I Just Read It for the Articles

June 15, 2008

Sarah's sister gave me a February 2007 Playboy featuring Battlestar Galactica's Tricia Helfer. Amongst the ads for Crown Royale, fragrances from the band KISS, and Skoal Bandits, was an article on male sexuality (imagine). In addition to such fine lines as "Faced with annihilation the Y (gene) learned to fuck itself," the article discussed some of the differences between male and female DNA.

One of the most obvious differences is that Y (male) chromosomes only have 76 genes, compared to the X (female) which has 1,098. But the Y chromosome wasn't always so meager. In fact, since the Y mutated from the X gene about 300 million years ago it has been steadily losing genetic material. This has caused some geneticists like Bryan Sykes to speculate that the male gene and therefore the gender may be completely depleted in 125,000 years. Other geneticists refute this finding responding that the Y chromosome has actually stabilized in humans over the last 6 million years compared to other primates. But regardless, the Y chromosome has undoubtedly experienced extreme declines of genetic material.

When making sperm cells in a fertilized egg, the Y exchanges DNA with the X during meiosis exchanging DNA through 23 pairs of chromosomes before being violently torn apart from one another. But these genes can only swap genetic information at their tips (otherwise, humans would all be male), resulting in genes easily being dropped. Y genes attempt to correct this by replacing damaged genes in single sections with healthy ones without having to involve the X. The Y can't always fix these problems however, which can result in a number of male-specific disorders such as infertility, color blindness, hemophilia, Duchenne musular dystrophy and fragile-X retardation.

Despite the disparity of genes between X and Y chromosomes, geneticists used to think that the genetic variations between men and women were minor, as most of our genetic coding tends to come over from the X with only small bits of code that make us male brought over from the Y. All fetuses begin as female until the Y kicks in chromosomes to tell it otherwise. But in 2005, two scientists studying the once-thought "dormant" female X discovered up to 300 active genes. Combined with more Y genes than scientists anticipated, this actually means that men and women differ genetically more than humans from chimps. In fact, men and women are further apart than any two races genetically. As Playboy puts it, black and white men are closer in makeup than a man to his wife. What are often thought of as socialized differences between men and women may actually be more fundamentally coded into our bodies making it no surprise that there often exists such a gulf of understanding between the sexes, Playboy perhaps being the quintessential example.


Christine said...

Ahh, THAT explains it! nice page/postings, my friend. Keep writing. blessings from Austin.