Web edition: July 4, 2008
“What makes a man?” Flam, a science writer who pens a sex column for The Philadelphia Inquirer, seeks a scientific answer to this often-asked question. Her search takes her from a seduction boot camp for men to the labs of evolutionary biologists, sociologists and physiologists who study gender differences.
From mushrooms with 30,000 sexes to sea worms that compete to be the male, Flam surveys the natural world to explain why human males evolved the way they did, revealing a riotous diversity in the way life begets life. While human males have one X and one Y chromosome, for instance, the oddball male platypus carries five of each kind. Male squid inject females with sperm packages that burst out of her skin to fertilize the egg, while male sea urchins broadcast sperm into the ocean, never knowing whose eggs they may reach.
Flam contends that the fundamental reproductive imbalance between males and females shapes the way men seek love, take risks and view the world — and drives evolutionary strategies.
The Score sometimes flirts with gender essentialism, and the link between other male animals and modern man can often be tenuous. Men may prefer younger women, for instance, but male chimpanzees go wild for older females. While the book may not definitively say what makes a man, it offers a few entertaining clues, capturing the weird and the wacky without being fluffy.
Avery, 2008, 224 p., $24.95.