xiv Introduction Social Structural Theory Social structural theory, advanced by Eagly and Wood (1999), consid- ers the role of biology in producing distinct mate preferences but mostly focuses on men and women’s unequal power distributions in patriarchal societies. This perspective suggests that biological differences between men and women have historically caused the sexes to specialize in differ- ent roles. Given that women biologically bear children and in most societ- ies are the primary caregivers, they are left with little time and effort to devote to noncaregiving duties such as work outside of the home. Biologi- cally, men’s bodies are physically bigger and stronger than women, which has historically caused them to seek out jobs relating to building, moving, and resource acquisition. Through their enactment of these different roles, members of a society start expecting women to specialize in caregiving and men to specialize in paid work. Sex differences therefore exist because of cultural expectations and social structures that grant opportunities to men and limit those of women. As previously noted, a variety of expectations for men and women are conveyed through socialization. In most world regions, women are expected to be caring and kind, whereas men are expected to be dominant and asser- tive. People who do not comply with these gendered expectations experi- ence backlash and criticism. Consider the example of transgendered people who experience discrimination at rates much higher than those who com- ply with gender role norms, including bullying, harassment, job loss, hous- ing evictions, violence, and murder (Human Rights Campaign 2019). Gendered expectations and the resulting penalties for violating them lead each sex to develop skills that will help it optimally perform its roles. Those who meet society’s expectations for their gender are praised, and those who do not are punished. Because gender expectations are governed by social norms, they vary across historical time and context. For example, during World War II, when men were called on to fight, women were required for labor. During this period, media images depicted women in men’s attire, performing men’s jobs. Yet the representation of women leading up to the war and in the postwar era was drastically different, providing evidence for the social construction and flexibility of gender role norms (Bradbury and Karney 2019). In terms of mate selection, social structural explanations suggest that to optimize potential, each sex seeks complementary features in its partners. Younger women tend to have less money and resources than older women,
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