One of the most important books published this year is Taking Sex Differences Seriously by Steven Rhoads of the University of Virginia. Rhoads summarizes the research on the differences between men and women documented in the serious social science research of the past 30 or so years. The book is written for the intelligent layman, and is not dry or academic. The sheer, unapologetic political incorrectness of virtually every page of the book combined with its anchor in the research makes the book an intellectually thrilling experience.
Professor Harvey Mansfield provides a fair summary of the strengths and limitations of the book in his review in the new issue of the Weekly Standard: “Love in the ruins.” Do read the whole piece, but here’s the heart of Mansfield’s critique:
Taking sex differences seriously means attributing them to something permanent in us rather than to social construction. But we no longer have a way of understanding the permanent structure of things as nature. At this point in the argument, both sides in these debates typically appeal to evolutionary theory, but quite what “evolutionary psychology” tells us remains hotly debated.
Evolution suggests that nothing is permanent and everything is constructed over time, only very gradually and in a sense not by human choice. Applied to human psychology, we seem to be left with men who are supposed to seek many mates, and women one or few. This is not really a choice: It was a “selection” determined slowly over eons. Therefore men living now have a “nature” that in theory must change but in practice cannot be changed because it would take too long. Evolution makes us better by validating every change that occurs, since we are made to select whatever change enables us to survive better. So we are progressive beings full of hope for a better future but fitted out with conservative natures made long ago that constitute a heavy drag on our hopes.
What evolutionists think is the closest we usually get to the notion of nature these days. But it is not close enough. For evolution sees everything as organized for survival and cannot recognize our better, higher nature. Thus it sees no difference in rank between the male desire for an active sex life and the male interest in being married, or between the promptings of desire and the instruction of reason. What kind of seriousness is this?
No doubt with a view to these problems, Rhoads does not declare evolutionary psychology to be true. He merely refers to what “evolutionists think” as a useful authority, perhaps with which to defend common sense. He also does not accept the injunction of social science against judgments of value. He has no hesitation in stating, as the result of his research, that “women would be wise to realize” they have a sexual makeup that differs from men’s. All women who doubt this finding would be wise to read Rhoads’s fine book.