As Richard Brodie points out in his book “Virus of the mind”, the psychological differences between males and females began when mammals evolved to put all their eggs in one basket, so to speak: inside the female. Actually, sexual differentiation started even earlier than that, practically at the origin of sex, when females evolved to produce big, relatively expensive ova and males evolved to produce small, cheap sperm. The splitting apart of the behaviour of males and females stems from the fact that female DNA has a big commitment to an investment in each fertilized egg, while male DNA has nothing to lose and everything to gain by giving its host the tendency to fertilize every female in sight, then prowl around looking for the ones that aren’t in sight…
We inherited many of our drives and tendencies from animals and prehistoric humans, before concepts such as marriage and monogamy arrived. The DNA of males who mated with only one female had a terrible disadvantage: the other males that are going around spreading their DNA as widely as possible were going to have a lot more children. Without considering any other factors, males evolved to reproduce as much as possible. Remember: it’s all about DNA.
Females, on the other hand, generally can’t produce more than 1 fetus a year and therefore have only a few chances per lifetime to pass on their DNA and many eager suitors. Therefore they evolved to be a bit more selective. How did they select? A number of factors were important. First, they wanted a male with ‘good’ DNA, whatever that means…. Second, they wanted a mate who would invest his time and resources in the children while they were immature and vulnerable, thus increasing their chance of survival.
Given the priorities of females, males evolved in one of two directions: either become stronger and more handsome, or become a convincing potential husband and father.
As the results, throughout history, males have been pushing culture in the direction of expansion, conquest, and increased power, as power provides access to more mates and helps to spread the ‘selfish gene’. Females however have been so-called civilizing force, striving for security and safety that would increase the chances of survival for their children.
It’s important to remember that this evolution of sex characteristics is not happening by plan or design. It is based on the interaction between the chaotic force of random variation and the organizing force of evolution. Neither males not females can voluntarily choose biological characteristics, predetermined by selfish gene.
When talking about human evolution, the following should be taken into consideration:
- We are talking about general tendencies in evolution, not about specific individuals. Not everybody is like this!
- All this happens unconsciously. This is not about thinking. Neither individual males nor females could voluntarily choose biological characteristics and drives they ended up with. The result of the unconscious calculation is that you have feelings of attraction for someone.
- ‘Selfish gene’ does not care about the wellbeing of the society – it cares only about spreading the genes of an individual. If humans would not have learnt to tame this ‘selfish gene’, they would still be leaving in caves killing each other for mating opportunities. Different cultures have evolved different sets of sexual mores and memes, that were aimed at decreasing inter-personal conflicts around mating opportunities. Access to sex was the driving force behind many aspects of culture.
- ‘Selfish gene’ does not act in favour of its carrier – it’s all about spreading the gene, not about the gene carrier achieving happiness in life. Therefore lots of males learned to consciously suppress ‘selfish gene’ to be able to concentrate on consciously-selected personal goals (e.g. building professional career, establishing a happy family, finding peace of mind, happiness, respect). It takes a lot of effort for modern civilized men to suppress their biological drives. For that reason some men report feeling much happier in life when they get older and their sexual drive gets weaker, allowing them to concentrate more easily on their consciously-selected goals in life. For the same reason a large number of men hate ‘provocative’ women who are consciously or unconsciously trying to use male’s strong sexual drive for their own selfish purposes (e.g. teasing men, making fun of them, satisfying their own ego and self-esteem by gathering a crowd of admirers etc.) and believe women should be reported for sexual-harassment for their provocative dress. After all, if men are supposed to take full control of their biological drives in modern society, women surely should be able to do the same and stop sexually provoking men they are not planning to have sexual relationship with.
- It may be true that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, but that doesn’t mean we have to live there. People are completely capable of growing in any direction they choose. ‘Selfish gene’ and our biological wiring is neither a fatalistic preordainment of people’s future nor an excuse for behaving like an animal. Unlike most animals, humans have very well developed conscious mind, that can override their biological drives.
- The millions of years of genetic evolution that produced these instincts did not count on us figuring out that you could have sex and not get pregnant. That might potentially turn the evolution in a different direction with only people, who are committed to their partners and children, being able to pass the gene, as in other cases females won’t be getting pregnant. Raising children requires a lot of time, effort and care that only compassionate, caring, kind and loving parents can provide. People, who do not possess these qualities, are highly likely to be more interested in using contraception to prevent pregnancies. As the result, empathy, compassion, care, kindness and love might win in a longer run in human evolution.