We don’t actually know the extent to which gender
is socially constructed
because you can’t do an experiment where you remove
culture and see what happens.
So we don’t know
to what extent what we see as gendered patterns
are the result of sex, biological sex, males and females.
We know that
gender differs according to culture,
but we also know that there are patterns that
appear to be fairly universal in terms of gender norms.
And the ones that are more universal are more likely to
probably have a sex basis to it, an evolved sex basis,
that is to say a biological basis for males and females.
So, for example, which gender serves a very important meal
may be different by different cultures
So in some cultures a man will serve a very important meal versus a woman.
有些文化中 在一个非常重要的场合 就是男人做饭而不是女人
So for example, think about it in the United States that
historically speaking the father carves the turkey on Thanksgiving,
but in general women prepare food historically speaking.
So what we know is that these kinds of things can differ by culture,
but that there are some “universals”.
And one of the universals we find, for example, is in childhood play,
that we find that
children who are girls tend to do more social play,
they tend to do more social role-play.
Children who are boys tend to do more competitive play,
they tend to do more
play that mimics aggression or that mimics sport
and mimics sometimes building,
and so there are these kinds of patterns.
But that doesn’t mean everybody fits them.
And it’s really interesting actually too if you look cross-culturally
scientists find evidence that
this may have – it’s not just gender,
that there’s a sexuality component to it too.
So boys who are going to grow up and be gay,
and we know who they are because of
retrospectively they grow up to be gay,
they’re what’s called androphilic,
that is to say they’re attracted to males
And the majority of females are also attracted to males,
so most females are androphilic
and a small percentage of boys will grow up to be androphilic.
We know that historically speaking, cross-culturally
they tend to be more feminine in terms of their interests,
they’re more interested in social role-play,
for example, they’re more interested in helping their mothers,
they’re more interested in associating with girls as young children
and more interested in dressing as girls, for example.
That doesn’t mean that they are girls,
but it does suggest to us that sexuality and gender have interplayed components in them, that
gender isn’t just about social role
but it has something to do with sexuality
and that there’s a reason females end up
with these kinds of patterns and males end up with these kinds of patterns
and when you have a male who’s attracted to males
he ends up with a little bit more of the female pattern
and in some circumstances if you have a girl and she’s attracted to girls
she’ll end up with a little bit more of the male pattern in childhood.
So gender and sexual orientation seem to have sort of some connection to each other,
but it’s not a perfect connection in terms of absolute correlation
and so we can’t say that
we can easily predict what would be somebody’s gender role or sexual orientation
simply by looking at some of the components.
Evolution would naturally favor heterosexuality
because that’s how you get babies.
And so if we’re thinking about genes trying to produce genes
it would make no sense to have genes that
would lead to people who don’t reproduce,
because those genes would not be reproduced.
That said, we know
cross-culturally gay people exist.
So we know that that’s a natural variation in the population.
And so then scientists ask the really interesting question,
Why is that there?
Why does that not disappear over time?
Because at least in theory that should lead to lower reproductive fitness,
which means it should lead to fewer babies,
and so it should fade out
One possibility is that it’s a side effect,
that human variation is good for the species
and so evolution is responding to the situation not by
reducing necessarily everything that doesn’t work,
but saying “Let’s keep throwing up variation,
and some of it will work in other environments.”
Being a varied species makes a species more resilient.
So it may be the case that being gay if you’re born that way
is just a variation on a theme
and it will show up every now and then just because variations show up.
But some scientists find some evidence that
there may actually be advantages to a family
of having a certain percentage of the children be gay.
And this is work done, for example, by Paul Vasey at the University of Lethbridge.
And he’s been looking at the population in Samoa as well as other places,
but Samoa has a cultural system that actually
recognizes that a certain percentage of the boys are going to grow up to be androphilic,
they’re going to be interested in men sexually.
And they actually have a whole cultural system for it.
They have a third gender category called the fa’afafine
and when a boy it becomes evident is that kind of boy
the child is raised as a girl
and becomes a woman culturally speaking
but doesn’t change her body at all but partners with men.
So in our culture that would be called transgenderism,
but in this culture it’s a third gender category
that absorbs what in our culture might
just turn out to be gay men.
And what Paul has found is that
when he looks at the families that have fa’afafine within them,
the fa’afafine are not using up a lot of resources,
because they’re not themselves having children
these are big-family cultures
but they do take their own earnings and they direct it at their nieces and nephews.
And that means you have more adults
producing more resources for a smaller number of children.
there may be an advantage for families to have a certain number of gay children
because those people will not reproduce
but they will take care of the nieces and nephews.
And so overall
the population, the genetics of the family will be continued on
because that family has a genetic advantage.
And you know when you think about it we have this sort of stereotype of
the gay uncle who takes care of the nieces and nephews
in terms of providing for them and providing extra resources,
and they’re not spending it on their own kids,
they’re spending it on their sister’s and brother’s children,
that might be a possible evolutionary explanation for why it is
that we see homosexuality persist in the human system.
It’s also the case, we know from work done by
Ray Blanchard in Canada,
that a certain number of men who will grow up to be gay
get that way not through genetics per se,
but they get that way in the womb.
So it’s inborn but not genetic. And what happens is, apparently,
well we know statistically from huge studies now
if a mother has lots of pregnancies of males
every successive male will be a little bit more likely to be gay.
So the father down you go in that sibling chain
the more likely it is that the later-born males will be gay.
This has been studied in many populations in the world, large numbers, and
it’s rigorous. We know that this is true.
So why would that be? Well, it looks like it’s a kind of side effect:
the mother’s immune system appears to be reacting to male hormones
and maybe dampening them down a little bit,
and this results in something called the fraternal birth order effect,
which is that later born males
are more likely to be gay.
It’s a surprising finding
because it suggests to us that some men are absolutely born gay
but not because of genetics,
they’re born gay because of the birth order
in terms of some sort of effect having on a woman’s system,
which is reacting to her children’s system,
and it only occurs in males, it doesn’t occur in females.
And that’s part of the reason why the theory is it’s an immune response
because it doesn’t occur with females and only occurs with males
born out of the same womb.
So that’s something I’ve colloquially called womb-gay,
but it’s called the fraternal birth order effect.
And I think the evidence is very strong that
a certain percentage of gay people are born that way.
We do not have good evidence that straight people are born that way.
We don’t bother to look for that evidence.
Straight people have been less interesting to scientists
than gay people in terms of where they come from.
And that’s because there’s a heterosexist assumption that straight people
“require no explanation” and gay people “require explanation.”
I mean in terms of evolution gay people do require an explanation.
Logically speaking we should say “Well
that’s not a very ‘successful strategy,'” as it’s called in science
it doesn’t lead to a higher reproductive fitness
meaning it doesn’t lead to more babies so
logically you would want to explain gay people.
But it’s also a political issue that
basically straight people have required no explanation
and gay people have required explanation.
And some of the explanations historically have been
rather unpleasant, like
blaming mothers who are frigid
or overly clingy in the case of being gay
“over clingy mothers make gay boys.”
What we know from cross-cultural studies is that gay boys are
more interested in being with their mothers than straight boys,
and so it’s not that the mothers are more clingy
it’s that the boys are more tolerant of time with their mothers.
So we’ve studied much more about gay people than we have studied about straight people,
and straight people remain largely a mystery as to how they operate.
What makes them straight? We don’t really know.
We also don’t know why gay people are attracted to each other
anymore than we know why straight people are attracted to each other.
We have hints about smells
and about genetic interactions and about facial symmetry,
but we really know very little about
why straight people are straight and why gay people are gay