by discouraging some natural tendencies, like men's temptation toward predatory sex, and encouraging others, like women's greater interest and talent in caring for babies. Steven Rhoads dispels socialcliches and spotlights biological realities in this provocative book. Meticulously researched and elegantly written, "Taking Sex Differences Seriously is a groundbreaking look at the way we are.
"Steven Rhoads has got balls. And I mean this as a compliment. Moreover, after having read this politically incorrect refutation of contemporary feminism's androgyny project, I am hopeful that he would take it as such. It is a brave book that deserves a wide reading. Rhoads' basic argument is that an honest appraisal of the scientific evidence on sex differences clearly demonstrates that nature, and not simply nurture, accounts for fundamental differences between the sexes, and that this fact has important ramifications for public policy and for the ideological and cultural battles that are being waged over issues of gender. Particularly when it comes to the sexual revolution championed by feminism and the battle over gender roles in the family and, more particularly, in child-rearing, Rhoads' aim at the androgyny project of feminism is withering. One could almost subtitle this book, The Misogyny of Feminism's Androgyny Project. This suggestion comes from the concluding observation on the issue of day care, in which Rhoads writes that mothers who would prefer to stay at home with their young children would be better served if feminism's androgynous project can be seen as misogynist rather than as the road to female salvation (243). Speaking of salvation, while Rhoads' conclusions may please religious conservatives, how he gets there may not. He couches most of his arguments in terms of the new discipline of evolutionary psychology. For every sex difference that Rhoads argues is rooted in nature, rather than simply socially constructed by patriarchal societies, he resorts to an etiological explanation based upon the theories of evolutionary psychologists. While this will make it difficult for the predominantly secular champions of androgyny to argue against what Rhoads insists are simply biological realities with further iterations of their ideological presuppositions, it leaves open the question of how one moves from what simply is to what ought to be. On what basis can Rhoads travel from description to prescription when it comes to what he describes as the evolutionarily hard-wired predilection of men to be sexually promiscuous against their own long-term emotional well-being, not to mention the well-being of their progeny and of society at large? Did evolution make a mistake in giving men such radically different sexual urges from women? Is there no greater morality than the biological survival and propagation of the species as conditioned by evolution? I imagine that the most interesting rejoinders to Rhoads' work will come not from his secular feminist opponents on the left, but from his admirers on the religious right." Reviewed by Alex Kish, Virginia Quarterly Review (Copyright 2006 Virginia Quarterly Review)
This provocative book dispels social cliches and spotlights biological realities.