157 Taking Sex and Home Seriously

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored,” Aldous Huxley wisely noted, and the facts differentiating the sexes must no longer be ignored, says Stephen Rhoads in Taking Sex Differences Seriously (San Francisco:  Encounter Books, 2004).  Rhoads, a professor at the University of Virginia, takes sex differences seriously because he takes research seriously and finds overwhelming evidence “that sex differences are large, deeply rooted and consequential” (p. 4).   From preferred forms of humor to risk-taking, from physical strength to social needs, from competitive athletics to social support groups, the two sexes radically differ.  Yet for nearly half-a-century, as a pronounced part of the “sexual revolution,” influential activists have sought to minimize, if not erase the differences between the sexes, talking learnedly about “genders” as “culturally determined” or mere matters of personal choice.

This is perhaps most clearly evident in athletics, which are far more important to boys than girls.  “One study of fourth and sixth graders showed that during free play, boys are competing with other boys 50 percent of the time whereas girls compete against each other only 1 percent of the time” (p. 168).   In the nation’s high schools and colleges, “girls outnumber boys in almost every extracurricular activity” except sports (p. 186).  Sports help society, for they are one of the few activities that help harness boys’ innately aggressive tendencies.  Boys socialize mainly through athletics, and they need “sports more than girls do because boys have more difficulty than girls in making friends” (p. 183).

But since 1972 the heavy hand of the federal government has sought to level the playing field for both sexes.  Consequently, over 20,000 “spots for male athletes disappeared” in university programs, and more than 350 men’s teams were jettisoned to make way for female athletes.  Thousands of men would like to voluntarily participate in varsity athletics, whereas women must often be enticed (through scholarships) to join a team.  Women are markedly less interested in competitive athletics, and fans decidedly prefer to watch men’s teams.  At the University of Virginia, where Rhoads teaches, “97 percent of total ticket revenues come from sales for men’s games, and 3 percent from sales for women’s games” (p. 164).

Nevertheless, “gender equality” in athletics (though not, one must note, in music or drama departments, much less in scholarships for women’s studies programs!) has been part of the “sexual revolution” for 40 years.  Rhoads attributes the success of the sexual revolution to three things:  1) the birth control pill, that made sex primarily “recreational” rather than “procreative;” 2) the counterculture of the ’60s, with its mantras of “if it feels good, do it” and “make love, not war”; and 3) the successful feminist movement.  Whatever its intent, however, Sally Cline says it is better labeled “the Genital Appropriation Era” and what it “‘actually permitted was more access to women’s bodies by more men; what it actually achieved was not a great deal of liberation for women but a great deal of legitimacy for male promiscuity; what it actually passed on to women was the male fragmentation of emotion from body'” (p. 97).

Though a majority of women still hope to find a husband in college, “hooking up” has replaced dating on campus, and even dating rarely leads to marriage.  Though widely practiced, however, “hooking up” inevitably harms women.  It’s not an equal opportunity activity!  “The most sexually active women were just as likely as other women to think about love, commitment and marriage with the men they slept with.  Sexually active men thought less about love, commitment and marriage as they had more casual sex.  The men’s feelings about casual sex were often very positive.  The women’s were more often negative” (p. 106).  The men who enjoy  promiscuous sex, however, generally disdain promiscuous women as possible wives!  “Of single men age 25 to 33, 74 percent agree that if they meet someone they want a long-term relationship with, they try to postpone sex” (p. 122).  All too many unmarried women, still cohabitating their 30s, find themselves “‘acting like a wife’ while their partners are ‘acting like a boyfriend'” (p. 119).  It’s hardly surprising, then, that “since the sexual revolution began, women have been thinking worse of men” (p. 118).  Indeed, there’s lots of “rage” toward them.  Men, for many women, are “jerks.”

The sexual revolution also ignited the egalitarian dogma of culturally constructed “genders,” equally capable of rearing children.  Ignoring sexual differences, as do those who promote “androgynous parenting,” involves little more than believing one’s fantasies.  Staunch feminists, such as Joyce Carol Oates and Kate Millet, determined to abolish patriarchy, have insisted that “gender” is a human construct and “gender differences” are quite superficial.  Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg declared:  “Motherly love ain’t everything it has been cracked up to be” (p. 17).  Men pretend that women are better mothers, she says, simply because they want to escape the demanding work of child care.  More radically, Susan Okin, reflecting the typical academic feminist’s longing for a “just future,” envisions a world wherein “one’s sex would have no more relevance than one’s eye color or the length of one’s toes.”  Male and female distinctions would disappear, and both men and women would do domestic chores equally well.

Such views, though advanced by “researchers” in the ’70s, can no longer be honestly maintained.  Women and men really are different.  Women, for example, actually enjoy being with babies and toddlers more than men.  “Cross-nationally, girls show more interest in babies and are preferred as babysitters.  Neither Israeli kibbutzim nor U.S. communes have had any success in abolishing such sex roles, although many have made doing so their highest priority” (p. 26).  And babies–by a margin of “fourteen to one”–prefer being with their mothers rather than their fathers (p. 11).  “Young children, moreover, are quick to self-segregate by sex” (p. 25).  Like water flowing through the Grand Canyon, the sexes simply conform to the “patriarchal” stereotypes disdained by feminists.  In truth, says Alice Eagly, women really “‘do ‘tend to manifest behaviors that can be described as socially sensitive, friendly, and concerned with others’ welfare” (p. 18).  They “find special pleasure in small groups of women–a preference that gives them practice at establishing intimate friendships” (p. 204).

Men, conversely, “tend to manifest behaviors that can be described as dominant, controlling and independent'” (p. 18).  Men everywhere “want to ‘drive the car, pick the topic, run the war'” (p. 151).  Boys forever fight and refuse to listen to girls (p. 154).  So too (once grown-up) men “hate to be dominated.  Men attempt to climb workplace hierarchies in part because of their strong desire for a job with no close supervision” (p. 151).  In the judgment of Anne Campbell, “Deep inside, men are always on their own against the world'” (p. 184).  That’s the way it is–and perhaps the way it should be!  Men also desire physically attractive women, for “researchers found that feminine beauty affects a man’s brain at a very primal level–similar to what a hungry man gets from a meal or an addict gets from a fix” (p. 59).  Like it or not, women are forever in a beauty contest, competing for men’s attention.  Women, by contrast, find men’s physical stature and financial accomplishments more alluring.  They want to “look up to” their husbands, both physically (wanting someone six inches taller) and intellectually.   Universally, women value a mate’s financial resources more highly than do men.  Men often prefer women who earn less than they do, but women almost never do.  Strangely enough, “highly paid professional women have an even stronger preference for high-earning men than do women working in less well-paid jobs” (p. 63).

Fathers are important not only as breadwinners, however; they are necessary for a child’s well being, especially serving as disciplinarians and “guides to the outside world” (p. 80).  Fatherless children suffer.  They have significantly more developmental problems and die more frequently.  “Swedish boys in single-parent families are four times as likely to develop a narcotics-related disease, and girls are three times as likely” (p. 80).  The pain of losing a father through divorce is powerfully expressed by Jonetta Rose Barras, in Whatever Happened to Daddy’s Little Girl?:  “‘A abandoned by the first man in her life forever entertains powerful feelings of being unworthy or incapable of receiving any man’s love.  Even when she receives love from another, she is constantly and intensely fearful of losing it.  This is the anxiety, the pain, of losing one’s father'” (p. 94).

Mothers, of course, are as important as fathers, and women instinctively “dream of motherhood” (p. 190).  Germaine Greer published an influential manifesto, The Female Eunuch, in 1970 that mocked motherhood.  “Now, thirty years later, she says she is ‘desperate for a baby. . . .  She mourns her unborn babies . . . and [has] pregnancy dreams, waiting with vast joy and confidence for something that will never happen'” (p. 205).  Today’s young women, frequently ingesting feminists’ formulae for the “good life,” choose to make careers primary, but they routinely lament their barrenness when they reach their 40s.  Lugging a leather briefcase to a lush office proves to be a poor substitute for a baby at one’s breast.  Giving birth to a baby profoundly changes most women, who discover a mysterious and joyous bond between themselves and their young.  Naomi Wolf, once pregnant, recorded that “the hormones of pregnancy” so changed her that she had to “question my entire belief system about ‘the social construction of gender'” (p. 205).

Greer and Wolf, however, no longer represent feminism.  Rather than acknowledge the research that challenges their prejudices, most feminists reject it.  They angrily denounce it, without citing evidence, as biased and anti-woman.  Gloria Allred labels such research “harmful and dangerous” (p. 19).  Feminists, deeply imbedded in publishing houses, promote school textbooks that celebrate atypical women, actually giving “more attention to Maria Mitchell, a nineteenth-century astronomer who discovered a comet, than to Albert Einstein” (p. 40).  Scholars (many of them women) who dare question feminist claims face disrespectful audiences and personal attacks, and they have difficulty finding publishers for their research.

What seems clear, Rhoads says, is that there are “two kinds of females, one kind of male” (p. 29).  Men, universally, see themselves as protectors and providers.  Women seem to divide (perhaps in accord with their testosterone levels) into semi-masculine and fully feminine groups.  Strong feminists, Rhoads suggests, embody the competitive, aggressive traits of men.  Many of them–Gloria Steinem, Kate Millett, Simone de Beauvoir–never married.   “A disproportionate number of female business executives were athletes in school” (p. 173).  Thus the only segment of women in America with a majority identifying themselves as “feminists” is a tiny cadre “making more than $100,000 a year” (p. 35).  These powerful women, when pregnant, often “‘see the body as an imperfect tool that the more perfect self should control.  They tend to experience pregnancy and birth as unpleasant because they are so out of control.'”  They cannot understand home-birthers, who “see themselves as ‘actively growing the baby'” in their wombs.  Rather, “‘see the baby as a separate entity,’ a ‘foreign body growing inside my body'” (p. 36).   So naturally they cannot understand the clear majority of women who want to be home with their kids, who appreciate traditional husbands who protect and provide.

Yet, Rhoads concludes, these traditional men and women are the ones who find life most satisfying.  Women really do find joy in rearing children and homemaking.  Men really thrive when they can succeed in work and thereby support a family.  Taking sex differences seriously explains why this is so.  Everyone concerned with marriage and family, with the health of young people, should take seriously Rhoads’ research.  As the distinguished Rutgers University professor of anthropology Lionel Tiger says:  “The Empress of Androgyny has no clothes.  Steven Rhoads provides a responsible, clear, exhaustive and convincing description of human sex differences and what they mean for social policy and personal life.  While members of the academy rush to consume ‘natural’ foods and protect ‘nature,’ they simultaneously ignore and even avoid ‘human nature,’ especially in the sexual sphere where political intensity is greatest.  Rhoads offers a generous-minded but hard-headed corrective to ideological fatuities and concernocrat assertions that have polluted the intellectual air.  And his scholarship is as punctilious as his writing is efficient” (book jacket).

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Mary Eberstadt’s Home-Alone America:  The Hidden Toll of Day Care, Behavioral Drugs, and Other Parent Substitutes (New York:  Sentinel, c. 2004), adds a journalist’s perspective to Rhoad’s more scholarly treatise.  Though she is a research fellow at the Hoover Institute, and provides both footnotes and bibliography to document her case, she writes for a general audience and addresses “one of the fundamental changes of our time:  the ongoing, massive, and historically unprecedented experiment in family-child separation in which the United States and most other advanced societies are now engaged” (p. xiii).  As the book’s subtitle indicates, she argues, courting controversy, that we simply must fill homes with adults who rightly nurture children.

In a chapter devoted to day care, markedly similar to a chapter in Rhoads’ treatise, Eberstadt notes that it is necessary because 70% of the mothers with children under age six were working.  However necessary for moms who lack other options, day care harms kids.  Child care advocates, especially those who promote universal, governmentally-funded child care, are sadly misguided.  “In sum,” she insists, “the real trouble with day care is twofold:  One, it increases the likelihood that kids will be unhappy, and two, the chronic rationalization of that unhappiness renders adults less sensitive to children’s needs and demands in any form” (p. 19).  Rather than “overparenting” or excessive maternalism–portrayed by “separatonists” as harmful to children–kids need parents who are continually present, constantly involved in their activities.

When they’re not, they face the “furious child problem.”  Shooters in our schools most clearly illustrate it.  But less lethal forms of savagery–”feral behavior,” Eberstadt calls it–have markedly increased and generally develop in “stressed, single parent homes,” where children spend little time with the only adults capable of inculcating academic and social skills.  Careful studies, taking into account “differences in family income and in parental education, marital status, and total hours worked, the more hours parents are away from home after school and in the evening, the more likely their children are to test in the bottom quartile on achievement tests [emphasis added]” (p. 37).

The same goes for physical and mental fitness.  “Fit parents, fat kids” describes the U.S.  While “boomers” embrace vegetarianism and haunt health clubs, their kids (at home alone) veg-out on chips and soda while playing video games.  Between 1960 and 2000, “the percentage of overweight children and teenagers tripled” (p. 41).  Too little breast-feeding, too much TV, too little exercise, too few family meals, too much fast-food grazing.  In sum:  “Today’s child fat problem is largely the result of adults not being there to supervise what kids eat” (p. 54).  Mental disorders and suicides have soared.  Depression, autism, learning disabilities, ADD all point to troubled children.  Yet Eberstadt wonders whether much of this may simply be “a legitimate emotional response to the disappearance from children’s lives of protecting related adults?” (p. 78).

Rather than stay home with their kids, parents increasingly rely on psychiatric drugs to keep them pacified.  In one decade (1987-1996) the number of kids taking such drugs tripled.  Prozac eases girls’ depression; Ritalin curbs boys’ exuberance.   Psychologists dispense prescriptions rather than probe the hidden hurts in kids’ hearts.   Parents and teachers who ban even pictures of guns from school routinely endorse mind-altering drugs such as Ritalin.  A significant number of school shooters, such as Kip Kinkel in Oregon and Eric Harris in Colorado, were taking prescribed drugs.  Ritalin has been widely prescribed and now thrives on an underground black market as kids with prescriptions turn dealers with their surplus pills.  Angry musicians, including Kurt Cobain and Eminem, loudly lamented being placed on Ritalin as children.  Eberstadt fears that “children and teenagers are increasingly treated with performance-enhancing drugs not only to help them compete, but also to relieve the stresses that their long, out-of-home, institutionalized days add to the adults around them, the teachers, parents, and other authorities” (p. 102).

She believes this, in part, because of “the primal scream of teenage music,” perhaps the most disturbing chapter in the book.  Older folks (like myself) who can’t stand the music and simply hope it goes away should carefully heed Eberstadt’s analysis of it.   Digging beneath the profanity and violence of rap music, Eberstadt argues that “if yesterday’s rock was the music of abandon, today’s is that of abandonment” (p. 106).  The lyrics of Pearl Jam, Kurt Cobain, Eminem et al. rail against “the damage wrought by broken homes, family dysfunction, checked-out parents, and (especially) absent fathers” (p. 106).  Tupar Shakur, a violent rapper gunned down in his 20s in Las Vegas, was “a boy who ‘had to play catch by myself,’ who prays:  ‘Please send me a pops before puberty’” (p. 114).   Eminem’s songs emphasize “the crypto-traditional notion that children need parents and that not having them has made all hell break loose” (p. 117).  In a song written for a movie he made, Eminem “studies his little sister as she colors one picture after another of an imagined nuclear family, failing to understand that ‘momma’s got a new man.’  ‘Wish I could be the daddy that neither of us had,’ he comments” (p. 117).  Though their parents don’t want to admit it, kids buying Eminem’s albums by the millions generally crave the Ozzie and Harriet homes of the ’50s.

For one thing, kids in the ’50s were free from the “ravages of ‘responsible’ teenage sex” that now devastates our young people.  STDs run rampant, thanks to absent parents and the “safe sex’ mantra of “sex educators.”  Five of the ten most frequently reported diseases in modern America are STDs.  Parents and teachers who are paranoid about smoking tobacco tolerate and even encourage far more lethal experimentation with sex.  But “if tobacco were doing to teenage girls’ lungs what intercourse and oral sex are now doing to their ovaries and other female organs, there would be no more adult talk of ‘safe sex’ than there is talk of ‘safe cigarettes.’  The difference is that one can always stop smoking, whereas some of the STDs are for keeps” (p. 140).  Kids are now “sexually active,” it’s clear.  And empty homes, with both parents working from dawn to dark, provide perfect places for teenage trysts–91% taking place there after school.

Sex abuse also escalates when parents aren’t around.  Men rarely abuse their biological children.  A British psychiatrist, Theodore Dalrymple, declares:  “‘He who says single parenthood and easy divorce says child sexual abuse'” (p. 137).  Another scholar, David Blankenhorn, notes that 86 percent of child abusers “were known to the family, but were someone other than the child’s father” (p. 137).  “In the statistics on teenage STDs lurks one of the saddest stories in this book,” says Eberstadt.  “Here is a clear-cut example that laissez-faire parenting has caused real harm to millions of teenagers, most seriously the girls whose bodies now carry viruses latent with short- and long-term problems–everything from infertility to increased risks of various cancers.  Many of them do not even know what they have, and neither do their happy-talk parents who continue on in their unenlightened happy-talk way–responsibly buying their responsible adolescents birth control, all the while clinging to ideological reassurances about ‘responsible’ teenage sex” (p. 138).

In conclusion, Eberstadt  says we need less day care and “more parent-child separation but, rather, the adoption of a higher standard that acknowledges what has too long gone unacknowledged:  the benefits of increasing the number of intact adult-supervised homes” (p. 172). 

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