Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

Do men understand women better than women understand men?

May 19th, 2017 by Bruce Charlton

Since equality never happens in nature; either men must understand women better than women understand men; or else women understand men better than men understand women – on average.

(Or, the difference could be too small to make a difference, except perhaps at the extremes.)

So which is it?

I would say the answer is obvious: men understand women better than vice versa!

More exactly, over time most men learn to understand women better and better; but women instead learn to tolerate that which they do not ever understand.

Why? Perhaps because biologically men court and women choose; so men want and need to understand women so they will mate with them. A woman (a young healthy woman, anyway) is intrinsically in-demand, and doesn’t really need to understand men – just to pick the best one available…

Comments (24)
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May 19th, 2017 04:14:46

May 19, 2017

Equalities can and do exist in nature, but there is usually a reason for it. At the moment, Men might have the slight advantage, but since actual understanding is approaching zero in the world at large, this counts for little.

Women should have plenty of reason to understand men as well. Popularly, men are treated as simple creatures, but there is a great deal of depth and complexity if one looks deeper.

Of course, the actual amount of depth or complexity depends on the population. Are we talking about the Righteous or the Wicked? The more I look, this is a very hard question.

May 19, 2017

4 cases: Capitals stands for the superior understanding:

M w: lots of reproduction
M W: moderate to low reproduction
m w: moderate reproduction
m W: low reproduction to none

Reproduction numbers depend on men having superior understanding.

Every once in a while they come out with a study showing that women who are more intelligent have fewer children. I used to disagree (because I have a lot of children I didn’t like the implication), but I’ve come around. It is observable that men prefer women who have lower intelligence as a matter of instinctive attraction, evidently for the same reason they prefer certain physical indicators of fertility.

As far as righteousness goes, it is almost impossible for a thoroughly wicked woman to be normally reproductively successful, a problem wicked men do not share.

May 19, 2017

Padme was at least as intelligent as I am. I found this appealing.

But there’s no doubt I was unusual in this respect. During courtship I could usually get her to myself just by getting her talking about her research on recombinant DNA in midichlorians. Pretty quickly, all the other guys around her kind of evaporated.

Wm jas
May 19, 2017

I’m sure someone must have done a study like this before: Take married couples and have each of them take an IPIP-type personality test. For each question on the test, the subject must both answer for himself and predict the answer his spouse will choose. Comparing the husbands predictions with the wife’s actual answer (and vice versa) would yield a rough-and-ready measure of how well each “understands” the other. Would you predict that men would do better at this task?

May 19, 2017

Part of the purpose of life is to engineer I think. A man must be an egineer. You must do this to survive and to reproduce.

As a grace, all things are engineerable. Even, the vessels of women. So men must be able understand them on some level. The relationship does not have to go the other way as women are not the engineers.

Bruce Charlton
May 20, 2017

WmJas – a good research idea, I don’t know if it has been tried. But I do know that when you do standard personality self evaluations, women rate themselves as more empathic and socially aware than do men. But when social skills are evaluated directly, men are better at knowing what is really going on. Contrary to popular belief/ propaganda; men are more “right brain” in the common parlance. This fits my experience – women are the keenest bureaucrats – the poets and visionaries are mostly men.

May 20, 2017

One of the ways men “engineer” women is by flattery, so I always automatically distrust men who claim that women are as smart or smarter than men. But to acknowledge the fact that women have the lower capacity for understanding the difference between consensus reality and actual reality carries a certain burden of responsibility for men, as well as a decided disadvantage in the sexual market. No wonder it is so unpopular.

That is why I’ve come to see the kernel of feminism as males ‘engineering’ females, flattering women to get sexual access and to get out of responsibility. If you look at any feminist talking point (like the idea that women are as smart or smarter than men), it is obvious that it makes it easier for bad guys to get away with being bad. If she believes she “needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle”, all the easier for pumpndump artists.

Oh well, “spilled milk” and all that. Reawakening will not happen as long as bellies are full, minds are distracted, and women are engineered to be ‘easy’.

May 20, 2017

This discussion is fascinating both in its ring of truth and in its flagrant flaunting of social mores.

I have nearly always felt better understood by men than by women, save a few shining cases.

Lucinda’s comment about feminism is spot-on. I remember seeing a meme: “The greatest triumph of the patriarchy was convincing feminists that promiscuity is power”.

There are many caricatures in society of the “father” role as naught but buffoonery and sloth (Homer Simpson). Women are not caricatured nearly so often, from my experience (though it does happen). Pornography though, for example, objectifies women, but does not usually caricature them: it doesn’t pretend to be non-fantasy, whereas male roles in pop culture are presented as the lowest-common denominator, and that is presented to be accurate to reality.

Really, men are complex, not simple creatures, and women also. I try to be wary of anything that reduces and simplifies, without an aim of explaining a greater complexity.

Bruce Charlton
May 20, 2017

I suppose that one of the reasons I wrote this – aside from a bit of mischief and shock value – was first as part of a general perspective that we should cease to *assume* sameness in men and women; secondly that self-evaluations are often the opposite of other-evaluations (and for obvious, common sense reasons! For example, extremely conscientious people often evaluate themselves as lacking conscientiousness, because hyper-aware of their failings; and vice versa).

Mormon theology is uniquely able to explain the complementarity of men and women (each different, each incomplete, potentially combining to a divine unity otherwise unattainable) at the deepest, most metahysical and eternal level – it is almost a basic explanatory principle.

(For example, such complementarity – the dyadic nature of Men – makes it easy to understand the primacy of Love in God’s creation.)

Although probably undeveloped as such among Mormons in an everyday sense, I suspect this complementarity will come to the fore with the increasing strength, duration and aggression of the sexual revolution; although my sense is that complementarity is hard to integrate fully without a more explict, and frequent, referencing of Mother in Heaven – and perhaps some inspired, Prophetic revelations and clarifications concerning the possible (indeed I think theologically-implied) marriage of Jesus (at some point, whether during his mortal life or after?). If the Father and the Saviour are more fully seen to participate in the complementarity of the sexes, this would make Mormon theology even clearer and simpler (assuming that it is indeed true – which I think is Prophetically validated wrt. Mother in Heaven; but not – or not explicitly – wrt Jesus – although apparently neither is the idea excluded or discouraged; except, naturally, at the level of public and official discourse and pronouncement).

May 21, 2017

What I think is most likely is that men understand women better than vice versa in some areas and in some ways, and women understand men better than vice versa in other ways and in other areas, and that these different areas of understanding are incommensurable, such that one cannot profitably do an overall ranking.

May 21, 2017

I think you are overly optimistic here, Dr.Charlton.

It is certainly true that women do not understand men – if they understand them, they understand only enough to manipulate them.

But men do understand women even less than that; in fact, from what I see today, men mostly act like buffoons around women. And not the right sort of buffoons, either (=fools for God).

I have yet to see a woman who treats men as some sort of gods; while I see men idolizing women as goddesses all the time. I have yet to see a woman assault another woman because her man acted stupidly – while I see men attacking each other because some woman acts like an imbecile (and evil imbecile at that) all the time. I have yet to see a woman insisting that man can do no wrong because he is a man – while I see men insisting that women are innocent because they are women all the time etc.

So to reiterate: Men not only don’t understand women; they are BUFFOONS when women are concerned. It is even implicitly stated in the article: It does not matter if a man understands women or not; because in the end WOMEN CHOOSE and they DON’T CARE.

The only men who actually understand women to some degree are the Game folks; but these are Evil (and I mean this), so you should definitely not imitate them.

I have only one advice to men (or to the Christians among them, anyway): Love your God, love your neighbor and act accordingly.


Bruce Charlton
May 21, 2017

@LT – I have removed your comment due to its crude language. That is not acceptable here.

[Editor–released with significant edits]

May 21, 2017

G: excellent resolution, well-explained. You must be either a diplomat or a lawyer. 😉

T. Greer
May 21, 2017

Women understand men better than men understand women.

This is because women, on average, understand people better than men do.

There is a robust cogni sci literature on this. Women are wired as better empaths. Men are far more likely to not understand the perspectives, feelings, and worldview of other men, much less women as well.

My favorite bit of independent evidence for this outside the studies is autism rates– 80% of those diagnosed are male. Autism is the extreme on a scale. One could say that men are simply the more autistic sex.

May 22, 2017

Here’s a hypothesis based on the assumption that we evolved for a tribal society.

In a tribal society, women deal with the familiar (back at home, largely with other women and children), and men deal with the novel and unfamiliar (out hunting or at war). Women also deal with other tribal members much more frequently.

Thus, women understand all people better when the setting is familiar, and where the differences in feelings and actions are subtle. Picture a 19th-Century novel of manners where entire fortunes are won and lost with the inflection of a word. Where communities are strong and the rules of conduct clear, women do much better at understanding the thoughts and intentions of either sex. In a family, it’s usually the mother who knows when one person needs to apologize to another for being insensitive.

But where community and rules have broken down, men are probably at an advantage in understanding. Men possess greater objectivity in evaluating the actions of those not like them in a novel environment.

You see this in snarky comments from young women writers when confronted with radically different viewpoints. They “just can’t even” and they wonder how anyone could possibly believe this “in 2017.” There’s no attempt to figure out why the Other believes the way he does; the Other is merely to be shunned. This is actually the natural role of women in a tribe: the enforcement of social mores. Indeed, the ardor with which feminists go after anyone who dissents from sexual revolution shows that they’ve simply traded one form of boundary-enforcement for another.

In the absence of clear rules of conduct between the sexes, women are forced to ask themselves questions like, “Are we dating, or just having sex?”

(Mild sexual language warning) http://reductress.com/post/are-you-dating-or-just-friends-who-have-sex-and-see-each-other-5-times-a-week/

Whereas I’m guessing the male in these “are-we-or-aren’t-we” relationships has a much more keen understanding of what’s going on.

In a sense, patriarchy creates the conditions for matriarchy to flourish.

T. Greer
May 22, 2017

Questionable use of that article–which satires not the reader’s inability to understand what is going on, but refusal to admit to themselves that that is all it is.

With that said, I have known far too many guys in those sort of relationships with the exact same problem to say that is a sex-specific issue. That’s a millennial issue

Bruce Charlton
May 22, 2017

Very helpful comments thank you all.

What MC said, and:

Men better understand what may be, women what is.

Women reflect on details of what is, but not why – almost never why. They are not, fundamentally, much interested in why. Men are more interested in why than what is – hence a lesser interest in discussing details and specifics…

Women do natural history, men do psychology. That is: women observe, men interpret.

May 22, 2017

Any meta-discussion of Mars/Venus must include this video “It’s not about the nail”:

May 22, 2017

“I suppose that one of the reasons I wrote this – aside from a bit of mischief and shock value – was first as part of a general perspective that we should cease to *assume* sameness in men and women”

Excellent. Including the mischief part.

May 22, 2017

@ MC

Just what I’ve been thinking. Men are at the border and beyond, women are inside the culture, and can’t see out (and don’t want to, even when they get a glimpse).

I have, for probably obvious reasons, wondered about eternal femininity, and I think this is part of it. The eternal reminding role (which is where the nagginess comes from). Men often say, “I know” when reminded of something, but if left un-reminded it becomes, “Why didn’t you tell me?”

I think it also explains male flight when females start dominating. Some say it’s because they are chauvinists, and no-doubt some are, but I think there is a signal to men: the presence of women indicates that terrain is conquered and men feel a need to move on to the unfamiliar, the unconquered.

In my own marriage, I’ve tested this idea, and it has reduced tension. Where I used to say, “Why do you insist on ignoring what everyone already knows. Just work within the paradigm?” I’m more able to relax, and kind of ignore when his talking points make no sense to me. And when he’s getting frustrated with my ‘nagging’, I remind him that it’s my job to ‘keep the hearth’, give counsel about what’s already won, which is able to remind him that it’s not my deal to explore the unknown.

This makes the perspectives of men and women orthogonal, but still, men need to keep an eye on what’s going on domestically, because…scoundrels and such (which is the basis of feminism).

I’ve long thought the purpose of real patriarchy is to give women enough time and space to build the social elements of society that make society worth having, what MC calls ‘matriarchy’.

May 22, 2017

Actually, it has reduced stress all over in my home. My sons make more sense to me (or at least I’m better able to tolerate them), I have more success directing my daughters in their frustrations with their brothers and dad, I’m less resentful when I have to remind… and really I’m less irritated when my reminders are ignored, because I feel I’ve done my part and I’m more at peace with others making the final decisions (nowhere near perfect on this, but so much better than I used to be.)

Difficulties will always come, but I’ve found this idea (Men – borders and beyond, Women – inside the border) so helpful in solving the problems.

May 22, 2017

I don’t really like the word “orthogonal” in my previous comment. I believe that the best men often have a keener grasp on the social situation, but men are more calculating and realistic. The concept of affordability is not instinctive for women, it must be taught. Instinctively calculating women do not make very good mothers because a cost-benefit analysis for having children is tilted toward heavy costs for women. If they conceived of the costs, in an amoral society, it would be a deal-breaker

My brother once said that if women knew what men were thinking, they would never leave home unarmed. I say that if men knew what women were thinking, they would never let women make big decisions with money that is not their own. Still, people can be taught.

I often lament the abdication of male leadership in our society, but I’ve come to see that part of my frustration is that I don’t naturally understand the limits of spending the capital of others. There just is NOT ENOUGH capital to bring to bear against the bad guys.

@LT Men are buffoons when they start thinking with their reproductive organs. There is a time and place for that, but it’s not really that often. When women think with their reproductive organs, it’s not really an insurmountable problem for society, and often enough, it’s a benefit. Because women’s reproductive ‘thinking’ is much longer-term.

Men value women for their bodies, and they say they are goddesses and all that, but they really are just lying. They may also being lying to themselves, but whatever. Women value men for their status and access to resources. My experience is that women accept men as stand-ins for God more readily, and that this can be righteously done (as with prophets, or God-fearing husbands). The grotesque-ness of men ‘worshiping’ women is, on the one hand, because it almost certainly is always a lie, and on the other, because it is never righteous.

May 22, 2017

Difficult subject. Everyone is bold enough to comment all the time as being either A or B makes us think we know enough to be able to.

May 25, 2017

Clarification: By engineering I don’t mean manipulation.

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