From the blog Orthodox Christian Meets World a post entitled "The Early Church Tradition of Separate Seating: Ancient Practice, Not a Cultural Anomaly." It's a few years old, but was just brought to my attention yesterday. Gender-based arrangement of people in the nave is not a topic that comes up too often. Most of our parishes in the US don't follow this practice, though some do. I remember going to a monastery with some fellow seminarians and having one of our number asked to move over to the other side because "You're on the ladies side." It was more amusing than embarrassing. Once called to your attention it's really not easy to forget as the Church even gives us handy signage - Theotokos side, and Christ side. So it was with interest that I read this article from a Coptic gentleman on the topic. Enjoy.
St. Augustine (c. AD 354–430) described the chastity displayed in the churches of his time, and used the separate seating of men and women as an example:
Some see this practice of separate seating as a cultural matter with no place in the Church today and lump it together with other cultural elements within different Orthodox jurisdictions that they believe should be done away with, in the spirit of accommodating for modern culture and keep from “turning off” newcomers.
The practice of separate seating has nothing to do with culture and has everything to do with maintaining a practice that has been around since even before the early Church, irrespective of culture, meant to inhibit the natural tendency to be distracted around members of the opposite sex, so as to preserve modesty and attention during worship...