I agree that there is a biological imperative, but our cultural narrative about cavemen dragging women by the hair is a myth.

Men have never controlled women until 10K years ago, that’s only 3% of human history. What was happening with biology for all of that time before then?

“Myth: Women are biologically programmed for monogamy, whereas men are programmed to spread their seed far and wide.

Truth: Current research indicates that women get bored with monogamy, even before men do (4) and are biologically driven to be that way. If women were biologically geared towards monogamy, it would not have been necessary to institute laws and customs to keep them away from other potential mating opportunities once there was a greater focus on having heirs to pass property along to.

When Darwin observed that females of many species were naturally coy and choosy and reticent, sexually speaking, and males were naturally competitive and randy, he set us on a course by distorting the lens through which we view behavior. What we know today thanks to mostly female primatologists, anthropologists, and sex researchers is that when the context is right, female sexuality is assertive, adventurous, and what we call “promiscuous.”

The great anthropologist and comparativist Sarah Hrdy tells us that, across species, including among humans, the best mother for many eons was the one who was, under particular and far-from-rare ecological circumstances, promiscuous. By being so, she could hedge against male infertility, up her odds of a healthy pregnancy and robust offspring, and create a wider network of support by lining up two or three males who figured the offspring might be theirs. (5)

Partible paternity, where a woman mates with several men, who are then all considered partial fathers of the offspring, still takes place in lowland South America. “Among the Bari of Venezuela, many women, but not all, take lovers during their pregnancy. They later identify these men as secondary fathers of their children. In this case, “possession of a secondary father was associated with a heightened probability that a pregnancy would eventually produce an adult Bari individual,”(6)”

Also, rape is not about mating instinct; it’s about power and domination, which is a function of living in a dominance hierarchy. Rates of rape are much higher in poorer areas, and this is worldwide. Why? Because the people living there feel less in control of their lives, more marginalized by society, and they are looking to exert dominance of at least somebody. The story I published yesterday was about how around the world 6 women are killed every hour by someone they know. Much of this is intimate partner violence but some is “honor killings” or related to dowry disputes. In other words, it’s not just intimate partners, but often other family members. This is all related to looking at women and girls as possessions to be controlled. Dominance hierarchy, in other words, patriarchy.

So, recapping, for most of human history, we had social structures that held in check any aggressive male instincts (the kind of checks we see in modern hunter-gatherers). And we also have modern matrilineal societies where men are valued as partners but do not have primacy, where the foundation of the society is not geared around them and their paternity is sometimes even considered irrelevant. And then we have cultures like the Bari where several men are considered to be the fathers of a child, how does this track with what is considered a more Darwinian explanation of human behavior? I don’t think that all of that can be discounted in favor of pure biological instinct.

I think I might turn all this into a stand-alone story to help continue the discussion. I won’t mention you by name, just your perspective if that’s alright with you.

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Dispelling cultural myths with research-driven stories. My favorite word is “specious.” Not fragile like a flower; fragile like a bomb! Twitter @ElleBeau

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