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"carefree life in the bachelor herd might not be such a bad thing."

As you point out, lots of young men running around with nothing to do and no hope of ever getting laid is not a recipe for social stability. I'm imagining US gun laws crossed with herds of idle, sex starved young men. Something like Mad Max meets The Handmaid's Tale.

Patrick - "idle, sex starved young men"

There are still sexy video games, and the seemingly limitless supply of free porn on the internet - I seriously wonder if/how much that matters.

I feel like this post needs a touch of revision. The - to my reading - suggestion that men shouldn't protest being increasingly marginalized in higher education, that men are 'unwilling to take traditionally female jobs', that men are inherently social trouble, seems ridiculous. Quote biology all you want - we could likewise cite animals to argue that women shouldn't participate in the formal labor force, should focus on reproduction instead of other life goals, should not ascend to positions of authority, and so on. Hopefully you also agree these are also ridiculous notions, but if you want to accept the first set for men, you must also accept the second. Yet I can't see you recommending to a majority of women that 'carefree life as a housewife might not be such a bad thing'.

Humans are distinctly different from every other animal species on the planet, and I can easily believe we've developed unique psychology, behaviors, etc. I can buy evolutionary arguments, but not without citing at least some evidence among humans.

Either way, I feel it's completely inappropriate content for WCI.

"Humans are distinctly different from every other animal species on the planet"

How, exactly? In terms of actual metrics that are measurable, not wooly fluffy anthropocentric stuff....

Also, alpha males in charge! Women are happier and more fulfilled when they reconcile themselves to their naturally submissive and subservient roles in the workplace as well as in the herd!

Could be.

We could always castrate all but a few of the least worthy men. That'd keep them quiet.

Evolution does not occur in 50 years (specifically the last 50 years). Any advancements made by women since the 1950s have been allowed by men. If that were not the case then women would have achieved dominance of our species at some point in the last 50,000 years. They haven't. When you construct a society to promote female tendencies (whether the reasons be guilt-driven or driven by giving everyone a pat on the back) and admonish male tendencies, the only outcome can be that women will succeed. However, women will never be able to fully dominate a society because they cannot dominate men. Try to say with a straight face that a woman could. Every advancement that allows a woman to be on top has been created and facilitated by a man, and therefore allowed by a man. Even those creations, and the most significant social inventions of the last few decades (Silicon chips, the PC, The Internet, HTTP, the WWW, Facebook, Twitter, Google) that allow women to declare their supremacy, were ALL envisioned, developed, and cultivated by men. When a single woman innovates and achieves anything of that magnitude your position will make sense. These are ridiculous posts, and though I believe you do wish it were true because it makes you feel better, it's not.

Typo- of course I meant *most* worthy.

Fallacy of composition Ben. Women control the ultmate economic lever which is reproduction. Ask the Italians, or Japanese. Women vote with their wombs and the impact of their behaviour is ruinous for these male dominated societies.

Per-capita energy consumption (lets allow for a just moment that this increase is mainly faclitated by men) is directly negatively correlated with the birth rate. The only exceptions to this rule are in nations dominated by more female values, particularly in Scandinavia.

Individually women may find it difficult to dominate but collectively they increasingly control the destiny of men. This is not merely a biological argument, but a coupling of biology and industry. All the inventions of men are slowly leading to the collective economic dominance of women.

Large penises relative to body size suggest sperm competition; sperm competition requires more than one male.

The less dimorphic great apes can switch freely between polyandry to polygyny as the situation changes; perhaps humans can too.

But monogamy is rarer. Gibbons are monogamous in behaviour, but have been observed to perform extra-pair copulations. But female gibbons assault other female gibbons for the same mate. That's not conducive to harem formation. That probably serves some function in stabilizing monogamy.

Also, it's not necessary to make the female dependent on (positive) male investment relative to favour balanced gender demographics. Alpha male chimpanzees will regularly have their harem raided by defeated males; the raiders don't even have to mate, they simply kill the children and run. Under some circumstances, merely bribing away these males with the chance of fatherhood is evolutionarily attractive, and accordingly, female chimpanzees will sneak out to mate with these raiders - instead of male investment, one has male blackmail.

Your excessive use of 3 syllable words doesn't make your argument valid. I don't need to ask the Italians or Japanese, because you're defining to "success" as the continued existence of the species, which is not what the article (or I) was referring to. If men wanted women solely to reproduce they could make it happen; it's happened before. Your comparison between reproductive rates and economic dominance are incomparable. I was making the point that women will only succeed in business or power as long as men allow it. The fact that any minor female accomplishment is met with heaps of praise by men(?) like you supports it.

What modern humans are undeniably distinct at, is breaking the link between reproduction and sex. Sex is fun. Reproduction can wait. But reproduction was supposed to be the expensive part, eh? So all whilst all this theorizing is fun for speculating about what modern humans want, it's a terrible guide to family economics...

Ben, I agree that for a long time men have managed to control the reproductive functions of women. However that is not the case now in the developed nations and most of the developing nations. The only way for that to change is the regression of developed/developing nations to undeveloped ones. While I agree that is a possibility, it doesn't seem likely.

It is also not unreasonable to make the point that women are adept at exercising control collectively while men seem to dominate individual expression of control. In fact my reading of the article is alluding to excatly that. After all in the animal mammal kingdom it is not the females who get excluded, which speaks to their superiority in overall dynamics of the collective.

This is bad. Too much hobby evolution biology. Besides that i dont understand this:
" Men won't take traditionally female jobs, hence are stuck in joblessness."
Very implausible when the alternative is unemployment. More likely, hireing discrimination or just path dependency after picking a traditional male career at first according to gender roles.

" Men without work don't get married, don't form families, aren't socialized to behave in a responsible fashion, and are a generally a social problem."

But that would automatically mean that just as many women dont get married and dont get socialiced or whatever. The situation we seem to have is that women strictly dont marry below their formal education level. Since women have overall higher education levels and men do marry below their educaton level, we have this comedic situation with lots of high educated unmarried women (not sure how well that can be generaliced across developed nations). Of course no one perceives people with college degrees upwards that are single as a socialization problem.

Frances: this comment thread has to be among the lowest quality I've ever seen on this blog. I think you should choose your topics with more care or moderate much less moderately!

marcel: All flippancy aside - I'm usually a fan but the OP is really not so great. Male human bachelor herds? Seriously? It's the twisted offspring of pop evolutionary biology, gender studies, and microeconomics. But no big deal. Nobody bats 1000. And Who am I to pass judgement from the rarefied heights of the peanut gallery anyway?

On the plus side, it seems that Frances had a nice time in SA. Good for her.

Hix: "Very implausible when the alternative is unemployment."

Not that implausible, when unemployment means living in your parents basement collecting the dole playing World of Warcraft. The phenomenon of perpetual male unemployment matched with female employment is a common to the underclass populations accross countries, race, cultures, etc.

Hix: "But that would automatically mean that just as many women dont get married and dont get socialiced or whatever....Of course no one perceives people with college degrees upwards that are single as a socialization problem"

Sure, but what proportion of the criminal population consists of single educated woman? Whereas single, uneducated, men have a distressing tendency to rob liquor stores, sell drugs, drive drunk, brawl, rape, loot, murder, pillage, plunder, etc.

Patrick: "Male human bachelor herds?"

I think we used to call them Vikings.

"carefree life in the bachelor herd might not be such a bad thing."

As you point out, lots of young men running around with nothing to do and no hope of ever getting laid is not a recipe for social stability. I'm imagining US gun laws crossed with herds of idle, sex starved young men. Something like Mad Max meets The Handmaid's Tale.

Determinant's Wild Stallions is now open for recruiting. No bodice left unripped, no round left unfired, no container of booze left unempty. Leather optional but strongly preferred.

We bring new meaning to the term "Stag Party" ;)

sure? "suggestion that men shouldn't protest ... seems ridiculous."

I wasn't intending to suggest that men shouldn't protest - the males of other species do. There is a difference between what people actually do, what they would do if they were reflective and self-interested (the economic idea of rational choice), and what people would do if they were acting in the best interests of their genes. It's hard to imagine the thought process of a rational and self-interested male springbok (as opposed to a sex crazed one acting on impulse and instinct). However my sense is that the rational and self-interested male springbok would stick to the quiet bachelor herd life.

scepticus - how are people different? as other people have suggested in the comments, brain size, adaptability, also the ability to separate sex and reproduction, which is crucial to the discussion.

david "male blackmail" - interesting.

K "Alpha males in charge" - My point is to present a counter-argument to the idea that social exclusion of men is the result of feminism or some kind of female conspiracy, not to defend the social exclusion of men, or the subordination of women.

hix - click on the links. This isn't my story, but one that is out there.

marcel - sometimes I sleep.

Ben - I don't know who the "you" in your comment refers to. Please clarify and focus your comments.

As for the allegation that "Every advancement that allows a woman to be on top has been created and facilitated by a man...When a single woman innovates and achieves anything of that magnitude your position will make sense."

The entire point of the post is about competition between males for available resources. The fact that some men have come up with neat innovations and used them to acquire massive amounts of resources is in no way incompatible with the thesis of this post.

Patrick - thanks for the (heavily qualified) support.


If you are going to do evo psych, start with the basics - there are few binding laws for behaviour, so every species has to be actually, you know, looked at for how it has adapted and with what range of behaviour. Unlike, eg gorillas or chimpanzees, human male bonding is common (and patri-local pairing is most common). As someone said, 200 male chimpanzees in a room would lead to mass mayhem very quickly, but you can put 2000 human males in a room and they will form a structured herd. So the dynamics of alpha male behaviour in eg springboks don't translate well to humans. The evidence on male dominance is patchy and overwritten by 10,000 odd years of farming (and hunter gatherer societies cover a wide range), but chest-beating male dominance seems to be rare and any capacity to gather a harem even more rare (the keys to power in most Australian aboriginal groups, for instance, was the support of senior males AND females). One key is our extreme sociality - humans are very nearly eusocial (try thinking about how many people it takes to maintain a language, and how critical language is to our development), so male competition is severely constrained by comparison with less social species. Any man who has "acquired massive amounts of resources" has done so with the cooperation and consent of many other men - and usually a lot of women (hard to be a CEO of anything bigger than a handful if everyone below is scheming to displace you).

It's certainly a mistake to think that human wants are correlated well with what would create evolutionary success now, in an environment where it is far easier for an inventive mind to meet the wants directly, rather than satisfy the wants solely through the mechanism selected for under evolutionary pressures. e.g., having sex whilst taking birth control.

Competitive and aggressive young males cause antisocial crime - in Western societies. In Japan they abandon the pursuit and, yes, consume pornography, exactly as predicted. This seems more like a crime and class problem than a gender one - Western law enforcement has been bad at keeping up with new ways for urban males to commit violence on other urban males.

The future probably simply has a staggering level of female promiscuity, which would diminish competition amongst males for females. This is also associated with a collapse in male investment in individual females, however, which is where I suspect the "decline in men" writers are coming from. Conversely, females invest less in becoming attractive to males. If you were born attractive and popular, then that asset is suddenly a depreciating one.

It will probably also be a highly unequal promiscuity: attractive males will have a lot of female partners, and attractive females will have a lot of male partners, and unattractive individuals will be locked out of the market - at least until we start becoming better at cosmetic alteration! Which we are already surprisingly good at, relative to most of human history. But I won't be surprised if by 2100 everyone looks like a Greek god(dess), if they so do desire.

Peter T - "humans are very nearly eusocial" - this fits with the point I made in the post about "the crucial importance of productive and reproductive technologies". [eusocial = cooperative reproduction]

Sure. I'm smarter for having read WCI over the last few years. Thanks for that. Given the price I can hardly complain if there's an occasional post I'm not that into.

Francis
This post is uncharacteristically absent of any empirical or hisorical evidence.

In practice, all major social upheavals have been caused by an excess supply of males.

In fact, it us a requirement. Whether chinas civil wars, the protestant reformation or the arab spring the are dependent upon excess males.

And your biological analogy fails to acknowledge what makes humans separate from other animals:

The ability to organize, plan, concentrate force, and capture control.

Canadian pacifism and Pinker's feminine fantasy to the contrary.

Males are where nature experiments.

Females are along for the ride.

Apologies for iPhone related typos. ;)

Curt "This post is uncharacteristically absent of any empirical or hisorical evidence."

Click on the links.

Surely the degree of excess of males is endogenous to social institutions.

Also, did I lose a comment in the mod queue, or did my browser eat it :(

david, you were stuck in spam. Interesting observation about Japan - though the amount of male violence differs across Western societies. Alcohol use, drug policy and video games are also big parts of the male violence story.

"The future probably simply has a staggering level of female promiscuity" - I don't know what that would mean. 5 partners in a lifetime? 10? 20? 50? 100? 500? 1000?

In Western societies, the inverted population pyramid (there are more people in their 50s than in their 30s) combined with some males' preference for younger or much younger partners has to be having some effects on the dating market.

Ben @05.44: "What modern humans are undeniably distinct at, is breaking the link between reproduction and sex."

Um. You do know that's not even remotely true, right? Seriously. Look up bonobos, who by an odd chance happen to be one of three species in our immediate family. And they're not the only ones who have sex for fun, either.

Frances @01.42: "any capacity to gather a harem even more rare"

Hmm. Really no, it's actually very common across human societies: even the US, where there was an awful lot of Mormon harems within the last two hundred years. If you meant, rare on an individual basis, I might buy that; see below on JCI religious patriarchy and similar institutions.

I grew up in a culture which is useful to look at (the Mamprusi tribe, in Mampurugu in Northern Ghana). In the two generations immediately above mine (I'm 35), reflecting a 'time immemorial' social structure, the typical household had a single alpha male with a harem of 3-5 breeding females of whom one would be alpha, and anything up to 60 people in the troupe (household). And there was a very specific, survivalist reason for that; the adult sex ratios over the time we have records vary between M:F 1:4 and 1:8. You want a working society, you have to come up with a system for that.

The cause, btw, was infant male deaths due to malaria taking 3 in 5 male children before the age of 1 (vs. 1 in 5 female) and a further 2 in 5 of the survivors before 5 years old (vs 0.8 in females). Fluctuations in ratio towards the extremes typically reflect local drought / famine cycles; in drought conditions, male deaths prior to puberty go up much faster than female, and in conditions of plenty, less male babies die than in 'normal' times. Effective modern medical and post-natal care became available over the course of the 60s - 70s, and the survival rates balanced out very quickly. Lo and behold, in my generation, virtually no-one isn't monogamous. The fact that both Christianity and Islam are present in the local religious environment might have affected this, but that was studied by an anthropologist from Berkley who stayed with us while doing her field work; both JCI religions were thoroughly embedded in that culture for periods measured in decades or centuries with zero impact on marital behaviour, whereas the shift in marriage practices happened immediately when the infant mortality situation changed.

Harem formation among humans is not at all rare, and in every case I know of, came from one of two initial conditions; either a shortage of men reaching breeding age and a surplus of females (e.g. the Malaria Coast, to which it is a pretty rational societal response) or a massive imbalance of power and wealth accruing to a small percentage of men and being reinforced by socio-religious norms (e.g. patriarchy of the Western Christian or near-Eastern Islamic sort). If you look at Restoration England, you'll see exactly this latter picture; men of wealth and station, even if they were not alpha males within their own troupe (heads of family) accumulated and supported harems, often very large ones, as a matter of course. Women were supported entirely by these men in return for sexual access and exclusivity, i.e. formal mistresses in addition to wives. Precisely the same is true of Tokugawan Japan, ancient Rome and Greece, pre-Islamic Persia, large parts of Vedic India, and so on.

Some human cultures rely on harem structures due to survival pressures. Most human cultures that sponsor harems do so in a selective and socially mediated model where the rationale is derived from the self-interest of the dominant males in society, excused by religious sophistry, and boils down to "Because we're worth it." This is the same argument used to support the egregious compensation scale for financial services employees and executives today, who (as any tabloid will remind us) also accumulate harems as a matter of course. Such systems are typically maintained by direct and indirect violence against non-alpha males and all females; a particularly good case study of that can be found in US ghetto culture, where males who survive long enough to become alphas accumulate harems, maintain hierarchies through violence and exterminate as much male competition as possible by engaging in constant status conflicts and using the youngest, lowest-status males as 9mm-fodder.

The difference between how that works in the War on Drugs, and how the same system worked in, say, the Wars of the Roses, is negligible.

You raise the fact that these structures are often, indeed typically, underpinned by active collusion from lower status males and from higher-status females. You're completely right. It's called the kyriarchy.

And, while I'm here, to David @ 05.33:

"Alcohol use, drug policy and video games are also big parts of the male violence story."

The first two? No question. The third one? If you're suggesting that video games make males more violent, you're empirically wrong, and are almost certainly over 40.

The closest thing to a correlation anyone's ever managed to actually demonstrate is that playing violent video games (i.e. exercising frustration and rage in a fantasy, a simulated setting) makes young angry men less likely to initiate violence in person; for the obvious reason that they are able to find catharsis in simulated violence. Video games are a safety valve, not an incitement.

Oh dear. I've just realised I'm reading the attributions here completely wrong, as I'm used to them being above rather than below the relevant comment. I suspect that both of my substantive comments are addressed to the wrong commenter, I do apologise!

Chris - "the adult sex ratios over the time we have records vary between M:F 1:4 and 1:8." - this is absolutely fascinating, I had no idea there was such a huge gender difference in malaria-related mortality.

When I told my guide in Botswana that large parts of the world from the Pakistan through to northern India and China had more men than women he was absolutely stunned. He took it as a fundamental biological law that F>M. And as you may know, Botswanian guides tend to be pretty educated middle class folks, because being a guide is one of the best paid/highest status jobs around.

"If you're suggesting that video games make males more violent, you're empirically wrong, and are almost certainly over 40."

That was unclear. From the limited number of studies I can find, it seems that the displacement effect dominates any other effects - i.e. people tend to just lie around on the sofa playing Grand Theft Auto rather than going out into the real world (where it's cold, damp, dark and dangerous) and doing real world Grand Theft Auto. In other words, I agree with you.


Frances:

" I had no idea there was such a huge gender difference in malaria-related mortality."

Yah, and it doesn't just apply to the Malaria Coast, either. It's responsible for unusual social arrangements in other places, including Siberian nomadic tribes. It's also not just about malaria, though; male babies are universally weaker and more prone to dying than female. They just are. Malaria happens to be a general killer which, when it is endemic, really really accentuates that weakness in male babies. There was then a secondary effect, which largely disappeared from the tribe I grew up with in colonial times, which is that boys who did survive past 5 were much more likely than girls to die between 15-25; intra- or inter-tribal warfare being common.

"He took it as a fundamental biological law that F>M."

Absent high-quality, universally accessible health care or massively deformative government policies (e.g. China) he's basically right. Contrary to popular opinion, you actually need a pretty healthy, well-fed and stable society before that society as a whole can start actively selecting for male children by exposing or aborting females, etc. In situations like the Mamprusi, you try and save every male baby you can, sure, but you try to save every baby you can. You're going to need the workers. With the inbuilt bias towards male babies being prone to dying and male adolescents and young adults being the traditional weapons of alpha-male status conflicts, that does mean you're going to find a lot of social orders which are adapted to an F>M imbalance; which, of course, you do.

"That was unclear. From the limited number of studies I can find..."

Indeed. There's some work, currently suggestive rather than conclusive, that's based on the very novel approach of actually asking gamers what effect games have on them and paying attention to the replies, which have started people looking towards the explanation I provided. A very large proportion of teenage male (and, possibly not surprisingly, a good proportion of teenage female) gamers report that they explicitly choose FPS and RPG/MMORPG game types because it acts for them as a release valve for frustration with school, bullies, parents or siblings and allows them to avoid hauling off and clouting someone who richly deserves it.

Some older gamers report the same, but it is noticeable that older gamers (i.e. people who are more fully socialised and have a higher chance of actually getting their way occasionally than teenagers) will typically say they choose FPS / RPG games because they are engaged mostly by the story or by the tactical challenges of navigating a combat scenario. There's also a survey out there (I think I may have read it in Slate?) which looks at when/how/why the meme of blaming specifically school shootings on violent videogames started, and the extent to which it was a known untruth adopted by right-wing commentators to occlude the fact that the Columbine killers were not victim / geeks in a revenge fantasy but cool kid / bullies in a narcissistic one.

Here's a link which covers some of that ground with regard to Columbine, but the piece I'm remembering started from a shooting in the very early 90s, and followed the build-up of this canard towards it's popular acceptence after the spin machine distorted Columbine.

"The future probably simply has a staggering level of female promiscuity" - I don't know what that would mean. 5 partners in a lifetime? 10? 20? 50? 100? 500? 1000?

In Western societies, the inverted population pyramid (there are more people in their 50s than in their 30s) combined with some males' preference for younger or much younger partners has to be having some effects on the dating market.

New Zealand women already reported twenty, back in that Durex international survey. That's already quite a lot.

Although this reporting is often contradictory with male reporting, given prevailing sex ratios, so a non-trivial amount of lying to interviewers is going on.

True on the inverted pyramid. But also consider: women are also becoming much more successful at slowing apparent aging. Forty-year-old women in the developed world look much younger than forty-year-old women in the developing world. Simply avoiding outdoor activity works wonders.

I should point out that one also has polyandrous harem formation in human societies, under given social institutions.

Matriarchal societies have this going for them: every inheritance is certain; claimed mothers of daughters are known to be the definite mother, whereas fatherhood is always dubious. Hence concentration of wealth (on the female side instead of the male), and hence matriarchal polyandry.

Chris- That was one of the most interesting and illuminating posts I've read on the internet in ages. Thank you.

A lot of the End of Men stuff is looking at a time-window of social change that is rather short to draw many conclusions from. The social revolutions that led to the present situation in developed societies are so recent compared to many of the structures they replaced, that it seems rather strange to draw any sort of grand evolutionary theses out of the situation,

Chris: "The cause, btw, was infant male deaths due to malaria taking 3 in 5 male children before the age of 1 (vs. 1 in 5 female) and a further 2 in 5 of the survivors before 5 years old (vs 0.8 in females)."

That really surprised me (I'm not saying you are wrong). Why was there that massive difference in M/F death rates? Any ideas? Differential susceptibility? Differential preventative resources?

Chris Naden is stuck in spam, about 4 hours ago.

Nick: am I? That explains it :) I assume that response will show up at some stage.

David @ 08.09:

"I should point out that one also has polyandrous harem formation in human societies, under given social institutions. "

Absolutely. I think it's Nepal where this is currently happening among Sherpa?

Kathleen @ 10.01:

Thank you :)

Nick Rowe @ 11.49:

Male babies are both more susceptible to disease in general, and particularly, weaker in constitution (heart, lung and lymph systems) than female babies. In the case of a disease such as malaria which causes very intense fevers, male babies simply have less stamina for fighting the disease off; the fevers kill them quicker. You see the same happening in medieval Europe with diseases like measles and chickenpox, and in the US with scarlet fever outbreaks in the pioneer era. However, the relative imbalance never rose as high, in part because none of those diseases do anything like the acute and intense systemic overload of malarial fever in the first three days. I ran a temperature of 107C for three days in a malarial attack in my teens; if I'd been under 5 and had no access to modern treatments I'd be dead, but a female would have had about a 60/40 chance of surviving, with a 10% chance of permanent brain damage.

Related note: this is why sickle cell anaemia is the enormous problem it is. It makes the carrier immune to malaria, which means you get much, much better infant survivability and much more even population distributions in tribes which carried sickle cell.

Another good thing to look at is the 'sweating fever' which swept England in Henry VIII's reign. We know shockingly little about what it was, apart from being fairly sure it wasn't anything we've ever seen before or since, and its death-toll was very bad among infants; and killed a lot more boys than girls, including an infant heir to the throne iirc. For reference, I'm an historian and pub manager, not a medic, I only know this stuff because I grew up knee-deep in it :)

"This seems more like a crime and class problem than a gender one - Western law enforcement has been bad at keeping up with new ways for urban males to commit violence on other urban males."

Kinda hard to ignore the gender aspect when we witness profoundly anti-social behaviour amongst disparate groups and circumstances (from inner-city Baltimore, to suburban Scotland, to Japan, to rural India (think the epedemic of sexual violence in that country has nothing to do with the "suplus" male population arising from sex-selective abortion?) connected by a single trait. Gender may not be the sole cause of that behaviour, but it clearly plays a role.

Chris Naden's comment from the spam filter:

"Frances: " I had no idea there was such a huge gender difference in malaria-related mortality." Yah, and it doesn't just apply to the Malaria Coast, either. It's responsible for unusual social arrangements in other places, including Siberian nomadic tribes. It's also not just about malaria, though; male babies are universally weaker and more prone to dying than female. They just are. Malaria happens to be a general killer which, when it is endemic, really really accentuates that weakness in male babies. There was then a secondary effect, which largely disappeared from the tribe I grew up with in colonial times, which is that boys who did survive past 5 were much more likely than girls to die between 15-25; intra- or inter-tribal warfare being common. "He took it as a fundamental biological law that F>M." Absent high-quality, universally accessible health care or massively deformative government policies (e.g. China) he's basically right. Contrary to popular opinion, you actually need a pretty healthy, well-fed and stable society before that society as a whole can start actively selecting for male children by exposing or aborting females, etc. In situations like the Mamprusi, you try and save every male baby you can, sure, but you try to save every baby you can. You're going to need the workers. With the inbuilt bias towards male babies being prone to dying and male adolescents and young adults being the traditional weapons of alpha-male status conflicts, that does mean you're going to find a lot of social orders which are adapted to an F>M imbalance; which, of course, you do. "That was unclear. From the limited number of studies I can find..." Indeed. There's some work, currently suggestive rather than conclusive, that's based on the very novel approach of actually asking gamers what effect games have on them and paying attention to the replies, which have started people looking towards the explanation I provided. A very large proportion of teenage male (and, possibly not surprisingly, a good proportion of teenage female) gamers report that they explicitly choose FPS and RPG/MMORPG game types because it acts for them as a release valve for frustration with school, bullies, parents or siblings and allows them to avoid hauling off and clouting someone who richly deserves it. Some older gamers report the same, but it is noticeable that older gamers (i.e. people who are more fully socialised and have a higher chance of actually getting their way occasionally than teenagers) will typically say they choose FPS / RPG games because they are engaged mostly by the story or by the tactical challenges of navigating a combat scenario. There's also a survey out there (I think I may have read it in Slate?) which looks at when/how/why the meme of blaming specifically school shootings on violent videogames started, and the extent to which it was a known untruth adopted by right-wing commentators to occlude the fact that the Columbine killers were not victim / geeks in a revenge fantasy but cool kid / bullies in a narcissistic one. Here's a link which covers some of that ground with regard to Columbine, but the piece I'm remembering started from a shooting in the very early 90s, and followed the build-up of this canard towards it's popular acceptence after the spin machine distorted Columbine."

The above was Chris Naden. Sorry about the (lack of) formatting.

Chris: thanks.

I copied your comment from the spam filter, and posted it as a comment, and then it (of course!) put *my* comment in spam too!

Never mind. Frances or Stephen will retrieve it. (I can read, but not retrieve.)

I'm not sure about this. Suppose that males were more susceptible to disease, so that by the time of puberty, there were more females than males in the population. That would seem to violate Fisher's principle (if that sea ratio differential persisted for long enough for evolution to work).

On second thoughts, maybe I have misapplied Fisher's Principle. The increased probability of a boy dying would be exactly offset by the surviving boys having more wives.

Nick, will reply later.

Chris - polyandry - Nepal.

My understanding of that Nepalese marriage practice is that it's more like men (usually brothers) sharing a wife - not the stuff of female fantasies!

I'd never heard of Henry VIII and sweating sickness - fascinating.


Thanks for digging my comment out. Re. Nepal: I've been present when the three wives in a household formally approached their husband and told him, in no uncertain terms, that he needed to go out and find a nice young girl to marry because there was too much work for just the three of them. The situation in Ghana is patriarchal, no question; men are heads of household and control most explicit politics. But in a given household, it's much more like women sharing a husband than it is like the 'harems' we think of attached to that word. As I understood it in the current context it's an zoological term of art for any unidirectional polysexual behaviour which forms units stable over time, isn't it? :) Not really the stuff of anyone's dreams.

It is also worth noting, I think, that one thing which made marital customs among the Mamprusi a little less prone to typical patriarchal issues than most tribes was serial monogamy among women. The children of a given wife are her children, not his; and many (not most, but many) women will have more than one husband during the time they're bringing up their children. If a woman could pitch the case to the elders that the man she was married to was inadequately providing for her and her children, she could walk with no attached social stigma (quite the reverse) and no legal recourse for the man thereafter. Acted as a useful check & balance in the system and did tend to keep the men working very hard in their fields. Moving five or six kids from one household to another represents a very significant economic asset in a muscle-powered subsistence-agriculture context.


I found Chris Naden's comments fascinating and informative. One minor point - when I (not Frances) said harem formation was rare, I was referring to hunter-gatherers. There are some (the Tiwi of northern Australia are an interesting example), but the effort of controlling both the young men AND the women seems too much for most in societies that are nomadic and mostly live in smallish groups. You do get what look like harems, but on inspection they resolve into something more like general polyamory (the older men often have more than one wife, but the wives go through several husbands).

Among some Sahara groups, men have to go out on caravans to accumulate enough wealth to marry. They may have to wait till they are about 45 and then they marry 4 women at once, aged 15, 25,35 and 45. Meanwhile, the women stay at base camp and marry four times: at 15, 25,35,45 changing husbands as they die.
Each man is polygamous for a short time, with a couple of trophy wife to have children with and two more mature to take care of the household ( their own sons are already off to the caravans). While each women have one husband serialy ( for the women it is not that different from the modern west among the wealthy class...)

An incident recounted in Robert Lacey's "The kingdom: inside the house of Saud"
http://www.amazon.com/The-Kingdom-Arabia-House-Saud/dp/0151472602/ref=pd_sim_b_1

Some sons of Ibn Saud were curious about their father. They gathered the courage to ask their mothers how such a fierce warrior behaved in his private quarters. They laughed and replied: "Here he his softer than a lamb. We do with him as we please!"

In both cases, I quote from memory, original documents being in my archives ( boxes in the basement...)

Yessiree... reeeeal nice Canadian economics blog you usta have there.

PeterT @ 07.07:

Ah, I follow. I parsed it as a reference to sexual patterns among great apes in general, as well as humans :)

Jacques Rene @ 07.14:

Nomads are complicated, but the Saharans (I presume here that you are referring to Berbers, Touareg and Moors, by that?) are a case unto themselves for two reasons; firstly, their culture has been routinely built on slavery and raiding wars since time immemorial (which in Tamanrasset feels like forever, tbh, but in practice is about 7.6k years). In that they're quite similar to the Silk Road raider cultures (Uzbek, Kazakh, etc.); but those tribes only took the practice up once the Silk Road got going properly, and are therefore some 4-5 thousand years less practiced at it. Such cultures evolve multi-tier marital structures in part to reflect the very strange population movements you get from raiding & slaving being your entire GDP.

The pre-Talmudic tribes who conquered Canaan (the Biblical 'Jews' prior to the Maccabean hegemony, which drew those tribes together to form what we know as Judaism) were operating the same kind of economy, and you'll see all kinds of similar situational injunctions and anecdotes coded into their society via Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

Secondly, the House of Saud have nothing at all to do with anything happening in the Sahara and have only been politically or culturally relevant for a very short time, a few hundred years. I doubt they have personally had much to do with any cultural mores. What you quote there is part of a standard storyline from Islamic lore, with the same moral intent as most such stories in the Western canon; to ensure that sons don't rebel against fathers and that women don't rebel against anyone. I've seen it attached to names ranging from Alexander the Great to the Prophet (may he live forever) to the first Aga Khan, and Sekundar Burnes in Afghanistan as well. Again, similar moral messages can be found in the Torah; the tale of Noah's drunken nudity is of the same ilk.

Chris : I don't like to pretend to more culture that I have so I stayed general but it was a Touareg group.
As for the Saudi reference, it was more related to how poligyny may not be all about bloody alpha brutally dominating their female. We all know it's more complicated. That it is codified in lore show what's acceptable and accepted. And what's acceptable is usually what's most people do, including the leaders.
Humans have rather consistent in what they approve and disapprove. There are difference at the margins on how we define murder, rape or theft. These small differences are what makes sociology ( the study of pale-skinned rich people) and anthropology ( the study of poor dark-skinned one)interesting.
(Economics is about when rich people of whatever color graduate from theft to TBTF.)

One of the author's core premises is utterly wrong, that men hire women because women are more reliable workers.

I've worked my entire career in finance, and even then, in the more macho parts of finance. The cultural pressure to hire more women is a significant driver of why they hire women, except for the ones who are designated sex objects.

There is a lot of research that shows:

1. Men prefer to work in all male groups. Women don't care about gender mix of their work groups

2. Any sort of work attributed to a man is scored better than when attributed to a woman. All sorts of blind tests confirm this, resumes, writing samples, etc. This means (like it or not) a man will be more successful in a sales or similar position (where people will associate the person with the work product) unless the woman is a TON better than the man.

Yves "One of the author's core premises is utterly wrong, that men hire women because women are more reliable workers"

Do you take issue with the stylized fact that female employment has been steadily rising while increasing numbers of men are becoming economically and socially marginalized? If so, then this post is not for you.

If you agree that female employment has been rising while men are struggling in the labour market, then one needs to come up with an explanation. One can explain it with feminism/women's liberation, or one can explain it with changing technology/employer preferences. My view is that the latter is much more plausible than the former.

Jacques:

Re. Touareg: yeah, that makes sense. The ones I knew when traveling in Algeria and Mali would reflect that, at least the more traditional families. Equally, many individual Targi are practically indistinguishable from the social norms of the societies they travel in.

As for the Saudi reference, it was more related to how poligyny may not be all about bloody alpha brutally dominating their female.

Oh, hell yeah, completely agreed. The whole issue is complicated by the fact that very real, systemic, and brutal abuses were carried out against women by a very large number of men over the centuries, but this is balanced against the fact that many other women and men developed healthy and useful, stable relationships within those systems. This is kind of like the US and guns.

Stand your Ground laws are a social signaling device, like religious injunctions of masculine dominance and violence. ALEC designed these laws to tell society that a white guy is perfectly entitled to shoot the shit out of a car full of unarmed black teenagers, because people of colour (and particularly young male POC) are intrinsically a threat. ALEC and the GOP/NRA/South shall Rise Again crowd are signaling that any attempt to shoot young black men is an act of self-defense and therefore permissible, and indeed (if you listen to Limbaugh and Beck) positively encouraged.

Some few assholes choose to exercise that right, and many higher-profile assholes then defend them. But the vast majority of white US gunowners never actually shoot anyone, let alone indulging in the kind of antics that made the name Trayvon Martin famous.

The situation with patriarchy and violence against women is much worse: a much higher percentage of men abused those religious rights than the percentage of gun-owners who abuse ALEC-derived vigilante laws. But in the analogy above, ALEC stands in for the Puritans of Britain in the 17th century, Limbaugh and Beck for the firebrand preachers who toured the country with women in tow who were publicly birched before sermons to demonstrate the proper submissive role of women in society; the men who took these injunctions to heart and became brutal are Michael Dunn, and the vast majority of English Christians who thought the Puritans were fundamentalist terrorists that needed deporting to the colonies post-haste are the responsible gun-owners. I'm sure you can find ways to fit that analogy into the modern US situation with regard to the war on women, too.

Frances:

One can explain it with feminism/women's liberation, or one can explain it with changing technology/employer preferences. My view is that the latter is much more plausible than the former.

Why pick one? I would argue that both factors are necessary, and neither sufficient, to explain the facts.

Chris - "Why pick one?"

Because I'm having an argument with Nick Rowe about it - but unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) he didn't choose to duke it out with me on-line.

Robin Hanson attempted to summarize the literature on sex ratios & violence:
http://www.overcomingbias.com/2012/01/sex-ratio-violence.html
There wasn't a clear takeaway.

With the greatest of deference to Yves Smith, I don't believe that she is entitled to generalize from the field of finance to all fields of employment. I can say from my long experience in the software industry, that there is some truth in Frances' assertion that women are often preferred for the qualities she enumerates. However, I would qualify that by saying that the situation for the top positions in tech is a lot more complicated--e.g. you need more troublemakers, and the complications that come with childbearing and so forth definitely tilt the game towards the men--witness all of the discussion about Marissa Mayer at Yahoo, and Sheryl Sandberg's often derided campaign.

Chris is right that the two factors are not mutually exclusive. However, Nick was wise not to fight this one--any victory would be Pyrrhic!

But doesn't our superior intelligence also give us better social technologies, eg. marriage, to preserve monogamy? What does this mean for your argument? And how does your (a) follow from your zoological analogies?

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