How do men and women differ emotionally, and are those differences caused by cultural influences or genetic factors?
No doubt, some of the differences in masculine and feminine characteristics are culturally induced. It is foolish, however, to discount the impact of genetics, physiology, and inborn temperaments in understanding the sexes. Radical feminists in the sixties and seventies tried to sell the notion that males and females are identical except for the ability to bear children. That is nonsense. Let me describe some of the differences between the sexes that appear to be determined, at least in part, by genetics.
The reproductive capacity of women results in greater needs for security and stability. In other words, because of their sense of responsibility for children, females are less likely to take risks and gamble with the future. Though it varies in individual situations, there is typically a healthy tension between a man and woman that interests me. He likes excitement, change, challenge, uncertainty, and the potential for huge returns on a risky investment. She likes predictability, continuity, safety, roots, relationships, and a smaller return on a more secure investment. These contrasting inclinations work to a couple's best advantage. She tempers his impulsive, foolish tendencies, and he nudges her out of apathy and excessive caution. These genetic tendencies have far-reaching implications. Medical science has not begun to identify all the ramifications of sexual uniqueness. We see the wisdom of the Creator in the way the sexes interrelate at this point.
Related to this is a woman's emotional investment in her home, which usually exceeds that of her husband. She typically cares more than he about the details of the house, family functioning, and such concerns. To cite a personal example, my wife and I decided to install a new gas-barbecue unit in our backyard. When the plumber completed the assignment and departed, Shirley and I both recognized that he had placed the appliance approximately six inches too high. I looked at the device and said, "Hmmm, yessir, he sure made a mistake. That post is a bit too high. By the way, what are we having for dinner tonight?" Shirley's reaction was dramatically different. She said, "The plumber has that thing sticking up in the air, and I don't think I can stand it!" Our contrasting views represented a classic difference of emotional intensity relating to the home.
The sexes also typically differ in competitive drive. Anyone who doubts that fact should observe how males and females approach a game of Ping-Pong, Monopoly, dominoes, horseshoes, volleyball, or tennis. Women may use the event as a backdrop for fellowship and pleasant conversation. For men, the name of the game is conquest. Even if the setting is a friendly social gathering in the host's backyard, the beads of sweat on each man's forehead reveal his passion to win. This aggressive competitiveness has been attributed exclusively to cultural influences. I don't believe it. It is a function of testosterone and the working of the masculine brain.
As Dr. Richard Restak said in his book The Brain: The Last Frontier, "At a birthday party for five-year-olds, it's not usually the girls who pull hair, throw punches, or smear each other with food."1
As I've indicated, there has been an effort in the past thirty years to homogenize the personality traits of boys and girls. The behavior of which Restak wrote was perceived to have resulted from unfortunate cultural biases that could be overcome. Therefore, boys were encouraged to play with dolls and tea sets, and girls were given trucks and tools. It didn't work. To the irritation of mothers with strong feminist beliefs, boys turned out to be depressingly masculine, and no amount of "cross training" would change that fact.
Finally, a maternal inclination apparently operates in most women, although its force is stronger in some than others. The desire to procreate is certainly evident in those who are unable to conceive. I receive a steady influx of sad letters from women who express great frustration from their inability to become mothers. Although culture plays a major role in these longings, I believe they are rooted in female anatomy and physiology.
These items are illustrative and are not intended to be exhaustive or to represent a scientific delineation of male and female differences. It is clear from even this cursory examination, however, that God made two sexes, not one, and he designed them to fit together hand in glove. Neither is superior to the other, but each is certainly unique.
Dr. Richard Restak, The Brain: The Last Frontier (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Company, 1979), 197.