Do Women Age Faster Than Men
“When I was 14 years old I read an article about how women were starting to “get really into sports” because they wanted to compete with their male peers. The author argued that these female athletes were trying to overcome what she described as a “man thing,” suggesting that women needed to develop a masculine mentality to do well at sports (1).
I didn’t want anything to do with this feminist ideology, even though my own self-identification as a feminist had not yet been formed. What bothered me about this particular piece was its implication that there was something inherently wrong with the way that I identified myself — or maybe more importantly, with the way that other people identified me. As a young gay boy who liked girls, I felt criticized by both sides of the gender binary. On the one hand, I felt like I wasn’t supposed to identify as a lesbian; on the other, I felt like I shouldn’t feel ashamed of having same-sex attractions.
In recent decades, LGBTQ activists have made significant progress in challenging traditional notions of what it means to be queer. But much work remains to be done when it comes to dismantling the harmful effects of sexism within the community itself. One area that needs urgent attention is the relationship between misogyny and homophobia. This dynamic is evident in the ways that some members of the trans and queer communities use gendered language to describe certain types of sexual encounters. While some might argue that such labels are empowering, others reject these terms as reductive stereotypes meant only to reinforce the status quo. In fact, many critics say that the very idea of defining sexuality based on gender roles creates and perpetuates gender inequality within the LGBT community.
The problem isn’t limited to the language used to define sexual orientation, however. Some feminists critique heterosexual relationships as “”patriarchal”” due to the unequal division of labor that occurs in heterosexual marriages. They also point out that the emotional bonds between men and women differ from those found in homosexual couples. These differences create expectations for women that don’t apply to men, leading to feelings of resentment among wives and girlfriends.
For example, a wife may become upset when her husband fails to help around the house after coming home late from work. She’s expected to provide companionship while he’s busy working toward his career goals. A girlfriend may get frustrated that her boyfriend spends money unnecessarily, while he feels entitled to spend his income on expensive clothes and cars. And both partners may resent the time constraints placed upon them by their partner’s need to perform household chores, especially if they’re juggling multiple responsibilities outside of the home.
These kinds of conflicts commonly arise in heterosexual relationships, but they also take shape in same-sex partnerships. For instance, two lesbians may disagree about whether their relationship should involve monogamy or casual sex. To avoid conflict, one may try to convince the other that monogamy is essential to their happiness. Another couple may disagree over whether spending money together on dates and outings is necessary to keep the romance alive.
But perhaps the greatest source of tension arises when one partner expresses romantic desires toward a member of the opposite sex. Although we typically think of heterosexual desire as natural, it doesn’t occur in isolation. Heterosexuality takes place within the context of a patriarchal society, which dictates that men are naturally dominant over women. Any expression of romantic affection toward a woman therefore becomes threatening for a man’s sense of self-worth. When a woman shows interest in a man, she risks alienating him from his ability to view himself as a fully masculine figure.
This process is sometimes referred to as heteronormative policing. It happens all too frequently in heterosexual interactions, particularly when a woman displays any kind of physical intimacy towards a man. Even subtle gestures like touching a man’s arm, running your fingers through his hair, or brushing against his body during conversation can trigger anxiety in a heterosexual guy accustomed to viewing touch as a form of submission. He may interpret such behavior as an attempt to establish dominance over him.
It’s no wonder then that some guys hate women. If you’ve never experienced a man hating women, you probably haven’t spent enough time around them.
Long Island University Postdoctoral Fellow in Psychology David M. McRaney argues that misogyny stems from “”a pervasive fear of feminine traits becoming ascendant.”” For example, he says that when men see women outperforming them in academic settings, they worry that this will lead to women gaining greater access to jobs and political positions, effectively eliminating their opportunities to achieve success.
McRaney believes that this insecurity leads to widespread hostility toward women. Instead of allowing themselves to embrace femininity, men suppress these feelings under the guise of maintaining their masculinity. They may also be motivated by the belief that women pose a risk to their safety, either physically or sexually.
Of course, men aren’t alone in fearing that they’ll lose their privileged position in society. White nationalists express similar sentiments regarding the rise of nonwhite immigrants and minorities. However, unlike white supremacists, misogynists tend to blame women rather than other ethnic groups for destroying their vision of a perfect world. Their animosity toward women is rooted in cultural anxieties about the future, rather than hatred toward specific individuals.
So why does this happen? Perhaps part of the answer lies in the unique nature of human mating rituals. We evolved as a species to find mates. Our ancestors’ reproductive success depended largely on the survival and reproduction of their offspring. Consequently, our brains developed specialized mechanisms to ensure that we would reproduce successfully. Because humans aren’t solitary creatures, our capacity to care for children relies heavily on the support of extended family networks.
As a result, our brain chemistry changes when we interact with potential mates. Studies show that people release higher levels of testosterone when presented with pictures of attractive women compared to less appealing ones. Testosterone boosts aggression in males and helps them maintain a healthy level of arousal. Researchers suggest that the physiological response to seeing an attractive woman involves a combination of psychological factors associated with mating competition, including the expectation of winning a mate’s favor, the possibility of establishing paternity, and the prospect of increased paternal investment once a child is conceived.
While biological reactions to potential mates play an important role in courtships, long-term pair bonding requires a deeper connection. Psychologist Helen Fisher explains that in order for a man to fall in love, he must first feel comfortable expressing his emotions openly. Such vulnerability is difficult to sustain when a man fears losing control over his feelings of lust, anger, and frustration.
Fisher says that when a man lacks intimate friendships, he may try to compensate by forming close connections with other men through shared activities and interests. Unfortunately, he may end up developing a false bond with other guys instead of true friendship. His inability to open up to a woman may prevent him from feeling fulfilled in a partnership.
If a man avoids intimacy out of fear that his partner will discover his lack of masculinity, he may eventually sabotage his relationship without realizing it. He may come to believe that he can’t trust a woman, and thus avoid sharing his deepest secrets and fears. Over time, this could cause him to withdraw emotionally from his partner, making it harder for them to connect.
A woman can also harm a relationship by refusing to accept a man’s masculinity. According to Fisher, men who seek to prove their strength by demonstrating their prowess in the bedroom may expect their partners to respond in kind. When a woman refuses to engage in such activity, she may drive away a man’s interest.
Despite the challenges posed by sexism, a committed relationship provides a safe environment for a man to display his full range of emotions. Through regular communication, couples can gradually strengthen their affective bond. By practicing empathy and showing compassion toward each other, partners can better understand the complex motivations behind their partner’s behaviors.
Over time, a man can learn to appreciate the value of his softer side without compromising his identity as a strong, independent adult.
1) New York Times, “”‘Women Getting Really Into Sports’: Why Are More Girls Playing?”””