Men, Women Are Not From Mars, Venus
They have similar levels of interest in sex with multiple partners, willingness to have sex outside of a relationship, closeness with a best friend and interest in science, for instance.
What a surprise!
Harry Reis, a psychology professor at the University of Rochester, and Bobbi Carothers, a senior data analyst at Washington University used their own and others’ research to study the characteristics of 13,301 men and women.
They looked at a range of things like physical strength, sexual attitudes, empathy, science inclination, extroversion, relationship interdependence, intimacy, mate selection criteria and personality traits in an attempt to find out which characteristics could reliably predict whether someone was male or female.
Turns out, women and men are much more alike than different.
And even differences may not be biologically based. Stereotypes tend to create social patterns. Boys are told “boys don’t cry,” so they end up repressing their emotions. Or, they get kudos for acting tough. So they are more likely to grow up to be tough guys. Girls, on the other hand, are free to cry and show weakness, and so they are more likely to do both. That’s a social pattern, not a biological one.
But even with socialization, you still get a continuum of behavior. Some guys are sweet and some girls are tough.
The researchers found that the biggest differences were physical, with men being taller and physically stronger. But psychologically, there’s a lot of overlap.
Below, you can find graphs of physical strength and assertiveness. Men are a bit more assertive, but take a look at the overlap.
A variety of other traits show a pattern similar to the bottom graph, like desire for non-committed sex (so much for evolutionary psychology), fear of success, levels of empathy, and how much feeling men and women have for their friends.
Amanda Marcotte points out that,
What’s remarkable about all this is not that men and women have so much in common but that these commonalities persist despite relentless gender policing that usually involves quite a bit of shame.
Men face ridicule if they’re perceived as having female-like levels of empathy and concern for their friends, and yet, according to the study, they overcome it. Women are routinely told there’s something wrong with them if they have “masculine” attitudes towards sex and men are emasculated if they aren’t horny all the time or if they desire intimacy alongside their sexual adventures, and yet both genders tend to have a mix of adventurousness and tenderness when it comes to sex.
Good to know that the humanity within usually wins out.
Simplistic frameworks like the pop psychology book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus can even be harmful in some ways. In relationships, says Reis,
When something goes wrong between partners, people often blame the other partner’s gender immediately. Having gender stereotypes hinders people from looking at their partner as an individual. (Yet) gay and lesbian couples have much the same problems relating to each other that heterosexual couples do. Clearly, it’s not so much sex, but human character that causes difficulties.
Rigid frames can also discourage people from pursuing goals that they think are for the other sex.
If men aren’t really from Mars, nor women from Venus, that gives us all a whole lot of freedom.