This world is background for erotica story which came into my mind.

Porn/erotica worlds are commonly totally unrealistic: Pizza delivery is always on time, always delivered by fit male at exactly the time when female just leaves shower...

While the world itself can be big hand-wave for the erotica story itself, my worldbuilding self wants to revisit the world after I write the erotica story.

The question: What needs to happen through a history to produce an alternate Earth where gender roles are in total opposite to ours, while keeping all biology the same? (Women giving birth is the main example)


  • Women are whistling on men
  • Fit guy can get free drink from a woman at a bar
  • Men are often treated only as sex symbols
  • Seeing topless man is already part of erotica world

P.S.: Keep away the thought of totally low probability of this happening. I do not need "hard science" world, alternate Earth where this happen just needs to be plausible

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    $\begingroup$ You have 2 buckets, one is red and filled with water and one is blue and filled with milk. Then you ask, what happens if we fill the red bucket with milk and the blue with water, while still keeping it the same color. Well nothing happens except the red one now contains milk, you still have 2 buckets where one have milk and one have water. $\endgroup$ Aug 6, 2015 at 7:36
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    $\begingroup$ It does happen (just not on your scale), it is just a question about where you look. If your attention is directed somewhere, (like objectification of woman) you might miss the objectification of man. Here is an example: i.imgur.com/clOImMm.jpg $\endgroup$ Aug 6, 2015 at 7:44
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    $\begingroup$ Men have always been treated as sex symbols as much as women have. It's just that the cases that involve women cause more controversy because more people are vocal about those cases. $\endgroup$
    – Jose Luis
    Aug 6, 2015 at 8:12
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    $\begingroup$ @AdrianoVaroliPiazza both are female powered fantasies, being slim big-boobed blond girl is a female empowered fantasy. $\endgroup$ Aug 6, 2015 at 12:27
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    $\begingroup$ Magic-Mouse's image is instructive. If "having gigantic muscles and being very strong" is a male empowerment fantasy, whereas "having a minuscule waist and being sexually attractive" is a female empowerment fantasy, that says something about your kids' notions of "power" in the hands of men and in the hands of women. They're caricatures, of course, but if they're part of the erotic roles you want to exchange, then you have to consider what could cause the sex that gives birth to think "power" is physical strength, while the other sex thinks of "power" as attracting others. $\endgroup$ Aug 6, 2015 at 14:03

12 Answers 12


There is a biological reason for gender roles being the way they are: Reproduction requires far more resources from a woman than from a man.

A woman can only bear a child about once a year, takes severe discomfort and health risk from the process, and is only fertile for a few decades of her lifetime. A man, on the other hand, doesn't need to do more to sire a child than to ejaculate.

This results in different mating strategies for the sexes. While women carefully choose who to mate with, men try to mate with as many women as possible. Also, men have a better chance to pass on their genes when women do use their limited childbearing capacity for their children instead of those of others, so men prefer women to be flirty with them but not with others.

So when you want the sexual gender-roles to be reversed, you need to somehow move the cost of child-bearing. Possible actions you could take:

  • A child custody system which puts more responsibility on the father than on the mother. For example, a mother is allowed to disown her child after birth, but the father can not and will be forced to pay child support.
  • In the early weeks of pregnancy, fetuses are removed to grow in artificial wombs. That way the mother has almost no discomfort from pregnancy and childbirth and can become pregnant again even before the previous child is born.
  • Only have methods of contraception available which are under the control of the woman. In a world where the pill exists but condoms do not, a woman can choose if she wants to get pregnant from sex or not, but the man can not. Allowing women to have easy abortions but make it morally unacceptable to force a woman to have one is also a way to reinforce reproductive rights of women while lowering those of men.
  • Limit the number of children a man can have by law. When a man risks a hefty punishment for fathering too many children, they will think twice before whoring around. To enforce this, your world needs a quick and easy way to determine paternity of a child.
  • On the other hand, also have laws which encourage women to have many children, preferably from different fathers. Possible incentives would be government-sponsored child allowance which exceeds the cost of upbringing or special recognition of mothers.
  • Give political power to women who have many children. A possible system would be one where all national and regional issues are decided by public vote, only mothers can vote, and they get one vote per child. That means a woman with many children will have it easier to have her political demands met.

The question is: What circumstances could lead to a society adopting such a model?

One reason could be that due to some very sexually active men in the past (maybe a caste of nobles not just demanding jus primae noctis but the right to sleep with any woman they want whenever they want?), the society is suffering from inbreeding. Also, it turned out that these men had latent but serious genetic defects which now appear randomly. This lead to a decline in population. The society needs more children, leading to lots of support and privileges for mothers. But they also need some "quality control" to breed out the defects, allowing women to disown children and enforce genetic diversity by not allowing a few men to father disproportionally many children.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 you gave me some brilliant ideas what to do with "Average Joe" who warped to this world and just had one night stand assuming its not going to be a big deal $\endgroup$ Aug 6, 2015 at 8:54
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    $\begingroup$ Hahaha I really liked it. The last point itself sounds already like the common plot for a typical porn xD $\endgroup$
    – Zaibis
    Aug 6, 2015 at 13:15
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    $\begingroup$ @Zaibis Really? I didn't know that direct democracy and family-friendly voting systems are a common fetish, but well, I guess rule 34 applies. $\endgroup$
    – Philipp
    Aug 6, 2015 at 13:20
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    $\begingroup$ @Zaibis Rule 34 says "If it exists, there is porn of it - no exceptions". $\endgroup$
    – Philipp
    Aug 6, 2015 at 13:26
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    $\begingroup$ @dsollen I never claimed that each of these measures alone would be sufficient. You will have to implement many if not all of them to achieve the desired effect. $\endgroup$
    – Philipp
    Aug 6, 2015 at 14:59

Just wait a few decades.

Gender roles (unlike biological sex) are much more fluid than most people realize. It's just that for many many centuries upper body strength (which men naturally have more of) translated into military and domestic power. As part of the shifting of our society towards a cognitive economy, muscle mass is becoming increasingly irrelevant in a world of robots with 1000x our muscle power. Moreover, a vast, pervasive, and efficient police system is increasingly enforcing for adults the "no fighting, no hair pulling" rule that kindergarten teachers attempt to teach the kids.

Women are currently earning 60-70% (80% in some countries) of all college degrees. As they get more and more educated, maintaining traditional barriers against them reaching the top of the pole in more and more fields is becoming harder and harder to justify with a straight face.

Therefore, it is certainly plausible (and is already the case for some subgroups of the population, such as African-Americans in the US) that there will be a time when the majority of the earning power goes to females. There'll still be educated males, and thanks to the fact that they don't get pregnant the educated ones might even do well, but the majority of cognitive jobs may well be held by women.

With the purse-strings often comes the 'wearing the pants in the house' bit. After all, if a couple has a kid and the woman earns 2x the man's wage, it's insane to keep her at home, but rather it makes more sense for the man to stay at home.

Rinse and repeat for a few generations, with rising role-models for women, shifting perceptions of what's culturally appropriate, etc. I will bet good money that you'd end up with a world where women are far more sexually aggressive, and (at least a significant subset) of men take on characteristics of sexual and social passivity that our current society describes as feminine.

  • $\begingroup$ Just as an additional note: While the current standard for beauty is (in the western world at least, I don't know about elsewhere) definitely the (lightly clothed) female body, this was not always the case. In ancient greek, the default sex for displaying beautiy was male. $\endgroup$
    – Hobbamok
    Sep 27, 2022 at 12:12

I think your question is impossible.

Gender roles emanate from biology, but the question is, "How do we completely reverse the gender roles without changing the biology?"

The answer is "You can't." It's like asking, "I have a car that doesn't fly. How do I turn it into a flying car without changing anything about the car?"

  • $\begingroup$ No, I asked: "What in the past had to change in order to make current day plausible with flying cars" $\endgroup$ Aug 6, 2015 at 18:53
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    $\begingroup$ @PavelJanicek The answer is still "the very thing you said couldn't change." $\endgroup$ Aug 6, 2015 at 23:28
  • $\begingroup$ This however just applies to the question as absolute totality of all gender roles. A surprising amount of them have little basis in biology and even more can be thrown out with modern technology making a lot of biological factors irrelevant $\endgroup$
    – Hobbamok
    Sep 27, 2022 at 12:15
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    $\begingroup$ @Hobbamok - Are some gender roles not based in biology? I'm sure we could come up with some. But basically, it boils down the this: Man strong, man work. Woman make babies, woman care for babies. Women make themselves beautiful to attract men, men make themselves wealthy to provide for women. They make babies together, following this model makes them successful at surviving into the next generation. Most of the rest of it flows from that. Lipstick, for example, doesn't make men good providers. It does make women more attractive mates. We traditionally associate lipstick with femininity. $\endgroup$
    – Truth
    Feb 16, 2023 at 14:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Truth your reading comprehension is astounding. Please read my comment again and then - if you like so - write a new response. $\endgroup$
    – Hobbamok
    Feb 27, 2023 at 10:09

frankly this is VERY hard to do in a believable manner without modifying the way reproduction works. This comes down to evolved behaviors which have been built into a psychology for thousands upon thousands of years. A simple culture change is going to have a difficult time overriding our ingrained evolutionary instincts. Those instincts are for men to woo and/or objectify women with a desire to have sex with as many as possible, and for women to be selective about who they have sex with. These are partially part of our evolutionary psychology.

Men stopping objectifying women, that is believable and desirable (and I hope will mostly come to pass over the next generation or two). However, women choosing to objectify men is harder. For that to happen women must feel they need to fight over men as mates, effectively that males are the harder sex to get to agree to reproduce. Considering how little it 'costs' a man to have sex (at least some men, I disagree with those that would father a child without thought of the welbeing of said child, but sadly those type of men are not in short supply) it is hard to believe that women would ever be fighting over getting a male as a mate.

Without the need to 'fight' for men some of the above, like buying drinks just to have the opportunity to start talking in hopes that maybe something will come of it, seem excessive. You basically need a system where getting male mates is as hard in your culture as getting a women to choose to be your mate is in our current culture, despite the fact that women pay a MUCH higher biological burden in raising children and thus have a much higher incentive to be selective AND a genetic predisposition to be selective which will still be present even if cultures change such that there was less of a burden on women (evolutionary psychology gets built over tens of thousands of years, it doesn't really 'catch up' with cultural changes that have been around for a mere generation). In other words it must be harder to get a male mate in your culture, and cost far more, then it is to get a female now; since your competing with biological predispositions which lean towards selective women and precocious men.

...at this point I feel I should stress that I'm talking about averages of huge populations, I stress that individuals can vary widely from this average, but culture is based on the 'average' and thus that is what were considering. I want to stress that it's usually dangerous to take any of the generalizations I use about averages and try to apply them to any single individual, male or female, and presume them to be true. Many will not fit these generalized statements.

As such the best way to believable make this happen is to work with the reasons we evolved the way we did before. Right now women pay a greater cost and are less available then men for reproduction. You need to culturally change these factors.

Phillip gave some good ideas for how to do this. Making men ultimately pay a significant financial cost for children would go a long way towards making them the sex that is selective and needs wooed; though I point out this only works if you know paternity as a certainty AND can find the man easily after the child is born, to enforce him to pay his rightful cost. That means better ways of hunting down the father and getting child support, but also making the father pay far more in child support.

The problem with the above option is that it's pretty much impossible to force the father to provide emotional support for the child (or the mother, plenty of kids are given up for adoption or just abandoned). biologically and emotionally if a man refuses to provide emotionally for the child the women is going to be placed in a position of crying for the child or abandoning them to foster care; which in this culture is seen like a horrible thing (in truth I think a newborn placed up for adoption has a very positive life outcome, going to rich families that desperately want you helps to ensure your well taken care of).

Thus I think a good solution is to tackle the other end of the spectrum. Make men less available for reproduction. The best way to do this is a well known trope in sci-fi, a sterility plauge. Make it such that men are less fertile. Only a subset of men are fertile, and they can only reproduce so much (multiple sexual partners decreases sperm count so much as to render them infertile, limited mating is required to have any chance of reproduction). This approach helps to make fertile men a higher commodity. If all women in the world desperately want children, but only a few men are capable of assisting them, then women would start fighting for the desire to 'catch' a perminate mate to have children with.

Couple the above idea with government supporting children, to prevent population from decreasing, so that there was strong incentive for women to have kids and you could get into a position where women would fight for fertile men.

Go a step further, and make women the primary bread winners or people in power (easily done using the plague option as well, via making men less common to be born due to early miscarriage of male fetuses, or due to men being relegated to 'baby making' and not having time to focus as much on a job) and you get a society that would actually objectify males sexually.

  • $\begingroup$ Yeah but give us a thousand years with complete in-vitro babies becoming the norm and there it goes. $\endgroup$
    – Hobbamok
    Sep 27, 2022 at 12:16

Men as sex symbols are possible in a world where virus killed men, unless they make themselves infertile eunuchs. Many men are around to do the work, but they are infertile and cannot make sex or procreate. The few remaining virile men are sex symbols, highly coveted by females.

Robert Merle wrote a book Virility Factor with plot like that.

  • $\begingroup$ "Men as sex symbols are possible in a world " or just in our regular, real world with the ancient greeks. $\endgroup$
    – Hobbamok
    Sep 27, 2022 at 12:13

Just throwing an idea out there, what if the gender balance was different? In a population with, say, 90% male 10% female, any woman would be able to have their pick of men, and men would need to compete to be in with a chance. This could even reverse the "harem" trope, where one woman could have a "harem" of men, since being one of a harem (of men) would give you better odds than demanding monogamy.

An example of this in practice (gender imbalance empowering women, not male harems) is in China: http://www.newsweek.com/2015/06/05/gender-imbalance-china-one-child-law-backfired-men-336435.html

"But the demographic reality of modern China—that the number of boys so greatly outnumbers the girls—has far-reaching effects. And one of them—in the social sphere, in the everyday interaction between the sexes—is empowering women. In Chinese cities, the evidence of that is pretty much everywhere.

Consider Cai Li (who asked her real name not be used in this article), a 34-year-old marketing executive in Shanghai: She is smart, engaging, hip and attractive. She is also the divorced mother of an 8-year-old girl. When she caught her husband, a Taiwanese businessman, philandering five years ago, she didn’t hesitate. “I divorced him as soon as I could,” she says. “He was shocked. He thought I wasn’t serious, that I wouldn’t do it because of our daughter. I said, ‘You’ll see.’ And within a week I had filed the papers [for divorce]. And why wouldn’t I? Why should I put up with that? I have parents here in Shanghai who help take care of my daughter. I had a good job. Plus, if I want to get remarried, it’s not as if there’s a shortage of men, even at my age, who would be interested. [My ex] was crazy to think I was going to stick around.’’

Another quote from the same article:

“I wouldn’t even go out with a guy who didn’t own a house, never mind marry him,”

This is in a population where the birth gender balance is 55% male / 45% female (peak, which was 2008, it's dropped since).

Unfortunately, this is self-correcting - now that women have more power, the birth gender balance is swinging back slightly, so you would have to have a problem that wouldn't self balance. Perhaps a fatal disease that effects girls, not boys?

Alternatively, I know some animals have a different gender balance at birth, depending on environment, or even changes in gender of living animals. Perhaps hormones released into environment, e.g. from birth control, could affect one or both of these? Bonus points for making a "1 generation delay" - babies born affected will have very few girl children themselves, so by the time anyone realizes, it's too late. People from rural areas are less (likely to be) affected.

I suspect that, even if the issue is resolved, and (another generation later) the balance is restored, the culture would have changed, and the perception will stick.

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    $\begingroup$ It's hard to say, but one thing is obvious - men fight over women anyway, even with a 50:50 balance. If women became scarcer, they would simply be fought over harder - but it would more likely result in women being considered property, rather than superior. $\endgroup$
    – Luaan
    Aug 7, 2015 at 15:13
  • $\begingroup$ The above IRL example does show women picking and choosing, and getting more power because of that. See also: royalsociety.org/news/2015/01/… - there are a number of reports like these, if you google, though perhaps they are different reports about the same study? $\endgroup$ Aug 10, 2015 at 3:13
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    $\begingroup$ True, but do note that this is an artificial situation - a reasonably safe environment with woman emancipation. They started with a ~50:50 ratio, built up their culture and economy etc., and then they forcefully changed the ratio. And note that 55:45 is still a tiny imbalance compared to 90:10 - it makes women "scarce", but you still have a decent chance of finding someone to live with. And even then, it still just means that men fight over women harder - whether that's by punching other men or by buying houses doesn't really matter all that much. $\endgroup$
    – Luaan
    Aug 10, 2015 at 6:55
  • $\begingroup$ This same change (gender balance tipping that way) could come about e.g. by disease; this may cause "Women are whistling on men, Fit guy can get free drink from a woman at a bar, Men are often treated only as sex symbols, Seeing topless man is already part of erotica world" as requested. As this is a discussion in "WorldBuilding", the details could be tweaked slightly. Yes, men will fight harder for women, and any woman can have any man they choose. But in such a society, any attack on women will be delt with harshly. $\endgroup$ Aug 10, 2015 at 22:59
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe also tweak society (technological?) to reduce the cost of sex/reproduction for women? Contraceptives are already in our society; perhaps artificial wombs being the norm (due to shortage of women)? $\endgroup$ Aug 10, 2015 at 23:01

Because it is natural!

Although there are fundamental biological facts, different societies may interpret them differently leading to seeing different behaviours as natural. The gender-swapped society is the way it is because it was always that way and people assume it was the only natural/possible way. Consider some possible answers from your gender-swapped universe saying how impossible our society would be without changing biology.

Men are natural beasts of burden -- Men are stronger than women, so obviously men would do the physical labour while women do the book learning. History was inevitably going to be written by women.

Women naturally want more men -- Polyandry was a natural response to the historical scarcity of food. (This one is even kind of backed by real world wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyandry) It is natural that women would want to have many big strong men to tend her fields. Why would men want multiple wives? Before modern agriculture and contraception, having multiple wives just meant that you had to watch yet more of your children starve. There is a reason that "Childbearing hips" were never fetishizised but "Plough-pulling thighs" were!

It is natural that women want more sex -- What is "sex" anyway? Maybe "going all the way", or "normal sex" means something other than PIV in your culture. Obviously in even our real world highly sexualized activities don't need to have much to do with baby making (consider e.g. the LGBT community). So women can have "sex" with men they don't want to breed with. Perhaps "sex" is something more physiologically pleasant for women than men. Naturally women are going to have buy men drinks to get them in the mood. There would be biological facts about nerve endings and so on that prove that "sex" is objectively more pleasant for women. Baby making sex still exists but mainly to make babies, and it may be assumed that any civilisation that sexualized making babies would have collapsed due to overpopulation.

  • $\begingroup$ This is interesting, but overlooks the most important part of sex: pregnancy/birth. Females can only be pregnant once at a time, and have to carry to term and deal with the pain/risks of pregnancy/childbirth. Males can impregnate any number of females, with zero risk or additional difficulty brought on themselves. In such a dynamic, it makes no sense for females to be wanton and males to be selective. It's well and good for different qualities to be attractive, but overall patterns of behaviour are based on outcome, and that can't be changed without significantly changing biology. $\endgroup$
    – Aos Sidhe
    Oct 4, 2023 at 20:07

What about a matriarchal society?

In Mayotte (Indian Ocean), it is customary for a family to build a house for each of their daughters1, where they will establish their family. As a result, the house belongs to the wife and provides a stable environment for her children.

Similarly, in Devlin's Luck by Patricia Bray the province of Duncaer, home to the hero, works on the same basis: only women may own land, and thus houses.

1 This tradition is all but disappearing with the French laws and a "modern" way of life arriving on the island.

Thus, let us imagine a society which has evolved in a similar way.

As they cannot own a shelter, men are dependent upon women relatives or friends, much like today children are dependent upon their parents, and therefore society pressures them into finding a woman willing to welcome them in her house that is not obligated to (much like today stay-at-home celibates are pressured). This in turns result in women having their pick of men, as unlike them they are in no hurry to find a shelter and can wait for a more suitable candidate to pass by.

Of course I would expect marriage contracts to accommodate the insecurity of men and, likely, provide either stability or reimbursement should they be forced to leave; however this does not change the fact that ultimately women would have a significant power over their husbands.

I believe that such a society could very well lead to a "gender swap" as you wished it.


How about a society where pregnant women are in high esteem? They are thought to be more intelligent, vigorous and overall more able for high qualified jobs. Just let the medicine advance a little so that women are only hindered by their pregnancy in the last month or so. The benefits have to be real big - so you only get high management positions if you are a women and if you are pregnant. And you can only hold an important political position if you are regularly pregnant.

Men are widely thought to never can reach the potential of a pregnant women - and are mostly suited for house-work or raising kids. Business women usually give their child to one of the many men they sleep with, each one thinking he is the one and will be married, instead of just getting the kid dumped on him.

This will result in it being highly attractive for a women to sleep with many men for pleasure and for a high chance of getting pregnant (and keeping her image of a highly capable women), while men would only sleep with a women which will not only use them to dump of their child on them and get themselves pregnant from someone else again. - So many man stay at home, single-handedly raising children, trying to get by a meagre wage because all higher positions are for women only. And most men only sleep with a women, if they have a prospect of marriage, because that is the only chance of getting a rich wife and having a chance she will raise the kid with you...

If you sleep with many women, 9 months later maybe you have 3 kids on your doorstep which you have to raise alone. And try to get payments for them from the three successful women with their top notch female attorneys no one will take on the case of a broke down man-whore with 3 kids...

  • $\begingroup$ You'd get really serious population problems with this one. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Aug 6, 2015 at 23:19
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    $\begingroup$ @MontyWild: You'd need some other factor to create an offsetting death rate. e.g. dragons. $\endgroup$ Aug 7, 2015 at 11:38
  • $\begingroup$ @PeterCordes An excellent Idea - and Dragons which predominantly devour children! Then everything is in balance again! $\endgroup$
    – Falco
    Aug 7, 2015 at 11:49
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    $\begingroup$ worldbuilding.SE's solution to everything - throw dragons at it! $\endgroup$
    – Pyritie
    Aug 7, 2015 at 14:44

I think you're forgetting the biological urge of men to reproduce.

As long as this biological urge remains, men will keep trying to have sex with lots of woman. Better yet, this biological urge is probably the biggest reason that gender roles are the way they are right now. Men want to show they are better than other men in order to increase their chances of fulfilling their biological needs.

If you really want men to "tame down", you will have to find a way to repress these biological needs of men. For example you could think of altered foods or certain medication that lowers testosterone levels.

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    $\begingroup$ Or simply, testosterone works differenty in his alternate world. $\endgroup$
    – Ángel
    Aug 6, 2015 at 17:21
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    $\begingroup$ In other species, we may see two males fighting over a female, because the males are both stronger - and so whoever wins can overpower the female regardless which she would actually prefer. If the female were stronger, wouldn't she be the one to fight for which one she prefers? and potentially have to fight off other females to keep him - because the males are too weak to fight for themselves. $\endgroup$ Aug 6, 2015 at 19:04
  • $\begingroup$ More likely, a world where women have plenty of eggs, but men can only ejaculated once a month in a few day period. Then men would be more likely to consider their partner, and women more likely to be hunting for the partner. $\endgroup$
    – Oldcat
    Aug 6, 2015 at 21:10
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    $\begingroup$ The question states that biology remains the same. I'm stating that you probably will need a change in biology, as your examples state. $\endgroup$
    – Deruijter
    Aug 7, 2015 at 7:11
  • $\begingroup$ @DoubleDouble No, because men only need 3 minutes to reproduce, while women need 9 months. Women wouldn't need to fight, they would take turns. $\endgroup$
    – RedSonja
    Aug 7, 2015 at 10:35

Gender roles are defined by what is masculine, and what is feminine. These are defined by physical, and social factors.

  • Masculine traits include courage, independence, and assertiveness.
  • Feminine traits include gentleness, empathy, and sensitivity.

Society is now trying to move away from labeling these traits this way, because they no longer apply to only one gender. Males or females can have masculine, feminine, or combinations of masculine and feminine traits

In the past, why were these traits encouraged in males and females by society?

  • Women stayed home, and took care of children. It worked, they could be pregnant with the next child and take care of previous children.

  • Since pregnant women were stuck at home caring for the children, men needed to do the physical activities of hunting, protecting, and providing shelter for his family. (Also, males generally being stronger physically aided them in this role)

The answer

To switch the roles, you would need males which are generally physically weaker than women, making women better at hunting and protecting the family. This means the males would be at home caring for children.

Lastly, being pregnant would have to have little to no effects on the physical activity of the women, and cause no harm to the baby.

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    $\begingroup$ Women at home, men at work is a recurring phenomenon, but it isn't the standard. It's just that it feels closer to you because we're still riding a wave from the time when it was pretty much the only way. In hunter-gatherer societies, both men and women provide for food (though commonly men do hunting while women mostly gather). In agricultural societies, both men and women worked the fields and cared for livestock. The major change came with the massive productivity increases during industrial revolution - more work done by less people -> less demand for workers -> less cost staying home. $\endgroup$
    – Luaan
    Aug 7, 2015 at 15:16
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    $\begingroup$ Right, so why did the women stay at home when that option became available? Because they were deemed "weaker", and their "role" was to raise the child. If women had been considered stronger and more intelligent, even if they are equal as they are now, they would be the ones to go earn the money and would be the ones "in charge". The "good" men would have supper ready for them when they got home and would be great caretakers, meaning they would have the feminine traits. $\endgroup$ Aug 12, 2015 at 15:30
  • $\begingroup$ I disagree with the argument that, "the biological urge of men makes this not happen" I'm seeing on every other answer. When men only get to reproduce by being great caretakers, the men with "feminine" qualities are going to be in demand - and will have to be found by outgoing women. You could even end up with societies that have one man, caring for all the children for a group of women. $\endgroup$ Aug 12, 2015 at 15:51
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    $\begingroup$ What is masculine and feminine seems to change quite a lot, actually. Yes, right now, your descriptions fits our cultures rather well. And yes, physical strength was probably considered a masculine trait in almost all cultures - however, there's been plenty that considered willpower a feminine trait, for example. And note that it's quite possible for neither of the pair to be at home - in hunter-gatherer societies, women often go out gathering with their children (though yes, it seems that female hunters were much less common), and grandmothers may have taken care of babies. $\endgroup$
    – Luaan
    Aug 12, 2015 at 19:12

Although this isn't a satisfying answer per se, you could invent just about any excuse you wanted. There are two questions here, one implicit and one explicit. One is 'how to make a world with the stated criteria that people will believe?' to which the answer (as you can see from the variety of the answers above and the frank disagreements in the comments) depends greatly upon the audience.

The other (implicit) question that some of the other answers attempt to address is 'how could this actually happen in real life?' which is not necessarily answerable: we don't know how much of our gender role concepts are 'hardwired'. We can't say 'gender trait x is a societal construct' or 'gender trait y is a result of natural selection/pre-historic conditions'. We simply don't know how much influence our biology has on our behavior vs. the influence societal memes have on our behavior (not to mention the ongoing interaction between the two).

The narratives we construct to explain these differences are interesting (and appropriate for this site) but short of non-informed consent generational human experimentation we aren't going to have a 'hard-science' answer.


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