Thursday, December 13, 2012

Manly Thor's Day Special: Male and female he made them

in my family we all fill out a Proust questionnaire every four years and one of my sisters keeps the past years' responses on file. This was the year to do it again and she let us have a peek at our past answers. No, I'm not going to reveal any secrets. But I did notice something rather intriguing regarding these two questions.*
  1. The qualities you most admire in a man?
  2. The qualities you most admire in a woman?
The thing that struck me is that although the entire extended family has answered the questionnaire twice, no one has ever given the same list of admirable qualities for men and women. One of my nieces, a university student very much inspired by her liberal professors, lamented the fact that she could not give the same list for both but admitted that, no matter how much she tried, there were things she admired in men but could not admire in women and vice versa.

Coincidentally, I was rereading an old article from the New York Times about research into women's sexual arousal patterns. At one point one of the researchers used transsexuals (people who believed themselves to be women trapped in male bodies) as a test group for her studies and a funny thing happened.
These trans women, both those who were heterosexual and those who were homosexual, responded genitally and subjectively in categorical ways. They responded like men.
To put it bluntly, a man can get an operation that will make him look more or less like a woman (very few transsexuals are even close to convincing) but her/his body and your brain will still respond like a man's body and brain. The article continues:
This seemed to point to an inborn system of arousal. Yet it wasn’t hard to argue that cultural lessons had taken permanent hold within these subjects long before their emergence as females could have altered the culture’s influence. “The horrible reality of psychological research,” Chivers said, “is that you can’t pull apart the cultural from the biological.”
That's a terribly roundabout and evasive way of saying, these subjects "responded like men" because they are men. If you were born male, you can entertain the notion that you are really a woman trapped in a man's body and pay huge sums to have your body altered to make it more female looking but the inescapable fact is that you are a man and you will always be a man.

And that makes you different from women. It also changes the way others will see you.

Neither of those conclusions would not have surprised anyone alive any time from the dawn of civilization up until the 1970s.

* Contrary to what you might think, there is so specific list of questions. Not all Proust questionnaires are alike and you are free to make up your own if you wish.

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