Behaviors are not caused by genes. There is not a gene that causes you to be good, or to be bad, or to be smart, or good at accounting, or to like bananas. There are, however, drives. “Drives” is a nicely vague term that we can all understand the meaning of. Thirst and hunger are drives we can all relate to. In fact, these drives are so basic, consistent and powerful that almost everyone has them, we share almost exact experiences in relation to them, and they can drive (as drives are wont to do) us to do extreme things when they are not met for long periods of time. While eating disorders are common enough and these affect a hunger drive, it is very rare to find a person thirst themselves to death.

Beyond thirst and hunger there are other drives, and as we explore them we find increasing complexity, inter-individual and inter-cultural variation, and even differences in whether or not they are present in an individual or widely manifest (or not) in a culture. Nonetheless, the fact that they are “true drives” is evidenced by their near ubiquity across cultures, their link to a biological mechanism typically having to do with the limbic and endocrine systems, and the fact that when we don’t see them acting overtly in a person it is often because a fair amount of individual or cultural energy has been spent repressing them.

Personally, I think that most biological drives, maybe all, produce extreme or pathological behavior if unchecked, and that therefore all drives are repressed to some degree in almost all individual humans. There is considerable evidence that things like anger, thirst, or fear (to use highly generalizable terms) are manifest as a balance between limbic circuits that are excitatory or inhibitory; Experimental interference with one or the other circuit produces extreme results such as a rat that will not stop eating or a cat that will maintain an arch-backed bristle-haired stance until it falls over in exhaustion.

Also, I think that what I’m calling drives (again, as a convenience … you won’t find what I am thinking on Wikipedia) are a basic mammalian trait. Therefore, it is reasonable to ask if some of the evolutionary events related to the rise of new species of mammals are related to changes in drives, or more interestingly (and more commonly, I suspect) changes in how drives are on one hand repressed and on the other hand re-configured to work with each other.

Thus, one could say that since humans are behaviorally derived with respect to many traits in comparison to African apes in general, a major feature of the human brain must be mechanisms telling the rest of the brain, to some extent every minute of the day, “Don’t be a chimp …. Don’t be a chimp. Seriously, dood … don’t be a chimp.”

At the individual level, and I’m oversimplifying a great deal here, one might imagine drives being enhanced or repressed to a degree that makes an individual very different from others. The fictional character “Brennan” on the TV series Bones comes to mind. She seems most of the time to have no drives at all, or to be intellectually in denial of them. Social and psychological pathologies may often be associated with drives that are inappropriately strong or weak.

So, is it really true that behaviors are not “caused by genes” if there are these drives? Yes, and I say this because the average person who is thinking that behaviors are caused by genes is not thinking at all about intermediate mechanisms, and if they are, they are assuming that the intermediate mechanisms are little more than a transparent ether through which genes operate on the behavioral phenotypes we observe. Also, “genetic determinism” is not about whether or not one or more genes are involved in a trait, but rather (and this is very important so if you’ve got a yellow highlighter uncap it now) “genetic determinism” is about the close correspondence between variation across individuals in the genetic code they carry and the ensuing variation across individuals in the phenotype they express. Moreover, “genetic determinism” as usually conceived is presumed to average out within categories such as “race” or “sex” with very little variation within, but enough variation between these categories to be measurable. Which is why the concept is almost always racist or sexist or both.

But in reality, variation in the way limbic and other brain functions as well as closely related endocrine systems are manifest in humans and probably many other mammals is only to a small extent a function of genes, and is otherwise a function of what we may loosely call development. This relationship is not a post-hoc observation, or a liberal excuse, or a politically motivated bit of rhetoric. It is, rather, the explanation for why we have large brains that mostly develop, in detail, on the basis of experience rather than genetic coding for how they are hooked up. (And, while this applies mainly to mammals, something like it might be going on in some birds.)

Consider long term habituation. When endocrinologists (those who study hormones) measure hormone levels, they generally adjust the numbers to account for individual baselines, because while two individuals may have very different baselines they can have the same range of behaviors and responses. Two men may have androgen hormone levels that vary between them by a factor of 2X or 3X, but have the same basic behavioral repertoire. This is because of two things: First, the number of receptor sites and their sensitivity matters as much as, if not more than, the serum hormone levels; and second, most hormone systems are some sort of feedback loop that relies on changes in concentration against set points that are individually established, not species-specific. Putting it another way, if a hormone system is like a thermostat in your house (a homeostatic equilibrium system) then each individual has a personally established and potentially unique “room temperature.” This variation between individuals could be genetic, but is it just as likely, or even more likely, to be developmental. A related example is the mechanism by which we become “cold” or “warm” (with respect to comfort). This is not innate, but rather, a function of exposure to environmental conditions in early life (thigh there are body-shape related variations that probably are genetic that matter to thermoregulation in a non-industrial population).

Given huge piles of evidence for individual variation in behavior as a function of context, conditioning, and development and relatively little evidence that has not been made up, cooked up, or otherwise tainted or damaged for straight forward genetic determination of behavior, I’m going to go with the model that humans vary mostly on the basis of their biological and cultural experiences post-conception. For example, the single largest factor in variation in human intelligence in a given population can easily be prenatal alcohol exposure, or variation in folic acid in the maternal diet. Given the amount of post-conception stuff the brain does in development, and how much of that depends on experience, it is very unlikely that brain function varies across individuals on the basis of genes (other than individuals with genetic disorders, but we need not count broken individuals in considering normative development).

From what we know about “drives” and from what we know about brains and development, it is very reasonable to hypothesize that variation across individual human males in something like violence levels, likelihood to carry out rape, or other widespread and usually male-associated behavior is environmental. Yet, these behaviors at the base, the systemic potential for these behaviors, is a mammalian feature or a primate feature or a great-ape feature, depending on level of analysis.

This is not the place to discuss this in detail, but a quick digression regarding comparison among mammals is probably useful at this point in order to stem unnecessary direct comparisons that may come up in discussion. Maybe mammalian males in general have certain traits leading them towards violent or icky behavior, but the details are important. The fact that big horn sheep butt heads in contests sometimes to the death, taken as an extreme male-male competitive trait, can not be linked to similar behavior among human males (and such behavior does seem to happen in humans). The basal bovid-type organisms from which the big horn sheep derive was probably a small bodied monogamous forest dwelling animal in which males probably did not have a much greater tendency to butt heads than females, though both males and females would likely have employed some sort of “violence” in defending young or territories. Among primates, Old World Monkeys include a lot more examples of violent male behavior than do New World Monkeys. The latter group, in fact, have many cases of distinctly non-violent males as typical of the species. We don’t know the nature of the basal primate, but we cannot assume that it was like a baboon, which is the primate often taken as prototypical in thinking about primate social behavior. In fact, we can guess that it was probably NOT like a baboon for a number of reasons. Therefore, what might be thought of as “over the top” male behavior (butting heads to the death) is NOT a basal mammalian trait that may be found in humans because we are mammals. The phylogenetic link between big horn sheep and human football players is non-existent. (This is why many of us cringe with the latest “evolutionary psychology” finding!) Rather, violence in human males is either derived in our species or in a set of species closely related, including perhaps the great apes, or apes in general, or some other subset of Old World primates.

And, this would be a matter of evolution of drives in a very general sense which are then shaped in a maturing individual by other developmental tendencies and in social beings with large brains, buy culture.

Which brings us to the famous YanSan comparison.

There is an intellectual and pedagogic tradition that comes from people working out of a handful of American Universities (originally, Berkeley, Chicago and Harvard, but then other places such as Madison) having to do with the study of both primates and human foragers. The details are interesting but this is not the place for them. What is important is this: A lot of us (and I’m part of that tradition) learned some of our best metaphors, for doing both research and teaching, from Irv DeVore, who either came up with them himself or consolidated them from people with whom he overlapped or worked, such as Sherwood Washburn, George Gaylord Simpson, and others. And one of those tidbits, which is a comparison and a set of stories much larger than your average metaphor, is the YanSan comparison.

It runs like this. Imagine a Yanomamo village in the Amazon. The Yan (short for Yanomamo) live in a society that for various reasons incorporates a fair amount of violence among men. Men who have killed other men are given a special name of respect, tend to have more children than other men, and often have two wives (in a society in which while polygyny is allowed, it is rare). Then, in contrast, imagine a “San” (Busheman) community in southern Africa. The San live in a society of hunter-gatherers where variation in status among men, for any reason at all, is discouraged, and interpersonal violence is frowned upon. Among the Yan, disputes are settled with chest pounding duels or axe fights, while among the San, disputes are settled by endless discussion during which there might even be hugging.

That’s the background. The YanSan comparison itself goes like this:
In the day to day course of events, a Yan child may become upset or agitated as children occasionally do, perhaps in relation to another child. The good Yan father steps in. He brings his son to the center of the community courtyard and calls over the other child with whom the conflict has arisen, and that child’s’ father tags along. The two Yan dads equip the children with poles about the length of their bodies and set them up to whack at each other until one of them succumbs to injury. Or perhaps, instead of using the poles (because that can be dangerous … you can poke your eye out with one of those things) the dads teach the 6 year olds the rudimentary form of the chest pounding duel, in which each participant gets one free shot at the other’s chest, and you can use one fist or two to pound on your opponent. The participants go back and forth taking fee shots at each other’s chest until one falls to the ground. The one still standing wins.

Meanwhile, over in the San society which is entirely different, a perturbed child is treated differently. If a toddler or youngster is very upset, yelling, having a tantrum, any nearby adult who knows the child, often but not always a relative, will hold the child in both arms until he calms down (this can take considerable time), and then spend some time soothing the boy and telling him thoughtful thoughts.

In both cases, there is a set of drives typical for men, and there is a society in which there is expected, normative male behavior. But since the expected behavior is very different between the two societies the developmental process has a lot of work to do. Boys will not on their own grow up to be Yanomamo warriors with the proper kind of fierceness, and boys will not on their own grow up to be San hunters with a proper cooperative attitude, unless a great deal of cultural energy is expended.

And this is facilitated by the existence of childhood, which may well be Homo sapiens most important adaptation. The YanSan comparison exemplifies how humans transit from blastosphere to adult with respect to behavior, and demonstrates that there is a great deal of potential variation in what the result is, and thus, there is great potential variation in the sorts of societies that Homo sapiens can come up with.

But males are still demonic.

What I mean by that is this: Across all human societies, even when there is relative equality between males and females in power or other measures, males are the more violent sex on average. When human societies range into more violent normative behavior, it is males who are in the vanguard virtually all the time. There are plenty of cases where females are also violent, but they are comparatively rare and less extreme.

And, there are patterns to this behavior seen across society, and interestingly, there are even patterns of male behavior when males are viewed across species, as per the above discussion, among the great apes and in particular comparing chimps and humans. Those patterns may be accidental, they may be nothing more than basic mammalian behavior (or the behavior of an internally fertilizing lactating creature, on whatever planet it is found) and thus almost too basic to be meaningful, or they could be patterns around the specific nature of ape social systems, of which chimpanzees and humans have their own similar yet different versions.

Some years ago, Richard Wrangham, emerging as a leading primatologist, was woo’ed away from his home in Michigan by Harvard to do research and teach interesting courses. One of the courses he developed in his new milieu and taught to advanced undergrads in bioanthropology was about male behavior in apes, looking at the behavioral biology and culture of this behavior, seeking patterns, similarities, contrasts, etc. Over a short period of time this course became very popular. Knee-jerk feminists responded to the course with great disdain because it seemed to be biological determinism, but then some went ahead and took it anyway and found out that it was not. And eventually the course became a book: Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence

Many have criticized Wrangham’s book for suggesting that simple underlying genetic systems determine things like gang violence in humans, but few who have read the book have come away thinking that. It may well be that Wrangham’s view is somewhat deterministic, but that is hardly the point of the study. And, if you bring to the discussion, as Wrangham does, the concept of “drives” or similar psychological phenomena as I’ve described above, the genetic determinism that might be inherent in many comparisons between species’ behavior rather fades away. More interesting, though, may be the political nature of the problem of determinism, and this relates to the ongoing discussion of male privilege as well as to a previous discussion we’ve had on this blog about rape. Is it possible to attain the ideal feminist society (towards which we all strive) if male and female drives are somewhat different, and male drives are (or at least some of them are) so … dickish?

… a new philosophy has emerged in the last decades, an evolutionary brand of feminism that sees the emergence of patriarchy as an intimate part of human biology. Evolutionary feminists, writers like Patricia Gowaty, Sarah Hrdy, Meredith Small, and Barbara Smuts, agree with traditional feminists about the evils of patriarchy, but they do not disconnect humans from their biological past. The logic of evolutionary feminists appreciates the rich details of patriarchal history as recounted by historian Gerda Lerner, but it simultaneously rejects the notion of plumbing the human condition through reading merely the last 6,000 years of history.

Evolutionary feminists … would insist that people can think about the evolutionary pressures that elicit rape, for example or other forms of violence, without necessitating any absurd pronouncement that because rape is “natural” it is in any way forgivable. After all, no one considers the case of the black widow spider, who kills and eats her male counterpart after mating, to mean that murder and cannibalism are okay. …

Patriarchy is worldwide and history-wide, and its origins are detectable in the social lives of chimpanzees. It serves the reproductive purposes of the men who maintain the system. Patriarchy comes from biology in the sense that it emerges from men’s temperaments, out of their evolutionarily derived efforts to control women and at the same time have solidarity with fellow men in competition against outsiders.

(Wrangham 1996 pp 124-125)

It is interesting to consider the commentary emerging (mainly in comments but also in a few blog posts) around Rebeccapocalypse in light of this discussion. Most commenters are either on board with giving women the right to set their own level of concern about potentially dangerous men (those are the feminists) or they re busy making excuses or denying the demonic nature of male Homo sapiens. While many of the former are men (it might be about 50:50 men:women) the vast majority of the latter are men.

Just sayin’

Comments

  1. #1 Hank Fox
    July 7, 2011

    Okay, THIS was a good article. And you didn’t have to harangue Richard Dawkins (directly, anyway) even once.

    I do think the label “demonic” is an unfortunate addition to the dialogue. It panders to the “male = bad” meme and distracts from all our more sterling traits. :D

  2. #2 G127
    July 7, 2011

    I found this a very interesting post: however I have some questions about it. The hypothetical Yan/San villages seem to only deal with male violence. How do such villages react to female violent (although it might be rearer, it would hardly be non-existent’ behavior. Would it be encouraged in the Yan village?

    I also wonder what evidence there is for the idea that female drives are ‘less dickish’, as you put it. Could this not be learned behavior? After all; society is hardly equal so we lack a lot of comparising material. And the material we could leads to the thought that ‘dickishness’ in women’s behavior has simply been more repressed by patriach societies… crime-rates among women (also in violent crimes) move up in nations that are more equal.

    I’m not trying to diminish man on women violence: all ‘drives’ being equel women would still have a problem because of simple fysical strenght. And certainly in sexual behavior male ‘drives’ seem worse/stronger then females.

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    July 7, 2011

    I focused on male behavior because that relates to the larger point. I don’t think violence among women or by women against men is encouraged in Yan society, and I’m sure it is not in San society. There are societies with institutionalized female violence (The Taureg, for example.)

    I also wonder what evidence there is for the idea that female drives are ‘less dickish’, as you put it. Could this not be learned behavior?

    The evidence is overwhelming. And yes, it is all learned. For the most part, the relative scores of agonist behavior or violence between men and women are either neutral or males with more of it in every single society in which it has been examined. The degree of diffrence and the absolute degree of this behavior across societies is complex and there are many comparisons where, say, women are more diskish than men, but only when comparing across unconnected societies. Within, men are always more diskish, but sometimes not too much and not always in the same ways.

    And, the mechanisms are fairly well understood, as is the overall evolutionary reason for this to be the case.

    But it is all still learned. But “it” is a set of behaviors that involve managing some fairly basic drives.

  4. #4 Azkyroth
    July 7, 2011

    And eventually the course became a book: Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence

    What is it with social sciences and this fondness for vocabulary that practically demands to be misunderstood?

  5. #5 G127
    July 7, 2011

    Thanks for the response.

    Is there any data of where our own society ranks in contrast to other societies in ‘agonist behavior’?

  6. #6 Greg Laden
    July 7, 2011

    As a point of information, book publishers make up the titles of books, esp trade and mass market (this is trade). (I actually think the title is OK, but nonetheless….). Also, Wrangham is not a social scientist. He’s actually trained as a zoologist.

  7. #7 Greg Laden
    July 7, 2011

    The problem with that quesiton, G, is that “our society” is a country with subcultures and a lot of dynamic change, and much of the data to which it is compared are “cultures” that are often indpendant of national boundaries. Then there is the problem of how you count it and what you count. For instance, US or UK homicide rates are generally low compared to many “high-homicide” traditional societies. But if you throw in the dead from war the difference becomes less. Also, there are “fierce” societies with high homicide rates and “fierce” societies that have existed in a sort of equilibirium of fiercosity in which homicide is very rare, so a simple measure like homicide is not really suitable.

    I generally regard US society, such as it is, as relatively fierce and violence-oriented.

  8. #8 abb3w
    July 7, 2011

    “The Woman That Never Evolved” by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy is probably worth noting for such discussion, in that it gives some perspectives on the variations within the primates.

  9. #9 sailor
    July 7, 2011

    On Genes not causing behavior.
    Strictly speaking true, but they sometimes seem to. I think I remember from on of Sapolsky’s lectures if you divided a population into those with Monoamine Oxidase Gene Promoter type A and B. If type A was abused as kids they would abuse as adults. Abused type B would not. If you had type A and were not abused you also would not abuse.

    This does not in any way detract from your excellent post.

  10. #10 ManOutOfTime
    July 7, 2011

    I think I can maintain my anonymity and still share that Napolean Chagnon of Yanamo fame is my cousin, so this particular thread is near and dear to my heart just for the Fierce People shout out. Nappy and I had no contact until about 30 years ago, were raised two time zones apart and birm 25 years apart yet he and I share many, many similarities in personality and character including a certain arrogance often associated with those of French Canaddian descent. Ultimately, though, we were raised in essentially the same culture. The biological component of limbic system vs modern brain balance may be persuasive to some – but mankind is still largely segregated and cultural anthropology is still a young science. How can there be any doubt but that cultural norms guide natural drives into more and less locally-acceptable channels? I am extremely competitive, have a terrible tempe r and I am horny as the day is long, yet I would never presume to proposition a woman – much less commit rape or murder – without a firm. longstanding personal relationship and multiple, clear and unambiguous signals that the overture is welcome. Because that is how I was raised< \i>.

  11. #11 Greg Laden
    July 7, 2011

    Dammit, ManOOT: If you were a girl, you could be Chag’s suaboya!@!!!!!

  12. #12 bks
    July 7, 2011

    Lots of cultures out there. Too bad Watson hadn’t learned to be tolerant of the differences among them. Over in a different thread “Raging B” is using language that I was brought up (not “raised”) to avoid. She’s creeping me out.

    If EG was a local, there is a better than even chance that his comment would have been intended ironically (based on my nine months in Great Britain) and *not* as a proposition. Greg noted this way back in post #1 but seem to have forgotten his gut reaction.

    –bks

  13. #13 Stephanie Z
    July 7, 2011

    bks, you lost any moral high ground on creeping people out when you offered a woman coffee in another thread. Stop playing the victim.

  14. #14 Warren
    July 7, 2011

    Greg @7:

    ‘I generally regard US society, such as it is, as relatively fierce and violence-oriented.’

    No doubt. When there’s a question of whether children should have unrestricted access to violent content in games – and when it’s actually debated as a valid question to consider in the first place – you know you’re dealing with a social milieu that’s casual about violence. In order to be that casual, you have to be inured. To be inured, you have to be saturated.

    We’ve been directly responsible for hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths over the last decade, and no one really cares. A fifteen-year-old boy is killed for sport, the people who did it are caught on camera in boastful poses beside his corpse, and all we get is a ‘meh’.

    US society, such as it is, is sociopathic, and just as likely to kill brutally as it is to commit rape (and, almost as likely, to do both in no particular order). If it were an individual person, it would be locked away in an institution for the rest of its life.

    Nonetheless, this same society is loaded to the top with those who will justify everything that takes place here. Which means that, rather than exerting a sort of social conscience on the actions of this society, the denial simply increases and the sociopathy deepens.

    Mitchell and Webb, in a sketch, asked a question that we might want to consider from time to time as well:

    http://www.spikednation.com/evideo/mitchell-and-webb-are-we-baddies

  15. #15 NeuralCulture
    July 8, 2011

    Meh. Without men being “dickish” the entire damn race would have succumbed to infectious microorganisms millions of years ago, just like every other complex species. There’s a damn good reason for it, and the alternative is much, much worse, regardless of how “demonic” how half the species may be conveniently labeled.

  16. #16 bks
    July 8, 2011

    Horrors! I’ve lost the “moral high ground” for offering a woman coffee in a thread. I think Stephanie Z has pegged the harridan-o-meter.

    –bks

  17. #17 Azkyroth
    July 9, 2011

    No doubt. When there’s a question of whether children should have unrestricted access to violent content in games – and when it’s actually debated as a valid question to consider in the first place – you know you’re dealing with a social milieu that’s casual about violence.

    Or that has outgrown the concept of Sympathetic Magic.

  18. #18 Azkyroth
    July 9, 2011

    Meh. Without men being “dickish” the entire damn race would have succumbed to infectious microorganisms millions of years ago, just like every other complex species. There’s a damn good reason for it, and the alternative is much, much worse, regardless of how “demonic” how half the species may be conveniently labeled.

    Do I even want to know why you imagine that a propensity for rape and other forms of violence has a protective effect against disease?

    Because, um, rape and warfare have been some of the most serious and efficient spreaders of disease throughout history.

  19. #19 John Rambo
    July 14, 2011

    BOYCOTT AMERICAN WOMEN
    Why American men should boycott American women

    http://boycottamericanwomen.blogspot.com

    I am an American man, and I have decided to boycott American women. In a nutshell, American women are the most likely to cheat on you, to divorce you, to get fat, to steal half of your money in the divorce courts, don’t know how to cook or clean, don’t want to have children, etc. Therefore, what intelligent man would want to get involved with American women?

    American women are generally immature, selfish, extremely arrogant and self-centered, mentally unstable, irresponsible, and highly unchaste. The behavior of most American women is utterly disgusting, to say the least.

    This blog is my attempt to explain why I feel American women are inferior to foreign women (non-American women), and why American men should boycott American women, and date/marry only foreign (non-American) women.

    BOYCOTT AMERICAN WOMEN!

    [spam deleted]

  20. #20 Greg Laden
    July 14, 2011

    Rambo: If you reload this page again and again there is a reasonable chance that eventually you’ll see an ad for mail order brides. But I’m not sure what makes you think that non-American women would see you as any less of a piece of dog shit stuck to the bottom of the shoe than American women do.

  21. #21 ds
    July 19, 2011

    Thus, one could say that since humans are behaviorally derived with respect to many traits in comparison to African apes in general, a major feature of the human brain must be mechanisms telling the rest of the brain, to some extent every minute of the day, “Don’t be a chimp …. Don’t be a chimp. Seriously, dood … don’t be a chimp.”

    I think, based on some observations from Robert Sapolsky and other guys like Frans de Waal to cite two whose names I can remember, that perhaps this isn’t that specifically human in a way. Well, actually, perhaps it wouldn’t be exactly “it”, but rather a more widespread flexibility of behavior depending upon the upbringing and the current environment.

    Sapolsky mentions a “tribe” of babboons that were exceptional by being lead by females, which tend to be more docile. In turn, that group was somewhat bonoboesque, much less stressed than the average baboons. I wonder if we couldn’t raise chimps to behave like bonobos and vice versa, at least to some degree.

    And I think it’s not so unlike raising a dog to be docile rather than aggressive. Dog breeds that were selected for their fighting abilities are not significantly inherently, innately more aggressive, it seems to be mostly their phyisical built, even though there are theories positing that pitbulls might be “psychopaths”, not able to read the expressions of other dogs (from any breed) — but I doubt it.

    And that happens to some extent even with animals that were never domesticated, like tigers or lions created in captivity, albeit they’re surely more dangerous than a pitbull when they want just to play.

    Not that I don’t think that there’s a hardwired difference giving more control from other brain regions or “patterns” over the regions or patterns controling the more basic drives, I just think that the clear-cut line on “humans” usually exaggerates the difference.

    (In a way that creationists would simple love, but that’s not even with I had in mind initially,but just nuance for nuance’s sake)

    However, deviating or adding an important addendum to the concluding part regarding demonic males and rape, I think that there may be an important distinction between “making excuses or denying the demonic nature of male Homo sapiens” and stressing that, even though males can be said to be more demonical, it’s far from being the case that “all males are potential rapists”, not in the sense that anyonce could theoretically have an upbringing that would make of him a rapist, but that actually anyone, irrespective of their upbringing, is more or less equally likely to rape once in a while. This idea seems to be rather common. We westerns live in a “rape culture”, and everything, from kids posing with their thumbs up under the legs of the statue of an upskirt giant Marilyn Monroe to Newton’s principia, are somehow connected to this horrid omnipresent rape culture.

    Rape is supposedly a weapon of male domination over women, in a socio-political way. These misconceptions are comprehensible in part from the fact that rapists don’t use “rapist tags”, so they look just like anyone. And mistaken explanations aren’t hard to come by and can be rather sticky depending of the popularity of who proposes it, something possibly aggravated when such explanation regards some aspect of the situation of a group that hadn’t the same rights of white men for some time.

    But the reality is that most rapists seem to be serial rapists, and most rapes are commited by those rapists, not by the male population at large. Fortunately some feminists seem (and another one) to be open to such reality, which is quite important if we’re interested in preventing rape and not creating healh damaging stress based on nothing but a menace of a conspirational theory of rape been used ideologically as a weapon to oppress females. And even worse than just stress, prevention campaigns doomed to fail, based on notions such as that “not raping” is more or less a matter of etiquette — a somewhat closely associated notion, even though it either assumes that males are willing to give up their dominance over society, or does not assume that rape is such a tool to begin with, but rather the somewhat more realistic view that it has to do with sexual drive, while still assuming that it’s tractable by campaigns addressing men as a whole and asking them to be polite and not rape. At the same time that a summary of the literature seems is that “[t]he situation is even worse with respect to rapists in particular. There is simply no convincingevidence that treatment has ever caused rapists to desist or even to reduce their offending behavior” (Gregory DeClue, reviewing “The Causes of Rape: Understanding IndividualDifferences in Male Propensity for Sexual Aggression,by Martin L. Lalumiere, Grant T. Harris, Vernon L. Quinsey,and Marnie E. Rice”). But perhaps we just didn’t attempt to ask them please not to, like those signs “society teaches ‘don’t get raped’, rather than ‘do not rape'” have pointed.

    It ended out being longer than I thought I should, and perhaps not clear enough. To sum up regarding the whole Dawkinsgate/elevatorgate thing, yes, I think Dawkins’ comments were quite idiotic. Despite of the fact that the danger of rape isn’t omnipresent in males (which isn’t even something Watson implied as far as I know), and even that our culture isn’t quite the more forgiving towards rape, all that she was saying is that such approach is quite weird and potentially creepy, even if the guy didn’t “followed” her there (as a feminist blogger seem to have been augmenting). This is just common sense advice, really, don’t be creepy. You don’t invite unknown people to your bedroom for coffee out of the blue in an elevator. Granted, you possibly would not be so troubled by that if the sexes were switched, but even though the initiative of trying to put yourself in someone else’s shoes is admirable, try consider the idea of some 220 pounds gay male jiu-jitsu fighter inviting you to to a cup of coffee on his bedroom for more close notion of the sort of creepiness it can produce to a woman. Regardless, I don’t buy the feminist discourse wholesale (there isn’t even a single “feminism” anyway, despite of being frequently implied such consensus), and I think it often lacks some healthy inner criticism. If you try to do it “from the outside”, you’re going to be harassed, does not matter what your intentions are, does not matter thay you want equal rights for women, you’re for programs activelly reducing inequalities, and even if you’re for death penalty or life sentences for rape. The entire discussion culd be much more civilized, without the other side being always being labeled as misoginistic/”rape enabler”/”victim-blamers”/defending male privilege” or whatever.

  22. #22 Greg Laden
    July 19, 2011

    The “don’t be an X” thing is certainly a feature of mammalian brains in general, which sadly means that a certain amount of the increase in brain size we see across some mammal groups over time is probably just a bunch of repression and not any kind of increase in intelligence.

  23. #23 Nephilim
    July 26, 2011

    Realizing this is a mostly science based blog, it does enter into the world of humanities. Religious beliefs i noticed are not a contributing factor in any of this, and which i believe have a huge factor in behavior.
    The “Demonic Males” part of this is what caught my eye, yet not much has been said about the spiritual side of us.
    The information out there that sides with the human race being gentically altered through the cross-breading of angelic beings and man, shows why we have a sinful/barbaric/ nature about us. The fallen angels were demonic, and have planted within us their very nature.
    There is still many parts of our genome that is unknown to us, is it not possible some of these parts contain the “evil” gene we all have?

  24. #24 Stephanie Z
    July 26, 2011

    What “information out there”?

  25. #25 Nephilim
    July 26, 2011

    The Book of Enoch, The Bible, Sumerian writings, ancient writings from egypt, and writings from various other cultures (too many to list), there is scientific precedents
    that suggest evil could be inherited through Thalassaemia.

  26. #26 Stephanie Z
    July 26, 2011

    I don’t think you and I are using “evidence” and “scientific” the same way.

  27. #27 Nephilim
    July 26, 2011

    I suggested info, in reguards not as evidence OR scientific.
    You asked “what info”, not what was “scientific” or what “evidence”
    I was merely stating i wish i would have seen a more rounded conclusion involving the spiritual part of our nature.

  28. #28 Fauxminist Manginas Unite!
    July 26, 2011

    Greg, I have a few questions about this rape switch theory.
    1) does it apply to women in other ways? Do women also have these switches
    2) why didn’t you include bonobo behavior in the hypothesis as a comparison or a control? Bonobos fuck everyone,including their children, all day long.
    3) Do you have any resources you can point me too about female versus male violence in chimps?
    4) is it possible under your theory that women have bonobo- like responses too? Like a rub vaginas, switch, or a rub vaginas with infants switch, or a fuck your sisters son switch?
    5) what if womens, i.e. peace-loving, non rapist bonobos, ‘drives’ are repressed, could we extrapolate that behavior to humans as well? Like ‘women have a rub kids genitals switch’?

  29. #29 bluharmony
    August 5, 2011

    Interesting article. Well-written. I think you’re underestimating the power females are capable of exerting over males, as well as the effect of living standards on the male tendency toward violence. Elevatorgate, at this point, is really about males aligning themselves with different females. The issue of Rebecca’s subjective experience of perceived objectification has not been the primary driving force for the females aligned with the “misogynist” males. Rather, it has been her mistreatment of others, and I think it’s been building for a while.

    Your concept of drives is inadequately developed. For instance, you fail to distinguish between adaptive responses such as anger and fear, and internally driven impulses such as thirst and hunger. How do these interact? Are the internally driven impulses primary, while adaptive reactions secondary? Is it more complex than that? Would you agree with the statement that our behavior is the result of our biological makeup, determined by genes and shaped by environmental forces?

    Aside from the statistics you pull out of thin air in the last paragraph, very nice work. I enjoyed reading this piece.

  30. #30 bluharmony
    August 5, 2011

    @DS: Excellent comment. I agree on almost every point.

  31. #31 alexander
    September 28, 2011

    this is contrived, ignorant, and blatant sexism against males. this article seems to be an assumption driven nightmare formed from the remains of a bad breakup or betrayal of some sort, and not legitimate emotionally neutral theory and most CERTAINLY not a fact this is ridiculous
    indeed

  32. #32 alexander
    September 28, 2011

    okay thats a little harsh perhaps my apologies but clean this up do ALOT more research take out the emotional aspect after this isnt supposed too be a literary class or art class its “culture as science~science as culture” and i dont mean to offend you by this but if your going to use science as a descriptor for this topic then please be scientific cite your sources, and cut out the rhetoric and emotional context and stick to the bare facts with thought as a side note the important thing is emotional neutrality when speaking on those terms and quite literally demonizing a group of individuals in such a manner is outright wrong

  33. #33 Greg Laden
    September 28, 2011

    alexander: Neutral theory?

    You speak as though you think I just thought about these issues for the first time and decided to apply science, which I just discovered, to them. This tells me something about your style of argument.

    I am an human evolutionary biologist with adaptationist tendencies and a disdain for EEA based evolutionary psychology. You need to re-calibrate your response, which I welcome you to do.

  34. #34 Raging Bee
    September 28, 2011

    No, alexander, you’re not being “harsh”…just incredibly stupid, totally unaware of what’s actually been said here, and — like so many hyperemotional MRAs — laughably late to the discussion as well as unwilling to listen.

    It looks like the MRAs are running out of places to troll…

  35. #35 Maxine
    October 2, 2011

    This is a very interesting article, and I agree that one does associate violent behavior with the male gender. I would think it is because when we think of boys growing up, they are always taught not to cry and “be a man,” and be tough. Normally, the more violent sports, such as wrestling, boxing, and football are male dominated. I think one can look at this situation as a case of nature vs. nurture. Boys and girls are nurtured differently. Boys are brought up to be tougher, stronger, and more protective over girls, whereas girls are taught to be more delicate, proper, and almost vulnerable in a way. Men are supposed to be the protector, so it would make sense that they are more violent. I think it all depends on one’s past experiences and perception of the world. Perceptions change over time based on past experiences. I believe this is what leads to the exceptions (more violent females and less violent males).

  36. #36 Rae Marie
    Minnesota
    July 18, 2012

    Awesome explanation of agricultural revolution, which helped fuel patriarchy and gender deviation.

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