In His New Book, Steven E. Rhoads Argues That for Women, Home is Where the Heart is, Even When the Body is at Work

May 7, 2004, UVa Top News Daily

If women’s liberation has been such a good thing, why aren’t more women happy?

In his new book, “Taking Sex Differences Seriously,” Steven E. Rhoads, who has taught public policy at the University of Virginia for more than 30 years, argues that the modern women’s movement has ignored essential biological differences between men and women in its push for equality. The result has been to drive women into the workplace when many of them would rather be at home.

Sigmund Freud asked, “What do women want?” Rhoads answers, “Most women want most of all a loving husband and children.”

Since the so-called sexual revolution of the late 20th century, Rhoads believes that women are less likely to get what they want because many men prefer the unencumbered sex fostered by the sexual revolution, while women, who typically engage in sex to share emotions and love, get little pleasure from the casual sex that seems so common.

In a sure-to-be-controversial study of sex differences and their implications for social policy and personal lifestyles, Rhoads offers policy prescriptions that run counter to the past four decades of cultural trends and federal legislation. His suggestions range from upgrading cheerleading to the status of a competitive sport to downgrading the access of fathers to paid parental leave at universities. He decries the impact of Title IX on high school and collegiate sports, believing it has reduced men’s opportunities to play sports when they need them to tame aggressive impulses and bond with other men in ways that women do not.

The author builds his case on evidence, such as:

• Studies from the 1920s to the 1990s showing that in the preschool years, girls are more interested in dance and boys in balls and rough-and-tumble play. These differences begin to appear before the age of 2.

• At puberty, when estrogen levels soar, there is a ‘marked rise’ in the female preference for cooperation over competition and an ‘increasing gender gap’ between boys and girls in their participation in competitive sports.

• Men get a chemical high from winning; women get one from nursing.

• Seven percent of women engaged in casual sex report being extremely satisfied physically and only 11 percent are extremely physically satisfied even when they expect the relationship with partners to be a long one. But 41 percent of married women say they are extremely satisfied with their sex lives. Women report that marital sex is the best they ever had, and far more regularly than men, they say the sex is better two years after marriage than it was on the honeymoon.

• The most sexually experienced single women, while still believing that casual sex is fine, find that their feelings do not cooperate. They come to feel used, hurt and demeaned after sleeping with men uninterested in relationships.

• Rhoads’ national survey finds that even the most progressive male faculty members provide less than half of their families’ baby and toddler care. In fact, less than 3 percent of male faculty say they do more child care than their spouses, whereas 96 percent of female faculty say they do more.

• A 1997 Pew Research Center survey of women found that 93 percent of mothers regard their children as a source of happiness all or most of the time and 90 percent say the same about their marriage. But only 60 percent of working women find their careers a source of happiness all or most of the time.

• More than twice as many women nearing 40 are unmarried today (28 percent) compared with 1960 (13 percent). As recently as 1980, only 9 percent of women in their early 40s had not had a child; now the number is 16 percent — “a truly staggering rise, given the statistics on women’s happiness and priorities.”

In this book Rhoads takes issue with the “dominant ideology” of the past 40 years that sees men and women as having equivalent natures. Instead, he focuses on their differences in three basic areas — sex, nurturing, and aggression or competitiveness. He argues that these differences are a part of male and female natures and suggests that, rather than trying to wish or legislate them away, policymakers should take them into account when thinking about public policy.

“Taking Sex Differences Seriously” is forthcoming this month from Encounter Books of San Francisco.

Click here to read the article in UVa Top News Daily

© 2004 Steven E. Rhoads
home | news | buy the book | the book | the author | discussion | resources
site by Jens Schott Knudsen