Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Just-so Stories

Amanda over at Pandagon mentioned the other day the ways in which male violence against women has been mythologized by these evolutionary psychologists who want to argue that everything we do is completely explainable if we only understand how it was we lived when we lived in caveman times. This is problematic for a couple of reasons which are immediately obvious. One, there were no cameras back in caveman times, so we don't really know how people lived back then. "Oh, Aunt B.," you say, "But we do. We can just study how primitive tribes act now days." To which I would respond also, in a two-fold manner (but we will use a. & b. because I'm already using one and two for the larger framing device) a. what constitutes "primitive"? and b. how can we be certain that these "primitive" tribes have always been exactly the way they are? Why do you assume we are the only ones capable of change? Your "primitive" tribes might be very changed from the ways they were 10,000 years ago. How would we know? And two, people one hundred years ago related to each other in ways we find so foreign as to be almost impossible to understand (see any discussion on whether Abraham Lincoln was gay). How can we begin to guess, even if we could say for certain how people acted 10,000 years ago, what such behavior means to them, let alone what the implications are for us? But asking hard questions is not nearly as fun as making up my own stories also based in extrapolation from the animal world and guess-work about the needs of our ancestors. So, I was thinking, what if we were more like wolves, who live in packs in which only the alpha male and alpha female reproduce? Human babies take a lot of work to raise and it would make sense if we had limited the number of women who were having children in the pack to better insure that the whole pack's resources could go towards raising the babies it did have to adulthood. As we all know, women are pregnant for nine months and babies can nurse for a year or two. This is a big expenditure of time for the woman and a big waste if the child dies before it's old enough to contribute. Sure, one strategy is for all the women in the pack to have as many children as they're physically capable of, hoping that some of them will make it to adulthood. But another strategy is to limit the number of children born and focusing many adults' energy on making sure all the children born make it to adulthood. Now, watch this as we make like evolutionary psychologists! If only a limited number of women were bearing children then we can immediately see how homosexuality is necessary to the health and well-being of the pack. It has all the benefits of reproductive sex, in that it fosters close feelings between consenting partners, without the consequence of pregnancy. So, it frees up a lot of happy, well-loved folks to help raise the next generation to adulthood. And it also explains the perplexing "problem" of the female orgasm. There never was any problem. Everyone in the pack benefits from the pleasurable bonding that come from sexual activity so everyone must be encouraged to participate: Voila, orgasms for everyone. If women can have orgasms with each other and men can have orgasms with each other, heterosexual sex can be confined to the breeding pairs, again, in order to ensure a small number of children guaranteed to grow to adulthood because they benefit from the participation of the whole pack in their upbringing. Is this true? No, I just made it up. Is it likely? It's as likely as any other myth we tell ourselves about why we are how we are. ...orgasms for everyone. Tee hee...


Blogger Peggasus said...

Heh. I read that second-to-the-last paragraph twice before I was gonna call you out on your bullshiting, and then you went and did it your ownself.

Good one, B!

6/07/2005 09:52:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

I have to say that, if this is all there is to it, being an evolutionary psychologist is much more fun than my job.

I would recommend to everyone that they do it, at least once. Take some animal behavior, take the behavior of modern humans, throw in a little wishful thinking, and make up a story about how we used to be back before recorded history to explain it.

I mean, these folks should not be the only ones making up stories of how we are. That should be something important for us all to do.

6/08/2005 08:15:00 AM  
Blogger RnR said...

Remember how high school writing assignments would have mininum word counts? From what I've seen in academic writing, it's the same only much longer. You'd easily pass as an evolutionary psychologist by adding 40 more bullshit words in between each word in the post above.
I prefer your style of writing... and your theories. *grin*

6/08/2005 11:39:00 AM  

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