By analyzing cross-cultural patterns in five parameters—sex differences, male and female trait means, male and female trait standard deviations—researchers can better test evolutionary and social structural models of sex differences. Five models of biological and social structural influence are presented that illustrate this proposal. Using data from 53 nations and from over 200,000 participants surveyed in a recent BBC Internet survey, I examined cross-cultural patterns in these five parameters for two sexual traits—sex drive and sociosexuality—and for height, a physical trait with a biologically based sex difference. Sex drive, sociosexuality, and height all showed consistent sex differences across nations (mean ds = .62, .74, and 1.63). Women were consistently more variable than men in sex drive (mean female to male variance ratio = 1.64). Gender equality and economic development tended to predict, across nations, sex differences in sociosexuality, but not sex differences in sex drive or height. Parameters for sociosexuality tended to vary across nations more than parameters for sex drive and height did. The results for sociosexuality were most consistent with a hybrid model—that both biological and social structural influences contribute to sex differences, whereas the results for sex drive and height were most consistent with a biological model—that evolved biological factors are the primary cause of sex differences. The model testing proposed here encourages evolutionary and social structural theorists to make more precise and nuanced predictions about the patterning of sex differences across cultures.
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I am grateful to BBC TV Science for commissioning this research, and to the BBC Science and Nature website for programming and hosting the study.
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Lippa, R.A. Sex Differences in Sex Drive, Sociosexuality, and Height across 53 Nations: Testing Evolutionary and Social Structural Theories. Arch Sex Behav 38, 631–651 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-007-9242-8
- Evolutionary theory
- BBC Internet study
- Sex differences
- Sex drive
- Social structural theory