I'm doing a story about a modern-day world where everyone over the age of 13 has supernatural powers. An unknown entity suddenly granted humanity this ability out of nowhere and without warning or explanation, and now every week one new supernatural power is granted to everyone over the age of 13 simultaneously, and humans can hold on to half a dozen of these at a time.

While this eventually causes society to collapse entirely due to there being several powers civilization was not designed to function with, there is a period of about 6 months, which makes up the first half of the book or so, where modern society tries to adjust to the new supernatural paradigm with mixed success. And one of the biggest things I've been thinking about was how one particular power, a permanent and unremovable one that everyone who was 13 at the time of the empowerment received, would impact society and culture.

This power is called Atlas, and it's a general physical buff that, among various other effects, makes humans two times stronger, 50% faster, and much more durable. But this strength is magical and completely independent of muscle mass (though it still increases with training and exercise), and, more to the point, women have just as much of it. As a matter of fact, this power has magically modified the physics of the human body in such a way as to thoroughly eliminate nearly every physical disadvantage of being a woman, putting the average man and woman on an equal physical footing without changing how either of them look. So until the population who had been under 13 at the time starts growing up and becoming a significant percentage of the population, we'll be dealing with a world where the vast majority of women are, on average and at peak, just as strong as men.

So my question is this: How would this change how men and women interact with each other?

I understand that a lot of ways in which we treat men and women differently are due to deeply ingrained cultural biases and instinctual behaviors that are leftovers from the eras where brutal, cold pragmatism was a mandatory factor for survival. The fact that many of these things haven't changed much despite their original reasons being rendered largely irrelevant suggests that magically evening out the power dynamic isn't actually going to make humans really behave like the power dynamic actually is evened out. But would it at least change a little bit? Would social and cultural forces brought about in the wake of this sudden event likely change how men and women interact in any significant way?

Would the dating scene become more awkward or less? Would women become more willing to put themselves in more vulnerable situations with men? Are there any things women do when interacting with men that society normally doesn't give a second thought that would suddenly be seen as more harmful or creepy? What about vice versa for men? Would male interactions with women become less restrained? How much of how we treat men and women is actually rooted in the actual physical fact that men are generally stronger?

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    $\begingroup$ Just for reference: i.imgur.com/EtAZW.jpg - Sadly I don't know original source of this image. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Jun 5 '18 at 14:46
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    $\begingroup$ Take a look at the differences between Gorillas and Bonobos. Gorillas have large, hulking muscled males and petite females. Bonobos are of similar size and strength regardless of sex. You can see for yourself the differences in their social norms. $\endgroup$ – Jared K Jun 5 '18 at 15:33
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    $\begingroup$ Way too many question marks in one question. $\endgroup$ – Aify Jun 5 '18 at 15:36

When you say modern-day society, you most likely mean "Western society" which has struggled with gender treatment and women equality issues for over a century. In this society, physical strength is barely an issue any more, men and women train together in the same gyms, karate clubs etc. For this kind of society, magically making men and women equally strong has far less impact on the behaviour of people compared to the influence, toys like 'Barbie' dolls imprinting girls on a specific set of looks and behaviour or media like TV series, movies and ads have on the way people actually think.

However, there are also other modern-day societies which enforce 'unequal' behaviour not due to physical necessity, but religious believes, you cannot call Saudi Arabia stone age - they are equally modern in their style of living, but do not share the Western egalitarian way of thinking. Here, even though physical strength is not a necessity for every day survival, giving women the chance to stand up to men and not be cowered by sheer strength might actually change their standing in society and the way men perceive them more dominantly than in any modern-day Western society.


The dating scene is far more affected by mental dynamics than physical strength. I would not expect it to change quickly. If civilization collapses in 6 months, I do not think dating will change much because of the strength change.

However, I do think dating will change as a side effect of the massive social upheaval you suggest. Something which destabilizes the entire world in 6 months will destabilize each aspect of the world as well, so I would expect dating to get disrupted along the way.

I don't think there is a way to have a scientific study test this sort of thing, so it has to be treated as hypothetical. However, it is worth noting that the differences between men and women are not just physical strength. The hormones which cause men to be stronger (on average) also have huge affects on how we think and act. The transgender community would be a great resource for that because some of them do hormone therapy, which tweaks these hormones. From what I have read, men transitioning to women are often surprised by how much the increased estrogen and decreased testosterone cause them to behave more emotionally ("Why am I crying?"). This is made more poignant by the loss of muscle strength. I remember reading a story of one woman who literally broke down crying when she realized that she no longer had the strength to open a pickle jar (and, of course, was then upset over the fact that she was upset, which is not an emotion men have to deal with all that often). Women who transition to men are surprised by how much more aggressive they feel as the testosterone does whatever it does in the body and mind. I have read stories of men who are surprised by a newfound desire to simply smash things together, just to see what happens when they hit, all because of the new hormones coursing through their veins.

If the magic tweaked these levels, we would expect people to have similar mental challenges to overcome as those doing hormone therapies. For some, this would be more of a challenge than others. It'd certainly be destabilizing.

If magic just tweaked strength, you would have a complicated dynamic that I don't think we have a closed-form answer for. You would have a large number of women with extra strength, but absolutely no mental structures to support that strength and a hormone balance which would make it more difficult to develop those mental structures.

What happens? I don't know. I, personally, happen to do a martial arts discipline which is more focused on the feminine strength, so I like to think that the women would simply rise to the occasion and flourish. However, it's also possible that that change is simply not in line with the mental structures that women develop due to both biology and culture (never underestimate culture). Given that you have chosen a storyline where these magics disrupt all of society in less than a year, the latter is probably more in-line with your story, but there's always options.


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