monthly column from lifestyle author/activist
Steve Mason

Lifestyle On-Line

You Can't Live With 'Em...

The war between the sexes has been going on all through recorded history and probably started with Adam and Eve. In the 20th Century alone, the assumption has gone from that of a different species - horses sweat, men perspire and the women are all aglow - to total gender equality with its attendant police and fire persons to the current notion of men and women so different as to be from separate planets. But just how opposite is the opposite sex?

There are long lists of weird gender-based behaviors such as: Women strike a match toward them while men strike it away; a woman wears her belt above her navel, a man below; and, when having a conversation, women stand closer even to total strangers than men stand to close friends. As children, girls prefer parallel play like dolls while boys engage in cooperative play like team sports. So too, as kids, girls are rewarded for how they act and boys for what they accomplish which explains why grown men are goal oriented (Where are we going?) and grown women are process oriented (How are we getting there?). All of a woman's senses are more acute (they are the ones who wash new sheets!) and they are something like 20 times less apt to be color blind. Men and women even look at each other differently with women concentrating their gaze above and men below the neck. Women see risk in terms of possible loss while men view it in terms of possible gain. And who would doubt that women are more emotional? Actually, there's good reason for this Chemistry is Destiny notion. Because the female hormone estrogen is a powerful inhibitor of mono-amine- oxidase (MAO), an emotional response appears to be always ready and waiting in women - just below the surface.

OK - so we strike matches in opposite directions and men have trouble matching their tie to their suit but who's smarter you ask? Actually, this is like comparing apples to oranges as the sexes tend to excel in different areas. Men are better at math, mazes and mechanics while women score higher in tests of manual dexterity, verbal comprehension and visual discrimination. In problem solving, men separate the elements and use logic while women combine all factors and rely on intuition. For this reason, the whispered words of passion that women so appreciate during sex are for men a bit like trying to watch the Super Bowl and discuss their relationship at the same time. As for IQ, there seem to be as many bright versus dull males as females. However, where women are clustered closer to the center so the super smart and the super stupid are typically men.

With all the new advances being made in brain research, the question of left hemisphere versus right hemisphere thinking has finally made its way into the mainstream media. The latest studies seem to confirm that men are indeed primarily left brain animals but, and here's the surprise, women are not so much right brain thinkers as they are both brain thinkers. The average female will have 40% more neural connections between hemispheres than the average male. This seems to explain why women recover faster from strokes and why they are a bit better at many things while men are much better at one thing; the expert as one who knows more and more about less and less being a good analogy. One might say that where women are more balanced, men are more focused.

When it comes to health, women seem to get better as they get older. They tend to outlive men in almost all places and have done so in almost all times. At 60 years of age, a wife will still retain 90% of her youthful flexibility to her now rapidly stiffening husband's 20%. Going out dancing is not something that's especially high on an old guy's list of things to do. But women do have more of a problem with excess weight. Just sitting around, a male will burn five more calories per hour than a female which is why men weight in at 15% fat to a women's 23%. In fact, this ratio goes to 35% in ladies from the mid-west. No doubt this tendency to hang on to every ounce of padding had high survival value when food sources were unreliable and expectant mothers might one day find themselves crossing the Bering Strait.

But so much for all that other stuff. What about sex and love and sex and passion and sex and relationships and…did I mention sex? In one experiment, men and women were fitted with beepers and asked to record their thoughts whenever the little gizmos beeped. When the results were tabulated, females were caught thinking about sex twice as often as males. Women also report more sexy dreams and more sexual fantasies than men. Yet the fair sex is far more selective in their choice of mates. In a random pairing of men and women, the guys will be happy with the match more than 70% of the time to the gals less than 30%. Men, it seems, consider showing up a great personal attribute in women. But when you take the time to match a man with a woman who has the characteristics he says he wants, his approval rating will approach perfection. Women, and this is a very strange finding, have been shown to like the kind of man they said they wanted to meet less often than one with whom they were randomly paired. The suggestion is that women may well have been conditioned by society to want a man they don't find particularly appealing. The heavy metal biker living life on just the other side of respectability often has an allure not generally acknowledged by the wife of a corporate accountant. And what's more, this is not merely an American stereotype. A recent study of 37 cultures worldwide found that men select Sex objects while women, despite any inherited predisposition to the contrary, select Success objects.

And one final note, since its been men who have traditionally drawn all those pictures found in anatomy books, it is now generally acknowledged that that tiny dot of a sex organ - the clitoris - is actually much closer to the size of a man's penis since it has recently been shown to extend some three to four inches up inside the woman's body. Since Mother Nature didn't go around making pots and lids that didn't fit, it seems clearly obvious that both sexes are custom made to get the very most out of coital pleasure. And what else do large sex organs tell us about the nature of Man? Simply this, in animal species the size of the sex organ often determines the social structure. The male gorilla has no competition for his females and typically sports a tool less than an inch long. Chimpanzees, who enjoy a life of free and frequent love, have a sex organ three times that of their giant (in all other dimensions) relative. The reason? The longer the penis the better the chance of depositing one's sperm closest to the uterus and thus getting to pass on one's genes. Clearly then, human males walking around with an average of six inches between their legs, have been designed specifically for life in a Lifestyle society. Go tell that to Dr. Laura!