Although men and women may appear to come from different planets, the causes of our differences are in the way we evolved. I dare to say that all behaviour in which women and men differ in general, is caused by the way we evolved. And every individual is the exception to this rule, if you know what I mean.
While reading this article, please keep in mind that this is a highly simplistic explanation, for the sake of understandability. There are many more factors in play and there are many more nuances.
How Does Evolution Work Again?
I’ll just put some basic assumptions here. I’m only talking about the general population here. There may be groups of people or individuals that do not confirm to these, but all the statements below apply to our general population. Please keep in mind the context in which we humans were evolving our physical properties: we were hunters and gatherers most of the time, living in small tribes with just basic tools.
The first principles are:
- You can only have offspring if you have sex
- You can only have sex if you’re alive
The way your body develops is ‘programmed’ by our genes. Each cell knows what to do because of this programming, which happens in our individual cells. This programming though, the way our genes work, has come into existence through uncountable iterations of the two principles above.
I’ll rewrite them in gene-terms:
- Genes that multiply, can multiply again.
- Dead genes do not multiply.
In most spiecies, having offspring involves a process in which the genes of two individuals are combined into a new unique combination of genes. These genes are then a new set of building blocks for this unique individual.
Genes can mutate though, which is nothing more than a random change in one or more of the genes. This can be caused by many things, but it is a part of our natural evolution process. If such a mutation increases the chances for the principles 1 and 2 above to succeed, the mutation may survive in our evolution.
For example: a mutation may cause you to grow an extra toe. This may or may not give you an advantage or a disadvantage. If it is an advantage, it may cause you to have more or healthier offspring. And since the mutation is part of your genes, your offspring may have this same mutation. With the same advantage. And they have advantage as well, causing them to have more or healthier offspring. It spreads through the population.
On the other hand, it may also be a disadvantage. Maybe the other sex is appalled by the extra toe. Or maybe it causes you to trip a lot more often, increasing the chance of injury. Chances for more or healthier offspring are lower than those with 5 toes per foot. This mutation may already die out in the first generation. If not, it probably won’t take many other generations.
So we’ll add a principle:
- You can only have offspring if you have sex
- You can only have sex if you’re alive
- Random mutations may increase or decrease chances of having offspring
Keep in mind, that the changes in an entire species, from one mutation to the next, involves many generations. We humans didn’t come to exist this one day emerging from monkeys. There were many ‘intermediate’ species, slowly going from primates to the humans we are today. We still share our vast majority of genes with the species we’ve evolved from. Because of this, this is also true for most of our hard-wired behaviour.
This also means that most of our primal emotions, are essentially not human. Feelings of territoriality, jealousy, anger, sadness, happyness and relaxation, being in love, all not human in origin. We humans are just generally a lot smarter than other species and we have hands, which are incredibly versatile tools in manipulating our environment.
This is a highly simplistic view on evolution, but within the context of this article, it should be enough.
Men and Women in Evolution
I’ll be blunt. Women have a womb. Men don’t. This has a vast array of implications. I’ll name the main ones:
- Women take a much higher risk in having children. Pregnancy and giving birth are serious threats to survivability.
- Women invest a lot of time, effort and resources in a single kid during pregnancy
- Women are sure a kid is theirs.
- Men only need to have sex to procreate and sperm costs nothing.
- Men can have multiple children with multiple women simultaneously.
- Both men and women can choose if they will invest time and resources in a kid after birth.
In short: physically, having kids is easy for men and very risky and time and resources consuming for women. This all causes some fundamental differences in the way men and women behave. I’ll name a few:
Do women like rich men?
Raising kids is hard. Women can use all the help they need, as it helps their offspring survive. If they have a man that will sustain them and provide resources and safety, their offspring has a much higher chance to create their own offspring. Because of this, reliable, loyal men with access to resources are important to women. On a subconscious level, they are attracted to this, as being attracted to these men increased chances for healthy offspring that survives. This is why it is often said women like rich men. This is also why men tend to show off their resources. They probably even crave to have resources, as men with this craving had better chances of more, healthy offspring. Why do men feel the need to have awesome cars? Precisely…
Men can never be sure
Men are never 100% sure a kid is theirs. Our babies even evolved to look like their fathers when they are just born. These babies had a higher chance to survive. But still, men are never 100% sure. If they start caring for children, they run the risk of investing a lot of time and resources in children that are not theirs. This is why men tend to react much stronger to sexual infidelity than women. Women tend to react stronger to emotional infidelity, as they have an in-built fear they may lose the resources and security if the man leaves.
That also means that in a relationship, men may not think of an emotional affair as a very alarming thing. But for their partner, it may be huge! The same goes the other way round: maybe a woman had sex with another man, without any emotional attachment. She may think it’s not that bad, but her man may explode from jealousy. This behaviour is all in our genes.
This all also means that men have a choice: provide quality care for a few kids? Or have many kids and hope they turn out allright, at least fit enough to create their own offspring and care for it? As women don’t have this choice while men do, this creates a very different way of thinking about sex.
The male focus on the female body
A healthy body is important for both men and women. It indicates good genes and access to resources. But because of the reasons above, women also put an emphasis on resources. Men have this a lot less and are much more focused on the healthy body of women. But there are trade-offs. Wide hips may be attractive to men, as it may indicate a sufficiently large birth-canal to give birth without complications. On the other hand, wider hips may also cause physical problems in other, more athletic areas. The same goes for breast size. Because of this, men tend to be focused more on the bodies of women than the other way round.
This also means that women tend to focus on their own body more than men. Securing loyal men with resources is serious business. If they are also handsome, that’s triple bonus. Women that make themselves look prettier tended to have an advantage during evolution because of this. This directly enhanced the chances of their offspring to be healthy, survive and have offspring of their own. So to feel this need to make yourself pretty, was an evolutionary advantage. And it still is to this day.
When to have sex?
There tends to be a big difference between men and women here. If men found a very attractive woman, they tend to want to have sex with them as soon as possible. This secures healthy offspring. Women on the other hand, tend to feel the need for a commitment first. If they are going to have that baby, this man better make sure he’s there to support them. Even with contraceptives readily available, this difference is hard-wired in our brain to such an extent, that it completely controls what we want and when we want it. And because women tend to be more conservative in when to have sex, they are often the ones making the decision when, as men are usually “ready when you are”.
Multitasking and focus
Ever heard that women can multitask and men can’t? It’s a myth actually. We humans are all very bad at doing multiple conscious things at the same time. Women tend to lose less energy micro-switching though, in which they can quickly switch between multiple tasks, making it appear they are doing them simultaneously. As hunter gatherers, women have spent much more time dealing with all kinds of tasks at the same time, while caring for kids, gathering food, cooking and chatting. Because of this, their brains tend to be wired better for this. Men were often busy hunting and building tools or houses. Those are all tasks that require focus and are much less social.
The number of differences, especially the more subtle ones, is very large. They are all caused by men and women being in consistently different contexts throughout evolution. And if there were mutations that increased their chances for healthy, surviving offspring, within the given context, those mutations were more likely to continue to exist. That’s how our brains evolved. This is how we are hard-wired.
The existence of these differences can cause a lot of conflict, as there is a biological conflict of interest between the sexes. And then we start a relationship, engage in marriages, raise kids together, all while having essential different needs. And often one has no clue why the other acts as they do. The basic differences start in our evolution. This is where we need to start understanding our differences.