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SEX, AGGRESSION, AND CULTURE 1 Sex vs. Belongingness
As belonging is mainly for survival, sex is mainly for reproduction. Reproduction is the ultimate biological function (it is not necessary in its immediate motivation).
Sex is nature’s way to make sure we reproduce. But it is people’s way of having fun, making money, etc.
2 Intriguing mystery
Why many human females do not know when they ovulate?
Evolution made us to improve our self
understanding and capacity of self control. Yet women, unlike females of other species, don’t give out signs that they are ready to become pregnant. 3 Possible answer
Women were too smart for their own good. If women were to know when they ovulate the species may disappear; for many women want to have sex without getting pregnant. The desire for sex took over the desire for pregnancy …
4 Desire for sex
No other species culturally enriched its own sexuality the way we did.
E.g.: pornography, phone sex, strip tease, sex toys, …. Natural sex has been heavily culturalized.
5 Two steps toward sex culturalization
1. sex became saturated with meaning which transform and opens new possibilities.
e.g.: sexual roles, fetish games, sadomasochism, …
2. attempt by culture and society to control people’s sexuality.
e.g.: sexual inhibitions based on meaning, religion, …
6 A common thought experiment
Imagine that you have been blindfolded and a member of the opposite sex performs oral sex on you.
Then imagine that a member of the same sex does it.
Same sensation; yet many find one scenario far more exiting and appealing than the other. 7 Erotic Plasticity
Varies with gender. women exceed men in their erotic plasticity. Cultural influences have less effects on men than women, women sexual desires varies with age while men’s one remain constant, … 8 The sexual patterns of highly educated men doesn’t differ from the one of uneducated ones.
Women’s sexual patterns vary considerably with the variation of education.
E.g.: more educated women are more likely to engage in oral sex and other sexual varieties, while highly religious women are far less permissive and adventurous. 9 Moral Sexuality is affected by both: (i) physical causality (bodily health and hormones …) (ii) cultural causality (sex enhanced by symbolic elements …) 10 Fact Cultural factors such as education and religion affect women’s sexuality far more than men’s sexuality. Consequence of different erotic plasticity
Women’s sexuality varies considerably across cultures and changed more across historical periods (e.g. sexual revolution of the 1960s).
11 Why different erotic plasticity?
Maybe it depends on strength and motivation. A strong drive of any sort is less susceptible to the civilizing influences and transforming power of culture.
Is it plausible that women’s sex drive is milder than men’s? 12 This debate got highly politicized
But no published study show that women desired sex more than men. On the contrary, men think about sex more often than women, get sexual aroused more often, desire sex more frequently at any age, want more sex partners, spend more time/energy/money on sex, … 13 Desire must not be confused with other concepts such as enjoyment, endurance, … Sex drive refers only to how often and how much one wants sex.
The milder female desire may leave more opportunities for their desire to be shaped and influenced by sociocultural forces. 14 Different gender plasticity in parenthood
The desire and care for children is more plastic among men. Men’s behavior toward children changes considerably across cultures and history. Women’s is far more constant. When men’s desire is milder their plasticity is greater.
15 Why mothers care more about the offspring than fathers?
Three hypothesis (cf. Buss’s Evolutionary Psychology) 1. the paternity uncertainty hypothesis.
2. the abandonability hypothesis: female parental care is more prevalent when fertilization occurs internally (thus allowing the male to leave after the deposition of the sperm).
3. the mating opportunity cost hypothesis: males are more likely to leave when there is a surplus of mating opportunities.
16 Evolved mechanisms of parental care should be sensitive to three contexts 1. Genetic relatedness of the offspring (folks stories depict stepparents as villains). It is likely that men developed psychological mechanisms to detect (i) the fidelity of the partner and (ii) resemblance of offspring. Mothers and their kin attempt to influence the putative father’s perception of his paternity, presumably to encourage the male parental investment in the child.
17 2. Ability of the offspring to convert parental care into fitness, i.e. whether the investment makes a different to the survival and reproduction of children.
Father’s investment is proportional to children’s success (e.g.: school success).
Parental neglect and abuse for children with congenital abnormalities (they’re less likely to reproduce …; children with abnormality are more likely to be abused; studies of twins support the healthier baby hypothesis; age of the child: the older are better off for they have more reproductive value; …)
18 3. Alternative uses of the resources that might be available to invest in offspring, i.e. will a unit of my investment be best spent investing in children or in other activities (e.g.: investing in my sister’s children, investing in additional mating opportunities, ...)?
Younger women are more inclined to commit infanticide (they have the opportunity for further reproduction …).
At all age unwed mother are more likely to commit infanticide
Younger and unwed mothers are more likely to commit infanticide.
19 Two powerful evolutionary reasons for predicting that women and men have evolved different decision rules about the tradeoff between parenting and mating.
1. Men benefit more by gaining sexual access to additional mating.
2. Paternity is less that 100% certain
Prediction: women will be more likely to channel energy directly toward parenting, while men toward mating.
20 Cultural rules on sex
All cultures have rules about sexual behavior. This rests on the fact that unrestricted sex produces various social problems: unwanted/unplanned pregnancies, sexual abuse/violence, sexually transmitted diseases, … 21 Control
Given women’s greater plasticity societies control sex better by directing their effort at women. Restraining the sexual behavior of men is the most direct way of addressing the problem given their greater sex drive (most of the sex offenders are males). 22 Cultural advantages
Culture doesn’t merely provide regulation. It provides advantages as well, providing partners with new opportunities to have sex (e.g.: dating agencies, classified advert, internet, …)
For those (mostly men) who want only sex, there is prostitution (e.g. escort services, …). 23 Culture also provides technological innovation allowing “safe sex” (e.g.: condoms, …), to increase the pleasure (e.g.: vibrators, …), birth control pills, ….
Even the restrictions that culture imposed on sex are for the improvement of life (avoidance of sexual diseases, unwanted pregnancies, …). 24 Given women erotic plasticity, culture mainly operates on suppressing females sexuality
It is easier to control women sexuality than that of men. Suppression of females sexuality, contrary to some feminist credo, is largely enhanced by women because of doing so brings significant benefit to women in general.
25 Sexual Motivations
Some motivations (hunger) come from the inside while others seem to come from the outside (aggression).
Sexual desires depend both on the inside and the outside. Sex can be motivated by what one sees/hear/smell … E.g.: people aiming at sexual chastity tend to surround themselves with people of the same sex, unadorned.
26 Sexual desire is also innate.
Sexual desire can be stimulated from inside without the need of external cues (e.g. sexual thoughts and dreams). Gender difference
Men find abstinence more difficult to accept.
E.g.: Christian clerics—some like Origen in the third century AD even resolve to selfcastration in the hope of gaining total abstinence;
Widow men, unlike women, tend to maintain the orgasms count relatively steady, …. 27 Gender differences
The gender difference in success in celibacy is probably another illustration of the general patterns that men have a stronger sex drive than women.
Women are more choosey than men (men are the beggars).
Two studies found a huge gender asymmetry. Two groups of attractive women and men asking for causal sex. Women asking men for casual sex received a positive answer 3 times out of 4. Not a single man received a positive answer.
Is it innate? If so, like hunger it should increase with time and diminish after being satisfied. Satisfaction of one’s aggressive need, though, doesn’t make the person less aggressive.
It may be based on innate tendencies but, unlike hunger, it doesn’t seem to be triggered from the inside.
29 Some innate motivations may simply be preprogrammed tendencies to respond in a certain way to some situations. If so people are programmed to fight when certain circumstances arise. Hence, despite some inner tendencies someone can enjoy one’s entire life without behaving aggressively.
This differs from the standard “instinct” view of Freud and others who believed that people must let off aggression periodically in order to remain sane.
30 Aggression need not be a learned response to frustration. It may be an innate, highly specific response nonetheless.
Aggression (unlike hunger) is not a need. People can live without aggression while they cannot live without food. Aggression must be triggered from the outside. 31 Aggression, survival and reproduction
Aggression can be a residual from our evolutionary move from social to cultural beings.
Social animals (e.g. wolfs) raise in status trough aggression. Cultural animals do not need to resolve to aggression. Yet aggression subsists (e.g.: military governance trough history, …)
32 Aggression is inimical to culture.
A cultural system works on the basis of highly divides task and roles (division of labor). Violence disrupts the system and affects its beneficial output.
Time perspective also shows how aggression is better suited to social than cultural animals. Violent means to attain one’s goal tend to bring shortterm success but longterm failure. E.g.: criminals may gain short term benefit but spend most time in prison, ….
33 The pattern of shortterm gains and longterm cost is something that culture is specifically suited to affect. Unlike wolfs, we live in time and plans for the future. Culture improves life in part by providing for the future. Cultural animals tend to organize the present in order to improve the future.
The process of cultural development involves putting more and more restraint on aggression (all known cultures have some form of moral rules forbidding the killing of one of its members).
It is one of the important contribution of culture controlling aggressive impulses. Factors undermining selfcontrol (alcohol intoxication, disregard of the future, reduced sense of personal responsibility, …) tend to make aggression more likely 35 Human evolution probably involved little or no improvement in the aggressive motivation, but plenty of increase in the human individual’s capacity to override and restrain those motivations.
The main impact of learning is to restrain aggression: the age of maximum aggressive tendencies is in childhood (around two and three). They do less damage (and thus have less press coverage) because of their size and because they cannot run the streets alone (25% of social interaction between two years old involve a degree of aggression, no group of criminals or wild teenage reach such proportion).
Caring for the young is a widespread pattern across species. Adults wants to care for children, especially their own.
Many males animals maintain a ruthless vigilance to avoid being duped into raising the offspring of others (cf. evolutionary psychology/biology, selfish
gene, …). E.g.: when a male lion finds a partner he tries to kill any cubs she had from previous partners.
37 With humans the situation is rather different. E.g.: adoption, stepfathers, money to charitable institutions, … WHY?
1. This reflect the greatest plasticity of cultural being: the motivation to nurture young animals is perhaps more flexible in homo sapiens than in other less cultural species.
2. Self: is a cultural creation and one can pass it down/replicate oneself with someone else’s offspring.
38 Cultural Identity vs. Biological Identity
If one adopts your values she can turn out like you: cultural transmission.
Cultural identity forces ties that goes beyond biological identity. Hence, the caring for other people offspring's may have been a precursor of us being cultural animals. If all one learned comes from one’s mother, one wouldn’t be a competent member of society.
But men caring for non biological children may also be a strategy for mating.
39 There are mimicking learning among other species, but little or no intentional teaching What chimps learn from humans they don’t teach it to other chimps. Noncultural species lack the mentoring impulse
E.g. children repeat an inefficient way of doing something while chimps quickly went over the easier way. Children are ‘programmed’ to learn by imitative behavior, chimps aren’t.
Controversy: do we help because we’re egoists/selfish or because we’re altruists?
Wrong question: We’re programmed/innately prepared to help and we feel better after helping. We’re innately programmed to care for children. 41 Nurturance toward children and loved ones is stronger among females than males.
Why? Biology programmed us. Among monogamous mammals, when females are able to care for infants without male help, they do so. 42 Paternity uncertainty: gender difference
A man in never certain that the offspring is his own. When promiscuity is culturally accepted, the men often end up concentrating their effort on their sisters’ children (who are genetically related to the men). E.g.: A Navaho’s man provides for his sister’s children. In contrast, when promiscuity is rare, fathers direct their effort toward their own children.
43 Helping and Belongingness
The pattern of helping relatives suggests that helping is linked to belongingness. People help more the ones who they perceive as connected/closed/… This because belongingness is beneficial: if members of a group did not help each other, there would be less advantages to belonging. 44 Helping and nurturance may be innately motivated. But they are responses rather than needs. One gives help when asked; one doesn’t look for someone to help. 45 People do need to belong; but they don’t need to help
The same with parenthood. Evidence shows that childless women on the whole are happier that whose who become mothers. This contrasts the view that women need to have children to be fulfilled.
The inner drive to have children is fairly week. People want to care for children when they have them but it is less evident that people crave the experience of caring before having them, i.e. before there is a stimulus triggering the caring.
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This document was uploaded on 10/26/2011 for the course PHIL 3501 at Carleton CA.
- Fall '07