The Utopian- A rEvolutionary Blog

In the halls of academia researchers are often more concerned about protecting their intellectual property than publishing the truth. Blogging offers a way to respect previous research, mine the information glut, and quickly publish the results. This blog is an experiment in gathering, documenting, associating, and presenting important information about human evolution using only a browser, the internet, and copy/paste techniques. These are not "my" words. I am only the editor.

Location: United States

I have a BS degree in Wildlife from O.S.U. but most of my education comes from self study. I don't watch much TV because I don't think subjecting myself to all the materialistic and social propaganda is healthy. You can't view the world clearly if you put blinders on. My conclusions about the literature I cite on this website will be confined to the comments section. Please read those comments if you want to see the insights I have gained from my personal study. An interesting thing happened when I began this experiment. I discovered that bolding the important points of the research I was citing produced a rough summary of the information I could scan quickly, and also provided a easily referenced outline I could use to associate data from different sources using multiple browser windows. This led to a number of personal insights. Learning how to use blogs to data mine effectively can contribute greatly to the spread of global knowledge, and reduce the "information glut" that has accumulated.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Apes of Wrath

Some female primates use social bonds to escape male aggression. Can women?

Researchers have observed various male animals-including insects, birds, and mammals-chasing, threatening, and attacking females. The males of many of these species are most aggressive toward potential mates, which suggests that they sometimes use violence to gain sexual access.

Jane Goodall provides us with a compelling example of how males use violence to get sex. In one of several scenarios, males gather around attractive estrous females and try to lure them away from other males for a one-on-one sexual expedition that may last for days or weeks. But females find some suitors more appealing than others and often resist the advances of less desirable males. Males often rely on aggression to counter female resistance. Goodall thinks that a male uses such aggression to train a female to fear him so that she will be more likely to surrender to his subsequent sexual advances.

Similarly, male hamadryas baboons, who form small harems by kidnapping child brides, maintain a tight rein over their females through threats and intimidation. If, when another male is nearby, a hamadryas female strays even a few feet from her mate, he shoots her a threatening stare and raises his brows. She usually responds by rushing to his side; if not, he bites the back of her neck. By repeating this behavior hundreds of times, the male lays claim to particular females months or even years before mating with them. When a female comes into estrus, she solicits sex only from her harem master, and other males rarely challenge his sexual rights to her.

These chimpanzee and hamadryas males are practicing sexual coercion: male use of force to increase the chances that a female victim will mate with him, or to decrease the chances that she will mate with someone else. But sexual coercion is much more common in some primate species than in others. Orangutans and chimpanzees are the only nonhuman primates whose males in the wild force females to copulate, while males of several other species, such as vervet monkeys and bonobos, rarely if ever try to coerce females sexually.

These dramatic differences between species provide an opportunity to investigate which factors promote or inhibit sexual coercion. For example, we might expect to find more of it in species in which males are much larger than females-and we do. However, size differences between the sexes are far from the whole story. Chimpanzee and bonobo males both have only a slight size advantage, yet while male chimps frequently resort to force, male bonobos treat the fair sex with more respect. Clearly, then, although size matters, so do other factors.

In some species, females remain in their birth communities their whole lives, joining forces with related females to defend vital food resources against other females. In such "female bonded" species, females also form alliances against aggressive males. Vervet monkeys are one such species, and among these small and exceptionally feisty African monkeys, related females gang up against males. High-ranking females use their dense network of female alliances to rule the troop; although smaller than males, they slap persistent suitors away like annoying flies.

Females in other species leave their birth communities at adolescence and spend the rest of their lives cut off from their female kin. In most such species, females do not form strong bonds with other females and rarely support one another against males. Both chimpanzees and hamadryas baboons exhibit this pattern, and, as we saw earlier, in both species females submit to sexual control by males.

This contrast between female-bonded species, in which related females gang together to thwart males, and non-female-bonded species, in which they don't, breaks down when we come to the bonobo. Female bonobos, like their close relatives the chimpanzees, leave their kin and live as adults with unrelated females. Recent field studies show that these unrelated females hang out together and engage in frequent homoerotic behavior, in which they embrace face-to-face and rapidly rub their genitals together; sex seems to cement their bonds. Examining these studies in the context of my own research has convinced me that one way females use these bonds is to form alliances against males, and that, as a consequence, male bonobos do not dominate females or attempt to coerce them sexually. How and why female bonobos, but not chimpanzees, came up with this solution to male violence remains a mystery.

Female primates also use relationships with males to help protect themselves against sexual coercion. Among olive baboons, each adult female typically forms long-lasting "friendships" with a few of the many males in her troop. When a male baboon assaults a female, another male often comes to her rescue. In return for his protection, the defender may enjoy her sexual favors the next time she comes into estrus. There is a dark side to this picture, however. Male baboons frequently threaten or attack their female friends-when, for example, one tries to form a friendship with a new male. Other males apparently recognize friendships and rarely intervene. The female, then, becomes less vulnerable to aggression from males in general, but more vulnerable to aggression from her male friends.

As a final example, consider orangutans. Because their food grows so sparsely, adult females rarely travel with anyone but their dependent offspring. But orangutan females routinely fall victim to forced copulation. Female orangutans, it seems, pay a high price for their solitude.

Decreasing women's vulnerability to sexual coercion, then, may require fundamental changes in social alliances. Women gave voice to this essential truth with the slogan SISTERHOOD IS POWERFUL-a reference to the importance of women's ability to cooperate with unrelated women as if they were indeed sisters. However, among humans, the male-dominant social system derives support from political, economic, legal, and ideological institutions that other primates can't even dream of. Freedom from male control-including male sexual coercion-therefore requires women to form alliances with one another (and with like-minded men) on a scale beyond that shown by nonhuman primates and humans in the past. Although knowledge of other primates can provide inspiration for this task, its achievement depends on the uniquely human ability to envision a future different from anything that has gone before.


Blogger The Utopian said...

Males are aggressive and sex is “rough” in nature. Separation of the sexes is common and in many species male and female only come together to mate once a year. In many mammal species, the females gather together in herds for the birthing process for added protection and separate again after the initial danger is past.

Assuming that our human ancestors followed that strategy, the first long-term human society would have been a matriarchal group as Evelyn Reed suggests. It is probable that any males born to this group would have been forced to leave as they reached maturity to preserve peace and protect the young. This would of course have produced “rogue” males, but that was nothing new since the standard was already separation of the sexes.

The rogue males would have grown up in a group environment however, unlike males born before the first matriarchal clan. How would this have affected them? Logically, they would have been subjected to domination by multiple mothers instead of just one, and would have had less opportunity to establish dominance over any younger females they were raised with since the older females were now cooperating in child raising and defense.

This group social scenario begs the question; what would have been the minimum social advancement necessary before the group females would have allowed a male to stay within the group past sexual maturity? Would it have been some type of female-male bond? Or would it have been simply an act of submission? I propose that it would have been an act of submission and would have produced a new type of social arrangement similar to that displayed by the Vervet Monkey.

So what was that act of submission? Considering that food and sex are the two primary male motivators, it probably would have been a surrender of food since sex was still a seasonal affair.
This of course is precisely what we see in observations of bonobos in the wild, where the males let the females feed first. This would not have been an easy task for a female smaller than her nearly adult son however, so she probably enlisted the aid of other females. This would have strengthened the female-female bonds however.

After our hypothetical matriarchal group established dominance over their adult sons, that would have paved the way for other social advances like female-male bonds similar to Olive baboon friendships, where males will protect females from other males in exchange for sex when the female becomes receptive.

At this point it becomes possible for a social divergence to occur, because most likely there will be some males, probably larger than most, who will not submit to female domination. These stronger males could be forced to leave the group, but because they have lived a longer time within the feminine social system, they would probably not move too far away. This scenario could give rise to patriarchal species like the hamadryas baboons, which form small harems by kidnapping young females.

At this point we have to consider 3 possible types of social systems. I will use capital letters to indicate dominance and list the dominant sex first in the pair bond for greater clarity.

1.) Female-female bonded group
2.) Female-female + Female-male bonded group
3.) Male-female bonded group

So what would be the next logical social development now that we have the basic pair bond combinations in existence? Would it not be the Male-female-female triad relationship?
I doubt it would be a Male-female + Male-male bonded group because of male competition for sex, but there would be pressure to form polygamous Male-female-female groups for safety in numbers.

1.) Female-female
2.) Female-female + Female-male
3.) Male-female
4.) Male-female-female

After patriarchal polygamous groups are established it would be possible to add the Male-male friendship bond to the Male-female-female triad to form Male-female-female + Male-male groups, but there would be a minimum population size and the larger the group the better. This of course describes species like the chimpanzee. So, in order of evolutionary sequence, we now have 5 types of “pair” bond groups. To also consider homosexual friendship dominance and reflect the group concept (even though type 3 is really not a group) I will list the 5 types as:

1.) Female-female-female
2.) Female-female-female + Female-male
3.) Male-female
4.) Male-female-female
5.) Male-female-female + Male-male

Female-male and Female-male-male might be possible at some point but it’s not likely during the time period we are discussing. Even the Male-female combination would be hazardous, for the female and her children especially.

It is easy to see how the custom of male migration between groups began. It was a natural first step by females to control male aggression that was later adopted by Male-female-female groups to avoid sexual competition. The male just kept getting pushed out, and was either forced to kidnap females or replace existing males in other groups. At first anyway, the establishment of totemism and taboo added new social aspects later. Explaining the custom of female migration from group to group is a little harder however.

To fully understand female migration we need to consider the involvement of other social developments at this point in our evolution, primarily the influence of meat eating, because it seriously impacted the lives of all pair-bonded groups.

Evelyn Reed presents a strong case for the institution of totemism and taboo as a response to cannibalism, which developed after we began to eat meat. She claims the customs were a universal ban on hunting for food and sex within the matriarchal clans, which is very logical from a survival perspective. The key to female migration is the recognition of the role males play in reproduction within the totem system.

The mother of a child is never in doubt and since it is women who produce children, only a woman could have made the first mental connection between sex and babies. Thus only she would know who the father of the child was. Once this mental connecting was made, how would a female be able to produce offspring if all males were forbidden from hunting food and sex within the clan? There would be only one way, and that would be for the female to migrate to another clan.

So after totemism began we find both sexes migrating, except this time males were not just pushed out and forced to kidnap females or overthrow the dominant male of another group. They now had a negotiated system for entrance into another group.

12:11 PM  

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