Why are women more easily grossed out?

I think a fair generalization to make is that women tend to be grossed out easier than men. (one exception to this is Marissa. Sometimes she makes jokes that gross even me out and I think I have a pretty high gross tolerance.) There is a reason why 'guy' movies tend to include gross stuff and chick flicks rarely do. Like anything related to humans, there are many who deviate from this, but it doesn't it is not generally accurate.

I was trying to think of why this might be so and while I have no idea if my idea is true or not, I think it seems plausible.

Historically, duties that were normally filled by men, such as hunter or warrior, involve a lot of gross stuff and a person who is easily grossed out would be at a disadvantage and and less likely to reproduce, either because they would be more likely to die or lower status as a failure would allow for less mating opportunities.

On the other hand, responsibilities that usually fell on women, such as cooking and child rearing, benefit from a sensitivity to grossness. Typically things are gross because they are bad for us and can make us sick, Repulsion is our bodies evolved method of making sure we steer clear of things like poo poo (poop) and throw-up without having to understand germ theory or even causality. To be sure, culture can influence what in particular is seen as gross, but the underlying mechanism is biological and certain things are more or less universally gross (feces, rotten meat, incest etc.). Probably the most important area to avoid grossness is anything related to our food and second, keeping gross stuff from anywhere near children, since they get sick more easily and their disgust system has not yet been developed and learned. Considering this, it would be no wonder women tend to be more sensitive to gross things. It is a big advantage in two crucial areas.


Whittron said...

That is interesting, I agree with your thoughts on this. I am glad you think of these things and post them, because they are things I would like to think about but never get around to doing it.

Vincent said...

I hate to ask this, but have sometimes thought it and you are the best person to ask. Why are Americans, in particular males, so gross compared with non-Americans?

When we say gross, I assume we are referring to speech, and not behaviour.

Vincent said...

Hasty afterthought. I certainly wasn't referring to you in my previous comment, & meant no offence!

Chris Almond said...

@Whitney. Thank you. I've been trying to post short things like this more often and hopefully I keep at it.

Chris Almond said...

@Vincent, No offense taken. I have no clue. I don't even have a clue if that generalization it is true or not since I've not had the chance to spend hardly any time outside of the Usa. Were I to venture a guess, I think it would have to do with American's general distaste for formality and things that are 'proper'. Seems like the State's rebellion against Briton was cultural as well as political and part of that cultural rebellion involved a resistance to things which seemed overly stuffy or formal.

When I use the term 'gross' I am referring to anything at all that could be classified as gross, speech, behavior and otherwise. I don't know if the term is used differently in the UK but I use it as being synonymous with disgusting. It seems like what I wrote wouldn't have made much sense if it had it been in referring only to speech.

Vincent said...

OK I will offer a specific example of three words which cannot now be used in any innocent and literal way because they have become terms of abuse: cunt, nigger and asshole.

The American 'ass' in the non-donkey sense is derived from the British 'arse'.

Nigger was used innocently in Britain, but we never had negro slaves on our shores (only in the colonies) and so one kind of racism was unknown. Conrad wrote the "Nigger of the Narcissus", Agatha Christie wrote "Ten little Niggers". As boys we used to count "eeny meeny miny mo, catch a nigger by his toe". There was no race hate in these usages at all.

In "Lady Chatterley's Lover" Lawrence has Mellors using the word cunt to mean vagina. He did his best to rescue the good old Anglo-Saxon word from its vulgar usages. I suppose he failed. I find it most unfortunate that it's used hatefully these days like asshole and nigger.

I may not be factually correct in blaming the hateful usages on America, but they seem more popular there, and I don't like the way that they catch on here!