If you've watched bad stand-up or beer commercials or listened to awful morning drive time radio DJs (Science has yet to prove the existence of any other type) you know about all of the supposed differences between men and women. The #1 topic of conversation among male hack comics is their nagging, chatter-box wives, and for hack females it's... well, vibrators. But their insensitive, slob of a husband is a very close second.
Well, it turns out there's a reason those comics and beer companies keep making those jokes. Many of the exciting advances in brain mapping and genetic research are proving that some of the oldest, most hackneyed gender-based stereotypes are totally true.
There is allegedly one thing women and blind men have in common: their ability to navigate. Even Google loves this stereotype, tossing back an impressive 75,200,000 hits when we typed in "women can't park."
Then there are the supposed differences in the ways women and men get from one parking spot to the next, a practice often referred to as "driving." According to the Hollywood formula, men navigate by compass directions and a stubborn refusal to ask for directions ever, while women get from here to there by using landmarks, a winning smile and a little leg. Tell a woman to turn north, then east and then north again and every sexist comedy writer we polled here at Cracked agreed she'd get turned around faster than a frog in a blender.
So, if this ridiculous stereotype were true, then Mother Nature has given men a serious edge in the "getting around" department. But that can't be right, because the decade of the 70s promised us that Mother Nature doesn't favor people based on race, sexual orientation or whether or not there are dangly parts between their legs.
This is what equality looks like.
What Science Says:
Several studies have shown that heterosexual men are better at both navigating by north-south directions and at orienting themselves in three dimensional space than women. Why did men win the spatial perception jackpot? No, the answer isn't sex this time, it's food. Well, actually, it's both.
Some things aren't better when combined.
In the days before grocery stores and mini malls, mankind had to actually go hunt and gather for his daily mammoth chops. Scientists think that testosterone helped early men find their way home again after a long day of hunting, ensuring that they were the ones impregnating their mates and continuing their line while the spatially challenged became saber tooth tiger snacks.
Not only that, but one researcher actually scanned the brains of over a million kids and found that by age four, the boys were already surpassing the girls in spatial ability by a ratio of 4:1. She also found that while girls did just fine at seeing two dimensions in the brain, boys had the ability to see a third dimension, allowing them to understand the concept of depth at an earlier age.
And yeah... the same isn't necessarily true for gay men, who tend to navigate like women. Literally. That was not an insult.
If detergent commercials have taught us anything, it's that the female nose is so highly evolved that it can pick out the stench of sweaty gym socks from a thousand paces. And once she has the scent in her delicate nostrils, a real woman cannot rest until the malodorous insult has been found, eliminated and replaced with a Linen Tides Breezy Cotton Fluff-n-Fresh (Now With Real Strawberries!) scent.
Their men, meanwhile, can wear the same sweat-stained T-shirt for a week, and will let garbage pile up in the kitchen until somebody calls the health department.
But that's loco right? It's like saying women were predisposed toward cleaning up after men or something, which is totally whack.
She LIVES for this shit.
What Science Says:
Women really are better sniffers than men. This is despite there being no physical differences between the male and female nose or the number of receptors they have. Not only are women better at detecting smells, but studies have also shown that women use a bigger chunk of their brains when processing smells than men do.
"Is that wet fish offal I smell?"
So why the difference? What biological reason can there be for your mom to be able to detect your sweat soaked socks through a closed door? The same reason that she was able to detect your dad's horny musk: sex. And though women generally detect all odors better, their noses really won the stink jackpot by having the knack for detecting male body odor.
Why? It seems that locked in that sweaty stench are chemical markers that can tell a gal when a fella is sexually aroused, even without her knowing it. Plus a woman's superhuman sense of smell is at its peak just as she's ovulating. So what does this mean for you? Forget Ax body spray. If you want to get laid, you need to smell like you've been watching porn in a sauna.
This is as basic as stereotypes get. Guys are bigger and stronger and traditionally are thought of as the more badass of the sexes. Women are frailer, smaller and prone to the sniffles at the slightest injury.
The one exception, of course, is childbirth, when even the weakest woman is an Amazon warrior when it comes to tolerating labor pain that would make a grown man whimper like he just took a paintball shot to the nuts. So call a woman frail, and she'll reply that if men had to give birth, the human race would have died out a long time ago.
What Science Says:
Women do have a lower pain threshold, but it has nothing to do with toughness. Men simply don't feel pain the same way women do, and what they do feel, they feel a lot less of. Women have more pain receptors in their skin for starters, amplifying their exposure to aches and pains.
Researchers believe it might be tied to the presence of GIRK2, a nifty little protein that not only affects pain threshold, but how well morphine and other painkillers work to block the pain once it's been inflicted. The next time you tell your girlfriend to walk off that cramp she got trying page 46 of the Kama Sutra with you, try to show a little compassion, she may just have less GIRK2 than you.
Ultimately, a woman's body can require more than double the amount of painkiller to get the same amount of relief.
The exception is when they are pregnant or have just delivered a baby. Endorphins and a cocktail of other feel good chemicals build up over the pregnancy, ensuring that mom can deal with the delivery and likely explaining the real reason expectant women have that special glow.
So, to recap, yes women have crazy strong pain thresholds right around childbirth, but any other time of their lives their capacity to endure pain is far less then men's, due to the way their nerves are wired up. Either way, be nice when her lady-days come.