Home Biological aspects of sexuality Human reproduction How the male and female sexual roles differ

How the male and female sexual roles differ

Primitive life, such as bacteria, reproduce asexually. But most animals and plants reproduce sexually. Offspring inherit genes from both parents. Even in plants, the process for enabling the male gamete to join with the female gamete is engineered by the male reproductive part of the plant. There is competition between male gametes because only one fuses with the female gamete. This is essentially the biological definition of male and female.

Single-sex organisms fertilise their own eggs. The male is a later evolutionary development. Early single-sex organisms evolved a phallus. Then over eons, the development of the phallus varied according to the metabolic rate of the individual. The more proactive individuals impregnate the more passive ones. The female phallus is internal rather than being a functioning phallus.

The female continued to be a reproductive being. The only difference (compared to the single-sex organism) is that a female must be amenable to being impregnated. The male, instead of producing eggs, now has to fertilise a female in order to reproduce. So the male has to be a more active being. The sexual process is orchestrated and controlled by the male. Orgasm is a result of a mindset that is intent on being the penetrator in sexual activity. Psychological arousal relies on identifying with the male role in intercourse. This explains why female masturbation is so rare in the general population.

Responsiveness (the ability to respond to the point of orgasm) is part of male reproductive function. For reproduction to occur, a sperm cell (from the man) must join with an egg (from the woman). This involves:

  • A man having an erect penis (male arousal);
  • A man being motivated to penetrate a vagina (male sex drive); and
  • A man being motivated to thrust until ejaculation (male orgasm).

Male and female sexualities are not the same. They complement each other. Heterosexuality involves a symbiotic relationship between men and women. A man’s reproductive role is to maximise his opportunities for intercourse. Women’s sexual role is to provide a man with his sexual release by cooperating with intercourse. This is the emotional bonding mechanism that keeps men tied into relationships with women. Women’s focus is to establish an affectionate relationship that motivates a man to support a family.

Sexual differentiation involves more than anatomy. Male and female brains respond very differently. There are differences in behaviour between the sexes even in very young children. Various chemicals, including hormones, control emotional and sexual response. Men respond to erotic stimuli while women need emotional stimuli to offer the regular intercourse a man needs.

Even in male homosexual relationships, one man often assumes a dominant role as penetrator and the other a more submissive role as receiver. So gay men need to use behaviours before they pair up to indicate whether they are dominant or submissive. Fairly naturally a more dominant male is less sensitive to the needs of a partner. A more submissive male is more ready to accept bad behaviour from his partner because he obtains some emotional reassurance from his partner’s stronger drive and personality.

Men are more autonomous and emotionally detached than women. Many men have a strong drive to take on challenges, to venture far from home and to strive for control through money or status. Men’s needs are easily satisfied through sex. Men have little interest in the emotional aspects of relationships (daily comfort, affection and companionship) that women value. A man is proactive because he is looking for sexual release. A man is obliged to approach women until he is accepted. A man is attracted to a woman by his genital response (sexual arousal) to her body, her behaviour and personality.

Heterosexual women’s sexuality involves:

  • A motivation to make themselves attractive to men;
  • A willingness to facilitate male orgasm through intercourse; and
  • A longer-term desire for companionship and family.

None of these involve a woman’s arousal and orgasm. They depend on women’s conscious decisions and sexual behaviours rather than responses. The female sexual role is much more passive due to a woman’s lack of responsiveness. Her lack of sexual motivation means that she can use social criteria to assess a man’s suitability as a mate (an imperfect process at best). Ideally a woman chooses a mate on the basis of more objective criteria such as his apparent dedication to her and his willingness to provide for the family.

A woman is in the position of having to choose from those men who present themselves. She does not experience a genital response to seeing her lover’s body. Unlike a man, she does not choose a lover on the basis of behaviours such as his amenability to responding to a lover or his willingness to provide erotic turn-ons. Many erotic stimuli that men enjoy are repugnant to women. She is attracted to men who appear to care, who reassure her emotionally by their confident behaviour or who excite her in an intellectual sense with their personal drive. Women are strongly tied into their relationships, especially with their children. This makes negotiation with a man difficult. A woman cannot insist that a man demonstrates the caring behaviours she values or that he provides her with the affectionate companionship that she hopes for.

The average male … has a greater need than most females have for a regular and frequent sexual outlet. (Alfred Kinsey)