We can see in other mammals that the female is more timid and more nervous than the male. This is also true in humans. Women tend to avoid the conflict that men are more prone to engage in. Women prefer more sedentary pursuits that fit with their role in the home and are more suited to a less energetic personality type. Women connect emotionally to people who are around for significant periods of time. Women instincts are to make a family. So they try to keep men and children close to them. Men must have their freedom. But women want stability. These two aims are sometimes incompatible.
Female mammals are involved in the daily care and affectionate play with their young. They also engage in grooming of their cubs. The male is more prone to make contact with others purely for sexual reasons. Female mammals often oversee the development of their young until independence. Females mate with males who win rights over resources (to sustain a family) and who can protect them from other males. In human terms we observe that women tend to gravitate towards men who can provide protection and lifestyle through earnings or status.
Men and women have very different social histories from our earliest civilisations and communities. Men often live away from home. In the past men were hunters who went on expeditions in groups for days, weeks or months at a time. Despite our modern and sophisticated weaponry, films still depict actors in arm-to-arm combat or wrestling. A hands-on fist fight expresses the emotions of a more personal form of combat. Men fight (and play sport) to help dissipate the tensions generated by their sex and personal drives.
The mother role is crucial to society but no one gets a medal for having a family. Women look after their children for love and because they want to influence their lives. Feminists, who are typically young and without children, have belittled the role, not appreciating its value. But this is why women are missing from much of our history. Not because they are incapable but because they are often (but not always) more motivated by family or they have not had a choice. Even today it is not easy for a woman to have children and continue working.
Women have typically lived their lives close to the home and their children. Women stayed at home and cared for their children with the support of other women (relatives or friends). Consequently, women are often focused on their own family unit (their own children) rather than broader community issues that affect women as a whole. Women often have friends of the same sex and can be affectionate with either sex without any sexual innuendo.
Young girls are often fairly passive in their playtime activities. Girls tend to focus on social activities and conversations rather than physically active play. Some girls are called ‘tomboys’ because they emulate male behaviours (more adventurous and interested in physical pursuits than most girls are). It seems to be women’s lot in life to sit and wait, for men to come back from war or from their work. We want to be proactive but we lack the sex drive that makes us willing to force ourselves or our needs onto others. We prefer to test the water, send out signals and hope that others respond to us.
Women are attracted to men for their intellect, their pragmatism and their endurance. But they also want a lover who is kind, interesting and has a sense of humour. Men are admired for their status and for being capable. A man is attracted first by looks and then by a person’s sexual amenability. Although, like women, some men want an interesting and supportive partner, men must also be aroused by a lover. Women are admired for their beauty and for being more cooperative than men often are. A woman is attracted foremost by a man’s behaviour; not by his looks.
Women often have more limited personal freedom but they are protected from the brutality that men often have to face. Most of the world’s police, fire-fighters, rescue services and surgeons are men. It’s about what suits different personalities. So men who are less aggressive and women who are more assertive are more likely to dislike standard gender roles. Homosexual men were not given any dispensation for having a different emotional make-up to the average man during war times. The extreme minorities often dominate. Many men abhor violence and avoid conflict.
Women are largely disinterested in sexual topics. This is because women are generally unresponsive. Their sexual interests tend to be romantic and relationship focused. Women want marriage and family. That is easy to conclude simply from surveying the magazines that women read. Women read about relationships, weddings, domestic skills and family. Men read about work, sport, hobbies and porn. Two worlds apart but complementary to each other, not in sexual terms, but in reproductive terms.
As the feminist group the Redstockings put it, for many women marriage is one of the few forms of employment that is readily available. (Hite 1993)