Thomas Jackson, American Renaissance, March 1992
Brain Sex, Anne Moir and David Jessel, Carol Publishing Group, 1991, 242 pp.
Men are different from women. To maintain that they are the same in aptitude, skill or behaviour is to build a society based on a biological and scientific lie.
With these brave words begins a remarkable book by two journalists, Anne Moir and David Jessel. Brain Sex is their attempt to get at the biological and scientific truth, no matter how much it may threaten current intellectual fashion. As the authors point out, it has been precisely during the period when liberal feminism has been most shrilly insisting that men and women are largely equivalent that scientific research has produced incontrovertible evidence that they are not.
It was Anne Moir, who has a PhD in genetics, who first learned about some of the new research findings. As she and Mr. Jessel looked further, they found that many eye-opening discoveries about sex differences were known only to specialists. They claim that their book was simply waiting to be written by anyone ready to go through the scientific literature, but they are overly modest. Few people could have done so lively and thorough a job.
There are striking parallels between the study of sex differences and the study of race differences. Both yield results that refute the assumptions behind social policy and both can be professionally dangerous. Nevertheless, entrenched liberalism is not quite so hostile to the facts about sex as it is to those about race. Even Time magazine toyed with the possibility of sex differences in a recent cover story but stopped well short of Dr. Moir’s and Mr. Jessel’s conclusions. “The argument about the existence of brain sex differences has been won,” they write, and their book is an invaluable collection of evidence.
Hormones Are All
Probably the greatest surprise to the layman is to learn that hormones are even more important than genes in governing sex-related behavior. It is massive doses of the male hormone testosterone, both during gestation and at puberty, that make a male brain different from a female brain.
The brain, it appears, is naturally inclined to be female. Unless it is bathed in testosterone at critical stages, the brain of a genetic male — someone with the XY combination of chromosomes — will not develop male characteristics. As an adult, even if he is anatomically male, a man may have a brain that remains female.
This has real consequences. In the female brain, some mental functions seem to be scattered around the hemispheres, whereas the male brain is specialized and compartmentalized. The parts of a woman’s brain that handle speech and emotion are spread across both halves of the brain, whereas these capacities in a man are tucked into discreet locations. Moreover, the corpus callosum, which connects the right and left brains, is thicker and more highly developed in women. The two halves of their brains communicate better.
In practical terms, this means that women are verbally more fluent than men but are less able to separate emotion from reason. At the same time, since they can bring more diverse parts of the brain to bear on a problem, they are better able than men to arrive at apparently non-rational but correct conclusions — “women’s intuition” is based in biology.
Different brain constructions also produce the few sex differences that have gained public acknowledgment despite a hostile intellectual climate: Men are better at math, have better hand-eye coordination, are better mechanics, and more easily grasp spatial relations.
For every mathematically gifted girl there are 13 gifted boys and the best boys are always better than the best girls. Boys, however, are four times more likely to be in remedial reading classes than girls.
These differences have routinely been attributed to the way children are reared, but infant boys and girls begin to behave differently long before social pressures could have begun to effect them. One researcher says, “After 15 years looking for an environmental explanation and getting zero results, I gave up.”
Some purely biological differences have been widely confirmed, but are scarcely known outside the laboratory. A woman’s senses, for example, are more acute than a man’s; she can hear, taste, smell, and feel things he cannot, and she has better peripheral vision. In some sensory tests, there is no overlap between the scores of men and women; the least sensitive woman outscores the most sensitive man.
One of the conclusions that egalitarians find most difficult to accept is that men and women differ biologically in how badly they want success and power. Dr. Moir and Mr. Jessel are unequivocal: Men are more competitive and dominating than women because their brains make them so. Some of the strongest evidence for this comes from people who have developed abnormally.
Wrong Turn in the Womb
There are several critical moments in the formation of the male brain at which a sufficient flow of testosterone is vital for normal development. However, certain medications and physiological conditions can produce abnormal flows of female hormones in a woman’s body while she is pregnant. These hamper the work of the fetus’ own male hormones and the transition to a male brain may be incomplete. As a consequence, a boy is likely to be effeminate or even homosexual, though the two need not go hand in hand.
Studies suggest that the intra-uterine testosterone doses that make for a ruggedly masculine body and manner don’t come along at the same time as the ones that direct the male libido towards women. Depending on the timing of hormone flows, a homosexual may be typically male in every way except for his lust for men, and an extremely effeminate man may be very much a Casanova. In both cases, it appears that the transition from the female to the male brain was incomplete. Dr. Moir and Mr. Jessel report that this process can be reproduced at will in laboratory animals; homosexual and effeminate rats can be bred without fail by blocking the normal action of testosterone.
As the hormone theory of sexual differentiation would suggest, homosexuals and effeminate men have brains that operate more like those of women. They use language better than other men and their mental functions are more scattered around the brain. Their senses are more acute than those of other men — though not so acute as those of women — but they have less mechanical ability. Effeminate men are less aggressive and less ambitious than other men.
The equivalent effects have been found in women. Girls born with a genetic abnormality called Turner’s Syndrome do not have ovaries. Since ovaries produce a small amount of masculinizing testosterone, these girls do not have even this small check on the naturally female propensities of the brain. They are exaggeratedly feminine, shy, accommodating, constantly dreaming of children — which, alas, they cannot have — and preoccupied with romance and marriage. Their sense of mechanics and spatial relations is also exaggeratedly female; many have a terrible time remembering even how to get to school.
When girls in the womb are exposed to abnormal doses of testosterone the very opposite happens. They grow up as aggressive tomboys, with an interest in guns and dump trucks. Although they may marry and have children, they are likely to be successful career women, with unsentimental attitudes towards family. Not surprisingly, they are likely to be better than most women at math and mechanics.
Psychotics and Psychopaths
One of the most fascinating corollaries to the discovery of how important hormones are in giving the brain its sex is a theory that would explain why men are so much more likely than women to be sexually or psychologically abnormal. Sadomasochists, fetishists, voyeurists, and exhibitionists are almost exclusively male. Homosexuality is ten times more common among men than women, and schizophrenics are overwhelmingly male.
It is likely that this is because more can go wrong with men when their brains undertake the tricky business of becoming male. The female brain need simply stick to nature’s path, whereas the transition to maleness can go wrong in many spectacular ways. Moreover, if the adult male brain is more likely to be unbalanced to begin with, the greater volatility and aggressiveness brought on by high, typically male levels of testosterone only makes things worse. Biology thus explains why men are vastly more likely than women to be criminals, psychopaths, and deviants of all kinds. Even when they are “normal,” men are likely to be more violent, self-centered, and power-hungry than women; this has always been so, in every known society.
These differences naturally make for difficulties in marriage. Dr. Moir and Mr. Jessel marvel that marriages hold up as well as they do, given the biological differences that bulk so large between the sexes. Women, even from infancy, are more interested in people than in things, whereas the interests of boys are reversed. Girls and women are drawn to friendship, peace-making, conversation, and emotion, and bring these propensities to a union with a creature who is virtually an alien — one who is more calculating, more interested in things, and less interested in talk.
To men, women appear to be unpredictable bundles of emotion who burst into tears for the oddest reasons. Dr. Moir and Mr. Jessel suggest an explanation: “Women cry more than men perhaps because they have more to cry about — they are receiving more emotional input, reacting more strongly to it, and expressing it with greater force.”
One thing they might well despair over is the male attitude towards sex. The authors of Brain Sex bravely state a stark fact that is rarely acknowledged in print: “The desire for sexual novelty is innate in the male brain.” They go on to describe how the aphrodisiac effect on the male of new sex partners came to be known as the Coolidge effect. President Calvin Coolidge and his wife were visiting a farm and as Mrs. Coolidge passed the chicken coop she asked how often the rooster copulated each day:
‘Dozens of times,’ was the reply. ‘Please tell that to the President,’ Mrs. Coolidge requested. When the President passed the pens and was told about the rooster, he asked ‘Same hen every time?’ ‘Oh no, Mr. President, a different one each time.’ The President nodded slowly, then said ‘Tell that to Mrs. Coolidge.’
Apocryphal or not, this story illustrates something every cattle breeder knows. A bull shows little interest in a cow he has just copulated with, but will mount a fresh cow — or seven more fresh cows — with undiminished zest. Attempts to disguise the first cow make no difference; the bull wants something new.
Dr. Moir and Mr. Jessel do not flinch from the obvious conclusion: “In starkly sexual, and evolutionary terms, there is nothing in marriage for men, given their rooster desire for novelty and the widest possible distribution of their seed.” Men do marry, though, and many are faithful because they know this is best for society and for their own children.
Remaking the World
It is in the face, not only of millennia of human history but of overwhelming scientific data that feminists and liberals insist on the essential equivalence of men and women. If “sexism” is eliminated, they argue, women will assume the same levels of power and achievement as men. If women can be liberated from the tyranny of child care, they will take their place beside men as bank presidents and astronauts.
Dr. Moir and Mr. Jessel argue in the clearest possible terms that this is folly. Women will never be as powerful or successful as men because their brains drive them in different directions: “Men will make the most extraordinary sacrifices of personal happiness, health, time, friendships and relationships in the pursuit and maintenance of power, status and success. Women won’t; most of them are simply not made that way.”
What women are naturally made for is motherhood. Not only are they biologically equipped for it, their brains yearn for it. Women are nature’s natural parents. A woman’s breasts may drip milk at the mere sound of her child’s cry. Fathers, no matter how good their intentions, cannot understand, comfort, or care for their children the way mothers can — although effeminate men, with more feminine brains, handle children better than do normal men.
One of the great tragedies of feminism is that it devalues the very undertaking for which women are unquestionably gifted. Motherhood is the arena in which a woman’s sensitivity and generosity can shine the brightest, yet feminist dogma equates child care with slavery. As the authors of Brain Sex put it, “feeding, clothing, and educating the successor generation is as noble a task as earning the money to pay for its food, clothing, and education. It is also, ultimately, as rewarding, but most men have to wait until they are grandparents to appreciate the fact.”
Dr. Moir and Mr. Jessel conclude that “liberation” is often unnatural. Women force themselves into competitive careers for which they are emotionally and biologically unsuited, and are plagued with guilt because they must circumscribe the mothering towards which both their brains and bodies impel them.
Some women, of course, are different, and there is no reason to foreclose their professional options. But to hope for the day when half the world’s nuclear scientists will be women is to hope for the impossible. As Dr. Moir and Mr. Jessel point out, 99 percent of the people who hold patents are men. Only by thwarting biology could that number ever be reduced to 50 percent.
Round Pegs in Square Holes
It is difficult enough to manage a society of two sexes without willfully ignoring the ways in which men and women are different. Insisting that men be emotional or that women be competitive will not make them so. Both sexes would be spared a great deal of distress if they acknowledged their differences and understood, respected, and made the most of them. Of course, wise men and women do this even in today’s misguided era of obligatory equality.
Society makes a terrible error when it tries to force the sexes into the same roles, just as it makes a terrible error when it tries to force the races into a state of equivalency. No society can flourish if it is built, as the authors of Brain Sex put it, “on a biological and scientific lie.” In matters of sex and race, liberal orthodoxy insists on lies rather than truth. Today we are reaping the consequences.