Question: You’ve discussed briefly some of the physiological and emotional differences between the sexes. Could you list other physical characteristics unique to males and females?
Answer: Men and women differ in countless ways, many of which they aren’t even conscious of. Here are just a few of those differences:
1. A woman has greater constitutional vitality, perhaps because of her unique chromosomal pattern.
Normally, she outlives a man by about five years in the U.S. Females simply have a stronger hold on life than males, even in the uterus. More than 140 male babies are conceived for every 100 females; by the time birth occurs, the ratio is 105 to 100, with the rest of the males dying in spontaneous abortions.
2. Men have a higher incidence of death from almost every disease except three disorders related to female reproduction and breast cancer.
3. Men have a higher rate of basal metabolism than women.
4. The sexes differ in skeletal structure, women having a shorter head, broader face, less protruding chin, shorter legs and longer trunk. The first finger of a woman’s hand is usually longer than the third; with men the reverse is true. Men’s teeth last longer than do those of women.
5. Women have a larger stomach, kidneys, liver and appendix, and smaller lungs than men.
6. Women have three very important physiological functions that are absent in men — menstruation, pregnancy and lactation. Each of these mechanisms influence behavior and feelings significantly. Female hormonal patterns are more complex and varied. The glands work differently in the two sexes. For example, a woman’s thyroid is larger and more active; it enlarges during menstruation and pregnancy, which makes her more prone to goiter, provides resistance to cold, is associated with the smooth skin, relatively hairless body, and the thin layer of subcutaneous fat which are important elements in the concept of personal beauty. Women are also more responsive emotionally, laughing and crying more readily.
7. Women’s blood contains more water (20 percent fewer red cells). Since red cells supply oxygen to the body, she tires more easily and is more prone to faint. Her constitutional viability is therefore strictly a long-range matter. When the working day in British factories, under wartime conditions, was increased from ten to twelve hours, accidents among women increased 150 percent; the rate of accidents among men did not increase significantly.
8. Men are 50 per cent stronger than women in brute strength.
9. Women’s hearts beat more rapidly than those of men (80 beats per minute versus 72 beats per minute). Their blood pressure (ten points lower than men) varies more from minute to minute, but they have much less tendency to high blood pressure — at least until after menopause.
10. Female lung capacity is about 30 per cent less than in males.
11. Women can withstand high temperatures better than men due to differences in their metabolism.
12. Men and women differ in every cell of their bodies because they carry a differing chromosomal pattern. The implications of those genetic components range from obvious to extremely subtle.
For example, when researchers visited high school and college campuses to study behavior of the sexes, they observed that males and females even transported their books in different ways.
The young men tended to carry them at their sides with their arms looped over the top.
Women and girls, by contrast, usually cradled their books at their breasts, in much the same way they would a baby.
Who can estimate how many other sex-related influences lie below the level of consciousness?
James Dobson is founder and Chairman Emeritus of the nonprofit organization Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, Colo. 80995 (www.focusonthefamily.org). Questions and answers are excerpted from Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide and Bringing Up Boys, both published by Tyndale House.