The biological differences between human males and females are classed as primary and secondary sex traits. The primary ones are the organs for sexual reproduction and childbirth. The secondary traits include female mammary development for infant feeding, physical size and shape differences, voice pitch, etc. All of these traits serve also for gender identification and may be erogenous. In addition, there are hormonal differences.
From an anthropological viewpoint, the function of erotic contact between (and within) the sexes is not limited to reproduction, but also for bonding parents during child-raising and to knit the community together. And the hormonal and consequent behavioral contrasts help to enrich the society. As a father in this enlightened, mechanized age, I told my daughters that they could do pretty much anything a man could in life. But the differences, such as our daughters’ evident instinct for self-adornment, are also to be celebrated. As the French say, Vive la difference.
In human evolution, apart from the obvious demands of female childbearing and infant nurture, greater specialization of roles can occur. In hunting and gathering cultures it may be assumed that, at least in maturity, males play a greater role in the hunting of live game, because of their greater size and freedom from child nurturing. With their consequent mobility, males may also gather herbs, tools, etc., on hunting parties (or while golfing.) But the main task is to score a kill and bring it home. There is optical evidence that male eyesight, with more cone cells, is better adapted to targeting game, while the females’ richness of rod cells is better at scanning broad visual fields for children, threats and foodstuffs, i.e., resource gathering (or shopping.)
With the advent of settled agriculture, it seems sure that both sexes would participate and be called on during busy times such as harvests. But it could be that, at other times, the male role was reduced to passive guarding against predators and raiders, whether done at home or at the borders of the community. There is evidence from surviving primitives that farm toil is often imposed on females along with child care, nurture and food preparation, as enforced by male bulk and/or absence.
Of course, some men are eager to help and contribute, but this may be discouraged by social standards imposed and enforced by males and females alike.
For example, agriculture in a mountain valley might be easy but dependent on irrigation canals that have to be dredged every few years. A threat can develop along the pass to a neighboring valley, placing the males on war alert and postponing the work. The skirmishing may result in only one death, or none at all. But the men are absent, so the women end up digging out the canals. Then, conveniently, peace is declared, supporting the idea that War is a Racket.
Male predominance in early agricultural times, leading to city construction and the advent of the Priest-King, may be balanced by female power. Women, with their knowledge of reproduction, food and medicine preparation, were likely to develop rituals and cults including a potent fertility goddess, priestesses and secret initiations. This could be seen as a threat by men, vaguely perceiving that the women control the secrets of fertility and reproduction, even to knowing the cause of pregnancy and who fathered what child. Ignorant males may also fear that women will target them with potions, magic or poisons. These primal fears may have sparked the gender conflict that still simmers today. Women, too, may feel oppressed without any cause that is evident to a male, and these emotions can run high.
Our oldest surviving history from the Babylonian era of Priest-Kings, the Book of Genesis, is an assertive screed of male dominance. Saying a Father/Creator made the world and made man in his image, it then records human descent in a purely male line, i.e., Adam begat Seth (a son in his own likeness and after his image) and Seth begat Enos, and Enos begat Cainan, etc., etc. Is it possible that these farmers and animal breeders did not recognize that mothers also contribute to heredity, but considered them only a vessel for the sacred male seed? This should have been evident to males as well as to females.
A defense of this paternalistic view is that each male patriarch had multiple wives or female slaves bearing their children, and didn’t bother to keep track. Or arguably, the men had authority and social recognition, so it was only their inheritable size, appearance and testosterone balance as that mattered. Inheritance through the male line, or primogeniture to the first surviving son, persists today in some cultures.
Yet it is typical in our protected and mechanized times for men to feel devalued. Laws and assertive enforcement let males in particular be accused of rape, molestation or violence, possibly without basis. Power can corrupt women as well as men, and both can be impassioned in a fight. In many cases the enforcement of these crimes is lax, but the very arbitrariness of it creates a risk.
More to the point, with male bulk and strength supplanted by machines, sex commercialized, sperm cheap or free, and the female need for male breadwinners and protectors nearly gone, it becomes possible for men to feel like drone bees, or an expendable warrior caste. We may not be confident of gaining a valued place in society and family, or the responsible leadership for which we are bred.
In matriarchal American families, women choose between suitors for a mate. They typically control the offspring and can order males out of the home. With child support enforcement, state aid and community property laws enforced. females are now further empowered. Even the perception of female victimhood, reinforced endlessly by crime shows on TV, can be hugely empowering at the expense of male “perps.”
And finally, the formative passion and fashion of romance that played such a binding, inspiring role in the last century is now devalued as “emo,” psychological, or even historical old-school. One doesn’t hear much lately about love, and pop music begins to sound like a grinding male lament or female protest.
Is it possible that this misogyny, and misogamy too, have now become mere propaganda weapon in the ongoing Class War, by which the corporate elite seek to divide, conquer and confuse the American Middle Class? This has been evident in the recent War on Women.
But now, with the Earth's very survival at risk, there will be plentiful opportunities for males and females alike to take a constructive role. We DO need heroes to step forward, combine their wits and talents, and agree on strategies to do what males have always done, protect and sustain the tribe. That includes the social AND biological community, as custodians of our planet. With feral predators under tight control, we must be the hunters to maintain the ecological balance, as well as the sowers and gatherers.