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Interesting Findings And World Unfolding Through My Eyes.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Gap Between Men And Women Is Closing?

Fisher claims that the gap between men and women is closing in 129 of 130 societies that she has analyzed; that is, gender differences in social goods like economic power and literacy are diminishing. Fisher believes that this process is a return to an earlier era of gender equality that existed before the advent of agriculture ten thousand years ago. Whatever advantages stemmed from agriculture, Fisher argues, it was a disaster for the social standing of women. Agricultural societies devalued women by declaring them to be less intelligent and competent than men, she argues, and by empowering men as the sole providers and heads of households. Women consequently became chattel.

However, technology and the modern world are reversing this cultural oppression. "Today we are shedding 10,000 years of our farming culture," said Fisher. "What we are seeing is a return to life as it was 100,000 years ago." What did she mean? Well, among other things, Fisher argues that modern serial monogamy is similar to what happens in hunting and gathering societies in which men and women often have two or three spouses over their lifetimes. In addition, the gender power imbalance is being righted. In cases where both men and women work from home, 25 percent of women make more money than their spouses. But even if we are heading back to the Pleistocene era, there are some things about human sexuality that Fisher believes will remain constant, chiefly "love."

Fisher dissects "love" into three components—lust, romantic love, and attachment. In both sexes, lust is associated with testosterone, which is responsible for the sex drive, or a craving for sexual satisfaction. One can experience feelings of lust without having a specific partner in mind. Romantic love is passionate infatuation, or obsessively thinking about and craving for a particular person. Romantic love is associated with dopamine pathways in the brain. Dopamine is associated with addiction, and romantic love mirrors addictions to cigarettes, alcohol and cocaine all of which activate dopamine brain circuits in similar ways. People in the throes of romantic love are blind to the faults of the loved one. Fisher amusingly quoted George Bernard Shaw's cynical aphorism: "Love consists of overestimating the differences between one woman and another." The final aspect of love is attachment. Here the sex drive moderates and bonds are established between the two partners. This long term affection is associated with the expression of oxytocin in women, and vasopressin in men. Fisher suggested that these brain circuits developed to enable people to tolerate each through child-rearing.

Since love boils down to chemistry, Fisher worries about the effects of neuropharmaceuticals on love. For example, she pointed to the deleterious effects that selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) antidepressants can have on romantic love. SSRIs can kill the sex drive and can also kill the ability to fall in—and stay in—love. Some people taking SSRIs can no longer have orgasms, and that means that they are deprived of the floods of vasopressin and oxytocin that strengthen pair-bonds. Fisher cited the case of a Dutch college student who began taking SSRIs for depression. He decided that he no longer loved his girlfriend, so he moved out. A few months later, he stopped taking the pills and realized that he did love her. As Fisher tells the story, he bought as many flowers as he could carry and went back to her apartment and asked her to take him back. The happy ending was that she did. (I should note that when I took Prozac a few years ago to combat depression of my father's death, I did not experience this side effect.) Fisher isn't saying that one shouldn't take SSRIs if depressed, but that physicians and patients should be more aware of the romance-killing downsides of these medications.

Fisher claimed that women are more openly expressing their sexuality, beginning sex at earlier ages, having more partners, telling their partners what they want from intimacy, and having more regrets. The "he's a stud, she's a whore" mentality, she said, is "finally disappearing." Fisher also asserted that male adultery is on the wane, and society is beginning to adopt a more female-oriented definition of intimacy, which seems to involve a lot of face-to-face conversation. She anthropologized that men's intimacy (if one can even call it that) developed as men sat side-by-side facing their enemies. She joked that this same male behavior is still exhibited during football season every Sunday afternoon.

What else has changed? In agrarian societies, people didn't believe that they needed love in marriage. Our chief preoccupations were our duties to God and clan. Now the central focus of marriage is intimacy. A recent survey of Americans found that 86 percent of men and 91 percent of women said that they could not marry someone unless they were in love with them (I wonder about the 14 percent of men and 9 percent of women who said otherwise).

Nevertheless, Fisher declared, "We can no longer say that we live in a traditional marriage culture." Today, the form of modern American marriages can be increasingly described as companionate or peer marriage, or a marriage between equals. She ended by pointing to some positive trends in marriage. American couples are working harder on their relationships. The divorce rate is down from 50 percent in 1991 to 43 percent today. Part of the reason is people are waiting longer to get married, and the later people marry the less likely they are to get divorced. Fisher ended by declaring that family is going to be around as long we live on this mortal coil, suggesting that we are never going to be able control the brain systems that govern lust, romantic love and attachment.
think over it...

Posted by Ajay :: 5:32 PM :: 0 comments

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