Male Competence and Mansplaining

Einstein writing on a chalkboard

Male behavior is not purely, primarily or even significantly a social construct

Males and females process information in different ways.  Male mental processes tend to be centered around competence. Mansplaining is, in essence, an outgrowth of the male need to  communicate competence. As it happens this both a hierarchical and a survival trait. As a hierarchical trait, there is pressure to promote based on competence because having the most competent people in charge, from an evolutionary perspective, gave groups the highest chance to survive and thrive. One important evolutionary change, Homo sapiens have adapted to deal with multiple hierarchies.  This allows humans to accept multiple people as having complex hierarchical standings in multiple areas. Our ability to segregate and arrange hierarchies based on complex rules is orders of magnitude higher than any other creature.

The theory of sexual-biological equivalence or the notion that social constructs are the primary drivers of socio-sexual behavior doesn’t agree with the empirical data. The majority of data in both human and non-human studies indicates that drives to behavior are, to a great extent, driven by biology. Social constructs exist, not to create drives and behaviors, but rather because of them.

Mansplaining and social conflict

Conflicts arise in situations where persons of one gender apply behavior expectations of their own gender on to persons of the other gender. As it happens, the primary social driver for females in human society is to provide social cohesion. There is far less demand, from a biological perspective, to adhere to a competence hierarchy. There is a much greater tendency to view social interactions from a social acceptance point of view.

In many interactions, the male is attempting to ascertain where in the competence hierarchy both you and he reside. In the same conversation, a female is evaluating social cohesion levels and determining if the other party is providing good social reinforcement. One of the great misunderstandings is the assumption that the male wishes to dominate and is demeaning the competence of the other party in order to do so. This is generally not the case.

From an evolutionary perspective, male competence is biological imperative. In a hunter/gatherer society, male incompetence is deadly. Failure to hunt properly will lead to malnutrition and eventually death. The same is true for defense,  shelter, and community survival strategies. All of these are socio-biologically primarily male domains. Female-dominated activities, outside child rearing, tend to be much less survival critical. This being the case, instruction in female groups is taken at a leisurely pace. The interaction during these activities is a socially bonding one.

Finding your place

Intuitively other males understand this as a social cue to demonstrate their competence. Males, to a great extent, auto-subordinate and very quickly enter mentorship roles.  For males demonstrating competence results in a release of serotonin. Failure to demonstrate competence or demonstrating incompetence produces strong negative feelings and intense social pressure. These two mechanisms cause males to very quickly adapt to a place in the hierarchy. This structure has a lot of very positive value for men in it. This can be seen as a male being biologically rewarded for making sure that he has communicated information that will ensure the continued survival of the tribe; That you will not screw up and get everyone killed.

Mansplaining and human sexuality

Men who demonstrate competence are sexually attractive to females.  Empirical evidence has consistently demonstrated this.  They will favor competence over appearance when choosing a mate. From a biological perspective, this makes a good deal of sense. A healthy but incompetent mate would be less likely to ensure the survival of you and your offspring than a perhaps somewhat less healthy but more competent mate. From a male perspective it is the opposite; the physical health of the mother is of primary importance as she must survive childbirth and then raise those children. Males are encouraged to display male prowess by demonstrating competence to females.

So, you’ve been mansplained to

If a man is explaining in excited fashion how to operate your cell phone, don’t assume he is talking to you like you are stupid to demean you. He, likely, finds you attractive and wants to make sure you don’t get eaten by a bear.

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