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Surprising Science

Are Sexual Differences Between Men and Women Cultural or Biological?

Evolutionary psychology has proven a powerful theory in explaining behavioral differences between men and women in terms of natural selection, but challenges to the idea have emerged.

What’s the Latest Development?

A number of recent studies have challenged major conclusions held since the 1970s about the differences in sexual behavior between men and women. In 2009, psychologists modified an evening of speed dating such that women rotated to different men’s tables, rather than the typical order of men approaching different women. The researchers found than when women approached men first, they behaved more like the stereotypical male in that they became less selective about their potential romantic partners. In a 2003 study, psychologists found that women averaged the same number of sexual partners in life as men. 

What’s the Big Idea?

Evolutionary psychology has proven a powerful method of explaining current behaviors that are, according to the theory, rooted deep within our biology, having been put there by natural selection. Yet the theory of evolutionary psychology requires scientific leaps not directly supported by physical evidence. In harsher terms, it represents a teleological way of thinking that science, supported by cultural change, has mocked. “How many stereotypical racial and ethnic differences, once declared evolutionarily determined under the banner of science, have been revealed instead as vestiges of power dynamics from earlier societies?”

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Read it at the New York Times


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