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INFORMER BIG IDEAS FOR A RICHER LIFE

would actually believe an operating manual could help.


It’s a tough one.  ))  
)
But maybe a million dewey-eyed pop psychology addicts aren’t
wrong – or at least, not entirely wrong. Maybe there’s something  
) ))
tangible at the root of all this.
Author Matt Ridley certainly thought so when he wrote Ge-
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nome, his modern classic of genetic lay-science. In it he dedicates    

an entire chapter to the rather dismaying sparring between the X
and Y chromosomes.
For those who have, quite reasonably, forgotten their high
school biology – a quick review. The X and Y chromosomes are
known as the sex chromosomes because, with a fair degree of cer-
tainty, they determine the sex of the body. Everybody inherits an
X from their mother. If you inherit a Y from your father, you are a
man. If you inherit an X from your father, you’re a woman. Pretty
basic, right?
When we inherit these chromosomes from our parents we in-
herit a whole set of determining genes. Certain traits, like colour-
blindness and hemophilia, are more likely to be inherited by men
because those disorders are on the X chromosome. And since men
have no spare X to fill in the gaps on the one they do have, men are
more susceptible to recessive traits. Are you still with me? Because
this is where it gets interesting.
Recent research concerning the X and Y chromosomes has
yielded some very unusual results – namely, that they don’t like
each other very much.
It’s more than a little disheartening to walk One of the first proofs that something funny was going on
through a bookstore and be confronted with between X and Y was when a scientist noticed that the sex
determining gene – the Y – was in Ridley’s words, attracting “to
the nearly endless rows of books proselytiz- its side other genes that benefitted males,” things like big muscles
ing one or another system of redressing the and aggressiveness. These genes, while advantageous to one sex,
disadvantaged the other. As it would be if there were a gene that
gender gap. As if male-female relations weren’t made men leave the toilet seat up (there isn’t) and another that
muddled enough, we go and confuse things allowed women to train them not to. These are known as sexually
further by dedicating an entire literary subgenre antagonist genes.
Genes on the X or Y can also develop proficiencies for eliciting
to the problem. By Dylan Young desired responses from genes on the opposite chromosome. This is
illustrated by a study done with two different species of wolf spider.
The Rules, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, In one group, males had evolved tufts on their forelegs that they
He’s Just Not That Into You, you name it, these glib used in courtship. When female spiders were shown videos of male
pamphlets claim to have the answers. Is your wife being spiders with no tufts, they would occasionally show their arousal
peevish? Does she disapprove of your favourite shirt? (yes, we are talking about spider porn). When the same female
Well, don’t read too much into it. She’s from Venus after spiders were shown videos of the males with tufts, they were ten
all. She may just want to snuggle. Or maybe you’re just times more likely to get sexy. The females had evolved gradually to
not that into her. be turned off, not on, by the males, and the males were gradually
Forgetting for a moment the rude exhortations and evolving to increase their appeal. This perpetual game of genetic
veiled threats of such literary gems as Why Men Marry tug-o-war is called antagonistic seduction.
Bitches: A Woman’s Guide to Winning Her Man’s Heart and So, maybe you aren’t having trouble communicating with your
Men Who Can’t Love: How to Recognize a Commitmentpho- girlfriend because you tried to “solve” the problem she only wanted )*) )$) $#))) )  )$$) )' )))
bic Man Before He Breaks Your Heart, let’s address what is to “share” with you. Maybe it’s just that 50,000 years of biological ())$)"  ,) ) )#)  )) )$  $,))
not being said here. evolution has made you just about the perfect organisms for really *)#$#) )  ,)$! ))')' +) ) ))( )$)$! ),
I’m really not sure which is more galling: the notion getting at each other.
that, by virtue of maleness, my behaviour could be so ab- If the lessons of genetics and chromosomal conflict have any-
horrent to the opposite sex as to require a manual to give thing to teach us it’s that when men and women do manage to get )

it context or that my manly behaviour could be deemed together, we should definitely not take it for granted – because it’s
so basic, unreasoned and Pavlovian that the opposite sex a goddamn miracle of science.

82 Sharp September 2008 SHARPFORMEN.COM ILLUSTRATION: ROCCO COMMISSO