Are Men Just Plain Insensitive?


Reading Time: 6 minutes

by Joni

Are men just plain insensitive? If we define being sensitive as being tuned into the senses, and insensitivity as lack of concern for others’ then perhaps the answer is yes. In numerous studies females score higher than males in standard tests of emotion recognition, social sensitivity and empathy. However, there are differing societal demands on both men and women.

We all want a sensitive new-age guy but are the words sensitive and guy mutually exclusive? The male senses of sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste operate differently to a woman’s. It is a biological fact related to the different brains we have, which is in turn related to the hormonal influences of testosterone and estrogen within the womb as the brain develops. Further studies have discovered that females utilise more areas of the brain containing mirror neurons than males when they process emotions.

Now, I expect some people to be outraged at all this. They might insist “We are equal. Women are as good as men and vice versa”. Yes, of course, they are in certain aspects, even better in some, but I am not talking about equality. I am referring to biological differences, and there are many. Alan and Barbara Pease write on this subject in their informative and hilarious book, Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps.

Men are less Sensitive

If you are a woman reading this article, then you may be surprised to learn how biologically sensitive females are compared to males. This is because as ‘human animals’ we have not evolved as biologically fast as our environment has. Our bodies are basically the same as when the man was the hunter and the woman the cave nurturer.

A male’s role was to chase and kill another animal for lunch. His female stayed behind and gathered berries etc., and cared for the offspring. She did not run alongside him as he hunted. He alone focused on the prey, weaving back and forth around obstacles to track his prey. As a hunter he developed focused vision, with an eye for the landscape, along with large muscles.

The woman, as the watch-out for their camp, developed better peripheral vision. She also developed hearing over a wider range. A woman could sense deep threatening animal noises besides the high-pitched cries and voices of her children. The man’s vision and hearing were centered on what he needed to successfully hunt.

Men Concentrate on One Thing at a Time

Men are good at doing one thing at a time, whereas women excel at multi-tasking. In today’s world they have to. Many women work full-time as well as raising children and running a household. A woman has to keep her finger on the pulse. She can sign up a multi-national deal with her calm and confident manner but on returning home, still spot a dirty stray sock in a dark corner at 50 paces.

Men can look into a fridge full of cheese and still ask, “Where’s the cheese?” Unless the cheese falls out onto his foot, he will have issues because his vision is of the tunnel variety. Straight ahead. A woman can go to a party and check everyone out very discreetly, even the good-looking guys. But a man entering a party will focus on the best-looking female. That is why he gets caught out so easily. He hasn’t the peripheral, wide vision of a female.

Men Have to Turn their Heads to See

When he wants to look at something, his head has to turn. Same in the street. As he admires an attractive woman as she passes him, his head turns around to follow her as she walks off. It is so obvious; his partner notices the perving and reacts, usually negatively.

A man has better centered vision over a longer distance, but women don’t miss much at all, within a 180 angle swing at a closer distance. The greater variety of cones or light receptors in their retinas enables this peripheral vision. Male pedestrians are hit at almost double the rate of female pedestrians. That is an interesting validation of this biological fact.

Most Good Food Tasters are Women

Then there are the other senses to examine. Touch, taste and smell. Most good food tasters are women. Females have a greater range of taste receptors on their tongues. As the gatherer, she had to assess the ripeness of fruit for picking, the different tastes and smells of herbs and grasses and ascertain what was poisonous.

Women in history were so good at this, they were often accused of sorcery in the Middle Ages and burnt as witches. However, they were just doing the work nature intended, brewing herbs and potions to heal sickness and treat wounds.

The female sense of smell is also better especially around ovulation. She particularly detects the musk-like odour of her mate. Perfume designers have used this fact and concocted male after-shave lotions to be attractive to women.

Don’t Touch Me!

A woman’s skin is also softer than a man’s and so is more sensitive to touch. A man’s skin is only sensitive around his erogenous zones, hence his eagerness to be touched there. A woman likes to be touched all over, but only by a loved one. When she is angry with her partner, she instinctively says, “Don’t touch me!” Man, being a polygamous animal, is not so fussy. His biology gets him into trouble quite regularly.

A Woman’s Instinct

Apart from the actual senses, a woman has a woman’s instinct. She is able to pick up on the nuances of human behaviour. Her ability to detect pain, anger, shame, in fact most human emotions in others, is due to nature’s gift that allows her to read what is happening with her children by simply looking at their facial expressions.

Men by comparison are poor at this. They rarely pick up how people are feeling. “She was enjoying herself!’ he’ll maintain when a woman does not want to proceed and has clearly implied, “No”. They cannot read the room like a woman can. They get into trouble for that too and don’t recognize when a huntress is on the prowl.

Map-reading and Quizzes

Apparently where men excel is in spatial awareness. They are good navigators and do not have to rely on landmarks or turning the map upside down as women do. Of course, this is a generalisation. I beg to differ on this one as on any overseas trip, I was the navigator. My husband would still be stumbling around Genova if I hadn’t insisted, ‘No, it’s this way!’

Each of us have varying more-male or more-female skills, because of the balance of testosterone and estrogen supply to our initial growing in utero brain. Alan and Barbara’s book includes quizzes to test your sensitivity and map reading abilities.

These were fun to do. Quizzes and puzzles are good for us. I scored in the middle. So, although I am very girly in some respects, hence my forty dresses and ditsy blonde hair, I am smart at maps and so don’t rely on a male to get me somewhere. Who does these days anyway, now we have GPS?

Are Men Superfluous?

Which gets me to the point of querying the need for men in this world. Only teasing. I guess we still need them so we can admire their muscles and go weak at the knees. In the digital age, the testosterone fuelled hunter is a bit passe, out-of-date, for his one focus is chase and kill and the testosterone pumping through his body enables this activity. Supermarkets, or online shopping supply all our needs. Well, most anyway.

In today’s world he becomes a hunter of a different kind. Sitting at a computer all day does not use his body, which was designed for running around for hours in pursuit of lunch. Instead of hunting, the modern male wages war in the board room, plays violent chase and kill video games, or at best roars around on the rugby field.

Sport is Good for Males

Sport is good for males. It blows off the testosterone and subdues the hunt and kill instinct. Rather it there, than in the home, where surplus testosterone is more of a nuisance. It gets him into trouble.

His aggression and tendency to violence is then funnelled into areas where it is not a problem. Frustrated by the independence of women these days, women who can go buy their lunch and not have to rely on his prowess, he feels useless and lashes out to show his power. This phenomenon is seen everyday as men behave badly in domestic situations. Since the COVID pandemic began in 2019, rates of family, domestic and sexual violence have increased globally.

Marriage and the Man Cave

The man-cave is often another sign of male immaturity and the inability to read his partner. Rather than talk about issues, he prefers to either lash out or skulk off alone to brood in his man-cave. Woman, as the negotiator, has to calm and placate his bruised ego. If the woman is an aggressive type herself, all hell breaks loose.

Marriages are not easy! It is a wonder that so many last, given the differences between men and women due to their fundamental differences in sensitivity and needs. More on relationships in another article. Not only have we moved to nuclear families, a vast majority of families are broken and single parent families are predominant.

Understand and Celebrate our Differences

The best we can do is concede we are different through no fault of our own. Blame it on nature and our hormones if you must. We need to appreciate our differences and with an understanding of them, so relationships between the sexes can be improved. We complement each other’s strengths. But aren’t you glad you were born an amazing sensitive, multi-tasking woman?

Photo by Napat Saeng on Unsplash

Joni Scott is an Australian author with three published novels: Whispers through Time and The Last Hotel and Colour Comes to Tangles. Joni also co-hosts a women’s blog; and has her own website;

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