I have never been much for the idea that gender behavior is "hardwired." Most of the research being touted as proof is conducted on middle and upper class North Americans, Europeans, and Australians. When you boil it down, essentially what's being said is "hey, white people are doing this, so it must be true." Obviously, the participants in these studies are from racially diverse backgrounds, but if you do the math across studies, it's overwhelmingly white in makeup.
So, while I would never say biology plays no role, I question the hell out of the "hardwired narratives."
This post by Bettina Arndt attempts to defend, amongst other things, the idea that men are hardwired to want multiple sexual partners and are not monogamous by nature. It's an old trope, one that has been used for generations to support male infidelity, pressuring women into unwanted sexual experiences, and even as a defense for rape and incest.
What I found interesting was that so few have really challenged her position so far. Is it because she is woman writing about men? Is it because people actually believe these kinds of conclusions?
What was most curious to me was the following paragraph, tucked into the middle of the article:
There are, of course, high drive women who struggle to live with their own rampaging inner doe. There are many such single women but far fewer in long-term relationships. There are also those who enjoy watching porn, who cheerfully spend Friday nights with their partners munching take-away and watching R-rated DVDs. Women who happily live in open relationships, or go swinging with their partners, or post their own beaver shots on internet sites. And there are women genuinely concerned about their partners’ frustrations. It’s just that these women rarely enter the public debate.
I'd argue the numbers of women like this are increasing. Because after centuries of oppression, women across the globe are slowly - and in some places, rapidly - reclaiming their sexuality. It's impossible for me to ignore the social history around sexuality when considering sexual behavior, and instead of suggesting that men are hardwired to cheat, for example, it seems more likely that the social contracts around monogamy are shifting. Arndt cites well known sex and relationship columnist Dan Savage multiple times in her column, but fails to point out that Savage's writing on monogamish relationships are not gender exclusive. In other words, they aren't about letting men have their flings - they are about negotiated agreements between partners who may or may not both want to engage in sexual relations outside of their primary relationship.
This isn't to say I disagree with everything Arndt wrote. She's right to point out that talk about sexuality often gets shut down. Although it's not just men getting shut down. Which is one of the reasons why everything sex, from blogging to chat rooms to porn, has exploded online. Because so many of us are unable to speak to each other in person, we end up leaving comments on blogs, or disappearing down the rabbit hole of videos and texts available.