By Carol Martin-Sperry, author of Good Sex, Bad Sex, No Sex.
Why are boys apparently more assertive and confident than girls? Young women seem to have more issues with self-esteem than young men, they need approval and affirmation from an early age. Boys on the whole are more likely to be risk-takers. Girls tend not to break the rules, they are more compliant. When it comes to attention-seeking, girls can be devious and manipulative, whereas boys just shout louder or behave badly in more obvious ways.
These gender-specific roles play out in school. The advantages for young women is that they are now making the most of their education and forging ahead while the boys lag behind. Men may lead in high-tech careers and entrepreneurship but women are overtaking them in medicine and law, although they are under-represented in the boardrooms. There is still a gender pay-gap but many women are becoming economically independent and often out-earn their partners.
What effect is this having on the male psyche? Many men feel emasculated by their successful partners, who are often experienced as dominating and castrating. They may feel unable to meet the sexual expectations of their demanding partners, who want them to be as sexually strong as they are. Others are happy to be more involved in childcare and housework. But when the gender roles are blurred or reversed, sex often goes out of the window. Equal roles, when there is little differentiation between the sexes, can so easily lead to living side by side like siblings or flatmates.
More and more women are choosing not to have children because they realise that motherhood and career ambition are often incompatible. Any kind of work/life balance requires paying other women to do the housework and look after the children. Most working mothers need a wife rather than a house-husband.
Back in the nursery little girls still want to be pretty in pink princesses and boys are more physical but at some point these stereotypical gender roles are changing. Is the future a world run by strong women with weaker men? It's too early to tell, but rapid social change will have a price. Relationships and families will continue to evolve, but the traditional model is already faltering.
Carol Martin-Sperry is the author of Good Sex, Bad Sex, No Sex, published by Endeavour Press.