EVER WONDER WHY........
Women wear make-up to the grocery store at midnight.....Men fall for dumb blonds and women love rich men, preferably smart too.....Women would rather shop than eat.....Men would rather eat and never go shopping.....Men gamble on races and women fear mice.....Men like sex more than romance and women like romance more than sex.....There are dirty old men and blue haired old women.....Men seek immortality and women would rather have new curtains.....Men won't pay child support and women take abuse.....Men never get enough of that wonderful stuff and women are more worried about messing up their hair.....Men go hunting when the freezer is full and women clean house when no company is coming.....Men try to stir things up and women try to calm things down.....Men draw lines in the sand and women draw circles around everything.....Men are so afraid of dying and women so afraid of flying.....Men want to roll over and go to sleep and women want to cuddle and talk.....Men think they have to be going somewhere and women think there's no reason to be going anywhere.....Men take losing so hard and women don't even care about playing.....Men go bananas over boobs which are more of a bother than a blessing to those who bear them.....Men are suckers for looks and women are suckers for lines.....Men identify themselves with their bodies, and women, with their minds.....Women like gay guys who threaten straight men.....Men fall for sluts whom women despise.....Women are competitive but don't compete and men compete even when there's no reason to.....Men can never win an argument with women but keep on trying.....Weak men act strong and strong women act weak.....Liberated women are seldom happy and men aren't unless they think they are.....Why women celebrate marriage and men celebrate the night before....Men start looking around before the honeymoon is over and women quit trying after it is.....Groomsmen tell the groom-to-be, "There's still time..." and Bridesmaids try to catch the bride's bouquet.....Men are afraid of being weak and women of being strong.....Men try not to get caught by women who try to act like they're not trying to catch them.....Men are seldom at home at home and women are seldom at home away from home.....Men would rather go somewhere and women would rather be somewhere.....Men fear impotence like a mortal enemy and women wonder what's the big deal.....Men get so down when they can't get it up and women fake orgasms.....Men can't dress themselves and women can't help dressing up.....Men act strong and women act weak when both know it's a lie.....Women are naturally couth and men are uncouth naturally.....Men won't pick up their clothes and women can't stand it when they don't.....Women want to dress up their men who want to undress their women.....Men try to please women and women want to be pleasing to men but not vice versa.....Women fear mice more than they do men but with men it's the other way around.....Men want the lights on and mirrors on the ceiling while women want the lights off and curtains drawn.....Men love younger women and women love older men.....The way to a man's heart is through his stomach and to a woman's is through her ear.....Women sing "It's so nice to have a man around the house," but men prefer "to have a woman in the bed".....Women want a man with a slow hand and men prefer a woman with a tight box.....Women are superior to men who try to dominate them.....Men fear commitment and women flee freedom.....Pornography turns men on and women off.....Women take so much abuse from fragile egoed men.....Why women can't hurry and men can't wait.....Why women have to dress up and men could care less.....Why men are crude and women polite.....Why men stir things up and women smooth them over.....Why men are heros and martyrs and women won't even compete.....Why men resist marriage and women rush to it.....Why men can't help taking a good look and women can't help looking good.....Why men love a good fight and women find no fight good.....Why men love women's bodies and women tolerate men's bodies--sometimes.....Why old men are drawn to young women but not young men to old women.....Why men read the SPORTS page and skip SOCIETY and women could care less about who won but love to know who got married even if they don't know them.....
THE ANSWER IS GENES
Understand your genes;
look in their mirror
And you'll see an image of yourself
which is clearer than all you know
See man as a Sperm-bearer/Sperm-spreader
woman as an Ovum-bearer/Baby-maker
And we'll make more sense as such
than we do the other way around
Of course man is more
than a mere Sperm-spreader
And woman, likewise,
than a Baby-maker only
But never are we far
from our primal sources
we think we are
Bearers, of course, must be more
than the borne they bear
But bearers are more like their borne
than the borne are like their bearers
"We" are more comparable with "them"
than are "they" with "us"
As we commonly conceive ourselves
Here I personify genes; in particular, those on two of our 46 chromosomes--X and Y. I use them and the profound gender differences which they inaugurate to set the stage for confronting certain of the differences evident in men and women today.
My choice of genes as central characters is both literal and metaphorical--literal in the sense that certain chemical transactions initiated by DNA found in the genes which make up the chromosomes which inhabit and direct the "command centers" in the nucleus of each of the 50 trillion cells in the human body, is in fact a primal cause of the chain of events leading to male/female differences. Other phases in our life process--DNA on one side or chromosomes on the other, could have been chosen as central characters, since all are inherently connected.
Genes, however, present themselves as discrete enough units to bear the weight for both literal causitive entities and also as characters for metaphorication. Cells which bear either two X's or and X and a Y chromosome, with their preponderance of female or the presence of male genes can then be metaphored as Ms. Ovum or Mr. Sperm, becoming the potential originators of the differences we note in men and women who bear them.
Major Sperm-bearers Activities: COMPETING, WINNING, KILLING
Major Ovum-bearers Activities: ATTRACTING, CHOOSING, RECEIVING
Sperm Eye Attractions: "PRETTY GIRLS"--"There is nothing you can name that is anything like a dame" (a "PRETTY" one, that is). "PRETTY," to the mind of a Sperm means: YOUNG, HEALTHY, NEW.
Ovum Eye Attractions: "GOOD MAN"--"Good men nowadays are hard to find...you always get the other kind." "GOOD," to the mind of an ovum means: STRONG, WEALTHY, COMMITTED
THE BIG PICTURE
OVERALL PERSPECTIVE: Ovum is greater than Sperm. Both are essential, but Sperm are young and relatively weak, while Ova are older and more powerful. The frantic activity of fledgling Sperm make them appear stronger than they are, while the deceptive passivity of womb-wise Ova make them seem-to-be weaker than they are. Appearances are obviously deceptive; "...things are not," as a poet noted, "what they seem." Sperm-bearers, it turns out, need Ovum-bearers more than Ovum-bearers need Sperm-bearers. It only looks to be the other way around because activity, the role of sperm, looms larger to the mind's eye than does the passive waiting which is every Ovum's role in our shared drama.
MALE HOMEWORK: Sperm-bearers need to acknowledge to themselves (Ovum-bearers already know) their relative weakness, and to accept their greater need for what Ovum-bearers already have.
FEMALE HOMEWORK: Ovum-bearers need to acknowledge to themselves (Sperm-bearers deeply know already) their greater powers, and to accept their lessor need of Sperm-bearers, including what they are able to bring to them.
COMMON HOMEWORK: Both Sperm-bearers, commonly known as "men," and Ovum-bearers, whom we call "women," need to embrace their own denied capacities for those qualities which are indeed initiated by Sperm and Ova, but which also exist in our shared capacities for Personhood--for being more than mere Bearers of Sperm and Ova only. Reason: although we may see our shadowed selves, our "missing parts," reflected in each other, we can never successfully capture "out there" what we truly need, but which is to be finally found only within our own unembraced selves. Only when men quit looking to women to make them happy, and women quit resenting the fact that no man can make them secure, and both of us accept that we are more than Sperm and Ovum-bearers only, becoming our fuller selves, can love become possible. Pray speed the day....
I think our genes call most of the shots. If you want to understand men and women, don't listen to what we say or try to make sense of what we do; most of what is said is, at best, rationalization, at worst, lies. Most of what we do doesn't make any reasonable sense at all.
But look where we all come from--sperm and ova, and where we are makes a lot more sense.
I don't yet like all I see; but I do think playing politics is smarter than fighting city hall, that abusing Mother Nature is biting the hand that feeds us, and that as Jim Croche sang, wise folk don't tug on Superman's cape, don't pull the mask off the ole Lone Ranger, and don't spit into the wind. Fighting genes is like all that.
I also think that seeing, accepting, and adapting is more functional than ignoring, denying, and repressing. We pay heavily in the long run for the short term advantages of splitting ourselves apart from our genes.
Genes are intended here as both literal and metaphorical. I mean both the stuff which makes up our chromosomes which make up our sperm and ova, but also as a metaphor for all that our bodies know--our biological heritage, the deepest pre-mind or even pre-heart-knowledge which inclines us to action. Genes are another name for our ingrained drives, impulses-to-act in the face of all reason or conscious desire to the contrary.
In actual fact, we know relatively little about genes themselves. They are too small to see, even with electron microscopes. As with atoms, we mostly see their effects and draw conclusions about them. They are, however, real; and they provide a workable name for the cause of much that we feel and do below the level of consciousness.
So here, I mean genes both as powerful little critters making up some of the stuff of our physical existence, and as a summary name--a metaphor, for "body knowledge" which is evident apart from "head knowledge"--unconscious wisdom we might otherwise call it, or body-smarts.
Finally, none of this is about you. No doubt you are more mature than this; like me, you're probably an exception to these rules. But in all probability, most of the people you know will fit some of these observations--certainly your spouse or lover. Once asleep, even you may favor some of these characters. Or, I!
Things get a little easier, according to a line in a song from my past, once you understand. I have found it to be true. Another song, which we sang in church, had this line: ....and we'll understand it better bye and bye. Perhaps it too is true; but I have found waiting more difficult. I prefer the easier path of understanding now--whenever I can find it.
And women and men have always been difficult for me to understand. I place women first because they are more confusing to me. Try as I have, females still elude, most of the time, the small net of my understanding; and just when I think I do, I find myself wrong again.
But it's not you only. I often find myself--and the men I know, also difficult to understand. Especially when I try to be reasonable, as I usually think I do. Even though I am probably more tolerant with our male puzzles, it still bothers me when I observe that we who pride ourselves on "being reasonable," unlike you who so seldom "make sense" to us, are also often grossly illogical. For example, in trying to win arguments with you who have no hangups about word definitions, logic, or even winning itself.
In my extended efforts to understand us, I have most often begun with the confusing data at hand and tried to resolve puzzles through the use of reason. I have tried to make sense of what I see, of what is visible in us at the present end of the evolutionary process. Assuming that "what you see is what you get," I have spent much time analyzing "what I get" in immediate situations. Often, I regret to confess, with little success.
Then, awhile back, it dawned on me to look more carefully at our roots; perhaps understanding would be easier if I paid more attention to where we have come from. I began with family roots--childhood positions, family circumstances, and such. Pay off! Looking at a woman's childhood situation did help me make more sense of what I considered to be her irrational behavior today. Knowing where a man came from also eased the challenges of his puzzles. Finding out where I came from has been even more revealing.
But not enough to satisfy me. Still confusions remained--eased, but not gone. So, logical one that I am (?), I decided to look deeper into the nature side of the nature versus nurture argument. Maybe nature--heredity, genes--that sort of thing, had more to do with how we behave today than I had considered. So back I went to biology.
To make a long story short--which is usually, I am told, the best thing to do with long stories--my quest led me back past our personal families, to the family of mankind. What is the nature of humankind? Once into exploring, however, I couldn't stop there either; so on back I went--to the chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, and so on--back to the beginning of gender itself, to those wondrous cells which initiate the profound processes which we, in the here and now, call man and woman.
Perhaps, I thought, understanding our cellular beginnings, the start of our evolutionary process, would give me better clues than I can find when I begin at the present end of our process. So, still believing the first song, and impatient with waiting for the sweet bye and bye, I set out to study the one place we all begin--at the union of two cells, sperm and ovum.
What follows are some of the connections I have made so far. Making sense of our puzzling behaviors today seems easier when I recognize the nature of our beginnings. We seem, paradoxically, far more like our initiating cells than like the social images we try to hold (and, sometimes, to understand).
Although I began this pilgrimage on the nurture side of the old argument, believing more in the power of environment and choice than in heredity, I have now changed my opinion. Nurture certainly does matter; environment is crucial as a context for who-we-are. But, as much as I have resisted accepting what I see, nature now seems to be the more influential.
Genes, I confess, seem far more powerful in dictating the behaviors I find confusing, than do nurture and reason combined. Environment and social influences are obviously significant; yet the larger powers seem to lie far below consciousness, reasoning, education, family, society, and all current forces.
Conflicts between men and women seem to be more rooted in genetics than in our present intents and desires. Reason and "feeling"--products of nurturing, are powerful forces; yet they turn weak-kneed when confronted with nature. When we try to fool or fight Mother Nature it seems that she always wins, certainly in time.
Comparing the two--the powers of consciousness, the latter end of the evolutionary process, with the powers of genes, the beginning of us all--genes, it seems to me, win hands down. Playing with numbers, I'd say that genes get at least 80% of the credit for what we now do, leaving a weak 20% for all that we think, reason, and "intend" to do.
This means that we men may be much more like the sperm cells we are evolved to bear than the idealized, "rational thinkers" we like to believe we are. And that women are more akin to the ova you bear than to the "feeling persons" you may prefer to identify yourself with.
Whether this is true or not, an understanding of sperm and ova, with the possible dictations they bring to us evolved men and women, may be a useful metaphor for making sense of some of the unreasonable behaviors so commonly encountered today. At least it makes more sense to me than all the logic I have manufactured to explain our irrationalities.
What I do here is to first note some of the basic facts about sperm and ova, the beginning of our common evolutions, then observe apparent connections with how we act today. They all seem reasonable to me. I have temporarily concluded that gene-power outweighs mind and "feeling" power at least five to one.
But even if I am wrong about nature and nurture, the connections I make seem logical; they help me to at least believe that I understand better. And like the song says, ....things get a little easier when I think I do. Even if it turns out I am wrong.
So here goes; see what you think.
Bruce Evans, 1993
"Know thyself" was one of the inscriptions on the Oracle of Delphi. As Stephen Jay Gould remarks, it is also the basis of the name Linnaeus gave to us as a species: "Homo sapiens," Knowing Man. When we come to know who we really are, blend of nature and nurture, only then are we truly knowing. (32, 179)
Technically speaking, this book is about genetic aspects of maleness and femaleness, not about men and women in general, certainly not any one such as you or me. It is about the maleness, for example, which may be found in either a man or a woman--more often in men, but not limited to gendered males only. Many men have much femaleness; many women have much maleness. All of us have some of both, usually with a predominance of one or the other.
Even when we don't activate, or try to deny, still these elements of our opposite gender are present, I believe, in all of us. In fact, maturity or wholeness, salvation if you happen to speak religious language, involves--as I understand it--accepting, embracing, and activating our obvious genderedness, plus those elements of our so-called "opposite gender" which are also within us. To be a whole person means, from the perspective of gender, to be both one's maleness and femaleness, to whatever extent they are present in our genes.
When I use the word genes here--specifically focusing on those related to gender--I will be referring primarily to the content of the 45th and 46th sex chromosomes, plus all the diverse characteristics which their genes trigger and are likely to be associated with. These two chromosomes, along with 44 more autosomes (non-sex chromosomes) are found in every single cell throughout our entire bodies.
More generally, genes will be used as a synonym for body. By gene knowledge, I mean body knowledge. The word gene is used here to stand for all our bodily inclinations which may be distinguished from mind or conscious thinking. For example, I use the phrase gene eyes, making a metaphor of physical sight, to refer to the kind of looking we do which may be different from conscious reasoning. Gene eyes, for instance, incline men to "look at pretty girls," whether they "want to" or not.
For brevity, hereafter, I simply use the shorter words, man and woman, or male and female, when I literally mean maleness or masculinity, and femaleness or femininity, whether found in a so-called man or woman. To understand clearly, whenever you read man, think maleness rather than body-with-penis. The described maleness may in fact appear in a female body.
I take this linguistic liberty, realizing the risks of misunderstanding, because more often maleness is found in men--at least it is easier to see there. The traits I identify with femaleness will also appear more obviously in most women. But even when they aren't apparent, or perhaps denied by a particular person, we may reasonably suspect them to be present and likely to appear at one time or another. Men, for example, who deny "liking to look at pretty girls" may expect to find themselves, at times, "wanting to" (or even "caught looking" by observant females).
Few of the possible connections between genes and behavior which I will suggest are yet to be scientifically proven, that is, connected with a specific segment of one or the other of the X and Y chromosomes. We don't yet know, for instance, which part of the Y chromosome is at the basis of the male desire to look at pretty girls, or which arm of the X inclines females to want to shop. Perhaps the connections will be made in time, if, indeed, they do exist.
But if not, if I only imagine these connections, my genetic errors need not negate the gist of the speculations which follow. Even if I am wrong about the genetic bases for these observed behaviors and gender differences, still, looking at the differences themselves, may be useful or fun or both.
The basis for these possible connections is observation rather than laboratory work. I am primarily a minister and therapist, not a scientist or geneticist. My research has been made with my eyes in my office (and elsewhere) rather than with an electron microscope in a lab. The basis for my hypothesizing genetic connections is fourfold: scientific study; universal applications, logical explanations, and personal inclinations.
First, there is a wealth of available scientific data connecting specific segments of individual chromosomes, the bodies of genes, with human characteristics. For instance:
...there is good evidence for X-linkage of 107 traits, and X-linkage is suggested for another 98. (22, p 222)
Secondly, when any human trait seems to be universal--to transcend cultural and social distinctions--when it appears across common boundaries of separate groups and throughout the ages, then I posit genes as the likely source or cause of the characteristic. If, for example, a human attribute noted most commonly in males or females seems to pop up around the world throughout history, then I assume it must be genetically based. Social influences are immense and may explain much about human behavior, including the different ways men and women act in a particular social group at a certain time in history. Yet there are characteristic behaviors which seem, on the basis of information available to me, to transcend local social influences--often to contradict them.
In terms of the old nature vs. nurture argument, there are traits which are hard to connect with any personal nurturing or even with an immediate social setting. They seem to be the product of nature rather than environment, including nurture and culture. When human behaviors seem to be universal, I therefore attribute them to nature--that is, to our genes rather than individual experience.
For example, humans of all races and times have been "driven" to breathe and eat. I therefore conclude that these "urges" must be genetic in origin. Moving further along the evolutionary scale, current gender distinctions which seem to appear across all cultural boundaries are assumed to be genetically based--for example, the male inclination to approach reality through thinking and the contrasting female path through feeling.
Men, as did Descartes, may commonly believe: I think, therefore I am. Women, should they be inclined to philosophize, might more honestly say: I feel, therefore I am. Noting such distinctions to exist across cultural lines, I posit them to be genetically based. Although geneticists have not yet identified a particular link on one of the 46 chromosomes as the source of these differences, I suspect that they eventually will. After that they may also find a gene connected with another near universal female trait: shopping. A woman philosopher like Descartes might have written his famous declaration as, I shop, therefore I am. Although a particular shopping gene may be a long way from scientific discovery, the universality of the female phenomenon leads me to speculate that it may well be posited somewhere in female genetic structures.
Logic is a third basis I choose in making genetic assumptions. When a trait or characteristic keeps appearing in contrast with current reasoning--when it consistently shows up but does not seem to "make sense" in light of conscious logic, then I assume it must make "genetic sense."
Gender genes are obviously about reproduction of the species; this much is scientifically proven. Sex and babies, we now know, are connected. When other attributes "make sense" in light of the reproductive agenda, even if they seem unreasonable in an immediate place and time, then I assume they too may be genetically based. For instance, even though it is "unreasonable" for a married man to "want to fool around," or, for a married woman, from a man's point of view, to "want another pair of shoes,"--yet the behaviors can reasonably be fitted with facts about genetically based reproduction, then I make the assumption of gene power.
When a current, reoccurring form of human behavior pops up in one gender more commonly than in the other, and is more reasonably explained by genetics than by present logic, then I opt for genetics. As a "sense making" creature, especially of the male variety, I value "reasonableness." As explained in the PREFACE, this whole endeavor is rooted in my personal attempt to "make sense" of paradoxical gender behaviors.
Consequently, rather than simply accept current behaviors which seem patently "unreasonable" with any current logic, but do "make sense" with data garnered from genetic goals, I choose here to use this larger sense of logic.
It is logical, for example, for males with so many sperm available for spreading, to spread them indiscriminately; it is equally logical for females with so much risk and so many consequences for their relatively rare ova, to guard them carefully--to be extremely discriminate in their exposures. To me, this "makes more sense" than accusing males of being "bad" when they are inclined to promiscuity, or females of "frigidity" when they are careful about when they "do it," and with whom.
When "genetic logic" allows me to explain conflicting bits of data about human behavior better than "conscious reasoning" which looks more like rationalization than logic, then, in my typically male attempt to "be reasonable," I go with the genes.
Finally, I take my knowledge of my own inclinations and experience with my "opposite" gender as possible support for the theories I present. If one of my own "urges" which I have not been able to explain "reasonably" with the data in my conscious reservoir of motivations is best explained genetically, I accept that logic. Here, I dare to project and assume that what I know to be true for me (my recognized inclinations and urges) may also be true for other males also. I do have much clinical data to support this assumption.
In similar fashion I take data garnered from living with and encountering many females, plus information shared by females with me in therapeutic settings, as being possibly true about females-in-general. In other words, I project my information about women as well as my knowledge about myself onto the general population. When data about genes explains us and our relationships--as I have found them to be--better than current reasoning, I assume here that the genetic connections may exist.
In summary, the forces and inclinations which I here attribute to genes are based on four sources: scientific data, apparently universal occurrence, logical conclusions, and personal experience best explained accordingly.
Commonly we seek to understand ourselves by studying the end product of evolution--men and women as we appear today. We look at what is visible, ask questions and conduct surveys--relying on conscious information for the exploration of our depths, where consciousness seldom reaches. Unfortunately, time, culture, social training, pathology, and sin may do much to cloak the way-we-are from the eye of even the most careful of observers--certainly from our own highly subjective looking.
Perhaps, I propose here, we can catch a clearer glimpse of ourselves by beginning at the beginning--looking back toward the roots of humanity, prior to culture, social training, and even consciousness. Maybe how-we-now-are can be better understood by looking back to how-we-once-were. On this premise I propose personifying the first elements of human stuff--our reproductive components, the cells which connect, divide, and multiply.
If we look at the primal characters in the Reproductive Drama, their roles and how they essentially perform, perhaps we can more clearly understand ourselves as human beings who have evolved to bear them--males and females, that is.
Most basically, before we become so complex, there are only two characters: two distinctly different cells which must meet, connect, unite, and share their inherent genetic information, before the species called Homo sapiens can evolve--or you or I as individual representatives can appear. Long before man and woman, there are these two basic types of cells which must discover each other in order to initiate the process which may later be called Human Being, or John or Jane Doe. We have learned to call them sperm and ovum; sperm for the male cell, ovum for the female.
For thought purposes, we may personify each--though they are yet a long way from becoming persons. Using our later-to-appear speech capacity, we may look back, give "gender," and name these primal characters which initiate the whole process. The Sperm cell we may call He; the Ovum cell, She. Here we will explore the drama of their first encounter, looking for clues about John and Jane Doe--the end products of this first union. If we can understand how Mr. Sperm and Ms. Ovum work, their primary natures, plus their differing roles in the Dramas of Conception and Reproduction, perhaps the later natures of us who bear them will become more understandable.
Although I describe the primal event of everyone's conception by personifying sperm and ovum cells, remember that I am also making a metaphor. Our imaginary Mr. Sperm is a metaphor (personification) for the male who will be evolved to bear his successors. Man, we might say, evolves on the biological level as the Sperm-bearer in the Drama of Conception; woman, as the Ovum-bearer. Certainly we are more than Sperm and Ovum-bearers only; still, most primally, these cells are at the heart of all else we may become.
Looking past the Drama of Conception, where the differing cells meet and unite, we may also imagine a second level metaphor. Some time after the union of sperm and ovum, about six weeks in fact, it becomes evident that another Sperm or Ovum-bearer is in process. Past gestation and birth, the original Mr. Sperm, in time, phases into another Sperm-bearer, the original Ms. Ovum becomes both another Ovum-bearer and a Baby-maker. The Drama of Conception phases into the Drama of Reproduction.
Imagine further that what we see today and call men and women, or persons, these end products of human evolution are, on a more primal level, Sperm-spreaders and Baby-makers. Imagine that all our appendages past our first cells--our in-take and out-put systems, arms, legs, hands, feet, as well as hearts and minds, have evolved as servants of these primary cells, sperm and ovum.
Suppose that we developed digestive systems for feeding and tending these collections of cells; arms for reaching food, legs for running away from danger, feelings and minds for protecting, tending, and enhancing circumstances for the more effective functioning and continuation of each. Imagine that all our complexities have evolved for the better service of our simpler beginnings, that whatever else we may become is never far--and certainly not disconnected, from the Dramas of Conception and Reproduction. And that we have gotten so good at it, we no longer have to even think about it.
A century ago Samuel Butler noted that a hen is only an egg's way of making another egg. Perhaps seeing men and women as sperm and ova's way of reproducing themselves may make some of our puzzling behaviors more understandable.
Without degrading the wonders of personhood--of our being amazingly creative men and women capable of untold possibilities, we may look backward to our primary genetic functions: males to spread-sperm, females to bear-ova and make-babies. We may personify these functions, for a second-level metaphor, and think of man--with all his other options, as a Sperm-spreader, and woman, along with her other amazing capabilities, as more primally being a Baby-maker.
Obviously we are more than this; reproducing ourselves is not all we are about. Becoming our fuller selves as persons, past just men or women, is a worthy quest. Still, our genes remain major characters in the drama of who we may become. Looking at them openly, I trust, may help us understand ourselves better, and also guide in the process of achieving our grander human goals.
Before going further I note two relevant issues: consciousness and ethics, both of which bear on my approach to these subjects. First, consciousness:
CONSCIOUSNESS AND GENES
Consciousness, for all its power and wonder, turns out to be but a blip on the screen of time, a Johnny-come-lately in the evolution of humankind. If all that we know about human history were reduced to a twenty-four hour day, consciousness, according to latest theories, only appeared in the last half of the last second. Which leaves the bulk of our history in the hands of our pre-conscious selves--which is to say, our genes.
Even so, because we now have the gift (curse?) of consciousness, we can, in addition to being ourselves, think about who-we-are. We can, with consciousness, conceive ourselves as well as be ourselves--and the two don't always match. Often our conceptions about who-we-are and the way we turn out to be don't correlate at all. Naturally, knowing more about our conscious notions than our non-conscious forces, we prefer to identify ourselves with who-we-think-we-are.
When we try to understand ourselves, we understandably begin with our conscious conceptions, who we think we are--our images of ourselves, who we try-to-be. Which, of course, is more often our good or even imagined best selves, with occasional, begrudging admissions of bad or less-than-best selves--all based on how we fit in with our local society, or don't. But good or bad, most attention is given to data which resides in consciousness--the Johnny-come-lately to the long human history which has been primarily directed by genes rather than conscious thoughts. (See chapter on History)
Which may also account for some of the puzzling discontinuities between our conscious images of ourselves and the ways we often act "without thinking"--such as: why men rape, why women spend so much time putting on makeup, why ex-husbands won't pay child support, why women take so much abuse without protesting, why men would rather hunt and women would rather shop, why men only "think about one thing" and women prefer not to mention it, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
Perhaps we can throw more light on such puzzles if we acknowledge ("let-on-to") our long genetic heritage, rather than trying to resolve such profound mysteries with only the fragile powers of consciousness. Statistics, surveys, interviews, inventories, "being reasonable"--all the tools of consciousness, while wonderful for scientific research on things, may be inherently flawed when we come to the subject of people with 23 hours, 59 minutes, 59.5 seconds of genetic direction and less than 1/2 second of conscious intent.
On that premise, the following speculations are based. I have come to believe that the connection between ourselves and our genes is vastly greater than that between ourselves and our conscious notions of who-we-are--that is, that we are directed far more by what is en-coded than by that which is reasoned-out. The popular picture of conscious-man in control of his body--of-genes in service of conscious-self, may be less accurate than the unpopular picture of body in control of conscious-man--of reason in service of genes.
My overwhelming data favors the unpopular picture. What we commonly call reason seems to more often be rationalization--ideas constructed to justify urges. First we desire; then we try to make what we want seem reasonable. Not, I regret to note, the other way around. And urges or desires are but the powers of our genes brought to the growing edge of consciousness. Most often we rationalize what we want; less commonly we want what we reasonably "should."
The observations which follow are about what is (as I see it), not about what is good or even what is practical. They are an effort to understand--to cast light on--puzzling aspects of human behavior, not to make ethical judgments about them. To observe is to see, not necessarily to approve or even condone what is seen. Good and evil, the ethics of these gender differences, is the subject of another study.
The possible connections I note between genes and current ways of acting are not intended to justify unsocial actions or problematic behavior. I am certainly not recommending or approving many of the behaviors I note. Control of anti-social behavior, or even change, seems, however, more likely "once we understand."
At best, social living--including all human relationships, is an adjustment, an adaptation. We are both individuals and social creatures. No man is an island..., but neither is any person a group member only; we are, I believe, both. We are also both animal and human; our evolutionary heritage includes much time in the jungle, less time in town or city. We are both unconscious and conscious--that is, most of what we "know" we have known for so long that it has become encoded, imbedded in our genes. This, we might say, is our animal or body knowledge, our genetic heritage.
A smaller part of ourselves is what we more commonly identify as human. Our "humanity" is closer to consciousness. We "know," in the conscious sense, more about our "thoughts" and "feelings"--those elements of who-we-are which are more subject to control and manipulation.
To summarize: we are, in the fuller sense of this existential word, both individual and social creatures (a-lone-ones and with-others-ones), both "animal" and "human," both unconscious and conscious. We all have both an immensely wealthy genetic heritage and a body of conscious, social knowledge. We know "in our bodies" as well as in our "hearts" and "minds." We "know," for example, how to breathe, digest food, and heal wounds, even if below the level of conscious thought.
Ideally, we affirm ourselves in each of these pairs of categories; we accept, honor, and adapt our genetic heritages--our "body knowledge" to our social communities--where "heart" and "mind" knowledge count more, without doing too great a violence to either. While appreciating the necessity, advantages, and requirements of society, we also acknowledge, utilize, and activate the powers of the jungle.
My premise here, growing from my experience, is that we do a better job of "fitting in" as productive members of society, as well as in personal relationships, when we recognize and consciously encounter these forces of nature embodied within us all. If not--when we try to ignore, deny, or repress them--two courses are predictable, each with dire consequences: inevitably we will act-them-out without benefit of either "heart" or "mind," feelings or reason, or else we will split ourselves in order to exist with our denials.
Society accepts both paths; but, either way, we, as persons, lose.
I note my ethical position here primarily to distinguish this attempt-to-understand from any moral judgment about the subjects brought into light. Again, I am writing about what I see, not about the ethics of my observations. For example, in noting that male genes are more likely to reflect in harems and that female genes are best served by monogamous relationships, I am not intending to favor polygamy or "fooling around."
But I am implying that if we do not understand and accept these primal instincts we are much more likely to act-them-out or split ourselves, creating "mental illness," than if we acknowledge and be reasonable about our genetic heritages in present society.
Although the subject of the book spans several major fields of study--biology, psychology, archeology, sociology, sociobiology, and, to a lessor degree, theology, I have attempted to avoid the jargon and technical language from each field and write for a mythical average-person reader. To do so, I have taken several liberties with language which have seemed useful in translating complex concepts into everyday speech.
These include the use of colloquialisms, such as "putting out"; coined combination words, like "feel-ability"; and, in a few instances, obscene words (e.g., "pussy"), where they have seemed necessary for my intended meanings. I have also used italics for implying a slightly unusual use of certain common words, such as acceptance and understanding.
Colloquialisms, of course, also risk misunderstanding because they tend to be common only in certain localities and can seldom be "looked up" in a dictionary. Also, those colloquialisms familiar to me may be unfamiliar to you. In either case, I have used quotation marks to imply colloquial usage of words and phrases, such as, "looked up."
My coined words and phrases, usually a combination of two or more familiar words, are hyphenated to imply the intended connection between the more familiar words--for instance, receive-ability and think-ability. Obscene words and phrases, like "doing it," have occasionally been chosen because their meaning is commonly understood more readily than "proper" language. Sometimes these are noted by using quotation marks as well as italics for the colloquialism.
Italics are also used for extended quotations from other sources which are included in the text. Small raised numbers within the text refer to footnotes or endnotes which are listed at the end of the book. Quotations, footnotes, and endnotes are followed by numbers which refer to the source which is noted in the BIBLIOGRAPHY--for example, (14, p 26). The first number (14) refers to the book or publication from which the quotation is drawn; "p" refers to the page number, page 26.
Many of the numerical quantifications given are subject to either variation in individual persons or debate by leading authorities--sometimes both. Rather than repeatedly noting that the number given is from a range which varies from person to person and time to time, or that scientific studies are yet to agree, I have chosen to pick an average figure and use it throughout the book.
For instance, the actual number of sperm in any given ejaculation may vary from zero to 500 million. Rather than noting this variation every time I refer to the subject, I have selected the number--400 million, which seems about average from the authorities I have studied. The Big Bang, commonly accepted by scientists today as the most plausible theory for earth's creation, was, if the theory is correct, sometime between 10 and 20 billion years ago. Fifteen billion is selected here as an average.
The entire manuscript is written from a global perspective, as though I were far above the world of specific men and women with all our unique individuality. I generalize grandly, ignoring the obvious fact that all we separate persons are wondrously different, not subject in the final analysis to the rather "gross" generalizations which I make. I write about men and women as though we were all the same--which obviously we are not. For every global observation (speculation?) which I make, a reader will likely be aware of many men and women who are certainly different. Exceptions to all the "rules" are appropriately well known.
I choose this global perspective, however, aware of the dangers and limitations of any such generalizations, so as to present my primary points as clearly and succinctly as possible. Of course our numerous exceptions are always present. Finally, there is no such creature as my mythical "average" male or female. Even so, this global perspective, if we remain aware of its limitations and inevitable exceptions, may be useful in making the type of "broad-brush" observations which are to be presented. If we get the "big picture," our individual places in it, including countless and wonderful variations on the central themes, may be even more appreciated. I hope so.
Whenever you as a reader feel inclined to rebel and say, "That's wrong; I'm not like that," or, "I know men and women who aren't as you say," then honor your observations. Recall though, that I am only writing about "gross generalizations." I take the global perspective in order to invite an overall look at our primal generalities.
Also, I have chosen a godly style of writing--making ex cathedra type pronouncements as though I were a god, knowing-for-sure that the things I say are absolutely true. I don't. I have chosen to write in this mode, however, for clarity and brevity. My godly statements do represent my clearest and "best" conclusions so far. Each declaration does present my current opinion based on my fullest available data to date. Even so, each such statement remains but one (mine) opinion only--certainly subject to differences of opinion by those who see from other perspectives or who have data not available to me, as well at to being absolutely wrong.
To remain completely clear, all of the observations I make, past scientifically established facts such as the number of chromosomes in human cells, should be preceded with: "In my opinion...," or, "As I see it..." However, such clarifying declarations, though honest, seem to me to belabor the text; so I omit them. I trust each reader to know that my godly style is for grammatical purposes only. Before each of my god-like statements, insert, in your mind's eye, my here-noted awareness of my biased limitations. Know, as you read, that while I write as though this is how it is, in fact, all that follows is simply how I see it so far. Actually I have had a difficult time concluding the study because each bit of new data I uncover seems to call for further shaping of my presentations.
Also the "scientific facts" which underlie the study are continually being revised and expanded, often changed, as new information is discovered almost daily. For example, just this month a new study by Danish researchers indicates that previous data about the number of sperm cells in an average male ejaculation is rapidly declining. My 400 million figure, used throughout the text, may now be closer to 180 million.
I shall, therefore, also trust readers to remain alert to the limitations of all my "scientific facts," which may be regularly corrected as new research in this fascinating arena of human existence continues.
For readers who may prefer the gist of a subject or generalization either before or instead of going into details, I have included a number of FAST TRACK summaries of the discussions which follow. These may be used to decide if a reader wants to know more about the subject, or as starters for group discussion about any given topic. FAST TRACK summaries are distinguished by the the shading plus different print type selected.
For those who may wish to know, my data for this study and the speculations which emerge from it are threefold: professional and personal experience, plus library review. Professionally I have been a counselor in private practice and an active minister for some thirty plus years. My bachelor's degree is in engineering, my master's degree in religion, and my doctorate in psychology and counseling. My private therapeutic practice, including individual, marital, and group counseling, has afforded me rich opportunities to explore with them the intimate lives of hundreds of men and women--some clients for over 20 continuous years in individual and group therapy.
The "privileged access" afforded ministers in our society for sharing intimate human experiences--such as baptism, marriage, sickness, daily crises, and death, has also been invaluable in allowing me glimpses into the "way-we-are" which are not often afforded others. Many of the clients in my private practice have also at times been parishioners in churches I have served. This unique experience of being able to preach to persons objectively from the pulpit on Sunday and then to receive their subjective responses in my office during the week has allowed me certain types of encounters and feedback often unavailable to those who stand in only one or the other of these positions.
Because I am male, females may properly question my right to speak as pointedly as I do here about "the female experience" in our society. How could I possibly know what being a woman is like? Of course they are correct in calling me to question. I chance the observations I make based on certain unique personal experiences afforded me as male. First, the encounters noted above: For a male in our society I have been richly privileged in the sharing of a large number of female clients and parishioners on levels not commonly revealed to other males.
I call also on my personal knowledge, gained from growing up with a mother and three sisters, then from a wife and four daughters (one son), and finally from a second wife and two step-daughters, plus two granddaughters (and five grandsons). They have all taught me much. Sometimes more than I ever wanted to know. In addition, my own therapy and analysis through many years have opened me to feminine components of myself which have also been unique teachers.
Finally though, I realize that my data may be skewed on the male side. I must trust female readers to recognize my bias, forgive me when possible for remaining remnants of male chauvinism I do not yet recognize, and make needed corrections within their own minds.
Before beginning I note also the risk of personal projection only. Perhaps I only project back into our cellular beginnings the data I observe in the here and now. Because the particular genes which I imagine to be at the basis of our present functioning as males and females--for instance the ones for hunting in males and shopping in females, have yet to be identified, it is of course possible that there are no such connections. Maybe society alone teaches us these gender divisions. However, they seem so universal as to make the case for nurture rather than nature seem to me to be unlikely.
It is also possible that my own observations are so unique or biased that I write of my own experience of myself only. Perhaps the book is only an extended personal statement projected onto genes. Even so, my confessions may be fun to read. If it turns out that there are no connections between our sex genes and our current selves, that my metaphors of Mr Sperm and Ms. Ovum have no literal basis, still these may be useful mirrors for observing some of our real differences now.
The human body is made up of about 50 trillion cells which carry out all the functions required for creating life and staying alive. Each of these cells contains a small "command post" from which its particular activities are directed. In the "command post" there are 46 "directors," technically called chromosomes. Each chromosome is in turn made up of thousands of smaller "sub-directors" called genes. The number of genes in each chromosome ranges up to perhaps 100,000. These genes are also composed of still smaller units (called nucleotides) which unite to form a long chain with the more familiar name of DNA.
Two of the millions of kinds of cells are called gamets or sex cells----individually, sperm and ovum. Also two of the 46 chromosomes in each of the cells in the body (with the exception of the sex cells which only have 23), are specifically related to gender. They are called X and Y. Females have two Xs in each cell; males have an X and a Y. Reproduction begins with the union of a male sperm cell and a female ovum cell.
Four other biological facts about human reproduction are relevant to this study: males, in order to do their part in conception must have an orgasm; females need not. Although orgasm is not essential for females, they are, unlike males, continually capable of repeatedly engaging in the sex act. Ovulation (the period of female fertility), is, however, necessary. The relevant fact here is that this fertile period is now hidden, especially to males. Also, after puberty, females have breasts and bodily shapes which are continually present and attractive to males.
Cells are the basic units of body. Like grains of sand making up a sandman, so cells are the fundamental parts of matter making up the human body. Unlike sand, however, cells come in a variety of shapes with many different functions. Some cells make blood; others make bones and skin, noses and brains. Some cells fight diseases, others heal wounds in the skin. Each cell reacts to stimuli, transforms nutrients into energy, grows, and reproduces. The main parts of the body, called organs are made of many different types of cells, each doing a particular job.
More specifically, cells make chemicals, change one substance to another, and divide to form new cells. Some, like skin cells, live for only a few weeks; others, such as those in nerves and bones, may be as old as the person who bears them. An average cell is about one-thirtieth of a millimeter across----too small to be seen without a microscope. The brain has about 50 billion nerve cells, each with a potential 25,000 interconnections with other nerve cells.
All cells can be divided into two groups: body or somatic cells, and sex cells called gametes. Body cells are for body building and repair; sex or "marrying cells" are for reproduction. Although the human body has millions of different kinds of cells, they all develop from a single cell formed from the union of two, called a sperm and an ovum.
At the heart of every cell is its control center, called the nucleus. Inside the nucleus of each cell there are 46 thread-like structures known as chromosomes. The name chromo-some comes from Latin words chromo, meaning color, and soma, meaning body. The structures got their name because they become visible if put in special dyes.
Forty-four of these chromosomes are primarily related to the functioning of the first group of body cells; the last two, labeled X and Y, are most influential in the second group, namely the sex cells. All cells, as noted above are developed from a single cell which is formed from the combination of one sperm and one ovum cell by a process called mitosis. This new cell divides into two new cells, each with a full set of 46 chromosomes----23 from the sperm, plus 23 from the ovum. These two then divide into four, and so on.
Like all cells, the gametes (sex cells) also begin with 46 chromosomes. However, as they develop into sperm and ova the chromosomes are pulled apart by a process called meiosis, leaving 23 in each. During this division, sections of two chromosomes, made up of genes (discussed next), may change places. Such shifts lead to new gene combinations in every sperm and ovum. Because of the way they are formed, every sperm and every ovum carry an independent set of genes which differs from those carried in every other sperm and ovum.
Theoretically a man and woman can each make 8 billion genetically different sperm or ova. Since chance (so far as we know) determines which sperm fertilizes which ovum, statistically speaking a man and woman have the capacity to produce 64 million genetically different offspring.
One of the 23 chromosomes in each ovum and sperm is the sex chromosome, labeled X if female and Y if male. The other 22 are non-sex chromosomes called autosomes. The ovum's one sex chromosome is always an X; a sperm's sex chromosome may be X or Y. Males produce about an equal number of X and Y sperm. If one of a male's sex chromosomes with an X fertilizes the ovum, a girl (with 2 X's) results; if a Y chromosome "wins," then the resulting infant is XY or male.
All humans, consequently, have 44 somatic or body chromosomes (autosomes) and 2 sex chromosomes in every cell of their bodies. Females ordinarily have two XX; males have one X and one Y.
Human chromosomes range in size from one to five micrometers long. X chromosomes are about three to five times larger than Y chromosomes. The Y chromosome is in the same size range as the two smallest of the other 22 non-sex chromosomes (autosomes).
Each chromosome contains thousands of genes. Estimates run from two up to 100,000 genes in each chromosome. The actual number is still unknown. If we think of the 46 chromosomes in every cell as the major "command units," genes are like generals which direct the working forces----armies and construction crews, throughout the body. The chromosomes in effect hold the power; the gene generals make things happen. They get the essential jobs done.
Genes themselves are made of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). Every human cell, with its thousands of genes, contains about 6 feet of DNA. Lined up, this would make about 17 billion miles of DNA in every body. The possibly 4 million genes in each cell make up, in pairs that control the same characteristic, the unique design of a person's heredity. Although we don't as yet know how they carry out their instructions, each cell has a complete set of blueprints for creating every structure in the human body and for performing every bodily function. Somehow, through the "messages" encoded in DNA (genes and chromosomes), cells "know" how to make us what we are and to direct us in much that we do. So far, scientists have identified more than 1500 traits that are initiated by single genes.
X chromosomes carry a full complement of genes. Red-green color blindness, for example, was the first gene to be connected to the X chromosome in 1911. By 1984, over 200 X-linked genes were known. In contrast, the relatively small Y chromosomes carry few if any genes other than those which cause an individual to develop as male instead of female. One scientist notes:
The Y chromosome is the most specialized of mammalian chromosomes being involved almost exclusively in controlling primary sex determination and fertility (21, 80).
Whereas X chromosomes contain genes in proportion to their length, Y chromosomes are relatively empty.
X is large and active genetically...Y is small and largely inert (17, p 113).
Because roughly 50% of all sperm are X chromosome bearers, it would seem that half of the ova fertilized would be fertilized with an X bearing chromosome, consequently to become female. Not so. Y bearing sperm "win" between 120-150 times for every 100 "wins" by an X bearing sperm.
Although genetic sex (XX or XY chromosome connections) is determined at the instant of fertilization, the genes of these chromosomes apparently do not begin operation until the fifth or sixth week of life. Prior to that time, all embryos, bodily speaking, are female. If male hormones (androgens) do not appear at that time, the primitive sex organs develop as female. No additional hormones are required for female development. Thus the basic plan or primal sex is female. We all, as it were, begin as female; with the addition of a Y chromosome at first, and androgen hormones later, some of us turn into males.
A comparison of the chromosomes of man with those of our closest animal relatives----the chimpanzee, gorilla, and orangutan----shows that 99 percent of the chromosome bands are shared by the four groups; thus these chromosomes have retained their identity for more than 20 million years, and many of them for considerably longer. A number of chromosomes in man and the great apes are identical. The most conservative of these chromosomes is the X, which has not changed in morphology, at least between monkey and man. Its gene content is assumed to have remained the same throughout mammalian development, or for some 125 million years (12, p 5).
SPERM AND OVUM CELLS
Because our primary interest here is with the sex cells rather than the body cells, plus the chromosomes and genes which comprise them, we turn now to consider them in more detail.
Sperm cells are tiny, in fact, by far the smallest in the body; 100,000 of them, packed together would hardly be visible to the human eye. They are formed like young tadpoles, miniature fish with tiny heads and long tails for navigating them along. From one end to the other they average about 50-60 micrometers (millionths of a meter) long; lying down, as they swim, the head of each is only about 5 micrometers long and 3 high, with a tail some 55 micrometers long. If sperm heads were lined up, it would take about 2,500 to cover the period at the end of this sentence.
As noted above, a male sperm may contain either an X or a Y chromosome; sperm with an X chromosome have more mass than their Y bearing counterparts. X bearers have larger, oval-shaped heads, while those with Y chromosomes have smaller, more pointed heads but have longer tails.
An ovum cell, in contrast, is enormous, in fact one of the largest cells in the body, visible to the naked eye--from 100 to 150 micrometers in diameter, a tenth of a millimeter across (about half the diameter of the period which follows). Unlike sperm which are mostly all head, ova are huge and round. A single ovum cell, if empty, would be able to contain about 250,000 sperm. Because each ova cell contains two X chromosomes which are larger than Y's and contain more genes, females end up with 4 percent more DNA at their disposal than do males.
The ova required to produce the total world population (5 billion) would take about 4 quart jars to hold; the necessary number of sperm would take less space than an aspirin tablet. The sperm required for the estimated 100 billion humans to have yet been born in the 100,000 years of human history could have been stored in a pecan.
The smaller sperm are mainly made of a nucleus which contain the chromosomes which carry hereditary particles, the genes. The vastly larger ovum contains both a nucleus and the nutriment necessary for feeding a fertilized egg (a viscous fluid called cytoplasm).
Male sperm production is truly amazing (at least to us men). The sperm factory in each male testicle contains several hundred yards of tubes which, on average, crank out about 3,000 sperm every second. This adds up to 100,000 per minute, 6 million an hour, and some 8 trillion during an average male's lifetime.
During a male's monthly production of about 15 billion sperm, his female counterpart is releasing only one ovum. During her reproductive life, while he is making trillions of sperm, she produces a maximum of only 400 eggs. Usually, depending on pregnancies and other factors, the average number is closer to 40 than to 400.
Although our metaphored Mr. Sperm-maker is constantly producing new sperm, Ms. Ovum-maker is born with her complete supply. By the sixth month of pregnancy the ovaries of a female fetus contain 6 million potential egg cells. By birth the number has been reduced to about half a million oocytes (potential eggs) in each ovary. At puberty the number is down to about 100,000, one of which develops into a full grown ovum each month, beginning at puberty.
These oocytes can lie dormant in ovaries for many years----as long as 50, but are ripe for only about 12 hours. If not fertilized during this brief period, they pass out in menstrual flow. Sperm life is longer----on average 24-48 hours; but sometimes a sperm may remain alive for up to seven days in the female reproductive tract.
Comparing the two: an average male makes more sperm every one tenth of a second than the number of ova an average female produces in her whole lifetime. Although ova are "given" when a female is born, male testes are in constant production, regardless of a man's sex life. Sperm not ejaculated, dissolve.
It takes about two months for newly created sperm to mature and wind their way through the 750 feet of tubes in the testicles and reach a waiting area called the epididymis. Still the cells are not mobile and must remain there for at least 18 hours before they are ready for their race. During intercourse, the next event to be described, sperm travel through a long tube called the vas deferens to the urethra, where the reproductive and urinary tracts join, emptying through the penis----a distance of about 50 centimeters.
In the female, a maturing ovum is released from one of the ovaries every 28 days. Once released, it is swept along by the beating of cilia (grass-like fibers), into the fallopian tubes. Smooth muscles lining these ducts contract rhythmically, moving the ovum along its slow, three day journey. Languishing somewhere along this path, the ovum waits for some victorious sperm. The distance an ovum must travel before meeting a sperm is about 2 or 3 centimeters (appx. one inch).
In an average male ejaculation of about a quarter-ounce--3-5 ml--of semen, there are some 400,000,000 sperm. These competing swimmers must roller-coaster about 20 inches through the vas deferens and urethra before reaching the female vagina and cervix. To survive the thrust and swim they must be tough. They are catapulted forward at speeds of up to 2,285 miles per hour (200 inches/second), undergoing intense shearing forces that can rip them apart.
Once out of the male, sperm travel about a tenth of an inch per minute. Upon reaching the cervix (entrance to womb), they face the challenge of female cervical mucus, a dense curtain which blankets the entrance to the uterus. Within 10 minutes of landing at the cervix many thousands of sperm speed toward the egg tubes at the far end of the uterus (about 7.6 centimeters or three inches long), usually about a 27 minute swim.
These fallopian tubes, only one of which may or may not contain an ovum, are about 4 inches long and require up to 40 minutes to navigate. Typically from 200-2,000 sperm complete the one hour swim to possibly reach a single ovum. Some 20,000 tail lashings are required to make the entire swim. If no ovum is present, as will normally be true at the end of the vast proportion of such swims, a sperm may remain alive in the female reproductive tract for up to seven days.
When an ovum does happen to be waiting in a fallopian tube, she is not entirely passive during this process. In fact, she does all she can to encourage the sperm by sending alluring chemical cues.
Although many sperm may reach their goal within an hour, they are not yet ready for union with the ovum. A period of 7 to 11 hours, called capacitation (activating-the-capacity), in the female tract is yet required. The female takes an active role in this process.
First a bath of glucose gives the sperm a new burst of energy. Other substances in the uterus wipe a layer of proteins off sperm heads. This process...prepares them to fire their penetrating enzymes (13, p 52).
After this activation they become even more mobile, ready for penetrating the two outer layers of the ovum, which will require about 3 more hours. But first, the "dance."
Once activated sperm are in contact with an ovum, they will often rotate the ovum, always clockwise, as rapidly as 360 degrees in 15 seconds, for as long as 20-30 hours. Even though many sperm may arrive, be capacitated, and "dance with" the ovum, only one will "be selected." The others soon face death along with the remaining millions of losers. Selection is followed by penetration, the entrance of the sperm into the ovum.
Once a sperm has bored its way in and been encompassed by the ovum, setting the stage for conception, the ovum then releases her own enzymes that detach any other sperm. She, as it were, slams shut to all further intruders. After penetration, following the ten hours required for getting ready, plus the long "dance," union normally takes about three more hours before the first cell division can be started. During this union, the 23 chromosomes in the head of the victorious sperm begin uniting with the 23 chromosomes contained in the ovum. The "wedding," we might say, "is consummated."
Some 30 hours are then required for the first division into two cells, then 30 hours more for the second multiplication into four; another week passes before 100 divisions are reached. Some 44 more divisions will be made by birth, making a total of about 200 billion cells. By adulthood four more divisions will have increased the number to 50 trillion cells.
At conception the new cell, formed from the union of the sperm and ovum, weighs about fifteen 10-millionths of a gram. A seven pound baby (3,175 grams) will have increased its weight 2 billion times; by adulthood, 50 billion times. If an ovum were the size of a hen's egg (about 2 ounces), the comparable human would weigh 33,000 tons.
In all sexual species the female harbors the eggs with which she is endowed at birth. These eggs, in humans, are passed out on average about every 28 days from the age of 12-16 until 40-50, and are only fertilizable for about a day. Meanwhile the male is endowed with sperm-forming organs which go in production at puberty and continue to make active sperm until age 80 and beyond. Also in contrast to the ovum's one day per month time of fertility, sperm are capable of fertilizing an ovum at any time----24 hours a day, seven days a week, any week of the month.
The female, consequently, has a much shorter reproductive life, both during each month as well as during her life time----one day/month, 35 years maximum. In addition, each conception requires, for her, nine more months for delivery, plus several years for child rearing. For the species to be perpetuated, she must be preserved for at least seven or eight months. The male, in sharp contrast, is only necessary for the few minutes it takes to initiate the extended process. Ideally he will "be around helping"; in reality, however, the human race can continue if he dies immediately, even before fertilization has occurred.
Fortunately, for world population at least, most all sperm do die. Our mythical average male, Mr. Sperm-spreader, with his 18 quarts of seminal fluid, could theoretically father about 500 times the number of people now living on our planet. Luckily, in only about one of every 288 ejaculations does any winner succeed in being accepted by an ovum. Most of the time they all die. (47, p 10)
Males, to best accomplish their role in the Drama of Conception, must have an orgasm. Ejaculation, for effectiveness, requires rapid expulsion of the hoards of sperm ready for each race to the ovum. Although females may assist in the reception of sperm by a simultaneous orgasm, their's is by no means necessary. The power of a male orgasm combined with the mobility of sperm themselves is usually sufficient in getting some lucky swimming racer to a waiting ovum. This means that females are fully capable of performing their role in the fertilization phase of reproduction without personal initiative--certainly without having an orgasm. Sperm may even be implanted, as in rape, against a female's will.
Ideally, the event of fertilization is a mutual decision, with equal pleasure for both partners. However, it need be pleasurable for the male only. Females may have an orgasm; males must.
This difference in the necessity of orgasm in order to participate in reproduction reflects in another biological fact which will become relevant in later understanding: continuous capability. Since females can have intercourse without having to have an orgasm, the sex act can be passive participation in a physical event, completely separate from reproduction. Females can, as it were, "do it" whenever, with whomever, for whatever reason, and, relatively speaking, as often as they choose--all this with minimal expenditure of energy and certainly without an orgasm or ovum present.
Whereas a male must produce hundreds of millions of sperm for each of his sex events, his female counterpart can fake the whole act. Neither ovum nor orgasm or even B.T.U.'s of energy are required for her. This female phenomenon, which is in sharp contrast with male necessity, has been called continuous receptivity by biologists. The nature of the act itself, plus construction of the female body, allow a woman to be continuously capable of receiving the sperm of males.
Since no physical production is required, not even a single ovum, she can also engage in repeated sexual acts with one or more males. Males often act as though they are continuously ready; this, however, is mostly an act, literally. The physical necessity of sperm production, combined with the essential orgasm and all its concomitant physical and emotional requirements, leaves any male relatively impotent in comparison with any female when it comes to the sex act itself.
He may pretend to be continuously capable; she actually is.
In other species ovulation (the time when an ovum is available for fertilization) is obvious. Our nearest animal relatives, the chimpanzees, ovulate with colorful display and obvious genital swelling. Estrus or "heat" is evident in dogs and most other animals whenever the female ovum is ready for fertilization. In fact, sexual activity in species other than our own is commonly limited to that brief period of time when an ovum is ripe.
Not so with Homo sapiens. Estrus has gone underground. Ovulation, of course, continues; but its time has now become a secret. Men never know, unless they are told, when a woman ovulates. Male sexual activity, past chimpanzees, is literally a "shot in the dark." Perhaps a ripe ovum will be present; perhaps not. Most often not. And even when one is there, when ovulation is in process, the Sperm-spreaders, so far as we know, don't know. Often, we are told, even the ovulating female herself does not know.
Cryptic ovulation, it has been called by biologists. At this point in evolutionary history, a woman's fertile period is, if known at all, her own secret. She can easily pretend to be a candidate for a role in the Drama of Conception when no ovum is ready to go on stage--or vice versa. When she is most fertile, she can blithely decline all invitations to receive sperm. Continuous capacity combined with concealed ovulation place females in a position of power in contrast with males and their limited capacity and ignorance of proper timing (more about this later).
In all other species relying on sex for reproduction, mammaries are, so far as we know, functional milk-producing glands only. They swell with milk when infants are present to be fed, and shrink when no longer needed. Male apes, as best we can tell, could care less.
Again, not so with Homo sapiens. Human females have developed (as though this is not common knowledge) what anthropologists have called perennially pendulous breasts. With the onset of puberty, whether or not infants are present, females grow breasts which are both obvious and----and this is the point here, attractive to males.
Combined with the evolved swell of pelvis and softness of flesh, ever-present breasts place the human female in possession of reproductive equipment which is continuously attractive to males of our species. The ovum's bearer, gifted with marvels of evolution, inherently possesses powers of attraction in her body alone. Probably nothing is more inherently appealing to the genetic eyes of males than the female body with its breasts and various other wonders.
These four biological facts: male necessity of orgasm, female continuous capability, cryptic ovulation, and breasts, though obvious without reference here, are noted because each will become relevant later when we turn to look for understanding in how we presently act as men and women.
...four thousand diseases are already known to be linked to our genes. (32, p 68)
Gene size is so small that no one has ever seen one. They are estimated to range between 4 and 50 millimicrons in diameter. Their power, even so, is immense. As yet, we know very little about how genes cause or influence things to happen--for example, how they make an eye green rather than blue or cause a neutral gonad to turn into a testicle rather than an ovary, or, for that matter, how they make two feet and only one nose. But we do know much about what they do, and that they are powerful forces in shaping who-we-are.
For an overall picture of gene powers we may begin with the chromosomes themselves, the bodies which are made up of genes. Recall that there are 46 chromosomes in every human cell; of these, 44 are autosomes (body or non-sex) and two are sex chromosomes. Forty-four out of 46 of these gene-collections are, in general terms, about body-making; two out of 46 are about reproduction or adaptation. Forty-four of the chromosomes in each cell "strive," we might say, to make and keep the body alive; two "try" to reproduce the entire body--to make other bodies like the first one, except, hopefully, better adapted to the environment in which they find themselves.
Broadly speaking, the first 44 chromosomes have the agenda of self-survival, the last two are scripted for self-extension. Together they function to keep us alive as individuals and as a species of individuals. The powers of the first 44 are given to making bones and blood, nerves and muscles, plus fighting non-human cells called "infections"--that is, to creating and sustaining all that exists within our individual skins, including skin itself. The last two pick up where the first 44 stop; they strive to make us reproduce our entire bodies--skin and bones, plus all in between.
In colloquial language, the 44 are about "being selfish"--taking care of Number One, staying alive and enhancing our stay, the "will to live," putting ourselves first; the last two are about "being sexy"--doing that which results in making more of us, man/woman business, "making babies" and rearing them.
Historically speaking (see Chapter on HISTORY), the first 44 have had much longer to evolve and develop themselves. If life began, as best we can now tell, about 2.5 billion years ago, and sex was "invented" 600 million years ago, then reproduction by cloning (without sex chromosomes) has had 1,900,000,000 years longer to practice its arts. Sexual reproduction is only a fourth as old as non-sexual reproduction. We should reasonably then be better at staying alive than at "making love."
These last two chromosomes which introduced adaptation to the drama of life-extension irrevocably changed the static nature of life forms. Hence forth, at least for those creations gifted with X and Y chromosomes, life would never be exactly the same again--at least, for long. Before sex, when only cloning was possible, life forms, such as amoeba, could not change and adapt to shifting environments. Each new generation was simply a carbon copy of the old one.
But when meiosis was added to mitosis (cells reducing their chromosomes so as to reconnect with other different cells before they reproduced), when sex began, suddenly adaptation became possible. Life forms could not only reproduce themselves, they could adapt to changing environments through reproduction. Not only could they change--grow bigger and "eat" more substances, they could, so to speak, "get smarter." The seeds of the big brain--the 1/4 inch of cortex, the possibility of consciousness, with the knowledge of time and death, were sown when those first X and Y chromosomes appeared on the stage of history.
Prior to that time, lawlessness reigned in the primordial soup in which cloning cells reproduced for eons; but with meiosis and therefore sex, the first law of the jungle appeared along with the first X and Y chromosomes: survival of the fittest. Suddenly (in evolutionary time) those chromosomes which had evolved for 1.9 billion years were joined by two small but powerful new-comers who would change the face of history forever. With the advent of sex, the world would never be the same again--at least for people who would eventually appear.
Skipping a large chunk of time while evolution moved from bacteria to people (from cloning to sex) and the law of the jungle was the only law, the autosomes--body chromosomes, climbed, with the help of the last two Johnny-come-latelys, to number 44. And 44 wonderfully effective ones at that! So here we are today, after 2.5 billion years of genetic practice, with 44 powerful chromosomes aimed at keeping our bodies alive, plus two more, focused on keeping the law of the jungle--seeing that the fittest of us survive.
All this to note that gene powers, insofar as we humans are concerned, are roughly divided into two major categories: 44 autosomes and 2 sex chromosomes; 44 batches of genes aimed at staying-alive regardless of anything--total "selfishness" we might say, plus 2 more smaller batches focused on making-more of us, while adapting in the process--"sexiness" we could call it, or, "making babies."
Mathematically speaking, 44 to 2 is 96% to 4%--that is, most of our chromosomes are concerned with keeping us alive as individuals. Once any sperm and ovum cells connect, uniting their 23 separate sets of chromosomes, 96% of the "commanding generals" in each of their speedily reproducing new cells are busily seeing that this single new life stays alive as long as possible. "Survive, survive, survive," they unite to "command" at every second. "Nothing else matters," they say to whomever may listen, "but that we keep on living." "No matter how good or how bad things get, breathe on, breathe on."
Meanwhile, the remaining 4% of the new chromosomes, after about 12 or 14 years to develop, start doing their best to demand attention to their own private agendas: "Make more, make more, make more," they cry out: "We want babies!" Knowing the jungle law also, they add, "...and make better ones while you're at it."
To the older and more powerful voices of survival-as-oneself, they bring newer sexual knowledge about adaptation, extending and improving the overall lot of us--survival-as-ourselves. "Survival of the species," it is misleadingly called, as though we separate creatures had some inherited concern for our overall race. I think not. Sex is not a benevolent caring about species more than self, but rather about the extension of oneself through time, about genetic immortality--keeping our own private version of life alive--not simply our race, but ourselves, at least our gendered selves, our own personal gene combinations.
These last 2 chromosomes, I think, have come as an addition to the first 44, for extending our overall tenure--for the continuation of me-and-mine, not as a higher concern for species-in-general. Benevolence, I believe, is now possible as the latest stage in evolution; but "love" has barely made it to the gene level of existence which only recently--in the big picture of time--made it to the "making love" level.
In summary: gene powers, collected into chromosomes, are, in an overall sense, concerned with two major issues, and only two. Genes drive us to survive and reproduce ourselves, to stay-alive and to make-babies, plus better-babies. Colloquially speaking, genes are concerned with "selfishness" and "sex."
The proportions of their respective powers seem to me to be in line with their numerical status: 96% of gene power directed toward staying-alive, and 4% toward making-babies. Once the 23 male and the 23 female chromosomes are wedded, the first 44 in each new cell, whether in a male or female body, are relatively the same; only the last two–XX or XY–are appreciably different. Although our gender differences, largely initiated by the X and Y chromosomes, are considerable, the other 96% of our genes are comparable. This means that males and females, while different in very significant ways, are far more alike than we are different.
Ninety-six %, perhaps, we are alike; 4% we are different. This amazing 4%, however, which is our subject in this book, is notable, powerful, and obvious. Though small in comparison with the wealth of our similar genes, these gender differences emerging from the X and Y chromosomes, become the source, I believe, of our grandest pleasures but also of our greatest conflicts. Ideally speaking, Vive la difference; but meanwhile, "back at the ranch" where we spend most of our time, these lively differences which bring adaptation to the human species often become the source of considerable misery in our daily lives as we attempt to live together positively.
Because we are usually more aware of the forces of the 4% than of the 96% which quietly and unconsciously go about their body-making business, these smaller sexual powers tend to get the lion's share of attention. Though sexual genes are obviously in the minority and are less important than body genes (Who wants to make love when she has a stomach ache?), they are often, as a group, a very vocal minority.
It is their sometimes deceptively loud voice which often brings great conflict to our otherwise peaceful cross-gender relationships which is our concern in this book. The likenesses inherent in our 96% similarities seldom seem as relevant as the conflicts emerging from our 4% difference.
Which brings us to consider the subject relevant to this study: the gene powers inherent in the last two chromosomes which initiate the grand differences between men and women. We are concerned here, not with the 44 which are similar, but with the two which are different.
For clarity's sake, I note that my focus is on genes as one phase of an extended and connected process. I could have chosen neucletides or DNA, the components of genes, or chromosomes, cells, organs, or hormones, which are made from or initiated by genes. Literally, gene is only a name of a phase, rather than a distinctive, powerful, self-contained entity. For example, male gender distinctions are initiated by genes on the Y chromosome. We could also say, by DNA which codes for proteins which the genes form.
Actually, genes are not discrete entities, but rather primal, identifiable phases in a connected process called life. I pick them not so much because they are the dictating culprits, but because we need nouns to speak of the living process, and genes lend themselves more readily than the extended DNA of which they are comprised.
Once testes are formed, initiated by genes on the Y chromosome when it is present, hormones which are produced by the testicles, become the chief agent of differentiation between the genders. Consequently, we could focus our study on hormones rather than genes with equal biological basis. However, we must begin somewhere; I have chosen to use genes as both my fact and metaphor.
Although most of the facts presented as a basis for possible reflection in men and women are related here to genes rather than DNA, chromosomes, organs, or hormones, their metaphorical use should be kept in mind. While focusing on genes as though they were the only part of the life process, remember that the larger metaphor could be body itself.
Summarizing: gene powers, subdivided into those about body-making (44 chromosomes) and powers about baby-making (two chromosomes), make up a large percent of all human motivation. Gene powers, though largely "silent," are immense. They "speak," even without voices, loudly. And they are present in every one of the 50 trillion cells comprising our individual bodies; the 44 autosomes and the two sex chromosomes are there in each one. It remains a mystery as to why/how a particular gene becomes active in one cell and inactive in another. For example, a blood-making cell has the same chromosomes and genes (DNA) as a bone-making cell; but in the blood cell certain genes are activated, others left inert.
However they do it, they do it; that much we do know. And while doing so, the XX or XY chromosomes with their differing component genes are also present in every single cell of the body, influencing, we may suppose, their 44 neighbors in their specific bodily tasks. Somehow--we don't know how, these Johnny-come-lately chromosomes seem to exert their contrasting powers over their older neighbors in ways which become evident to us all.
Or so goes the premise of this book.
Genes, so far as we know, have no eyes. They work is ways which are still largely unknown to us. Whatever the actual ways genes "cause" us to act may be, we can use human functions to metaphor them. I choose eyes as my working metaphor. Let's pretend that genes can "see," that they work through vision. Whatever the actual way (chemical or electrical, for instance) a sperm may be "impelled" toward an ovum, we can think of it as "looking." Using "eyes" metaphorically, we may think of Mr. Sperm as "looking for" Ms. Ovum, who in turn is "looking for" the best Mr. Sperm available. Gene "eyes," we may say, "search for" that toward which genes are drawn.
We could use ears as another metaphor--as though genes were "listening for" what they are evolved to "hear." Our personified Mr. Sperm, in this metaphor, would be "on the listen" for Ms. Ovum. Ms. Ovum would in turn "perk up her ears" to "hear" the best Mr. Sperm. Any sense metaphor will have its particular advantages and disadvantages. I choose eyes rather than ears because we are more accustomed to think in these terms.
Gene eyes then, is my chosen metaphor for what genes "look for"--the perceivable results of what they "make us seek." The first and most important thing to realize about gene eyes is that they function "non-sciously," that is, below the level of consciousness. There is no inherent connection between the inclinations of gene eyes and personal awareness. They search for what they are evolved to seek, without any conscious direction required.
In fact, they are often at odds with social propriety and the ways we like to think of ourselves. Even when "we"--as we conceive ourselves, "don't want to look for" what gene eyes are drawn to see, still they "look for" what they want to. They function "non-sciously" (without-consciousness).
Usually we can observe gene eyes at work in other persons more easily than in ourselves; we see our friend's natural inclinations clearer than we do our own because we are not concerned with protecting their image of themselves. As personal honesty increases, however, the basic quests of human gene eyes which I describe here will predictably appear within our own selves. As members of the human species, with commonly shared genes, we are all directed by the "wisdom" of 600 million years of evolution to "look for" the same things.
HOW GENES "TALK"
With millions of years practice what they do, gene powers--however they function, have become "encoded" or "written into our scripts." They do their complex jobs efficiently and consistently without any conscious direction whatsoever. For example, they make 200 billion red blood cells every day without "us" even having to think about how to do it. They fight off non-human cells, such as viruses, without any command; they begin immediately to heal the tiniest cut, often before we are aware of pain. All this, plus much, much more.
Gene powers have been variously named instincts, drives, impulses, predispositions, urges, or inclinations. Most gene power exists in instinctive bodily forces or drives, below the level of consciousness--of "feeling" or "thought." If we summarize humanity in three categories, body, heart, and mind, we may think of genes as most active in the first category, "feelings" in the second, and "thinking" in the third. "Instincts" or gene powers are in our bodies, "emotions" are in our hearts, and "thoughts" are related to our minds.
The relevant issue here is that the genetic forces of body underlie and exist in, but are more primal than the later evolved human capacities for "feeling" and "thinking"--heart and mind. (Actually, emotions and thoughts are also genetically based capacities--but more about this later.)
Genes, we might say, "have a mind of their own." Ideally, body, heart, and mind--the older genes of body and younger genes for heart and mind--function harmoniously, the latter two serving primarily as extensions of the former. Unfortunately such ideals seem rare; often in society, heart and mind try to declare their independence from body and exist as though it (body) were an enemy. Still, the powers of genes, posited in body, remain primary. If heart and mind are in sync, so much the better; but if not, body genes go right along on their own, all "feelings" and "thoughts" to the contrary.
Which is understandable when we consider that body genes have an unfair head start on mind genes or consciousness. They, after all, were "born" at least 600 million years ago; some, perhaps as long as 2.5 billion years ago. Consciousness, on the other hand, is the Johnny-come-lately on the evolutionary scale--arising, as some anthropologists suggest, only about 10,000 years ago. This means that the cells for sex have had up to 120,000 times as long to establish their priorities than have "we" as conscious humans. If the whole evolutionary clock (as noted previously) were reduced to a 24 hours day, consciousness only appeared in the last half of the last second. The wisdom of the ages works through our genes with no conscious "thought" at all.
Because bodily gene forces work below the level of consciousness, without any essential connection with awareness, and because we so easily conceive ourselves within the scope of our conscious images of who-we-are, we can "forget" the immense powers of our genetic heritage.
Although we easily "think" (consciously, which is how "thinking" works) of ourselves, us, as being in charge of "our" bodies (genes), we might more accurately think of body as the more powerful, or that our genes are in charge of "us." Instead of heart and mind using body as slave, we may be closer to truth if we think of the reverse, namely, of body (genes) in charge, and heart and mind as its servants.
The primary point here is to note that most of the powerful embodied forces of genes exist and function independently of consciousness. No matter who we "think we are" or "feel that we are"--no matter how we consciously identify ourselves, still gene powers go right ahead functioning with their DNA-encoded directives implanted in the nucleus of every one of the 50 trillion cells in our bodies.
That they work without our conscious help or direction does not mean that we cannot "know" or be aware of much that they do. We can. For instance, every cell requires nutrients which genes seek on their own; we may become aware of their search through "feeling thirsty and hungry." "Thirst" and "hunger" are conscious clues of genes doing their work. They, we might say, "drive us to drink" or to "take time to eat."
The most common names for genetic forces becoming conscious are wants and feelings. When we acknowledge a want, such as, "I want a drink of water," or, "I want to touch you," we are usually testifying to an innate genetic "instinct" coming into the realm of consciousness. Many such instincts (genetic forces), of course, go right ahead functioning without any conscious knowledge on our part.
The genes in skin cells, for example, cause them to reproduce regularly; most skin cells live only a few weeks and are then replaced without our ever "knowing" it, except when we see "dust" in the house, which is often dead skin floating about. The same is true with genes for making bones and blood, digesting food, etc. They work without our "knowledge."
Feelings are a second name commonly used for what is literally genetic inclination becoming conscious. "I feel uncomfortable," for instance, is often an acknowledgment of a genetic force or "message" to move to a warmer or cooler place. "I feel good," after a satisfying meal, may be a conscious testimony to genetic comfort. "I feel like moving my leg" may be a verbal expression of genetic discomfort. Most primally, such feelings are only twofold--"good" or "bad," "like" or "dislike," "pleasure" or "pain."
As these basic bits of genetic knowledge become more conscious, we may think of them as "emotions" (literally, e-motions, or motion-makers). Four such feelings or emotions are primary: glad and sad, mad and scared. We are gene-directed to "feel glad" (also called good, happy, satisfied, etc.) when genes get what they want--such as, air, food, water, and temperature which fits their range of adaptability. After a meal, for example, we may become aware of genes when we say, "I'm glad I ate; I feel satisfied."
Or, whenever genes "lose" what they "want," we may "feel sad." Feelings of sadness or sorrow often express a bodily awareness of loss. Mad or anger may be a genetic reaction to what is perceived as bodily harm, at least an expression of conscious awareness of such gene knowledge. Or, fear--"I feel afraid," may be a genetic foreboding of some impending threat to personal well-being.
The point is: wants and feelings (desires and emotions) are the most familiar "voices" of our genetic knowledge, the forces at work in the genes in every cell in our bodies. On the personal level, genetic drives are best realized in consciousness through awareness of wants ("I want what I want when I want it") and "feelings" (urges to action which are not based on logic or reasoning). Genes '"talk" in "hearable" ways through our desires and emotions.
To further distinguish the powers of genes, I digress briefly to note two other major sources of human motivation which often stand in contrast to genetic powers: early training and conscious decision.
By early training I refer to personal experiences occurring in the earliest stages of human life--from embryo up to about age three, especially from birth to speech time. Each person emerges into a particular context, a family setting with its unique patterns, rules, ways of coping, feeling, and thinking. Adaptation is essential for survival. Though primarily directed by genes, we humans have considerable flexibility, given our large number of brain cells. Cleverly we who survive learn how to adjust to our parents and surroundings in ways which maximize our benefits and minimize our pains.
Most of these "lessons" are learned before the time of conscious talk. The tender "twig" of a child "is bent" by its circumstances and capacities for bending, long before it becomes capable of speech and conscious reason. As the twig is bent, the tree's inclined, goes an old saying. The power of these early "bendings" is immense in motivating human action throughout later life.
Foremost among these early powers to which a child must learn to adapt in order to survive well are: mother's ways and rules, father's pleasures and quirks, presence of siblings, and life resources available in the immediate situations of a child's existence--food, freedom, warmth, care, and discipline. From these, plus many other, influences every child "learns" his or her first "commandments of life," the rules for living which are likely to "bend" his or her personal existence from that time forth.
Examples of such first commandments often directing large portions of later life decisions are: Thou shalt not displease thy mother (or later representatives of her); Thou shalt not cause trouble or make waves; Thou shalt not upset thy father (or authorities who follow him); Thou shalt not "talk back" (or think for yourself, or trust your senses, or get angry, or be sexual, or be selfish, or, if a girl, sit with your legs uncrossed, or be smarter than a boy; or, if a boy, be afraid or cry). What "they" think is supremely important; what you think doesn't matter. Etc. Etc.
Once these early "learnings" are ingrained, usually before conscious reasoning becomes possible, we tend to live the remainder of our lives subconsciously dictated by them. Without conscious thought, even in contradiction to later reasoning, we may abide by our early commandments. The illogical premise, Step on a crack, break your mother's back, often remains a powerful force throughout childhood and adult life.
As the twig is bent....
Whatever our particular versions of these family commandments which always precede the later ten religious ones, plus all other formal education, our pre-school "education in the school of hard knocks," even before kindergarten, motivates much of all that we later do.
Commonly these "bendings" of us as "tender twigs" are in direct contradiction to the inclinations of our genes. For example, the 44 out of 46 chromosomes in every cell of our bodies which incline us to "selfishly" take care of ourselves often find themselves in the presence of an early family commandment which says, Thou shalt not be selfish. Urges from the last two chromosomes in each cell toward "being sexual" are commonly in a family context which condemns any overt sexual behavior, often even sexual feelings.
But whether in conflict or harmony, these two components of everyone's human experience--genes and early training, are powerful motivators of all later choices in life.
The third main source of human motivation is conscious choice. Even when "first commandments" are to the contrary, as they often are, we all have a limited capacity for "being reasonable," for "thinking for ourselves." In addition to the inclinations from our genes and the directives from our early experiences, we as humans are gifted with a measure of "think-ability." We can weigh data from our uniquely individual perspectives, draw conclusions based on personal experience, and consciously choose which path to follow--at least to some extent.
Consciousness--the basis for conscious choice--is, of course, like all other human capacities, genetically based. Genes are the directive source of all that we are and can be. Consciousness, like all else that we are, has evolved as an adaptation of our primal genetic materials, as one more form through which our ever-creative genes may effect their primal purposes. Like all other human capacities, consciousness is genetically bounded; yet through this evolved possibility conscious choice enters the human scene to some extent.
The question is: To what extent? How much room is there for conscious choice which is always in the context both of genes and early training? The answer, of course, is still unknown. For centuries we have known more about our conscious selves--our reasoned choices, than about these other sources of motivation. We are just beginning to unravel the vast powers which genes hold. We didn't even know how many chromosomes were in each human cell until 1956.
Psychoanalysis, within the twentieth century, has confronted us with unsettling data about the power of unconscious motivations.
The jury is still out on how these three major sources of human power rank with each other. Historically, in the absence of genetic information and knowledge about the unconscious mind, we have popularly elevated conscious choice--"will power," to the throne as king of all powers. The "power of positive thinking" is still held by many to be the ultimate human power. You can do whatever you want to, if you are willing to work (or have faith), is yet a popular social message.
Any power of genes over "reason" is still strongly doubted by many. "You're just not trying hard enough," or, "You don't really want to.....," or, "You can do it if you will just get a grip on yourself." These and countless other familiar social messages are yet weighted heavily in the face of contradictory genetic knowledge. Even scientific "proof," for example, about hormonal influence on homosexual inclinations, is commonly ignored in favor of the assumed "power of will" ("You could be 'straight' if you wanted to").
Increasingly, the influence of "dysfunctional families" is being socially recognized. Freud's contributions concerning the unconscious mind, combined with overwhelming data from mushrooming psychological professions, are giving much more weight to the powers which early training continues to exert into adult life.
Still there is not enough hard data available for a definitive answer to the question of how the powers of genes, early training, and conscious choice are related to each other. My experience so far leads me to this educated guess: genes: 80%; early training: 15%; conscious choice: 5%. This is "ideally speaking" (or guessing).
In practice, I suspect that the powers of conscious choice are even less, maybe one or two percent of all motivation in most of us. Certainly, in my experience, the more popular notion which places conscious choice nearer the 95% mark, with little room for genes and "twig-bending," is in error.
Over-estimation of the scope of "will power" is understandable in the context of invisible genes and unconscious early commandments. By nature of itself consciousness--the source of conscious choice, is in awareness. We can "see" it, whereas the powers of genes, with eons for becoming ingrained, are not "seen." Embedded in genes and chromosomes which are tucked away in the nuclei of cells, we have little conscious access to their "knowledge" or power. Even early training is largely ingrained--that is, lost in subconsciousness, and not easily available for conscious "seeing."
Consequently, we can see our "reasonable thoughts," the sources of conscious choice; but we cannot so easily see the powers of genes or those of early training. By nature of itself, "seeing" looms large in awareness. Because we "know" what we "think"--our conscious seeing, and we don't "know" (awarely) what our genes and commandments "look like," we naturally weigh consciousness heavily. It seems to be the largest, most, or even all that is. Like a stone in a shoe, or grain of sand in one's eye, conscious attention focused on it makes it seem larger than life.
However, seems like and is are not necessarily the same. Especially does this appear to be true when we come to the power of conscious choice in the context of genes and early training. With full credit to the seemingly large place of consciousness, data supports the case for the greater powers of the earlier of the big three: first, genes; then early training; finally, conscious choice.
To summarize: gene powers are, I conclude, an overwhelmingly significant part of all human motivation. If my 80% estimate is in error, I suspect I err on the short side. Perhaps fast emerging data will reveal the facts to be nearer 90 than 80%. Psychological studies are certainly expanding our awareness of the powers which early training continues to exert over all adult life.
Whatever the truth may be about the actual balance of moving forces in any individual's life, it no longer seems reasonable to ignore the immense powers which our genes hold over all that we do, in spite of what we may like to think.
GENES AND CAUSE
The concept of cause and effect--for every effect there is a cause--is so deeply ingrained and widely accepted in our way of thinking that it's difficult to see that it is only a concept. But it is. Cause and effect is a notion about reality rather than an absolute fact inherent in reality. It is a way-of-seeing-things, a certain perspective on reality, about how most things function, but not necessarily the way-things-are; certainly not the way-they-always-are.
The concept of cause and effect is the notion that if something happens (the effect), then something else caused it to do so; if the cause is present, the effect is assumed to be inevitable. The notion is based on the observation that processes often have steps which occur in a certain order, one before two; for instance, rain clouds (one) may come before rain (two); a cut (one) may precede bleeding (two). When this happens--so goes this concept, the first step is named the cause, the second, the effect. The rain clouds (step one in the process) are said to cause the rain (step two). The cut is the cause of the bleeding (the effect).
As notions go, this is a useful one, especially valuable when we come to doing things--like coming inside before it rains, or preventing bleeding to death. In fact, it is almost universally useful in the mechanical world of things--objects in time and space. Effective manipulation of the tangible world--from tool making to technology, from gathering food to getting rid of waste, from making war to making houses--all that we do with things is made easier when we know what causes the things we want done to happen.
But for all its pragmatic value in manipulating things in the world, the notion is sometimes limiting and often dangerous when we apply it to the realm of the living-- especially, human beings. The way things work and the way living people work, though alike in many ways, is also profoundly different in others. Some aspects of livingness do function like mechanics--where for every effect there is a cause; but many others are beyond the principles of simple mechanics.
That every stage in a process is preceded by another--the basic premise of the notion of cause and effect--does not necessarily mean that the previous stage causes the so called effect which follows. The apparently clear-cut way that a cloud causes rain, or a cut causes bleeding, becomes cloudy itself when we go beyond these simple examples.
For instance, in the process of a butterfly, the cocoon stage precedes the butterfly; without time in the cocoon, a butterfly would not be. But does the cocoon cause the butterfly?
Another way to say this is: although some aspects of reality readily lend themselves to analysis and explanation by the notion of cause and effect, others don't; or at least not without stretching the notion all out of shape. The principles of mechanics, which work well with mechanical things, are notably limited when applied beyond the realm of inanimate objects.
The problem is this: with mechanical things, where no living forces are inherent, every movement must be caused by another force. A clock, for instance, as a mechanical device, will not run unless it is wound up. Winding up a clock "makes it run." If not wound up--the cause--there can be no effect; it cannot run by itself. Winding, we can accurately say, causes a mechanical clock to run.
But for all its value in understanding things (inanimate objects), we run into immediate problems when we use the notion for trying to understand how life works, especially genes. The limitation of the idea of cause and effect is that it leaves out at least two of the elements inherent in livingness. Wonderfully effective for the mechanical world of things, it ignores vital aspects of life, where genes reside--namely, certain inevitabilities (inherent connections) and the reality of choice (conscious decision).
Unlike non-living entities--such as, machines, numbers, and ideas, all living "things" have certain inherent connections which do not exist in non-living things. Although the parts of non-living entities may occur in immediate proximity, even be tangibly connected like a screw in wood or a key in a lock, these "connections" are not the same as those which occur with living forms.
One may follow another, or cause an effect which follows, but the steps in such mechanical processes are not inherently tied together. The numbers two and three, for example, are non-living mental entities. They may occur immediately next to each other, forming the whole set of basic numbers (one to ten). Even so, they remain discretely separable; two can exist totally apart from three, as can three from two. In progression three follows two, but their connections are simply by proximity or the choice of the user. They are not inevitable. We can, if we wish, place three before two.
In contrast, many of the phases in living processes are inherently connected; they are inevitably joined unless the life process of which they are a part is interrupted. For instance, child is a phase of the human life process which precedes a next phase called teenager. We may easily see differences between phase A, the child, and phase B, the teenager. Child comes before teenager just as two comes before three. But there is also a distinctive difference. Two and three and not inherently connected; child and teenager are. Three may or may not follow two, but teenager will inevitably follow child unless the human process is interrupted, as by death.
Although we clearly see certain differences, for example, in size and types of behavior, between the phase called child and that called teenager, they are at the same time inevitably connected in ways we may not see. The concept of cause and effect nears its limits of usefulness when we move from non-living things to living people.
It is true that child always precedes teenager, just as turning-the-key precedes opening-the-lock, but the inherent connections between the first two limit the value of thinking in terms of cause-and-effect. The key does cause the lock to open, but does the child cause the teenager? Should we blame the problems of teenagers on the children who cause them to happen? Or on the parents who cause both?
The second relevant difference between living and non-living forms is the reality of options, the capacity for choice. When sex was "invented," that is, when the possibility of adaptation entered the life scene some 600 million years ago, the potentiality for choosing was born also. In all but the most primal of life forms (perhaps there too) which reproduce sexually rather than by cloning, some degree of decide-ability is inherent.
Long before what we now call "consciousness" appeared in the evolutionary process, degrees of choose-ability were present. Dogs, for example, have certain options in what they will chase or eat. Only in humans, as best we can tell, has the extent of decide-ability reached the stage which we call "conscious choice." All along the way, however, from mole to man, and before, options have been a possibility for life forms. The difference is only a matter of degrees.
The point is that options, to any extent, change the way "things" work. Non-living entities--machines, numbers, etc.--have none; living "things" do. This difference is crucial in regard to the concept of cause-and-effect when it is applied to living forms. When the key fits, it always causes the lock to open; locks have no choice. The effect (the opening) is automatic when the cause (the key) is turned. Not so, however, with the living person who "may or may not" turn the key. Options, whenever they exist--as they always do to some extent with living forms, essentially change the situation.
Together these two factors--certain inevitable connections and the reality of at least some degree of conscious choice which all humans possess--throw a significant kink in the use of the concept of cause-and-effect when applied to people (or any life form). The essential connection of a particular cause (prior phase of a process) and an effect (later step) is broken.
Sometimes, for example, a predictable effect may occur when the prior step of the process (the cause) happens, but sometimes not. Teenagers do inevitably result from children (the first difference from non-living entities); yet to say, "Children cause teenagers," is less than accurate. Furthermore, given the second factor of choose-ability, some teenagers have fewer "problems" than others, no matter how "bad" the child may have been; they choose differently.
Another way to see these differences is to note one of the distinctions between life and death. Non-living forms, literal "things" are essentially "dead" within themselves. They lack inherent life forces. Conversely, livingness is a force within itself. Movement is inherent. By nature of itself, that which is alive manifests power. Whereas mechanical things, like clocks--not being alive, have no inherent power of movement, living things, like genes--being alive, do have inherent force-ability. Genes "naturally" move with their inherent forces. With innate powers, nothing else is required to make them work. In this regard they are unlike clocks--and all other mechanical things--which do require outside causes before any effect can take place.
With genes, a form of livingness with power inherent, the relevant issue moves from mere cause-and-effect to grading-and-relating the degrees of power in the variously powerful genes. Some genes are more powerful than others; that is, some do function very much like mechanical forces. These more forceful genes (some call them the "hard-wired" genes) compare favorably with other inanimate forces. For example, the genes which make noses, blood, skin, and blue eyes may be called "hard-wired" genes. They work very much like winding a clock--they cause their effect, regardless of other factors.
Many other genes, however, are "soft-wired"; they set parameters or initiate processes which are then subject to many other forces outside themselves. They may be thought of as influences, inclinations, instincts, "feelings," or urges. Although present, they do not cause things to happen in a mechanical sense.
For example, we have genes for making genitals and genes for making love. The first are "hard-wired"--they make penises or vaginas regardless of other factors; the second, however, are "soft-wired"--they incline or urge us, but are subject to many other factors such as time and circumstances, and whether or not we are afraid at the time.
This second set of relevant factors can be generalized as environment or nurture, including prior experience of the gene-bearing person. Although genes are present and operative for, say, eating food or making love, they are not so "hard-wired" that the effects inevitably follow the cause. Genes, we might say, incline us to eat berries or have sex, but they do not cause us to do so. Many other environmental or learning factors, including the additional human capacity for a degree of conscious choice, enter into such an effect.
To summarize: every human possibility--from making blood to making love, from breathing to consciousness, from fighting germs to fighting enemies, from feeling to thinking, from "hard-wired" skin-making to "soft-wired" choice-making--is a product of our genes. Genes are at the heart of everything which we humans (and all other life forms) may do or be.
In every cell of our bodies, they are a prior element in every later event. No human action or possibility is beyond the scope of genes. All that we are and do and may become is gene-based. We do not exist at all (so far as I can tell) beyond the scope--the limitations and possibilities--of our genes.
In this overall sense we could therefore say, with the notion of cause-and-effect, that genes cause everything we do. Certainly they precede and are involved in all that we do. But--and this is a large but, they do not cause in any immutable or inevitable sense much of what we are or can do. Gene powers grade from almost-inevitable (like nose-making) to highly-likely (as, breathing), to strongly-inclined (feeling afraid of danger), to gently-urged (like love making), that is--from "hard-wired" to "soft-wired." We can only do or be what our genes "wire us for"; but the powers of these living sources fall within a wide range of cause-and-effect and sometimes outside the usefulness of the concept all together (as with child causing teenager).
Said another way: genes include options, but set parameters and limitations. They cause some things (in an almost mechanical sense), incline us toward other things, and make possible still others. Even the elusive human capacity for consciousness is gene-based. Without the genes for the large brain, consciousness (so far as we know) would not be possible. Genes, we could accurately say, make consciousness possible, but not the content of consciousness. Genes make the ball park and set the parameters on all games we may play; but once in a ball park, many other factors (environment, circumstances, and limited choice) affect the particular games and the plays within any game.
The purpose of this extended effort to distinguish the realm of non-living mechanical things from that of living beings, where genes reside, is to show the very limited application of the concept of cause-and-effect in the second realm which is our subject. Without this understanding, not only is it impossible to accurately grasp the way genes work, but serious abuses may also occur. Great social tragedies of the past (for example, racial discrimination and the holocaust) have been perpetrated with rationalizations based on misuses of genetic concepts.
Personal irresponsibility is a second major danger when the notion of cause-and-effect is strictly applied to genetic functions. If genes are understood to cause all that we do--in the inevitable mechanical sense, then personal responsibility is eliminated. Every human abuse can logically be blamed on genes when the reality of livingness is left out of understanding.
Obviously, any understanding which has no room for individual responsibility, limited though it may be, is inadequate for the nature of human capacities. Genes make options and set limits, but they do not finally determine all our plays within the parameters they set. We are both genetically determined and personally responsible. Genes are due much credit, but not all the blame.
THE GENTLE GENES
Some genes are rather fierce and dictatorial--those, for example which make noses and toes and bones and brown eyes. Others are less bossy, more like inclinations than dictations; they incline us, but do not demand total servitude. They are more democratic than autocratic. This second group are more like urges or invitations than commands. They say, in effect, "Why don't you think about this?," rather than, "You have to do such and such." They incline us to "want to do" certain things, such as, to make love or war, but they do not "make us" do them.
Bone genes are less benevolent than breath genes; eating genes are less insistent than breathing genes. Bone genes make bones regardless; breathing genes allow us some choice. They let us hold them in check, at least briefly. Eating genes, even more kindly, let us wait for hours or even days before they become demanding; or, on the other hand, they tolerate our excessive use of them, sometimes for years.
Gender genes, inhabitants of the X and Y chromosomes, are "hard wired" for genital formation, but then they, along with countless others with which they connect and influence, are among the gentler ones when we come to acting sexually. They incline us, invite, even urge; but rarely do they demand, insist, or dictate. That is, the conscious, choosing part of ourselves has more power in regard to these genes about making love and babies than with, for instance, those for making skin and blood.
But they are, though gentler, still genes--that is, they reside as inclinations in every cell of our bodies. They are not simply figments of our imagination, or wild-hair ideas that we get when we are a few sheets into the wind. They do exist; we don't "make them up." They are signs of our common humanity, not of craziness or evil.
Some notions which we create are truly crazy, figments of imagination--ideas, for example, like being god, that is, able to do anything we want to (if we try hard enough), or that we know everything about anything (are omniscient), or that we can live forever (are immortal rather than mortal). But the inclinations of these gentle genes which incline us to make love and babies, plus much more, are not "all in our heads." They are in our bodies, every part of our bodies--plus, of course, sometimes in our minds as well.
The point here is to recognize the reality of these gentle genes as distinguished from crazy notions, or even "evil voices" from without. Flip Wilson notwithstanding, when we are inclined to make love or have babies, it is not "the devil making us do it."
Perhaps so, when we are wanting to be god or believing we can live forever; but not so when we are wanting to reproduce ourselves--or any of the myriads of other urges related to this wonderful process--like looking at pretty girls, or going shopping for new outfits to make us look like pretty girls.
It's true that scientists are yet to pin point most of these gentle genes or the multitudes of their influences past the branches of the X and Y chromosomes. The shopping gene, for instance, is illusive; maybe it even jumps around from chromosome to chromosome. But some day, I predict, those diligent players-with-microscopes--molecular biologists, etc.--will happen on it, just as surely as they did on the one for hemophilia.
These gentle genes, certainly rooted somewhere in the X and Y chromosomes with their myriads of influences beyond themselves, incline us to make love and babies, but they don't make us do so. Many, in fact most, genes lack this room for discretion. They blindly do their jobs without regard to circumstances. The infection fighting gene brigade is compelling; it begins to attack an enemy virus regardless of what we think or where we are. When we, for instance get cut, the healing genes go to work without waiting for an invitation--in fact, sometimes they are already busy before pain messages reach awareness.
To summarize: gene powers--their cause capacity, can be graded from "hard-wired" to "soft-wired." Gender genes likewise come with varying degrees of inevitability. Those which make genitals are "hard-wired"; those for making love and most related matters which we summarize under the category of sex are "soft-wired." These gentle genes incline us in a multitude of ways; but rarely do they dictate any of our actions. What we do about these ingrained urges is more related to the genes which make for consciousness than to the ones which underlie the sexual inclinations themselves.
Understanding these distinctions becomes additionally relevant because of the prevailing social stance of attempting to understand all of reality as though it were a mechanical, non-living entity, as though the whole were simply the sum of its parts. The prevailing scientific endeavor of understanding through reductionism--that is, of trying to grasp the whole through reducing it to its parts--easily spills over into every other human endeavor--including how genes work.
The problem is compounded by the familiar male urge to "explain everything," to try to apprehend all of reality through the left-brain faculty for "understanding." Females, less inclined to "have to know how everything works," and more capable of tolerating mystery, are less bothered with this problem than are males.
Also because we males are more inclined to try to manipulate reality to our own purposes than to accept and cooperate with things-as-they-are, the use of the cause-and-effect concept is particularly appealing. When one thing truly does cause another, when the effect is tied to a particular cause, as is so with non-living processes, then manipulation of reality is always easier. The utility of this application is beyond question. For example the current search for the virus which causes the effect named AIDS is a critical endeavor for the future of our species.
At issue here, however, is not the proper application of the concept of cause-and-effect to those areas of reality where it truly applies, but the regrettably common attempt to make the concept universal, ignoring factors inherent in living forms which do not so easily submit to the concept. Currently the use of the concept universally and indiscriminately is evident in such areas as: blaming mothers as the cause of "problems" in children, on the one hand, or of trying to trace all forms of mental illness back to some chemical cause--as though human choice is a totally irrelevant or non-existent factor.
Equally limiting as well as inaccurate are attempts to rationalize male anti-social behaviors, such as, sexual infidelity or excessive aggressiveness, with such excuses as, "My genes made me do it." Genes, as noted, certainly are at the source of all that we do; they provide options as well as set limits. But the concept of cause-and-effect, extremely useful in other regards, has become counterproductive--more dangerous than helpful--when we use it to evade the additional genetic gifts of conscious choice. We may accurately note that they cause us to have brown or blue eyes; but we exceed the utility of the concept of cause-and-effect when we blame our various irresponsibilities on the wonderful but innocent and gentle gender genes.
GENES AND PLEASURE
A part of the genius of genes lies in their capacity to encode pleasure in those activities which are essential for survival and reproduction. Over the long history of evolution, genes not only acquire directive powers, they also develop associated "feel good" bonuses. That which is essential for genetic replication includes, in time, human experience which we have come to call "pleasurable."
For example, genes directing the primal instinct for feeding--acquiring resources essential for physical survival--also encode a feeling of pleasure in their effects. It "feels good" to eat the food which is required for surviving. "Good" food "tastes good;" eating is a pleasure. Getting rid of the indigestible portions of what we eat is also essential for survival. Not surprisingly then, genes encode pleasure in the event of a "good" bowel movement. We "feel good" both in eating what we need and in defecating what we don't.
The opposite of pleasure of course is pain; we are also encoded to "feel bad," to hurt, when genetic agendas are ill-served. When we don't get enough to eat, we hurt. Hunger is a pain. When we don't properly defecate, ridding ourselves of indigestible food products, we "feel bad." Genes evolved to protect us from invasion by alien forces also have the service of the pleasure/pain sensations. We "feel good" when stroked, and we "hurt" (feel anti-pleasure) when we are cut (our skin is broken in any way.)
As it is with self-survival, so with self-replication. Genes evolved to incline, guide, even direct reproduction are also encoded to bring pleasure along with their activation. Activities associated with conception and reproduction are inherently pleasurable as well as functional. For males whose sperm must compete for an ovum, competition itself feels pleasurable. For females whose ova must attract hoards of sperm from which to choose a mate, attraction itself is a pleasurable activity. Males "feel good" when they are competing; females "feel good" when they are attractive.
Worldly wise genes have also encoded pleasure in the male experience of seeing an attractive female, the first phase of the competitive process. Males "feel good" when they see a "pretty girl"--which, as explained later, primarily means a girl who is capable of conception.
Females, with a greater need for security during the reproductive process than for sperm, are also encoded to "feel good" in the presence of a "good man" who appears capable of providing security as well as sperm.
The culmination of a male's role in the Drama of Conception, the expulsion of sperm, being the most critical of all activities in the process of replicating his genes, has predictably become the most pleasurable of all his deeds. Eating is fun; defecating "feels good"; ogling "pretty girls" is pleasurable; winning is exciting; but in the large repertoire of a male's possible pleasures, orgasm lies at the top of the ladder. Nothing "feels better"--that is, has more pleasure inherently encoded, than what he has accurately come to call the "climax."
Females, of course, may also enjoy the reception of a male's sperm, including, sometimes, their own orgasms. But in the female role for the larger Drama of Reproduction, sperm-reception, though essential, is only a beginning. Babies are the main business. Not surprisingly, X chromosomes, the source of female reproductive genes, have evolved more extended and powerful pleasures associated with babies than with sex itself.
Genetic replication is best served when males do a good job of spreading sperm and females are diligent about making and tending babies. Wise genes, gifted with the capacity for encoding pleasure with those effects which work best in their replication, have reasonably focused on sex in males and children in females.
When we later explore practical issues related to genetic awareness, this capacity of genes to encode pleasure with that which serves them best, and pain with that which threatens them, will become a relevant clue.
At this point in the course of human evolution, human reproductive instincts are posited in the primary cells called sperm and ovum, each with their respective genes, and their bearers called male and female. A male, we might say in viewing man from the beginning of the evolutionary process, is a sperm-bearer; a female is an ovum-bearer.
Sperm and ovum each have separate and differing parts to play in the reproductive process on which species survival is based. For success, both parts are necessary; for the greater success, each role must be well played. For thinking purposes, I have named the male role, Sperm-spreader, and the larger female role, Baby-maker. Man, biologically speaking, is, in the Drama of Conception, the Sperm-bearer-and-spreader. Woman, from the standpoint of her primal cells, is the Ovum-bearer-and-baby-maker.
Such primal names are not, of course, to down play our more personal possibilities as persons beyond gender alone (more about this later.) Certainly we are potentially more than just Sperm-spreaders and Baby-makers. As noted earlier, we have only two gender chromosomes and 44 others for characteristics which are shared by both genders. Still, in spite of all else we may become, most primally these instincts, being bodily imbedded, remain a basic part of who-we-are. "Scratch a Russian," Napoleon noted, "and you find a Tartar." "Scratch a man," I note, "and you find a Sperm-spreader. Scratch a woman, and you find a Baby-maker."
We engage in countless other endeavors which seem more relevant to our conscious senses of ourselves; but underneath all else, these primal, instinctive, unconscious urges--powerful forces, remain.
The genius of evolution, summarized as survival of the fittest, is that somehow the best, the fittest, of each sperm and ovum, male and female, are drawn to each other, united, and thereby reproduce themselves. The agendas of each are vastly different in process, though aimed at the same goal: replication. These differences, when viewed separately, appear to be in direct conflict in most regards. Yet, when brought into overall harmony, reproduction ensues.
Although we are accustomed to thinking of sex in terms of reproduction, plus its accompanying pleasures and pains, we may be more accurate if we see it as an adaptive procedure. Certainly the X and Y chromosomes are "sexy"--that is, about spreading sperm and making babies--the basis for reproducing ourselves, for extending the species. That much is obvious; but more primally, meiosis, the phenomenon of cell division, which is in sharp contrast with mitosis or cell duplication, makes possible adaptation.
For the first 1.9 billion years of life on earth, reproduction was by cloning. Mitosis was the order of the day. Life continued by cells dividing and duplicating themselves exactly as they were before. It was quite a miracle in itself.
But then about 600 million years ago, the strange and wonderful process of meiosis somehow began. Sex, we could say, "got invented." Through meiosis, in contrast with mitosis, chromosomes divided and then recombined with a similar group of divided chromosomes in another comparable life-form. If a creature had 10 chromosomes, they were divided into a cell with five chromosomes only. Then, through what we call sex, these five were reunited with five other chromosomes from another similar life-form. The resulting new cell with five chromosomes from each partner was thus uniquely new--half like one, half like the other.
The genius of this procedure, in contrast with cloning only, was that for the first time in history, adaptation was added to the miracle of mere reproduction only. Change was introduced. Life went on, as before, but now through sex, life could "get better" instead of simply remaining the same; it could adapt.
The pre-sexual mode of reproduction allowed life to continue, but not to "improve itself" in the sense of adapting, taking into account new circumstances. Now, through meiosis, this wonderful new possibility emerged on the historical scene. Of course, reproduction continued to be the end product; but for the first time, major "improvements" (adaptations) became possible. When dry land appeared, for instance, with a lot of time for sex, legs could be added to fins. As a much later example: when the lower level food supply got short, giraffes could gradually develop longer necks, allowing them to adapt to changing circumstances. And so on.
"Improvement" or "bettering oneself" through meiosis is to be understood in the practical sense of these words, not in any ethical or moral sense. What sex allowed was a more practical fitting of the organism to the environment in which it found itself. Through trial and error in eons of meiosis and recombination with the results of meiosis in another creature the best adapted genes could survive. Much later we would learn to call this the law of the jungle: survival of the fittest.
In an overall sense then, genes are first about surviving--staying alive; for this we Homo sapiens have 44 chromosomes; and secondly about surviving-well or improving our chances of survival through the continual process of adapting to the changing nature of reality itself. For this we finally acquired, through 1.9 billion years of practice, the capacity for adaptation through meiosis. We'll go ahead and call it sex, since this is a more familiar word. But reproduction, which we often think of as the whole point of sex, has been around for some four times as long as sex itself.
Even though we go ahead with our familiar language, calling the process sex and thinking of it as about reproduction only, we may sharpen our understanding if we focus more on adaptation. Primarily sex is a wonderful means of changing ourselves in a spiral of ever-more effective forms of existence. It adds the possibility of improvement to the age old capacity for reproduction only.
Hopefully, for the real better.
GENES AND PREJUDICE
Genes, inherently, are prejudiced--pre-judged. They come programmed with the results of past-learning, the "thoughts," we might say, of their ancestors rather than of themselves. They bear the knowledge of the ages, not any "reasoning" for the present, certainly none for the future.
That-which-worked in the past, for survival and reproduction, is the ingrained guiding force for each gene's modus operandi in the present. Each does, as it were, what is has been taught or told. It does not "think for itself." What was "good enough" for parents, grandparents, and ancestors from eons ago, is "good enough" for each descendent.
Were it not for the quirky wonder of the relatively recent phenomenon of sex, where male and female genes are forced to recombine into slightly different shapes, nothing would ever be changed so far as genes are concerned. Cloning, the ultimate in prejudice, would reign supreme.
Sex, as amplified before, initiated the novelty of adaptation but did little to change the essentially prejudiced nature of any particular gene. Were one not forced, in the Drama of Conception, to mate with a stranger, our chemistry would still remain the same.
What this means for us who bear the prejudiced genes which direct, according to my estimate, at least 80% of all we do, is that we too are largely pre-judged in all our supposedly rational decisions. The knowledge-of-the-ages, 600 plus million years of it, directs and inclines us Sperm-bearers, through hard and soft-wiring to, for example, look-for-pretty-girls; and you Ovum-bearers, in spite of much logic to the contrary, to do your best to look-like-pretty-girls at whom we will look, for all of your lives--plus much much more.
Our Johnny-come-lately genes for consciousness do indeed allow for slight modifications in powerful older prejudices--but ever-so-slight. Mostly they allow us to rationalize older "beliefs" into quasi-reasonable packages, or to cloak and deny them. Still, though, they remain the prime powers in most of our living, prejudiced and powerful, even when we slip into fragile ego states, saying they are not so.
Our apparently universal human prejudices can be summarized with the single word, selfish. Inherently and knowledgeably we come programmed for selfishness--for being and becoming ourselves; this, above all else. Selfishness itself can be broken down into two major categories: staying-alive as individual selves, and reproducing ourselves. In the first category, we are all, regardless of gender differences, alike. Selfishly, we are all "driven" by our prejudiced genes to stay alive.
Reproduction, the second common form of selfishness, involves connected but slightly different agendas for the two genders: for males, it can be summarized as the urge to "have sex"; for females, to "make babies," and, of course, to rear them.
The reproduction phase of inherent selfishness is also prejudiced toward the "best-other" sperm or ovum available--"best," of course, from a cellular perspective. This "best" translates as one most like one's self, and more so--"better," we might say. All gender cells are apparently prejudiced to seek a complementing opposite which is first, the most compatible fit, and if possible, even "better" than oneself. Cells seek, we might say, to "marry well" and also to "marry up."
Such prejudice is of course genetically "smart." To "ask for" the very different would be suicidal. "Smart" genes seek the best of their most-like opposite gender, thereby increasing their odds of selfishly reproducing themselves.
An obvious spin-off of this last genetic prejudice for one-like-me is for those-like-us. "Family," we in time come to call those-like-us. Actually, me and us are, on the genetic level, but a "gene-pool" of similar "persons" who bear similar genes. We are all genetically inclined to selfishly protect both ourselves and those in our "family" gene-pool who bear genes most like and therefore compatible with our own.
Blood's thicker than water, we say, reflective of this deep and profound genetic knowledge which is bred into our individual genes. "My children," "my family," "my race" (my "blood")--these are but extensions of each gene's natural selfishness, projected into the larger world beyond our own skin.
Primal genes "don't like what's different"--the "thems" who are not like "us," not because "they" are bad, but because survival is most likely with total genetic compatibility. In "keeping to their own," genes are simply "taking care of themselves" in the best way they know how.
Such prejudices are, of course, problematic in complex societies such as ours. Multi-racial societies, for example, must, for survival's sake, overcome many of our natural genetic prejudices. In service of these social goals, we are all taught to "try not to be prejudiced." Learning to repress natural attractions to "our own kind" is temporarily practical; however, it becomes a serious error in the long run.
A wiser goal is to learn to affirm the inevitable reality of genetic prejudice. Everyone with genes--all of us--is inherently prejudiced because of the nature of genetics. Prejudice, in its literal sense, is simply a name for genetic knowledge-of-the-ages. It is the way we largely are, not a matter of choice in any sense of the word. Selfishness--for survival and reproduction, is, as noted above, the larger part of who-we-are.
Rather than attempting to deny or negate this wonderful element of who-we-are, we will be wiser to learn to accept and honor our inherited knowledge--indeed, to "be proud" of our genetic "prejudices," recognizing, of course, that they are only geared for survival and reproduction. Then, and this is crucial for social purposes, we may learn to activate our lessor developed genes for consciousness, including the lately evolved human capacity for love.
Be prejudiced, plus more, is sounder advice than "try not to be prejudiced." As will be amplified later in the What to do part of the book, wisdom may be added to genetic knowledge when we both affirm our instincts and the wonderfully sound basis for animal life which they allow, and then add love which genes-for-consciousness now make possible. More about love next.
GENES AND LOVE
Love is the highest evolved human capacity to this point in time. Loving represents the apex of human capabilities. It is "the most" which is possible for us as humans--evolution's finest gift to individuals of the Homo sapiens species.
As such, love is the culmination of our genetic capabilities--genes at their greatest and fullest activation. Love only becomes possible through the activity of all our most primal genes, capped-off with out latest ones also--that is, with the activation of both body and mind genes. As previously noted, body genes (those for cell making, digestion, reproduction, etc.) are mostly non-scious--outside the realm of human consciousness. They do their work with a minimal amount of awareness required. Our enlarged brains, however, have also brought the gift of consciousness. We have genes for mind as well as body.
Mind genes--those bringing the gift of consciousness--are the Johnny-Come-Latelys on the evolutionary calendar (as noted before, last half of last second of a 24 hour evolutional day). This means that they have had far less time to become "ingrained" or "natural." They are infants in the genetic family. Although present, they yet lack the primal power of their millions-of-years-old parents. While they are "selfish" like all genes, they have not had the time required to become so ingrained as to be demanding, like those for air, food, and sex.
Love, then, is a genetic possibility, but is not yet so deeply encoded that we can "do it without thinking." Genes for making love, being 600 million years old, are much more ingrained than their, say, 10,000 year old descendants. Making love, we may say, "comes naturally"--that is, has been build-in for so long that love-making genes, like bone-making genes, do their job well with little or no consciousness required. Not so with our infant genes for love. We Homo sapiens have evolved love as a possibility, but not yet as a genetic essential, as is love-making.
Ideally, our primal love-making necessities are culminated in the activation of our loving possibilities also; but, as everyone knows, this is not always; indeed, is seldom so. We may, for practical purposes, sometimes confuse making-love with loving; but in time, when fortunate, we come to know the difference as well.
"What's love got to do with it?," questions a currently popular song. I borrow it to raise the question about the relation between ancient and primal genes for survival and making-love, and the infant, new genes for loving. What does love have to do with "it"--with making-love and all the other ingrained "selfish" genetic drives for survival and reproduction?
A currently popular answer which attempts to divide "unselfish" from "selfish" (love being viewed as "unselfish") may point in the direction of the difference, yet it falls short in the long run. The problems which this distinction--"unselfish" as the opposite of "selfish"--brings are often greater than the legitimate difference it tries to note.
Love does, at first glimpse, appear to be "unselfish" in comparison to the obviously "selfish" activity of all those genes for survival and self-replication only. But look further and the crude distinction breaks down, finally becoming untrue. "Unselfish" as an opposite of "selfish" may describe love from a distance, but when taken to its extreme, "unselfishness" becomes self-destructive rather than loving. Martyrdom becomes the logical goal of this long-accepted ideal, finally destroying the very mode of life it seeks to activate.
A more useful and, I think, accurate way of understanding love begins with seeing all genes as "selfish." Richard Dawkins' book, THE SELFISH GENE (1989), presents the case clearly and convincingly. Unfortunately, he stops short of applying his theories to the subject of love itself. If we begin with the premise that all genes are inherently "selfish," that is, naturally concerned with what is best for themselves, then we may extricate our understanding of love from the older logical ideal of a finally destructive martyrdom.
Imagine that all genes, both the ancient genes for survival and self-replication and the newer genes for consciousness are all "selfish." Probably the genes for consciousness evolved as did all their older relatives, in the service of survival and replication also. When we began gathering into clans and communities a few hundred thousand years ago--when we created groups of families and then societies--new demands were placed on the evolutionary process. Whereas "selfish" competition and war had been the previous necessities, with clans "unselfish" cooperation and peace began to emerge as valuable (in service of "selfishness"). Consciousness perhaps evolved as Homo sapiens faced the necessity of adding cooperation to competition in order to survive and continue to reproduce.
In this light we may think of "selfishness"--an inherent quality of all genes, as divided into: a) a more primal kind, encoded into our ancient genes, and b) a newer and less ingrained type, acquired with later genes which allow for consciousness as well as non-sciousness. Older genes, being more powerful and with encoded pleasure as well, are "more selfish"; newer genes, with less power, and yet to evolve inherent pleasure, are "less selfish"; both, however, are "selfish." The first set, being ancient, "seem natural"; the second, being young, do not yet "come naturally."
Making-love, encoded for millions of years, is "doin' what comes naturally." But loving, with only a few thousands of years of history, is not yet so "natural." Competition, in the primal sea where "the big fish eat the little fish"--that is, where "selfishness" reigns supreme, is "very natural." But in the modern city, with geological seconds of history in comparison to the ancient sea, required cooperation is as yet "less natural"--especially outside our immediate families or "gene pools."
"Blood," conventional wisdom reminds us, "is thicker than water." The translation, I think, is this: gene connections, those within a single body or within a family of bodies sharing many of the same genes, are, as represented by "blood," more closely tied together than they are to the "water"--those outside the direct "gene pool" of the immediate family. In ancient history, individual and family connections were all there was. "Blood" and its inherent selfishness reigned supreme. But as population increased and cooperation between various "blood" (gene) related families become necessary, newer genes were required. The older genes for selfish competition and war were ill-prepared for the newer requirements for cooperation (beyond family "blood") which clans and cities demanded.
The ancient law of survival of the fittest (self and family "selfishness") now called for a new revision. The primal constitution needed an amendment. The law of the jungle was proving too limited for effectiveness in emerging cities. But ever adaptive evolution, since the birth of sex, was ready to meet the challenge.
Slowly it began to add con-sciousness to non-sciousness, newer "think-able" genes to the older "feel-able" ones. Cooperation with kin, "blood" connections only, could now be extended to include "others" outside one's immediate genetic family--to one's "extended family." The newer types of cooperation required in clans of families (later to be called cities) could, with the gift of emerging consciousness, be added. "Blood" could be stretched to include "water." Self and family cooperation could now be expanded to include neighbor cooperation as well.
The possibility for what we would later learn to call love was being born. Our ancient capacity to make love was acquiring a new descendent. The ultimate act of "selfishness" was giving birth to a strange new human creation which seemed, at first, to be totally unlike the unions from which it was born. Though not yet "natural," existence in cities required the cooperation, indeed the "unselfishness," which would come to be seen as one of love's primary characteristics.
This advanced form of cooperation--with "others" beyond our immediate "blood" (self and family genes), though "watered down," was still but a newer form of "selfishness." In cities we needed to cooperate with "others" just as we did within our own skins and family circles. As the world shrank through population growth and increased communication (also made possible by the symbolization which consciousness allowed), more and more "unselfish" cooperation became necessary. Love became increasingly essential for the extended "selfishness" which cities required. To the primitive "selfishness" of genes and making love, now the advanced "selfishness" of loving had become increasingly necessary. And remains so--lest we self-destruct.
Love, then, is but primal "selfishness" extended to include "others" beyond our skins and families who have, through the evolution of societies, now become relevant, even critically so, to our own continued existence and well being. We love, not because it is "unselfishly" virtuous, but because it is the "ultimate in selfishness."
Finally, past first glance, love is not "unselfish." Rather it is selfishness carried to new dimensions of life. Within our own skins, primal selfishness is enough. But none of us live alone; selfishness was long ago extended to our families who were essential to our personal as well as genetic life. "Blood" soon came to include our kin as well as ourselves. Then, in time, cities have required a further extension. "Water" is now almost as necessary as "blood." We now need to love our neighbors, as Jesus noted, as we do ourselves.
Unfortunately, the familiar way of viewing love as inherently "unselfish," indeed, as the very opposite of "selfish," ill-prepares us for the rigorous challenges of "higher selfishness." In fact, the seeds of impossibility are sown in the creation of the notion of "unselfishness." Literally speaking--that is, in reality, there is no such possibility as "unselfish." We only exist as ourselves. Non-self is an illusion, non-existent in reality. Un-selfishness carried to its logical conclusion, that is, into non-selfishness is possible only in the realm of thought--not in the actual world. In reality there is primal self (selfish and competitive), potentially topped off with advanced self (still selfish, but with cooperation added to competition).
The ideal, within this understanding, is not to become completely "unselfish"; such a goal is literally impossible. The closer we come to such an ideal the less lively we are. We achieve it only through "death," the negation of self entirely. Instead, the ideal intimated here is ultimate selfishness rather than primal selfishness only--skin selfishness extended to family selfishness extended to city selfishness extended to state selfishness extended to country selfishness extended to world selfishness. In other words, the ideal is to become ultimately selfish in all its fullest degrees, rather than remaining selfish at the primal level only.
We love, not by becoming "unselfish" but by becoming more "completely selfish"--by adding advanced selfishness (the potential gift of consciousness) to primal selfishness (the kind most deeply imbedded in our survival and reproductive genes). We love the most, not when we are the "most unselfish," but when we are "most selfish."
To an outsider, the acts of highest selfishness, because they are expressive of our moves into the larger world beyond our skin and family, may often appear as unselfish. When we care for another, for example, it may seem that we are "putting ourselves aside and acting unselfishly"; this, however, is only an appearance. In fact we are but more selfishly activating an expanded part of our human capacity, namely, the consciousness which allows us to see and be involved with not only our immediate in-skinned self, but also with the world beyond our skins.
What appears as "taking care of them" is actually but the existential experience of becoming more caring ourselves, of "selfishly" embracing the gifts of consciousness which allow us to participate more fully in the worlds of others--in this example, the person we seem to be "taking care of."
In pursuit of the popular understanding of love as "being unselfish," what commonly happens is a gradual dis-identification of self from body and an identification of self with some imagined entity, such as a soul, ego, spirit, self, or simply "I," which is presumed to exist, at least temporarily within the body.
The creation of a separable entity--the proverbial "ghost in the machine" of the body--also allows a logical (if not real) escape from the obvious fact of death. The above noted paradox--that martyrdom is the logical result of unselfishness taken to the extreme, with death being the obvious ending of total non-selfishness, while "eternal life" (heavenly existence) is the supposed reward of such "self-sacrifice"--can be at least logically resolved with the notion that whereas the body does actually die, the separable soul lives on to, in some way, achieve the rewards which are predicated on living "unselfishly."
The correction of this extremely common but apparently tragic error lies in abandoning the futile quest for unselfishness and accepting instead the challenges inherent in becoming more completely selfish--of adding to our primally selfish genes, rather than subtracting from or trying to erase them completely. In practice, this involves healing the split in personal identity which so commonly occurs when we attempt to live unselfishly--primarily that between body (the most primal genes for survival and reproduction, for staying alive and making love), and "I" (the later evolved genes which allow for consciousness of self in addition to experience of self).
In such healing, we return to a primal awareness of "body" as "I," rather than "body" as "it" which "I," as a separable entity, have. We recognize and accept even the most primal of "our" genes--the most "selfish" of all, as who-we-are rather than as "selfish enemies" which "we" must fight to keep under control while "we" (as dis-embodied "I's") act "unselfishly" in the world. Instead of seeing genetic impulses and drives as "bad," we cease our disassociation and accept them as the inherent source of the sustaining wisdom of the ages, presently embodied in ourselves.
The energy required for splitting ourselves off from "our" bodies and then maintaining the division is made available for the larger quest of adding consciousness to nonsciousness. Consciousness is required for the artful containment and expression of primal genes in social settings.
Love, then, is our highest genetic possibility, not to be found in suppression or negation of "impulses," but rather in the fuller activation of all that our "selfish genes" make possible.
DRAMA OF CONCEPTION
We all begin with the joining of two cells--a male sperm and a female ovum. Their union, however, is no simple meeting. To catch the flavor of this complex, consequential connection, let us transform, in our minds' eyes, the two tiny cells into an average man--let's call him Mr. Sperm, and an average woman, Ms. Ovum. Placed on stage, the hidden biological "facts of life" of our common conceptions might be seen as follows:
ACT I: THE RACE
If the male character, Mr. Sperm, were a six foot man, from his perspective the drama might go like this. Imagine this scene: Every male in the United States--from birth to 101, multiplied times four, gathered on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean for a three mile Boston Swim-a-thon. The ocean is thick from an oil spill, increasing the challenges of the swim for these 400,000,000 sperm swimmers who are all beginners; none has ever competed before.
Unlike an ordinary swimming race where each competitor begins from his own private pad, in this Swim-a-thon all participants will be shot forth from a huge cannon by a powerful explosion which will send them forth at a speed of 2,285 miles per hour, creating immense shearing forces capable of ripping them apart.
The goal of this race, hidden some three miles out in the deep, no one knows where, is unknown. No competitor has ever seen the finish line. Of the 400 million swimmers only one (or two in rare instances) can possibly win. He will be crowned King of the World, to live, as it were, forever; the rest will die.
Winning, obviously, is the name of the game. With death and extinction as the only alternative, and only rarely a Co-champion (in case of a tie), there will be no comradery or cooperation among the competitors. Each of the other 399,999,999 competitors is like a mortal enemy. It's Me or Him. If He wins, I die!
This dramatic scene, which we may call THE RACE, is ACT I of every male ejaculation. After the cannon is fired, the fiercely competitive race will proceed through the dark waters of the Uterine Channel toward the dangerous tides of the Cervical Lock lying at the entrance to the Gulf of Womb. The reduced number of competitors who evade the sometimes deadly chemical spill at the Cervical Lock then face the one and a half mile dash through the womb before another life or death decision must be made.
At the far side of the Gulf of Womb, two Fallopian Canals open. A choice must be made. The trophy, if there at all, lies near the end of one or the other; no Mr. Sperm knows which. If he chooses the wrong channel, death is certain. If he lucks on the winning course, the last mile of the race is through dense, seaweed-like, barriers--the final obstacles before the unknown goal.
Hopefully, she will be there. As the curtain goes down on ACT I, the original field of up to 400 million competitors has been narrowed down to from 200 to 2,000 race-weary swimmers.
ACT II: THE WIN
ACT II, let's call it THE WIN, begins as this exhausted band of lucky swimmers in the final heat nears the finish line. First there is the amazing goal herself. Alas! No simple line to cross as our weary finalists might have imagined; instead, Ms. Ovum appears as a truly monumental creation. As the surviving swimmers look up with their genetic eyes, they see that Ms. Ovum is about 300 feet high! Not only is she as tall as a 30 story building, she covers about nine city blocks and is over 250,000 times the size of any one of the exhausted swimmers!
Getting here, for all its trials, was only the beginning. Now our heroic Mr. Sperm faces the second act challenges of, might we say, "getting the girl"--or, more accurately, getting selected by the girl. He and perhaps 1,000 others have won the race, but not the prize. Although these front runners (swimmers) have out-raced several hundred million competitors, still they face the challenge of being selected by Princess Ovum as the lucky Prince with whom she will mate. What a time to have to impress someone. No doubt, given the shearing forces of their exodus explosion and the terrors of the three mile swim, they must all look like a mess!
This courtship drama of ACT II, while hundreds of finalists are weeded down to one, will last from seven to eleven hours. During this breathless time of waiting, the finalists will be given an energizing bath (of glucose) and their heads cleansed in preparation for the final act of the drama.
Several lucky Mr. Sperms, now bathed and clean, will somehow be selected to dance with Ms. Ovum. In rapid turns, always clockwise (no one knows why), some dancers will twirl Ms. Ovum a complete 360 degrees in as little as 15 seconds. Sometimes these dances, which lead to the final selection required before ACT III can begin, last as long as 20 hours.
Magically though, as the midnight hour approaches, our Princess Ovum somehow makes her final selection of who will "take her home" (literally, "be taken home") after the dance is over. ACT II ends with a final winner declared. The 999 (up to 2,000) other finalists now face the same fate as the millions of beginning racers who fell along the way: death. And to the victor belong the spoils.
ACT III: THE KILL
ACT III, essential for conception, is completely different from the competition and courtship, the sexy dancing, of ACT II. THE RACE and THE WIN must be followed by THE KILL. The amazing Ms. Ovum, it turns out, is beautifully dressed in two protective outer garments which shield her inner vulnerabilities. Unless the successful Mr. Sperm is now able to get through these outer robes and somehow pierce this awesome lady, the show, for all its drama, ends before conception.
For Mr. Sperm, this final act requires a totally different mode of operation and a completely new kind of courage. Fleet competition, where speed was all that counted, must now be replaced by fierce aggression, where violence is a more accurate description. Competition is over; winning is in the past. Now assertive action, power, is called for. THE KILL requires getting though the protective robes of the Princess and piercing her. Otherwise, no conception.
For ACTS I and II, the courage of independence was required of Mr. Sperm. In order to win the race he had to be fiercely independent of all his competitors. Though they were all brothers--born and raised together, once the race began, comradeship was over. While striving for the prize, it was literally "every man for himself." Independence and speed were the only virtues; to lapse into dependence, to slow down for any reason, was to choose death.
But now the agenda is suddenly reversed. The courage to be-apart-from must be replaced by its opposite: the courage to become-a-part-of. Mr. Independent must, lest he die, be swallowed up in dependence. There is no one left with whom to compete; now he must learn what he never needed to know before: how to cooperate. "Proving himself," even "impressing the lady,"--agendas which thrived on independence, are events of the past.
Now, for immortality, he must be engulfed and absorbed, embracing dependence. He must, as it were, have the courage to die as a separate "self." Or, he does die.
ACT III, THE KILL, as it must have seemed to the victorious Mr. Sperm after the dance was over and he faced the new challenge of conquest, suddenly becomes more like BEING KILLED. After a life time of preparation for competition, a challenging one hour race followed by a dozen or so hours of impressive dancing, now he must be taken in. The BIG TAKER must now BE TAKEN. The violence of penetration must be abandoned in favor of the tenderness of union. THE KILLER must face death, if he is to live on, reborn in a new form.
If Mr. Sperm's part in the Drama of Conception involves a RACE, a WIN, and a KILL, what about Ms. Ovum's role? How may we see the same drama through feminine eyes? Imagine that a single ovum were a five-foot-two woman; the three acts might appear like this:
ACT I: THE WAIT
While hoards of aspiring Mr. Sperms are engaged in the life or death competition of their race, Ms. Ovum's primary agenda is THE WAIT. In fact, even before they begin, she has already been waiting for at least 12 or 15, perhaps as long as 40, years. Waiting could well be her middle name. During this long process of maturation and waiting for her magic moment, the focus of the pre-drama has been on her bearer rather than herself. Although she, Ms. Ovum is the star, Ms. Ovum-bearer has been responsible for setting the stage. Her major agenda can be summarized with one word: attract.
Till now, as the actual Drama of Conception gets underway, Ms. Ovum-bearer's consuming energies have been given to beauty--to beautifying herself, that is. Before the drama can ever occur, she must somehow attract Mr. Sperm-bearers and select one who will come to the theater to begin THE RACE of ACT I.
"Looking good" is the principle endeavor of Ovum-bearers genetically intent on placing one of their star Ms. Princesses on the stage which leads to conception. And "good" means--no matter how cloaked or conscious, "good" to Sperm-bearers. To attract, she must learn (or does she come already knowing?) how to move, walk, talk (or listen), smell, look, cook, and act in ways which will draw those bearers of co-actors to herself.
All this, while appearing to passively wait, as though her massive beautifying efforts were for her own pleasure only. She could care less, or so she will learn to appear, that any male will ever see her. So much the better, of course, to attract more of them.
Her wait is complicated by the fact that estrus went underground some 100,000 or so years ago, leaving the actual time of Ms. Ovum's readiness to appear on stage a relative mystery even to her bearer. Though a waiting actress will predictably appear sometime every month, the actual time of her arrival, when her bearer's forebearers would have gone into "heat," is often concealed even to the one who makes her appearance possible.
One result of this complicating historical development in Homo sapiens is that Ovum-bearers can no longer limit their labors at beautifying to a few days per month; now they, in the midst of their own mystery, must be always attracting, lest Ms. Ovum's dramatic appearance on stage go unnoticed.
Back to the immediate drama: although Ms. Ovum has, so to speak, been waiting in the wings for many years for her one brief stage appearance, she must move from her dressing room to the stage before her part in ACT I can begin. Not to worry, though; there is no hurry. Whereas her co-actors have but moments to complete their immensely competitive three mile race for the stage, she has three whole days for her leisurely 300 yard journey.
Not only distance, but energy requirements are also vastly different. Whereas Mr. Sperm must be primed for some 20,000 power-demanding strokes for his successful swim, she need not even be able to swim. Once she leaves her dressing room she will be softly swept along the corridor by gently nudging ushers (plus smooth muscles), toward the actual stage for her encounter with Mr. Sperm.
Attire is of course different also. Whereas Mr. Sperm is necessarily built for speed and equipped to travel light, Ms. Ovum, with almost no place to go, can afford the luxury of adornment and protective garb. One biologist describes her thusly:
Like a traveling princess, the mammalian egg is surrounded by a great deal of baggage. The egg cell itself is encased within an outer membrane called the "zona pellucida," which is in turn surrounded by a protective layer of follicle cells. (10, p 879)
Also, unlike him who is crowded by millions of cohorts, each vying for the stage, trying to beat him to the prize, she has no competition. She is all alone. She is it. Not only must she wait; she must wait alone. "Oh," she must long, "for someone to talk to!"
Once her short journey from the Ovarian Waiting Room into the Fallopian Canal is completed, still her basic script for ACT I remains the same. After her many years of waiting her chance for the stage, once there, still she must wait longer. Lolling around, dressed in her finery with no place else to go, she must be privately filled with anticipation. "When," we can imagine she may wonder while waiting, "will my Prince ever appear."
Her wait, however, is not entirely passive. Just as her bearer did all that she could, while appearing not to, to attract as many of his bearers as possible, so Ms. Ovum continues her heritage. She has "perfumes" of her own. Scientists are just beginning to decode her wiles; but it is now known that she does all she can to encourage the competing sperm by sending alluring chemical cues.
As Science News recently reported: a human egg cell does not idle languidly in the female reproductive tract, like some Sleeping Beauty waiting for a sperm Prince Charming to come along and awaken it for fertilization. Instead, new research indicates that most eggs actively beckon to would-be partners, releasing an as-yet-unidentified chemical to lure sperm cells. (20, p 114)
But imagine her surprise when her attractant works, when Prince Charming does arrive. When the thrashing finalists who made it through the Cervical Lock, successfully navigating the Gulf of Womb and luckily selecting the correct Fallopian Canal in which she is waiting begin the final leg of their race, wonder must be near overwhelming.
"What will he look like? Will he be handsome? Strong? Will his carriage be comfortable for our trip to the ball? Will he be a good dancer? Will (excuse me; I get carried away!) he be intelligent and have a good sense of humor? What kind of King will he make? Wise and gentle," she must hope.
Then they arrive; perhaps a thousand aspiring swains swim into view. Alas! Where are the Princes? These are no young Kings to be swept away by. Only a hoard of tiny shrimp. Looking down on them, not "up to" as she must have hoped, none is over two inches high. Mouse size, to her. And the way they look! Couldn't they at least have bathed before they arrived? No handsome Princes here. And how infantile they must seem! She had no way to know that she would be at least 72--and as many as 192--times as old as any of these hopeful, ratty-looking (and sized), swains.
Her disappointment can only be immense. "For this I waited 20 years," she must certainly despair--privately, of course, since this is the only game in town--and these the only Princes(?) there are! And, although she has waited for eternity, deep down she knows that time is of the essence; the bird, truly, is on the wing. Like a firefly, she has only a day at most. Disappointed or not at her given lot of aspiring co-actors, she must quickly make her choice.
Or she too dies at the mid-night hour. Trying to smile, we can imagine, through her stiff upper lip, she mummers to the arriving group: "Welcome."
ACT II: THE CHOICE
Pleased or not, the long ACT I of waiting is now over. Ms. Ovum moves to center stage as her script turns from attracting and waiting to choosing. A thousand Would-bes are here thrashing about, vying for her attention. Which one will she choose? Her ACT II is THE CHOICE.
While making her selection, two tasks are at hand. Obviously the race-weary contestants are exhausted. They must certainly be too tired to dance, let alone to take her (or be taken) home afterward. Fortunately she comes equipped with an elixir of rejuvenating powers. Even before they arrive, she prepares a refreshing bath (of glucose) which will empower them for improving their performances in ACTS II and III. Perhaps the new burst of energy will also give her time and opportunity to more carefully make her selection.
Then too, there's the matter of their appearance. Their sperm heads are coated (with proteins) which protected them during THE RACE but will hinder their performance in the next ACT. Do they also prevent her getting a good look--discretely, of course?
Once again, apparently passive Ms. Ovum is well prepared. Carefully she secretes substances which will clean them up a bit, at least wiping layers of travel-worn proteins off their heads. This bath and cleansing will also prepare the lucky winner, after she finally makes her selection, for firing off his penetrating enzymes in ACT III. But I get ahead of myself.
So far, she has only succeeded in leading them on and getting them, without their knowledge, cleaned up for the dance. The whole matter of selection, the essential script for ACT II, lies ahead. That, we may imagine, is what the upcoming dance is all about.
While the lucky few twirl her around for the next eight or ten hours, she must certainly be evaluating their performances, perhaps looking at the long line of waiting dancers to see if a better partner may be present. Although we do not know what her criteria are, this, among countless other mysteries she will continue to hold, must be certain: surely she wants the best--not necessarily the fastest, or the cleanest, or even the most skillful dancer, but somehow, for the Universal Law of Evolution, survival of the fittest, to be kept (and surely she wants to break no laws), she must pick the best.
Perhaps rejection would be a more descriptive name than selection for her role in ACT II. Although choosing one, she is rejecting scores of others, each of which, by completing the race, won the right to attend the dance. Hundreds have their tickets in hand, even if only one will win her hand. Furthermore, to the great consternation of all Sperm-spreaders, she can in fact reject the whole lot of winners of any single race.
Perhaps, if she waits for another race, a better sperm will come along later! Mother Nature has dealt Ms. Ovum a more enduring hand for playing and replaying her cards in ACT II of this drama. For all the eager Mr. Sperms in this first deal, this is it. If she doesn't select one of them, their game is over; they all die. But for her, with a bearer well capable of waiting and acquiring and containing other batches of willing competitors, she can, if she chooses, gamble on others to come.
Will she take one of these, or wait for more? If none meet her mysterious criteria for the best, if the field is too narrow, she, with years of practice at waiting, can easily wait longer. Perhaps a better Prince will arrive later. But can she afford to wait? The bewitching hour approaches.
ACT III: THE WEDDING
We shall assume, for sake of continuing the drama, that somehow Ms. Ovum, whether from this or other bunches of aspiring grooms, has finally made her choice. ACT III cannot begin until she has made up her mind, no matter how long it takes. One of my teenage daughters kept a poster on her door with these words: YOU HAVE TO KISS A LOT OF FROGS BEFORE YOU FIND A PRINCE.
We assume a selection, even if we never know the criteria for the best. Perhaps she simply tires of kissing frogs, or dancing with wolves (more like mice to her). Whatever the case, his grand WIN in ACT II, his final glorious triumph over millions of losers, his claiming of the prize, his readying for THE KILL--to him, must certainly evoke ambivalence from her about his "Conquest." True, her destiny, even as his, hinges on ACT III; but can his "Victory" be more than a joke to her?
Though he struts, proud of his success, remember that she is 30 times his height. Size-wise, he is but a mouse to her. True, he has a long tail; mostly though, he is all head--and "talk"? Should she simply "step on (roll over) him" and be done with it? Or turn her back and ignore him? He may be a "big man" in his own eyes; yet to her, he is but a shrimp of a winner. Even his cockiness can hardly obscure his immaturity to her. She, recall, is at least 72--maybe 192 times his age.
Though bathed as best she could do so without injuring his "fragile ego," no doubt travel-dust and proteins remain, dirtying him, certainly to her standards of cleanliness, even if he doesn't know so. So, vainly proud of himself--though immature, disheveled, and somewhat dirty to her, not to mention tiny--he thinks he has "gotten her." Ha ha!
But for all his shortcomings, he is essential for the conclusion of the drama. Without him (his 23 chromosomes), the show stops at ACT II. His big WIN and her final CHOICE are all for naught without THE KILL--to him, and THE WEDDING--to her.
Limitations and all, she did select him. As far as she knows, he was the best of the lot. Perhaps lingering doubts are predictable; "Did I choose the right one? What if I had waited or shopped a bit longer?"
Yet she has chosen. Time now for THE WEDDING. The Princess is to be crowned Queen--at least for the day (or night). Literally, this is the biggest event in her life, so far. The momentous act soon to transpire on this wedding night will not only save her life (as well as his), but transform her forever.
Specifically, now that the dance is over, she must allow her two outer protective robes to be parted and then open herself to be penetrated by this flagrant stranger she has selected to be her groom. In this crowning moment she will be deflowered forever; she will give up flowering--the bloom of youth, in favor of an entirely new role. She will let go of Princess Play, years of practice at attracting, immediately to assume unknown responsibilities which will at once cost her all her freedom, plus much of her beauty.
Queen-For-A-Day, before the night is over, will phase into Mother-For-A-Lifetime. But first, the opening, the reception, the engulfing, the absorption of this tiny adversary and consort who both brings her missing half and costs all that she has been so far.
Their union, recall, following the 10 hour dance, will require three more hours. As soon as this transforming connection begins, she will immediately release repellents (enzymes) which detach any other Mr. Sperms who are yet hanging on hopefully. Once past dancing and into absorbing, she, as it were, slams herself shut to all but the one lucky winner. From then on, for her, it's she and he, and no one else, faithfully united forever.
While our heroic Mr. Number Uno Sperm, grand winner of the race and lucky recipient of the Prize Princess is losing his life through absorption (otherwise the race would still have been in vain), the now "despoiled" virgin who has "lost her cherry" begins the serious process of transmitting the essence of herself into nutrients for the rapidly dividing and ravenously hungry new cells born of their union.
Her long lifetime of developing desirability, being pretty, playing Princess, waiting for the handsome Prince to come along and take her to the ball--all this is, it must be a devastating shock, over. Mothering, like it or not, now begins in earnest, while dying, for the winning Sperm--hopefully on the way to resurrection in Fathering--is also taking place.
Within 30 hours this union of Mr. Sperm and Ms. Ovum will lead to a first cell division. The one together will become two apart, with a unique-in-all-the-world combination of the genes of each. A day later, the two will become four, as the curtain falls once more on ACT III of the ageless Drama of Conception.
For Ms. Ovum--Princess-For-Years become Queen-For-A-Day, now on the way to Mother-For-Life, this entire drama is but the barest of beginnings. Though essential, it is only for openers; the real, extended Drama of Reproduction is only starting. Though her freedom and beauty fade quickly, her life and responsibility expand immediately to replace them.
The reason for the grand difference in the sizes of her and the shrimp, Mr. Sperm, now becomes apparent. Like him, she had to contain 23 chromosomes; but unlike him, she also had to contain all the nutrients required for these momentous early self-divisions. From now on she will literally be absorbed in the processes of mothering, of giving herself over and over into the making of this new life form conceived of them both, but borne only by her bearer.
At the very least, nine months of her bearer's life will be continuously changing as the Drama of Conception phases into the Drama of Reproduction. The Ovum-bearer is becoming the Baby-maker. Years more, at least 12-18, will be demanded from her private life. Even when her offspring flies--if ever it does, or is pushed from the nest, its reshaping of her life will remain. Though it is gone, she will never again be free from its shaping of her, even as it carries her shaping. Instinctively, he or she will forever remain mine, in some measure owning me always.
Ideally, the Spreader of the fortunate Mr. Sperm will also be around for a co-role in the second drama too. His support, protection, provision, and participation will certainly be needed. But such ideals aren't always. Unfortunately, his genes, unlike those of the Bearer of Ms. Ovum, have not yet acquired the necessity of remaining. Her commitment for up to a lifetime is only guaranteed his for the very beginning of the wonder-filled Drama of Conception. Regrettably, her hope for his love on all the mornings after can only expect, genetically speaking, his "Wham, bam; thank you ma'm." All too often, he is gone soon thereafter.
This consequential three act Drama of Conception, with the two principal characters, Mr. Sperm and Ms. Ovum, can be summarized as follows:
DRAMA OF CONCEPTION
Mr. Sperm Ms. Ovum
ACT I: THE RACE THE WAIT
ACT II: THE WIN THE CHOICE
ACT III: THE KILL THE WEDDING
In their mutual but differing first ACTS, key descriptive summaries of their complementary scripts are: for him competing, and for her attracting. While he struggles to out-distance all competitors, she waits and strives to attract him--as did each of their bearers before them. He must be fast at all costs; she must be pretty at all costs. He must find her; she must be found by him. Though he is outwardly active and she passive, her concealed activities in effectively attracting him may even exceed his own in finding her.
Key descriptive words for ACT II are sex and romance. While Mr. Sperm's agenda is primarily focused on "getting sex," WINNING the prize, doing it, Ms. Ovum, with her necessity for selecting one from the multitudes, is understandably more concerned with "romance"--that is, delaying dances which will allow her time and information for making her all important CHOICE of "the best" Mr. Sperm available.
Then in ACT III, THE KILL for him, THE WEDDING for her, descriptive words are aggression and tenderness. For Mr. Sperm, charged with penetrating both the outer protective garments of Ms. Ovum, as well as boring his way into her substances, aggressive force is a necessity. Violence, it might even be called.
This essential penetration is no job for a mild mannered Mr. Milktoast. Wimps need not apply. Aggressive "killers," willing to risk life and limb, to give it their all, are essential. On the other hand, Ms. Ovum is inherently the receiver. Artfully, carefully, she must engulf this wriggling penetrator into herself. He is, in effect, violent; she, for success, must be violated.
Naturally she brings tenderness to such a traumatic-for-her event. While he is "making the kill," she, in her complementary role, can be described as "making the heal." If he is the violating "killer," she is the tender "healer." While he forcefully risks dying in order to live, she tenderly nourishes life in order to keep from dying herself.
In each act of the drama the roles of Mr. Sperm and Ms. Ovum are apparently opposite, though complementary. His fierce competition, in ACT I, is countered by her gentle attraction. His overt sexiness in ACT II is complemented by her covert romancing. His ACT III aggression--his violent penetration, is countered by her correspondingly tender engulfment. His "hard" and hardness is as required as her "soft" and softness.
Without both, the union which initiates conception cannot be; the drama folds, without climax. Both lose. And die.
Could we but watch, we might wrongly conclude that this drama is a battle of the sexes. At each stage of the mutual process their scripts are essentially opposite--apparently conflicting. Yet, paradoxically, the better each character plays his and her opposing role, the better the drama and the end product--the next generation. Conversely, the more the characters are alike, the poorer they play their roles, the less effective the performance--and the next generation, if any.
Vive, Mother Nature and God her consort must shout, la difference.
Gender characteristics, those most predictable in men and women today, will reasonably--if genes have the power we suppose--be the same as those required for effective performance in the primal Drama of Conception. This, it seems to me, is the case. The ACTS of the drama--for Mr. Sperm: THE RACE, THE WIN, and THE KILL; for Ms. Ovum: THE WAIT, THE CHOICE, and THE WEDDING--plus the characteristics these ACTS require, do correlate with the most common traits I see in us who have evolved to bear them.
Also, the order of the Acts--first THE RACE, then THE WIN, and finally THE KILL, are predictive of the inherent power of the traits required for each. For example, as noted above, male traits required for effectiveness in the three ACTS of the drama are: competition, sexiness, and aggression. The predictability of these traits in men today seems to be in this order.
Most commonly of all, men are competitive; following competition, men are next most predictably "interested in sex." Then, for effectiveness in ACT III, THE KILL, men are likely to be aggressive or even violent. The relative powers of our genetic urges seem to correspond to the order of their place in the overall Drama of Conception.
For Ms. Ovum, and females evolved to bear her, the same ordering of powers appear to prevail: first, for her ACT I, attracting is necessary. The drive to be attractive seems to me to be the most pervasive and predictable of all female traits. Next, for ACT II, THE CHOICE, selectivity is required. After being attractive, being selective ("picky, picky," from a man's perspective) appears as woman's second most powerful attribute. Then, for ACT III, the trait of tenderness or receptivity is a third major characteristic of primal femininity.
In becoming a whole man or woman, these three primal traits, required for the success of every Mr. Sperm and Ms. Ovum, are essential, I believe, in gender completion today. For example, for a male to become whole, the masculine capacities for competition, sexiness, and aggression are required. For females, wholeness requires the primal gender characteristics: attract-ability, choosiness, and receive-ability.
Most gender problems (See Chapter on WHAT TO DO) can be related to a lack of embracing one or more of the three traits inherent in each primal gender. Denying or repressing any one the three predictably results in an exaggeration or "hang up" in one of the other two. For example, men often embrace primal trait number one, competition, but deny their capacity for trait number three, the aggression or violence necessary for THE KILL.
Predictably then, they become overly competitive but lack the final drive to "make the kill." They "try to win," but then "pull their punches" in the last analysis. They may ejaculate "prematurely." Although fiercely competitive--embracing capacity number one, and even able to stand winning, they pull back from the violence required for THE KILL.
In the following chapters, possible reflections of these most primal of our gendered differences are noted. The underlying assumption is that genetic urges initiated by X and Y chromosomes, plus the genes they contain and influences they bear on other genetic characteristics, lie at the base of the attributes we commonly find in men and women today. In other words, our genes "make us do it." We begin with possible reflections of those drives most necessary for Mr. Sperm and Ms. Ovum in the three acts of the Drama of Conception.
THE RACE AND THE WAIT
Competition and Attraction
The most basic, predictable, pervasive, and continual traits I observe in men and women are competition and attraction--men to compete, women to attract. Men seldom stray far from competing. Whatever the endeavor, whomever we are with, wherever the place, men are drawn to compete. "Mine (whatever it is) is faster/bigger/better than yours," is man's favorite declaration. ACT I for all sperm is THE RACE; competition is the name of the game--as well as this most inherent trait of us who are evolved to bear them.
Women, on the other hand, are born with ova waiting--some 500,000 per ovary; not full grown, of course, but waiting. And their bearers seldom stray far from the waiting stance. Wiser men never try to hurry a woman, that is, to move her from her waiting mode. Meanwhile, while-waiting, woman's most basic, predictable, pervasive, and continual trait is to be attractive. The waiting Ms. Ovum, during ACT I of the Drama of Conception, has no other choice but to do all she can to attract the hoards of sperm. And those evolved to bear her are permeated with the same urge.
Men have many other traits, but none so universal as the drive to compete. Whatever else we may or may not be, we are competitive. Count on it! Women, likewise, are multi-traited and mysterious; who, including yourselves, can ever know for sure for long what you want? This much, however, is predictable: you are as consistently concerned with attractiveness--in yourself and all your surroundings, including us when we surround you--as are we with competition.
The most primal and essential characteristic of any successful Mr. Sperm is that he be competitive. ACT I, THE RACE, is nothing else but a life or death competition. In the Sperm Swim-a-thon, only one of the 400 million aspiring Sperms will succeed; the rest die.
This is no Win/Win situation; it is strictly Win or Die. Every Sperm is "on his own." There is no one to help or support, certainly not to save a weak competitor. Nor is there any place for helping or supporting any other Sperm in the race. Suppose a fellow Sperm gets bogged-down in some particularly murky oil slick or entangled on a cilia in a Fallopian Canal. Dare one stop to help him? To give him a freeing nudge? Not so! In this drama, perhaps more than any other in all of creation, "It's you or me, buddy;" not "you and me," or, "me for you," or, "you for me, but "it's every Sperm for himself"; only one will survive. "May the best man (Sperm) win!"
Is there any wonder that Sperm-bearing males are so everlastingly competitive, so continually "interested in sports," so unsympathetic with competitors, so hell-bent on reaching goals, "getting somewhere," not asking for directions, winning "at all costs?" Men often hunt and fish (competitive activities--"My game (fish) is bigger than yours") far beyond the dictates of reason. A cost analysis of these competitive endeavors can seldom justify the time, energy, and money men regularly invest in guns, boats, and fishing equipment. But our genes must understand!
To further clarify, note the extreme numerical difference in potential gender characters in the drama. An average human male, you may recall, produces some 3,000 sperm per second, about 8 trillion during his gendered life time. This breaks down to about 15 billion per month. During this same month the human female need produce only a single ovum to await his 400 million per ejaculation potential suitors. Furthermore, she, our metaphored ovum, may simply wait throughout numerous such parades of talent before selecting a lucky winner.
Lottery odds (we are 769 times more likely to be struck by lightening than to win a state lottery) are relatively great in comparison to the potential victory of any single sperm. With 8 children, which is more than average, a man's sperm odds will have been one in a trillion! During a fifteen year child-bearing tenure, a woman will only have 100 fertile periods and need just 8 ova for her part in this particular set of Reproductive Dramas.
The point is the extreme disparity between the number of potential sperm and ova available and required for reproductive success. Sperm, being multitudinous, are expendable; ova, on the other hand are precious. So what if a few hundred million or billion sperm are wasted? There are plenty more where those came from; and soon.
Ova, conversely (only 300 in a 25 year fertile lifetime), are treasurable. With so vast a number of life-or-death aspirants for immortality, so few a number of co-actresses available, and with odds of only one in a trillion--well, need we note further the competitiveness of male Sperm-bearers!
We cannot fight for love, as men do; we should be woo'd and were not made to woo.
Helena, in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream (37, p 152)
Now consider Ms. Ovum's role during Mr. Sperm's Three Mile, Winner Take All, Losers Die, RACE. Waiting and attracting are all she can do. Since in fact she "can't go anywhere or do any active thing," she must rely on covert powers, "being appealing." Although we as yet know very little about how ova go about attracting this massive number of competitors, we know a great deal about how Ovum-bearers attract Sperm-spreaders.
In fact, attracting--being desirable, looking pretty, smelling sweet, acting cute, dressing up--seems to be the most consuming of all female endeavors. Little girls begin early, far before reason would indicate, to "fix themselves up," to try on mother's clothes, to comb their hair, to play with make up--in other words, to practice being attractive. They flirt long before they could have "learned" anything about flirting.
The massive attention most females give to making themselves attractive can only make sense, to me, as a reflection of every ova's primal calling, namely, to appeal to sperm. Even when Ovum-bearers have no conscious interest in any Sperm-spreader--for example, when going to the grocery store at mid-night for a box of tampax--still the urge to "fix up" first is compelling.
And even if a woman "doesn't like being stared at," consciously, still she is apt to unwittingly do all those things likely to get her stared at, at least by Sperm-bearing males. Long past the time for any biological interest in men, still females "fix their hair" and faces before "going out" where men may be.
Is there anything more characteristic and inherent in the female script than attracting? Trying to be desirable? The only power I note which is comparable to male desire for winning, is female effort given to desirability. His desiring seems only matched by her work to be desirable. Present reasoning about male competitiveness--the compulsion to win, to be Number One, and female attractiveness--the compulsion to look good, to be seen as Number One, may best be understood when we begin by respecting genetic inclinations.
In the broadest sense, his role is active, her's passive; he is the pursuer, she, the pursued. But her passivity is far more than an opposite of activity. Although Mr. Sperm, being mobile, moves far and fast, while Ms. Ovum, relatively immobile, only exits an ovary and waits passively, appearances are deceptive. Though waiting, our co-actress is quite busy in the process.
Ms. Ovum's urge to attract hoards of sperm from which she may luckily find a single "good-enough one" must, by this point in evolutionary history, have become so thoroughly ingrained in every cell of the female body that a girl or woman never has to "think about it" any more. The feminine inclination to attract indiscriminately must rival in power the urge to breathe without respect to time, place, or circumstances.
First is the matter of body itself; attention to figure and shape, the obvious power of her "equipment" to attract males, calls for much attention to the body she presents--its visual attractiveness. This means attention to weight, form, visibility, as well as cleanliness and smell. Then comes the extremely complicated matter of decoration and adornment--make-up, clothing, and jewelry. To the great consternation of males who must often wait while they do, females' urge to beautify themselves before any "going out" (anywhere, anytime, for any reason) must defy even the mysterious boundaries of female reason.
Reflections of this immensely powerful urge to be attractive spread from long range body-shaping to huge blocks of time given to the actual preparations required for beautifying oneself, to immense amounts of both time and effort given to shopping for supplies to be used in beautification--clothing, shoes, make-up, perfumes, etc. Not only must Ms. Ovum-bearer be personally attractive, so must all she wears and bears--her clothing and every other piece of adornment. Imagine shoes not matching a blouse, not to mention the color and hue of one's make-up!
This primitive drive for attractiveness spreads beyond her actual person and clothing to include the places in which she dwells, the vehicles in which she rides, and, all too often for her male co-actors who could usually care less, even their appearance also. After all, his unattractiveness may reflect on her too.
The point is, the feminine urge to be attractive is usually revealed in every aspect of a woman's life and activity. It must be as equally encoded in gene directives as is the male urge to seek attractive females. Even when consciously denied, stubbornly resisted, and already working better than desired, the urge to attract, to be desirable, seems inevitably activated in the feminine half of the species.
Competitive Sperm-bearers have an intense and abiding "interest in sex" itself (See ACT II). Ovum-bearers, in contrast, have an equally intense and abiding "interest in attraction," but a relatively small interest in the sex act alone. Men, we might say, are "crazy about doing it," while women, with good reason, have far less interest in "doing it," but seem equally "crazy about attracting" those who do.
The depths of these possibly genetic (the genes for shopping and attracting have yet to be discovered) drives may be deducted from the facts of how long they persist after all reason seems to be gone--for example, how aged females, far past caring that any male be attracted to them, continue to be diligent in "worrying about how they look." Even while a woman is still of child-bearing age, the urge to be attractive certainly goes beyond any sexual intent. Females with absolutely no desire for sexual activity, certainly not for impregnation, are still inclined to be attractive wherever they go.
Female criticism of other females' appearance, silent if not stated, may also be a reflection of the veiled but fierce competition which women commonly feel for scoring high on the attractiveness scale. As most men know, women dress far more in competition with other females than to actually impress men. Men's standards for female attractiveness rarely come close to the apparently blind urge to "always look as good as you possibly can," preferably more attractive than any other woman.
The threat of a male's attention to another woman is often not sexual or even a concern about the relationship itself, as much as it is about the possible diminishing of one's own attractiveness. "What's wrong with the way I look?," is often more relevant to a woman being ignored, than the actual attention her male is directing elsewhere. In other words, the threat may be more about her own desirability than her mate's roving eye.
In colloquial language, this feminine drive for attractiveness may be recognized as "wanting to be wanted," even if a woman doesn't want the results of being wanted. Perhaps no threat cuts so deeply into the soul of femininity as the possible loss of desirability--the surest sign of effective attraction.
Even when a woman doesn't consciously want and can hardly tolerate overt attention, she is apt to be disturbed by being ignored. For ACT I of the Drama of Conception, where all the rest begins, attracting is the most critical element in the female role. Even selectability (see ACT II) is useless unless a woman, predestined at the ovum level to be the waiting one, is successful in attracting male co-actors.
Small wonder that females have evolved with such talent and skill for continual performances, on stage and off, ever attracting the eye of us who are equally diligent in our attractions.
THE WIN AND THE CHOICE
Sex and Selection
ACT II of the Drama of Conception ushers in a second constellation of diametrically opposed differences between the principal characters of the primal script--and those evolved to bear them. Recalling the bare facts of this second primal act: the greatly reduced quantity of Sperm competitors--from 200 to 2000, now face a second set of new challenges; having reached the finish line, getting to Her Majesty The Ovum, still they must compete for selection, and, if picked, penetrate the massive Princess, losing themselves in the process.
Ms. Ovum, after her long passive wait in the wings, now moves toward center stage in the drama: first she must choose; which is the Pick-of-the-lot of available Sperm, the "fittest," the most likely to complement her chromosomes in producing a grander offspring? She must "get together" and make connections. Then, after a virginic lifetime of 15 to 40 years (remember, females are born with primal ova already present), she must risk penetration, lose her virginity, and take this foreign creature into herself. Otherwise, recall, she dies.
Competition, of course, ideally culminates in THE WIN. Attraction, when successful, leads to THE CHOICE--as does ACT I for Mr. Sperm and Ms. Ovum. At our most primal level, the whole point of Mr. Sperm "beating out the competition" (all 399,999,999 of them) is to win the prize--which, of course, is the single Ms. Ovum. In complementary manner, the point of being so singularly attractive is to invite a greater parade of competitors from which to choose.
Insofar as their bearers are concerned, these primal agendas are reflected in two deeply complementary, but often, on the surface, contradictory traits: highly sexy males and highly selective females--that is, men who seem to "only want one thing" and women who are so "picky picky" that they seldom do.
The second most predictable traits in men and women of all ages and places are: interest in sex for men, and discriminating selection for women. On the surface these traits seem unrelated. Women may often wonder: Why are men so "preoccupied with sex"? Men certainly wonder: Why are women so "picky picky about everything"?
But on deeper levels, as we will explore next, these apparently conflicting roles in ACT II of the Drama of Conception--men to be sexy, women to be selective, are wonderfully effective in the successful completion of the dance which is its principle activity. The culminating drama of ACT III is dependent on the artful melding of these two seemingly contradictory traits.
First, sex; in particular the grand difference-in-interest. With only slight exaggeration, given a tendency to hyperbole, do women often think that men are only interested in one thing. And no one need name the thing for everyone to know what they are talking about. The neuter pronoun it is sufficient reference for our common understanding. Mrs. Freud, were she as interested in explaining men as her husband was in understanding woman, might have easily answered the unnecessary-to-ask-question: What do men really want?, with the obvious but discrete answer: "to do it."
Men, certainly when they are honest, think about sex, according to numerous "scientific studies" (who needs them?), about once every 5 minutes--at least up to age 50, when time diminishes their production if not their habit. And when not thinking--that is, when they sleep, there are the nocturnal dreams, erections, and, often, emissions.
That we only think about one thing, as some harassed females may reasonably conclude, is certainly an exaggeration; but we do, with equal certainly think a lot about this one thing. It, that is.
For men who obviously have far more pressing current concerns, this "preoccupation with sex" seems terribly illogical, if not grandly "gross" to women who must "endure" our "crude jokes," glaring "girl watching," "wandering hands," "dirty minds," and apparently constant desire to "do it"--with whomever, whenever, and however.
Look back to our beginnings, however; see us as Sperm-bearers rather than Mature-men, as we might prefer, and the power of our sexual interests may make more sense. Remember that ACT I of the Drama of Conception is primarily our stage; ACT II is woman's. On the chromosomal level, Y to be more specific, sex, means "doing it"--not sensuality but sexuality; and certainly not love, but pure, raw "fucking" is what we are first about. Even the X chromosome is fuller of more diverse genes than the single-minded Y (see Chapter on BIOLOGY).
Love is appropriately your greater concern as Ovum-bearers; but making love, sex, that is, is ours. Women may reasonably observe men and wonder--even as we often do, What's the big deal? But all reason aside, for us it is. Winning the awesomely competitive sperm race (remember 400 million competitors and all but one, and usually he too, die) is truly a "big deal," in fact, the only deal in town--at first. Sex is not a "big deal" because we individual men make it so; we have no choice in that. For us as Sperm-bearers, our deepest and most powerful genetic drive, past self-survival and primal competition, is sex.
For women, of course, "doing it," though essential for beginning reproduction, is only a minor prelude to ACT II where you become the principal characters and we fade into the background. It, for you doesn't deserve italicizing or a capital I. Your "big deal" comes next. But for us, on the Y chromosomal level of ACT II, sex is everything.
Given this powerful urge for initiating the extended drama, Mother Nature--through our genes--has wisely protected herself with another built-in assurance: the necessity of male orgasms, which, we all know, are grandly pleasurable. Even if males forget the genetic role of their Y chromosomes, they, with any memory at all, can hardly forget the awesome pleasure of orgasm which necessarily accompanies every entrance on the stage for the Drama of Conception.
ACT II of the Drama of all our Conceptions, that second most primal direction given in male genes, must be about THE WIN. First, Mr. Sperm must out-compete everyone else. He must win THE RACE. But winning the race is only the beginning. Many sperm (from 200 to 2,000) win the race. ACT II requires that Mr. Sperm also be the one who captures the permission of Ms. Ovum. For his bearer, this translates into "getting the girl."
The biological process of capacitation, the seven to eleven hour period during which Mr. Sperm and Ms. Ovum prepare for ACT III, translates into "courtship" for us who bear these primary characters. From the male standpoint, "getting the girl" is primarily about sex. Competing is more primal and comes first; but the point of "beating out the competition," genetically speaking, is capturing Ms. Ovum, which for Sperm-bearers means "having sex."
As sperm "look" for ova, and die if they don't find one, so Sperm-bearers look for Ovum-bearers--and sometimes act like we may die if we don't find a willing one. Although the male urge to compete is easily displaced onto games which seem to bear no relation to ova, the inherent inclination for finding ova, "girl watching" in Sperm-bearers, seems never to be outgrown in men.
Men, inherently are "lookers." Evolution has as yet devised no better way for Sperm-bearers to find Ovum-bearers, potential Sperm-receivers, than by "scoping." Nothing in all of masculinity seems more natural and predictable than males looking for "pretty girls"--pretty, whatever else it may include, meaning potential for receiving sperm.
As the sailor sang in SOUTH PACIFIC, there is nothing you can name that is anything like a dame. When all reason dictates otherwise, even before the honeymoon is over, male genes incline their bearers, wherever they may be, whomever they are with, no matter what is going on, to be on the look out for "pretty girls."
EYES FOR YOU
Equally predictable, what we look for in one another is also a reflection of our primal roots. As Mr. Sperm looks for Ms. Ovum, so Mr. Sperm-spreaders (all genetic males) look for Ms. Ovum-bearers, recipients for their over-abundant supply of baby-starters. First, men are inveterate "girl watchers," girl rather than older woman watchers, because girls are more likely to have healthy ova available.
The process begins for the male with female selection. In spite of how indiscriminate men sometimes seem to women ("They will do it with anyone"), genetic eyes, with 600 million years for perfecting their vision, are, it seems to me, carefully discriminatory. Even when the bearer's eyes are somewhat blind, gene eyes are drawn to pretty girls. Conscious explanations of what makes a pretty girl pretty are as diverse as are the explainers; analyzed, though, the common denominators seem to be: apparent impregnability--readiness-for-conception. Gene eyes seem to be geared for reproductive ripeness, for young Ovum-bearers most ready for what their genetic histories have prepared them, namely, "getting pregnant."
Second, they watch for pretty girls rather than ugly ones. Pretty, in spite of its many cultural influences, boils down to what genetic eyes have evolved to determine as sexy--that is, ripe or apparently "ready to do it." Earlier in the evolutional process, when gender genes were even more dictative than they are for humans, our ancestors required less discrimination. When estrus prevailed, an ovulating female "in heat" gave overt signals of her readiness to waiting males. Male apes could spend less time "scoping" because female apes truthfully "told" when they were ready.
But that's history. Now, when a woman's "heat" is hidden, men never know when she releases her rare (once a month) ovum--or even if she does. We are "forced" (what a chore!) to watch all the time. But with practice, we learn about reading the signs. Young and sexy are two of our better clues. True, we miss much of the time, "wasting" our healthy sperm when there's no ovum at home to receive them. Fortunately for us, orgasms are fun anyway; and, as noted above, "there's plenty more where that came from."
In other words, gene eyes are drawn to "sexiness"--signs of readiness and willingness to copulate. Pretty to males who are honest is most always synonymous with sexy. The word young is the next most common denominator in the diverse descriptions of "pretty." The odds of healthy offspring are of course better with a healthy young Ovum-maker.
Though it is less often stated, virgin seems to be the third most relevant denominator in what attracts male gene eyes. The primal "will-to-live," to stay alive as oneself, written into every sperm cell, seems to be almost equally evident in each particular bearer of them. Men seem compelled not only to keep themselves alive, but also to perpetuate their own particular genes.
The best female candidates are therefore virgins. If no other sperm have been deposited, then none but our seeker's can be reproduced. A "loose woman," who may have received the sperm of other males, is not nearly so pretty as a ripe, young virgin. Past virginity, male animals of all species, humans included, diligently try to possess their females, to guard them against receiving sperm from any other Sperm-spreader besides themselves.
The still popular PLAYBOY phenomenon in America--in which young, obviously sexy and hopefully virginic centerfolds are the focus--is often derided, especially by females, as "childish"--among other judgments. Men, in this perspective, should "grow up" and "get over" such "prurient," boy-interests. I suspect, however, that sales continue because Hefner has successfully focused on primal maleness rather than social, especially older female, values. The appeal is not simply to boys, young males, but to the genetic eyes of males of all ages. All conscious reasoning to the contrary (and indeed many social values are threatened by genetics), gene eyes, with all their innate wisdom, seem inevitably drawn to such beauty.
Past the best possible selection, the "prettiest girl" available, the next step is contact, "getting in touch." Maleness, for ACT II, is primarily about "getting girls," especially those most likely to produce healthy babies for the male who gets them only, and then "getting in their pants,"--that is, having sex.
This doesn't mean, however, that we too don't long for more, for becoming our fuller selves, for transcending "selfishness." But in our common experience, orgasm is often the only time we "forget ourselves" completely, transcending pragmatic "selfishness" we have evolved for success in our essential role in self-survival and self-extension. Sometimes we come close to "losing ourselves" in our fierce competition with other males; but only in orgasm do we regularly succeed. Even if only for a second, transcendence of "self" seems worth whatever it takes.
Mother Nature, bless and curse her, has written this glorious pay-off into our male script every time we come on stage. Even if Ms. Ovum is not at home (or her bearer is in a bad mood) and all the millions of individual sperm die later, still we males have brief glimpses of heaven every time we do it. Such a rewarding it is no mere neuter pronoun or "gross" act to us. It is wonderful. For Sperm-bearers, there is no "bad sex," only varying degrees of "good sex."
Which, regrettably for us, is far from true for you whose primary role only begins at ACT II. For you, we hate to admit and wish were not so, there is much "bad sex"; for some of you, it is all bad. And that's too bad. Certainly you are capable of orgasm also, indeed with such extended capacity that we are often jealous if not threatened; but, and here's the rub: it isn't necessary. Should it happen, given our common male crudenesses, your orgasm is a bonus, by no means inevitable or necessary.
What this means, even past the necessities of conception, is that sex for men is always fun, given our essential orgasm, even when females hate it. The extreme complexity of circumstances which your orgasms require, not to mention the challenges of possible pregnancy, leave you understandably resistant to seeing our "distorted" (to you) interest in sex. Besides our powerful urges to do our part in reproducing our species as well as ourselves, plus the additional gift of fun, for many of us sex is as close as we ever come to salvation. For us, our apparently "excessive interest" in doing it is only normal, not "excessive" at all.
This powerful male urge to "do it" is relatively unparalleled in females. Women as Ovum-bearers, quite predictably have a minuscule sex-interest when compared with their Sperm-spreading counterparts. The astronomically small odds of success of any of the 3,000 per second, regularly produced male sperm, in comparison with those of any one of the 400 per lifetime female ova, make these differences in desire to do it easily understandable. A Sperm-spreader, to increase the chances of reproducing himself, both can and must spread often. An Ovum-bearer, in extremely sharp contrast, with her short supply of ova, plus the demanding consequences of a successful conception (one to ten times in 35 years), faces no such necessity.
In summary, the sharp difference in "interest in sex" in men and women may be better understood if our genetic differences on the sperm and ova level are recognized. These, overall, are: gross differences in production of the number of sperm and ova; differences in times available for union; differences in pleasure inherent in the "doing it" event itself; and of course, the grand and unmeasurable differences in what happens after any successful union.
First, the number of a Sperm-spreader's available actors in comparison to an Ovum-bearer's available actresses is almost inconceivable. Try to imagine eight trillion sperm: 8,000,000,000,000--an ordinary male's life time production, in search of a woman's 400 maximum, only two or three needed, life time production of ova. He has sperm to waste; her tiny number of ova are all precious.
Next comes the issue of time. He, recall, is, biologically speaking, regularly ready. His epididymis, the storage bin for his constantly producing testes, always has a supply of aspiring actors just waiting to go on stage. Night or day, 24 hours every day, seven days each week, four weeks a month--etc., the sperm are ready to fertilize.
Not so with the ova. Only once a month, and not even every month, does a single ovum make a tentative appearance in a fallopian tube, possibly ready for conceiving. During this same time period Mr. Sperm-spreader has produced 4,320 million potential co-actors. Furthermore these eager sperm can wait around for up to a week for her comparably brief appearance of only 24 hours.
If number and time were the only issues at stake, a man's interest in sex should, biologically speaking, exceed woman's by thousands-of-folds. But there's more. Remember also the difference in necessity of orgasm: males must; females can, but need not. Since orgasm and pleasure are innately bound, and males must "have one" in order to make the reproductive stage, fun is always written into the male script. He "can't help but have a good time." For him, there is no such thing as "bad sex." Freud's pleasure principle, the human striving for pleasure and avoidance of pain, is inherent in every male sexual event.
Not so, of course, for woman. Although she too may experience the pleasure of orgasm, statistics indicate that often is not the case. Biology doesn't require it and she, sadly, more often than not may not "have one." Not only is pleasure not inherent for her, pain often is. Until she is truly ready, intercourse can hurt--an experience males know naught of.
Then, and most significantly of all, is the matter of results. Should the drama of it be successful--or even if it is not, he, the Sperm-spreader can simply roll over and go to sleep. End of matter. Pleasure reached. Fun had. That--as always wonderful as it was--is it. Period.
But the possible end of it all for him is only the barest of beginnings for her should fertilization occur. The awesome transformations which she must under go--physically, mentally, emotionally; in time and circumstance; in appearance and function; in life-style and activity, not to mention responsibility--in almost every conceivable aspect of life, know no parallel in the sleeping male who has not only played his only essential role but also had a great time in the process. His five minutes of fun are often a lifetime of consequences for her.
Is it any wonder that Ovum-bearers approach "doing it" with such a grand difference-in-interest than do their Sperm-spreading counterparts? Reason, given these and other facts, could hardly dictate otherwise.
But if femininity is not, with these good reasons, as "interested in sex" as is masculinity, then what? Obviously both genders are biologically concerned with reproduction. The same drama is a Prime Cause for both. Just as a sperm dies if he doesn't connect with an ovum, so an ovum dies if she fails to receive a sperm. Ultimately conception is a life or death issue for both.
Attraction, the primary activity of Ms. Ovum during ACT I, reasonably focused on quantity, must now be replaced by selection--that is, a focus on quality. Although precise definitions of quality, from a female's perspective ("What does a woman really want?"), are yet unclear, these generalities seem likely: first, since the most certain law of evolution is survival of the fittest, a "street-wise" ovum will logically seek a strong, healthy, perfectly developed, sperm with 23 fine chromosomes capable of joining her own 23 for making the "best" baby.
Because the Drama of Reproduction which follows that of Conception will focus on circumstances for rearing the wonderful child, Ovum-bearers must be concerned with much more than a healthy sperm. Along with a good Sperm-bearer, they will also need a "good man"--that is, one who will capably and responsibly be there on the many, many, mornings after his grand and glorious night before.
Again, the qualities which go into making a "good man," though elusive to male understanding, must surely include: being a "good provider" of resources and protection required for child-rearing; plus, faithful, dependable, not too-much-trouble, and, ideally, reasonably intelligent, witty, and even handsome if possible.
In summary, female selection, in contrast to male criteria, must be two-fold: "best sperm," plus "good man." Although her passive modes of attracting may be relatively indiscriminate, her final selections--if evolutional wisdom prevails--must be extremely discriminating. Males, predictably, seldom understand this profound difference. With hoards of sperm to waste, plus easy leaving on the morning after, indiscriminate spreading is a male's logical role. But with precious few ova who only appear rarely, and the inevitably heavy responsibilities of the many mornings after, extremely careful selection is a female's essential way. If wise at all, she had better be "picky picky."
Which, of course, is exactly what we find in females evolved to be Ovum-bearers: massive (from a male's viewpoint) attention to attraction plus a degree of selectivity which few males ever understand. In most instances, the power of these two urges to dictate female activity seems to elude the awareness even of women themselves.
Inseparably related to the drive toward attractiveness--the focus of ACT I, are reflections of Ms. Ovum's second major agenda, namely, selectivity. First she attracts vast numbers of sperm; then one Mr. Lucky must be selected. Part and parcel, it seems, of diligence in attracting is extreme care in selecting. Just as the male role calls for a 180 degree change from complete independence to total dependence, from being a-part to being engulfed, so the female role calls for a total switch also. For Ms. Ovum-bearer, indiscriminate attraction must be phased into precisely discriminate selection.
"Picky-picky" is a male perspective on the exquisitely refined "tastes" of females who are refining their choices at every level of the reproductive process--all the way from shopping for clothes and beauty supplies to the way they appear when all vestiges of adornment are removed. It seems to us males that females are never satisfied that any selection on any level is ever "good enough"--from make-up to men.
Pragmatically, in so far as logic and finances are concerned, this may be true. But given the far-reaching consequences of any Ms. Ovum's success in attracting and choice in selecting, no degree of "picky-pickyness" could reasonably be inappropriate.
Woman's genetic eyes, reasonably, are different from those of man's. While males, with their abundant supply of sperm to waste, are evolved to look for the most likely Baby-makers (pretty girls), females, with their precious few ova (and overwhelming responsibilities attached to those rare ones who succeed in making connections) are evolved to search more diligently for Security-makers (stable men) than mere Sperm-spreaders.
Sex, remember, is easy to find; good men are the rarity--good meaning faithful, stable, strong, rich, dependable, Security-makers. Whereas females are as predictably in search of security as males are looking for sex, the ways of finding each begin to diverge. Men and women both look, but pretty is easier to see than is dependable.
Pretty is evident to our physical eyes, but security requires a closer examination. "Looks," which are almost everything to males in search of sex, become secondary to females "looking" for a good man. Personality traits such as gentleness, sense of humor, dependability--signs of security--take precedence over appearances. Not that handsomeness doesn't matter to women, but secondarily.
Even though young girls, primarily in search of strong sperm, may first be drawn to a man's body, wiser female lookers, those with better developed genetic eyes, are more attracted to signs of security than to masculine beauty or sexual prowess. "Looks" to the wiser female are fine, but a powerful man with security-making potential is much more attractive. Conversely, to genetic male eyes, "looks" are closer to everything; secure females run a far distant second to pretty girls.
THE KILL AND THE WEDDING
Violence and Reception
The conclusion to the Drama of Conception, like the first two acts, involves an apparent contradiction--the meeting of opposing forces and modes of encounter. I chose the name, THE KILL, for the male role, not because an actual killing takes place, but because killing is a graphic and accurate metaphor for the male role. The colloquial expression, "making the kill,"--implying "finishing the act" (whatever it may be), is the sense of this intensely focused role. The phrase, "coup de grace"--or "stroke of mercy," meaning the blow or shot that brings death to a sufferer, taken metaphorically may convey the sense intended here by the name THE KILL.
Literally, the activities of this final act are penetration by Mr. Sperm and reception by Ms. Ovum. He forces himself in; she opens herself to receive him. Penetration, however, is lacking as a descriptive name for the male role here. The sperm does indeed penetrate, but the nature of the event is more "determined" than a "polite entrance." If the negative connotations could be removed from words such as violence, even rape, these might more clearly describe the decisive, focused, single-minded, seemingly "uncaring" nature of the male role in ACT III, which I call THE KILL. "Selfishly," as though nothing else mattered (this is the element of rape which is implied, not the literal brutality which is often a part of actual rape), Mr. Sperm ignores other factors (such as, how he looks, what she thinks, what others might feel, etc.)
But THE KILL for Mr. Sperm, paradoxically, is THE WEDDING for Ms. Ovum. His assertive penetration is in consort with her gentle reception. ACT III, for her, is more like a gala wedding celebration, following her long WAIT (ACT I), during which attraction was her major activity, then the careful selection (ACT II, THE CHOICE) of her best available mate. Now comes the time for consummation. In this final act, best portrayed in society by a wedding feast and the rites of marriage, the Princess Ovum now enters the nuptial chambers for the reception of her chosen Prince Sperm, thus ending the Drama of Conception and initiating the Drama of Reproduction which, ideally, follows..
Penetration and reception are the literal activities of Mr. Sperm and Ms. Ovum in the third act of the drama. For success, he must force his way through her two outer robes and into her substance. The enzymes below the cap of Mr. Sperm's chemical warhead will help him break through her protective cloaks and penetrate her shell.
He must, in human terms, be assertive, aggressive, rough, even violent in order to fulfill his role. If cells have attitudes, Mr. Sperm will be best served by a "don't care" attitude. He must ward off resistance, "not take NO for an answer"; he must be willing to appear "unsympathetic," even "to hurt" the gentle Ms. Ovum if penetration requires. Otherwise, conception cannot occur; winning the race and getting the prize will be in vain. Her seductive attractions, long wait, and careful selection will be for naught. Both he and she will die unless he, by whatever means, succeeds in penetration.
Conversely, the same failure will result unless Ms. Ovum is successful in her reception of this aggressive stranger. She absolutely must "take him in," no matter how unruly, unclean, unkempt, unmannerly, offensive, even abusive, he may be. Her years of individual intactness, of carefully developing her Princess stance, appearance, and coverings, must now be laid aside. She must, God forbid, "be pierced." Even as her bearer must be penetrated--"violated," or so it may seem, so must she receive and absorb this wriggling foreigner into the heart of who-she-is.
In apparently conflicting consort during this three hour drama of intense struggle, Mr. Sperm plays the role of aggressive penetrator while Ms. Ovum, appearing to diligently resist his most violent assaults, plays her role of gentle receiver. He fights to get in; she tenderly takes him in. Both his violence and her tenderness, though seemingly at odds, are critically important for their mutual success.
In human terms, Ms. Ovum's role of tender reception may be seen as "caring," "nurturing," "taking it," "putting up with abuse," or even as "love." While Mr. Sperm, with his active bombardments, seems to be "making war," Ms. Ovum with her passive gentleness, seems to be "striving for peace." He is "messing things up," "muddying the waters," while she tries to "calm him down," to "smooth things over."
Can this primal drama, with its obvious oppositions essential for a successful conclusion, predict the eventual behaviors of those born to bear the opposing cells required for any replay? I think so.
Note these possible reflections: Male aggression and female gentleness.
Most all studies, as though they were necessary, confirm the greater degree of aggressiveness of boys over girls, of men over women. From earliest ages males more actively explore their environments, assert themselves, and relate aggressively. More willingly they fight each other or anyone else.
Rape, physical abuse, violent crimes, war--all forms of positive aggressiveness exaggerated into negative activities are most exclusively the domain of males evolved to bear the necessarily assertive sperm. The essential penetrator all too easily becomes the dangerous perpetrator. Geared to "put out"--to spread his sperm, and to "push in"--to increase its odds of reception, man often exceeds the boundaries of realism; he "forces himself." "Making love" turns into rape.
Essential assertiveness all too often goes awry.
AP (8/17/92) Harrison City, PA: A 61-year-old man arrested in the stabbing death of his wife told a policeman he was incensed at the way she put food in the refrigerator, authorities said. Joseph Fallat Sr. was arrested Saturday at his Westmoreland County home for the slaying of his 50-year-old wife, Florence, who police said had been stabbed 219 times. "He told me he killed his wife," said patrolman John Simcoviak. "He said she would stack the refrigerator full of vegetables, hiding the milk, and he wasn't going to take that anymore."
Females, of course, are correspondingly less aggressive and more gentle in their approach to reality. From earliest times, girls prefer dolls over guns. They'd rather play "House" than "Cowboys and Indians." The aggressive roughhousing of boys is mostly offensive to them. Nurturing, "caring for," comes naturally. They are more interested in "smoothing things out" than with "dishing it out," with making peace rather than arguing and fighting.
Their naturally cooperative mode is, of course, more functional and acceptable in most group endeavors. Families and societies, when not threatened by outside circumstances, reasonably prefer the gentler feminine approach which respects the rights of others, over the aggressiveness of masculinity, so often disruptive to any group endeavor.
THE KILL, seen from another perspective, could also be described as THE DEATH. In the very act of penetrating Ms. Ovum, Mr. Sperm risks dying. The self-abandonment essential for piercing the giant egg is tantamount to the annihilation of all that he has been in his brief but exciting life thus far. In THE KILL, the arrow is not an instrument one possesses; it is oneself. The penetrating "missile" is all that Mr. Sperm is.
THE DEATH, of course, like THE KILL, is a descriptive but deceptive metaphor. Just as Ms. Ovum, the target, is not literally killed by the violent penetration of Mr. Sperm, neither does Mr. Sperm actually die in the union. In fact, only if either is unsuccessful does she "get killed" or he die. THE KILL only appears to be life-threatening; THE DEATH is only real if Mr. Sperm fails in penetrating Ms. Ovum.
In Lawrence's LADY CHATTERLY'S LOVER, it is she who cries, "I die," at the climaxing moment. In real life, such a cry would be more appropriate from her lover. If he speaks for the sperm he bears and sends, he is the more likely candidate for death--or so it must seem both to those sperm who lose the race as well as the one "winner." All the traits which have characterized our winner so far--separate, independent, and selfish--and with which he might have identified himself, must now be abandoned if he is to actually live on through the new life born of their union.
While making THE KILL, penetrating Ms. Ovum, Mr. Sperm might reasonably feel that THE DEATH more clearly names his experience as it seems to him. The proverbial "thrill of victory," in this instance, is short lived. If he is "lucky" enough to become the selected one, he must "die" to himself--his old self, that is.
The third trait, capacity for violence (ability to kill), may better be understood in its larger sense as a "preoccupation with death." Mr. Sperm's role in ACT III is like a two-sided coin with a "heads" and a "tails,"--"heads you win, tails you lose" paradox. Both go together and are inherently inseparable; yet each side appears as an opposite. When the selected Mr. Sperm approaches Ms. Ovum his initial challenge is penetration; for this "heads" part of the drama, he must be like a killer--that is, able to muster the violence necessary for "making the kill."
Reflective male traits associated with this first part of ACT III include daring, risk-taking, and a willingness to gamble one's all. Maleness, in this regard, is inherently geared to take a chance, to abandon personal concerns in favor of a total focus on the goal of THE WIN. Penetration, making THE KILL, requires a devil-may-care attitude. Men in the possession of this trait are like hired killers who appear not to care at all. Coldly, it seems, they relentlessly pursue their "victim," taking whatever chances are necessary to make the predetermined "kill."
Taking rape as a metaphor, freeing it from associations with real cruelty or actual damage to a victim, this third trait of maleness can be compared, in some ways, with rape. In the final phases of approaching an orgasm--from the perspective of maleness, all signs of tenderness, concern-for-the-other, love, are effectively abandoned while Mr. Sperm-bearer focuses all his energies on "making the kill" (achieving the climax) essential for maximum propulsion of his sperm.
His role, at this point of the ageless (actually 600 million year old) Drama of Conception, is to penetrate with the most possible force, thereby giving his sperm the best chance of reaching their goal. Though the prior phases of the sex act are properly characterized by tenderness and concern-for-the-other, this final act is most effective when previous gentleness is replaced by a rape-like, even violent, focus on penetration alone.
Tenderness may return immediately, but at this final instant a Sperm-bearer's greater odds of success are enhanced by a temporary switch from an easy-does-it to a don't-give-a-damn rape-like role. In like manner, our metaphored and real Mr. Sperm increases his odds of success in replicating himself when he performs forcefully, like a rapist, in this initial scene of ACT III.
But then, at the very same time he is making THE KILL, penetrating Ms. Ovum, he is also risking the death of all that he has been in his short life so far. The "tails" side of this same coin of penetration is much more like dying than killing--hence, our summary characterization of this third male trait as a "preoccupation with death." The trait is a paradoxical combination, a "heads" and a "tails," of kill and be-killed.
Men in whom, perhaps, this Y chromosome-rooted trait is more fully operative, appear to be ambivalent about real death. On the one hand they seem to be unconsciously drawn to risk-taking, as though they were courting or daring death to overtake them--for instance, like a race car driver. But at the same time, they are also preoccupied with immortality--seeking to immortalize themselves, as though they can live forever.
This obvious ambivalence reflects, I surmise, the actual position of every successful Mr. Sperm which men may bear. We men both court death and seek immortality because our genetic heritage inclines us toward both sides of this one coin which is required for success in the third and final ACT III of the Drama of Conception.
SUMMARY OF DRAMA TRAITS
Maleness, the genetic results initiated by genes on the Y chromosome and personified in males who bear them, is reflected in three primal traits of Sperm-bearers: competition, lust, and violence. These three pre-occupations, that is, male inclinations which underlie all our chosen occupations, are essential in the three ACTS of the Drama of Conception. The best of males--those most successful at what maleness is genetically all about, are unconsciously "driven" and consciously proficient at all three.
More than any other traits associated with maleness, these three are predictable. Good males are highly competitive, lustful, and capable of killing. The competitive urge is essential for the sperm race of ACT I; an intense "interest in sex" is required for "getting the girl" (winning the ovum) in ACT II; and a capacity for violence is needed for the penetration of ACT III.
Femaleness, personified in those who bear the XX chromosomes and those human traits most associated with these chromosomes' greatest success, can be summarily seen focused on attractiveness, selectivity, and receptivity. In the shared Drama of Conception, with its apparently contradictory male and female roles, woman's part, as bearer of successful ova, is characterized by a preoccupation with appearing attractive, being highly selective, and innately drawn to receiving. As seen from the male perspective, these deepest of all female inclinations may be named: "being pretty," acting "picky-picky" about everything, and inherently capable of "taking it."
ACT I in Ms. Ovum's role in the Drama of Conception involves THE WAIT, during which her passive "activity" is best seen as attracting or "being pretty."
Making herself and all her surroundings as continually attractive as possible is perhaps the most pervasive of all female traits. Male preoccupation with competing in all activities is paralleled by a female concern for attracting in whatever she does. When it comes to encounter, competing males are driven to "take a good look" at females who are equally and appropriately driven to "be good looking." Men "can't help looking" any more than females "can help trying to look good"--that is, our genetic heritage for effectiveness at ACT I calls us to the seemingly unrelated, but inherently complementary roles of competing for the hand of the one who is best at attracting.
But if ACT I involves an active male and an apparently passive female, ACT II brings Ms. Ovum to center stage. Here her major activity--and the second most characteristic trait of those who are evolved to bear her, is selectivity. Just as Ms. Ovum must wisely select the best available Mr. Sperm, so Ms. Ovum-bearers are genetically driven to be carefully selective in all their human activities.
In all their choices, females are predictably inclined to consider every available option before ever reaching a final decision. The often derisive male term, "picky-picky," if freed from its judgmental tones, may clearly describe the continual manner of females in all aspects of their living.
Male "preoccupation with sex" is paralleled by female "preoccupation with selectivity"--as is predictable for Sperm and Ovum-bearers, given the biological facts of all our lives. Genetically speaking, males can't afford to be very selective, and females have no need for a great amount of sex; correspondingly, females had better be highly selective while males are highly sexy, if either is to be successful in replicating themselves.
Receptivity, the capacity for "taking it," is the third most ingrained of female traits. The actual physical event of Ms. Ovum's receiving Mr. Sperm into herself is reflected in innumerable symbolic as well as real events in the female style of life.
But like appropriate aggressiveness--the root capacity required for penetration, receptiveness too can go astray from reality. The essential mode of receiving can, as colloquial expressions imply, easily exceed the boundaries of realism. The virtue of "taking it" can, unless carefully monitored, phase into the vice of "taking too much."
What begins with "caring for the other," nurturing, accepting, "putting up with," may unwittingly become a cloak for evading the reality of self-caring. The virtue of tolerance, for example, may cover the vice of abuse, as many females are now beginning to reluctantly admit.
The genetic inclination to receive, essential for the female role in conception, may as easily go awry as can the male gene drive for penetration. Receivers seem as subject to becoming victims as penetrators are to becoming perpetrators. Both gender necessities, usually in consort, may tragically reflect in the escapes from realism called "abusers" and "abusees."
When healthy aggression transcends the boundaries of healthy reception--the two essentials for ACT III of the Drama of Conception, pathology ensues. Destructive violence and overwhelmed gentleness, or consumed assertion and destructive receptivity, are the familiar results. Otherwise healthy Sperm and Ovum-bearers are replaced by charades of humanity gone wrong.
Ideally, however, the genetic violence and reception of an effective ACT III is reflected in healthy aggression and tenderness in us evolved to bear the sperm and ova.
In this chapter several observable traits in men and women today which may be reflections of contrasting characteristics of our primal sex cells will be examined.
GOAL AND PLACE ORIENTATIONS
Sperm are goal-oriented;
they can't wait to see what will happen.
If they don't get there,
Ovum are place-oriented;
they must wait to see what will happen.
If they can't wait,
Not surprisingly, when getting there and getting there first is a life or death matter for Mr. Sperm, we Sperm-bearers often reflect the same inclinations. Males, consistently, are goal-oriented. We "want something to shoot for." We do best when we have a clear-cut "objective." Was it first an ovum?
Even when there is no obvious goal, we create one; we try to improve on an old record--to get there faster, to find a better way. Game playing is often but a way of structuring a goal to reach--in this case: winning. We even play solitaire, competing with ourselves when no other competitor is present.
Across the gender line, Ms. Ovum's agenda is exactly the opposite. First, she has no place to go; staying there and staying as long as she can is her life or death issue. If she leaves before Mr. Sperm arrives, that's it for her. During his three mile race, her business is to sit on a follicle and wait.
Perhaps reflective of their primal roots, Ovum-bearers are consistently place-oriented rather than goal-oriented. They care little for getting somewhere; winning is of small consequence to them. Rarely can they understand how men can "get so involved in a game." "After all," as they correctly know, "it's only a game." Only to them; but seldom so to any male.
Having to reach a goal, for example, to get somewhere "on time," is often as frustrating to Ovum-bearers as not having a goal is to their co-actors in the shared drama. Men, for another example, commonly find "just being home" on the weekend, away from the goals of work, thoroughly frustrating. "Why can't you just enjoy being at home with us?," wives often feel, even when they don't ask such unanswerable questions. Wiser, they "make lists" of "things needing to be done" for their goal-oriented husbands who tend to feel lost without them.
Equally wise men never try to hurry a woman, realizing she may lose herself if she does.
LONERS AND SOCIALIZERS
Men are loners
Women are withers
Women are naturally social
Men keep to themselves
The Sperm, like the proverbial cheese, stands alone. From the beginning, each is "on his own." Though there are millions like him all around, still he, for survival's sake, must be independent. There are no buddies for a Sperm; every other Sperm is literally a mortal enemy. Any one of them who wins the prize before him causes his death.
During the Life or Death Race, no Sperm can afford to "stop and chat." Nor can he "trust a friend," or "pause and help a pal he grew up with." To do so, no matter how benevolently it might appear, would be to sign his own death warrant.
Ms. Ovum, conversely, is literally alone, not surrounded by millions. Is she lonely? During her long wait there is usually not even a race in progress; most of the time no aspiring Princes are after her hand. But even when a race is in progress, still she sits alone in her silent castle. Oh, that she had a friend! Just someone to talk to, to keep her company, to help her while away the empty hours while she waits--and waits.
Small wonder then that Sperm-bearers are so commonly loners, while Ovum-bearers are socializers. Even in a crowd, men often stand alone, not "making conversation." Women, conversely, are naturally sociable. They start "a friendly conversation" with almost anyone. Husbands perfectly content to read a newspaper at breakfast are a challenge to wives who prefer to converse. "What's wrong with you?," a woman may think; "Why don't you want to talk to me?" "How can you read a newspaper and ignore me?" "Easy," thinks a man who is geared more for privacy than for socializing. "Why can't you ever shut up?," he is likely to be thinking.
Even when men are engaged in a mutual effort--such as, hunting, fishing, or working together, they do not naturally converse or socialize unless there is some practical reason to do so. "Why talk," they tend to think, "unless you have some reason to?" Women, conversely, need no "reason to talk." Conversation becomes its own purpose for them.
Wise Sperm keep to themselves while their counterparts, with no natural enemies at hand, can afford to be friendly. Later, we who bear them commonly reflect the cells from which we come. Men read the sports page, while women, if they can't find someone to socialize with, turn to the society page to at least read about socializing.
Forgetting where we come from, women often worry about men "who have so few friends," while men wonder why women "waste so much time socializing." Men, growing up, learn to converse and be sociable. Women in the same quest learn to enjoy silence and being alone.
HURRYING AND WAITING
Sperm who don't hurry
Ova who can't wait
And the feelings, it seems,
Even after necessity
For Mr. Sperm, speed is the name of the game. If he doesn't "hurry"--rush around getting there first, he's dead. He, literally, has no time to wait. For Ms. Ovum, conversely, waiting is the name of her game. From beginning to end, patience is primary to "being herself"--effecting her reproductive role.
Fired off at 2,285 miles per hour, Mr. Sperm's three mile race has no more characterizing description then hurry up, or you'll be too late. Hurry, hurry, hurry--is what sperm are nearly all about. But if a sperm must hurry, an ovum must wait. Waiting is as essential for ovum survival as hurrying is for sperm life.
To begin with, infant ova (oocytes) are all present when an Ovum-bearer is born. They wait in the wings, developing slowly for about 12-15 years, until puberty, before they even get a chance to go on stage. Some may wait as long as 50 years. Then, once a month, only one of the million aspiring young actresses will be allowed out of the "Waiting Houses" (ovaries). The Ovum-bearer herself has no conscious control over this releasing process; she too must wait each month to see when and if it will happen, then how long it will take.
Meanwhile, Ms. Ovum-bearer must largely wait for Mr. Sperm-spreader to come along. Although she may busily engage in the activities of attracting, her best work will be done covertly. She may spin a beautiful web or drop a lot of handkerchiefs; but even then, she must wait for her Prince to appear. If her work pays off and Mr. Sperm-spreader is sufficiently attracted to enter her web (pick up her handkerchief), still she must wait.
Ms. Ovum, waiting on some follicle in the egg tube, must remain still for about an hour even after the beginning of the Grand Race. It takes that long, after orgasm, for the first of the aspiring competitors to reach her. Then, after all this long waiting, several more hours (7 - 11) are required for capacitation and selection of Mr. Right, plus time for penetration and union--about three hours, before even the first cell division can be started. Some 30 hours are required for the first two, then 30 hours more for the second multiplication into four; then another week before 100 divisions are reached.
Skipping time, nine more months of waiting are required before Ms. Ovum-bearer even gets to see what she has done. Next she must wait even longer, say 18 or more years, to see how her production will turn out. This all adds up to one tremendous amount of waiting.
If hurrying is man's middle name, waiting is woman's.
SEX AND SECURITY
is to sex as
is to security
We may summarize the differing roles of Mr. Sperm and Ms. Ovum in the overall Reproductive Drama with two words: sex and security. His necessary role is primarily about sex--"doing it," getting her bearer, getting there, and penetrating. Her role, conversely, actively begins where his ends.
After they join, beginning the new life, security may summarize the many facets of her complex necessities following sex--comfort, protection, resources, stability--a safe context for baby-making and child-rearing. Once, she must "have sex;" but then her genetic concerns shift and primarily remain on security, "nest-making" in all its near infinite ramifications.
Not surprisingly then we find men with a powerful "interest in sex" and women who "rarely think about it," men who are "always scoping women" who much prefer shopping over being ogled. Human males aged 12-19 report thinking about sex on average of once every 5 minutes (Shanor, 1978).
Even though such "preoccupations" reportedly decline from once per hour to several times a day after age 50, still males of all ages are "more interested in sex" than are women who are "more interested in security." There are many more "dirty old men" than women, and many more compulsively "clean old women" than men. Conversely, the few men who value security over sex are about as rare as the women who risk sex when it threatens security.
Spin-offs from these overall differing concerns about sex and security include differing interests in frequency of "having sex." Men, predictably, want to "have sex" more often than women. One of the most frequent male complaints about marriage is "my wife's lack of interest in sex." Females, conversely, complain, "That's all he thinks about."
But of course! Remember: his body, no matter what he is thinking about, is continually busy producing some 3,000 sperm every second while she is only releasing one ovum per month. The comparison between his life time productivity of 8 trillion sperm and her maximum of 400 ovum boggles the mind (the male mind, at least).
Add the fact that only two or three, certainly less than a dozen of her max of 400 will ever even "want" one of his humongous number of sperm, and the disparity of "interest in sex" makes more sense. While she is only interested in a few babies--and then only in one at a time, he, theoretically, could be repopulating the world 1,400 times over.
Given these additional male facts: size of a man's ego, his blind urge to compete and win at all costs; and these female facts: even when women "love babies," they know something about the immense challenges associated with their genetic interests--the interruption in their personal lives, the waiting, the pain, the work, the extended responsibilities (usually with little if any help from men). What for him is but 5 minutes of fun is often for her 18 years of work, even a lifetime of responsibility. Although men can forget their children, few human mothers can ever "quit worrying about them."
Security, of course, is another issue: primarily a woman's issue. What sex is to man, security is to woman. Given her vast, inescapable responsibilities in baby-making and child-rearing, one of the most needed and relatively few things a man may have to offer is security. Sperm are readily available on most any corner; in fact an average woman's greater efforts must go to avoiding unwanted sperm than searching to find one.
Security, however, is another matter. A good man, nowadays (as well as in past days) is, as a song notes, hard to find. Most women do, as the song goes on to observe, always get the other kind. And good, we may safely bet, is not about "good in bed (though those too may be rare)," but rather about good in supplying security--being there in the morning, and the morning after; staying with her, providing well for her and their potential offspring, being faithful, protecting them from the hostile forces in the world, not to mention changing light bulbs and taking out the garbage (the mundane elements of security-making).
Men, reasonably, are geared for sex; women, even more reasonably, are geared for security.
GIRL WATCHING AND FACE FIXING
Nothing is more normal
than looking at pretty girls,
Unless it is face fixing
to tempt them to do so.
Attraction has two hidden parts: ing and ed; attracting and attracted go together to make attraction. These two distinct elements apparently find themselves neatly tucked away in the genes of each gender. Eons of evolution must have successfully ingrained the urges which initiate the continuation of the species.
Attracting is as instinctive in females as being attracted is in males. From earliest age till latest, the female of the species is driven to fixing her face--plus more. Tiny lassies play with make-up, not to mention walking with a wiggle; and grande dames, long past menopause, still douse perfume, go to the hair dresser--wearing make-up of course (as a matter-of-course-of-nature, that is).
Maleness, on the opposite side of attraction, is equally driven (we don't have to be invited or trained) to being attracted--that is, to looking, smelling, and touching every chance we get (and some we don't). We are as impelled to being turned on by you as you are to doing your part in turning on the world in general and us in particular.
Even when our ethics and conscious sense of ourselves are to the contrary (ask Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker), still our genes guide our minds and eyes toward your attracting. We may, with training and moral compunction succeed in keeping our hands in our pockets (hands have more nerve directors and are therefore more subject to conscious control), but not the brains which incline them--at least without serious mental problems.
And you of our opposite gender, with your own opposite genes, may also play your genetic role without thinking--at least consciously, of what you are doing. Ask a woman why she fixes her face to go to the grocery store at midnight and she's apt to say, "Oh, I just do"--and she does, as though it needed no explanation, which it doesn't. If confronted with the notion that she is attracting attention, she will likely deny, because she, consciously, is not. She is only "doing what comes naturally." We both "just do" what we do.
Unfortunately, for men at least, the female part of attraction is the only half which gets good social press. Of an old woman fixing her face so as to be attracting, we are apt to approve: "Isn't it wonderful that she still takes care of herself." We smile indulgently at old ladies in red slacks and lipstick to match.
But when her 80 year old counterpart is "caught" (note the implied crime) with his complementary instincts revealed--being attracted, as in ogling girls or, heaven forbid, touching one, he is immediately branded a "dirty old man." Sorry guys; too bad about that.
Society, like nature, deals each gender a different hand. But the social press--approving hers and putting down on his--notwithstanding, nature's system still seems fine to me. I can't imagine any two better parts for the wonder of attraction than your ing and our ed.
Oops, 'scuse me now; there goes a pretty girl.
Maleness, mostly, is illegal;
true to themselves,
guys easily run afoul
with the law.
Femaleness, fortunately, is safe;
true to themselves,
maidens are model citizens.
Keeping the law
comes easy for them.
A large kingdom only needs one king but many loyal subjects. The virtues of kings--warring, winning, and pillaging--being above the law, are the vices of subjects, who must cooperate and share, keeping the law. In the overall economy of societies, a little "kinging" goes a long way. In fact, one is about all a kingdom can stand.
Maleness, with its inclinations toward competing and killing, trying to be King of the Mountain--and everything else, not to mention girl-getting and sperm-spreading, is generally dangerous to any society already established.
But female inclinations toward belonging, cooperating, being faithful, and keeping peace--paddling together rather than making waves, are far more fitting for any social group. Maleness is fine for the jungle, for getting a tribe started, but once a society is going, femaleness is the main requirement.
Just as one male's five minutes of fun might theoretically fertilize 400 million ova--the maximum production of 166,666.67 females for an entire lifetime, so a tiny bit of maleness can satisfy the demands of a large society for a long time.
Past these minimal requirements, and once laws are passed, bare masculinity becomes an irritant to the social group with more than one prospect for king. As ours has.
Result: Masculinity which is valued in the jungle becomes a vice once the streets are paved. Kings-in-the-making must be curtailed by laws against speeding, theft, insurrection, murder, and homicide, not to mention prohibitions on exhibitionism, fondling, molestation, crimes "against nature" and rape. Doing what comes naturally for men is not what makes for Citizen Of The Year. It takes female virtues for that.
Consequently, maleness gets a necessary bum rap in society, while femininity is appropriately rewarded. Olive Oyl (social machinery needs you) and Wimpy fit in fine. But Popeye watch out (and Tarzan too).
KILLING AND CARING
Men are geared for killing;
Women instinctively care.
Caring is a challenge for men;
Killing is equally difficult for women.
Killing, plus all its antecedents--competition, aggression, fighting, and war--is natural for maleness. Caring, plus all its related activities--cooperation, peacefulness, tending, and healing--is equally innate in femaleness. Killing and caring are, I surmise, in our separate genes. We are born this way.
From sperm and ovum to death and dying, we come and go with these opposite inclinations. Show a sperm a fallopian tube or a man a mountain; it or he will struggle for the ovum or peak. Ask why? Lamely the bearer and climber will answer, if honest: because it's there. It's there alright, there in the genes. No need to explain the dangers.
Show an ovum a sperm or a woman a baby; it or she will immediately begin to make a peaceful place and yearn to tend and care. Ask why? Lamely, she may reply: because it needs me. No need to explain that her house is full already. Her genes are deaf to rhyme and reason.
But if a man attempts to add caring to his killing, or a woman to add killing to her caring, watch out. He'll forget to change the diaper; she'll tell secrets to the enemy. He'll be too rough; she, too gentle. Finally, he'll kill his own offspring; she'll take her worst enemy to her bosom.
No wonder we need each other.
COMPETITION AND COOPERATION
Men get close when they are competing,
but edgy when they cooperate.
Women get close when they are cooperative,
but edgy when they compete.
Our mediums for closeness are different. Both genders are drawn toward intimacy, yet through opposing paths. Men, like the sperm they bear, are competitive. Instinctively they strive to win. Women, bearers of ovum, are conversely cooperative. Their genes incline them to work together rather than in opposition.
For species survival, this arrangement is excellent; for intimacy between opposing genders, the results are often disastrous.
Being their genetic selves, males get close to one another when they compete--in arguments, games, fights, or wars. Females, equally instinctive, get close when they cooperate--in conversations, sharing recipes or troubles, raising children, or talking together at the bridge table.
But not vice versa. When men are forced to cease competing and work together, they become uncomfortable rather than intimate. Healthy during war time, they develop ulcers at the conference table. Conversely, when women are forced to compete, leaving cooperation behind, they get upset, not close. There is no such thing as a "good fight" for a woman.
The anger which calls men to life and intimacy, drives women away. Outwardly men pretend to make peace, but it makes them edgy. Soon they must start something so they can get close again--while their women must stop something, so they can.
Commitment, for a woman,
is about security;
Commitment, for a man,
is about sex.
She wants him committed
to be there in the morning;
He wants her committed
to be there at night.
When her definitions prevail, we find men getting married; when his way wins, we find women having affairs. Society, unfortunately for men, works better with women's definitions. Dictionaries, done for societies, predictably include hers, omit his.
So, for clarity's sake, fairness, and equal time, I include his here. Probably it will never make Webster's. Her's, being so long accepted, needs no further clarification.
The point is, true to our genes, not just to our society, we come from different places insofar as commitment is concerned. Of course women, destined for the rigors and responsibilities of child bearing and rearing, want a man committed "in the morning," and in the morning and in the morning and in the morning, as well as all other times between. If men had to raise kids they'd want the same from women.
Our primal heritage however, as far as genes only are concerned, gears us males for the night time job only. We don't wonder, "Will she love me in the morning?" "Wham, bam; thank you, ma'm," is more than enough for our genetics, even with a polite social cloak. Biology leaves us before dawn. True to it, committed that is, and projecting our own ingrained definitions, we search for those willing to cooperate in our part of the genetic Drama Of Reproduction, just as faithfully as women do to theirs.
All of which helps us get together, but not stay together. Eventually one or the other of our definitions must prevail. If her's, then she, society, and the kids win; if his,' then the lawyers and divorce courts, or her extreme tolerance, are called into the play.
Because he is more than his genes, both animal and man, as is she, he wants both; conflict, therefore, is our destiny. Unfairness is written into the genetic/social script. If she wins, he loses; if he wins, she loses. If his genes win, he also loses. It's not fair.
But whoever said that nature was fair. It takes love for that.
GAINING AND LOSING
Men love gaining, but
desperately fear losing;
they don't know how to cry
Women know well how to lose;
they cry easily, but
are at a great loss
when they come to gaining;
they don't know how to win
without losing themselves.
Men, like the sperm they are evolved to bear, are at their best in pursuit of gain. Winning the ovum and its symbolic replacements--the race, the prize--come easy for the male of the species. Passions associated with gain are truly a pleasure for him. Easily he can win and be glad. The sin of pride tempts him regularly.
But sad is another matter. Sad, for him, like losing, is bad. Sorrow, the related emotion, with tears which express it, is to be avoided at all costs. Big boys, as we all know, don't cry--that is, run the risks of grief. And little boys learn early; they fear that they will drown--die to themselves--in sorrow.
Women, like the ovum they are evolved to bear, know otherwise. It is in losing, being overtaken by the sperm and their bearers, that they survive and find themselves. Tears, the natural release expressing the emotion of losing, come easy for females of the species. They have no fear of drowning in sorrow; indeed they possess the dark knowledge, hidden to all men, namely, the salvation inherent in a good cry.
But the passions associated with gain--ah, there's the risk for them. Easily they lose and cry; coming out on the bottom is old hat. So what else is new. Have a good cry, or a baby; be affirmed and get on about life.
To come out on top though--to win, to gain, is to risk being glad, the opposite of sad. The ecstasies of gladness, unlike the tears of sadness, evoke their primal fears of flying, the terror of losing the selves they have identified with losing itself. The sin of shame, not pride, is woman's constant temptation.
In the quest for wholeness then, should either decide to pursue it, men must face the threats they identity with losing. They must discover woman's secret knowledge of the self-affirmation inherent in losing and grieving, the relief, indeed the expansion, of a good cry.
Woman's challenge is the opposite. She must face the threats associated with gaining; she must confront her fears of winning and flying, before discovering man's secret, the self-fulfillment inherent in losing one's self in ecstasy, the upper edges of gladness.
Then, should either survive the challenges of gaining the knowledge of the other, a Person might emerge, capable of meeting one of the opposite gender, past the necessity of using the other as one's own missing half--ready, that is, for loving.
PUTTIN' OUT & TAKIN' IT
Males, lost in their masculinity,
can put out, but they
can't take it.
Females, lost in their femininity,
can take it, but they
can't put out.
Lost, of course, also implies blind. And when we are blind we cannot see things as they are. Easily we get things turned around: such as, blinded males who erroneously see females as the ones who put out and think that they themselves can take it. Or, equally blinded females who fail to see that they are the ones who can take it, or fall for the male invitation to become the ones who put out.
Translation of these colloquial metaphors into their literal meanings may be useful in shedding the scales of our blindness (but then again, it may not). The Sperm-bearer, the male, is, of course, the one who puts out. The Ovum-bearer puts nothing out; indeed (most especially in this deed), she is the one who takes it (literally, them) in. If he doesn't put out and she doesn't take it, nothing happens: end of species, at least as far as these particular representatives are concerned.
But past this common knowledge, lost in our respective roles in the Reproductive Drama, blind males, caught up in machoism and in search of females to receive, easily come to see themselves as able to take it, and reticent females as refusing to put out.
Their blinded counterparts (females lost in femininity), ignorant of their own covert power, also fall for the illusion that they can't take it, but that they do have something powerful to put out, to give (or more often, trade). Then comes the battle of the sexes: he, thinking he can take it (when he can't), is out to get it from she whom he thinks can put out (but she can't); and she, not knowing that she can take it, but believing that she has something powerful to put out (or, more powerfully still, to withhold), meet each other in Illusion Land. The battle, of course, is consequently inevitable, along with the predictable disappointments, if not disasters.
He is trying to get it from she who has naught to give; she, with nothing to give, is trying to withhold it from him who is trying to take it; he, who can't take it, is looking for a she who can and will, while she, not knowing that she can, is looking for a man who can take it (and therefore take care of her), but who, regrettably, in his blinded state, can't.
The confusion of these sentences is minor in comparison to the convolution of the above noted battles which consume the energies of countless males and females yet blinded in their converse traps.
The resolution, should it ever come, begins with removing the scales from our eyes. The facts are: we males do indeed have something valuable to put out; but we are yet to learn to take it. Females, powerful receivers that you are, are inherently able to take it; but you, all too often, are yet to learn the delights of freely putting out.
When salvation comes, after we males learn to honor our own productivity and also to endure the vicissitudes of life--to take it, and you females learn to respect your own puttin' out, imagine the delights we will discover in this present Garden of Eden, no matter what is or is not to follow.
ALONE AND WITH
Men, naturally, are loners;
Women, when their genes dictate,
Men are yet to learn community;
Women, to be lone ones.
Descended from hunters, who learned to go it alone, and gatherers who best did their things together, the imprints of our ancient genes yet remain. Men, even when the jungle is corporate and proximity is the mode, still tend to be loners in search of financial rather than furry game.
Women, shopping eons later in stores rather than woods, are yet likely to strike up a conversation with a stranger, should they forget to take a friend with them. They even go to the bathroom together, something men never do by choice. When men are forced by civilization to do so, they, loners that they are, carefully refrain from making friends there.
Unfortunately, for men at least, woman's natural way--community, is more pragmatic and therefore valued in modern society. Insistent loners are suspect: "Why won't he join us? Is something wrong with him? He must be anti-social." Community-minded women, who actually want to join the PTA and countless other social groups, are naturally affirmed by society which needs organizations.
Natural men, married but still engened loners, aren't understood by their spouses who'd rather talk than read the newspaper at breakfast, any more than talkative women are understood by the men who married them. Such men, still in the dark because they haven't read this book, are naturally puzzled about why women talk so much and continually nag them about "sharing their feelings." "Why can't they just shut up sometimes?," they bemoan to fellow spouses whom they assume to be equally bothered by social-minded women who'd rather speak than enjoy silence.
Before wholeness can come, however, we of each gender must expand our native territories. Hunters must return to the village, learning to be at home there too. Gatherers must venture beyond the safe confines of social settings, learning to go to the bathroom, and other more dangerous places, alone.
Men must learn what women already know, the delights of togetherness--sharing and community--to feel at home at home as well as they already feel at home alone away from home. Women becoming persons must likewise learn what men already know, the confidence and integrity which is only acquired with embraced aloneness. They must learn to explore strange places without the security of companionship.
Then, perhaps, men can quit fussing about women who "talk too much," and women about men who "don't talk enough." Men then may enjoy family in addition to work, while women delight, along with companionship, also in their ventures into the corporate jungle alone.
Thus blessed, even love may come then.
RESISTANCE AND PURSUIT
"No" is what a woman
is s'posed to say
to a man who's s'posed to
press for "yes"
S'posed, in this case, is biologically based, not related to morality--except to the extent that ethics emerge from genetics. Pursuit and resistance are, with good reason, written into the biological script at all levels. For ten days, for instance, the King of the Jungle may patiently (do we project?) pursue a lioness who persists in her resistance.
Why (not, does he pursue, but is there good reason)? Because the event, as far as nature is concerned, is about impregnation and conception--the continuation of the species. Fun, should there be any, is only a bonus. And the two primary roles in the Reproductive Drama are best served by an extended "No" in the face of an insistent "Yes."
How? When a she plays Hard To Get, he--don't all males respond (react?) to a challenge--tries (and tends to get) Hard To Get. This, obviously, prepares him to play his role more perfectly (and God knows we need all the help we can get). Meanwhile, she, while her lips are saying, "No, no," has time to properly arrange the stage and position the ovum in an ideal spot to receive the pursuing sperm, not to mention the entrance requirements. Such complicated physiological logistics, which must all be accomplished unconsciously, naturally take time, something females are evolved capable of doing well.
Her vocal "Yes," anytime before the propitious moment of ideal arrangements--even if a victory for him (not biology's concern), would defeat nature's intent. And Mother Nature resists defeat, mightily! Even by Father Time.
So, guys, even when you can see the "Yes, yes" in her eyes, respect her lip and hang in there. Probably Mother Nature does know best. Personally, of course, you would rather hurry, as in "Wham, bam; thank you, Ma'am," but the wait, as hard as it is (a little pun here), may enhance your fun (the bonus) too. Playing well can be a pleasure in addition to winning.
In either case, remember that your ego is a minor character in this larger historical drama. If it must take a few bumps (and waits) along the way to the stage, so what? You too, like the lion, must practice if you are to advance beyond the complaining Prince and become the King in this civilized (?) jungle.
And, gals, respect your own inner timing also. Even if tempted, for power's sake, or your loving concern for his fragile ego, to rush the act, don't. Better things, including love and/or the making of it, do take time. Even when Pleasure rather than Reproduction is the newer name of the age-old drama, still a proper, demurring, "No," appropriately extended, can enhance the play. As you well know, many a roaring apparent King of the Jungle is yet but a Prince in a lion's suit--who, in spite of his hurry, still needs time. So, when you care enough for the very best, artistically resist.
Finally, guys, back to you. When you love enough, past making it, theatrically insist; except, of course, when the "No, no" is also in her eyes. Then love her anyway. Real Kings do that too. Especially that.
PUTTIN' OUT & GETTIN' SOME
Facts are: In Nature's Primal Drama
Of All Our Beginnings,
Man gives; Woman gets.
But not the feelings, which are that:
Man is getting something, and
Woman is putting something out.
Obscenely, the primary roles in the gender Drama of Reproduction are named in contradiction to the physical facts of life, which are, that the male sends forth sperm and the female receives it. He gives out; she takes in. That's the way it works.
But the deep feeling, as reflected in the obscene language of innocent young boys and dirty old men, is different. There it does indeed seem that she is "puttin' out" and he is "gettin' some."
Why this contradiction between facts and language?
Perhaps the obscene language reflects deeper experiential facts of spiritual life which are more personally relevant than the familiar facts of physical life--namely, the hidden-to-men wisdom that in giving we receive the gift of our larger selves. Men create in "puttin' out" sperm and thereby receive the gift of personhood.
But since projections are always easier to see than are ourselves, even the noses on our faces, we envision our creativity as coming from "out there," which, obviously, is woman. Therefore she must, or so it seems to us men, be putting something out; otherwise, or so our logic goes, where would we be getting this wonderful gift of who-we-are becoming?
Females likewise, in daring the vulnerability of your immense act of reception, must experience the expansion of yourselves also. But while women know all too well about the power inherent in giving (you are the natural givers), your hidden wisdom lies in the wonder of unfaced capacities for assertively getting.
Thus blinded, perhaps you see your own reflections in male projections. If men are so taken by what seems so natural to you, then it must be that you, mysteriously even to yourself, are "putting something out," something which you must preserve and protect lest it be used up. Or so it may seem.
Maybe in the far distant future, if our minds ever catch up with our genes, we will know ourselves better; then men may be wise enough to own their own creative potential, and women to embrace the wonder of their get-abilities also.
And wouldn't that be wonderful.
LIFE AND DEATH
Mr. Sperm must die
in order to live;
Ms. Ovum must live
or she dies.
Mr. Sperm must lose himself
to be born again;
Ms. Ovum must find him
or she loses herself.
When it comes to life and death, Mr. Sperm and Ms. Ovum come from opposite directions--literally and figuratively. The biological facts, you will recall, are these: Once the race begins, every one of the 400 million sperm competitors must literally fight for his life. To lose the race is certain death. Every one of a sperm's buddies, with whom he has spent two months growing up in the testes, suddenly becomes a mortal enemy.
When the gun goes off, there are no more pals; it is literally "every sperm for himself." This is no friendly competition, not "just a game." Any contact with another sperm might slow our possible hero down; any touch is an additional friction which reduces speed. Certainly there can be no benevolence, no pausing to help a lagging friend from past days in the Testicle Nursery. Any delay is deadly.
Individuality, separation, independence, speed, winning at all costs--these are everything. It is not in "how you play the game;" it is only in "whether or not you win." Winning is everything; death is the alternative.
All this until the break-neck race is won; then suddenly, once the goal of Ms. Ovum is reached, everything becomes completely different. Fierce competition must immediately be replaced by friendly cooperation. First comes the ten hour period of capacitation--of pausing for a glucose bath and getting a head-washing to remove proteins no longer needed. Just the change of pace must be a considerable challenge.
But this period of capacitation is only for the beginning--a cleansing, if you will, a time of purification for the final sacred rite. Until now, individuality has been essential. Mr. Sperm has had to "be himself"--to remain independent, apart, unconnected; but now all individuality must be laid on the altar. Complete disconnection must be replaced by total connection. Independence must be abandoned in favor of engulfment.
This victorious but tiny shrimp of a Sperm must now risk entering the dark folds of this huge (remember, to a man she would be 30 stories tall and cover nine city blocks!) Ovum whom he has dared to "win." As a separate "self" he must die. His times of independence and freedom are all behind him. The excitement of the race is in the past. The darkness and mystery of losing himself lie ahead. Death, it must seem, is in the air.
Should his courage fail now, should the risks of total engulfment seem too awesome, should he change his mind and decide to retreat--or even wait awhile to enter the cavern (remember, some 200-1,999 other sperm are still present and eager to replace him), his fate will be sealed.
The only path to the ultimate goal of self reproduction lies through, not around or over, the loss of all that Mr. Sperm has been so far. His only hope of resurrection lies in the risk of personal death as an individual entity. He must take the chance of dying or he cannot be born again in some new form.
If he doesn't, he dies for sure. Even though he may survive as an individual for five or six days longer, Ms. Ovum will be gone in one day. As soon as any other competing sperm enters her darkness, she will immediately emit chemicals which close her doors to him and all others. He gets no second chance. Even if no other competitor is allowed in, she will herself pass on within the day. He will be left to wither and die.
In summary, Mr. Sperm must first fight with all that is in him to stay alive as an individual; then, in an abrupt 180 degree turn, he must cease fighting and give up all freedom. He must be engulfed by the giantess, risking death, or he cannot be recreated. What begins as fight-to-live ends as give-up-or-die.
Meanwhile our heroine Ms. Ovum is faced with a totally different agenda in this shared Drama of Conception. First of all, she has no fight with anyone; there is no one to fight with, even if she wanted to--which she probably wouldn't anyway. The Princess waits alone. She has no competition. Her agenda, while waiting, is simply to attract, not to fight off any enemies.
While Mr. Sperm is fighting to win or die, she must be busy about staying alive, encouraging the competition, and finally selecting a lucky winner. While he is consumed in competing, striving for freedom, she, we may imagine, can be anticipating and planning her "wedding day." While he is busy fighting all "connections," even chance contacts, she may be dreaming about her essential connection--without which she too dies. Above all else, she must make a "marriage"--hopefully, a wise one.
Unlike her co-actor in this two character drama, she need not risk death in order to live. Living, not dying, is what she is all about. In contrast with Mr. Sperm, she is relatively immortal to begin with. He, recall, is never more than two months old. All sperm who miss the chance to compete for an ovum within about 60 days die, so to speak, "of old age"--they are absorbed or dissolved and replaced in the epididymis by newer, healthier sperm. Sperm reproduction and life goes on. Each Ms. Ovum, in sharp contrast, has already been alive since her bearer was first formed.
Our two month old "mature" Mr. Sperm is seeking a "ripe" Ms. Ovum who is at least 15, probably 20 or 30, years old. If Ms. Ovum-bearer is of voting age, Ms. Ovum is at least 108 times as old as this fledgling up-start who "seeks her hand." If she has been voting for 22 years, as easily she might, then her waiting Ms. Ovum is 240 times older than any Mr. Sperm she may ever meet. If Mr. Sperm had reached voting age, the youngest Ms. Ovum available would be almost 2000 years old, possibly more than 4 millennia.
We of course don't know how time and wisdom combine on the cellular level. However, it is easy to imagine the threat which a fiercely competitive 18 year old male might feel when faced with giving himself over to a 2000 year old female he has never seen before, who is also 250,000 times his size.
She has had, relatively speaking, at least two millennia "to anticipate" what he must "decide" to do in short order. All metaphors aside, an ova has literally had 15-40 years to prepare for what a sperm must commit himself to in a few moments--and that "decision" in total reversal of all that he has lived for up to that instant.
For Mr. Sperm, the script, after a "life time" of independence, is give up your freedom or die. Switch from complete separation to total connection--and fast. For Ms. Ovum, who has been alive "forever" and never had to get in a hurry, the script involves no loss of anything, certainly not her "freedom." She has all to gain, nothing to lose. Engulfing this tiny shrimp into her huge self, which is her path toward continued eternity, though momentous in consequence, must seem like a small threat. The event which apparently takes his life is, materially speaking, but a minor inconvenience to her.
True, her destiny, as his, hangs in the balance--indeed, her's within the day; still, at the time, Mr. Sperm's apparent loss of everything is Ms. Ovum's, spatially speaking, smallgain. Tomorrow, of course, is another day. When ACT II begins, Ms. Ovum, on the way to becoming a mother, becomes the principal character; but for now, the night before, the challenge and seeming sacrifice must belong almost entirely to our hero sperm who won THE RACE only to face the necessity of dying to himself.
So much for metaphors. How may these primal facts of genetic life reflect in us who have either evolved or been created (depending on your theory of origins) to bear them? In two major areas, I submit, of present living: marriage, and religion. Some of the profound differences easily observable in men and women, and terribly difficult to explain with reason, may begin to make much more sense if we take a closer look at where we all come from:
A sperm is to fertilization
as a man is to marriage;
An ovum is to conception
as a woman is to marriage.
Men and women approach marriage like sperm and ova approach their own union. If we look closely at these opposite entrances of Mr. Sperm and Ms. Ovum on to the same stage, we may better understand the profoundly differing approaches of men and women to the social institution of monogamous marriage.
MAN AND MARRIAGE
First, consider Mr. Sperm, the most active character in ACT I. Three words summarize his effective performance: freedom, competition, and winning. If evolution has written anything into a sperm's encyclopedia of inherited knowledge it must be: first, get and stay free; no ties allowed; any connections, even any touching, decrease the odds of success in the primary agenda.
Secondly, compete at all costs; gaining freedom from the epididymis, the vas deferens, and constricting penis mean nothing if a sperm doesn't know how to fiercely compete with millions of fellow sperm, any one of which will gladly get ahead of him, leaving him to die.
And, thirdly, win; win at all costs. How you play is irrelevant; only winning counts. Effective competing, no matter how well it is carried out, means naught if Mr. Sperm can't "make the kill" and claim the trophy. It's literally win or die.
Aside from marriage, we may easily note the overwhelming, often irrational, but near universal presence of these three urges--to be free, to compete, and to win--in most all males of the species. Mother Nature, in service of herself, has, I believe, powerfully and deeply ingrained these instincts in male genes.
Now back to marriage: note first that the social institution of monogamous marriage--one man, one woman, promised together forever, is inherently at odds with each of these primary genetic inclinations. Six hundred million years of evolutionary wisdom, written into each of the 50,000 billion cells of every male's body incline him toward freedom, competition, and winning. This triad of urges, we might descriptively say, represent what males, most primally "are all about." All this in the face of a scant few thousand years of social practice at monogamy, none of which any single male has before he "ties the knot."
With any respect at all for genetic knowledge, male resistance to modern marriage becomes easily understandable; willingness to marry, biologically speaking, is what is strange. It is no wonder men resist monogamy, or stray afterward; the true wonder is that men ever get married--or stay. Not that marriage is socially inappropriate or unwise, or that faithfulness is not pragmatic, but simply that it flies in the face of the wealth of male genetic knowledge.
We males instinctively "know," we might say, about freedom, competition, and winning. We have practiced these three for so long that pleasure is now attached to each of them. We find freedom--being totally unbound, striving to win, and getting to the top of mountains of all sorts to be totally exhilarating. Contrary to female knowledge, to be considered next, this interconnected triad of urges is truly fun for us males. We love all three.
Marriage however, for all its values and potential rewards, takes some getting used to; and many of us never do. Consider, for example, these specific aspects of monogamous relationships: "tying the knot," home making, faithfulness, and rearing children--each a part of most marriages.
Females are well aware of what they call male "fear of commitment"--naming resistance to "getting married." The phenomenon, of course, is real; the label, however, is misleading. Men do not fear commitment itself. Easily, even unreasonably, they commit themselves to activities which are in accord with their three primal genetic urges--for example, to training for competition. The dedication and commitment of body-builders and athletes in training is phenomenal.
Once on a team which is based on competition and aimed at winning, men commonly commit themselves far past what reason would call for. The goal itself is irrelevant--prize, trophy, money, top of mountain, causes of any kind; readily men commit themselves as their genes incline them. Deprivation and suffering of intensities few women, and no reasonable human, would ever endure, are readily accepted by men in pursuit of war and winning of any type.
It is not commitment itself which men fear; that we seem to love. In fact, as will be considered later, women are far more likely to resist actual commitment than are men. But men do fear loss of freedom. What women see as "fear of commitment"--as such resistance might actually be for them, is something entirely different for their Sperm-bearing counterparts. If Sperm-bearers know anything, it is: stay free; otherwise there is no possibility of competing well and successfully spreading one of the astronomical number of individual sperm they have evolved to produce.
Recall the facts: with no thought at all, male bodies crank out 3,000 new sperm every second, day and night! Each one, it seems, has a mind of its own, preoccupied with gaining freedom, competing, and winning a prize ovum. More than all else, males of the species are geared for spreading sperm. Less than most all else, they are geared for marriage as presently practiced.
The first, and probably most significant, threat of any marriage to any man is the combined loss of freedoms to pursue Ovum-bearers and to spread-sperm--two of the deepest and strongest of a male's genetic urges. Past self-survival, males are most inclined, and find the most pleasure, in "pursuing pretty girls" (seeking and competing for ripe Ovum-bearers), and then "doing it."
The euphemism, "tying the knot," a traditional term for marriage, means, for the male, voluntarily choosing to imprison "forever" (or so we promise) these two most ingrained and pleasurable of all our inherited desires. Accepting the proverbial "ball and chain" is like consciously and publically agreeing to immediately stop being most of all that men genetically know to be. The so-called "fear of commitment" is more literally a "fear of losing oneself"--at least as previously known.
In a choice to marriage, a man's Johnny-come-lately con-sciousness is placed in direct conflict with eons of non-sciousness. Hundreds of millions of years of body-knowledge--gene-knowing, euphemistically recognized as "jean" knowing ("below the belt" knowledge, the wisdom of the "stiff prick, which," all men know, "has no conscience")--are, through a brief public ceremony, to be at best negated, at least imprisoned, by conscious thought which, as some estimate, is only around 10,000 years old. What an optimistic challenge!
In principle, marriage opens the door to continual, unrestricted sex, a readily available depository for some small percentage of these 3,000 per second sperm. In practice, however, public male knowledge, even before marriage, is that the system often works in reverse; instead of more sex, a married man often has less.
But even when the principle works, married males reluctantly face another genetic fact: half or more of the fun lies in the pursuit itself--the exhilaration of seeking and finding, competing and winning--not in the final phase of the sex act. The very availability of sex in marriage, should it occur, may eliminate the arena for expression of a large portion of a man's genetic knowledge, namely, how to pursue recipients.
Even past the sex event itself, maleness, if current genetic speculations prove true, is concerned with as much self-reproduction as possible. Cells with their inherent gender genes, as best we can tell, want to reproduce themselves not just once but as many times as possible. Polygamy, if there must be some social form at all, is the male virtue; certainly not monogamy. To limit such a vast hoard of aspiring sperm to only one Ovum-bearer must surely be in contrast to any Sperm-spreader's inherent intent.
Yet in monogamous marriage, this is exactly what a man promises to do. The social and female virtue of "faithfulness" is universally thrust on males also. Somehow, as though by magic or conscious decision, this powerful ingrained urge to seek and sow must suddenly be negated.
Theoretically, at least as we often try to appear to be, married men are not even supposed to "look" anymore. Certainly any actual pursuit, after the "knot is tied," is in direct violation of a commitment to "faithfulness." Imagine the double bind such honorable decisions, consciously made by bearers with best of intentions, place upon genes!
Marriage also invites males into two other major arenas which are apparently beyond their genetic endowments also: home making and child rearing. The natural instincts of females for "nesting" and "what to do with children" are basically foreign to their male biological counterparts. Past resources and labor (money, supplies, and energy), most men are at a loss when it comes to "fixing up a home." Mixing colors, selecting furniture, making curtains, decorating--all the requirements of "home making" which seem to "come naturally" for females are relatively foreign to male instincts.
Likewise with the day-in and day-outness of rearing children. Males are wonderful at begetting offspring, but sadly lacking when it comes to the regular challenges of child rearing. All children, though strongly desired by maleness, are thereafter a threat to most men. First, they take away a man's wife along with much of his sexual opportunity. They also have an unfair advantage in cornering her affection away from him.
Daughters are a threat with their own femininity, and sons threaten his sole reign in the Kingdom of Family. The Oedipus Complex, alive in mythology, is, though often denied in consciousness, alive and well today also. Fathers and sons, for all their conscious admiration and love of one another, commonly find themselves deeply threatened by each other. Fortunately, we seldom maim and kill, as in mythology; but spiritually, we often do worse.
The point is: when men commit to marriage, they know that home and children are a part of the package. In addition to voluntarily relinquishing the right to pursue Ovum-bearers and to spread-sperm indiscriminately, men are also committing themselves to two other major endeavors for which evolution has done little to prepare them. Losing precious freedom, resigning from sperm-race competition, plus "taking on the burdens" of home making and child rearing--all in one fell swoop must, from the standpoint of genes, make male resistance to monogamous marriage very reasonable.
WOMAN AND MARRIAGE
As noted : Sperm is to fertilization as man is to marriage; ovum is to conception as woman is to marriage. The implied meaning of the comparison is this: sperm, geared to compete and win, must risk losing themselves in the final act of fertilization. Likewise with men and marriage; geared for freedom in order to gain the prize, men are ill prepared for the "losses" which marriage inevitably brings. Consequently, they, when gene directed, resist.
With women, however, genetics deal a completely different hand. Ovum is to conception as woman is to marriage implies this: Ms. Ovum, we may suppose, grandly anticipates conception, which is initiated by fertilization--"getting her man," we might call it. This momentous event is what she has literally "waited a life time for." Remember, unlike sperm who never live more than a couple of months, every single ovum has been alive as long as her bearer--usually from 15-50 years, "just waiting," we can imagine, "for this magic moment."
Paradoxically, Mr. Sperm risks death of himself in the same event--fertilization, in which Ms. Ovum finds her fulfilled life. That which she has evolved to be, is, it must seem to him, the end of what he has evolved to do. He faces "death" at the very point where she faces "full-filled living." He must risk "dying" in order to live, but if she doesn't keep living (through conception), she certainly dies.
All that he has been, up till this terrifying "victorious" moment, is suddenly over; what she has been up till this moment is only to be enhanced through conception. Remember also their relative sizes: she is 250,000 times as large as him. He risks engulfment in what to him is a truly monstrous creation--30 stories high, if he were a man; she finds fulfillment through taking in a mere speck--a taste say, of apple, if she were a woman.
Though we can only imagine, the experiential difference in being swallowed by a giantess, as compared with swallowing a speck of food, must be immense. Then add the risk of death compared to the promise of life; this picture may portray some of the extremely different attitudes which men and women bring to the event of monogamous marriage today.
Every Mr. Sperm must as reasonably fear fertilization as each Ms. Ovum anticipates conception; at least that appears to be the way it is with those evolved to bear them when they face the event of monogamous marriage. With these inclinations in each of their 50,000 billion cells, not surprisingly females anticipate marriage--when society places it at the door to conception, from times of earliest conscious thought. Typically, girls begin early to plan their eventual weddings, the "grandest day of their lives." Just as typically, boys, when equally honest, seldom think of such; but, if so, with predictable ambivalence.
Brides-to-be plan weddings with infinite attention to every detail. Wedding day is the finest of all their celebrations. Grooms-to-be put off any planning till the last minute, usually "leaving everything up to her." Understandably, at least from the standpoint of genes, they celebrate the night before, their "last day of freedom." Almost inevitably, at bachelor parties which are like a last fling at symbolic male eroticism and debauchery, groomsmen warn the groom: "Now this is your last chance; tomorrow will be too late!" And men know what they mean.
What for her is often the potential fulfillment of "everything she has ever dreamed of" is more likely to be the end of the "best that he has ever known so far." Ideally he acquires access to continuously available sex; but information from married males seldom confirms the theory.
"The Beginning" for her may, fearfully, seem like "The End" for him.
MAN AND RELIGION
Male dominated patriarchal religions all carry basic themes which may be reflections of the primal paradox of each male sperm, namely, the necessity of dying-to-self in order to live on. Just as an individual sperm, after a "life-time" of existence as a separate, competitive, "self," must, if he is to live on, "give up" or risk "dying" as an individual entity, so, according to most major religions, must each individual human being.
This theme of "dying in order to live again" is clearly portrayed in Christianity in both the life and teachings of Jesus. His crucifixion and resurrection dramatically enact the events deemed necessary for eternal life. In the cross event, being crucified--nailed to a wooden cross, thereby subjected to dying, Jesus portrayed the first essential phase of the overall process aimed at enhanced or extended life.
After crucifixion, he was placed in a tomb where he lay for three days. Then the dramatic resurrection, celebrated in Easter events around the world, occurred; he came from the grave, reborn, as it were, into everlasting life. In his teachings prior to this conclusive demonstration he had clearly worded the same event. As Mark recorded him:
Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life...the same shall save it (8:34-35).
Early in Jesus' ministry he had tried, less dramatically, to teach the necessity of rebirth--of being born again. To Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, he had explained:
Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God....Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again (John 3:3,7).
Apparently these unreasonable notions about rebirth were too hard to grasp. Soon he moved toward visual demonstrations of the same truth.
In a dramatic occurrence, Jesus and his good friend Lazarus enacted the life and death event (recorded by John in chapter 11). Lazarus died and was placed in a tomb for several days. Then Jesus came, calling him forth, alive again, cryptically telling his followers, I am the resurrection. Through death, or though dead, they could, he told them, live again.
In John's next chapter (12:23,24), he recorded a similar message in metaphorical form:
And Jesus answered them, saying....Verily, verily I say unto you, Except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.
Although these events and teachings have traditionally been interpreted at this current end of the evolutionary scale as being about objective and divisible bodies and souls, they may also be seen as clear reflections of our common male beginnings at the earliest genesis of all our conceptions.
Whatever Jesus may have thought and intended in his teachings and example about death and resurrection, they do clearly portray the actual physical facts about every sperm's true destiny: The sperm that saves his life shall lose it. If Mr. Sperm doesn't fall into the ground (ovum) and die, if he doesn't risk losing himself, certainly he does truly die.
Although this theme of extended life through the door of death is clearly exemplified in Jesus' life and teachings, it is by no means limited to Christianity. The idea of a better life through self-sacrifice--denial of desire, asceticism, even martyrdom, is common to all patriarchal religions. Men, like the sperm they bear, all seem to be fundamentally "lost" and in need of "salvation" before they can go on to the "fullness of life" which we all seek.
Perhaps such male dominated religions are man's--not woman's, current structured attempts to come to grips with this fundamental truth about every male sperm which, indeed, must risk crucifixion--self-sacrifice, dying to himself, falling into the "ground" (ovum), if it is to be born again into an extended and enhanced life.
WOMAN AND RELIGION
If women approach marriage contrary to the way of men, so, and more so, do they approach religion. Although both genders must, by social necessity, take part in the same organized systems of religion--the same sects and denominations, churches and synagogues--once inside, the actual religious experiences of men and women are, it seems to me, vastly different.
These immensely different perspectives are sometimes cloaked by the reality of male dominance in the structures of all major religions today. Women are forced, because these are the only games in town, to join patriarchal religions. The age of maternal religions has long been suppressed if not negated by the last 10-20,000 years of male dominance in the structures of societies around most of the so-called "civilized world."
But even when females join, accept the masculine language, take part in the man-type rituals, and give lip-service to the male doctrines and beliefs, they know, as can any carefully observant man, that their interests are far different from the party-line and prevailing structures.
Presumptuously, as one of those males with time-in-grade for observing females in religion, I note these possible reflections of genetic directives in religious women today: focus on mortality rather than immortality; on love rather than salvation; on situational ethics rather than impersonal legalism; and on caring rather than beliefs (practice versus doctrines):
Ova, recall, are relatively "immortal" to begin with. They "come with the female," beginning about the sixth month of fetal life. By the time an ovum matures and leaves the ovary for her journey into a fallopian tube, she is as old as her bearer--from 15-50 years. Her natural "mortality," could she "think," would reasonably seem to be inherent, to be taken for granted. There would no need to "worry about forever." Sperm, in contrast, are not "born" with males. They only begin to be produced at puberty, and are relatively short-lived as separate entities--two months at most.
Assuming that continuation of the species is an inherent genetic urge, Mr. Sperm would reasonably have cause for concern about "immortality." After all, his "mortality" is, in fact, extremely brief. "Concern for his future" would only make sense.
Closely related is male religious preoccupation with salvation--being rescued from "lostness," "rebirth," transformation into some "higher form of life"--a subject of great interest to most males, but of relatively small concern to females.
Again, with sperm and ovum as prototype, these differences reasonably reflect our early beginnings: Whereas Ms. Ovum "inherits immortality," is never "lost" and thus in need of salvation, and does not need any "rebirth," every Mr. Sperm comes from an opposite place. All these he requires for completing his role in the Drama of Conception.
Because men seem so terribly concerned about immortality and salvation, women, understandably "go along" with their preoccupations. Observably, though, they seldom share the intensity of male concern about "living forever," "being recognized," certainly not "making an immortal name for themselves," or even "being saved." Of course not; they already "have salvation," inherently.
Male religious doctrines about "dying to self in order to save oneself" seldom, I suspect, make sense to females. The whole idea of "self-salvation" seems to be of small concern to most women. True, their "biological clocks" are ticking for baby-making, even during successful careers in the business world; but not for "self-making" or even a "name for themselves."
Again, genetic facts may well be reflected in these differences in present day religious concerns. Mr. Sperm, as noted, must indeed risk "death" in "losing himself" in the huge Ms. Ovum in order to be "reborn" in a new life form. She, meanwhile, faces no such challenge. Two hundred fifty thousand times as large, up to 3,614 times as old--neither "losing" nor "finding herself" would reasonably be of any concern at all. Male focus on salvation, sensible for Mr. Sperm, would seem to be irrelevant for any Ms. Ovum--and likewise it seems with her bearers.
If there is a female focus equal to this male need for "finding himself" (getting salvation), it might be for loving--that is, benevolently caring for the "other." In the event of conception, Mr. Sperm's necessarily risking "death" is paralleled by Ms. Ovum's essential "caring" or concern for "taking in" the heroic winner of the race. He will die if he, as her "other," is not "loved" into herself.
And if she doesn't "love" him, she too dies within the day. Understandably then, the female focus on "loving others," like the male concern with "winning over others" and then risking death through "losing himself," may be a reflection of this different but shared biological fact of life.
Beyond the first "other"--a single sperm, Ovum-bearers in religion share a "concern for others" in all situations quite beyond that of most Sperm-bearers. Competing males, like the sperm they bear, seem drawn to strive for goals, easily drawing lines and dividing this reality from that. They separate things from each other, just as their sperm, while competing, must separate themselves from each other.
When it comes to mind and thought, men continue to draw lines, separating one idea from another. They make rules and laws, legal structures to assist in reaching their mental goals. In religion, these legal lines become moral and ethical precepts--religious laws about right and wrong, regardless of the situation. Men easily become legalistic about their religions as well as everything else.
Not so with women, evolved to bear ova rather than sperm. They, like the ova they bear, "draw circles" instead; they must "take in" the other, not divide themselves from every other. When we come to so-called "ethical behavior," the same differences prevail. Line-drawing males strive for justice through laws and rules which are impersonal.
Circle-drawing females, concerned with "taking in" rather than "leaving out," seldom let their ethical decisions be made by mere legalism alone; to women, the situation always matters more than the law itself. Again, the differing "truths" for sperm and ova may be reflected in the contrasting ways men and women approach ethics in present life.
Men, being easily legalistic, commonly think women are "too soft." Women, inclined toward situational ethics, equally often believe men to be "too hard." Man: "He was wrong; the law is the law. He must be punished." Woman: "Maybe he shouldn't have done it, but he didn't mean to hurt anyone. Give him a second chance."
Finally, the consistent male focus on theology--mental doctrines, beliefs, dogma--is seldom shared by females. "Go ahead and think what you will," women are more apt to believe, "but be caring and love others as they are." Males in religion easily divide adherents on the basis of their "right beliefs," excluding those who "disbelieve" or hold to heretical ideas (beliefs). They may even teach that "salvation is based on beliefs," a tenet few women ever truly espouse. Faith, for men, is commonly understood as devout dedication to a set of religious notions. "Keeping the faith" means, for them, remaining true to the "true beliefs."
Females rarely have such devotion to any ideas. Even female theologians, who are relatively few, are seldom dedicated to particular beliefs. They may study doctrines, but when it comes to practice, they eclectically choose from any religion or creed those ideas which more readily fit with their own benevolent standards. "Feelings"--especially feeling "concern for others" (as ova must), matter more to Ovum-bearers in religion than mental ideas ever can.
As with marriage, women approach religion quite differently from men. The parallels with genetic agendas are similar. Are genes also at the basis of these differences?
Ova are immortal; if they live, they live forever.
When they're dead, they're dead.
Sperm are mortal; they only achieve immortality by dying.
If they don't die, they can't live forever.
Not surprisingly, men try to immortalize themselves;
women care little about immortality.
They already have it.
Females are born with ova to waste; they come with a full supply for life. By the sixth month of pregnancy, female ovaries already contain 6 million potential eggs. Life consists of parring down this vast number to the mere 1-12 needed for a productive role in the Reproductive Drama. While her body is culling down her excessive ova, Ms. Ovum-bearer is culling down the large number of men available to fertilize her ova; and then culling down the hoards of sperm available from any given man.
Culling could be a name for her immortal game.
Males, meanwhile, are born with no sperm--and therefore none to waste. Each Mr. Sperm-bearer, beginning at puberty, must make his own. And, because the odds of any single sperm succeeding are so awesomely slim, he needs an astronomical amount. Among the obstacles standing in the path of any human sperm on the way toward immortality are: scarcity of ova; hidden times for conception (at least the "lower animals" knew when an ovum was ready, back when obvious estrus prevailed); selectivity of females for Sperm-bearers; and selectivity of ova for an acceptable sperm.
True, once a male commences to produce sperm, vast numbers are turned out (3,000 per second); still, the odds against self perpetuation are astronomical. Even if a male gains access to a female, his sperm must take a shot in the dark; maybe no ovum will be at home even if he gets there. Most often this is the case. One may win the highly competitive race all in vain.
Although it may appear that men are totally without discrimination in spreading their sperm--as if they will "do it" anywhere, anytime, with one or it--in the context of the rarity of success, man's "extreme interest in sex" is not unfounded in reality. Perhaps it merely matches woman's "extreme interest in selectivity in sex."
The male paradox is: First the sperm must win or die; then it must risk dying in order to win. If it doesn't win the race, it loses life; but then if it doesn't risk losing it's individual life, it can't live on. This means that a sperm must lose itself in order to find itself. It must first be alone, free, unconnected; but then, in total contrast, it must be with, found, and connected.
Else all is lost. A sperm must fight hard to get there; then turn soft--as must a male becoming a person phase from a Hard-man into a Gentle-man.
WEAK AND STRONG
Now: Men are stronger; women are weaker
(At least on the surface)
Then: Ovum were stronger; sperm were weaker
(As are we below our covers)
Unspoken voice of half-man:
I fear neither man nor beast,
but I quake before woman.
Unspoken voice of half-woman:
I fear roaches and rats,
but men, who needs them?
Presumptuously here, I confess uninvitedly for most of the men I have known, myself included. We swagger and "act big" to cloak, mostly to ourselves, how "little" we suspect we are. Seldom do we get over the length of our Y chromosome, which is as little as 1/5 that of a female's two X's, or the awesomeness of our first look at your thirty-story (as seen by us) ovum.
From where we "come from" you are truly formidable--or more accurately stated: "absolutely awesome." Spies for the Children of Israel returned from checking out the promised land saying, ...we saw the giants, the sons of Anak...and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers and so we were in theirs (Numbers 13:33).
Were we males to be so honest we might say of you daughters of Eve after our exploration of your promised lands, that to us you loom as giants, and we are, around you, in our own sight as grasshoppers. Equally honest, you too may sometimes confirm that so we are in yours.
Past our braggadocio, grand opinions of ourselves, macho images, and huge "fragile egos," we are mostly little boys in big men's suits, pussycats parading as lions. What you see, when you look only at what we want to show you, is--when we are honest, mostly compensation. You see a cloak thrown about our weakness, a cover for the primal memory of our very first meeting when you were yet a giant ovum, before you turned into the woman who was our first God--and whose image we never forget and seldom cease seeking again.
You see, when our disguise works, our staged acts; you hear, when we brag, our whistling in the mysterious darkness of your presence. We "put down" on you to "hold ourselves up." We try to conquer you because you threaten us so deeply--and if not you, then our own primal memories which you cannot but resurrect.
Though we are physically stronger, and "act strong" in most other ways, a truly strong man, as most of you must know in your deeper hearts, is hard to find. You do, as Bess lamented, always get the other kind. We do have larger muscles and can act "hard"; mostly though, we are more rigidly unbending than flexibly strong. We are more like macho men, afraid of being "found out," than we are gentle men, able to stand with and love you as you are.
The prevailing image of males and females at the current end of the evolutionary process, after men have in fact gotten larger and physically more powerful is: Men are strong; women are weak. Theoretically we live in a "male dominated society." Men customarily swagger, acting omniscient and omnipotent, while women more often demur, acting dumb and impotent.
Women's Liberation, as though they have been in bondage, has been a prevalent social theme for decades. The current focus on sexual abuse--harassment, molestation, and rape--primarily casts males as powerful perpetrators with females in the innocent victim role.
In summary, mainline conscious thinking perceives men as strong, women as weak, casting men in the dominant, powerful role and women in the submissive, incapable, "need to be taken care of" position. Men commonly feel threatened when their overt powers are shaken; sexual impotence is often our ultimate threat. Women, conversely, at home with their weak and fearful positions, get edgy if recognized as powerful. If men are threatened by their weaknesses, women are, by their strengths.
All this on the conscious level. This is the "party line," what we are trained to think--and commonly do. But look slightly below the surface and an entirely different, even opposite situation, emerges toward the light. The male "fragile ego" phenomenon, which most females recognize even when their men don't, is balanced by a "powerful female" recognition by most males, even when the women who wield such powers don't. That is, women commonly see that men are not nearly as strong as they act and would like for others, most of all themselves, to think. Men, even when unaware of their own weaknesses and diligent efforts to cloak them, often recognize clearly, if regretfully, the actual powers of the women they try to "support and protect."
Look at how we live, rather than at how we think of ourselves--at the facts rather than our conscious notions, and an entirely different picture begins to appear. In this cloaked version, genetic facts are closer to the truth.
Recall the encounter of the cells at the distant beginning of the evolutionary process: When our personified Mr. Sperm victoriously completes his exhausting three mile race and gets his first glimpse of the prize, the waiting Ms. Ovum, what a surprise it must be! He can't meet her "eye to eye"; indeed, if she had feet it would be more like his eye to her toe. He must look up to her--way up! To this tired swimmer she is 300 feet tall, like a 30 story building which covers nine city blocks--all in all, some 250,000 times his size!
Now that's a big "woman," one huge challenge, to this tiny shrimp of a "man"! And in ACT II of the Drama of Conception, size is only the opening difference. Recall further: our victorious Mr. Sperm is not the only one who reaches the finish line. Up to 2,000 other competitors arrive along with him. Somehow, mysteriously, in ways we do not yet understand and may never, Ms. Ovum selects one lucky finalist to join her. Mr. Sperm, after fighting the grand fight, and no doubt looking totally disheveled, must now appeal to the highly discriminating Ms. Ovum, gaining her exclusive favor.
Getting there, and to her, was not enough; now he must somehow get her to "like him," to see him as the finest of all the sperm in the world, the one and only choice for immortality. Or he dies, along with his 399,999,999 co-competitors. Wonder how one would impress a 300 foot "woman" who, unless she had Xray vision, could hardly even see such a speck of a "man"?
But that's not all. Even if our struggling finalist is somehow lucky enough to be selected as Mr. Right, The One to be invited into the Princess's parlor, still the grandest of the challenges is yet ahead. Now he must, as it were, die to himself--that is, the rugged individualist, lone fighter among the hundreds of millions, cherisher of freedom, must give it all up.
No longer is the agenda fighting, competing, winning; the race has been won, the dragon, as it were, has now been slain. Prince Valiant must dismount from his steed, remove all armor, give up his freedom, cease to be all that he has been. Before ACT II is completed, Mr. Sperm, after his final thrust of penetration, must be absorbed into this giant Princess, never to reappear as himself again.
The little guy forces himself into this dark, cavernous giantess, ceases all struggle, gives up his own liberty, and commits himself for absorption. Otherwise no resurrection is possible. Survival is, so far as he is concerned, over. The end.
There is a popular illusion among us at the opposite end of the Drama of Conception that women, at least some of them, "put out," and that men, when they are lucky, "get some." The notion is that females give and males get. Whatever the social facts may be, the cellular situation is reversed. Just as the Sperm-spreader "puts out" the sperm, and the Ovum-bearer "gets some," so Mr. Sperm himself gives (in fact, gives his all), while Ms. Ovum gets (all he has to give). At the beginning of all our evolutions, male is the giver, female the getter. He must win and then "give up" while she waits and "takes in."
From the perspective of power (see Chapter VI), Ms. Ovum's role in the drama, though relatively passive, covert we might say, is overwhelmingly powerful. To her gene eyes, perhaps at the 24th floor, this approaching male must look like a mouse. Certainly she has to "look down" on him.
Next comes the power of choice. He, recall, has no other options; she is it. But the immense powers of rejection, the flip side of selection, are all hers. She can dilly dally, at least for a day, picking from multiple hundreds of eager, panting suitors, casually consigning all but one to extinction without even lifting her finger.
The power of life and death, literally, is inherent within her. By simply turning a cool shoulder, she can seal the fate of the first 2000 aspiring apparent winners and wait for another round of competitors--a tortoise perhaps, who may be stronger than the faster hares who out ran him.
Then, finally--after an ultimate winner is selected, all others abandoned to die by the Omnipotent-Princess-Without-Peer, still she gets all that he has to give. Just as the vagina of the Ovum-bearer takes in the penis of the Sperm-spreader, so Ms. Ovum herself receives and consumes Mr. Sperm in entirety. He gives up himself; she, remaining who-she-is, absorbs whatever he has to offer, before proceeding along her impregnated journey toward the womb. For him, this is it; for her, he was only a passing ship in the night, a one night stand. Fertile now, having consumed him, her life is just beginning.
Or so it might seem from a prejudiced male-writer's perspective. An Ovum-bearer writing about our cellular beginnings, aware of the slim pickings, the scarcity of "a good man nowadays" (they being so "hard to find"), and also aware of the threats of being penetrated, having to take one of these distraught strugglers into her clean bedroom, not to mention the loss of figure and Princess-status in favor of at least 16 or so years of child rearing--well...
But even if this version of the Drama of Conception is prejudiced, one-sided on the male side, it may more clearly reflect the way we actually live as men and women, than does the way we commonly think about ourselves--namely, men as strong, women as weak; men as powerful, women as powerless.
Beyond metaphors, what I more often see as a counselor with privileged access behind social veneers, is men and women with "gene eyes" rather than human eyes--that is, men, who, like my metaphored Mr. Sperm, see women, Ovum-bearers, as truly awesome; and women, who like Ms. Ovum, do indeed look down on men. To be sure, many men act as though they are omnipotent (also omniscient and immortal)--like gods, that is, while women often act impotent, like helpless victims of the apparently dominant males who seem to rule society.
But stripped of our veneers, the clothes of consciousness, we often appear quite differently. Deeper down, on some primitive level of mind or heart, we all, I suspect, recall where we come from--and the power differential inherent in our beginnings. Evade and deny as we will, men, perhaps with good biological reasoning, deeply fear apparently "weak" women, who, when they dare a deeper honesty, so often look down on "strong" men whose fragile egos they sometimes strive to protect, usually with resentment. Tiring of the repeated game, one such jaded woman voiced the situation for many others who do not chance speaking: "Men," she opined, "...who needs them!"
Only on fishing trips and other symbolic "campsites" do men sometimes confess to each other their deeper fears of the women they strive to please, possess, and dominate, so often without success in either category.
Appearances so often to the contrary, in comparison with women, men are the "weaker sex." Past physical facts only, men are not "as big," in the long run, as are women. Men are less stable, less stand-able, and less complete in themselves. Less able to stand on our own, married men live longer than single men; we also marry sooner after divorce. And less able to stand, period, we die sooner. Throughout the world, the average life of women exceeds that of men.
Fetal deaths are 50 percent higher among males than females. Within the first month following birth, the male death rate exceeds that of the female by 40 percent, and among prematures by 50 percent. Within the first year of life male mortality exceeds that of the female by 33 percent. For ages five to nine, male mortality exceeds that of the female by 44 percent, from ten to fourteen by 70 percent, and from fifteen to nineteen by 145 percent... At ages sixty to sixty-four there are 23 percent more women than men, and at seventy-five and over, there are nearly twice as many women as men. (8, p 184)
The facts of physical life and death are paralleled by facts of spiritual life which, though difficult to chart by statistics, are easily observable. Past physical hardships, men are less able to endure waiting, emotional frustration, and mystery, as well as extended physical pain.
In general, women can "take it"--whatever it may be, better than men. They routinely "put up with" more than even the strongest of men can endure beyond a short time. Physically stronger, men can "dish it out"; but when it comes to "taking it," the last laugh belongs to women.
The hard, obvious, male erection is, in the final analysis, no competition for the soft, hidden, female vagina. Though men may swagger sexually, even ravage and rape, pussy power is most often the final victor. Our familiar efforts to make females submit to us sexually, to conquer women, to carve notches on the beds of our lives, bragging about our "conquests," etc., even when they succeed, turn out to be hollow victories in time. We try, more deeply, to prove ourselves--at least to establish our infamous "fragile egos" to cloak the actual size of who we fear we are.
The seldom voiced but possibly universal male fear of a gaping vagina, escaped in the search for a tight pussy, is both real and symbolic of our deeper fears of being swallowed up, consumed, eaten alive by the seemingly all-powerful forces of dark femininity. The physical facts that the grand male production of "doing it"--something which takes all that we are, the coordination of body and emotions, if not mind--can be done "as though it were nothing" by women, that we can only "do it" once, twice or thrice at most, while she can, even without choosing, "take on" a group of us, loom awesome in our unconscious minds. Your can-take-it-ness, in comparison to our can-give-it-ness, physically speaking, metaphors realistically the size of our spiritual weakness also.
We act strong; but, to us, and perhaps in reality, you who are evolved to bear the powerful ovum are strong. We sons of Adam, like those of Anak, as we most often know ourselves are indeed in our own sight (unconscious if not conscious) as grasshoppers before you daughters of Eve. And sometimes, I know, you also see us that way.
These differences will be amplified in the chapter on POWER.
NEEDING EACH OTHER
For survival, we need each other; to live, sperm needs ovum, ovum needs sperm. But, after our first union, for any growth, development, or enhanced existence, a sperm needs an ovum far more than an ovum needs a sperm--as do we who are evolved to bear them. Relatively speaking, an ovum is self-contained; her pantry is full, her storehouse well stocked. She remains forever at home in her bearer. A sperm, conversely, is born orphaned, never again to connect with his bearer. He has no place; she never leaves her's. To live he must come to her home and be accepted by her; his existence, after winning the race, depends on her good graces.
Later, her bearer may need his bearer for security purposes--protection, resources, and support for herself and their offspring. But these needs, though significant, are proportionately small in comparison with his for her.
Man, trapped in his genetic heritage, gene-directed only, looks, as did his distant ancestor, to woman for almost everything that matters most to him. The content of his "everything" changes, but its scope is only slightly reduced. Unlike his beginning cell, he can exist without her; but for the enhancements of life, the "main things,"--home, food, sex, heart, and happiness, such men still look to women as their source.
For reproduction, both a sperm and an ovum are required. Mr. Sperm, we might say, needs Ms. Ovum, just as Ms. Ovum needs Mr. Sperm. Twenty-three chromosomes--exactly the same number, are needed from each; otherwise both Mr. Sperm and Ms. Ovum die and the species does not survive. But delving further, what about the size of these shared needs? Does one need more from the other than the other needs from the one? Does the sperm need the ovum more than the ovum needs the sperm?
The answer is yes. Although 23 chromosomes from each are essential for initiating a new life, a beginning is only a beginning. Like building a house, or any other process, starting is essential. We do need to begin; but that is only "for openers." The major needs--building supplies, labor, time, etc., are related to the larger process.
And so it is with babies. The sperm's role is essential but minor; the ovum's, also essential, is major. Each needs the other, but the sperm needs the ovum far more than the ovum needs the sperm. Given equality of concern for species survival, equality ends there. Comparably speaking, he needs almost everything from her; she needs relatively little from him. Past his 23 chromosomes, Mr. Sperm is expendable; he has nothing more to give. But Ms. Ovum's matching 23 are only the least of what she must bring to the union.
Perhaps that's why she is 250,000 times as large as him. He, being small, brings very little to her; she being vast, brings much more to him. Within about 30 hours after the two cells meet, division begins; one becomes two. Then, after 40 or 50 hours, multiplication follows; two becomes four, and so on.
After five or six days, there are about 100 cells in the ball. But this is no magical expansion in which something is made out of nothing. The "stuff" for the emerging life must come from somewhere. Guess where? Right! Ms. Ovum must supply the "stuff"--the "food" or nutrients, for this immediately "hungry" entity. Mr. Sperm sparked the fire. Without the spark "it" couldn't begin; but the spark is all he has to offer; "feeding" the "fire" is left entirely to her. Along with everything else.
Once the fun of starting the "fire" is over, Ms. Ovum becomes solely responsible for the outcome--the ball of hungry cells held and fed toward embryo-hood, where Ms. Ovum-bearer takes over; then, the embryo carried and nourished toward delivery; the baby nursed and tended toward childhood; finally, the child nurtured toward adulthood. If fortunate, Ms. Ovum-bearer has Mr. Sperm-spreader around to assist in the latter phases of this profoundly demanding process. Often not, however; and even when present, he may have precious little to offer to the real challenges of person-making, being more of a liability than an asset.
When men are gene-reflections only, as many of us are--that is, when we remain entrapped in our most elemental genetic heritage, failing to embrace our potential for personhood, this primal situation where Ms. Ovum is "everything" is commonly reproduced. The content of man's "everything" needed is all that changes. Such men's ultimate need for women is as absolute as a sperm's need for an ovum. Their destiny, they deeply believe--all protestations to the contrary, depends on woman. "The only thing worse than dying," a man moaned in a song I heard on the radio last evening, "is being left." His reference, obviously, was to a woman's leaving him.
That a man will sometimes kill another man who "takes his woman," or even kill the woman herself rather than lose her, reflects, I believe, this deep dependency which men commonly feel for the women they "love." Another older love song says it plainly: "You are my everything." Though such powerful dependencies may flatter and even be functional for women does not change the enormity of the need which is common among evolved Sperm-spreaders.
How can we pin-point the content of a modern man's "everything" which he believes he needs from woman? Mr. Sperm needs Ms. Ovum for physical existence; what are Mr. John Doe's needs for Ms. Jane? Those I most frequently see may be categorized into two groups: primary and secondary, both essential for his good living.
Man's primary needs commonly projected on women are for: sex, heart, and soul. Secondarily, trapped in his most primal genetic heritage, man also looks to woman for refinements in food, home, clothing, and civilizing.
First, and most primally, men as powerful and prolific sperm-producers (remember the rate: 3,000 per second) commonly project their own sexual capacities onto women to whom they then look for sexual confirmation. Man's conscious awareness of his own sexual capacity is most clearly realized and experienced in sexual orgasm. At the instant of climax, when millions of sperm are explosively sent forth in quest of an ovum, then man-the-sperm-spreader briefly "knows" (consciously) his own sexuality.
Since such orgasms most naturally occur in sexual intercourse with a woman, (or in fantasies about women in their absence), it easily appears that woman is the source of this the most transcendent of all man's physical experiences. She, it seems, "makes" him feel sexual.
Three other related factors enhance this appearance of woman's power. At this point in evolution, since estrus has gone underground, hiding the time of an ovum's ripeness from man's awareness, woman, knowing about her period, is the one most likely to know when she is impregnable. Now, ignorant of her ovulation, man is dependent on woman for knowledge of her fertile time. And knowledge, we all know, is power.
Secondly, society has largely committed the right of choice about sexual intercourse into woman's power, supported by fierce legal consequences for violation of her conscious decisions. With our ape predecessors, "heat" was the dictator. Males and females largely went along with mutual genetic directives. Neither, in the final analysis, "decided" for the other.
But when estrus became hidden, choice about sex ended up almost entirely in woman's hands. Man may seek, court, and propose, but woman has the final decision. And choice, like knowledge, is also power. Just as Ms. Ovum mysteriously "decides" which Mr. Sperm is Mr. Right, so Mr. Man the Sperm-spreader is by and large at the mercy of Ms. Ovum-bearer when it comes to experiencing this powerful part of himself.
A third factor is also like a trick of evolution. Males have for so long been looking for "pretty girls"--ripe ovum-bearers that we no longer "have to think about it." Like driving a car, the skills have become unconscious. Now, we simply get in our automobiles and "automatically" know what to do.
In like manner we no longer (if indeed, we ever did) have to study or ask, "What makes a pretty girl pretty?" Somehow we already "know." "In our jeans" we might say to make a pun; more literally, "in our genes." Completely below the level of consciousness and all individual choice, we have evolved to be attracted to those whose potential for healthy, ripe ovum is the greatest--in other words, to "sweet young things."
But for all the benefits of this unconscious knowledge, there is one terribly dangerous consequence: we males have "forgotten" that this knowledge is our own. We no longer know, consciously, that our automatic reactions to "pretty girls" are the product of our own evolutionary heritage. Although we, not they, are the one's who have practiced "girl watching" for eons, transferring the benefits of head-eye watching to gene-eye knowing, all too easily we credit "attractive women," unwittingly discrediting ourselves.
In fact, we ourselves, given only the signs we have learned to recognize for so long that our genes now know them, "turn on." We are the one's who dare become excited in primal preparation for any small possibility of releasing some of our abundant supply of sperm. Ingrained now, encoded in our genes, we, the primal sperm-spreaders "intuitively" know to begin "turning on" at the first hint of possible participation in the ageless Drama of Conception.
But alas! We who possess this powerful ingrained knowledge, so wondrously deep-seated that no conscious thought at all is required, plus the courage necessary for embracing what we know, all too readily donate our power to the one who, we tragically believe, "turns us on." Quite unaware of our own turn-on-capacity, alert only to the fact that "she is pretty," we easily dis-empower ourselves in the presence of such a goddess who can "make us feel" so excited.
We completely forget, if indeed we have ever bothered to consciously know, that she is relatively irresponsible for those attributes we have learned over the ages to associate with healthy ovum--namely, youth, breast and hip size, healthy skin and hair, fairness of face, ripeness, that "certain look," perhaps even her bodily smells.
Not to discredit the massive efforts of females to make themselves more attractive, the fact remains that those qualities our male genes have learned to look for before we "turn on" or become excited, are relatively distinct from her consciously made efforts. At best, she may enhance what is given to her--painting her given lips, fixing her given hair, shaping her given figure, adding to her natural odors; or she may conceal her natural liabilities--hiding her age, for example, to fool us. Still, in the largest sense, evolution, family genes, and time get the major credit for her sex appeal to a male's genetic eyes.
Proportionately speaking, she as an individual female person has very little to do with what our male eyes have learned to react to--perhaps ten percent credit for "fixing up," but ninety percent for given "endowments." The point is simply to note the unreasonableness of male adoration of a particular female for what our own genes have learned to react to. Though we have consciously forgotten what our genes now wondrously know, we ourselves "turn on" or do not; our own knowledge triggers our own excitement.
Even so, gene-entrapped men, unaware of their own heritage, commonly believe that women "turn them on," or worst still, "off." In either case, the control of this the most power-producing element in maleness is primarily projected indiscriminately onto women.
The summary result of these and other factors: man's lost knowledge of woman's "heat," society's bestowal on women of the power of choice about when to have sexual intercourse, and the prevalent projection of man's turn-on-ability on to women, leaves the average male, when it comes to his own sexual powers, immensely vulnerable to and dependent on woman for the activation of this primary part of who he is.
After sex come the issues of heart. Men trapped in their primal genes are yet to embrace their own hearts--their potential for "emotionality," especially the tender emotions. Our shared human capacity for "feel-ability," for being emotional, is most commonly embraced by women only. Men, deprived of this major part of who we all are, predictably look to women who seem to "have it," for the completion of ourselves. We, fearful of becoming hearted ourselves, look to women to supply our missing hearts.
Trying to exist "without feeling," relying on "reason" only for the awesome choices required of everyone, men deeply know, even when they don't know what it is, that "something is missing in their lives." Strangely to them, the very women who threaten them so much with their easy tears and other tender emotions, seem to "have what is missing." As lemmings are mysteriously drawn to the sea, so half-person males who are missing their own hearts, are drawn to women who seem to have what then need.
Capturing heartedness "out there" in a woman they try to own, such men "feel complete." They, as it were, "become whole" by capturing their own missing part. Wholeness, inherently, feels good. If a woman who "turns a man on," supplying his sexuality, wields power over him, a woman who "makes a man whole" by supplying his heartedness, easily becomes a goddess to him.
Heart, which begins as a symbol for "emotionality" or "feeling-capacity,"--the most familiar sign of "womanliness," also represents the larger elements of femininity-in-general. Although we are all gendered--male or female by the time of birth, for the first six weeks of all our existence we are androgynous, like "persons" with the capacities of both genders. Then, evolving more toward one gender than the other, we tend to activate the capacities of that gender, while suppressing those of the opposite gender.
But suppression of one gender does not mean that it "goes away;" only that it becomes recessive for a time. While gene-directed and focused primarily on our evolved capacities for reproduction of ourselves, maleness or femaleness, our dominant gender seems to be "all that we are." But not so; as male or female only, we are but half-persons. Wholeness calls for embracing our own shadowed selves, our opposite-genderedness.
For males, this means our own femininity, that part of ourselves which was left dormant at the age of six weeks, so that primary attention could be given to developing maleness. And this is the rub. In our society, development of masculinity is primarily accomplished at the expense of all femininity--that is, by careful and consistent denial of anything "sissy." From their first dressing in blue, boys are trained, not only to "not cry," but also to resist any of the multitude of other traits associated with pink--girl-ness.
By the time a male-type person gets around to considering wholeness, becoming a person who is inevitably a combination of both masculinity and femininity, the feminine part of him has been so thoroughly judged, if not negated, that few males can find the courage to toss out their "life-time" training and "admit" (as though it were a crime) to any femininity within themselves.
Fortunately for society, women commonly volunteer to become male's missing halves. Men easily find not only their own hearts (emotionality) "out there," but also many other elements of their denied femininity. Women also volunteer to be: soft, nurturing, intuitive, sensitive, civil, and social for men--in other words, to supply their missing femininity for them. For their own reasons, they provide not only sex, but also home, food, clothing, and civility as well as tenderness.
Even when a woman will not volunteer to be a man's missing half, men are sorely tempted to keep looking for their own hearts--emotions plus all other elements of femininity--"out there." If one woman won't provide a man's heart for him, perhaps another one will! Few men seem able to resist the habit of denying their own heartedness and seeking a woman to represent it for them, a woman to "make them whole."
Next come the issues of soul--"salvation" in religious language, or "happiness," secularly speaking. God, for us all, in the beginning was Woman. Before the times of thought and consciousness our Creator was Mother. In Her egg tube we were conceived, in Her womb carried, in Her arms held, at Her breasts nursed. In Her nurture and love, to whatever extent they existed, we were first made whole and happy. Father, no matter the necessity of his sperm or the extent of his presence, was, in sofaras we knew, a relatively minor if not absent character in the drama of all our beginnings.
Later, most of us, after we learned to think, learned to think consciously of God as Father--"Our Father who art in heaven..." But long before thought or consciousness, in the most crucial and formative times of all our lives, male and female, He was not masculine; He, in reality, was She--feminine in gender. "Our Mother who art on earth..." came before any "heavenly Father," and remains, I suspect, in the deeper, primal memories of us all--our "genetic memories," as Woman.
Much later, after genes are forgotten and consciousness reigns, in times of our "lostness," when hope fades and happiness flees, we may think about a masculine God, praying to Him for salvation; but in our dreams, the primal sea of pre-conscious memory, I believe that our older histories--when God was Woman, remain the most powerful. No matter what we "think," we are most deeply inclined, genetically attuned, and existentially trained to look to Woman for salvation and happiness.
And men, more probably than women. Although we all, boys and girls alike, share Maternal Religion roots, boys are the most likely to persist in its practice. Girls, all too soon, are thrust into the realm of goddesses themselves, at least in training if not installed. Boys in all cultures have longer to indulge in the primal memories of Magical Mothers who could nurse them into satisfaction, kiss away the pain of all bo-bos, and hold them into happiness.
Once the primal memory of Mother as God becomes ingrained, made unconscious, if indeed it ever became more than a "feeling" experience, then transferring the "memory" onto any other woman is a natural event. Given any cues to earlier experience, any signs similar to Mother--such as, female shape, breasts, warmth, softness, tone of voice, smell, etc., and primal hopes are likely to be resurrected. If the first Healer-from-hurt, Savior-from-sadness, Bringer-of-happiness, was woman, then perhaps, just perhaps, the saving capacity lies in femininity; perhaps another woman can also bring us to life, betterness of life, and fullness of life, even as did our first mother.
Although such primal memories, if they exist, are seldom brought into awareness--few consciously "think" that a woman can save them--still it appears that the power of these universal womb-experiences remains motivational throughout life, especially in males. All conscious thought, even all present experience, to the contrary, still men are commonly drawn to women as though they truly hold the secret to happiness, the powers of soul transformation. Most men seem to deeply believe that She (lover, wife, or nameless woman) "can make me happy." "If only she will..."
When it turns out that a particular woman cannot (or "will not, but could if only she would..."), most males simply shift their common search for salvation to another female candidate instead of learning from that experience. Keeping alive their primal memory and eternal hope, they look for some new and "better" woman who will do for them what the last one "would not." An all too common male script is a man going from woman to woman, ever in search of an effective replacement for the Womb-Mother, the first God, to "make me happy," as it seems that She once did.
The "scoping" of such a familiar male is not merely for a new sex partner, a new recipient for genetically directed sperm-spreading, but rather for a new Goddess to take the place of the lost forever Mother God. To genetic eyes for ripe ovum--for making a new child, an average male seeks to perfect a vision for female Goddesses--for making a new man. Realizing, when he is honest with himself, that although physically grown, still he lacks soul, still he is "not happy," Mr. Sperm-bearer typically looks to woman for this completion also.
From the search for ovum to the search for heart and soul, man's quest for offspring, for wholeness, and for salvation, is most often focused on Woman (I use capital "W" for Woman to distinguish man's larger quests, past ovum only, from any particular female person). Given our genetic eyes and primal memories, most of us male-type persons bring both real and magical wishes to the Women we meet--or at least search for. We are in quest, not merely for a woman, an ordinary human, a half-person like ourselves, but for Woman--a female who bears not only an ovum and the possibility of sex, but powers of heart and soul as well. We want it all; and deeply, if not consciously, believe that Woman has it to give.
In practice, these three powerful quests--for ovum (sex), heart, and soul, distinguishable on paper and in our minds' eye, are usually so intertwined as to be inseparable. The genetic urge toward ovum, most powerfully ingrained in body knowledge, is commonly overlaid with the search for heart (personal wholeness--"emotionality"), and happiness.
When so, a man is likely to look for sex consciously, but with the hidden agendas that sex will also make him whole, that is, "feel like a man," and "be happy" as well. This, obviously, as most women and any honest man can attest, is too grand an expectation to place on such a physical event as ejaculation. Even so, such conscious knowledge does little to curtail most men from their quest for the holy grail via the bedroom, for heaven through orgasm--with Woman as the bearer of both.
In addition to these primary needs for sex, wholeness, and salvation, men also have secondary (important, but less universally projected) needs, such as: food (bodily sustenance); home (warm comforts added to cold house), clothing (style and grace added to utility only), and civilizing (fitting in with a local society) help--to mention but a few. Although men seem more capable of supplying the rudimentary forms of these essential elements in self and social survival, they seldom learn, on their own, the refinements of each.
For instance, men, of course "will eat something to survive"; but for the refinements of taste and variety they commonly "need" women. Men will find some sort of shelter from the cold, a "house" of sorts; but turning a cold house into a warm home is nearly always "left up to the little woman."
Men also find clothing to stay warm and use for pockets; but rarely do they learn about colors, style, and grace in dress. For anything past function, they look to women "to dress them." Past food, shelter, and clothing, men are also notoriously uncivilized on their own. Evolved to survive in the jungle, even in the jungle aspects of city, they commonly lack "manners" or any of the smoothing elements essential in running a society.
Like dogs in the house, they (we) need to be "house broken"--civilized. Even though men seem able to "get by" in these secondary areas of need, their fuller living calls for the refinements of food, shelter, clothing, and socializing which many men feel completely incapable of providing for themselves.
Enter women--who seem so naturally capable of meal and home-making, "knowing what to wear" and "how to act" with other people. In spite of our familiar denials, most men deeply recognize our needs in these areas; but we have also learned to look to women to supply them for us.
When male primary needs for sex, heart, and soul are combined with our secondary needs for help with food, shelter, clothing, and society, the result is a man who, in many ways seems helpless, and who, both for survival and its enhancements, truly needs woman. Trapped in our maleness, dependent on women to "turn us on," "make us whole," "make us happy," plus "fix dinner," "clean house," "dress us," and "teach us manners," not to mention "understand us" and support our "fragile egos," we easily view a woman as "our everything."
Small wonder that we try so hard to get and keep such a woman, fighting off all competition, thinking we will die if abandoned, and are inclined to kill one who tries to leave us. Even though we men think consciously of God as Male, acting like little gods ourselves, on a deeper level--perhaps out of our primal memories of womb-time, we are far more likely to worship any woman who hints at supplying the needs we believe we have and cannot fill ourselves.
We talk of God as Father; we more often live-as-though God is Woman, and will worship one who pretends to be so.
POWER IN THEORY
As Ms. Ovum is inherently more powerful than Mr. Sperm
so woman, often unknown to herself,
consistently wields more power over man
than man occasionally holds over woman
Sperm's power, and man's, is first seen
and most visible;
flagrantly, it flaunts itself,
more show than substance
Woman's power, like ovum's, is slow to appear;
reluctantly, she acknowledges herself
to be more than meets the eye
But when push comes to shove
it is she
who gets the last laugh
We men appear to be, and like to think we are, more powerful than women. Women often go along with our act, thereby increasing their power over us (the power of the permitter is always greater than that of the permitted). With apparent benevolence they let us think we are.
But real power is less related to thinking than to move-ability. While pretending (even to herself) not to think, woman may move man to action. The King may think he runs the kingdom; often, however, it is the Queen who moves the King to act--revealing thereby the power she commonly, for practical reasons, conceals. "Behind every good man," 'tis said, "there's a good woman." Hopefully, not too far behind.
Before approaching the subject of power directly, two primary distinctions bear noting: differences between things and people, and between doing and being. The first distinction--between things and people, may seem obvious; but the relevant issue here is the difference between inanimate objects and animate creatures, between its--that which can properly be referred to with neuter pronouns, and us or we's--who need gendered pronouns for reference (he or she). Things, as I use the word here, refers to objectifiable entities, physical or mental--for example, a chair (a physical thing) or an idea (a mental thing).
People, of course, can also be objectified and viewed or treated as things, the same as objects and ideas. In reality, however, there is a distinction based on aliveness which makes people different from other things. People are "alive"; things are "dead," that is, things have no inherent life. This is the difference I note here. Everything, a person included, is, literally, an object in space and time. People, however, differ in their inherent livingness," which things lack.
The second relevant distinction emerges from the first: between doing and being. Doing refers to the activity of things--objects in time and space. Being is a word for livingness--for presence and process. Things may do things and be done to, precisely because they are things; people, as distinguished here, may be and become. Things, for example, because they are objects in time and space, can be manipulated, controlled, or done to. People, being alive, can be present and in process; for example, be themselves, and be becoming who they potentially are.
As alive and therefore lively beings, people can be connected and related with one another in ways which are impossible with things. Things of course can stand in proximity with each other, occupying connecting space. Technically, we can say that things are also related. Yet there is a difference between things-existing-together-in-space and people-being-related. When things are together they may do things to, with, or for each other, but only people (living things) can be together, sharing presence, process, and relationship.
Although these distinctions are not commonly recognized and are often overlooked in ordinary thinking, they are relevant to understanding how power works between men and women. Genetic differences reflect in their various powers being more operative in one or the other of these two realms. Man-power is more readily applicable in the dimensions of things and doing; woman-power is more effective with people and being.
Men more easily wield power in doing things with things--with objects in space and time, both physical and mental things ("its" and ideas). Women are more powerful with people--with beings and relationships between beings. Conversely, men are less powerful in the second dimension; their genetic heritage which equips them well for coping with things, leaves them relatively inadequate with beings. And women, good with people (living beings--hes and shes), are not so powerful when they come to coping with things (objects in space).
Men can, of course, in their minds' eyes, translate people into things (view beings as though they were objects), and then manipulate people just as they do other things. In like manner, women can personify things (view them as though they were beings) and then relate correspondingly. Men can de-personalize people, and women can personalize things, thereby bringing them (in their minds' eyes) over into the realms in which each specializes. When this happens, as it commonly does, we find men treating people as objects, and women treating objects, e.g., houses, plants, etc., as though they were people.
Summarizing: before we approach power in specific forms, we note these relevant distinctions between things and people, and between doing and being. Ideally, the first of each category go together: things and doing, and so with the second: people and being. When this is so, we do with things and be with people. But because men are genetically better (more powerful) in dealing with things than with people, they commonly de-personalize persons and treat them as objects, while women, better with people than with things, often personalize objects, and treat them as beings.
In regard to power, genetics favor males in three primary ways: brute strength, kill-ability, and objective thinking--each of which is particularly applicable to the realms of things and doing as distinguished above.
Men, on average, have more body mass than women; they are both larger and more muscular. Men weigh more and are genetically designed for overpowering through brute strength--that is, physical domination. In this first and most obvious regard, male power certainly exceeds female power.
Men, physically sensitive to objects in space, are less "emotionally" sensitive than women. Viewing reality in the perspective of things ("its" rather than "thous"), men can more easily "not care" for objects (including people as things) than can women. They can de-personalize everything, including other persons.
As will be amplified later, men are less conscious of feelings, such as fear and sadness. Insofar as consciousness is concerned, we can accurately say that men "feel less" than women, especially those emotions related to threat and "caring." Geared for competition, Sperm-bearers are naturally adventurous, daring, brave, and willing to take physical risks. They are "less afraid," meaning they are more out of conscious touch with the human emotion of fear, that feeling which is so familiar to women.
This does not men that men "do not feel," that we do not experience fear, or are inherently less capable of "being afraid"; only that we are genetically inclined and socially trained to be less conscious of fearing. Fear is a liability in our genetic endeavors, in contrast with the female script in our shared agenda. We learn early, supported by social structures, to "not be afraid," to suppress tears ("big boys don't cry"), to "act brave" (emphasis on act).
Other emotions, particularly anger and passion which are useful in the male genetic role, are both accepted and supported by society. Early in life, boys learn to "get mad" and act aggressively. We are also given social permission to "feel sexy," in ways often denied to females. The relevant facts here are that men are equipped, trained, and socially supported in denying fear and expressing anger and aggression, its related activity. In combination this emotional situation--consciously feeling less fear and more aggression, men are better equipped for fighting and killing than for caring.
In addition, our sensitivity to things rather than people, including making objects out of persons (in our minds' eyes), allows us a kill-ability which is uncommon in females. We males, feeling more aggression and less fear, can be insensitive to the softer emotions which comprise much of every female's orientation to reality (more about this later). When, for example, an animal "cries," we can ignore its (note the de-personalization) "feelings" and treat it like any other object.
In the final analysis, we can kill; we can shoot an animal, break a chicken's neck, clean a fish while it is still alive--all without feeling the tender emotions which females can rarely ignore.
The point here is that men can not only fight better, with our brute strength, but we can more easily do so since we feel less fear and more aggression, and can, finally, kill "with less compunction." When we come to dominating objective reality, including other persons, men can therefore wield powers generally unavailable to women. Brute strength added to fight-ability, including the capacity for killing, place men at a distinct power advantage in those arenas where these capacities are effective.
Males surpass females in one particular type of thought process commonly called visual or spacial thinking. Men in general can visualize objects in space, in their minds's eyes, better than women. One common result is the ability to read maps without having to turn the map around to correlate with actual space. Females surpass male thinking abilities in other ways to be noted later.
Spacial thinking may also be understood as objective thinking, that is, the ability to make and hold objects in mental space. Often this is what "understanding" is taken to mean. This particular type of thinking allows one to first make an object from a perception, to separate a process into discrete mental parts, each divided from the other. This mental ability to draw lines allows focusing on one phase of what in reality remains connected to the whole, while excluding other phases from awareness. Men, for example, using this type of thinking, can focus on a picture while totally ignoring the frame which surrounds it, or wear clothes which don't match, without feeling embarrassed.
This type of focus-ability, of objectively separating out a part of perception for conscious attention while at the same time excluding other parts, probably developed during that long phase of human history (98% of our human time on earth) when men were primarily hunters.
Effective hunting requires focusing on a particular type of game while excluding most everything else. Killing, likewise, demands a sharp focus on that which is to be killed. Any attention diverted to surrounding circumstances is likely to make the kill impossible, even to result in the death of the intended killer.
However we may have developed this mode of mental skill, males are now better than females both at killing and the focusing which it requires. Out of the jungle, the same type of thinking is applicable to other things besides animals, including ideas or mental things. Men are able, in our minds' eyes, to get "outside of things (situations, circumstances)" and "look down" on them objectively (as though they were objects).
With this particular type of mental ability it is as though we can be on a mountain top and see real life down in the valley in an objective (impersonal, unemotional, or "distant") manner. We can, as it were, also make objects out of ourselves, rise above an immediate situation, "sit on a cloud" (in our minds) and look down on reality "on the earth."
We can, in effect, remove ourselves as involved parts of a process and look at the process "from a distance" which we have created in our mind's eye. Of course we cannot remove ourselves in reality--we are still in fact present and involved in the immediate circumstances; but mentally speaking, we can.
At a distance, we can also see the phases of a process--that which went before and that which is likely to follow. We have an easier perspective on cause-and-effect, how one part of a process is likely to result in a predictable later part.
In colloquial language, this is often called "understanding things." This phrase is best grasped in two ways: "understanding" refers to having a mental grasp on "how things work," that is, how other parts of the whole are related to the particular part being focused on. "Things" is to be understood literally; this same mental capacity (spacial type thinking) has already allowed one to divide what is existentially whole and connected into discrete mental entities or "things."
First we make "things" out of wholes by drawing lines which artificially segment phases of a process; then we compare and relate "things" we have created in our mind's eye. We say we "understand," meaning we can mentally relate one "thing" to another "thing" by correlating it with some prior "knowledge" of the process.
Understanding for men is a mental process, the result of objective think-ability. From woman's perspective, this male virtue is more likely to appear as "just thinking" or "a way to be uninvolved."
These three male powers--brute strength, kill-ability, and objective thinking, place men at a distinct advantage in doing things, especially with actual objects, physical or mental, or with people who have been de-personalized (through objective thinking) into objects. With real "its" (impersonal things) and people as "its," men hold the power advantage over women. Not only are we better at brute killing--at one end of the spectrum, but also at discipline and management, law and politics as well as "cut-throat" business--at the other end; better, that is, when people are treated as though they were objects.
Women, in contrast, who recognize people as living beings rather than objectified entities ("its"), while better at conversing, connecting, and being present with other people ("caring"), are, for obvious reasons, less effective in man-handling them as though they were things. In the course of our long history, with this power differential, men have been largely successful in dominating the world of objects (things, animals, ideas, and people-as-"its," including women-as-objects. We men are, as noted above, inherently more powerful in controlling the material world and even living reality when we can transform "it," in our minds' eyes, into objects. The current world state of men suppressing almost everything, including women, is the result of these three primary powers. We can indeed, in the colloquial sense of this phrase, man-handle most anything we can transform into an "it."
Dennis, in a Dennis The Menace cartoon, is sitting on a stool in the corner, wearing a dunce cap, facing the wall and mumbling. To his teacher's question, What are you saying?, he replies: I'm sitting down on the outside, but I'm standing up inside.
Man-handling powers allow men to outwardly dominate, to make people, including women, sit down on the outside. But livingness, reflected in human spirit, is a completely different matter. Men may, for instance, sometimes dominate women outwardly--"putting down on" them, keeping them "in their place," maintaining objective control, treating them as possessions (objects can be had), etc. And some regrettable times, women even fall for this outward domination, forgetting what Dennis knew.
In reality, however, human capacity, livingness, allows for another dimension of power, completely apart from potential domination of objects. Women may be, and often are, forced like Dennis to sit down on the outside. Man-handling powers grant men such possibilities; but, in appropriate contrast, woman-handling powers, like those which allow Dennis to be standing up inside even while sitting in a corner, place a broad range of forces at the disposal of you who are our opposite gender.
Woman-handling powers, less effective in brute domination--in the outward control, management, and manipulation of objects and ideas in time and space, are, it turns out, extremely powerful forces in the realm of livingness--the dimensions of reality in which people and being exist. Men are more powerful than women in dominating things, including women-as-objects, but women are more powerful than men in their effect on being, including men-as-persons. Men, we might say, excel in hand-power, while women excel in heart-power. Men are good at doing things with objects; women are good at being present with people, and effecting them through their presence--wielding people-power, that is.
Men, better at dominating things, may make women sit down on the outside; but women, better at manipulating people, may make men sit down on the inside. Men may, to some extent, outwardly control women's bodies, but women may, to a greater extent, inwardly control men's hearts.
From gamete to grave--sperm to old man, ovum to old woman, the overall power balance in the human dimension is weighted on the female side of our gender divisions. From the massive difference in our beginning sizes (one to 250,000) to the ending difference in our chronological tenures (women live longer), the power commonly wielded by women over men exceeds that which men sometimes exercise over women.
Looks often deceive us; because male powers tend to be overt and therefore visible, while female powers are more often covert and hence hidden, it often appears that men are stronger than women--as, in fact, we are when only brute strength is identified with power. Real power, however, should not be confused with appearances only, or with conscious thinking. True, men like to think we are more powerful; also true, women often let us think so, even fooling themselves, sometimes, in the process.
But true power is can-do-ness or move-ability, not mere personal opinion or conscious belief. At issue here is: who can move whom the most easily? Who can-do more with the other with the least effort? Can man move woman more easily, or can woman move man with least effort? Not: who thinks they are the stronger?, or who acts as though they are the weaker? Correlation between conscious-thinking and actual move-ability is notably poor.
Literally, power is about can-be-ness, which is the source of all can-do-ness. The English word power is from Latin posse, which is compounded from potis = able, and esse = to be; hence, power literally means to be able. Though being is only seen in doing (hence we define power as can-do-ness), the source and deeper meaning of power lies in being itself.
Finally, I am implying here: woman "bes" more powerful than man; she is more powerful--not merely does or acts more so. Man, in fact, does and acts more powerful; but woman, I think, literally is so. Women are, by nature of their genes, the inheritors of more innate power in all but a few specific areas (previously noted). In the beginning, as well as "at the bottom line," femininity is more powerful than masculinity.
Not that female power is better than male power (or that women are better than men); both types of power, obviously, are essential in the reproductive process. Just as both sperm power and ovum power are necessary for conception, so man power and woman power are useful in most of the personal endeavors of us who emerge from such conceptions. Each power is different; each is useful in certain circumstances. Sometimes one works better than the other; then again, the other is more practical. More often they are more effective in cooperative consort.
The point being considered here is not a valuing of one over the other, or even to simply enumerate specific differences (although this will be my focus in order to note the point). Our concern here is the overall difference in the power balance--which is greater?
Why, one may ask, should we belabor the question? What difference does it make? Aren't such differences likely to lead to judgements about one being better than the other? The latter risk is real. And commonly the case. But greater dangers, I note, often lie in not recognizing this imbalance. Trying to hide the truth--in case I am correct, can be more problematic in the long run than simply ignoring it.
Specific such dangers may be encountered in the historical battle of the sexes, so long waged as to now be proverbial. Until we recognize and respect our innate differences, the battle seems inevitable. Then there are our projections: when facts are not realized, we predictably indulge in the psychological illusion of imagining we can get from each other what in reality we never can. We engage in endless trickery, trying to con the other into giving what they in fact do not have to give. Not seeing our own unrealistic expectations laid on each other, we waste valuable energies in ultimately futile endeavors.
For men unconsciously recognizing the ultimately greater power of femininity, the all too familiar result is covert worship of women, often cloaked in an overt effort to force them into submission--idolatry masked in machoism (or worse, sadism). For women who correspondingly realize the regrettable fact that men do not possess the power to truly make them secure, that men are far weaker than they commonly appear to be, the predictable result is resentment, usually hidden in motherliness. Deeply, such knowledgeable women catch on to the fragile nature of maleness (the "fragile male ego" they sometimes call it).
Rarely, however, do they seem able to accept and honor the facts which they recognize; more often they resent the men who can't save them and spend their lives "taking it out" on them. Avoiding their own "witchiness," such women may regress to "mothering"--utilizing one part of their powerful innate capacities, and settle for "taking care" of less powerful men with their "fragile egos," rather than becoming whole themselves.
I believe that all men, deep down, no matter how diligently we try to prove otherwise, "cognize" the greater power of femininity over masculinity (even when we do not re-cognize it). In like manner, I think that all women who risk greater honesty know that men are less powerful than we try to appear, and that they themselves, like it or not, are the more powerful gender.
A better option (See Chapter on WHAT TO DO), it seems to me, is to recognize these innate differences--first to see and then come to respect the "unfair" power differential. If so, we may then quit wasting energy in the finally fruitless and self-defeating battle of the sexes and find more delight in occasional vive la difference's (including the greater powers of femininity), while we learn to love one another.
This, at least, is one possibility. Next I present evidence for the case of woman as inherently more powerful than man in dimensions of human relating.
Females are the basic sex...The fetus initially begins to develop organs of female type. Then, under the influence of testosterone, the male hormone, it masculinizes itself, if it possesses the famous Y chromosome. Thus, the male can be regarded as a female transformed by testosterone. Early castration produces feminization. As Alfred Jost, a research pioneer in this area, teaches in substance, to become male is a constant struggle. The female sex comes first; it is in a sense the basic sex. (24, p 29, 30)
It has long been clear that the basic plan of an undifferentiated gonad is female. A gene (or genes) on the Y chromosome, probably on its short arm, induces the production of the H-Y antigen...The H-Y antigen in turn determines the development of the testis. The differentiated testis tissue secretes testosterone, which brings about the secondary sex differentiation. (12, p 114)
The original tendency of the fetus is to develop as a female. Regardless of whether chromosome type is XX, XY or a single X, female differentiation will take place if there is inadequate androgen in the critical period to initiate male development. Similarly, the fetus will develop as a female in the absence of effective androgen whether there are fetal ovaries, testes, or no gonads at all. Only adequate androgen at just the right time will alter the biologically programmed female differentiation to that of a male. (30, p 38)
In all our beginnings we are, sexually speaking, alike--that is, the basic material of humanity, our primary stuff, begins undifferentiated by gender characteristics. Physiologically, we can at first, "go either way." We all have the primitive tissue from which the organs of either sex may be formed. In technical language: The cytogenetic difference between male and female gonia is not reflected in morphological characteristics, and their ultra structural appearance is similar. (Gonia or gonads are sex cells before differentiation into sperm and ovum) (17, p 146)
Specifically, there are two sets of embryonic structures in all normal fetuses, called the Mullerian ducts and the Wolffian ducts (named after their discoverers). Until the third month of fetal life both remain present; we who will later be seen as female or male still look the same. Although the 2% difference, the Y chromosome, is in fact already present in us who will become "male," it apparently remains inactive until the third month.
If no Y chromosome is present to alter the normal course of development, in the third month the Mullerian ducts will begin to form female organs, eventually to become the uterus, fallopian tubes, and upper two-thirds of the vagina. The Wolffian ducts will gradually disappear. If the altering Mr. Y is present, the Wolffian ducts will get the green light, eventually to become the vas deferens, testes, and ejaculatory ducts. In this later case, the Mullerian ducts will diminish and disappear.
Once testicles are formed, rather than ovaries which would develop in the absence of a Y chromosome, production of male hormones kicks off the formation of an extended set of attributes which we will eventually call maleness. Even if testicles are formed and something interrupts the production of the male hormones, the fetus will continue to develop as a female. The same is true if, through some quirk of genetics, no gonads at all are formed.
Or should there be, again through some quirk, only a single X chromosome, a relatively normal life may ensue. Conversely, however, only a Y chromosome is incompatible with life. As Dr. Gadpaille notes in The Cycles of Sex: It is clearly more important in the evolutionary scheme of species survival that females receive first priority. (30, p 38)
In other words, the primary stuff is female. As noted above: Females are the basic sex.... and the basic plan of an undifferentiated gonad is female. Both the Y chromosome and androgen are necessary to interrupt the normal process of our primary stuff becoming distinctively and obviously female. One is not enough; both are necessary. Even with a Y chromosome and inadequate or ill-timed male hormones, femininity (though distorted) continues to predominate. If nothing is added, female development proceeds unhindered.
The point: our basic material may be modified toward maleness, but without these additions (a Y chromosome plus male hormones) to what is already present, primal femininity, our common source, would be the destiny of us all.
What about these modifying agents in comparison with primary stuff they modify? Beginning with the chromosomes themselves, recall that there are 46 in all--45 before Y comes along. This means that, at most, Y represents 1/46th or only 2%, numerically speaking, of the total chromosomal content. Recall further that the Y chromosome is among the smallest, and so far as we now know, the least power-packed of them all.
The Y chromosome is the most specialized of mammalian chromosomes being involved almost exclusively in controlling primary sex determination and fertility. (21, p 80)
Apart from the male-determining factors on the Y chromosome, the human Y chromosome seems to be particularly 'empty,'....One of the few genes reported on the Y chromosome causes 'hairy ears,' which means the growth of hairs on the rim of the earlobe. (12, p 115)
Once Mr. Y tips the ovary stuff in the testis direction, that seems to be about it for him--except, perhaps, for his ear hair influence. In sharp contrast, the X chromosome with which he pairs is up to five times his physical size, and packed with many more influential genes. And, of course, when much is there, much can go wrong. McKusick's 1983 catalog of inherited disorders mentions 243 as possibly X-linked, 115 of them considered well-established. (20, p 156)
Past numbers alone (one out of 46), the Y chromosome, in comparison to its X counterpart, is, as noted above, relatively uninfluential. What he does, when he does it well, is crucial for masculinity; but in regard to overall influence on human development, Mr. Y is relatively impotent in comparison to Ms. X. When we move from number to content, the difference becomes even greater.
The symbols for these two groups of DNA materials--X (with four arms) and Y (with three arms)--turn out to be more than symbolic. In addition to appearances (the two chromosomes do look something like X's and Y's), the larger X is much more power-packed than her four to three-arm ratio might indicate. In terms of genetic power (significance in directing human development), the X influence (to at least 205 traits in comparison to two or three Y-linked effects) would perhaps be nearer to 99.9% to 0.1%, rather than 98% to 2% as numbers alone imply.
Back to basics: not only is the X chromosome far more powerful than the Y (which edges us away from femininity toward masculinity), but females get two of them--the one they inevitably inherit from their mother, plus another from their father. Every normal person gets at least one of these powerful batches of influential genes; some of us, seen as women, get two.
Which, reason would dictate, is only natural. After all, more is required of the female than of the male for species survival. Fertilizing, though essential, is relatively minor in comparison to baby-making, the major business of species continuation. Need we recall that the few seconds of fun for the Sperm-bearer is followed by at least nine months and maybe 18 or more years of awesome labor for the Ovum-bearer--the one, that is, with the XX chromosomes. Fertilizing counts; but babies and family, the end results of X chromosomes, count more. She certainly needs at least two powerful XX's. Probably more would be better.
In regard to species survival, biological demands on the female astronomically outweigh those on the male. She, as Montagu noted, has to be constitutionally stronger, genetically more resistant than the male, and, indeed, in every species characterized by sexual reproduction thus far investigated, the female has proved so.
He goes on to speculate: It is unlikely that any exceptions to this fundamental rule will be found, for it reflects a basic difference in the biological structure of the sexes, the very difference that determines sex itself.
He continues: If we ask ourselves how it comes about that the female possesses two X chromosomes and the male only one, we may conjecture that the possession of a complete set of X chromosomes endows the female with a greater capacity for survival than the male. By biologically strengthening the female, the higher probability of the survival of the species is brought about. (8, p 180-181)
In summary: before we proceed to examine specific results of our basic gender differences, we have noted that even gender itself is inherently rooted in what we have come to call femininity. The primal stuff of us all is basically female. Even if we turn out, pushed over the female edge by a Y chromosome, to be male, still we have at least one X. Men, we could say, are all half-woman. Although the runt Y has nudged us toward a masculine appearance and certain overt male characteristics, a male flavor we might say, the powerful X is present in us all.
Even when our "plumbing" is external--that is, when primal ovaries have been projected into testes, when we "come on like gang busters," and try to act like "he-men" only, such appearances are deceptive. Maleness is more like a chocolate covering over the basically female ice cream than it is truly a separate gender. As one feminist noted, perhaps more accurately than chauvinistically, Men are just deserts.
Whatever! But undoubtedly, femininity is the more primal stuff.
POWER IN PRACTICE
Power, as noted previously, is can-do-ness, the capacity to make-things-happen, the ability to accomplish results in the world. At first glance and in most conscious thinking, men are more powerful than women. It appears, if we don't look below the surface, that men are in charge of things, including women. Men do act and talk big; we "show off" and stand out. We like to think we are the more powerful of the genders, and women, for pragmatic reasons, often let us--even support, outwardly, such illusions: "You're so big and strong; I'll let you make the camp (and money)."
The male mode of dominance and aggression, being external and visible like our genitals, easily looks more powerful than the female mode of submission, where powers are most often hidden. Also, visible social powers--political, legal, and financial, are commonly held by men.
Men more easily become president and make laws as well as money. Obviously, we are also physically stronger and have certain muscles which are larger than comparable female muscles. In the jungle and in war, we seem to cope better and to more easily tolerate the "blood and guts," plus physical discomforts.
All in all, men seem to be more powerful than women. Peer more carefully, however, below the thin veneer of appearances and muscles; look longer, past present tense; listen for more than what is spoken; watch for long range results rather than short term displays; and you may see that things are not what they seem. With obvious exceptions, as in all our other gender differences, femininity, by and large, is more powerful than masculinity.
As it was in all our beginnings.
Mr. Sperm, recall, did come a long way, with much aggressive movement and outward display of dominance, while Ms. Ovum demurely waited, hidden away in her silent chamber. He fought valiantly, on stage as it were, competing against astronomical odds for the honor of her hand. He did seem, at first, to be the powerful assertive force, the main character in the drama of our common origins. If we only take a casual glance.
But beyond appearances, the facts are otherwise. First, size--the most primal source of power: Mr. Sperm, remember, for all his outward show of aggression and activity, is but as a shrimp in comparison to the whale of the creature he seeks to "dominate." Were he a six-foot swimmer, she would be 30 stories high and nine blocks wide. If empty, she could swallow 250,000 of him and his enemy competitors without even crowding.
Next, age--a second potential source of power: Every Mr. Sperm is but a babe in the woods, a kindergarten pupil, when he meets the ancient seeress who is older than the woman who bears her. At his oldest, he is but two months of age; she, at least 12-15 years--72 times his maximum age, and as much as 50 years, or 240 times older than him. If there is any connection between time and power, as in the outside world, certainly Ms. Ovum, who has been around for a long time, has a distinct advantage over her thrashing and dashing, but adolescent admirer.
Construction-wise, she also has the power advantages. Though Mr. Sperm is well-evolved for his initial role of competition--being nearly all head with a long, swimming fin-like tail, he is poorly designed for endurance or continued power. Ms. Ovum, in sharp contrast, is huge and round, protected by an outer membrane which is in turn surrounded by a second protective layer of follicle cells. In terms of stress, a geometric sphere is more stable than on oblong, irregular "tadpole-like" construction. Like a dashing knight, a sperm appears powerful, but like a castle-encased princess, surrounded by a protective mote, an ovum is relatively impregnable--unless she chooses to be.
The same situation prevails in regard to resources. He has few; she, many. Geared for speed and competition, Mr. Sperm "travels light." With only enough room for his necessary 23 chromosomes and just enough fuel for reaching his destination, he must even rely on Ms. Ovum for capacitating him once he arrives. Unless she supplies the extra energy--a bath of glucose, plus chemicals for wiping the proteins from his battered head, he can't even fire off the enzymes required for making his grand entrance. Newly emerging data indicates that even our older images of the sperm "forcefully penetrating" the resisting ovum may be in error. Once a sperm arrives, it may in fact be the ovum who becomes active.
But these needs are no problem for her; she has abundant resources. Her relatively vast body contains not only a nucleus with her comparable 23 chromosomes waiting for connection, but also a large supply of nutrients for the new life to feed on. When the depleted tadpole meets the rested whale, he is literally "ready to die" while she still has resources to spare. Although strategy and bravery count in war, the army with the most resources is likely to prevail in the long run--as, it turns out, is the case with men and women evolved to bear the fragile and tiny sperm and large enduring ovum.
Back to chromosomes for other significant differences: both Mr. Sperm and Ms. Ovum have the same number of chromosomes--23 each. Twenty-two of them, the somatic or body makers, are relatively equal in powers; but not so with the 23rd, the sex chromosomes. Ms. Ovum, you will recall, always brings an X chromosome for her Number Twenty-three; Mr. Sperm brings either an X or a Y. If it is a Y, their offspring is male; if X, she's female.
But what about these X and Y chromosomes? First, X chromosomes are from three to five times as large as Y's. Y chromosomes are among the smallest of the 46 which will eventually make the person. X chromosomes also carry a full complement of genes; over 200 X-linked genes are now known.
Shorty Y chromosomes can afford to be 20% the size of their X counterparts; they have far less to do. Whereas X chromosomes have genes in proportion to their length, Y's, so far as we now know, are relatively empty. About all they have to do is initiate testes and possibly cause ear hair, though even that is not certain. Even sexual development is taken over by hormones soon after the weasel Y pushes the gonad cells to become testes rather than ovaries.
In summary, X chromosomes, like the ova which carry them, are large and powerful, containing many directing genes; Y's are smaller, with fewer genes who have less to do, and are therefore relatively weaker. Also, female persons normally get two X chromosomes, while males get only one. Of the most powerful of the two sex chromosomes, women have twice as many as men.
This initial difference in size of chromosomes and number of genes present in each ovum is thereafter reproduced in every cell of the female body. In each one of a male's comparable number of cells there is his shorter and weaker Y in contrast with her two X's. Although this difference may seem small at first, when the male is only "deficient" in one out of 46 chromosomes, multiply this tiny "weakness" by 50,000 billion, the number of cells which will eventually make up a woman or a man's body, and we can only guess at the actual number of more powerful genes she may have. The number could easily be as many as ten million million.
What we don't have to guess about, however, if we look beyond initial appearances, is the difference in actual power--can-do-ness, wielded when men bearing small Y chromosomes encounter women with two powerful X's. Attentive to external genitalia, we sometimes speak of males as being "well endowed"; were we equally attentive to internal genitals, we would recognize these superb, double X endowments of females who only appear to go lacking because they "do not have one."
As noted before, men are, in fact, like the sperm they bear, built for aggressive competition and initial impact. More muscular, we can hit harder, push others out of our way, and pick up bigger rocks. We are better, on average, than women at physical fighting, warring, and raping. In the jungle we can tolerate challenges, endure temporary discomforts, and anywhere, we are better at killing--at least initially.
In societies, we tend to get in charge of government and industry. Dominant like our sperm, we try to get on top of things--to control laws, property, and money. At these visible endeavors, we do appear to be the most powerful of the two genders. Like female genitalia, women-power, in contrast, does not appear so evident.
Here, however, are some of the arenas in which our ancient genetic differences may be reflected in present times, even when we men talk and act stronger, and do in fact control politics and purse-strings: endure-power, wait-power, select-power, pussy-power, receive-power, feel-power, think-power , body-power, look-power, touch-power, social-power, deception-power, law-power, is-power, please-power, projected-powers, and possession-power. Our superior physical strengths, reflected in compete and fight-abilities are woefully inadequate powers for coping with most of the challenges we all confront. Perhaps in the cave we were more powerful--though emerging scientific data contradicts even this; but by the time we evolved to have thrones on which to sit, the powers behind them have most often been the greater.
Outwardly, men appear strong, tough, and durable; women, in contrast, appear to be weak, tender, and fragile. So much for appearances. Though true of our comparable physical muscles and the fights which involve them, the differences in our other gender durabilities are considerable. Once past muscles and wars, females turn out to be more durable than males in most all other regards.
Statistically, you outlive us. Perhaps reflective of a deeper knowledge of our needs, we ex-husbands remarry sooner then you ex-wives. When we come to "hurting," we do act brave, especially before you; but you, as you well know, endure physical pain beyond that which we believe we can bear. What you so often embrace in child-bearing, for instance, remains awesome to us who doubt that we ever could.
The extra power inherent in endure-ability, is, I assume obvious. Once more the balance is in woman's direction.
For example: beginning with hurry-ability versus wait-ability--what every successful sperm and ovum must have. Sperm must hurry and can't wait; even if they could, they had better not. To pause is to be passed; to lose is to die. Ova, in sharp contrast, must, and can wait. Already they've waited a life time for this magic moment; what's a few hours more? Besides, careful selection, her agenda, takes time.
Men, with our inherent urge to win, originally a life or death issue, are good at hurrying. We are built for speed; it's in our genes. We're always "in a hurry"--for everything; for us, time is of the essence. We eat fast, bathe fast (when we do), dress fast, drive fast, walk fast, even stop fast.
Like our perpetually young sperm which must be constantly produced because they are so expendable and die so quickly, we must move quickly; we lack wait-ability. We are more like fireflies than stars; we make a flash in the darkness, but we cannot wait for long. Even when we have no where in particular to go, still we are apt to be "in a hurry."
Ovum-bearers, on the other hand, like the ova they bear who have already waited for years before they ever appear in the egg tube, are inherently patient. Their original necessity, which will later be seen as a virtue in society, has become inherent. Women, unlike men, do know how to wait. They begin learning early, perhaps in the womb; continually, like it or not, they must practice. Often, I am told, they wonder, especially about men: What's the big hurry?
These pragmatic and predictable differences between sperm and ova and their bearers become an early source of the imbalance in power between men and women. Hurry-ability has many advantages and is often used in an attempt to dominate women. "Hurry up," eager men may say, "I can't wait all day." But, "Slow down; I'm not ready yet," turns out to be the greater power. The mythic hare makes the greater show in dashing for the finish line. But the patient tortoise--and women like her, more often wins in the long run.
When hurry-ability, man's gift, is thrown against wait-ability, woman's capacity, the latter proves to be more powerful in the long run. Flashily, in mythology, the sword strikes the patient anvil, denting itself more than effecting the solid iron--as is so with the men and women from whom the myths are made. Pragmatically, both hurrying and waiting have their appropriate places; but when one is pitted against the other, the power of waiting turns out to be the greater than that of hurrying. The tortoise is the final winner.
Sperm, inherently competitive, have win-ability. If they are good at anything, it had better be at winning; otherwise, THE RACE is the end. Ova, in contrast, have no competition. Winning is irrelevant to them; there is no race. Select-ability is their contrasting gift--the power of picking.
We don't know how, but somehow an ovum picks one lucky winner; she makes a final selection from the 200 to 2,000 aspiring sperm who reach her ahead of their millions of competitors. Is she impressed by size? appearance? strength? intelligence? sense of humor? We don't know; this, among much else, remains a mystery. But we do know that she does. And after her choice is made, she emits an enzyme which detaches all other sperm. She, as it were, slams shut the door of the castle to all other adoring knights seeking immortality, consigning them to their doom.
A sperm's job is winning; an ovum's, is picking. Each has evolved to be effective at its own job, but not at that of its co-actor in this primal drama. The stakes are high: a sperm must first win; but even after successfully completing THE RACE, if he doesn't get picked, still he dies. An ovum, after her long wait, must carefully choose; she must be "picky-picky." A successful choice will continue her role in the long process of perpetuating herself and the species; a mistake now, if it doesn't cost her life also, will be paid for--for years to come.
These facts about sperm and ova are easily seen reflected in the men and women who bear them; at issue here is the imbalance of power inherent in these contrasting abilities: his to win, hers to choose. In we who bear the sperm and ovum, the reflected arenas are twofold: dating and "doing it," getting-together and going-to-bed, romance and sex, courtship and marriage.
First, as with Mr. Sperm and Ms. Ovum in ACT I, we must get together. Boy must meet girl. But in ACT II, where she becomes the principal character, the script changes dramatically. Here, he must get picked. The second part--getting picked, is the crucial part, where the greater power lies.
Somehow, like sperm, the boy or man must get to the Ovum-bearer. Otherwise, he can't be picked. But once there, once we have met her, there comes that awesome, powerful moment of selection--or worse, rejection. Will she choose me? Or not? The power inherent in this right of the female, first to recognize the male, or not, then to select him--to "make the date," or not, is, at least to males, truly awesome.
The actual fate of the rejected sperm must still be reflected in the heart of the rejected male who bears it. To us who are later refused, it usually seems as devastating as it, in fact, was to Mr. Sperm. Females, it seems to me--and with good reason where they come from, seldom understand the power of the threat which most males feel in any female rejection. How you wield your powerful right of selection on the first level of our encounters is, though unrecognized by you, among the greatest of powers we males encounter. We may fear "neither man nor beast," but we commonly quake before your power to give or withhold your pleasure and hand, to accept or reject us within or from the circle of your favor.
The power of the urge to win, the male's power, is obvious since it, like our pursuits, is visible. But the female's power of selection, being hidden, is easier to miss--at least by women who wield it. Aggressively and openly, men, like sperm, pursue females. Like peacocks, we try to impress, to get your attention, to win your favor even before introductions. Demurely, like peahens, you may ignore us--or pretend to, wielding your silent and invisible powers-of-selection to your greatest advantage. To you it may seem more like a bother than a power; to us, it is truly threatening.
But if your select-ability is significant in the first arena of our getting together, sperm and ovum or person-to-person, it increases immeasurably as we approach arena #2: the bed room, getting together body-to-body. While we are trying to meet you, or, having passed the first test of winning the "pleasure of your company" and still engaged in courting you for the greater "pleasure of your body," while we are "wining and dining you" ("romancing," "wooing," "softening you up," as it is variously called), the power of your selection or rejection is less devastating. But the nearer we come to the point-of-it-all (at least from our standpoint, before we lie you down), the more awesome your powers of select-ability become to us.
Privately (we dare not be so open, lest we offend your "delicate" though powerful ears), we sometimes refer to this ultimate threat as your pussy power,--your final choice in whether or not you will take us into yourself. Though we aggressively pursue, artfully court, even "forcing our attentions" within some shifting circle of denied acceptability--all this within the mystery of "Will she or won't she?," we are not yet totally vulnerable to your powers of selection. Still we have hope. Your ultimate threat, your pussy power, is yet before us.
But when we face that line between your "Maybe I will" and your actual "Will or won't," then to us your select-ability becomes the greatest of all powers. Your "yes" or "no," stated with body if not tongue, is, at this crucial juncture in time and destiny, our ultimate threat. Other powers in the world, though fearsome, pale (when our lives are not at stake), in the powerful light of your pussy power--your final choice of "yes" or "no."
Your rejections in the course of our getting together before sex are threatening, but as the fateful time of final union--or parting--nears, the power of your select-ability in comparison to our power of win-ability wins hands down. Seldom, it seems to us, do you realize, or at least let us know that you do, the magnitude of your power revealed and concealed as you uncross and cross your legs, symbolically and otherwise. But whether you know it or not, whether we admit it or not, your select-ability, especially your pussy power in this critical juncture of the Drama of Conception far and away outweighs our win-ability, insofar as comparable powers are concerned.
As with our sperm where winning is "something" but being selected is "everything!," so it is with the powers inherent in each of us males who bear them. When the power of woman's wait-ability is combined with that of your select-ability, our male powers of hurry-ability and win-ability are relatively weightless. You win, without even competing.
A male-type joke reflecting this inequity of powers goes like this: God says to Adam, Well, Adam, there's good news in Eden, and bad news; which do you want first? Says Adam, I'll take the good. God answers: The good news is that I've just invented pussy. That sounds great, replies Adam; but what's the bad news? The bad news is that I have put Eve in charge of it.
(Coincidentally(?), while I was working on this section, a man told me this joke: Do you know why women are more powerful than men? I'll bite, I said; Why? Because they have half of the money and all of the pussy. Then he laughed and added: But that's not true; my wife has all our money too.)
Past self-survival, and sometimes even before, it seems that the most powerful of all male urges, perhaps reflective of a sperm's for survival, is a man's desire for sex. The power inherent in woman's having what man wants most, and also having the power of choice, does indeed appear as "bad news" to most men. One of the most scathing of all male denunciations is that a man is "pussy whipped."
But, at the same time, bringing some justice in the lawless jungle of human encounter and placing certain guarantees on the continuation of our species, it may, sometimes, be "good news" for Eve's successors.
Contrary to the male euphemism about women who are receptive to being sexual--"They put out," they don't. In sex, women don't put out; men do. In each sex act man puts out millions of individual sperm. Woman puts out little; in reality, she takes in. She receives much--the man into her arms, his penis into her vagina, and, sometimes, his sperm into her ovum.
At the sperm/ovum level, males, then, are the ones who put out and females, the ones who take in; we are the givers, you, the receivers. We, we might say, "dish it out" (millions of sperm), while you wait (in your Fallopian Chamber) and then "take it" (or, worse, don't!). In either case, when these literal expressions become symbolic, when the sperm and ovum metaphor is translated into actual male and female experience, our current colloquialisms become more accurate. As bearers of sperm and ovum, we commonly forget the facts and talk (or at least think) of women both as the ones who put out and also take it.
Language aside, the facts are that both woman's receive-ability of sperm, and "take-it" capacity in the world, are far greater than man's spread-ability of sperm and "stand-it" capacity in the world. Though the number of individual sperm in every ejaculation is large, man's capacity for repeating the amazing performance is relatively small in comparison with a woman's capacity for repeating her part in the same performance. Woman can, if she chooses, be instantly ready for a second performance; and if not with the first man, then with a second, and a third, and so on. His once, maybe twice occasionally, is in the context of her relatively limitless capacity for again and again and again.
Though men often act as though we "always can" and women as though you "rarely can (or care to)," the facts belie appearances. In reality we males rarely can--even if we want to, and you females most always can, even if you don't want to. The truth is, men are more like barking dogs chasing cars: we are only able to maintain our vicious act as long as cars keep driving away. When the tables are turned (mixing my metaphors), "our bark" is "bigger than our bite." You, it turns out, "always can," and we, with threat to our fragile egos, "seldom can." Your sexual capacity, though cloaked and denied, far outweighs ours, though touted and flaunted.
And so it is with the powers inherent in each. Your continuous capacity and our periodic possibility for sexual intercourse is, in addition to fact, an apt metaphor for the power difference in our varying "take it" capacities. Although "taking it" is negatively valued by males in comparison with "dishing it out," the power inherent in receive-ability does, in time, out-weigh that in give-ability.
From the first primary sexual encounter between a sperm and an ovum, through the fabric of relationships between those who bear them, man primarily remains as the one who "puts out" and woman the one who receives. The content of what is given and what is received keeps changing; the basic mode of who gives and who receives remains primarily the same.
From the sperm to "the bacon" to words, even to abuse, men are more often the ones who "dish it out" and women the ones who "take it." After providing the initial sperm, the Sperm-bearer himself is traditionally known as the family "provider." His major role in family life is providing the resources needed for family survival--protection, food, and supplies--"the bacon."
Although women are genetically better with words, language, and conversation, when it comes to male/female talk, men tend to be the talkers and women the listeners; again, men "put out" the words; women take them in. They listen. Men are good at telling jokes, stories, and lies. We like to explain things (as I am attempting here), even to tell women how to do things.
Conversely, most men, as every woman knows, are notably poor listeners. Good at telling, when it comes woman's turn to talk, men commonly grow soon deaf. Even when we appear to be listening, we are often planning our rejoinders while pretending to hear. Like ve