The Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 18 No. 4 • August 2015


Battle of the Sexes:
Here, There, and Everywhere
Horses, Cattle, Baboons,
Bonobos, And Humans, Now and 2000
Years Ago In the Roman Empire


by Sandy Shaw

Many of you may have heard of what happened to Nobel Prize Winner Tim Hunt, 72, who was reported (for example, see pg. 1294 in the 19 June 2015 Science) to have been “punished” for making purportedly “sexist” statements about women scientists in the lab (resigning from his post as an honorary researcher at University College London and from the European Research Council’s Scientific Council, as well as from the Royal Society’s Biological Sciences Award Committee, presumably under pressure from these organizations to do so). Dr. Hunt had declared his statements to be “funny” and the response to be “extreme and unfair.” He had been reported to have said that he favored one-gender scientific labs in part because female scientists fall in love with their male associates in the lab and cry when criticized. One wonders why Dr. Hunt would have said this if he hadn’t actually observed such behavior in scientific labs, but of course we weren’t there so we can’t say.

Dr. Hunt has gone on to apologize for his “inexcusable” statements though, as noted above, he was reported to have thought the response extreme and unfair. You can’t be sure whether Dr. Hunt really thought his statements “inexcusable” or whether this is all a political ploy to recover his former status with the feminist scientists (mostly women) who wield much power these days in organized science. Too bad such games have become a very sad and frequent event, enough to make you wonder how the hell did this pathetic view of male/female “equality” (e.g., the genders behave the same and therefore should be treated the same) come about in the first place.

In fact, the status of males and females can differ rather surprisingly in animal relationships. See next paragraph for Durk’s observations on cattle and wild horses. The two of us are ranchers of “natural beef” in central Nevada and have what is considered a medium sized herd. Our cattle wander freely over hundreds of thousands of acres of lush pasture and eat nothing but these natural grasses, supplemented with the occasional natural wheat plus some minerals that are lacking locally, such as copper, and drink water from springs or that has flowed down mountains from natural sources.

We have several bulls that can mate with whoever they want to, assuming the lady cow is willing and if in heat she is certainly likely to be, so the cows and bulls are pretty much masters of their own lives for however long they live before some of them—mostly steers that are not going to be breeding or old females past their prime breeding age—are sold for human consumption. For the rest, it is a pretty easy life.)

Among wild horses, the alpha female is the one who knows where the water holes and forage are located and she is followed by the entire group, including the big, bad alpha stallion, when leading the group to both food and water. The stallions are there to provide protection of the group from predators and, of course, to maintain their monopoly on mating with the female horses in the group. Then, there are cattle. The alpha female knows where the food and water are located and leads the group to it, including the big masterful bulls with their large intimidating balls, who are there (once again) to protect the group from predators and to ensure that they retain complete control of sexual access to the females in the group. (As a cow, you aren’t supposed to lift your tails for those other bulls over there, but it probably does happen now and again, so the bulls that “own” you have to be vigilant.)

Maybe this picture of who runs the herd is a little different than you might have thought. How have things changed among humans so that there is an ongoing virtual war over who controls the group’s resources in common (the human political process where decisions are made for the use of your tax money by vote—one person one vote (except when corruption occurs, but that is another story) and somehow or other political incorrectness has made the feminist view so powerful. Horses and cattle don’t vote, so maybe the picture you see there is a bit better model for considerations of gender control under “natural” conditions among mammals that are fairly close to humans in terms of having similar genomes.

In human hunter-gatherer groups, it is plausible that females might have a better map of local sources of water and plant food than men, who might know more about more distant sources of water and animal food. This would lead perhaps to a more “egalitarian” type society by providing for a division of labor with distinct trade goods and services between the males and females.

Our current society of huge numbers of humans under rules established within much smaller numbers of humans has led to dysfunctional societies as the genders have learned to use the guns of political power to set the rules and control the division of the public goods to a considerable extent to the benefit of one gender or another. Men seemed to have started out with a greater share of the political power in the U.S. and that has now been taken over by females after a long “war” between the genders. Women now to a considerable extent are able to reproduce by virtue of political resources extracted from men by government coercion, whereas in earlier days women had to find willing husbands to support their reproductive urges.

A recent paper on group decision making in olive baboons (19 June 2015 Science, pp. 1358-1361) suggests that, despite the large intimidating jaws of male baboons and their vital role in defending the group from predators and (of course) in rationing out sexual access to female baboons between the more dominant males and the subordinate ones, when it comes to day-to-day decisions about where the group is to move to next, unless there is a large difference between the alternatives, the group makes its choice on an individual basis, with the minority following the majority. Whereas if the alternatives are very different, then the decision is delayed but still takes place by a minority following a majority to the new location. Dominant males appear to have nothing to do with these day-to-day movement patterns. This probably came as quite a surprise to most scientists reading the paper, as it did to me. Method: The researchers obtained their data on patterns of movement among the olive baboons by fitting approximately 80% of the study troop’s adult and subadult members with a custom-designed global positioning system collar that recorded the location of each individual fitted with one every second.

The gender practices in place in bonobo society are the ones I like best. There, sexual activity is used to displace aggression, leading to an unusually peaceful sort of society with a lot of consensual sex. Though it is not clear why this doesn’t seem to have been a very successful model for gender relations, I imagine that there is a large reproductive fitness benefit in place when force is part of the picture, where males benefit (generally) from greater strength and size and can impose their sexual desires upon females. What would be particularly interesting would be to find out how the bonobos developed their unusual pattern of gender relationship in the first place.

The Roman Empire

A note on male/female relationships goes back to the Roman Empire and a fascinating look at how men at that time looked upon women who had qualities and attributes admirable to men.

On pg. 78 of his book Roman Women (Fonthill Media Limited, 2015) the author Paul Chrystal explains that “[w]omen, like slaves and children, were second class citizens, on the margins of society. They were—at least technically—always under the control of a man ...” They were seen as having no place outside the home. Yet there were Roman women who achieved positions of authority, respect, and admiration in the Roman Empire. Chrystal explains (pg 62) in his discussion of Fulvia, wife of Mark Antony and then, later of Octavian (later naming himself Augustus, the first of the Roman emperors after the Dictator Julius Caesar): “Valleius’s observation that Fulvia was devoid of basic female characteristics and, in doing what she did as a soldier, behaved as a man would, is significant. When she is defeminised in this way, Fulvia joins a tradition of notable women who were described more as men than as women by elite Roman writers. It seems clear that Roman men had a problem reconciling powerful virtues and qualities in women with their sex, with their femaleness—they thought that these eminent and successful women must really be men.” “Were women to break free of their traditional constrictions,” argued Philo of Alexandria (here in the book’s words), “it is not because they are women, but rather because they exhibit qualities more appropriate to men.”

Valerius Maximus in the later Roman Republic cites the case of Maesia Sentias, “who conducted her own defense before the praetor” (pg. 78) ... “and through her legal expertise, secured her own acquittal. Valerius ascribes this success to a masculine spirit ...”

The author, Paul Chrystal, took degrees in Classics at the Universities of Hull and Southampton, has written frequently for the BBC over 35 years, and has published forty or so books on classical social history and other subjects. This book, Roman Women includes a large number of references to primary literature as reported and cited in the book. Chrystal is said to be publishing In Bed with the Romans in 2015 and Sandy is looking forward to reading it, complete with revelations of fun in bed with men in the Roman Empire, whose opinions of women may or may not please her but she is (obviously) free to ignore or not as she chooses. Incidentally, being seen as having a “masculine spirit” or the attributes of a man is quite agreeable to Sandy, as she rather admires many attributes and qualities that she sees more frequently in men than in women and, moreover, she has no sense of a gender label defining her.

Women Live Longer Than Men: A Significant Factor in the “Battle Between the Sexes”

A recent review paper (Vina, 2010) describes the phenomenon of women living longer than men, with some discussion of possible mechanisms, and of the societal implications of larger numbers of dependent older women as compared to men.

The authors (two men) point out that the “difference in longevity between woman and men has occurred in all advanced as well as primitive societies.” They also provide data indicating that as human lifespan has increased, the difference between the lifespan of women as compared to men has become even greater. “... in 1900 (i.e. when the average lifespan [in Spain] was approximately 33 years), women lived only 3.8% longer than men. However in 1992, when average lifespan was around 75-80 years, the increased longevity between women and men increased to almost 10%. This is by no means a characteristic of a given country (i.e., Spain) but rather it is a general phenomenon.” The paper includes a figure showing that there is a significant increase in life expectancy of females vs. males in Sweden as well. The authors also state that in the Caucasians, well known to have long-lived individuals, women also live longer than men.

On the matter of age-dependent dependency, the authors show (in figure 2 of their paper) that in the European Community the proportion of persons over 65 years old who are dependent on others for their care was (in 2010) about 25%. However, they say, “the predicted proportion of population of 65 years that is dependent on others will be about 50% in 2050. (We do not know how they made this estimate, but it depends on extrapolation from conditions as they now exist, a highly questionable assumption.) Still, the outlook is grim even if they are only half right. This would lead to a situation where young men were being taxed to support a larger population of older dependent women, hardly the sort of thing to alleviate a battle between the sexes.

The authors propose that the difference in longevity between women and men could be related to differences in mitochondrial free radical production, as estrogens are protective against oxidative stress. They cite two studies showing that “estrogen replacement therapy can increase life expectancy in humans.” These researchers have done work on Wistar rats, finding that liver mitochondria from females produce approximately half the amount of peroxide produced by males. Ovariectomized Wistar rats were found to produce the same amount of peroxides as males and when the ovariectomized females were treated with estrogen replacement, they again produced the same amount of peroxide as normal female rats at the level much lower than males.

Moreover, the authors go on to describe a study (Ali, 2006) by another group that showed that in strains of mice such as the Black C57BL6 the other group was studying, males lived longer than females and it is the males that produce fewer oxidants than females. That study included the determination of oxidants not only by measuring dihydroethidium oxidation in the brain but also by electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy in brain mitochondria of these mice where the males outlived the females.

Finally, the authors (Vina, 2010) propose that estrogens do not act as chemical antioxidants, but rather induce the expression of antioxidant enzymes. In an attempt to test this hypothesis, they suggest the use of phytoestrogens, such as genistein, because (in the case of genistein) it binds almost exclusively to the estrogen receptor beta, thus avoiding the feminizing and potential cancer increasing effects of estrogen receptor alpha. They did not report in this paper on what they may have found in their phyto­estrogens/life extension studies.

References

  • Vina and Borras. Women live longer than men: understanding molecular mechanisms offers opportunities to intervene by using estrogenic compounds. Antioxid Redox Signal. 13(3):269-77 (2010).
  • Ali, Xiong, Lucero, et al. Gender differences in free radical homeostasis during aging: shorter-lived female C57BL6 mice have increased oxidative stress. Aging Cell. 5:565-74 (2006).

A Final Final Note on Male/Female Relationships SURPRISE: Men Really Do Choose Women on the Basis of Beauty

I don’t expect anyone to be surprised by this, but a scientific study (Todd, 2007) was performed to actually verify that men, when choosing potential mates, are highly attracted by female beauty as compared to other attributes, even including wealth, health, and social status.

Scientists got their subjects from a group of men and women who were participating in a “speed dating” event, where they met a number of different “dates” one after another for conversations just a few minutes each. The researchers had the 46 adult participants fill out a questionnaire in advance providing the stated preferences of the participants and then compared that to the actual choices. (Men and women could choose to meet a particular man or woman again or not to meet them again after interacting with them in the “speed dating” event.) Surprise, surprise, no matter what they had in their stated preferences before the event, men chose women based on their physical attractiveness, whereas women were more choosy, choosing men whose overall desirability as a mate matched the woman’s perceived physical attractiveness. In fact. women’s self perceived attractiveness was the only domain-specific self perception that was substantially correlated with the number of offers (to be met again) from men. The researchers put it this way: “They [the women] appeared to be aware of the importance to men of their own physical attractiveness, and they used their self-perception to adjust their aspiration level and picked only a few men with traits that matched their own desirability as a mate.”

So there you have it. The choices made by men and women in the speed-dating events closely match that predicted by the Darwinian principle of choosy females and competitive males, all in the name of reproductive fitness.

Our advice as concerns the Battle of the Sexes is to resign from it. However, this requires a considerable amount of introspection to keep track of the booby traps that reside inside your head and get you into trouble because the urges built in by your reproductive drive (such as falling in love, which famous rock star Ted Nugent described as having the effect of a “tire iron”) may not always match the choices of other drives that coinhabit your brain.

Reference

  • Todd, Penke, Fasolo, Lenton. Different cognitive processes underlie human mate choices and mate preferences. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 104(38):15011-6 (2007). Apparently the study was funded by FastDating, a company based in Munich, Germany, where participants were sucked into the study by being offered a discount on the regular price for their participation.

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