Random Thoughts

"Evolution" of male and female sexual and cultural roles

I'm sure you've all heard of the poorly thought out, but readily and widely accepted, "evolutionary" explanation for why men are promiscuous (physical, aggressive, hunters) and women tend towards home and monogamy (nurturing, caring, agricultural). That the man succeeds, genetically, by "spreading his seed" far and wide, leaving his offspring all over the place in different conditions to maximize their survival rate, and that the woman who tends to try to "keep her man" at home will improve the survival chances of her offspring and hence genes by adding more adult productivity to their environment.

This is a complete crock. It is argument after the fact, trying to explain a cultural artifact, that is far from universal, by a misapplication of a slight understanding of evolution and the "survival of the fittest."

It is so easy to actually create arguments in the opposite direction that I am amazed the first set took hold at all - except, of course, that people are always searching for easy answers that seem intelligent and scientific, but mostly agree with what they think they already know.

The woman who has several children, all by different fathers, will be increasing the chances of the survival of her genes by combining them with several different sets of traits (from the fathers).

Likewise, the man who decides to "stick around" and share his productive energies (food, shelter, etc.) with his children and their mother will greatly increase the chances of the survival of his genes, via those protected, provided-for offspring.

So there.

(It is a good idea to keep this kind of thought process in mind whenever anyone presents some sort of evolutionary argument for any kind of segregation of behaviours to one group, or even to all humans, by the way. The logic may seem compelling, but how easy is it to construct equally valid and logical hypotheses for opposing theories?)


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© Huw Powell

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