Michelle Gray

Jennifer Capps                                      What Women Want-

Cordelia Wolf                                                   What Men Want

Why the Sexes Still See Love and Commitment So Differently



Conclusion: Coping with Sex Differences and Cultural Change.


            This chapter examines how “differences in sexual psychology affect relationships on a global scale, and how people cope with these differences in their everyday lives” (Townsend, p. 234).  Sociologist, William Goode studied the patterns of changes in family structure due do modernization, (urbanization and industrialization are part of modernization).  Where modernization occurs, men and women work more and children make choices more freely (e.g. choice of marital partner).  At the same time, “the sexual division of labor is weakened, which in turn weakens the economic interdependency of husbands and wives” (Townsend, p. 234).  The quality of personal relationships is also affected as it becomes increasingly important, as economic bonds and relationships with other relatives subsequently decrease in importance.  These changes are not necessarily bad, as they bring about positive outcomes.  Some of the outcomes are increases freedom for both genders to move up the social ladder, to chose their own partners and therefore, also to leave partners.  However, this freedom correlates with more instances of non-marital sex, divorce, and functional polygyny.

            Pier Van Den Berghe analyzes in his book Human Family Systems, social experiments that have “attempted to modify . . . the nuclear family unit, and the sexual division of labor” (Townsend, p. 235).  Through Van Den Berghe’s experiments, he concluded that “group marriages are rare, do not last long, almost never produce children and regardless of how they start out, they eventually evolve into monogamy or polygyny, with a clear nuclear family structure recognizable within a larger group” (Townsend, p. 235).  Communities that perpetuate the ideals of group marriages fail due to their inability to assimilate to the ideals and social norms of the society -at- large.

            Townsend asserts that this evolutionary thesis is impossible to prove without “performing unthinkable experiments on human beings” (p. 237).  Therefore, the obvious differences between men and women can be argued to be a cause of socialization.  Another argument is that nature, or genetic differences, account for the differences between men and women.  This is supported by the fact that sex hormones influences traits in species other than humans.  Richard Udry and J. O. G. Billy studied adolescents and found that “boys sexual activity is determined by their androgen levels,” which increases more than girls after puberty (Townsend, p. 238).  However, constructionists claim that although this development affects sexual behavior, “it does so through social feedback” (Townsend, p. 238).  This theory promotes the idea that sexual behavior correlates with the physical development of individuals and not the hormone levels.  Udry and Billy concluded, “For boys the effects of hormones overwhelm the effects of social controls” – the opposite is true for females (Townsend, P. 238).  

            In addition to biological testing, universal testing has gained importance in detecting sex differences.  “If we discover the sex differences in question appear in all known societies or in the overwhelming majority of societies then we have not proved that these differences result from biology; however, the view that these differences are solely a result of social training becomes dubious” (Townsend, p. 239).  The author provides the example that men pay for prostitution more often than women.  He also argues that this differentiation could be due in part to the fact that men have increased access to economic resources than women.  This is disproved by the fact that some women do maintain greater resources than men and do not seek prostitutes.  This evidence is consistent with the view that sex differences result from biology.  Universally, this pattern of sex differences remains constant. 

            “The idea that early childhood training determines sex differences so pervades work in social science that it now permeates public beliefs as well” (Townsend, p. 240).  The author talks about the instances of socialization (e.g. boys playing with G. I. Joe, and girls playing with Barbie dolls).  The idea of socialization is supported by the fact that gay men look for the same qualities in a male partner that a straight man looks for in a female partner.  The same likeness is found between lesbian and straight women.  “Edwards and Boothe also concluded that childhood and adolescent socialization did not have lasting effects on sexual behavior” (p. 241).  However, evidence is still lacking at this time.

            Groups and individuals have changed other aspects of traditional sex roles, while failing to chance specific sex differences.  The author argues that this supports the evolutionary argument.  Townsend presents the differences between heterosexual and homosexual relationships.  In heterosexual relationships, each member’s behavior is affected by the other members’ demands; however, in homosexual relationships this compromise is non-existent (e.g. if men’s desires are similar to their male counterparts then they should be able to express these desires more easily).  Women of high status also support the evolutionary theory.  Although these women’s behavior might not mirror that of men, they embody a more male pattern of sexuality then do women of lower status – this is not true.  Because it is not true, the “sex differences in mate selection and sexuality become more visible in these groups,” subsequently, supporting the evolutionary theory (Townsend, p. 242). 

            The last section discussed by Townsend proposes the ways that couples can remain committed despite their sex differences.  His “advice” is a result of much research.  Townsend found that “women with financially successful husbands often complain that their husbands do not really communicate or spend quality time with them” (p. 244).  Adversely, women with caring and emotionally available husbands complained that they were not “sufficiently successful or competent”; consequently, the women were unable to respect them and ceased to find them sexually attractive.  These findings support the idea that women want a man that is not only successful, but also willing to invest in her and her offspring. 

            The author presents the idea that we must recognize sex differences in basic desires and goals and build them into our rules and expectations.  An example presented is of a married couple, where the man was in sales.  Due to his position, the man went out often and networked with women over dinners.  Although the woman trusted her husband, “she also accepted the ideas of temptation and human fraility” (Townsend, p. 247).  The husband and wife sought consultation and their counselor suggested that the husband request meetings in the office, which would enable him to spend more time with this family.  The counselor also said that although both the wife and husband had confidence in his fidelity “there was no point in rubbing his nose in it (temptation)” (Townsend, p. 247).  Despite the fact that the man had to take a pay cut, his marriage benefited because the couple accepted the fact that they had sex differences and they worked together to understand them. 

These sex differences extend to love and falling out of it.  “Women fall out of love because they no longer respect their husbands or because their husbands hardly talk to them.  Man fall out of love because they are dissatisfied sexually or they have found someone (else) who is attractive and available” (Townsend, p. 248).  The author suggests that couples need to work on satisfying each other’s desires and in doing so compromising some of their own to better their relationship and their feelings for one another.