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September 3, 2008

Jez: We’re not all sad little lady voles!

Filed under: News,Psychology — posted by Breakup Girl @ 8:04 am

From the “Crap Science” files over at Jezebel:

On the heels of The Re-education of the Female, which suggests [in 2008] that women keep their men by doing chores in sexy outfits, comes a study implying that male fidelity may have more to do with genetics than wifely subservience. According to scientists at the Karolinska Institute (sounds like a ballet studio, actually a Swedish medical school), two in five men carry a gene variant that makes them less likely to commit to women.


Men with the gene, which, as the Washington Post notes, regulates the hormone vasopressin, are more likely to live with women without marrying them; if they are married, these men are more likely to fight with their spouses and consider divorce. Their female partners (the study only looked at heterosexual couples) also “reported lower levels of satisfaction, affection, cohesion and consensus in the relationship” than partners of men without the variant.


…This study looks at first glance like another great way to reduce human relationships to biological imperatives. As if comparisons between men and male animals weren’t popular enough, the Post cites an earlier study in which the same gene variant was found in mountain voles, who are apparently more caddish than their prairie cousins…


The most interesting research, however, has yet to be done. The Institute plans to study whether oxytocin, another hormone, affects women’s ability to commit. This study might take some of the annoying stereotypical sting out of sex research. Thus far, much of it has been about why men “can’t commit,” with the assumption that women want them to. Corresponding research into women’s predispositions might underscore the fact that we’re not all sad little lady voles who sit around waiting for our man vole to come home. Nor are we slaves to biology. Some men and some women want to commit, and some don’t, and our goal should be to avoid a mismatch of the two, not to pore over our genes for predictors of our happiness.



  1. I wish we could get away from this married/committed/good – unmarried/uncommitted/bad dichotomy. Marriage is great if you want marriage. But some people are less happy about people being in their space or want more time just to be alone and chill or to pursue their love of restoring broken cuckoo clocks or whatever. Serial monogamy is fine, too, assuming no kids (even assuming kids, if the idea of marriage as the be-all end-all lost some traction, divorces might become less angry and bitter, resulting in better co-parenting relationships). It’s all good. Without a concept of a variety of happy married AND unmarried relationships, people (especially women, due to cultural expectations) just put themselves in this want-to-get-married box (possibly with optional “and have 2.5 kids and a house in the suburbs” sub-box). I’m in a relationship where I see my guy roughly once a week to once every other week, and talk and email most days, and although it’s like that due to responsibilities and other constraints, I find I like it better than the merger model of relationships. I guess some of this is assuming some level of resources and might be different for those who have more serious financial implications from living together or apart, but still.

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