Re: Patriarchy: Re: What Matriarchy?

Bryant (
3 Sep 1996 14:22:27 -0600

In article <50hvd4$>, Susan <> wrote:
> (Bryant) wrote:
>One article I was thinking of was by Fausto-Sterling, in a book called
>Culture and Human Sexuality (edited by David Suggs and Andrew Miracle).

I've added it to my library to-get list for this afternoon. I'll read it
tonight. Thanks.

>[snip] Certainly from what she quotes her comments are
>valid (most are about generalizing to humans from non-human animals,
>without any evidence suggesting this is valid, and also assuming things
>are genetically based rather than deomnstrating it first).

The former sounds problematic to me. The latter depends.
I mean, short of a molecular geneticist pin-pointing the exact loci in
question, how would one demonstrate genetic "bases" of traits that are
fixed (invariant, like the number of limbs) in a species??

>Part of the
>problem is, for something like rape, giving it some sort of validity in
>terms of biological fitness. The implication, whether intended or not,
>is that it is a viable strategy, a point which I suppose is arguable
>(personally I don't buy that argument), but which ignores that idea I
>keep hammering about, that how you present something is very important.

That's not fair, really. The Thornhills went to a lot of pains to be
clear about the naturalistic fallacy. Short of just declaring some
topics taboo and not worth understanding, what are we to do but be clear
about such things and move on? Whether something is a biologically
viable strategy or not has absolutely nothing to do with whether it is
moral or should be legal or not.

>For women, whose fear and/or experience of being raped can be
>overwhelming, ANY implication that it is a perfectly reasonable
>evolutionary strategy is insensitive, to say the least.

I disagree. Infanticide is a horrible act, but we understand much more
about how to prevent it, what the cues are for new mothers, now that we
have looked at it through a Darwinian lense.

This notion that the evolutionary term "adaptive" has some kind of positive
meaning has got to be confronted and erased from the public psyche!

>IMO, to pretend
>like such a topic can and should be treated like any other evolutionary
>behavior, without acknowledging the special nature of it in its cultural
>context, is either hopelessly naive or determinedly blind.

There has been no problem at all with Thornhill's and other folks'
analyses of rape in non-human animals (no uproar, I mean).

It's largely agreed, for instance, that coercive mallard sexuality has been
selected for even though overly aggressive ducks often drown a few of their
victims (point being, evolutionarily speaking, that they *still* mate with
more females than would be the case if they weren't coercive).

Now, having read his paper, I think a lot remains to be studied in terms
of rape being a specific mating adaptation in humans instead of a
behavioral side-effect of coercive and sex-seeking modules. But the way
to get at whether this null hypothesis is viable is to first rigorously
test the adaptation hypothesis. Not one of Thornhill's critics has bothered.

>>Ah, Earth First! meets the sufferagettes?
>Hmm. Thinly veiled reference to the eco-feminists of Rush Limbaugh's

I forgot about ecofeminism. Are they neo-Luddites? :)
Actually, the original EF! crowd called themselves "Rednecks for Wilderness."

>Well, see what I said, above. I suspect that the attacks come from two
>(in at least some ways) for their experience, I would imagine it would be
>hard to hear someone get up and say that, in essence, rape makes perfect
>sense from the point of view of the rapist. It's a big leap to ask some
>people to be "objective" about something like that

I understand. But look: we're not nice creatures. Rape is a nasty
business. Does anybody really expect a nice, "acceptable" explanation
for it occuring? Or murder? Or infanticide? Or warfare?

Objectivity is a leap for all of us. Personal pain and ideology or
religion exasperate the situation, absolutely. That doesn't mean it's
wrong to try, though. If nobody tries to understand these things, we
sure as hell aren't going to learn how to *stop* them from happening.