Gender differences are science, dammit, when will you silly social constructionists get over yourselves and admit girls just like looking after people, trying to be pretty and only having sex if they really, really love him.
When gender differences underpin your scientific investigations into gender differences, we have the kind of causal loop which produces complete nonsense. And perhaps the worst area for this, scientifically, is around sex and desire.
Scientists have “proved” that women want sex less than men and that men have more sexual partners than women, wanting to spread their evolutionary seed around. It all goes back to Mr Darwin.
Except they haven’t. Turns out when we remove the gender difference assumption, we remove the gender differences.
In 2003, Michelle Alexander and Terri Fisher used a simple test to investigate attitudes and behaviours around sex, asking questions when their subjects were connected to a fake lie detector, or not. When asked about sexual partners unconnected to the lie detector, more men reported getting jiggy with it than women. When subjects believed the lie detector would catch them out – no gender differences. In fact, women reported ever so slightly more, on average, sexual partners than men.
Then there is the long cherished idea that men will shag anything in the inner-drive-rooted-need to be the daddy. Speed dating had been previously used to “prove” this. Basically, men were less choosy in speed dating scenarios, more likely to be keen to give someone a go.
Until you switch who sits still and who approaches the potential date. Turns out all the earlier studies had men moving around. Eli Finkel and Paul Eastwick swapped the roles in 2009. Just being the approacher, rather than the approachee, is the key in dating situations. You are more likely to have a favourable assessment of a potential date if you’re the one putting it out there – regardless of your gender.
Finally, attitudes to casual sex might not be quite as different as more neanderthal scientists have previously proven either. Terri Conley found in 2011 that if you remove situations in which women’s assessment of danger might impact (a stranger asking you back to their place for sex), and focus on actual desire (a close friend you think is sexy invites you to spend a few hours of fun), gender differences in enthusiasm for sexual play without commitment disappear. Again.
The evolutionists aren’t going anywhere. Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker wrote an email to respond to these studies to the New York Times, saying:
“A study which shows you can push some phenomenon around a bit at the margins is of dubious relevance to whether the phenomenon exists.”
The gender difference is there, dammit, there. Just look harder.