History, Human Rights, Recommended, Social Science, Women

A Girl’s Place in the World

Worth mentioning here is the way in which the boy’s plight differs from the girl’s in almost every known society. Whatever the arrangements in regard to descent or ownership of property…the prestige values always attach to the occupations of men.
—Margaret Mead, Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies, 1935

It is no exaggeration to say that the greatest obsession in history is that of man with woman’s body.
—David D. Gilmore, Misogyny, 2001

In the volume Gender Rituals: Female Initiation in Melanesia, anthropologist Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin recounts meeting a woman who had undergone a male initiation among the Central Iatmul fisher-foragers of Papua New Guinea. One day years back, when the woman was a young, pre-pubescent girl visiting her mother’s village of Tigowi, she had climbed a Malay apple tree to get some fruit. At that moment, two men were blowing flutes in a fenced-off enclosure nearby and saw the girl in the tree. This was a serious matter, as the flutes were meant to be kept secret from the women and children, who were never supposed to see the men’s sacred instruments. The men dragged the young girl back to the men’s house, where she was gang-raped. She was then scarified and given a limited version of the men’s initiation ceremony, where she learned the secrets of the men’s house and their sacred musical instruments.

When she was finally allowed to leave, she was given a tiny loin covering instead of the grass skirt women were usually granted after going through their own initiation. “Her mother cried at her daughter’s state when she returned and immediately brought her back to Palimbei [a different village],” Hauser-Schäublin writes, adding that,

Although she had gained what was considered culturally important ritual knowledge, the woman nonetheless felt degraded, dishonored, derided, and incredibly shamed. Thereafter, she led a rather disorganized life, and the way she related her story to me, many decades after, mirrored the feelings she must have experienced and a suffering from which she never really had recovered. I recorded a similar instance in Aibom village. In both cases, the initiation was meant, and experienced, as a severe punishment and stigmatization. By retrospectively legitimating the discovery of male secrets, more-over, the practice seems to have been intended also to protect them. Were the girls not initiated, they would have passed what they had discovered on to others. Initiation, however, ensured that they would never do so.

Male cults where men would punish women with rape or execution for intruding on their rituals can be found across cultures all over the world, from hunter-gatherers to agricultural societies. Among the Arunta hunter-gatherers of Australia, anthropologist Walter Baldwin Spencer tells the story of a woman who, desperately thirsty, ventured near a water-hole to drink, and inadvertently saw the men’s sacred pool and ceremonial stone. The men decided to punish her with gang-rape, “a punishment which is not infrequently inflicted after the committal of some serious offence, as an alternative to that of being put to death. In consequence of this men of all classes had intercourse with her, and when this was over she was returned to her proper Unawa man [husband],” Spencer writes.

Of the Mundurucu horticulturalists of the Amazon, “the men consciously state that they use the penis to dominate their women,” write anthropologists Yolanda and Robert Murphy, noting again the practice of men punishing the women who witness their rituals or sacred objects with gang-rape (in this case flutes, similar to the Central Iatmul of Papua New Guinea). We see the same phenomenon with the Mehinaku fisher-horticulturalists, also of the Amazon.

Anthropologist Thomas Gregor’s first introduction to the men’s house was given to him by a Mehinaku man, who informed him that, “You are in the house of the spirit Kauka. Those are his sacred flutes. Women may not see anything in here. If a woman comes in, then all the men take her into the woods and she is raped. It has always been that way.” Itsanakwalu, a young Mehinaku woman in her early twenties later would tell Gregor personally that, “I don’t want to see the sacred flutes. The men would rape me. I would die. Do you know what happened to the Waura woman who saw it? All the men raped her. She died later.”

While the punishments enacted by these men’s cults are extreme, they reflect larger, cross-culturally common efforts—individually or collectively—by males to constrain female autonomy and control their sexuality.

In his work examining ethnographic evidence from 190 hunter-gatherer societies, evolutionary psychologist Menlaos Apostolou notes the prevalence of arranged marriages, writing that across these societies “the institution of marriage is regulated by parents and close kin. Parents are able to influence the mating decisions of both sons and daughters, but stronger control is exercised with regard to daughters; male parents have more say in selecting in-laws than their female counterparts.” As anthropologist Janice Stockard writes of !Kung hunter-gatherer populations in southern Africa, “Traditionally in the !Kung San, marriage is a relationship among a husband and wife and the wife’s father and is at the outset firmly based on compatibility between the two men.”

Apostolou further reports that female age at first marriage tends to be at the onset of puberty or earlier across the vast majority of the societies in his sample, and notes that these “Arranged marriages usually take the form of parents or close kin “giving away” their female relatives after negotiations with the male or his relatives. As such, males are allowed much more autonomy to exercise mate choice than females.” Anthropologist Lewis Binford’s 2001 volume Constructing Frames of Reference includes data on age at marriage across nearly 200 hunter-gatherer societies, and across these societies the average age at first marriage is recorded as 14 for girls, and 21 for boys. These patterns of male-biased marriage arrangements may also help explain the prevalence of polygyny across societies. Anthropologist Frank Marlowe writes:

Among all 186 societies in the SCCS [Standard Cross-Cultural Sample, a globally representative sample of human societies that includes hunter-gatherers, horticulturalists, pastoralists, farmers, etc], there is greater polygyny where female marriages are arranged but not where male marriages are arranged, suggesting that marriage arrangement is a form of male coercion and a way parents can benefit by supplying the most influential males with brides.

Anthropologist Robert S. Walker and his colleagues attempted to reconstruct ancestral patterns of marriage using modern hunter-gatherer data, and their results indicate that arranged marriages are likely to go back “at least to first modern human migrations out of Africa.” Even hunter-gatherer societies considered to practice courtship marriages still may have arranged marriages among them. For example, Walker et al. code the Mbuti of Central Africa as practicing courtship marriage, but in his ethnographic work The Forest People (1961), anthropologist Colin Turnbull describes a Mbuti girl being publicly beaten by her brother until she accepts her place in a “sister-exchange” marriage arrangement:

One morning the village camp was awakened to the sound of terrified screaming from the house directly opposite mine, where Yambabo was sleeping. I looked out of my window and saw Kenge dragging his sister out of the hut by one arm, pulling her over the ground and shouting to the camp that she was no good and should be killed. He pointed to her breasts and said that she had enough milk to feed a dozen children, why did she refuse to marry? Yambabo was as strong as a buffalo, he continued, so why did she refuse to work? He then gave what he considered could be the only reason, which was extremely personal and uncomplimentary. Yambabo tried to get to her feet to hit him, but every time she began struggling he simply thumped her on the back with his fist, still keeping a tight hold of her with his other hand. People came sleepily out of their huts to watch, all rather agreeing that Yambabo really should have married long ago and deserved a brotherly beating. Encouraged by this, Kenge began kicking her, and she responded by biting him in the leg. Moke tried to intervene, but it was no good. Kenge was ready for murder, and by the time he had finished with Yambabo she was a sorry sight, scratched and bleeding, with one eye swollen. And still she refused to marry Taphu. From that morning on, we all accepted the fact that Kenge was going to continue beating his sister until she gave in, and it was just a question of how long she could hold out.

Eventually, Yambabo’s own mother began publicly beating her as well, wanting her to accept the marriage so Kenge could get married to Taphu’s sister. “Her mother slapped her once more and asked her if she would marry Taphu or not. Yambabo, with a final wail of protest that everyone had treated her so badly that she would surely die, gave up the battle and said that she would marry Taphu, or anyone else for that matter,” Turnbull writes.

Men (and, less often, women as well) across societies all over the world have used violence in an attempt to control women’s reproductive outcomes and limit the choices available to them, and in many circumstances, men have benefited from doing so. As primatologist Barbara Smuts noted, “Male aggression against females in primates, including humans, often functions to control female sexuality to the male’s reproductive advantage.” Anthropologist Jonathan Stieglitz and his colleagues found that among the Tsimané forager-horticulturalists of Bolivia, “IPV [intimate partner violence] predicts higher fertility for both higher—and lower-status men…these findings indicate that Tsimané men across the status continuum strategically use IPV to achieve higher marital fertility.”

Looking at societies across the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample, Apostolou found examples of men across the majority of societies severely attacking their wives when they believed they were being cheated on. Apostolou writes that, “When the female is discovered to have committed adultery, she is usually punished by her husband (71% of the cases). Severe punishment, which may include the death of the female, is the most frequent form of punishment across societies, with no punishment or mild punishment being the rarest one.” Anthropologist Riana Minocher and her colleagues found that assault frequency is a predictor strongly associated with polygyny in the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample, illustrating the multiple ways men sometimes use coercion and violence to obtain more favorable mating and marriage arrangements.

These manifestation of male dominance in intersexual conflict can be found at all social scales throughout human history. In the volume Ancient Siege Warfare, Paul Bentley Kern writes that, “Perhaps the dominant theme in the representation of siege warfare in Greek literature is rape,” noting that it is a “constant theme of Homer and the tragic poets.” Similarly, the common pattern of warfare across small-scale societies is that while opposing adult male warriors tend be killed, women and children are often captured and incorporated into the group. I have previously discussed the widespread evidence of wife capture found across hunter-gatherer societies all over the world throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.

Anthropologist John J. Honigmann discusses an example among the Kaska foragers of British Columbia, writing that, “Women and children formed the bulk of the prisoners. Mostly the children were killed during the homeward journey… Women captives became wives who initially had to be carefully watched or tied lest they seek to escape.”

We can see another example in the Old Testament, where it is written that “The Israelites captured the Midianite women and children and took all the Midianite herds, flocks and goods as plunder,” and Moses himself demands of the commanders of the army: “Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man” (Numbers 31).

These patterns are further reflected in genetic data. In his 2016 book Who We Are and How We Got Here, geneticist David Reich discusses the phenomenon of sex-asymmetric population mixture during human history, noting that “the common thread is that males from populations with more power tend to pair with females from populations with less.” And, as Reich makes clear, these patterns were often the result of highly coercive pairings enforced by men, in contexts where women had limited ability to exercise choice. For example,

Comparison of Y-chromosome and mitochondrial DNA types that are highly different in frequency between African Americans and Europeans also shows that by far the majority of the European ancestry in these populations comes from males, the result of social inequality in which mixed-race couplings were primarily between free males and female slaves.

Understanding these trends that we see across human societies requires a careful consideration of our evolutionary history, and the constraints imposed by this history. Based on their analysis of intersexual dominance status and dimorphism across 79 primate species, anthropologist Rebecca Lewis and her colleagues conclude that “High [sexual] dimorphism probably characterized the catarrhine LCA [the Last Common Ancestor of Old World monkeys and apes], which constrained dominance relationships within this clade and helps explain why living catarrhines are primarily male dominant.” Similarly, in their review investigating obstacles and opportunities for female leadership across 76 nonhuman mammal species, evolutionary biologist Jennifer E. Smith and her colleagues write that, “The paucity of female-biased leadership across multiple domains is evident across the other primates, suggesting that male-biased leadership within the primate lineage has deep evolutionary roots and perhaps imposes a phylogenetic (historical) constraint on its evolution.”

We also share some important similarities with other closely related apes in the context of intersexual conflict. Primatologist Augustin Fuentes writes that his “overview of chimpanzee data suggests that we probably share with them the potential for severe aggression between groups and male coercion of females.” Even among bonobos, who are co-dominant and even relatively female-dominant in comparison with most other mammals, sexual coercion by males has been observed. Primatologist Klaree Boose described their findings studying a captive population of bonobos housed at Columbus Zoo, Ohio for about eight months, writing that,

We observed 56 attempts of direct sexual coercion performed by two males with a combined success rate of 71.4%. Of the two males who engaged in direct sexual coercion behaviors, the son of the alpha female (Gander) participated in direct sexual coercion events significantly more than any other male.

The generally high status that females are able to obtain among bonobos, as well as female coalitions that form to protect against male violence, may reduce the prevalence of sexual coercion, but males with high-status mothers seem to be able to get away with it against more subordinate females.

When it comes to the evolutionary factors that may have contributed to the sex bias in political leadership that we see across human societies, anthropologist Chris von Rueden and his colleagues write that;

Why women and men have differed in access to overt forms of political leadership across human societies may be due in part to sexual selection, on body size and on behaviors related to parenting, status competition, and coalition-building. The cross-cultural sexual division of labor emerges from (but is not justified by) such sex differences, affording men greater opportunity to compete for political leadership while restricting women’s opportunity.

Men tend to be bigger and stronger than women are. Males tend to benefit more from engaging in violence—both individually and in groups—and they can reap greater fitness benefits through mating with different partners than females do, as women’s reproductive output is more constrained by lactation and gestation time. Further, humans are a species with particularly helpless infants, who often require significant material investments from males to survive, unlike most other mammals. Across human societies, children often inherit material and nonmaterial traits or resources from parents and ancestors—like social status, lineage identity, and property—planting an even stronger importance for men to secure paternal certainty, otherwise they risk devoting substantial resources to unrelated children, which in many circumstances would hamper their own fitness interests. This has led to common domains of intersexual conflict found across the world, exhibited in phenomena like rape and bride capture, arranged child marriages and polygyny, and intimate partner violence.

Female Zulu virgins take part in a reed dance in South Africa for their king. Photo: Retlaw Snellac

Anthropologists have sometimes been insufficiently attentive to these patterns of sex inequality in many small-scale, and particularly hunter-gatherer, societies. For example, Anthropologist Richard B. Lee claims in a recent review that nomadic hunter-gatherers are characterized by “balanced gender relations,” yet in his own volume on the Ju/’hoansi hunter-gatherers of South Africa he notes that,

All first marriages are arranged by parents, and the girls have little say in the matter. If the choice is unpopular, the girls will show their displeasure by kicking and screaming, a way of asserting their independent voice in decision making against the alliance of parents and potential husband. If they protest long and hard enough, the marriage will be called off. The fact that close to half of all first marriages fail among the Ju/′hoansi is eloquent testimony to the independence of Ju women from both parents and husbands. In some cases girls have been known to attempt suicide rather than allow a marriage to be consummated. [emphasis added]

Similarly, anthropologist Catheryn Townsend discusses putatively ‘noncompetitive egalitarian societies’, which are purported to have “relatively equal social representation between different gender and age groups.” She includes, among others, the previously mentioned Mbuti and Ju/’hoansi as examples of these ‘noncompetitive egalitarian societies’, as well as the Hadza of East Africa. However, anthropologist James Woodburn writes that among the Hadza, “The most frequent occasion for the emergence of a rigidly segregated sexual group is the eating of epeme meat (manako ma epeme) by the men. Epeme meat usually consists of the most desirable portions of each game animal killed.” Woodburn describes the epeme feasts where, “The initiated men of the camp take a clay pot and go with the meat behind a large rock or a couple of hundred yards out of camp in order to be out of sight of the women and children.” Woodburn notes further that the men threaten the women with beatings and rape should they intrude on their secret feasts. Many of the men’s cults discussed at the beginning of this article would similarly monopolize access to valued resources and often require the women to contribute food to their secret rituals, claiming it was meant to feed spirit-gods and ancestors.

Despite these omissions from more recent anthropological accounts, many (particularly female) anthropologists wrote important theoretical work on the question of male dominance in human societies back in the 1970-1990s. Anthropologist Michelle Zimbalist Rosaldo, echoing and expanding on Mead’s remark in the epigraph of this article, wrote in 1973;

But what is perhaps most striking and surprising is the fact that male, as opposed to female, activities are always recognized as predominately important, and cultural systems give authority and value to the roles and activities of men. Contrary to some popular assumptions, there is little reason to believe that there are, or once were, societies of primitive matriarchs, societies in which women predominated in the same way that men predominate in the societies we actually know.

Similarly, anthropologist Sarah Hrdy criticized explanations for male dominance in human societies that focus primarily on socialization, or otherwise miss its evolutionary foundations, writing in her 1981 book The Woman That Never Evolved that such explanations,

cannot explain sexual asymmetry in even one other species. Yet male dominance characterizes the majority of several hundred other species that, like our own, belong to the order Primates. Save for a handful of highly informative exceptions, sexual asymmetries are nearly universal among primates. Logic alone should warn us against explaining such a widespread phenomenon with reference only to a specialized subset of human examples.

Having noted these evolutionary, historical, and cross-cultural patterns, perhaps we are left with the task of considering where that leaves us today, in our own societies.

In his 1973 work The Inevitability of Patriarchy, sociologist Steven Goldberg was, in my view, broadly on the right track in recognizing the ubiquity of male dominated power structures across societies historically. However, Goldberg also made a significant error. He noted that even the ‘post-industrial’ societies at the time had highly male dominated political structures, and argued that this was unlikely to change in the future. He made much of the fact that, for example, “In the United States there are no women senators,” and that women constituted only 3 percent of the members of the House of Representatives at the time. Yet in 2019 women make up 25% of senators and 23.4% of the members of the House of Representatives. Goldberg found a trend and turned it into a rule, believing it to be a law.

As we can see, some patterns have changed considerably in recent decades. As Hrdy recognizes, modern advances toward sex equality reside on a “unique foundation of historical conditions, values, economic opportunities, heroism on the part of women who fought for suffrage, and perhaps especially technological developments which led to birth control and labor-saving devices and hence minimized physical differences between the sexes.”

Having learned from Goldberg’s mistake, I would caution against attempting to predict what the future holds based on these historical patterns, or, conversely, overly extrapolating from the more recent changes identified by Hrdy. Our evolutionary history continues to leave its mark, yet the socioecological and cultural forces that contribute to human variation can act in unpredictable ways.”

William Buckner is a student of evolutionary anthropology at UC Davis. He can be followed on Twitter @Evolving_Moloch.


  1. Joshua McClain says

    All that to say what exactly…? He left out how Judeo-Christian religion has influenced generations of men to see women as equals in a society. He ignorantly assumes rape from Numbers 31, which breaks Deuteronomical law that all Jews followed. He speeds through the reasons for this observational change. It’s my usual complaint with anthropologists, they observe and report without coming to any conclusions rendering their findings useless in my opinion. I could tell you sitting from my stoop that men are physically stronger than women and can dominate them any which way. What’s more interesting is how men, go against their basic instinct and begin to value women in a society. It has nothing to do with “technological developments, the pill/abortion, or labor saving devices”, and everything to do with a civilized God ordering his creation through Divine Revelation, the Bible. It’s immoral to look at other cultures and say “that’s interesting, they just raped that little girl, i wonder why they did that…”. That society is clearly debased and should be corrected.

    • Just Me says

      Understanding the evolutionary underpinnings of human behavior is useful in evaluating why and how it can also vary across cultures.

      There are more and less male dominant societies, realizing how much worse others are can make us appreciate our own more, and ask the right questions, i.e., what are the factors that make a society more or less male dominant, more or less egalitarian, more or less oppressive, etc.

      Yes, western society has been one of the better ones for women, comparatively speaking, in large part because of the tempering influence of Christianity. Women have always had an important role in social life, unlike, for example, societies where women were kept behind closed doors and had no contact with the outside world.

      • Peter from Oz says

        Just Me

        ”Yes, western society has been one of the better ones for women, comparatively speaking”
        Not that the feminazis will ever admit this.

        • Tom More says

          Just for fun and based upon my study of Western thought and philosophy I’ll throw out as fact that the only fully coherent and solid worldview is that of the Roman Catholic Church. Particularly in its Aristotelian formulations where even the hope of sanity lies. I’ll go put on my armoured suit and helmet now. And please resist the current scandals temptation. It hasn’t worked since St. Peter. OK… start slinging!

        • Chloe McLaren says

          Wow, that’s what you got from this sickening summary of female subjugation? A chance to take a stab at feminists? Sheesh.

      • Craig Willms says

        “Yes, western society has been one of the better ones for women, comparatively speaking, in large part because of the tempering influence of Christianity. ”

        And yet the constant drumbeat that the western man and Christianity are worst things this world has ever seen.

      • Jonah Mann says

        Are you familiar with the Theory of Regal and Kungic Societal Structures? It is also known as Regality Theory. Agner Fog explains it quite well in his book “Warlike and Peaceful Societies: the interaction of Genes and Culture.” I highly recommend it.

      • GSW says

        I assume, James, that you were triggered to your outburst of f-bomb eloquence by the notion that Christian notions of equality/individualism might be more important than anthropological/biological determinism in explaining the historical development of male-female relations in western societies. If you are able to manage reading a few multi-syllable words, I suggest beginning with Larry Siedentop’s Inventing the Individual.


        • “Inventing the Individual” is magnificent work. I came across Siedentop in recommendations whilst browsing books by Thomas Sowell. I bought it as soon as I read the index. I am now reading it like one would a very good and profound book: slowly. I love coming to Quilette, filled with thoughtful, independent thinkers.

        • Just Me says


          Charles Taylor’s Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity


          Chapter 3 in particular analyses the influence of the Protestant emphasis on the value of the ordinary life:

          “The ethics of honour and glory…is subjected to a withering critique in the 17th century, its goals are denounced as vainglory and vanity, as the fruits of an almost childish presumption…[others had made similar points, but] what eventually gives this critique its historical significance as an engine of social change is the new promotion of ordinary life…a new model of civility appears in the 18th century …” p.214

          “we have to return to a theological point of origin. The affirmation of ordinary life finds its origin in Judeao-Christian spirituality,…” p. 215

          • Just Me says

            Another book that might be of interest to those interested in these issues:

            Orlando Peterson’s Freedom in the Making of Western Culture:


            “Mr. Patterson shows it was only in Western societies that the institution of slavery produced a new awareness of the value of freedom. …

            … Greek males became uniquely aware of the privileges of their personal freedom through the insistence of the women in their society. In Greek literature, even though most of it is written by men, women continually make critical decisions and speak out on significant issues. It is the Trojan women (not their men) who, as survivors of the war with the Greeks, are left to complain that now as slaves they are as good as dead. In “The Trojan Women” of Euripides they describe what it is like to live as captives and menial servants in a foreign land. It is Antigone who rebels against orders that she considers wrong; as a woman she is powerless to change them, so she chooses, however reluctantly, to die rather than obey. In Sophocles’ play her attitude is contrasted with that of the slavish guard, whose main concern is not to be punished by King Creon; to save his own skin he carries out the King’s orders, even though he knows they are wrong.”


            “Patterson goes on to track his three variants of liberty through Roman times (in which he finds slavery having a different, but still important, impact), the early Christian era, and Medieval Europe. One of his more important points is how the Christian concept of spiritual equality undermined the institution of slavery, creating “a major crisis for the entire system” as early as A.D. 700.”


      • Aylwin says


        A fascinating piece, but now with a stupid comments trail because some parochially minded faith victim gets in early with the trite “Judeo Christian values” meme.

      • scribblerg says

        James – Really? That’s how you enter a conversation? You should be banned from here for that, I hope the mods catch it. What’s wrong with you?

    • Blue Lobster says

      One of the more humorous Quillette comments. Well said!

    • Andrew Worth says

      Joshua McClain, stick to your faith, leave the science to those that understand science.

      • GSW says

        “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

        Albert Einstein

        • Andrew Worth says

          GSW, I see no substance to your Einstein quote.

          • Rick Rolled says

            Seems you don’t understand either science or Einstein

          • Andrew Worth says

            Rick Rolled, Einstein said he was not a believer in a personal God, described himself as agnostic and didn’t believe in an afterlife, he was also a strict determinist, he had what he described as a “cosmic religion”, and of course he struggled to accept quantum theory. I don’t put any more weight in Einsteins “religion” than any other, so place no particular value in the quote of his mentioned above, but since you apparently understand it and value his religious ideas so highly please go ahead and enlighten us.

        • Tom More says

          So true. Faith is a reasoned assent of the will. The idea that it is subational is held in blind Faith. As Aquinas said. “If it is against reason it is sinful.” They started the first “universities” in faith that the universe is intelligible as the work of Reason. Final causation.

      • Stephen Phillips says

        Science cannot provide all the answers to the way society structures itself or the way humans interact.
        Some objective observation of the moral codes that humans self impose is useful to understanding their subsequent actions and the result on society’s structures.
        Humans have self regulated their behaviour in all societies to realise a stable secure future.
        The people of PNG do it independently of external religious sources.
        Western society has self imposed moral and ethical standards that are radically different. It is the why that Joshua has outlined.
        You do not have to believe in a Christian concept of God to recognise that the Bible has had the most influence over Western society. The concepts of all people (Men in the Bible but meaning everyone in the parlance of the time) having equal status is directly drawn from the Bible. The idea that we should value and treat everyone as we would ant to be treated (equality) is Bible based.
        These concepts have no equal in most other societies.

        • Andrew Worth says

          Stephen Phillips Hierarchies exist in all human societies. The enlightenment, which is the actual foundation of things like The Rule of Law, had little to nothing to do with the Christianity of 1700 years that preceded it. The more we’ve learned about human psychology the more we’ve come to understand the innate evolution produced rules that govern our actions.

          • GSW says

            “The enlightenment, which is the actual foundation of things like The Rule of Law, had little to nothing to do with the Christianity of 1700 years that preceded it.” @Andrew Worth

            Thanks for sharing this knee-slapper. I’d encourage you to keep them coming but quite obviously you need no encouragement whatsoever.

          • Charlie says

            St Wilfred in about 1008 AD in Bristol, preached against slavery. The development of schools, hospitals and welfare in Europe was undertaken by monasteries. St Bartholomew’s Hospital was founded in 1123 AD and is still in use. Locke wrote the “Reasonableness of Christianity . Newton was scientist who considered he was involved in studying God’s Creation and His Laws. Wren was also a Christian.

            The Enlightenment in Britain after F Bacon and created by Newton, Hooke, Locke and Wren and others is about using the faculty of reason to better understand God’s Creation, not refute God. The Anglican Church is content with Newton’s work and he is buried In Westminster Cathedral. The French Revolution is in part a reaction to the Roman Catholic Church.

            The rule of Law starts with Aethelbert of Kent in about 657 AD and was influenced by The Bible. The Bible influenced all laws drafted in England from Athelbert’s time, especially Alfred and Edward.. By the time of Magna Carta in 1215 AD, there are almost 550 years of the evolution of The Rule of Law. William Conqueror banned the sales of humans on Christian grounds in England.

            Christianity has influenced The Laws, thought – Roger Bacon, William of Occam, the development of science( Newton, Priestley, banking ( The Quakers and other NCs ), The Industrial Revolution( most were Quakers, Dissenters, Non- Conformists ) and the Labour Party up to the time of J Callaghan who was a Sunday School teacher.

        • Andrew Roddy says

          @Andrew Worth
          Einstein was not infallible but it’s generally acknowledged that he was unusually thoughtful. His comments on where science belongs in the human scheme were deeply considered. If he was a regular commenter on Quillette I believe I might put more store by his insight than some other contributions.
          ‘The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, the rational mind a faithful servant’.
          This, alongside the above quote you referenced, offer us clear and succinct access to a prevailing theme in his thinking.

          • Andrew Worth says

            Andrew Roddy, catchy little quotes can be lots of fun and people like to use them to sound very scholarly. But unless they’re somehow put into the context of the discussion their use is really just narcissistic hot air, I’ve asked Rick Rolled to enlighten us as to why the previous Einstein quote is so significant to this discussion because I don’t see how it is, so far no reply. Now you’ve offered up another Einstein which is as far as I can tell also just another example of someone using a quote from a well regarded person in an attempt to sound highbrow and sophisticated, perhaps you could do what Rick Rolled has so far failed to do and enlighten us as to why your Einstein quote is of some value and relevance to the discussion.

      • Peter from Oz says

        I’m intrigued why you, like so many others, put the definite article before the word ”science.” It seems a redudnacy to me. You could have said ”leave science …” and the sentence would have made perfect sense. WHen you put ”the” into the mix, you make it a sneering awful little utterance, as if there can only be one science, the science that you think is best, but probably don’t really know much about. You are thus bowled over by the fallacy of appeal to authority.
        E=MC2 is not science (not even the science). It is a fact worked out by using reason. The method for working out the fact, by hypothesis and experimentation is science. We privilege the facts we get from using science because we recognise that those who work out the facts have approached their work in a systematic, unemotional and detailed fashion.
        But of course there is no agreement as to what science is. A lot of people say that physics and chemistry are sciences, but that psychology is not, because of the difficulty in replicating the results of psychological experiments.
        A lot of people have tried to use the scientific method when dealing with areas of knowledge that really can’t be reducedto verfiable facts. Economics is one of these areas. Marxist politics is another. I think the consensus is that although some economists and marxists try to use the scientific method, they are not engaged in science.

        • Andrew Roddy says

          @Andrew Worth
          Are you in a bad mood or is that response reflective of your default nature?

          • Andrew Worth says

            Andrew Roddy.
            Must just be in a bad mood, but you can easily change that with an interesting and challenging line of reasoning.

          • Andrew Roddy says

            @Andrew Worth
            It’s not that I don’t appreciate the offer but I am content to let you modify your own mood as you see fit.

          • Andrew Roddy says

            @Andrew Worth

            Thanks for the offer but I am somehow content to let you modify, or live with, your own mood as you see fit.

          • Andrew Worth says

            Well really Andrew Roddy, if you didn’t want to trigger me why on earth did you fire such an appallingly banal and inane comment at me in the first place??
            (Just messing with you) 😉

      • Joshua McClain says

        Hi Andrew, I appreciate your comment and want to take it as sincere. In that spirit, I don’t differentiate between faith and science. Both inform the other in a holistic understanding of the world. My worldview understands the use of Anthropological science in order to understand the world, but my worldview doesn’t allow me to stop there. My observations must be informed by my morality. To separate them would, in my opinion invalidate the very reason for the science.

        • Andrew Worth says

          Thank you for your reply Joshua and thank you for your perspective on Science, faith and morality. I’ll just reply by trying to outline my equivalent perspective on such things with the foundation I’ve build that perspective on.

          You: “I don’t differentiate between faith and science.”

          Perhaps I don’t understand your meaning here, to me faith and science are very different and can’t reasonably not be differentiated between. I’ll just refer you to typical definitions:

          Faith: Strong belief in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof.

          Science: The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.

          So evidently they’re quite different creatures and to me not differentiating between them would be equivalent to not differentiating between a cow and a ghost. So I guess I just don’t understand your not differentiating between the two.

          You: “Both inform the other in a holistic understanding of the world.”

          OK, I don’t have any faith that I’m aware of (as I’ve seen the word usually defined), but the world makes sense to me, I can understand the natural world in terms of science and I understand peoples morality, actions and opinions as a product of human nature and culturally based behaviors, even religion and faith I can classify as a product of the evolution of humans as social animals that evolved in an environment that produced intense life and death competition between competing tribes. In such an environment customs including religion that strengthened in group loyalty and cohesion were evolutionary speaking assets that enhanced the chances of the tribe surviving against competing tribes.
          So I don’t get my understanding of the world enhanced by religious faith, indeed I see such faith as undermining understanding of the world.

          You: “My worldview understands the use of Anthropological science in order to understand the world, but my worldview doesn’t allow me to stop there. My observations must be informed by my morality.”

          My morality is principally based in my human instincts, these instincts are common to all humans, and the instinct based moral rules are the same the world over, which are protect the in-group and stick to the in-group rules, if there’s an out-group they should be treated with skepticism, increasingly so if there’s hostility between your in-group and the out-group.

          Other moral codes I see as being super imposed on these innate human codes, these other codes are the product of the specific environment our tribe exists in (including things like religion, wealth, technology, external threats and of course history), unlike the innate moral codes that are a product of evolution, these cultural moral codes vary over time and between and within societies. So homosexuality can be immoral to one generation and moral to the next, eating animals can be moral to some people within a society and immoral to others in that same society.

          You: “To separate them would, in my opinion invalidate the very reason for the science.”

          The reason for science is to enhance our understanding of the natural world, a better understanding of the world strengthens the tribes chances of survival, we have a survival instinct, if we didn’t we wouldn’t exist. Humans trying to better understand the natural world is as old as humans.

        • Tom More says

          As philosopher Ed Feser shows the worst moment in western intellectual history was when we abandoned realism in the 14th century, and then Aristotle which left us wonderfully stupid. ” The Unintended Reformation by Notre Dame’s Gregory is a masterpiece.

    • Ruth Henriquez Lyon says

      You wrote, “Men go(ing) against their basic instinct. . .has. . .everything to do with a civilized God ordering his creation through . . . the Bible.”

      Right. . .just like the story in Judges 19 about how the Ephraimite and the Levite, who is visiting him with his concubine, put the concubine out to be gang raped by the men surrounding the house. Also don’t forget the Ephraimite offered his own daughter to put outside the house too — that’s real hospitality. I wonder what our “civilized” God thought about that?

      There’s plenty of abuse in Jewish and Christian cultures, and it’s not new. Parts of the Bible demand better of our culture, but human nature asserts itself in secret or in more open (and with tacit peer group support ) dismissal of societal rules, and that’s the point the author is making. That is, we try to do better with our institutions, but we are fighting against ancient ingrained patterns that act as extremely compelling drives. We need to know that in order to make effective strategies for overcoming our atavistic tendencies.

      • Leira George says

        Thank you for replying to that “civilized God” comment. I thought of that story right away, but didn’t know where it was in the Bible. It’s up to us to not behave the way our biology is urging us to behave. If we have empathy and a conscience, we can compare that information to anything our biology urges us to do and act accordingly. If we have empathy and a conscience, then that moral compass is within us. And if we have neither, no book, no matter how holy, can help us. I believe in a created universe, and God, but religions of any kind are no guarantee of moral behavior.

    • Johnny Appleseed says

      Youre not nuts if you dont think birth control pills and massive home labor saving devices didnt play a huge role in women entering the working world.

    • Surface Reflection says

      Oh yes, the bible, that source of generousness and equality among sexes, lol.
      Containing such pearls as Moses ordering a genocide, mass murders of children and sexual enslavements for all females who are still virgins and mass slaughter for all others.

      Fabulous, that Christianity and its bible, you got that right buddy.
      Pure and glorious example of the chosen people, basically a master race – raised by God himself.
      The same God who demands murder of your own children so you prove you “love” him more then your children. And so on and so on.

      And that proclamation about how this article and majority of anthropological findings – i.e. facts are pointless because it didnt give you a conclusion you expected and were ready to screech against, is especially smart and obviously true just because you proclaimed it.
      After all, you are one of the chosen who creates facts by simply proclaiming them – which is pure magic.

      Written in desperation because of lack of conclusion that is clear and obvious to everyone except you and the rest of the equally “faithful”. Its simply a state of affairs for many people on this Earth.

      Luckily we have this “civilized God” who works so hard to protect pedophiles and rapists, to explain to us through “his own words” what we must do.

      Otherwise we would all be debased, unlike you and your religion. And we should be “corrected” by shining examples of truth and love as yourself. I can only imagine what form that correction would take, eh?

      No, no, you are absolutely right. I must be some kind of atheists-commie-alt-left-extreme feminist blarghh, blarrghh blarrgh – because obviously nothing else but your side and its direct opposite exists. Jump right on it.

      Lets talk more about how unfair it is to criticize your church and religion and so spin the purpose of this article to your own victimization, instead of taking note how many people still live today and how harsh and brutal half of humanity had it for most of our history.

  2. E. Olson says

    Very nice and balanced summary that is obviously not fitting the current narrative that male dominance is the results of a diabolical and perfectly coordinated campaign among all male humans throughout time to keep women down – no wonder the gender studies people hate all the evolutionary science people.

    Even the most hated and “unfair” practices are almost always the way they are because they work better than alternatives, otherwise the tribe that puts women in charge and finds superior results is going to conquer other tribes through physical, economic, or intellectual persuasion. Thus men own property because husbands are unlikely to fight as hard to keep their wife’s property as they will to keep their own. Women are conversely less likely to keep property because they are more likely to lose their property by the superior physical force of males, particularly if they are further weakened by pregnancy or distracted by child raising. The relative physical weakness of women also means their husband choosing parents are likely to prefer husbands for their daughters who are physically strong and aggressive so that they are better able to protect and provide resources for them, which over time creates larger physical strength differences between genders. It also seems likely that the physical cost and burden of pregnancy and child-rearing mean that women are usually going to be more reluctant to have sex even with their husband, and “uncooperative” or “independent minded” women may therefore need to be physically convinced (or killed) by their tribe, parents, and husband in order to secure future generations.

    But industrialization and modern concerns about equality and the environment mean that today we are seemingly trying to replace the patriarchy that has worked for thousands of years to keep the human species (and most other animal species) alive and prospering relative to alternative arrangements. But as society seems to be moving in more feminized direction in recent times, we see exploding government deficits due to vast expansions of the welfare state that primarily benefits women and is paid for by men, vast expansions of legal protection for women from physical harm or discrimination so that they no longer need a husband to survive, and consequent equality in educational and career opportunities particularly since fewer jobs require physical strength and stamina. Time will tell if feminized societies will be successful in subduing less tolerant Islam, or able to maintain the fertility rates necessary to keep population levels sufficient to fund the welfare state, feed the population, and maintain infrastructure of modern life.

    • Somewoman says

      I don’t think it’s accurate to say patriarchy has kept most animal species alive. It hasn’t. This kind of male coercion of females is mainly present in primates. Many species are solitary, meaning male social control is impossible and irrelevant.

      If those species that aren’t solitary, even then male sexual coercion is not really the norm because offspring bearing is often seasonal. Rape is present but uncommon among mammals who aren’t primates. It’s lethal to have males rape females at random times in the many species where offspring must be born at a specific point in the fall or spring to survive.

    • Emerald City says

      “…women are usually going to be more reluctant to have sex even with their husband, and “uncooperative” or “independent minded” women may therefore need to be physically convinced (or killed) by their tribe, parents, and husband in order to secure future generations…But industrialization and modern concerns about equality and the environment mean that today we are seemingly trying to replace the patriarchy that has worked for thousands of years…”

      Worked for whom? One would be hard pressed to argue that institutionalized sexual slavery “works” for the women in question, unless your definition of “works” simply means “furthers the existence of the species.”

      Again I find it difficult to parse whether you are observing a phenomenon or endorsing it, and I get the impression you think of women as little more than the sexual property of men.

      • E. Olson says

        EC – the entire point of culture and biology is procreation. From a biological point of view, words like fairness, equality, and happiness are meaningless unless they improve the odds of reproductive success and progeny survival until next generation procreation and maturity. Furthermore, if you believe there are too many “neanderthal” men around if is only because those are the type of men that have been most successful in passing on their genes, often with the cooperation of females who swoon for tall, athletic type males. Similarly, if you are upset that there aren’t enough “independent minded” women, it is likely because they weren’t the type of “high maintenance” female that men wanted to mate with and have care for their children.

        • Just Me says

          E. Olson –

          The entire point of culture is adaptation to the environment.

          Societies have varied enormously in the ways they have found to organize themselves so they could adapt to all the different environments human groups have found themselves in.

          From the small groups of hunter-gatherers, in the Arctic or in the Australian desert or in the tropical jungle, etc., to the larger horticultural tribes, or the nomadic herders, or the agricultural states and empires.

          Not all societies have valued “tall, athletic type males”, many have valued the scholar, the poet, the artist, the philosopher, the musician.

          And as the article above points out, it is the men and their families who have had the most to say historically about who women mate with, not the women themselves, who have had little choice in the matter. Those usually favour the well established, older, successful man rather than the young stud, who gets the healthiest, best looking young girl, no matter how independent-minded she is.

          • E. Olson says

            Just Me – you wrote: “The entire point of culture is adaptation to the environment.”

            I will add: “to encourage the creation and survival of new generations”. Any culture which is not successful at procreation is not going to survive whether they value short fat men, tall skinny women, musicians or farmers or warriors or stay-at-home-moms.

            As for women not having a choice – I suspect that daughters have frequently had some say in arranged marriages (if not the final word), and that mother’s preferences might also play an important female role in mate choice. The interesting thing is that now that women are free to marry whoever they want and can entice, the success rate of marriage doesn’t seem to be higher than arranged marriages where they have much less influence.

          • Just Me says

            E. Olson –

            “I will add: “to encourage the creation and survival of new generations”. Any culture which is not successful at procreation is not going to survive whether they value short fat men, tall skinny women, musicians or farmers or warriors or stay-at-home-moms.”

            That is a very general statement. Of course if a society can’t reproduce itself that has to be considered a failure, but there are all kinds of reasons besides not reproducing that can lead to a society disappearing: being conquered by another, more technologically advanced, for example. Or climatic conditions changing. And it isn’t just an either-or situation, Societies change, their members migrate, get incorporated into others, where individuals continue to reproduce successfully, but as part of another society, etc.

            The great civilisations were generally empires, they incorporated other societies, but they influenced others as well, with their art, music, literature, architecture, etc.

            There is more to a human society’s”success”, imo, than just biological survival. That’s a rather simplistic view.

            I’m not dissing evolutionary psychology or anthropology, on the contrary, I think it is one important piece of the puzzle of understanding human society, but I think there is a problem when people use it to oversimplify a complex issue.

            Often it seems the only social model its proponents have in mind is the American high school with the football player and the cheerleader at the pinnacle of the social hierarchy…

          • Brian F says

            Some men.

            Most men were also subordinates and in service of of the ruling men.

            The article (grudgingly) points out that rape is rare among primates. Also, the theme of the article switches to the term “coercion” which doesn’t necessarily mean rape.

        • Amber says

          E Olson: and yet it is not the Neanderthal types that are at the top of the social hierarchy but the cognitive elites. High IQ and not the blind force is the best predictor of success in life. If it wasn’t for individuals with higher IQ than the rest figuring the world out, we would have never progressed as a species.

          • E. Olson says

            Amber – I would agree with the current status of high IQ, but the feminist dogma about “rape culture” and toxic masculinity would suggest that they believe Neanderthal types are the norm. On the other hand, I expect physical strength and aggression have been relatively more sought after characteristics in the pre-industrial era when most work and physical protection required muscle power, and opportunities to get value from high IQ were more limited.

        • Emerald City says

          E. Olson – Again, you’ve identified a historical “is.” What I’m trying to figure out is whether or not you’re also saying that state of affairs “ought to be,” or just the general “so what” of your comment. What is the point of your comment? What is your motivation? What follows from your reasoning?

          You’ve basically said “Historical X state of affairs was great for fertility, women’s rights be damned. Current state of affairs Y is different and probably bad for fertility.”

          Are we to infer that a return to X is your desired societal outcome? If so, how would you approach the subject with your (real or potential) daughters? Would you look them in the eye and tell them that their happiness and liberty are subordinate to their pre-ordained role as chattel wombs for whichever men you select for them? I’m having difficulty finding a more charitable reading of your comments considering that anytime Quillette publishes an article concerning women, you make it abundantly clear that you find women inferior and consider it an egregious wrong for women to take on any role in society beyond that of dutiful wife and mother.

          • E. Olson says

            EC – if you have followed my comments over many articles, you would probably guess I’m not a big government person. Thus I am philosophically opposed to most government regulations as a means of forcing certain outcomes. I therefore believe that people should generally be able to do what they want with their lives as long as they don’t interfere with my ability to do the same, but I also believe that such freedom will not result in equal outcomes for all groups because different groups (and individuals) have different abilities, interests, and opportunities.

            On average, men are superior to women in physical strength and stamina, risk seeking, spatial reasoning, preference for working with things, and in their proportion of high IQ individuals. Similarly, women on average are better than men in language/literary abilities and more empathetic and interested in working with people and animals, and of course women are the only people who can gestate a baby and ensure a new generation. There is also a great deal of inter-gender overlap in the variability of these characteristics except for gestating babies, which is why men have historically been more expendable than women, but never-the-less these differences also mean different outcomes on average. Historically men and women have therefore needed to work as teams in order to survive and thrive as a tribe or species.

            The problem with feminism is that it didn’t stop when equal opportunity was secured by the removal of legal restrictions that discriminated against women to prevent them from voting, owning property, or getting educations, husbands (or not), and careers of their choice. Furthermore, feminists have tried to turn the gender partnership into a rivalry for resources and status, which I think is likely to turn out badly for them and humans in general. In fact, evidence is already accumulating in that regard, as women across all demographics and with with more rights and opportunities than at any time in human history, increasingly report being unhappy. Similarly, traditional marriage and fertility rates are dropping to below replacement as women become more educated and independent, which has had some serious detrimental effects on both men and women in the lower socio-economic status segments (see Charles Murray’s Coming Apart). Thus I can’t say how this will turn out in the end, but I don’t think we can say with any certainty that the feminizing of Western culture is all peaches and cream for the future of the human species. On the other hand, I also know there is not much I can personally do about it beyond my vote for small government and discussions on Quillette. I will state, however, that many of my favorite people are women, and I am very glad to have them around (most of the time).

          • Brian w. says

            Quillette published a piece by anthropologists who have shown a tremendous historical ability for answering questions raised by evolutionary biologists with feminist dogma.

            The “X” is far from settled science. If it is, perhaps giving American lands back to native hunter gatherers isn’t such a great idea. Hunter gatherer societies were populated by incurable rapists.

          • Emerald City says

            EO – Thank you for your response. I misinterpreted your position as being hostile to equality of opportunity. I think (hope?) we can agree that women should have the opportunity to pursue happiness without legal or social barriers, but there may be consequences to society that women and men must both confront and ameliorate.

            I think that, to a degree, the reported unhappiness in modern women might be a product of the push for equality of outcome, rather than opportunity. If you assert that every person is capable of achieving any goal, those who cannot achieve a given goal (whether it’s due to intelligence, disposition, or otherwise) will tend to develop a negative self-image, and rather than see it as a mismatch of aptitude, they will see it as a personal failing. I believe men too suffer from this, as it becomes increasingly difficult for working class men to fulfill the cultural role that their fathers and grandfathers had, i.e. sole/primary provider able to provide a comfortable life for a wife and children.

            Unfortunately, some women tend to externalize the feeling and assert that men are somehow holding them back. Conversely, some men feel that women’s increased social mobility is a threat to their traditional status. I really want to emphasize the “some” here because I’m disinclined to believe either men or women, as a class, are as bad as their detractors claim. Feminism exaggerates men’s ‘natural’ chauvinism, Men’s Rights activists exaggerate women’s ‘natural’ duplicity. Activists are, by their nature, required to make things appear worse than they are.

            It would be nice to see some semblance of nuance in the public sphere, and to elevate the individual over their class/demographic. In the case of women it would be nice to see more feminist groups celebrate the women who have found happiness by choosing traditional roles. I know many women who find the most joy in their family life, but work because they feel they’re “supposed to.” On the other hand, it would be nice to see men celebrate other men who find happiness in a “woman’s role” as primary caregiver and homemaker. For some couples, the wife is a type-A corporate ladder-climber and the man is the more nurturing of the parents. The man in this relationship is often made to feel weak by more traditional-minded folks, and the woman made to feel cold and somehow dangerous. On the flip side, though, feminists really should try to meet men half way and understand that many men don’t have a nurturing disposition, and fulfill their family obligations by providing. Those men should not all be written off as neanderthals.

            In the past, these issues were rather non-issues because the institution of marriage was rather prescriptive vis-a-vis roles and responsibilities regardless of disposition. Since that has changed, I think it’s more important than ever that couples carefully consider their personalities, and what they could realistically change about themselves once kids arrive on the scene. My sense is that we’re still in a liminal period. The prescribed married life was, more or less, the way humans did things for thousands of years, the 50~60 years since the beginning of the women’s liberation movement is a drop in the bucket by comparison. Society will most likely adapt, but not if we all lose our heads and tear it down before it can.

            PS – I hope this comment lands where it’s supposed to in the thread, I still don’t understand Quillette’s comment system.

        • Just Me says

          E, Olson –

          ” I would agree with the current status of high IQ, but the feminist dogma about “rape culture” and toxic masculinity would suggest that they believe Neanderthal types are the norm. ”

          And often it seems evolutionary psychologists agree…They are both wrong.

        • gab.s says

          Why would you assume that high maintenance women were not independent minded? And that men would all want high maintenance women?

        • Harbinger says

          @EO….it’s worth having a look at “The Goodness Paradox” (which was reviewed a while ago in Quillette). Its thesis is that humans have self domesticated over millennia, and as a result, modern males are in fact quite significantly feminised relative to our ancestors and close primate relatives. The key factor being selection against reactive aggression, by coalition enforced capital punishment of reactive individuals.

      • Brian says

        Perhaps it was an ancestral primate of your egalitarian ilk that first migrated to northern latitudes and discovered it to be unlivable for 4 months of the year, but was fertile for 8 months and, in light of this, established the groundwork for all modern prosperity: sacrifice, delay of gratification, trade, increased responsibility, etc.

        All the tribes and societies covered in the article we’re equatorial; hunter gatherer. There were no examples given of European hunter gatherer societies. This is because there are none left, and there haven’t been for a long time.

        Winter kept men busy. Winter changed and elevated the human species. The most egalitarian and prosperous societies are historically northern and Western. They leaned how to SAVE and bargain with the future.

        It’s also impossible to discuss the gender issues in the article without talking about race and intelligence…but we can’t, we can’t. It would be wrong…

      • Craig Willms says

        Patriarchy is such a charged word – still there are many aspects of the ‘patriarchy’ that do work for men and for women. As with many things in life there are the good things and the bad, the so-called patriarchy has a foot in both, clearly.

      • karen straughan says

        “unless your definition of “works” simply means “furthers the existence of the species.””

        Actually, that’s exactly what it means. Sort of. It’s certainly more complicated than any kind of “for the good of the species” dialog.

        Robert Sapolsky used an anecdote to describe our romantic notions about life. In wildlife shows from the 70s, like “Wild Kingdom”, you’d see a bunch of wildebeest who need to cross a river full of crocodiles. Then finally, one jumps in, and while the crocs are ripping him apart, the rest swim across.

        The narrator says, “One brave individual leaps into the water and sacrifices himself for the survival of the herd.”

        Yeah, no. On closer examination of subsequent identical events, it becomes clear that the dude was PUSHED. The individuals who pushed him in get to survive and pass on their genes.

        It’s an ugly business all around, and way less romantic sounding, but eventually the genes of the pushers get passed on and displace the genes of the pushed.

        You think sexual slavery is bad. Well, wolves live in packs too, and they do things differently. When wolves go to war, they don’t kill all the enemy males and take all the females into sexual slavery. They slaughter every single member of the enemy pack, male, female, infant.

        Why? Because only the dominant pair in a pack have mating rights. There’s no advantage to bringing in outsider females–they don’t carry your genes and they won’t ever carry your genes forward. All they are is an extra mouth to feed and a potential disruption of your social structure.

        I don’t know if you would describe that system, where males and females are treated identically in intergroup conflict, as one that works for females.

        Females who are taken as slaves pass on their genes. Males who are killed (often along with their immature offspring) in genocidal violence don’t generally have the same degree of success in that regard.

        “Again I find it difficult to parse whether you are observing a phenomenon or endorsing it, and I get the impression you think of women as little more than the sexual property of men.”

        You might want to ask yourself, how did we get here? You know, from there. From societies, human or nonhuman primate, that saw male sexual coercion and dominating violence against females, particularly outgroup females, as standard operating procedure.

        You might even engage in a little bit of gratitude that we here in the society where the author was educated have moved so incredibly far from that way of doing things. Where sexual and physical violence against women is condemned by law and culture. Where courtship marriages rather than arranged marriages are not only the norm, but mandated by law. Where a woman’s sexual consent and reproductive autonomy is not only respected but held as a high moral ideal enshrined in law.

        Given the ability of men to physically dominate women, you might consider that every single incremental change that has occurred since our hominid and hunter gatherer days has occurred because men either willed it, or allowed it to occur.

        They didn’t have to, mind you. They just did.

        • Donnerhauser says

          Good point karen straughan. I have long suspected that women’s success in gaining equal and fair treatment has massively depended upon men’s willingness to acquiesce to such requests. This is not unusual – gaining equal and fair treatment either requires you to win through force (be it military or economic), such as national iberation movements, or to win through argument and social pressure. The Civil Rights era is a great example; black America did a lot to advance its case for equal treatment but at the end of the day, the decision was largely in the hands of white America. Black Americans knew this, which is why most of their leadership advocated persuading and winning white America around. MLK observed that they couldn’t win through force, so he focused on pacifism and emphasised winning the moral high ground.

          It’s the same with women – women couldn’t and haven’t been able to coerce men into granting them equality. The sad fact of the matter is that if men really, really wanted to undo all of women’s progress they could probably pull it off. Conversely, if women wanted to subjugate men (and getting them to believe that would be even harder than the reverse, in my view), it probably couldn’t be accomplished. Indeed a lot of feminist fiction, in my view, reflects this fear – that one day men would decide they no longer cared for gender equality and everything will be undone. See the recent adaptation of the Handmaid’s Tale. Conversely little fiction that appeals to men invokes the opposite, probably because men know this would basically never happen

          For most of human history it was the norm for women to be explicitly subjugated and held in lower status by men, with treatment ranging from mildly unfair at best to deeply reactionary and misogynistic at worst. Women unquestionably deserve praise for their efforts to get equal treatment despite significant opposition (from both sexes). However, it is ultimately the case that men’s willingness to entertain gender equality is the reason we have it.

    • gab.s says

      It does not have to be that patriarchy was the best possible outcome for humanity as a whole for it to survive, just that it killed off the opposition. The careers of ‘great’ men like genghis khan, shaka zulu, ashoka pre conversion to Buddhism, julius caesar , alexander the great, and the 20th century mass killers, for a start, show destruction of people and cultures that was not the best possible outcome for humanity. The development of weapons of mass destruction may be the only thing that controls the patriarchal desire for conquest, and the coming age of killer robots and biological weapons can only add to that precarious balance of power. Feminisation of politics may be unknown territory and present unknown dangers, but the known dangers of patriarchy are a fairly high bar to beat.

      • Stephanie says

        “It does not have to be that patriarchy was the best possible outcome for humanity as a whole for it to survive, just that it killed off the opposition.”

        Of course not getting massacred by a more patriarchal tribe is indeed the best possible outcome. Of what use is your art or science if you aren’t strong enough to protect your art from being destroyed and your libraries burnt to the ground?

        “Of course if a society can’t reproduce itself that has to be considered a failure, but there are all kinds of reasons besides not reproducing that can lead to a society disappearing: being conquered by another, more technologically advanced, for example.”

        Feminized societies more focused on providing universal welfare than protection from external threats are easy targets for conquest.

        “There is more to a human society’s”success”, imo, than just biological survival. That’s a rather simplistic view.”

        Yes, but none of the other metrics of success are remotely relevant if you cannot survive. That is the prime purpose of life, and if we wish to maintain our society survival must be the prime consideration.

        We face existential threats from Communist China and Islam. They are both outbreeding us, and thanks to our politically-correct mental straightjackets, out-maneuvering us. Our superior science, art, human rights, minority enfranchisement, ect will be worth nothing in the long run if we lose.

        • E. Olson says

          Great comment as usual Stephanie – in our modern age of 7+ billion people it seems a lot of people just don’t understand that family, tribal, national, and even species survival have historically been a very iffy thing, and could be again far faster than most realize.

          • EO – I argue that the very existence of feminism depends on the assumption that our current prosperity, peace and safety are permanent conditions, a notion contradicted by all of history.

        • Andrew Roddy says

          If ‘We face existential threats from Communist China and Islam’, then presumably we can’t be Chinese communists or Islamic. Can we be Russian, Israeli, South American, Asian, African? Could you spell it out for us who we our in case some of us may not know?

      • GS – I guess then women should stop sexually selecting for the Genghis Khan type of man. If they’d exercised different choices, we males would be different. But they didn’t because the dominant males they chose were viewed as better at protecting the group. And they probably were. The only thing this article proves is that it’s a good thing we no longer live in hunter-gatherer societies.

    • V 2.0 says

      Raw physical strength no longer seems to be that relevant. The most powerful men tend to be scrawny or doughy (Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Donald Trump…). There is no reason a woman can’t compete with that.

    • Anj of Green Gables says

      Hello E Olsen,
      “as women across all demographics and with with more rights and opportunities than at any time in human history, increasingly report being unhappy”.

      Expanded consciousness doesn’t necessarily bring satisfaction.

      • E. Olson says

        Anj – but the feminists promised rights and opportunities would bring happiness and satisfaction.

      • Brian w. says


        Rights and opportunities don’t directly translate to increased consciousness.

        I grew up in a rather unrefined neighborhood and the number of women who gravitated to gangster-types and destructive, unyielding men was astounding.

    • M. says

      “It also seems likely that the physical cost and burden of pregnancy and child-rearing mean that women are usually going to be more reluctant to have sex even with their husband, and “uncooperative” or “independent minded” women may therefore need to be physically convinced (or killed) by their tribe, parents, and husband in order to secure future generations.”

      Well said. However, it can be worded differently: ‘People who don’t work for the good of the group were killed, or forced.’ And reproduction, pro-social, non-hypergamous reproduction was good for the group.

      To be fair, the same thing happened to men. “Independent minded” can easily translate to “disloyal”, or just as easily into ‘uncooperative” which was also killed off in men. But feminist seem to care less about dead men. :^)

      • E. Olson says

        M – good point – men have ALWAYS suffered from more violent death from a wider variety of causes than women, but men are trained to be expendable.

        • Incessant childbirth didn’t cause premature death for women in history? Women were never raped to death during war? That’s news to me.

        • EO – Men are the more expendable sex because, well, we always have been, at least until fairly recently. One man can impregnate many women, but women still bear usually just one child who historically had a high probability of dying before it reached sexual maturity.

      • Brian says

        “feminists care less about dead me.”

        Anthropologists, too. But I repeat myself.

    • Lightning Rose says

      This must be why we didn’t want Hillary Clinton in charge . . .

    • Amy says

      Hello E. Olson,
      Just wanted to say that although I hold a different view than you on many of these matters, I appreciate the nuance you’re bringing to this conversation. I’ve been reading Quillette looking for intelligent, organized, non-“shouty” points of view that differ from my own; your ideas here on this thread are what I was looking for.

  3. TarsTarkas says

    E. Olson:

    The declining birth rate now prevalent among Western Civ cultures due to ‘feminization’ isn’t the first time that that’s happened in history. The same thing occurred in Imperial Rome among the patrician class, when again the women acquired enough power to be able to refuse marriage. The patricians partly solved the problem by adopting excess male progeny of the equestrian class, similar to the modern-day wave adoption of foreign babies by Western women. I’m sure there are other examples out there.

    That option doesn’t seem to be a path open to Japanese women due to that country’s xenophobic tendencies. Japan is headed for an incredible demographic disaster, compounded by the accelerating eviction of the Hikikomori from their basements as their aging parents increasingly grow too infirm to continue supporting their incel sons.

    • E. Olson says

      Good example from history TarsTarkas – and we know how the Roman Empire turned out. It is also a good example of the type of gender role experiments that have certainly been tried from time to time out of necessity or convenience where women have been given bigger or different roles, but apparently none have been particularly successful because men still dominate even in today’s feminized society, much to the consternation of modern feminists.

    • Peter from Oz says

      Your example of the Roman Empire is on the right track, but it is even more interesting in some ways. The Patricians had died out by the time of Nero to be replaced by people of Equestrian or italian stock at the top. Over the next 300 years, the Roman upper classes of any kind themselves gave up breeding and the elites were made up up of people of non-Italian stock. By the end, the rulers were one step up from Barbarians.

    • 24/7/365 Internet Porn.
      Many women, including myself, have no desire to be in a relationship with a man. We’ve been displaced by flat computer screens that give them the sex they want at all times.

      • Grant says

        Computer screens, of course, cannot offer sex at all. Internet porn is not the cause of your lack of relationship.

        • Lol. So you say. Typical deflection of a true problem. Plenty of women (who are often attractive) are in the same boat as I am. They don’t wish to engage in relationships with men who are addicted to internet porn. It has an influence on men which often turns them into sexual sadists or completely impotent.

          • JD says

            @J Most of the professional, educated men I know have roughly the same complaint: they’ve spent the better part of 25 years tying themselves into pretzels trying to placate a woman’s demands on their time and psyche. They do it out of a sense of obligation, duty, and yes, even real, self-sacrificial love. And when those demands are met, it’s just more of “yes but, what have you done for me lately”. But the sexual compensations are small or non-existent and one by one, they are jumping off the hamster wheel. They’re not MGTOW’s or incels…they’re just over it. The cost/benefit analysis has been calculated and found wanting.

            I don’t blame the women – they aren’t evil or necessarily even selfish. I do think that many women in US culture especially have a sense that they’re entitled to act toward their male partners in a way that, when really scrutinized, is almost narcissistic. This entitlement is bolstered by cultural messages to both men and women.

            My wife and I have an unspoken arrangement whereby she makes few demands on my time, doesn’t put up any fuss about my various goings on outside the home (no that’s not a euphemism for “stepping out”), and in return I make no demands on her body. Is it ideal? No. But without supreme effort or expensive couples therapy (not again!) the situation ain’t changing any time soon. Besides, I have a rewarding career, interesting hobbies, good friends, a ton of books to get through, and only so much time in a day. And I value these endeavors more than going through all the gyrations to have 1 need fulfilled that, in truth, I no longer give a shit about. So, there you go – that’s my perspective as a man – not that you asked. (Cue up “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling” 🙂

    • Rev. Wazoo! says

      I’m not sure Japan’s demographics are disastrous, why do you think so? The ratio of dependents hasn’t changed, their just over 65 instead of under 18. As the baby boom generation dies off, the ratio of dependents to working age will swing to lower than the US.

      I see no need for large-scale immigration or adoption from outside; their strong trade surplus shows they still produce more wealth than they consume. Let the Japanese live as they wish, they’re doing better than most countries.

    • Andrew Roddy says

      There is absolutely nothing in human history that can serve as sensible precedent for the recent and ongoing revolutionary emancipation of women.

    • Well G says

      Japan’s demographics aren’t disastrous, more like return to normal on a historic scale. Because of their xenophobia they will rely on robotisation and AI, so the the productivity isn’t as big a issue as it is for those societies that rely on cheap labor and its renewal through reproduction.

  4. Senor DingDong says

    two men were blowing flutes

    Is that a euphemism?

  5. Edwardicus says

    “As we can see, some patterns have changed considerably in recent decades. As Hrdy recognizes, modern advances toward sex equality reside on a “unique foundation of historical conditions, values, economic opportunities, heroism on the part of women who fought for suffrage, and perhaps especially technological developments which led to birth control and labor-saving devices and hence minimized physical differences between the sexes.””

    Of course, if you consider rapidly declining fertility rates as something humans would want or that can survive evolution (Spoiler: It can’t). You really can’t beat evolution.

    The high status men will breed with women from lower cultures. Low status men will again need to war to achieve their aims.

    You can’t discuss reproduction without discussing fertility rates. it is nonsensical.

    • Just Me says

      Edwardicus –

      I don’t see high status men breeding with women from “lower cultures”, on the contrary. It is the low status men who seem to see mail order brides or moving to Thailand as their salvation…

      • Harbinger says

        @ Edwardicus …women select across and up the social hierarchy, men select across and down it. (Haidt et al).

        • Tell that to all the young employed women who date semi-employed men, or the older women who remain with disabled husbands.

          • J – Or tell it to all the men married to women who wouldn’t dream of contributing equally to the family’s earnings. Or all the men who care for sick and infirm wives late in life. You’re really not very good at seeing anyone’s side of things but your own.

  6. Somewoman says

    Fertility rates are declining even among patriarchal cultures. In Iran, women can’t go outside without covering their hair and yet their fertility rate is below replacement. Bangladesh is just about at replacement and they seem to burn women to death for claiming they were raped.

    Islamism is basically the major force in the world that seeks to retain both the standard of living seen in the modern industrial world and rigid patriarchy. Thus far they are failing. There are places where Islamic control over women and a high fertility rate reign supreme, but those are places without an industrial living standard. The places that have the western living standard see their fertility rate drop each year. For example, Saudi Arabia, despite not even letting women marry or travel abroad without male permission, is likely to drop below replacement fertility within the next two decades (2.5 now).

    Patriarchy will certainly reign supreme again once it figures out how to offer the standard of living and benefits of the modern world, including fair trials and freedom from autocracy, while offering men control over women. At the moment, there appears to be nothing on the horizon.

    • Blue Lobster says


      Patriarchy will cease to be when it ceases to be adaptive, which, as you point out, it currently seems to have. However, as the article explains, patriarchy has generally proven to be a successful strategy for primates. Humans will always be primates. Thus, while certain exceptions to the norm exist among primates (e.g. bonobos), even in those cases, there are particular conditions in which the patriarchal behavior typical of male primates is either tolerated or otherwise unavoidable. There may be conditions that our species encounters in which patriarchy becomes detrimental and we may even evolve toward a more bonobo-like state in which patriarchy is outside the norm. But to reiterate, we, as they, will always be primates which would appear to indicate that patriarchy will almost certainly always be with us or waiting for us just around the environmental or evolutionary corner.

      Now get in the kitchen and make me a sandwich!

      • somewoman says

        There are certain points in human history, where an advancement is so desirable that its practice completely supersedes how society behaved before it. The spear replaced the hand axe everywhere though the hand axe had been used for hundreds of thousands of years. The gun replaced the spear everywhere over the last few hundred years. The invention of fire and the wheel was never forgotten once discovered. It’s too useful and fundamentally changed what was possible for a society.

        For hundreds of thousands of years, humans were hunter gatherers. Then pastoral herders popped up. After that sedentary agrarian societies came into prominence around 10,000 years ago. When they did, they gradually pushed hunter gatherer societies to the margins, often to extinction. In the last couple hundred years, we have finally seen a new shift that challenges the dominance of agrarian societies and it is industrial societies. Now 2% of people work in farming (down from 90% of people in the medieval era). Modern industrial societies have easily shot into prominence and are poised to push agrarian/pastoral societies to the margins as those societies once did to hunter gatherer societies. In virtually all cases, modern industrial societies have low birth rates and all of them have overseen the continued demise of patriarchy- from China to Qatar to Brazil. Patriarchy isn’t useful in a world where sheer amount of manual labor isn’t a direct source of power. The value in controlling women’s reproductive choices is that it provides control over the means of value creation. But now more men do not help you slay more prey or co-opt more territory. More soldiers do not win wars. So what do more wombs get you?

        Patriarchy may be a deep instinct, but if it needs the obsolescence of modern industrial society to return, there is a chance that it won’t. Right now, I would say that if men were to try to reassert control over women’s reproductive lives, it would make more sense for them to try and invent sex dolls and artificial wombs than it would for them to expect that world would collectively forget what it knows about birth control and mechanized labor.

        • I tend to think the trend is towards virtual reality sex for men. Many of them already show a preference for internet porn and express interest in sex dolls. Others prefer anonymous hook ups through internet apps. None of the above help “increase the population”, as raising a child requires some responsibility.
          I’m saying this as a woman who had a long term relationship with a porn addict. I would definitely say if it were not for his addiction, I would have probably had more than one child by him by now.

          • Rev. Wazoo! says

            Good points.
            Though some go down the road of porn addiction /compulsiveness, most don’t and the main change the ubiquity of porn has brought is ending the taboo against male masturbation just as the vibrator did for female masturbation a generation earlier. It’s leveling the playing field, so ending the sex-as-exchange-for-committment model and to everyone’s benefit.

    • M. says

      Islam isn’t an anti-hypergamy patriarchy, like the West originally was. Islam encourages hypergamy by allowing one man to marry many women. This leads to social dysfunction in the long-term.

  7. Jim Gorman says

    Survival of the species and intelligence of individuals drives it all. Ask yourself why humans and most primates didn’t become like herd animals with a dominant male controlling a harem. My guess is that as primates gained intelligence they learned tools and cooperation. One alpha male wouldn’t last long with all other males cooperating to drive him away or hill him. From that point on, what societal norms would develop to insure survival of the species? Another guess is that one male simply could not supply and protect harem along with children. Survival probably meant that one female with some number of children ended up being the best arrangement for survival of the species.

    I sincerely doubt, that at this level of evolution, the males were sitting around a campfire plotting how to insure male superiority and how to make patriarchy the law of the land.

    • gab.s says

      They didn’t, they just needed an awareness of size and strength and that they were important and that women were less so than men. Hence feeling that women were inferior and lower in the social hierarchy, and they were entitled to their higher status.

    • karen straughan says

      Leaving the trees for the grasslands would have been enough to do that.

      Most of the food walks around, and a lot of it is big enough to kill you. I doubt our ancestors had mastered compound or even simple tools at that point, and they didn’t have claws or horns or any kind of serious built in weaponry.

      Group hunting had to become a thing, and that means the dominance relationship between dominant and subordinate males would have had to become more like leadership as we humans know it, and more fair. If your team of 5 guys brings down a gazelle, you can’t hog the whole thing and expect them to help you next time (or to not get together and kill you, for that matter). Very different from a situation where everyone pretty much does their own foraging.

      That means you don’t have enough to provision a harem, but your team members might now have a small surplus they can share with one female (food sharing is common among consortships in chimps and baboons–when a subordinate male takes a shine to a given female and she rewards him with sex when she can get away with it to keep him coming back). And the females would need this provisioning, since “easy” food doesn’t exist in abundance on the savannah.

      And of course, switching from mostly foraging to hunting in groups would select for intelligence–takes more brain to stalk a zebra than to stalk a mango. Grasslands would select for bipedalism, which then would cause a gradually building “crisis of obstetrics” as pelvises changed to accommodate walking rather than birthing, at which point babies that survived and didn’t kill their mothers were increasingly born “premature”, making infant care more labor intensive and constraining, and reinforcing females’ reliance on being provisioned.

      Which then would reinforce the male/male tolerance and cooperation necessary for group hunting, and reinforce the trend away from “thug” style dominance among males to “leadership” style dominance. Cryptic ovulation would also bolster male/male tolerance and make effective mate guarding of a harem essentially impossible, since mate guarding peaks when females are in estrus.

      (I also think boobs evolved not as a sexual signal, but initially as a way to reduce male/male antagonism within the group by mimicking a state of infertility. They’ve certainly become a sexual signal, but IMO that’s not how they started.)

      Division of labor between the sexes was also vital for survival, IMO–Neanderthalers apparently didn’t have it, and even though they apparently had bigger brains than us, they had little to no domestic technology–no pottery, no clothes as we would know them, maybe not even mastery of fire. And of course, they didn’t make it out of the pleistocene, other than as bits of DNA in our own gene pool.

  8. Morgan Foster says

    The last two paragraphs of this article should be of particular interest to any woman.

    Give credit to the author for not belaboring the point, but everything that women have now – property rights, the vote, public offices, access to courts to enforce equality laws – will disappear if representative democracy becomes extinct.

    Men didn’t have to give women the vote. They can take it away again by simply destroying the ballot box.

    • Just Me says

      Morgan Foster –

      It could, but China went from a feudal society where women were chattel, to a much better one for women, without the need for the ballot box. An egalitarian ideology did it.

      And plenty of societies with a ballot box are still pretty anti-egalitarian.

      There is more than a single factor at work here.

      • Peter from Oz says

        Never mind that they had to kill 40 million people to make things a little bit better for women. Egalitarian? ha
        And why are there 130 men for every 100 women in China? Methinks things actually went backwards for women in CHina

        • somewoman says

          If you told me 40 million people had to be sacrificed for me to go from a footbound concubine to an autonomous person that could choose her own sex partners, I would say “why stop at 40 million? Take a few million more if you need to.” No, things have not gone backward or gotten worse for women in China. However many daughters are aborted now, more would have been killed in infanticide a century ago.

          • Peter from Oz says

            Ah, if you could only elect a new people.

          • Peter from Oz says

            ”If you told me 40 million people had to be sacrificed for me to go from a footbound concubine to an autonomous person that could choose her own sex partners, I would say “why stop at 40 million? Take a few million more if you need to.” ”
            Thus speaks the collectivist solipsist.
            Everyone of those people was an individual whose right to life was far more important tan your right to pick your sex partners. What a shallow viison of life you have. Had you ever thought that China might have actually moved to a more liberated state without the need to kill 40 million of its wn citizens? Of course not. For you people are just groups aren’t they. it’s all ”mmen” and ”women”, ”blacks” and white” or ”gays” and ”hetrosexuals”, and people alive to day have to be made to suffer because they are members of groups who you deem to have done well in the past.
            But female infanticide was not more common in China 100 years ago, because then families could have more than one child. It was the communists who brought in the policy (now relaxed) of one child per couple. This led to a huge spike in female infanticide. Those babies of course aren’t even included in the 40 miiilion people killed so that modern chinese women can live under a tryranny but have their choice o f sex partner whilst working in a boring job.

          • gda53 says

            Interesting that you state “However many daughters are aborted now…….”. Does that not create a grating dichotomy in your (presumed) abortion rights platform as a “progressive” woman?

            When does a foetus become a person in your ideology? Right now it would appear that it insists that a “baby” is merely a cancerous type growth until birth and the cutting of the umbilical cord (or in botched abortions, until the mother decides whether to tell the doctor to kill the “cancerous growth”.

            So what’s this about “aborting DAUGHTERS”?

            Care to clarify? Or has your ideology just been exposed?

      • Stephanie says

        China went from a feudal society where women were chattle to a totalitarian police state where everyone is chattle.

        • somewoman says

          “But female infanticide was not more common in China 100 years ago, because then families could have more than one child. It was the communists who brought in the policy (now relaxed) of one child per couple. ”

          That’s likely false since the sex imbalance is present in much of asia, especially India, which never had a maximum child policy.

          “Everyone of those people was an individual whose right to life was far more important tan your right to pick your sex partners.”

          I really could not care less.

          “Had you ever thought that China might have actually moved to a more liberated state without the need to kill 40 million of its wn citizens?”

          Obviously. Most of the world went from agrarian feudal states to modern industrial states without a communist democidal phase in between or even any mass murderous phase in between. But in the hypothetical situation where there is only a choice between remaining immobilized chattel and sacrificing 40 million of your countrymen, the latter is getting my vote every time.

          • Just Me says

            Well I am a woman and disagree with somewoman’s moral preferences.

            But, Peter –

            You are fine with using moral considerations to judge Communist China in this instance, but have no use for them with regards to gender imbalances in other cases, preferring a utilitarian view?

            I am using the Chinese example to point out there is more to social organisation than evolutionary biology, there is also ideology, or values, which can come from religious beliefs or from philosophical ones or scientific ones (“scientific materialism”).

            The gender imbalance you point out is due to what is left of the former ideology, but yes, the situation of women in China has improved radically, as has social equality in general. Of course reality never lives up to ideals, but without an ideal to aim for you won’t get any improvements.

            It came at great human cost, of course, I am not disputing that, but it demonstrates the power of ideas in human life. Historical change is always due to a complex set of interacting factors, biological tendencies are just one of them.

            Whether a society takes for granted that the worth of a human life depends on the status of the person involved, rather than believing all human life is precious and morally equal, whether male or female, free man or slave, etc., makes a difference.

            Not everyone will follow a society’s moral code, but that moral code will form the basis for law, etc.

        • Rev. Wazoo! says

          Another concise insight!
          Personally, it seems under feudalism most people there were chattel and most people there are now.

        • Just Me says

          Most Chinese are better off now than they were before though, and they know it, which is why they go along with the current regime.

  9. Andrew Worth says

    The tribe and its members must first and foremost endevour to survive against competing tribes, it used to be that that was the golden rules, today the dynamics have changed, men aren’t so highly prized to be there to defend the tribe, we’re not under perpetual threat from neighbors for limited resources, so social rules have also changed.

    • Just Me says

      Andrew Worth-

      One theory is that States appeared and were successful, because they imposed peace and order on a large scale, stopped all the intertribal tribal fighting and the individual feuding, etc..

      That changed the social dynamics to a large extent, making interpersonal violence ore the exception than the rule as it had been before, but also instituting more rigid social hierarchies that favoured other characteristics in men.

      A short, physically weak, but smart man adept at manipulating others and building coalitions, could amass a lot of power. Men could get rich and powerful as rich merchants, based on another set of mental characteristics more than physical. Etc.

      • Andrew Worth says

        I think the transition you describe was based on an increase in available resources that were the result of technological advancements, probably the development of agriculture. When that happened the nature of human society went through a transition, the role of the average man was changed to being less of a warrior and hunter to one of a farmer, changing his cultural behaviour.

  10. V 2.0 says

    Denying biological reality helps nothing, however to imply we are helpless to overcome it (as some people are eager to do) is not the answer. For example, I recognize that evolution wants me to be suspicious of those who are different from me and to stuff my face with as many calories as possible in case my provider can’t bring home that next mammoth. Should I let myself become a 600 lb mobility scooter driving racist? I think not….

    • codadmin says

      Evolution can be dismissed because females haven’t developed fanged vaginas that poison rapists to death upon forced entry.

      No doubt, this one evolutionary development would solve all of humanities problems.

    • codadmin says

      But evolution doesn’t want you to be morbidly obese…so the analogy breaks down…

  11. Space Race says

    Going forward, I would not worry about fertility rates because the technological progress simply means that we don’t need as many people. Soon enough, robots will be able to perform tasks humans do today and thus, there won’t be a need for so many of us. Additionally, there might be advances in cloning/biological modifications that will help with the fallout of low fertility.

  12. Sevens says

    You should have used Goldberg’s 2nd edition, Why Men Rule (1993).

  13. codadmin says

    Evolution can be dismissed because females haven’t developed fanged vaginas that poison rapists to death upon forced entry.

    No doubt, this one evolutionary development would solve all of humanities problems.

  14. John says

    Let’s give the atheists’ moral compass a swing.
    Human male’s sexual domination of human females is wrong because…..?

  15. Phil says

    My first reaction,is “is this all true?”, Have they cherry picked some points to provoke a shocking emotional response.

    Words such as gang rape, provokes strong emotional responses. So what is going on?

    “Values conflict” To my modern day values and christian/western values and beliefs find the practices stated in the above article abhorrent.

    If it is true the above practices such as gang rape were once acceptable punishments, then by today’s standards this practice is no longer acceptable in modern societies.

    When it comes to judging the behaviour of societies in the past, we fall foul because of “Presentism”. Applying todays standards and values to past events, and using that as proof of female oppression.

    When another cultures behaviour is judged by today’s western/christian beliefs and values system this creates a values conflict and then we have; argumentum ad misericordiam

    • Stephanie says

      Phil, women getting publically punished by rape or gang rape is a common occurrence in the rural parts of the Asian subcontinent. Makes the news every few months. Sadly “presentism” isn’t an accurate term to describe the superiority of Western values.

      I don’t think women ever enjoyed being gang-raped (or it wouldn’t be rape), so they certainly felt oppressed that that was the punishment for any crime, particularly ceremonial infractions. It’s not modern or Christian standards that makes it so. Indeed, that these systems were so widely perceived as unjust is what made them vulnerable to takeover by Christianity.

  16. Asenath Waite says

    Yes, but what’s this to do with the price of tea in China?

  17. derek says

    The threat to stability and security in these places are young men. They are strong and energetic, are driven by competitive and violent tendencies. Socialization tames and channels these urges into productive and less destructive pursuits.

    There are lots of examples where societal discipline collapses and the results are ugly and include rape and sexual assault. Primitive agrarian and hunter gatherer societies often have tribal rivalries that demand a readiness for violence for protection. It may be that the choice wasn’t between an egalitarian society and what was described, but a choice where women were victimised by roving bands of out of control young men or some structure and containment of the violence. It isn’t as if there was a serious and powerful governing institution that could impose order.

    I find these descriptions downplay the fact that women not to long ago had as many children as they could bear and feed, which meant that from mid teens to very close to the statistical life span end were wholly occupied with their children and/or grandchildren. The desire for sexual relations is very strong in both sexes.

    There are a number of things that make the stories not our experience. The institutions of State impose some order, and in places where that falls apart the patterns re-emerge. The energy and drive of young men is used to good purposes; almost everything from where we live too how we move around to maintaining order to the software that we use is the product predominantly of men. And armies of men work incessantly to keep all this working and in good order. For many men there are families and spouses that provide impetus and purpose.

    These are fraying somewhat, but the aging of the population means there aren’t legions of restless young men open to some mayhem. We are seeing some of it, but attenuated by the small numbers.

  18. Nakatomi Plaza says

    Uh-oh, Quillette readers are caught in a conundrum. Femininity has biological origins, but so may masculine tendencies towards violence and oppressing women. What to do if your brain is only capable of binary constructions and is incapable of processing politically inconvenient information? Somebody must be wrong about something, but there’s no way it’s us, right?

    And thank you Quillette for publishing something interesting and more challenging than the typical libertarian bullshit specifically catered to your reactionary audience. There may be hope after all.

    • Stephanie says

      Of course the typical Quillette reader understands the greater male predisposition towards violence and domination and the biological origin thereof. It is thanks to the emergence of civilisation and advanced social constructs, particularly monogamy and equal value for every human under God, that we emerged above tribal barbarism.

    • Asenath Waite says

      @Nakatomi Plaza

      I don’t see the conundrum. That’s why so many more men than women are in prison for violent offenses.

  19. Peter from Oz says

    What I find very interesting is the phenomenon of conservatism by proxy.
    I think it is likely that most humans have a conservative side to their nature. They like the idea of traditions. Many leftists however, have oikophobia, which means they despise the traditions of their own culture. But hey have a respect for the traditions of primitve or less developed cultures. It stems from Rousseau’s idiotic ideas about the ”noble savage”. This satisifies their need for conservatism, whilst they go about ignoring or demolishing the traditions of their own culture.
    But every so often, as in this article, it is pointed out that the traditions of the savages are not noble after all. The leftists then all clutch their pearls a bit, find some way to blame ”men” for the problem. They can then forget about the whole thing and go back to their old conservatism by proxy and admioration of the ”noble savage.”

  20. M. says

    The increase in the number of women in power is not the outcome of human nature. It’s rather an ideological, “forced” state of affairs, the result of women being pushed up to a level they otherwise wouldn’t have achieved, largely by the men who supported and continue to support their suffrage, (possibly weak men looking for better mating opportunities). Patriarchy is inevitable, unless forced by artificial means – such as birth control, abortion(child sacrifice), and inducing women to go against their natures. It does not have to be and should not be violent towards women, but it is inevitable, because any society that does not follow that natural reality is doomed to fail, and we are seeing signs of that failure now. The West is faltering, and it will either take up patriarchy, or be overtaken by a patriarchy.

    This article makes a lot of assumptions about what men do TO women in those cultures. But women created those culture, and they always have. Women, if given freedom of choice, will simply ‘freely choose’ the highest status males available to them. Male control of their choice was nothing less than an attempt by males to have a say in who mates with who, the ability to choose for themselves, instead of having everything depend on presentations of status, or material status – which is a kind of constant begging for female attention, a devotion of a whole life to seeking it and maintaining it, instead of allowing men to focus on building civilization (which were all built by patriarchies, of course).

    Also, female hypergamy is a social violence that was controlled by male physical violence in the past, by gender roles in the recent past, and by NOTHING in the modern age. Physical violence is highly illegal, social violence is rampant.

    • Just Me says


      “Patriarchy is inevitable, unless forced by artificial means – such as birth control, abortion(child sacrifice), and inducing women to go against their natures.”

      All human societies use “artificial means” to adapt to our environment. There is nothing “natural” about agriculture or medicine, would you have us give up those? There have always been attempts at birth control, just as at medicine, we just have perfected those today. Many ancient societies have accepted infanticide under some conditions (child sacrifice is another matter, but also of course existed to appease the gods in some cultures).

      As for “Male control of their choice was nothing less than an attempt by males to have a say in who mates with who, the ability to choose for themselves, instead of having everything depend on presentations of status, or material status – which is a kind of constant begging for female attention, a devotion of a whole life to seeking it and maintaining it” that is a very modern, “incel” view, totally anachronistic.

      On the contrary, most societies have had polygyny, in which the higher status males appropriate all the most desirable women, leaving the low status males without a mate. Monogamy was rare, but got adopted by the Greeks as part of their democratic ideal, then by the Romans who admired Greek culture, and spread through the Roman empire to other parts pf the world, then through Christianity and colonialism to the rest of the world.

      There is nothing about monogamy in the Bible, Judaism became monogamous under the Roman Empire, and Xianity just picked it up as the norm.

      See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTH-8g6ZrF4

  21. jimhaz says

    All this article tells me is that we should not be too fast in giving females equal right to govern – because they have never evolved to govern a whole society due partly to a lack of experience.

    Being too proactive in the equality stakes just represent social danger. As we see occurring now.

    • forestperson says

      Interesting. This article tells me we should avoid at all costs giving males the right to govern or women will be horrifically oppressed and gang raped.

      “Being too proactive in the equality stakes just represent social danger.”

      Unlike widespread socially-accepted gang rape?

  22. Jochen Schmidt says

    I have a simple question. The title of the article reads: “A Girl’s Place in the World”. But what does the article tell us about “a girl’s place in the world”?

    The article tells some exciting stories about archaic minorities (e.g., the Central Iatmul fisher-foragers of Papua New Guinea). But these minorities are not representative for Western societies (e.g., U.S.). They are not representative for Eastern societies (e.g., China). They are not even representative for the developing countries.

    So, what does the article tell us about “a girl’s place in the world”? Nothing. Instead it tells us something about some archaic minorities. Fraudulent labeling, it seems.

    • Just Me says

      Hochen –

      It tells us about human nature and society outside of our immediate experience.

    • Apparently most of the commenters here think daughters should be battered between men like cattle.

  23. AJ says

    Anyone with any sense recognises that men and women are broadly different and one par tof that is how they exert power. Men are the overt open leaders but thw case that women have less power is not made.

    The example of Yambabo the girl who refuses ot marry is quite interesting. The first thing to observe is that a woman at peak fertile age who refuses to have a husband is a significant problem for the group, by refusing to marry she is significantly reducing the groups reproductive potential and thereby their long term survival chances. The implication of the text is that the brother alone decided to force his sister to marry but actually it is clear thatthe whole group saw this as a problem that needed to be resolve. The text says that the brother ‘Kenge was ready for murder’ but actually it is very clear he was not. He judged his beating as to cause no serious injury. However it was the mother who actually changed Yambabo ‘s mind. This is actually an example of a girl who felt she could defy the wishes of the overall group and take actions which significantly affected the groups survival chances negatively who was forced to change her mind by the actions of the group as a whole including men and women. I suspect a male who engaged in actions which had a similarily negatove impact on the group would be treated far more severely perhaps simply killed.

    The statement that ‘Males tend to benefit more from engaging in violence—both individually and in groups’ is odd given it is clear from the text that the consequences to men of being on the losing side in conflict is death whereas for women it is to be taken as forced brides. In this case at least the potential consequences for men are significantly worse.

    • E. Olson says

      AJ – good comment. Soldiers have historically been taught to “kill or be killed” in order for them to do what doesn’t come naturally to most – slice, stab, shoot, punch, or snap an opponent until they are dead. It also isn’t difficult to reinforce this lesson by pointing to many historic examples of “losing” or “cowardly” soldiers being savagely killed in combat or as prisoners of war. On the other hand, women are much more seldom killed in combat or war, so they have much less incentive to fight to the death and much more incentive to surrender. Thus, even if you take away the physical strength differences by assuming physical standards are the same for men and women (as unlikely as that is to be in practice), is/should a male soldier in a fire fight going to trust that the female soldier fighting beside him has his back in a kill or be killed situation? This is the type of dynamic that social justice warriors never consider when pushing for females in the military and police, but then again they rarely care that their desire for equality and fairness may very well end up killing more male soldiers and police officers.

    • Just Me says


      She did not refuse to marry, she refused to marry the particular man her family told her to. Huge difference.

      What the article does not explain but only hints at is that the brother needed her to marry that man first so he could marry. There were elaborate rules in those societies as to who could marry whom, and it had little to do with braun, but with family relationships: one lineage had to marry another lineage, etc. It was about exchanges and alliances between families, lineages, etc., not sex.

      One famous anthropologist recounted how he asked the men in a hunter-gatherer society why they got married, the answer was incredulous hilarity, then when he insisted, “Don’t you want a brother-in-law???!”

  24. Richard says

    Compare the title of the piece i.e. “A Girl’s Place in the World” with the repellant biblical quotation buried in its depths:

    Moses himself demands of the commanders of the army: “Now kill all the boys.”

    This is not mere anachronistic misandry. We remember Boko Haram only for the kidnappings of school girls. That they burned alive and cut the throats of thousands of school boys was not a matter that troubled Michelle Obama, who saw only her own daughters in Nigeria.

    Feminist ideologues scanning this piece for seemingly scholarly opinion validating their “patriarchy” myth will be well rewarded. However, what we have is a typically one-eyed gynocentric viewpoint that admits only such evidence as supports its hypothesis, and excludes that which does not.

    • Morgan Foster says


      A perceptive comment about Michelle Obama.

    • E. Olson says

      Richard – you need to cut Michelle some slack, after all the Obama family already lost their son Trayvon in a racist killing by a white Hispanic. Furthermore, no tweet, even from the First Lady would ever bring back the boys killed by Boko Haram, and highlighting the tragedy might lead the public to doubt that Islam is a religion of peace.

  25. dirk says

    Anecdote: back home in the NLs from a botanical excursion in Achual tribe area, Amazon, I took with me and showed a small wooden Achual stool to friends and asked them to store it for a time in their attic. I told, laughingly, that it was a man’s stool, forbidden for women to sit on. The 4 yr old daughter, I heard later, was completely upset by this story, though her mother told that this was only habit in some far away tribes, not in their own culture. When asking for it again, years later, she told me it had split into pieces, and she had to throw it away. Everybody happy again, except me!

  26. Photondancer says

    I have recently begun wonder how relevant it is to cite hunter gatherer societies as evidence for sociology. Any group that is still hunter gatherers in the 21st century is, almost by definition, a failure. Quite possibly their violence towards women is one of the causes of that failure. It’s maladaptive to progress. I have never seen an anthropologist or evolutionary psychologist address this possibility.

    • Daniel V says

      You can’t say a society is a failure if it never had a chance to succeed. Expanded rights for women are not viable unless there are enough resources to allow that freedom.

    • Harland says

      Photondancer’s breathtaking racism and cultural chauvinism on full display for everyone. This is what a decayed soul looks like.

      • cfkane1941 says

        Congratulations. You called him out instead of engaging with him, like the comment below does. Now everybody knows how morally upstanding you are. Well done.

    • Just Me says


      Depends on your timeframe.

      Those societies existed for tens of thousands of years, that was quite successful

      It was only when they came into contact with other societies that had developed in other ways due to different geographic and historical circumstances that they were not so successful.

      But one view is that as states appeared and expanded, the small hunter gatherer tribes who managed to escape their grasp were in fact successful, the ones that failed were the ones that had to submit and be incorporated into states…Some managed to retain their independence for thousands of years.

      • dirk says

        What Photondancer says is not unlike what founder of cultural anthropology , Prof Tylor, said 150 yrs ago: hunter/gatherers are the first steps of mankind, surviving reminders of how it was, now only found in the dry, desolate margins of our planet. He certainly was no racist, as some here are. For some reason, what Tylor once taught is no longer PC to say, and I wonder how cultural anthropology is taught these days, I fear for the worst, PC at full speed, so, no longer science at all. We have again a strange case of a serial killer in desolate parks and nature reserves, here, in the NLs.
        A very nice guy, friendly, ambitious, intelligent the neighbours and friends said: he studies cultural anthropology and development sociology. Sometimes, one wonders what’s going on on this planet, as af late.

  27. Daniel V says

    This piece rubs against a foundational myth for modern feminists that uses a narrative structure very similar to the garden of eden story and is also seen in most single issue political movements. It’s what creates a block when trying to discuss feminist issues and argue against the idea we can achieve gender parity in all aspects of life. It also has big implications for their other beliefs.

    If we believe the myth of the noble savage and the idea in the past our societies were egalitarian paradises then it only makes sense that we can return to that state. Just like believing our sinfulness is something we can be redeemed from, because it’s not our natural state, allows us to believe we can return to a state of godliness. If we really were able to achieve such equality of gender in the past there really is no argument to be made why we can’t again.

    Likewise when we accept we fell from grace and that patriarchy was imposed on humanity we have to ask how that came to be. One of the most common causes given is religion because in out modern societies it is most often the religious right that pushes back against calls for change. These activists fail to realize that their calls for change are coming from their own religion which is an evolution of the traditions that came before it. Let’s not forget the idea of social justice was developed by Jesuits and only recently made the jump to a more secular manifestation.

    So history is less a story of us falling from grace or being corrupted by some external concept and more a story of slow progression and domestication. It’s critical to realize this because we see the results of ignoring this reality with what happened on communist states. They believed that they could remove all existing social constructs and rewrite them from the top down. I’m certain they too believed the natural state of man was basically to live in a communist ideal so by removing the structures corrupting that natural state things would easily sort themselves out.

    Of course when this was implemented it didn’t work. All communist states have since started backing away from the project and reintroducing old traditions the people never gave up. In Russia for example people publically endorsed radical equality between sexes and atheism, yet in private mom was still cooking the meals and rituals were still being performed. Which wasn’t a case of them just not doing it right but was instead a matter of the impossibility of forcing our complex social systems to evolve artificially.

    Hopefully our social systems will continue towards something where men and women are as equal as possible but that’s not something that can be forced. Want to see less sexism and racism in the American South? Then make sure the people in the American South have the same material and existential security as people living in New York or California. Or better yet give them the same as what people in the Nordic countries enjoy. That will allow the social structures to evolve on their own and is the only way forward.

  28. “Any sudden increase in interest over sex differences, therefore, must be regarded as a danger signal for women, particularly, in a patriarchal society where men find it advantageous to prove on biologic premises that women should not take part in shaping the economy and the political order. On these premises elaborate convictions serving the interests of masculine ideologies become strategical means of preserving masculine superiority in the economic and political world by convincing women that innately she is glad to keep out of it”

    Elsewhere she says

    “Once and for all we should stop bothering about what is feminine and what is not. Such concerns only undermine our energies. Standards of masculinity and femininity are artificial standards. All that we definitely know at present about sex differences is that we do not know what they are. Scientific differences between the two sexes certainly exist, but we shall never be able to discover what they are until we have first developed our potentialities as human beings. Paradoxical as it may sound, we shall find out about these differences only if we forget about them. In the meantime what we can do is to work together for the full development of the human personalities of all for the sake of general welfare”

    The above excerpts are from Dr. Bernard J Paris’s book: Karen Horney: A Psychoanalyst’s Search for Self-Understanding

    Appendix B Women’s Fear Of Action

    • Peter Kriens says

      You do not indicate your own intention with this texts so I am going to assume that it is the author of the book.

      I think the sudden increase in interest in innate differences between the sexes is caused by the media pushing a narrative that does not match what we see daily in our own lives. Women in the west have been free of any legal constraints for 60 years and there has been an enormous effort to push women in traditionally masculine areas. Clearly any person should be able to follow her/his dreams but somehow the media gives the impression that traditional feminine areas are inferior. (A better name for feminism would be masculinism since it seems to put much higher values on masculinity than femininity.)

      What I see is that that society started pushing women in a much more coercive way than the patriarchy ever did. I think it is discrepancy between how the media tells us how the world should be and how it actually is that is causing the renewed interest in biological origins. Not men that want to send women back to the kitchen.

      • Daniel V says

        @Peter Our culture now seems focused on defining success in monetary terms. Since traditionally feminine jobs pay less they are not seen as successful.

  29. Just Me says

    This kind of anthropological perspective is useful in broadening the general public’s view of what human societies can be like, but it is still rather limited in that it suggests that human mating and marriage was an individual matter, as it is considered to be today. But it is important to understand that it was generally not.

    People assume hunter-gatherers must have simple social structures, “closer to nature”, than more complex societies, but that is not true. They had/have complex marriage rules, complex cosmologies, etc.

    I would like to suggest a follow-up article on marriage systems cross-culturally, swing how complex they are. For example, the Australian aborigines had some of the most complex marriages rules ever, involving clans, “moieties”.

    Few people who have not studied anthropology have any clue about this. even today, many societies require cross-cousin marriages, for example. That severely limits mate choice.

    Here’s a taste:



    The free-for-all we have today was definitely not the norm in other societies.

  30. Just Me says

    For those dismissing anthropology as uselessly ideological, you are right about today’s anthropology, by and large. It is a postmodern mess.

    The discipline started taking the “postmodern turn” in the 80s, but before that, it had produced excellent and useful knowledge about the wide variety of ways in which human societies have organized themselves, and was interested in the factors explaining those variations.

    Buckner is using that work in this article.

  31. Gordon the Gopher says

    Cyclops vision in full effect here.
    Yes women are treated badly throughout the world but so are the boys. Consider that in all these cases, the women were raped for transgression but had a boy or man transgressed into those sacred spaces they would have been flat out tortured and then executed. The girl was raped before being initiated into the sacred mysteries but what isn’t mentioned is that the boys have to “suck seed” from the elders as part of their inititation. Both genders are sexually assaulted as the elders believe that all their wisdom is held in their seed and that inititates have to receive it in order to receive (pass on) the sacred wisdom. It’s a gross gross tribe but they are literally f*cking both genders over. Something the author must have known but has neglected to mention half the story. That’s an agenda.
    The same tribe splits each hut down the middle, if the man transgresses into the female half of the hut he can be punished by the female members of the tribe including the exile or stoning to death of the male trangressor.

    It’s not that the author is wrong about the treatment of females they just forget to point out it goes both ways.

    • dirk says

      It’s nice to read here how it really was in those far away and so very distinct cultures somewhere on our planet. Some remains of that old, decent ethnographical schools, no longer taught, I fear! reminds me of Tristes Tropiques, Levi Strauss. I loved it! (Structuralism, also out, I fear)

  32. Sam says

    As a couple others have said, this is bog-standard gynocentric babble and a sophisticated slur on men.

    The piece almost comically whistles past any mention of men’s obligations and women’s power in societies, especially our own.

    Damning stone-age society men for not sharing the best meat from animals they no doubt hunted themselves. Forgetting that women make up 50% of the PARENTS that arrange marriages, as well as completely ignoring the groom’s agency (or did you simply forget that a man or boy is 50% of an arranged marriage, and that he gets fuck-all choice in the matter as well?). Ignoring that genetic data shows that historically MOST human males never got to pass on their genes, and that monogamy is a cultural adaptation to ease that pressure while ensuring the male can be confident in paternity – which ultimately benefits the mother (ie a genius compromise of our dimorphic sexual strategies). Using Hilary Clinton logic by implying that women somehow suffer MORE from tribal war because they’re NOT violently murdered. Seriously, every anecdote (how scientific!) mentioned is horrible, but keeping some perspective on how shitty life was for damn near everyone is important if we’re to learn anything from them.

    Also, “males tend to benefit more from engaging in violence—both individually and in groups” is a particularly delicious example of cognitive dissonance. Men (and women) tend to suffer from violence, and – biologically speaking – it is the women who mates with the winner of men’s violent displays who benefits most, as they pass on their genes and have a man apparently best capable of provisioning for and protecting her. But no mention of that incentive – just the lazy assumption that men enjoy maiming each other to prove their place in the hierarchy.

    The author doesn’t completely ignore reality like so many gender warriors these days, but rather selectively sees the realities that advance her gynocentric aims. Men are bigger, stronger, faster, and mentally better equipped to handle environmental challenges…AND are by nature and culture driven to use those abilities to provision for their women and children at the expense of their health, life, and pride. That’s the whole truth, and it can be good news and bad news for all people depending on context.

    • Somewoman says

      You are wrong. The idea that men are globally driven to provide for women and children is a delusion of presentism. It has not applied to many ethnic groups, as paternal investment varies considerably by race and by tribal culture within that. In some parts of the world women do most of the economically productive labor while adult men are basically parasitic. They consume more than they offer to the family. This includes some Arab Bedouin societies and many African societies.

      This article is very much correct in describing the violent and exploitative relationship between men and women in pre agrarian times, at least for the warm weather societies where the observations were made.

      Some people project the rather parochial ideals of western chivalry onto human nature as a whole. This is anti historical. Even today, we still find places where men have no interest in dedicating themselves to making anything better for the women in their families. They see women as livestock to be used for labor and bartered. When Winston Churchill spent time in the North African muslim world, he was appalled by how readily the men there tried to trade their wives for guns with men they didn’t know at all.

      Today we can observe that while deeply patriarchal societies are more violent for men, they are worse for women because of the degraded state they live in. They eat last and least. They provide productive labor by attending to livestock and farming but they don’t control any of the money that comes in from this labor so they are barred from things the husband deems expensive such as hospital healthcare.

      Any woman who thinks that men are innately her friends is delusional.

      • Just Me says


        Anyone who believes other humans are innately their friends is delusional.

        Humans are by nature driven by drives to dominate, and to avoid domination. There can never be a perfect, peaceful, cooperative society, but then there can never be a total war of all against all, because a society needs individuals to cooperate.

        Societies must reach a certain equilibrium between competition for domination and cooperation, and have done so in different ways depending on a host of factors. Some have instituted rigid hierarchies, others have had more flexible arrangements.

        Revolts and revolutions are actually rather rare, and a modern phenomenon driven by new ideas of what is fair and what is oppression, and lead to a new equilibrium, albeit after much bloodshed.

        Less bloody but slower change occurs through gradual reforms, which have to be done through persuasion, a change in ideology, but that only works when the materials conditions already exist, e.g. efficient birth control, a service economy rather than an agricultural one, etc.

        Our current expectations are the end result of a long history different from that of other societies, but we have exported a lot of our revolutionary ideas to other societies, for better or worse.

        Marxism, democracy, equality, human rights, are western ideas that were adopted by other societies, because they seemed to work in improving people’s lives.

        It turned out Marxism didn’t work so well, so it has been abandoned almost everywhere, but may be staging a comeback among young people because we have not been as vocal about its horrors as we have been about those of fascism and naziism, for example.

      • Just Me says


        Men are driven to acquire power and status, as are women, they just have to do it differently.

        Societies can organize to take advantage of that by canalising that need into more productive pursuits, like becoming a doctor, a businessman, being a good provider for a family, etc., rather than becoming a thug or a conqueror or a pimp and drug dealer.

      • Harland says

        Bedouins and Africans are parasites? Who let the racist Somewoman in here? That’s an utterly disgusting statement from a vile person.

    • Just Me says


      not sure where you get the idea this article is intended to “damn” men for anything. It is laying out the evidence for certain social behaviors being widespread across societies, and attempting to explain why.

      What is good for a person’s genes isn’t necessarily good for the person, that’s one basic problem with using evolutionary advantage to evaluate societies in moral terms.

      Those are two different issues, what happens and why, and whether that is good or bad depending on which criteria.

      We should be able to discuss these things dispassionately, unfortunately that seems impossible today.

    • codadmin says


      “…historically MOST human males never got to pass on their genes”

      If most males never passed on their DNA, then what males did? The answer, which you alluded to further on in your comment, is that the most violent and psychopathic ones did.

      Genghis Khan, arguably the most brutal warlord in history, is directly related to 1 in every 200 men.

      And that’s just the influence of one warlord. If you add up all the warlords and violent psychopaths in history, then it appears as if the vast majority of men are directly related to such people.

      Just men men are so violent to each other, that doesn’t mean women have to also put up with it.

      • Andrew Worth says

        No coadmin, it means that women are equally directly related to such people.

  33. Somewoman says

    I find it interesting that after hundreds of thousands of years of evolution that supports an instinct for male obsession over control over the female body, that our current social arrangements feel comfortable and normal to most people. Shows how malleable we are I suppose.

    What man in the western world is pining to trade his sister for his friends sister in a forced arrangement? What adult man tries to forcibly marry a 14 year old? They seem more interested in either brief hookups or equal partnership long term relationships. There is considerable assorted mating today where men don’t often marry a woman who is substantially lower class.

    For women’s part, they never seemed to relent much to male control over them despite eons of inevitability. Still they refuse arranged marriages. Still they run away from husbands. They still have affairs, even where the punishment is violence. Plenty of bird species involve females who never cheat at all. We never became like that. It was probably never adaptive for a woman to be voluntarily loyal to whoever her family assigned her to.

    On the other side of the behavior spectrum is islamists who publicly and collectively beat women who aren’t head to toe covered in burkas. This is seemingly contrary to male instinct too, as everywhere else men very much want to look at young female bodies.

    It’s as though our behavior profiles are so flexible under various cultural conditions that our instincts do very little to constrain them.

    • Just Me says


      What has changed very recently is that reproduction is no longer so crucial to survival, and therefore, status.

      How many children you had, and inheritance of land, livestock, etc., were the crucial determinants of power, status, wealth in an agricultural, hierarchical, feudal society. Family and tribal networks were key as well.

      Not so in an industrial or service economy and a democratic, relatively egalitarian, meritocratic society, where the determinant is personal qualifications and characteristics, where every individual must earn their living and status as an individual rather than as a member of a family or clan or tribe, and where the best inheritance someone can have comes in the form of an excellent education, upbringing, etc., which is expensive, i.e. fewer children mean more investment in each one.

      So men are still crucially interested in whether they are the father of their offspring, and don<t want to invest in those that are not except by adoption, but no longer try to have as many as possible by as many women as possible, especially with laws that make them financially responsible for out-of-wedlock children.

  34. Just Me says

    What is exhausting is the need so many have to see everything in moral terms from the get-go, both radical feminists and their adversaries.

    Proper science means starting by putting aside one’s impulse to judge human societies according to our modern moral values, themselves the result of a long historical development.

    Anthropology used to try to ask the scientific questions, what are the different ways human societies have been organized, and why? First gather the data, then try to classify it various ways to figure out what could account for the similarities and differences over time and geography.

    Then, when you have detailed knowledge and understanding of that, can you evaluate more or less objectively, which forms of social organisation have been more conducive to what we would consider a good society overall, according to our own values? Because a society could have been good for some segments of society and not so good for another.

    What is destructive to any attempt to understand how humans and societies work, is to start off immediately passing moral judgements on them, with little actual data.

  35. Jim Gorman says

    I suspect part of today’s actions are based upon the fact that groups (family, community, etc.) are not in danger of not surviving. Our population has reached to point where survival is not the most important thing on males or females minds. If the human population should drastically shrink due to some apocalyptic event, you would see human interaction approach stone age or earlier norms. I’m not sure what this says about our base instincts.

    • codadmin says

      Unfortunately, you’re right.

      But we don’t even have to imagine a catastrophic event.

      Let’s use another thought experiment and imagine that rape was decriminalised. It’s not difficult to imagine the consequences.

      Men think they are civilised but it’s only the thin line of the law and the consequences of breaking it, which is keeping the their base instincts in check.

      • Just Me says

        codeadmin –

        Or imagine if murder was decriminalised, or theft.

        There is a reason every society has some kind of legal system or equivalent.

        Not sure what that proves.

        • codadmin says

          If those things were decriminalised, who would be doing them?

          Theft, no doubt men and women would be doing that at the same rates, but violence, definitely not.

          Violence is essentially a one way street when it comes to inter gender violence.

          • Just Me says

            Of course women can’t inflict as much damage as men on the other gender through spontaneous physical violence, no matter how angry and out of control they get, but they can use indirect means such as poison, or hiring hit men, etc.

            And they have been violent against children they can easily dominate. And against other women they see as rivals.

            Not as much as men, sure.

            They use other means, i.e. psychological manipulation, gossip, etc. But there are no laws against manipulation and gossip…

            Men use violence against other men, too, so it isn’t just about inter-gender issues, it is about using violence in interpersonal conflict.

            Women learn early on they will lose against a man, so stop trying if they are smart (many are not and get killed).

          • Andrew Worth says

            codadmin: “Violence is essentially a one way street when it comes to inter gender violence.”

            You obviously haven’t read the Dunedin Longitudinal Study or other subsequent work that supports it. Rates of inter-gender domestic violence are about equal each way, the women aren’t more commonly the victims because they’re less violent, they end up the victims because they’re physically smaller and physically weaker.

          • Just Me says

            ctnd –

            People use the means at their disposal to get what they want, or express their anger and resentment, etc.

            Men use physical force, women cry and yell and throw things. Both can do damage, but superior force produces superior damage, whether intended or not.

            I don’t think it’s fair to condemn men for being stronger and producing more damage when they get angry. They need more self-control than women to avoid this.

          • Just Me says

            Men are usually quite aware from an early age that one of the big issues in their lives is controlling their aggression and dealing with other men’s aggression. That’s just a fact of life all societies have to deal with.

            Luckily for middle-class men in developed societies, that is less of an issue than at most other times and places because they have fewer occasions to get into physical confrontations, at least as adults, except in their intimate relationships, because that is one area where emotions can run high between closed doors. Another factor is individual vulnerabilities due to their own family histories.

            But for many subcultures, gangs, criminality, the mafia, etc. everyday violence between men is a real everyday threat.

            I don’t understand what the point is of demonizing men in general for this. All societies have some kind of procedures for punishing extreme aggression, the only issue I see is determining the best way to help them deal with this, and just yelling at them for their supposed patriarchal privilege isn’t it.

            I suggest reading Mad Blood Stirring: the inner lives of violent men by Daemon Fairless for interesting views on how it feels to be a good man with violent impulses, and a bad man with violent impulses.

          • codadmin says

            @Just Me

            But, when it comes to emotional and psychological traits, men and women are a lot more equal than on the violence scale.

            Men manipulate and gossip in their own way. Woman don’t commit violence in any comparable way to men.

            The main trump card women have over men, is the male obsession with sex. Take that away and women have no leverage over men…until kids are involved.

          • Rev. Wazoo! says

            @just me
            Good points and don’t forget the ‘let’s you and him fight’ technique it’s not just the extreme of hiring hitmen.

            Regarding offspring – including teenagers with jobs, so not really children – the threat, ‘wait till your father gets home’ was standard till recently and still common. Deploying male physical force including force-backed ostracism has ever been a female tactic and often a legal right.

            Marriage law and domestic violence ones allow women to summon armed men on their behalf if they even express any ‘fear of violence.’ Social media campaigns to get people fired, ostracised and deplatformed are another case of ‘let’s you and him fight.’

      • Andrew Worth says

        codadmin, men created the laws you misanderous idiot.

        • codadmin says

          @Andrew Worth(less?)

          Of course, compassionate, self-aware men, historically speaking, created the laws which constrained the base instincts of other men.

          • Andrew Worth says

            Which is the vast majority of men in Western countries today. And if you think that in past more violent societies that women were not also far more violent that todays Western women you, again, don’t know what you’re talking about.

          • codadmin says


            Get over yourself. You can barely contain your base, self serving instincts on a mere internet comment section.

            Accept, that as a man, you are a debased creature, who can’t go 2 minutes without thinking about where to stick your weiney.

          • Rev. Wazoo! says

            Yes and the base instincts of women too who are almost exclusively responsible for all murders of people under a year old.

    • Andrew Worth says

      Jim Gorman, exactly so, to draw a modern analogy to pre-agrarian times, picture a military unit and families deep in enemy territory. Many of the modern day social and moral codes would quickly be abandoned with the innate gender roles reasserting themselves to maximize the chances of the unit (tribe) to achieve the now paramount goal of just surviving.

  36. El Uro says

    «Comparison of Y-chromosome and mitochondrial DNA types that are highly different in frequency between African Americans and Europeans also shows that by far the majority of the European ancestry in these populations comes from males, the result of social inequality in which mixed-race couplings were primarily between free males and female slaves» – This “scientist” knows nothing about genetic. Africa has the highest genetic diversity because Africa is the ancestral home of humans, this principle is applicable to any specie.

    • Andrew Worth says

      El Uro, you’ve misunderstood the paragraph you quote (it wasn’t written very well), mitochondrial DNA comes down through the maternal lineage, essentially most mixed race Americans (African ancestry x European ancestry) have Mitochondrial DNA of ethnic African origin, so moving back through their ancestry their maternal line was African in origin.

  37. Albigensian says

    In Darwinian terms, men play for higher stakes. The Darwinian game is always differential reproductive rates, and in the ancestral environment many men never reproduced, while a few might reproduce at very high rates. Among women in the ancestral environment, practically all who are physically able to do so will do so, and usually at rates close to the maximum possible.

    This condition is mitigated in societies in which monogamy is the norm, and is enforced via social pressure and disapproval of those who will not conform. It is, perhaps, not so surprising that cultures that permit polygamy tend to suppress women’s freedom to a greater extent than those which don’t.

    Then again, the West seems to be on a course to abandon monogamy as well, and it’s disappearance furthers an environment in which all but the most attractive men may find themselves losers in sexual competition. And if this prevails, it may well produce a nasty backlash against women’s sexual freedom.

  38. William Buckner´s text puts the present relationship between the sexes in the Christian part of the world in an interesting perspective.
    It is especially noteworthy what the Roman Catholic church did to increase young people´s rights to choose their marriage partner themselves. Starting with pope Gregor VII in the late 11th century, the church worked to ensure that those who married loved each other – because marriage was considered a sacrament, and it could only be a sacrament if the holy spirit benefited from the love between wife and husband. So the church enforced rules that when two young persons had declared their will to marry each other, even if this promise was clandestine, nobody else had the right to prevent them from doing so – neither the lord of the manor, nor the father, nor the mother, nor the extended family.
    It is a common misunderstanding among present day feminists that Christianity is a patriarchal religion, which used to force young people to marry against their will via the force of some patriarch. Nothing is further from the truth – Christianity during the 11th to 16th century secured the rights of young people to follow their hearts and marry whom they wanted, against the will of all others. The father of a rich girl might threaten to disinherit her if she married a man that he did not approve of, and she would often give in to such a threat. But he had no legal right to force her.
    To the Christians, love was an essential part of marriage, and they did what they could to ensure that people married those that they loved. Here, they were often in conflict with secular powers. But it seems that ultimately, the Christian way of thinking won – because that is the way that Westerners, including feminists, think today.
    A good review of this Christian influence may be read in chapter 2 in a book by Mia Korpiola (2009): Between betrothal and bedding. Marriage formation in Sweden 1200-1600.
    Still existing archives from 14th century England prove that the church indeed had the will and power to ensure that young people who loved each other could not be forced to marry someone whom they did not love.
    Michael M. Sheehan (1971): The formation and stability of marriage in forteenth-century England: Evidence of an Ely register. Mediaeval studies 33(1): 228-263.
    I do not feel sure how large was the influence of the church. After all, it seems that among my viking ancestors, young people were often fairly free to marry whom they wanted. And I do not know how much the individual will of young people is respected e.g. in Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism.
    But in any case, the influence of Christianity in this matter is remarkable.

    • dirk says

      Reading all you write here, Karen, really touches me, what it would not have when younger, but now, as an old man, yes! I think you are right! What I remember from Tacitus, to his great surprise, in the German, so pre-Christian world, monogamy was the rule, personal love was sacred, and adultery punished severely. So, what was first here? I wonder very much!

  39. Wirdway says

    No tabula rasa but plasticity within limits; and contrary to the shibboleths of grievance politics and also noble savage tropes of indigeneity , the most plasticity in history is found in association with western modernity. Don’t cheer too soon. That cultural flexibility to moderate evolved pre-dispositions is a function of energy, complexity and, unfortunately, climate / biodiversity catastrophe. This is a good review of the anthropological evidence.

  40. Lightning Rose says

    I’ve been wondering if the rise of feminism and elevation of homosexuality recently aren’t part of a natural phenomenon; Nature’s way of checking the population since we are the pinnacle predator. War used to do the job, but we’ve made that obsolete, so like a virus mutating, Nature finds another path to the same end. Worth thinking about . . . we like to think we have agency in all this, but do we really?

  41. Love Liberty says

    When ancient society rules demand: Kill all the men, and take the women.
    Modern thought calls out: Oh, weren’t they awful to the women.

  42. Love Liberty says

    Fascinating that with bonobos and unwanted sexual demands

    “males with high-status mothers seem to be able to get away with it”

    So bonobos matriarchal influence favours the mother’s sons.

    “Go on, my son, spread my genes”

  43. David MacLean says

    I believe that in this paper, we can truly understand the writer’s bias by the examples that he chooses to illustrate his points. For illustration, “… in his ethnographic work The Forest People (1961), anthropologist Colin Turnbull describes a Mbuti girl being publicly beaten by her brother until she accepts her place in a “sister-exchange” marriage arrangement …”. He goes on to quote a passage from Turnbull which describes the treatment that this Mbuti girl (Yambabo) receives from both her brother and her mother because she would not submit to an arranged marriage.

    However, within the quoted passage, one can determine that Yambabo has a history of defiance of custom, and custom and tradition is what holds a hunter/gatherer society together. This raises the question, why was Yambabo allowed to defy tradition for so long? It was pointed out that Yambabo should have been married “long ago” but was not. How could she have held out against the wills of both her family and her tribe?

    “Tolerance of contra-tradition” is hardly something associated with hunter/gatherer tribes, yet here we have a glaring example of a woman approaching “old maid” status in an arranged marriage society, and it is clear that it is this woman’s defiance of the tribe’s traditions that make this so. This would, to me, serve as an exemplar of tolerance for this woman’s behaviour in the past, and up to just before this point in time. A moment’s reflection would tell you that this would not be an isolated case of defiance; if it were, the reaction would be that of shock, not of essentially, “that’s just her”.

    The question is whether or not this tolerance is afforded to just women (Yambabo was hardly a “girl”), or was it afforded to every member of the tribe. Either the men were afforded an equal (or, because it was a patriarchy) greater tolerance for defying the major traditions of the tribe, or they were not. Mr. Buckner does not offer any samples where men were tolerated for long periods for defying the traditions. Does any evidence that Mr. Buckner is aware of for defiance tolerance exist? It did or did not. If it did not, then Yambabo’s defiance is supportive evidence that Forest People society was more tolerant of women defying tribal customs than of men defying tribal customs. If there was evidence for equal (or greater) tolerance for men defying traditions, then why was it not included in the essay? Since Buckner’s thesis is that women were oppressed by men (through the upholding of traditions and customs), there could be only three reasons for not including an example of men being equally (or more) tolerated for defying traditions: 1) as mentioned before, there could be no such example, 2) there is an example, but Mr. Buckner did not include it because it did not fit his narrative, or 3) Mr. Buckner ignored the example or examples because he considered it irrelevant.

    In all three of the above listed cases, this tends to show Mr. Buckner’s bias towards his narrative. In the latter two cases, evidence exists that tends to counter his thesis that women are oppressed by men in hunter/gatherer societies, but his bias either refuses to allow such contraindications to pollute his thesis, or he is able to ignore it because he has convinced himself that his thesis is true, and therefore all contraindications are obviously false, and therefore ignorable.
    In the first case, there is no indication whatsoever that Mr. Buckner has even looked for countervailing evidence. This violates the very foundation of the scientific method – TEST the hypothesis. The “test” in the case of the scientific method is not simply gather evidence that corroborates the hypothesis. Test, in this case, means to do your utmost to falsify the hypothesis. This is one of the main bulwarks against confirmation bias.

    I do not disagree with Mr. Buckner’s opinion that women are (and by direct inference, were) oppressed by men in hunter/gatherer societies, but neither do I agree with that hypothesis. What I am asking is for ANY hypothesis presented in a purportedly scientific discipline conform to the scientific method, in all of its aspects, before accepting a hypothesis as theory.

  44. ERH says

    I think the role of firearms as an equalizer of the sexes has been woefully ignored. Firearms all but negate the strength advantage of males.

    • Andrew Worth says

      It’s rare for women to use guns on men, the great equalizers are things like the more liberal societies than can be supported by the greater wealth that better technology endows us, modern humans greater ability at abstract and empathic thinking, and the resulting women’s suffrage.

      • Andrew Worth says

        “. . . more liberal societies THAT can be . . . “

  45. Pingback: Recomendaciones | intelib

  46. Pingback: The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell – Eustea Reads

  47. Tony says

    So why don’t these oppressed women rise up, subjugate the men, kill the ones who refuse to be subjugated and build a better, more fair society?

  48. Pingback: A Woman’s Place | nebraskaenergyobserver

Comments are closed.