Why are men stronger than women?

I never understood this fact in biology, why, in most species, we have the male being physically stronger than the female. Or to generalize, we do we have a sex stronger than the other.

I don’t get it, what is the evolutionary benefit of making half the population weaker than the other ( in a physically point of view, don’t call me sexist please) half?
Isn’t it more logic to make all the population strong? Wouldn’t they survive longer?

Ok, now in modern society it doesn’t have any impact, we don’t use our bare hands to survive. But what about prehistoric ages or all the other species (the animals) ?

Short answer, sexual selection. Most of the great apes are sexually dimorphic, with the male being larger, stronger and generally more aggressive than the female.

Short answer, sexual selection. Most of the great apes are sexually dimorphic, with the male being larger, stronger and generally more aggressive than the female. Males compete over females, but the females aren’t just passive egg donors, they ultimately choose who gets to reproduce and who does not. In the past this would have meant a male who could provide food, protection, etc. for her children. So, it’s not necessarily a case of half the population being “weaker,” as it is half the population in a sort of arms race to pass its genes to the next generation. Humans are more complex, however, sometime in our evolution intellect also came into play, so that a man who is witty(displays acumen, presents good social skills, planning strategies) could also get a shot at , uh hum, passing on his genes Humans are much less dimorphic than for example, gorillas and chimps.

Thank you, I fully understand now. It’s simply like a filter to chose only the fitest in a species.

But tell me what has the quality " a woman or a man being beautiful" has to do with “passing the good genes” ??
I would really prefer to marry a beautiful woman, but that won’t make my babies fitter in life.

Well, one universal standard of beauty seems to be good symetry of facial characteristics(there are cross cultural studies which support this) and a smooth unblemished skin, both(supposed) phenotypic markers of of genetic fitness, more attractive faces are usually more “average” , average distances between eyes, average forehead shape, average nose etc. Symetry supposedly is beauty, but the jury is still out. I don’t know, but if you look at many people considered attractive, they kind of look the same, they are the median of the genetic range…

Actually it depends on which context you mean by “stronger”. If you mean larger, heavier, and hence able to do more brute beating the crap out of each other, I would give you that males have a tendency toward domination there.

However, in terms of sheer physical and psychological toughness, women cope much better at changing environments and stress than men do. The average woman, when death through childbirth mortality is taken out of the picture, lives maybe ten years longer than men. So, obviously one would think that that would be a sign of strength, no? Or maybe just resiliency?

Anyway, genes get passed down because the people who have them have lots of sex and hence reproduce more, not because there is anything innately useful or superior or helpful about them? So, culture and genetics can interact, hence if a culture overwhelmingly favors women with brown eyes over women with blue eyes, then it is very likely that women with the Brown Eyes gene will have an evolutionary advantage.

Brain size, coincidentally, has grown in just such a way. Humans and their ancestors long ago lost the direct advantage given to them by increasing brain size, there was a point at which in terms of interaction with environment the advantage for continued growth became almost nill.
However, paleonathropologists believe, social competition and interaction with peers caused higher brain size to be valued by partners in terms of social hierarchy. Hence, brain size was not valuable in and of itself but simply as a sign of social dominance.
At least that’s one theory.

The real question you should be asking, MasterChief, is not what makes “beauty” good genes?
But instead, why does society have the definition and value system it does of beauty, and what can this tell us about its relationship with the environment and biology?

For instance, traditionally women with wide hips were valued because they could bear more children.
Women with large breasts, mammary glands, could nourish children more easily.

However, conceptions of beauty have changed radically over time. I.E. in preindustrial societies only wealthy people could be fat so fatness was seen as a sign of beauty, whereas in today’s society it is very cheap to be fat, and very expensive to hire a personal trainer, stay in touch with the latest health diet trends, and buy only quality organic foods, hence, now thinness is seen as a sign of beauty.

The same theme applies to a tan. In preindustrial societies, most people worked in agriculture, out in the sun, hence, to be tanned meant that you were a poor agricultural worker, whereas to be pale meant that you could afford to spend your entire day inside, i.e. outside of the area of economic production. So paleness was seen as beautiful.

In contrast, in today’s society most work is done inside factories where there is very little sun and most workers do not get tanned and stay pale. The wealthy, however, can afford the luxery of sunbathing and going to the beach routinely as well as the salon, so tans are valued and seen as beautiful.

In both these cases, it is obvious that it is not the qualities in and of themselves that make somebody beautiful, but the fact that these qualities act as signifiers, symbolizing elite status and wealth, and hence economic security, and greater chances for the survival of offspring.

Sorry if this was too off topic, but it is an interesting question.

It’s wasn’t off topic at all, I read your post with a lot of interest myles, thanks a lot.


This has been relevant for all of 100 (perhaps 150) years or so. On both sides. On the female side we have better midwifery (childbirth was dangerous) as a plus; on the male side we have the Industrial Revolution and warfare as minuses (from memory, men tended to die younger than women in both instances) and later increases in Health & Safety regulations as a plus.

IIRC the first recorded centenarian was a male Greek.

As I recall, once you get past adolescence, the difference between male and female life expectancies becomes all but nil.

*Originally posted by qts *

Ahem, I said nothing of the sort, qts.

I disagree completely myles, in regards to your “women cope much better at changing environments and stress than men do”. If you have a cite, I’d be more inclined to accept this, but from my work experience I’ve determined this to be not the case at all, in fact, I’d venture so far as to say I’ve noticed the opposite. Regardless, I wish not to venture further off track, now back to your regular scheduled programming.

Do you have a cite for this? I’d be interested to see if this is true.

Females are more behaviorally flexible than males, all other things being equal.

That is, like males some are stone queer, some are stone straight, but the percentage of potential switch-hitters is larger.

It’s multifactor, but generally speaking males are just more physically and psychologically fragile than females. They die more easily, have a lower pain tolerance, and are essentially more disposable.

Even in Nazi concentration camps, women survived at a higher rate than men (apart from those directly killed, that is).

it’s part of a consistent pattern. Males have higher mortality at _every_stage from fertilization on. That’s why there are so many more old women than old men.

In preindustrial times the dangers of pregnancy and childbirth pushed the scale down in the other direction.

Of course, that’s why females are tougher.

The causes may be some of both genetic and cultural factors, but much of it must be genetic. (since the differential
mortality starts at conception).

Testosterone at male levels is highly unhealthy, for instance.

Males are consistently less resistent to infection and several other types of stress, and consistently more vulnerable to several
degenerative diseases (eg., heart disease).

Male lions are bigger than they have to be so they can fight/intimidate other male lions.

Males can sire far more offspring than females can bear, so it makes sense for them to maximize shots at reproduction even if it minimizes their life chances.
Females, particularly mammals, have a bigger investment in each offspring, so they tend to have a more functional design, giving them longer lives and a better chance at bearing and rearing their offspring.

The argument in favor of keeping women out of the military often used by sexists hinges on the idea that women are smaller, shorter, and weaker than men, and hence can’t be relied upon or trusted in the field is complete BS.
The average American woman today has approximately the same height, weight, and body mass as the average Vietnamese man during the Vietnam War. And we all know how weak the Vietcong turned out to be!

In point of fact, women were often kept out of the bloodiest of battles because they were too important and valuable in terms of fertility to be wasted on some warfield. One man can impregnate many women, but one woman can only be impregnated by one man, hence in terms of sheer survival it is most important to have as many women uninjured as possible.

Not offhand–I’ll see what I can find.

Well, this Statisctics Canada chart seems to contradict you. Male vs. female population by age group:

Male: 654,100
Female: 684,400

Male: 547,300
Female: 591,700

Male: 473,400
Female: 552,200

Male: 345,500
Female: 477,200

Male: 208,900
Female: 346,600

Male: 96,200
Female: 199,400

Male: 39,800
Female: 111,000

Yeesh. I mean, that’s Canada and all, but those look like some pretty significant differences.

I was under the impression that young men were driving down the life expectancy for males overall by getting themselves killed doing stupid stuff. But I guess that’s not a major factor.

Sorry, my mistake. It was, of course Myles whom I was quoting.

No one has yet provided a cite to support the notion that women endure more stress than men, which I strongly disagree with.

Rather, that women cope with an equal or greater aount of stress better than men.

Possibly somewhat OT, but I always assumed that women were kept out of fighting in MODERN society for two reasons:

  1. That’s the way we’re used to doing it… (Military SOP rule #1 - fight the LAST war THIS time around)
  2. Well, we’re all for equal opportunity and stuff, but if the Bad Guys get their paws on our women, they’ll GANG BANG them!
    (Yeah, like being a male POW is fun ‘n’ games :rolleyes: )

I strongly doubt any kind of logic, even the (as you rightly said, BS type) logic you suggest, entered into the discussion.