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I recently went dancing with my wife at an upstairs ballroom, and was pleased to discover that “club music,” what I once called “Euro-disco” and don’t particularly like, is happily and compulsively danceable. My wife will dance to anything, and normally has to wait for the right song, or has to buy me a shot of some spirit, to get me out on the floor. I was surprised at first that most of the early dance crowd was women, who my wife informs me often go out to dance when their consorts, male or otherwise, will not. There’s a song by a band called Garbage (from their album “Bleed Like Me” with the line, “The boys want to fight. The girls just want to dance all night.” The boys show up on the dance floor later, but most can't dance.

What pleased me however was the entire absence of a disturbing cultural phenomena called “grinding,” which may have been in its last gasp already when Miley Cyrus made “twerking” infamous. There was a semester at the college I once taught where weekly dances were cancelled as the “grinding” had produced some disturbing detritus on the sweaty dance floor. When I introduced a feminist critique of “grinding” in a social psychology class, one of my students told me they started learning how to do this in Junior High School.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am well aware that there are a range of gender and sexual identification variations between stereotypically “male” and “female” body shapes, clothing, and behavior, but even these have been addressed by empirical research in evolutionary psychology, and have their own place in biological evolution. There is a wonderful trade book written by a scientific expert by the name of Robin Baker (1998, revised in 2006), called Sperm Wars, that provides an accessible and non-scholarly account of “Infidelity, Sexual Conflict, and Other Bedroom Battles.”

We can start with one of the first and most obvious differences between genetically male and genetically female body types, despite a wide range of variation. Nobody who is genetically male has yet given birth to a child, and genetic females tend to have the wider pelvis and hips which make it possible to give birth to infants with such large brains. Not that this is easy. During most of history, roughly 50% of adult female deaths were the result of childbirth. You can go onto many cemeteries with graves from the early 20th century or before, and find examples of families of men with serial wives, their graves marked amidst the births and stillbirths of the children they bore. So yes, women tend to have wider hips than men, especially women who successfully bear children, living examples of which, yes, also have the gluteal musculature necessary for bipedal gait with a wider pelvis. Moreover, since bipedal gait requires moving one’s center of gravity over the support leg, while the second leg swings forward, female gait does tend to include wider pelvic oscillations. Anyone wanting to mimic a female gait can do so by a wider sway of the hips, and women can also exaggerate this sway to draw attention to this bodily variation. Men tend to have heavier musculature in the upper torso, and wider shoulders, which are interestingly enough, one of the last things to develop in adolescents, as this is a marker of adult bodily form, and therefore of greater threat. The best book I have read in decades on human development is a 900 page tome by Melvin Konner called The Evolution of Childhood (2010). This shoulder width variation can also be exaggerated in males interested in masculine display, exemplified by the so-called “athlete’s swagger.”

That men and women tend to have different body types, and will, of mechanical necessity, have different patterns of gait is hardly controversial. What is interesting, however, is how these and other uncontroversial biological differences between the two most common sexes can actually provide some interesting ways of understanding a much wider range of behavioral differences, particularly those having to do with sexuality and reproduction. Much of this is the subject matter of a mushrooming empirical literature in evolutionary psychology, but some of the perspectives suggested on human behavior, though sometimes controversial, can be related directly to uncontroversial biological facts, though puritan cultures tend to discourage asking relevant questions. For example, if a male is to reproduce, he will need a reproductively viable female. It turns out that regardless of whether a culture prefers thin or more ample women (the latter more appealing in a subsistence culture), a ratio of waist to hips of .7 tends to be the most appealing, as is the pelvis width for reproduction.

Part of “grinding” for example, might certainly be that this is a clear and obvious emphasis on a woman’s pelvis, musculature, and motion. In my dotage, my uncorrected vision tends to be a bit blurry, but even without my glasses, when I cannot really see the outline of a body, or the character of its curves, all it takes to grab my attention on a beach, is a particular pattern of gait, and I can perceive that motion even when what is making that motion is a blur. Availability for “grinding” would certainly get a man’s attention, and, as I understand it, provide him with a certain amount of stimulation. What is less clear to me, however, is what a woman gets out of it, though I suppose male attention is certainly part of it, but it isn’t the kind of attention one gets from a smiling face-to-face conversation.

That women bear children and men do not leads to some interesting, and perhaps obvious differences. I’ve already mentioned the risks of childbirth, for most of the human lineage, something that is likely to contribute to a woman’s being more careful about engaging in the behavior leading to such an event. That, and the fact that a pregnancy, childbirth and child-rearing also taxes biological resources far more for a woman than for a man. One of my favorite “bad girl” feminists, Camille Paglia, once famously said that a man’s contribution to childbirth is a “gob of refuse.” He certainl