Masculine Biology


human evolution, the length of this developmental period has grown extensively because of the increased complexity of human social systems as they relate to reproduction. Thus, according to Geary, “one important function of childhood is to provide the experiences needed to refine those competencies that are associated with intrasexual competition and other reproductive activities in adulthood” (p. 256). The different pattern of male physical development, play interests, exploratory behavior and styles, social behaviors such as coalition-formation for dominance, aggression, and motives “can be readily understood in terms of sexual selection in general and intrasexual competition in particular” (Geary, p. 256). For Geary, male sex differences and behaviors “have almost certainly been shaped by sexual selection, and the majority of these differences have resulted from male-male competition over access to mates” (p. 257). Behaviors, such as risk-taking in order to achieve social status and social dominance in groups are more evident in boys than girls (Geary, 1998, pp. 245–246). Because of the different sexual reproductive strategies adopted by males and females, a distinctive “pattern of cognitive competencies in the structure and functioning of many of the brain systems” (Geary, p. 301) evolved in males and females. Generally, the result is that females demonstrate greater “cognitive competencies associated with one-on-one social relationships,” (Geary, p. 301) including a greater facility in the use of verbal and written language than males, while males generally exhibit “cognitive competencies associated with representing and acting on the large-scale physical environment” (Geary, p. 302). Those cognitive competencies include solving three-dimensional geometry problems (Geary). Geary noted that there is more variability in cognitive performance among males than among females and attributes this variability to the fragility of boys as a learning group. According to him,
In difficult contexts (e.g. poor health care, inadequate nutrition, and so forth), the prediction is that more boys will be adversely affected than girls, which, in turn, will result in an overrepresentation of boys among the lowest scoring individuals and an underrepresentation of boys among the highest scoring individuals. (Geary, p. 316; Halpern, 1997)

Consequently, boys are more susceptible to stress related factors and environmental conditions in modern society than females are (Geary, 1998).



In the past decade, there has been dramatic growth in the development of the biological sciences as they relate to providing a foundation for understanding much gender-based behavior, causing some observers to label this “a revolutionary age in biology” (Fukuyama, 1997). These developments have had enormous influences on the social sciences, too. Evolutionary psychologist, David Buss (2004), in an interview with The Evolutionist, an Internet-based magazine made the following comment:
Five years ago, none of these texts had anything about evolution. There’s been a massive change; an acceptance of at least certain aspects of evolutionary psychology that have never been accepted before. Psychologists in general tend to be very empirically minded and so they want to see the data, and at least the more reasonable ones are persuaded by data. There are still people that, despite the evidence, will claim that the sexes are identical... . That position is getting harder because these results have now been replicated by independent investigators. But I’ve been pleased with the overall speed with which these things have been accepted. I thought it would take a lot longer. (

In his book, The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating (2003), Buss used a 37-country cross-cultural study to prove that men and women have markedly different mate-selection strategies: males seek young, attractive women who will be sexually faithful, but females prefer males who have material and financial resources, power and high social status. This difference in mate-selection strategy, according to Buss, is the result of innate psychological mechanisms that have become hardwired in the human species as the species has adapted to its environment over the course of human evolution. Furthermore, Buss (2000) contended that jealousy is an adaptive emotional behavior that facilitates the human species in coping with reproductive threats. Research by molecular biologists and neuroanatomists, focusing on the chemical and neuronal wiring in the brain, has localized in the brain such psychological phenomena as lust or fear, in addition to the ability to appreciate music or the facility to make choices (Fukuyama, 1997). Neuroanatomist, Laura Allen wrote the following

Masculine Biology


about her research on the human brain: “As I began to look at the human brain, I kept finding differences. Seven or eight of the ten structures we measured turned out to be different between men and women” (Sommers, p. 89). In the future, as the human genome is decoded and understood, more biological determinants for human behavior are likely to be elicited.

Perhaps the best known advocate for neurobiological differences in males and females is Michael Gurian (The Wonder of Boys: What Parents, Mentors and Educators Can Do to Shape Boys into Exceptional Men, 1996; Boys and Girls Learn Differently: A Guide for Teachers and Parents, 2001; What Could He Be Thinking?: How a Man’s Mind Really Works, 2003). In his research, Gurian asserted that although there are some socialized differences between the sexes, “there is a primal nature to ‘man’ and ‘woman’ on which culture has only a minor effect” (2003, p. xxii). While all human brains possess three similar parts called the brain stem, the limbic system, and the neocortex, the difference between the male and female brain lies in the size of particular parts of the brain and how these parts are connected and function together (Gurian, 2003). Gurian & Blum (1998) cite current neurobiological research for their assertions, two of which will be highlighted in this work. The first is the work of Drs. Ruben and Raquel Gur of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, who use modern technologies of Positron Emission Technology (PET) scanning and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to measure how and to what extent males and females use their brains for certain tasks. One of the findings they discovered is that females use more parts of their brain than males (Blum, p. 53; Gur, et al. 1995). In another study, the Gurs did MRI scans on 116 healthy men and women and found evidence that women have relatively larger brain sections that control aggression and monitor behavior, while men have relatively larger sections of the brain that promote aggression. According to Dr. Ruben Gur, “This study provides neurobiological evidence that women have more brain tissue that’s used censoring aggressive and angry responses, while men have more brain tissue of the type that initiates aggression and impulsive, angry responses” (VanScoy, 2004,



Another husband and wife research team, Sally E. and Bennett A. Shaywitz of the Yale University School of Medicine also used MRI imaging while giving 19 males and 19 females a rhyming task to complete. According to their findings published in Nature (1995)
We find significant sex differences in activation patterns during phonological tasks: in males, brain activation is localized to left inferior gyrus (IFG) regions; in females the pattern of activation is very different, engaging more diffuse neural systems involving both left and right IFG regions. These data provide the first clear evidence of sex differences in the functional organization of the brain for language and indicate that these differences exist at the level of phonological processing. (pp. 607–609)

This research confirmed the findings of the Gur research team, indicating that females use both sides of their brain hemispheres more readily than males. Scientific evidence continues to amass that points to male and female brain differences that influence behavior and cognition (Halpern, 1997). For a more complete list of cognitive sex differences, see Appendix B.

A considerable amount of scientific research has been conducted comparing male and female brain structures. Pulitzer prize-winning science journalist, Deborah Blum, in her book Sex on the Brain: The Biological Differences between Men and Women (1998), discussed the differences between male and female brain structures. From a size perspective, male brains are generally 15 percent larger than female brains, which have an impact on intelligence, with males being more adept at spatial reasoning (Blum, pp. 38–39). Another size differential noted by Blum is that the anterior commissure, a narrow strip of nerve fibers that connect the two hemispheres together, tends to be slightly larger in women than in men. Hence, the designation that men’s brain functioning is more “lateralized,” that is, more brain activity tends to take place in one hemisphere than the other while undertaking a task (Blum, p. 46). A third difference between the male and female brain is that the male brain tends to shrink faster with age with the most visible difference

Masculine Biology


occurring in the frontal lobe (Blum, p. 51). According to Dr. Reuben Gur, “Men lose tissue in the frontal lobe at such a rate that by the time they reach middle age, even though they start with larger brains, their frontal lobe is the same size as the frontal lobe of women” (Blum, p. 52). Michael Gurian (1996; 1999a; 2001; 2004) cites a number of brain structure differences between the male and female brain. In males the corpus callosum, the nerve structure that connects the right hemisphere of the brain with the left and that facilitates communication between the two hemispheres, is approximately 25% smaller in males than in females (Gurian, 1999a, p. 39; 2003, pp. 11–12). The result is that males have a more difficult time connecting feelings and thoughts to words, thereby causing males to “have a more difficult time making language out of experience than women do” (Gurian, 2003, p. 12). A second brain structural difference is that the frontal lobes, which are responsible for “many social and cognitive functions related to emotional relationships,” (Gurian, 1999a, p. 39) are smaller in males and develop at a slower rate in male than in female brains. Because the corpus callosum and frontal lobe brain structures are smaller, males are more attuned to and adept at spatial activities, such as hunting and tracking “objects moving through space” as well as a proclivity for other complex skills involving spatial abilities such as “mechanical design, measurement, direction, abstraction, and manipulation of physical objects” (Gurian, 1999a, pp. 38–39; 2003, p. 11; Halpern, 1997, p. 1094) than women. A third structural difference is in the amygdala, a brain structure deep within the limbic system that regulates emotional reactions and aggressive responses. This structure is larger in males, thereby helping males be aggressive. Furthermore, there are fewer synaptic linkages from the amygdala to other brain structures such as the frontal lobe that controls emotions, resulting in “less impulse control and moral decision making” (Gurian, 2003, p. 14). Another structural difference is the memory center, known as the hippocampus, which is larger in the female brain than in the male brain (Gurian, 2003). Additionally, the female brain possesses more synaptic linkages between the hippocampus and the other emotive centers than the male brain does, resulting in females having better memory capacities for physical and emotional details than males (Gurian, 2003, pp. 14–15). Finally, the cingulate gyrus, a feeling and emotion structure



within the limbic system, is used more extensively by the female brain at rest, while the male brain at rest has greater synaptic transmissions to the fight-orflight brain stem (Gurian, 2003, p. 15). Consequently, women think things out before engaging in action, whereas males tend to react impulsively when the fight-or-flight mechanism is triggered (Gurian, 2003, p. 16). Chemical composition is different between the male and female brains. The hypothalamus secrets two brain chemicals: serotonin, which regulates mood and emotion among other things, and oxytocin, which influences the capacity to bond and maintain healthy interpersonal relations. Studies have shown that males have less of these two brain chemicals than females; consequently, males tend to act more impulsively and engage in less bonding (Gurian, 2003, p. 12; George, 1997, p. 302). For a more complete list and explanation of Gurian’s gender brain differences with their effects, see Appendix A.




The hypothalamus also secrets testosterone, a powerful hormone that influences male aggression and sexual behavior. In addition to causing increased aggression conditioned on the need for asserting or maintaining dominance or control (Geary, 1998; Clare, 2000), testosterone influences the size and formation of many brain structures, including the corpus callosum (Gurian, 2003, p. 8) as well as an influence on “sex-typical patterns of cognitive performance” (Halpern, p. 1095), such as significantly improving visual-spatial skills. The biological difference between males and females is caused in large part by the large infusions of testosterone secreted by the hypothalamus prenatally, at puberty, and throughout life. In males, testosterone has a virilizing effect that includes the development of the penis and the scrotum, the deepening of the male vocal chords, and the growth of facial and body hair. It also promotes the development of male muscle mass and strength, greater bone density, and overall height. According to Clare (2000)
The normal woman produces about 200 micrograms of testosterone and 120 micrograms of estrogen each day, a testosterone / estrogen ratio of about 1.6 to 1. The normal male produces about the same amount of estrogen daily (100 micrograms) but

Masculine Biology
a comparatively huge amount of testosterone—5100 micrograms per day—giving a testosterone/estrogen ratio of 51 to 1. Not only do men have very much higher levels of testosterone than women, they have them at their highest just after puberty and in the early and mid-twenties—when male antisocial activity and aggression is at its peak. (p. 20)


Gurian emphasized that adolescent males experience testosterone surges five to seven times a day, making the hormone a prime mover in the male’s biology and brain structures (Gurian, 1999a, p. 93). Coupled with the unique male brain structures and the influence of testosterone, the following three principal behavior patterns exhibited by males were identified by Gurian: 1. the search for instant or quick gratification, whether in eating quickly, jumping from activity to activity, or quick sexual conquest; 2. the tendency to move quickly to problem-solving, even in emotionally complex experiences; 3. the tendency to find activities through which his body will build physical tension—like sports or other concentrated, single-task experiences— then release the tension with an “Ahhh.” (Gurian, 1996, p. 11) Additionally, Gurian identified other testosterone-driven effects. These include the male proclivity toward dominance patterns, less inclination to consider and evaluate the consequences of physical and social aggression toward others, a delayed reaction and response to emotions, a tendency toward exhibiting mechanistic, most efficient, behaviors, and uniquely male structures such as sports and games to prompt emotional development and expression (Gurian, 1996, pp. 33–36).




Based on the foregoing discussion, several implications can be drawn regarding the construction of a gender studies curriculum for late adolescent boys. The growing scientific data documenting the sex differences between males and females as they relate to behavior, learning, and cognition make it clear that there is a need to address positively the distinctive



needs of boys. Like girls, boys have a unique and distinctive learning style that is predicated on their male-specific brain structures and on their chemical, hormonal, and social needs. Educators who work with males need to understand and appreciate boys’ distinctive ways of acting, thinking, and behaving. Additionally, Michael Gurian stated that there is a need for more gender education to help students learn about themselves and how they tick (2001). This conclusion flies in the face of the current gender-equity movement which disapproves and seeks to eliminate typical, healthy male behaviors, such as rough-and-tumble play and natural boy-type aggressiveness, and replace it with feminine activities and a feminized educational curriculum (Sommers, 2000). According to Sommers, those educators who embrace the ideology of the gender equity movement state that these healthy male behaviors “are not natural but are artifacts of culture,” and they “embrace the belief that gender-fair schools will require a new pedagogy that upsets and neutralizes many behavioral conventions associated with being a boy or a girl” (Sommers, p. 85). Anthony Pellegrini, an early-childhood education professor at the University of Minnesota, saw the elimination of rough-and-tumble play and recess as profound insensitivity to boys’ biologically driven natural play needs (Pellegrini et al., 1995). A revisioning and a rethinking of the manner in which the educational and social needs of boys are addressed in the school setting is needed. The first implication for a gender studies curriculum is the need to address boys’ unique male biological, hormonal, and brain structures. Such a curriculum can take the brain structures and hormones listed in Appendix B as a starting point to address with boys their distinctive biological heritage and make up. By educating boys about their distinctive male biology and making them aware of how their own internal processes work, teachers can assist boys in becoming more self-regulating of their hormones and biologically-driven behaviors. Advocating a male-friendly focus on the biological uniqueness and differences between males and females, however, does not mean that one sex is smarter or better than the other. Such valuations have no place in a masculine gender studies curriculum. Halpern (1997) researched this issue and

Masculine Biology concluded with the following:
Some of the differences favor females and some favor males. It is about as meaningful to ask “Which is the smarter sex?” or “Which has the better brain?” as it is to ask “Which has the better genitals?” Bigotry does not stem from the fact that there are group differences; it arises in the evaluation of the differences, when group members decide that the traits and abilities associated with other groups are inferior to the ones found in their own group. (Halpern, 1997)


The use of biological differences in an attempt to advance a political agenda or to be politically correct is an abuse of the information itself and an abuse on the gender on which the data are used (Halpern, p. 1098). A second implication for a gender studies curriculum is the context in which such a curriculum is to be taught. Halpern (1997) suggested that there may be social reasons for considering single-sex education classes. Sommers (2000) cited a 1998 report by British headmasters entitled “Can Boys Do Better?” that advocates for one-sex classrooms among other gender-specific strategies. Stephen Webb (Webb, 2001) called for a reconsideration of all-male education as one viable alternative to educating boys. Because adolescence is such “an emotionally-charged period of transition and transformation ... (f)or some people, this passage is best navigated apart (somewhat) from the other sex” (Webb, pp. 601+). A masculine gender studies curriculum seems the perfect setting for an all-male grouping of late adolescent boys. Webb expressed the rationale for single-sex classrooms by saying, “separation also creates and encourages a special bonding between members of the same sex. This is especially important today, when males are often not encouraged to articulate and express the full range of their human emotions and needs” (Webb, pp. 601+). Therefore, all male classrooms permit an honesty that might not otherwise be forthcoming in a mixed sex classroom setting. The Haverford School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a private, allmale school, understands and values the unique needs of boys. In 1994, the school created a resource center for discussing and thinking about boys’ lives. Called The Men’s Studies Project, it employs careful research and scholarship to help parents, educators, and communities effectively raise, educate, understand, and support boys. Dr. Michael Reichert, the project’s