The fairer sex

Literally. The data seems to suggest that worldwide, women are fairer skinned than men, and also have fairer hair. However, among Europeans, eye colour does not follow a similar pattern. Instead, men seem to be more likely to have blue eyes (though women are more likely to have green eyes).

Here are some tables of data on sex differences in hair and eye colours.

First, from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, via GNXP. As you can see, blue eyes are more common among men than women, whereas green eyes are more common in women. But women are more likely to have fair hair.

From another study we have data from three northern European nations (again, via GNXP). This one shows also that men are more likely to have blue eyes, and women to have green eyes. This study also shows that women have fairer skin (skin sensitivity being an indicator). Not much of a difference in hair colour though.

Data from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, also shows a male-female gap in blue eyes. From “Cohort effects in a genetically determined trait: eye colour among US whites” (2002).

There is more data from Finland, which finds a similar pattern of blue-er eyes among men, but little evidence of women having lighter hair.


Update: from Gender is a major factor explaining discrepancies in eye colour prediction based on HERC2/OCA2 genotype and the IrisPlex model (2013), is new data and a collection of data on blue eye frequency among men and women in various European countries:



Peter Frost has written a fair bit on this topic, arguing that in Europe, until “10,000 years ago, Europe had vast expanses of continental tundra—an environment where male hunters provided almost all the food and where long-distance hunting caused more deaths among young men than among young women” – and thus, there was stronger sexual selection on women, leading to the exaggeration of feminine traits (whereas he argues the opposite for Africa – that in Sub-Saharan Africa women have been able to largely feed themselves and their offspring, has resulted in stronger sexual selection on men).

He has consequently argued that these European traits represent something of a feminization and are sex-linked. The blue-eye fact, is, of course, somewhat contradictory to this hypothesis, in that men are more likely to have blue eyes (though women are more likely to be green eyed). The fair hair is interesting, as it is more common in juveniles and tends to darken as people age, and girls, who actually start off, on average, with darker hair than boys, end up with lighter hair, on average, in adulthood. The association of lighter hair with children and women is also found in other groups, such as Australian Aboriginals and Papua New Guineans. A 2008 study (“Spectrophotometric Methods for Quantifying Pigmentation in Human Hair—Influence of MC1R Genotype and Environment”) using twins, also found that females had lighter hair than their male twins, as well as greater variability. Frost considers female colour variability to be the key, in hair colour and eye colour.

It has been argued by Cochrane and Harpending (2010), and Eiberg (2008), that the origin of blue eyes dates from 6-10,000 years ago, which would seem to be too recent for the spread to be explained by Frost’s thesis. However, Frost disputes these dates as not based being based on any real analysis.

[See also my post on the distribution of fair hair and eyes around Europe].

Gender and attitudes towards immigration

There’s a huge Ipsos Reid survey (2011) on the attitudes towards immigration of almost 18,000 people in 23 countries. Though the variation between countries in how they feel about immigration is large, the difference between the attitudes of men and women is very small, with women tending to have slightly less positive perceptions.

First, here’s an image that gives a sense of the variability between countries:

The following two tables represent the global average in attitudes towards immigration (in the second table, the percentages represent agreement with the statement):

Women are slightly less likely to think immigration has had a positive impact, slightly more likely to think it’s had a negative impact, and slightly more likely to say there are too many immigrants.

The pattern varies by nation. Let’s compare 4 western nations: U.S., Australia, Sweden & Belgium. First their general impressions on immigration:

In the U.S. and Australia, men have a more ‘very/fairly positive’ view of immigration than do women by a large margin. In Australia that represents women having a more negative view than men, but in the U.S. it represents a larger chunk of women being neutral. In Belgium, almost no-one has a positive view, but there women are even less positive and more negative then men. In Sweden, men are more neutral than women, who are over-represented in both positive & negative feelings (but moreso negative).

Then we have their answers to a series of questions. In the U.S., despite men seeming to have more positive feelings about immigration, they tend to answer the questions in ways which would suggest more antipathy. In all three of the other nations, women expressed less immigrant-friendly views in line with previously expressed more negative assessment of the impact of immigration (most drastic: 53% of Swedish women think there are too many immigrants vs. 39% of men). The percentage, again, represents those who agreed with the statement either ‘strongly’ or ‘tend to agree’:

In any case, in general there is not too much difference between genders in attitudes towards immigration. The apparently slightly more favourable feelings of one gender in one country may be reversed in another.

There do appear to some differences in specifics though: women are less inclined to give preference to more skilled immigrants (7% less globally), and are less likely to believe immigration helps the economy (6% less globally). Another study (pdf) of European nations found a similar trend of women being less supportive of immigration from wealthy countries and more supportive of immigration from poorer countries. However the researchers note that the differences were only “flirting” with significance. The differences, such as there are, are in line with previous studies that suggest women are more protectionist.

Other studies I have seen suggest similar variability in support. One study in Canada found more support among men than women (pdf) for immigration – 63.3% to 53.7%. In the U.S., while the above study finds women less hostile towards immigration, a 2003 Gallup poll found greater skepticism among women.

Sex Differences in Intelligence

There have been well known claims about sex differences in intelligences: men have IQs higher by several points in adulthood, that men have greater variance in IQ (more geniuses, but also more stupid men), better visuo-spatial skills, etc.

More recent studies have shown that there is no difference in general cognitive ability (g) between men women, and the apparent emergence of a gap during the  teenage years in some studies was a result of study designs and samples, not real population differences (see Deary’s 2012 ‘Intelligence’ review).

The question of greater male variance in IQ is interesting, because, within populations that variance has been quite consistent. From a 2012 global study on math achievement:

The VR [variance ratio] measured for any given nation was quite reproducible, that is, it rarely differed by more than 20 percent from one test administration year to the next, among students in different grades, or between the PISA and TIMSS; typically, it differed by at most 10 percent…

However, while it is consistent within nations, it is very different across nations:

White bars = Muslim countries; Grey bars = non-Muslim countries

Here’s a list of countries and their variance ratios (boy’s variance / girl’s variance):

From this they conclude:

… that both variance and VR in mathematics performance vary greatly among countries. Confirming our earlier finding ([21]), we also conclude that VR is reproducibly essentially unity for some countries. These findings are inconsistent with the greater male variability hypothesis

They also point out the issue of the influence of sampling in causing differences in variance, similarly to how sampling issues seems to have been the cause of the erroneous findings of men having higher IQs – at least in explaining certain countries, such as these:


On another note, in Iran apparently 70% of science and engineering students are women (source)

Black Music and Misogyny

The worst forms of dancing and music seem to be emerging from African communities.

A few studies over the last couple decades have quantified the much higher level of degrading sexual lyrics found in black music, as well as its increase over time.


“Degrading and Non-Degrading Sex in Popular Music: A Content Analysis” (2008)

This study looked at 279 songs, and found that 103 had lyrics referring to sexual activity. They found that, of those 103 songs, references to degrading sex were more common than to non-degrading sex: 65% to 35%.

However, a different picture emerges when broken down by genre:

Country: non-degrading sex (44.5%), degrading sex (7.5%)
Pop: non-degrading sex (5.6%), degrading sex (3.0%)
Rap: non-degrading sex (13.9%), degrading sex (64.2%)
Rythm&Blues/Hip Hop: non-degrading sex (27.8%), degrading sex (22.4%)
Rock: non-degrading sex (8.3%), degrading sex (3.0%)

Most notable is how totally opposite rap and country are in this spectrum (by the way, rap and R&B are not over-represented because of having more songs included in the analysis – here is the breakdown: Country (n=61), Pop (n=35), R&B/Hip-Hop (n=55), Rap (n=62), or Rock (n=66)).

I made these charts which lay it out pretty starkly:


“Sexualization in Lyrics of Popular Music from 1959 to 2009: Implications for Sexuality Educators” (2011)

This is an interesting study: they analyzed the top 100 songs of the final year of each decade for the last 6 decades for degrading vs non-degrading sexual content. They analyzed white and non-white artists separately.

White artists:

1959: 88.1% non-degrading; 11.9% degrading
1969: 93.8% non-degrading; 6.2% degrading
1979: 90.8% non-degrading; 9.2% degrading
1989: 95.2% non-degrading; 4.8% degrading
1999: 97.2% non-degrading; 2.8% degrading
2009: 92.0% non-degrading; 8.0% degrading

1959: 93.9% non-degrading; 6.1% degradingNon-white artists

1969: 93.9% non-degrading; 6.1% degrading
1979: 85.7% non-degrading; 14.3% degrading
1989: 86.5% non-degrading; 13.5% degrading
1999: 84.4% non-degrading; 15.6% degrading
2009: 54% non-degrading; 46% degrading

I put it graphical form (by % of songs with degrading sexual content):

As you can see, there has been an explosion in degrading sexual content in the non-white music scene. What is the cause of this? The rise in degrading music coincides with big labels taking over the industry – is this being driven by them giving audiences what they think they want, as some say? Or has ghetto culture overcome social norms that previously held it in check, and become acceptable?

The final word to the authors: “The current study identified distinct differences in sexual references made by White and non-White artists in this sample. Whereas White artists made significantly more references to kissing, hugging, and embracing, non-White artists made significantly more references to preparation to give/receive sexual activity, sexual response, penile-vaginal sex and oral sex.”


“Songs as a Medium for Embedded Reproductive Messages” (2011)

The authors studied the songs from the top billboard charts of Country, Pop and R&B. They analyzed the songs for “reproductive messages” (ie. involving all aspects of mating – including commitment, mating, mate guarding, privisioning, etc).

Country had an average of 5.96 reproductive messages per song, Pop had an average of 8.69 per song, and R&B had 16.77.

“The four most frequent reproductive categories contained in the lyrics of Country songs were commitment, parenting, rejection, and fidelity assurance, in that order. For Pop songs the most frequent reproductive categories were sex appeal, reputation, short-term strategies, and fidelity assurance. For R&B songs, sex appeal, resources, sex act, and status constituted the most frequent themes. Whereas 46 out of the 58 parenting themes came from Country songs, only four appeared in R&B songs. In contrast, references to resources were featured 106 times in R&B songs, but appeared only six times in Country songs.”

I think we can assume rap would be like R&B, only more so.


“Gangsta Misogyny: A content analysis of the portrayals of violence against women in rap music, 1987-1993” (2001)

This study just went through 13 bands and analyzed their lyrics, looking through 490 songs altogether that were produced between 1987 and 1993. They found 22% of the songs contained violence and misogynistic lyrics. However, the authors seemed to be counting only more extreme examples of those things, and not other degrading content.


“Misogyny in Rap Music: A Content Analysis of Prevalence and Meanings” (2009)

They analyzed all rap albums from 1992 – 2000 that reached platinum status. They mention that this time period is a transition time in which it was moving towards a more commercialized and an industry driven by big label interests.

They found misogyny present in 22% of the songs. Since that time things have gotten even worse, as discussed above. They also mention: “Although women are presented as subordinate to men in a majority of rock and country songs as noted earlier, rap stands out for the intensity and graphic nature of its lyrical objectification, exploitation, and victimization of women… Rare are lyrics that describe women as independent, educated, professional, caring, and trustworthy. Although the majority of songs in the original sample did not contain misogynistic lyrics, even these songs failed to present women in a favorable light.”

This paper makes the argument mentioned above that the rise increase of misogynistic lyrics in rap music is related to big labels pushing it in that direction. However, their own research suggests a deep seated misogyny in the black community:

“Violence is one means of eliciting respect from others or punishing those who it (Kubrin and Weitzer 2003), but men are also admired for economically and sexually exploiting women. Four decades ago, Liebow’s (1967, 140-144) ethnographic study of a low-income, Black neighborhood described how important it was for men to be seen as ‘‘exploiters of women,’’ even if they did not always treat women in this way. Recent research indicates that exploitation and degradation of young women is still a feature of some inner-city communities today and continues to shape gender relations (Miller and White 2003). Anderson’s (1999) study of an African American community identified several dimensions of a distinctive neighborhood culture, what he calls the ‘‘code of the street.’’ For many young men in such neighborhoods, the street code places a high value on sexual conquest, promiscuity, and the manipulation of women

“Because of the implications sex has for their local social status and esteem, the young men are ready to be regaled with graphic tales of one another’s sexual exploits. . . . Status goes to the winner, and sex is prized as a testament not of love but of control over another human being. The goal of the sexual conquests is to make a fool of the young woman. . . . [The male] incurs sanctions [from his peers] for allowing a girl to ‘‘rule’’ him gains positive reinforcement for keeping her in line. . . . In many cases the more the young man seems to exploit the young woman, the higher is his regard within the peer group. (Anderson 1999, 150, 153, 154)”

Once again, it isn’t clear to me that the form that rap has taken now isn’t a more accurate reflection of the black male attitude than the music some perceive as being a more grassroots golden age of rap music.


Given that the social pathologies in the black community are long standing, it is strange that there has been such a drastic rise in violent and degrading sexual imagery over the last couple decades. The huge black crime rate has not similarly grown uncontrollably, it has simply been continuously high. It is possible the ‘big label’ theory has something to it. It could also be that traditional mores that kept the worst aspects of ghetto culture from being promoted in the media have withered away, exposing what was always there (and, as we have seen, they were indeed already there). The global data (below), also suggests that the ‘big label’ cannot be the whole story.


Global trends

It’s not just in North America that this issue exists, but in other parts of the black world as well.

In both the Caribbean and South Africa there has been a parallel emergence of these trends as well, represented in the styles known as Kwaito (South Africa), and Dancehall (Caribbean). From Negotiating a Common Transnational Space: Mapping Performance in Jamaican Dancehall and South African Kwaito (2009):

Kwaito, like Dancehall, has distinct styles of dancing, performance,
fashion, and language (mostly township slang and indigenous languages). Unlike the protest music of Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba, Dolly Rathebe, among others, Kwaito like the 1980s emergence of Dancehall music is thought to be apolitical, with often misogynist content focussed on girls, cars and partying, and sexually explicit dance moves.

On the concept of ‘slackness’ found in Dancehall, which gained popularity in the 80’s (from ‘Dis Slackness Ting’: A Dichotomizing Master Narrative in Jamaican Dancehall 2005):

Slackness often refers to the display of women’s sexuality whether through lyrics, dance moves and so on… And it is the sexuality of women, much moreso than that of men, which is both celebrated and devalued in the culture of the dancehall…
Lyrics began to reflect… a roundabout turn away “from the social concerns of the seventies” which fuelled the “”new” dancehall era with songs replete with sexual braggadocio, misogyny and violence… This view is recorded by Salewicz & Boot (2001, p. 172) who explain Dancehall as a distinct musical genre characterised by “the marriage of digital beats and slackness: that moment and music in which lyrics about guns, women’s body parts and men’s sexual prowess come together,” in songs…

Sonjah Stanley-Niaah says:

What we call ‘slackness’ was always a part of the music… It’s just that when dancehall became popular around the 1980s, those themes – slackness in particular – became more popular too, as dancehall moved from a more private space of consumption to a more public space.

Also of significance is the origin of the styles of ‘dancing’ known as grinding/daggering. These highly sexualized forms of dancing seem to have originated in the Caribbean. It seems likely the attitude implicit in these forms of dancing is very similar to that discussed here in connection to music. Now, there is no evidence that ‘grinding’ or ‘daggering’ were going on in in traditional Africa, however in Dancehall: from slave ship to ghetto we hear:

Ajayi explains that for the Yoruba people of Nigeria, Benin and Ghana, perceiving “the body that dances with spiritual and pious fervour in worshipping God” and that same body dancing “with sensual pleasure and delight on social and courtship occasions” evokes no contradiction.

Reggaeton is another Caribbean/Latin style of music that is highly sexualized and often misogynistic. While it is primarily a latino phenomenon, it was heavily influenced by Jamaican dancehall, as well as hip hop.

As mentioned before, these global trends suggest that the ‘big label’ theory, usually based on the American situation, cannot be a satisfactory explanation. These have been organically growing, grassroots music trends that emerged in several areas of the worldwide black community.


African origins

I discussed some issues related to African sexual behaviour in relation to the AIDs crisis, and also whether the data supports claims about black sexual promiscuity.

There is obviously overlap with this issue, in that if there is any connection between sub-saharan culture and black music, it would presumably be tied to the putatively more exploitative / degrading / transactional orientation towards sexual relations. (I recall a newly arrived refugee, who had been a pastor in the Congo and Uganda, remarking to me on how much more men in [the white, North American city in which I live] evidently love their wives).

Unfortunately, not enough research exists on the level of misogyny in music in other parts of the world. There are clear trends of highly sexualized and misogynistic music and dancing styles in diaspora black communities, as well as South Africa, but elsewhere there is little data. I need to do further research on inter-sex relations in traditional African societies.



Rap has become especially popular among young white males, especially because of the perceived masculinity of rap music and blacks in general. As David Starkey, the British historian, said in reaction to the London riots: “The whites have become black.” This is an especially alarming trend in light of data of the nature discussed above.

Finally, here is ‘Get Low’ by Lil Jon. It reached the top ten of the Hot 100. Consider what that means.