Animal studies find the "tremendous increase in oxytocin at puberty drives both sexual behavior and attachment in females, (but) it increases sexual drive without increasing the drive for pair bonding in males." Differences in men and women in aggression and in response to threat of violence are ubiquitous. "(M)en see aggression as functional, while women see it as problematic. For women, the relationship costs seem too high, and they are more likely to fear retaliation." Moreover, "sex differences in fear of physical danger are pervasive."
All of which may go far to explain some of the latest poll results cited by political analyst (and columnist) Dick Morris. By a huge margin (51 percent to 36 percent), men say the United States is safer than it was before Sept. 11. Women are split (41 percent safer, 42 percent less safe). Forced to choose between "letting terrorists know we will fight back aggressively" or "working with other nations," men opt for aggression 53 percent to 41 percent, while women opt for diplomacy by the reverse margin (54 percent to 36 percent).
Morris sees President Bush's recent, tough-talking press conference "entirely male-oriented." He may not have noticed the sudden female interjection, but I did: Bush suddenly paused to talk about how meeting with the families of soldiers killed in Iraq and "weeping" with them was one of the toughest parts of his job. Strong men weep over fallen comrades, too.
The ongoing need to appeal to women as well as men may help explain the Bush administration's weird insistence that we are part of a multinational coalition fighting in Iraq -- technically true, but militarily and morally completely irrelevant. Politicians, at least, take sex differences very seriously indeed.
But human beings -- male and female -- are more than our hormones. Rational judgments have their place, however diminishingly small, in how we respond to political policies. Women might prefer a diplomatic solution, but that doesn't mean we necessarily believe that one is possible.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.
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