History & Systems
Throughout this novel, author Cordelia Fine debunks many myths about the differences between males and females that people have interpreted as evolutionary facts about sex. She has broken down the meaning of sex, the difference/lack of difference between the biological makeup of each sex, and the social construct created about sex. She gives great examples to help depict the way society has socially constructed the difference between a male and a female to be more distinct than it actually is. Cordelia uses analogies, scientific research, and other resources to help debunk myths, highlight the problems within society about the value/view of sex, and support her theories on the non-existent difference between males and females. Testosterone Rex calls to question how society defines sex and forces people to question how they define sex. This book also helps people to understand that there should be more equality between humans as a whole and that sex should not weigh so heavily on equality.
Chapter 1: Flies of Fancy
The one topic from this chapter that I am going to focus on is Darwin’s theory of sexual selection. Sexual selection is one’s sexual preference having specific characteristics/physical traits that draw them in/attract them. Cordelia Fine uses one example that males have maseratis the same way male peacocks grow ornamental tails. This is to help them entice the female counterpart they are trying to mate with. I believe this affects heavily on the way people view themselves and how people strive to perfect their appearance. From botox, to facial reconstruction, to diets, clothing brand, car manufacturer, hair length, makeup style and so on, people are constantly trying to “improve” their appearance.
One of my really good friends used to put makeup on and do her hair every time she would get up. Even if she was not going anywhere or only going to the supermarket, she would always do what she called “beating her face”. I asked her one time why she insisted on putting on makeup when we were just going to get food to make dinner and she replied with “you never know who you are going to see at the supermarket”. She proceeded to tell me that “she could meet her future husband and wants to look presentable”. She was so invested in making sure she looked presentable to make sure she was always viewed as attractive in the eyes of society. She never believed that natural beauty would get her anywhere with the male species. I always wondered where she got that idea from until I slept over her house and saw her mother doing the same thing. She learned that behavior/belief from her mother and never strayed from it. After years of therapy, she was finally able to see that things like makeup or looking pristine did not make or break your beauty/worth.
This is the problem that many males and females struggle with today in society. Everyone is so determined to have the “best life”, most likes on instagram, being well known in the world, and owning name brand items. The world has become extremely materialistic in a sense where they have to show off the things they have in order to prove their worth. Disclaimer I am not stating that everyone in the world has this belief but many do due to the fact that this is what society has glorified.
Chapter 2: One Hundred Babies?
The section from this chapter that I will be focusing on is the decoy study done by Russel Clark and Elaine Hatfeild on a college campus to compare/contrast the sexual nature between males and females. In this study, an attractive young male and an attractive young female (the decoys) were sent out and instructed to approach the oppositie sex and initiate conversations. The decoys would ask their chosen counterpart, “I’ve been noticing you around campus. I find you attractive”, “would you go out with me tonight”, “would you come over to my apartment tonight”, and “would you go to bed with me tonight” (Fine pg.85). The study found the males and females were equally likely to agree to going on a date. They also found that none of the females in the study expressed interest in going back to the male decoys apartment or bed. The males in this study however, over 50% agreed to go back to the female decoys apartment and even more agreed to go to bed with her. Male were more likely to agree to the invitation of casual sex while females were not likely to agree at all. In a later paper form of this study, males were more likely to turn down the offer of casual sex. Yet, women are “slut shamed” if they do have one or more sexual partners while males are not. Males are called a “manwhore” but not as often/easily as females are called “sluts”. If a female gets pregnant and is not married shes called a “slut”, if a female has sex a person they are not dating?, “slut”, if a female wears something that shows stomach or cleavage?, “slut”, I could go on and on. Males are not easily criticized for their actions. If a male gets a girl pregnant he is not shamed for it, if a male leaves his pregnant partner he is not shamed for it because “it’s normal”, if a man gets with two or more girls in one night he is praised for his ability to do that.
Females and Males are not treated the same when it comes to having intercourse. Females are supposed to hold their virtue for the right man but he is not expected to do the same? Parents praise their sons for losing their virginity and shame their daughters for it. Sex should not be a crime for one sex but not for the other. Sex is a normal, human activity and should be normalized. One sex should not be disgraced more for engaging in a normal human response.
Chapter 4: Why can’t a woman be more like a man?
Cordelia Fine explains that when Patricia Casey asks the questions “what can’t a woman be more like a man?” she is not referring as to why women cannot have a penis. Casey is referring to the belief that the Y chromosome brings more to the body than the X chromosome. That having the Y chromosome directly affects the brain and its behavior. Cordelia makes an excellent point when she states that “sex categories are the way we carve up the social world”. Sex is the first thing we use to identify a person. When you look at a person across the room, their sex is the first thing your brain procsess, then maybe their hair color, clothes, height, weight, and type of shoe. People are obsessed with the idea that there is a “male brain” and a “female brain”. Male and female bodies are different in comparison to their genitals, menstruation, ability to conceive, and hormones. Having testosterone does not make you masculine and having estrogen does not make you femine. Males and females both have testosterone along with estrogen just at different levels.
Being male or female does not affect an individual's intelligence, likes/dislikes, personality, emotional strength, pain tolerance, or ability to do things. The “male brain” and “female brain” is a social construct created to help people categorize things to feel more comfortable. People fear the unknown, things that are not labeled or clearly defined. Due to this social construct about “male brains” and “female brains” it causes children to be raised differently based on their sex.
When I was younger my mom told me to never stray far from her, do not talk to strangers, make sure you are always aware of your surroundings, go in a group and not by yourself, but my brother did not grow up with these same warnings. In the media, books, movies, articles women are taught to be careful, pretty, kind, helpful, cautious, and giving. All children, regardless of sex, should be raised with the same morals and confidence.
I once watched a mom tell her daughter not to touch a rock on the floor that she thought was cool because “girls don’t play in the dirt”. Meanwhile, her mother praised her brother for finding insects in the dirt. The mother held the daughter to a different standard based on her biological sex. Based on the idea that girls do not play in the mud, only boys do. In that moment, that mother showed her daughter that girls and boys cannot do the same thing.This is not the first or the last time I've seen this type of behavior. These are not the type of things we should be teaching our children. As they are growing they depend on us to teach them, guide them, and help them become the best version of themselves. We should focus on bringing children but and not resigning them based off their biologically sex.
I would recommend this book in a heartbeat to anyone. Personally I dislike stereotypes and social constructs created by people to help them feel better about themselves. I cannot stand the fact that people believe being a male or female is the reason why one sex can do one thing and the other cannot. Judging a person based off their biological sex is not something we should be doing as a society. I will raise my children, regardless of sex, to be strong, open minded, kind, creative, and themselves. Cordelia Fine is an excellent author who deserves more praise for this novel. It was outstanding and easy to relate to. She provided examples that were easily accessible and relatable to both males and females. There needs to be more equality in the world all around and these social constructs created need to be removed.