Klyde the Barbarian

Stories set in the distant past often describe extremely gendered characters, like Conan the barbarian, or Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C. The prototypical ripped caveman supposedly dragged his buxom woman to his cave by her hair.  It seems that rich folks today assume that civilization has forced them to sacrifice gender distinctiveness in order to become peaceful productive members of society.

But this is a myth; in fact poor cultures can’t afford very distinct genders; survival demands a similar mix cooperativeness, toughness, and so on from both men and women.  The typical barbarian was more a Klyde than a Conan. The data:

Sex differences in personality traits are larger in prosperous, healthy, and egalitarian cultures in which women have more opportunities equal with those of men. … Women reported higher levels of neuroticism, extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness than did men across most nations. … Overall, higher levels of human development — including long and healthy life, equal access to knowledge and education, and economic wealth — were the main nation-level predictors of larger sex differences in personality. Changes in men’s personality traits appeared to be the primary cause of sex difference variation across cultures. It is proposed that heightened levels of sexual dimorphism result from personality traits of men and women being less constrained and more able to naturally diverge in developed nations. In less fortunate social and economic conditions, innate personality differences between men and women may be attenuated.

Thus one of the main way rich societies spend their wealth is to make their genders more distinct, especially via more extremely male men.  Men in rich cultures today are probably more distinctively male than at any time in history.  This fits with what I said about the recent rise of unwed moms:

Women free to pick a dad without expecting him to stay as a long term helper probably pick sexier men.  This should create more inequality in male access to women for sex and kids, and give men more free time to compete to be the few super-sexy super-dads.

An interesting related finding:

Manhood, in contrast to womanhood, is seen as a precarious state requiring continual social proof and validation. Because of this precariousness … men feel especially threatened by challenges to their masculinity.

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