Ignoring sex difference harms society, says scholar

Women, men and their children are not well served by a society that fails to acknowledge the inherent differences between the sexes, says author and scholar Steven E. Rhoads.

In his new book, "Taking Sex Difference Seriously", the public policy professor of the University of Virginia argues that gender differences are based in nature and are not the result of socialization.

Rhoads presented his case to a packed lecture hall at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., last week. The Content of his lecture was presented by the Culture of Life Foundation in the latest edition of their publication, Culture & Cosmos.

Drawing from an abundance of social science data and biological research, Rhoads argued that "masculinity and femininity are not constructed" and he stressed that much of the differences between the sexes have firm roots in biology. He said the amount of testosterone babies are exposed to in the womb "have a lot to do with how they turn out."

Rhoads cited a study that reported that male infants are already more aggressive than females by the age of 16 months. That men are more aggressive, he said, is demonstrated by the fact that there are 28 men in jail for killing another man for every woman incarcerated for killing another woman.

Rhoads said one area where society has suffered due to the denial of this basic difference is in men's sports. Current law requires women to be equally represented in college athletics. Because women's interest in sports is not as high as men's, many schools have had to cut men's programs. Rhoads is concerned that many men, who need organized sports as an outlet for their aggression, will turn to less appropriate outlets.

Rhoads also said research indicates women are better nurturers than men and that for the most part women prefer being with their children to pursuing a professional career.

He says that children benefit from having their mothers home as well. In countries where the law requires both men and women to be given time off for the birth of a child, surveys indicate that men are much more likely to want to return to their jobs than women. Even when women are fulfilled in their career, Rhoads said, children suffer.

Rhoads pointed to one study that showed that the more mothers loved their jobs, the less mentally healthy their teenage daughters were. But mental health for teen girls improved as their father's job satisfaction increased. Another study revealed that chemicals, reflecting stress, increased in small boys while in day-care and decreased on the weekend when the boys were with their mothers.

Much of the data Rhoads cites about men make them out to be cads. By nature, he said, men tend to seek multiple sexual partners and eschew commitment. But Rhoads did say that men seem to have a natural aptitude for fulfilling duty. One study showed that in unhappy marriages, men were more likely to stick it out because of concern for the wife, while women were less concerned with hurting their spouse by calling it quits.

Rhoads suggested some simple policy changes, which include and end to the U.S. law that requires gender equity in college sports. Rhoads also notes that many state textbook committees have strict rules that limit how women can be portrayed. Some rules require that women never be shown performing household tasks or holding a baby. Rhoads says such rules ought to be changed. Rhoads also calls on changing the tax code to offer incentives for one parent to stay home with their children.

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