Quite so

Why would virginity be attractive to our hunter-gatherer forebears? Until the recent invention of DNA testing, a man could never be sure that a child was his. Mothers could be damn sure they were related to their kids, but men had no “paternity certainty”. In evolutionary terms, spending time and resources feeding and protecting offspring that will not continue your own genes is a costly mistake. And humans have thus evolved behaviours to prevent this: jealousy, possessiveness, mistrust, and most unfortunately, the oppression and denial of female sexuality. Its modern effects are seen in “slut-shaming” and FGM, victim-blaming after rape or assault, revenge porn and religions that venerate chastity and punish those who have sex before marriage.

I’ve always found it amusing that it is the left which rightly insists on the truth of evolution but also the left which so rages against the behaviours that evolution has left us with.

53 thoughts on “Quite so”

  1. That’s because one of the things we evolved is a social brain, which we can use to alter the behaviours wired into our lizard brains. Just because our ancestors did something doesn’t mean we need to accept it today.

  2. She tells us that, at 33(!), she nows knows that sex rarely involves horses. I think my teachers must have been slightly more focused on the subject matter than her’s.

  3. “…and religions that venerate chastity and punish those who have sex before marriage.”

    Apart from wicca, are there any religions that don’t..?

  4. Matthew L,

    This isn’t about rewiring brains. We were chaperoning women in the 1930s (and according to a friend stationed in Cyprus, in the 1950s there).

    The real reason is technology. Reliable contraception and safe abortion meant that women could have sex without procreation.

  5. Found it informative. I will never look at a sea cow in the same way, in fact I will avert my eyes.

  6. “In evolutionary terms, spending time and resources feeding and protecting offspring that will not continue your own genes is a costly mistake.”

    Not a concept that would be familiar to Darwin, I would think.

    Old and New Testament prophets, Mohammed and a few others, but not anything to do with evolution, as I think the cuckoo indicates…

  7. Ironman – there was no (human) sex education of any kind when I was at school. (We did learn about the mating habits of frogs.)

    Somehow we figured it out, and no nags were harmed in the process.

    john miller – Not a concept that would be familiar to Darwin, I would think.

    No, but it’s true though. A man who is cuckolded is a genetic dead end. Our ancestors may not have known what genes are, but they knew being tricked into raising kids that aren’t your own is a sort of permadeath, cheating a man out of his legacy.

    not anything to do with evolution, as I think the cuckoo indicates

    Does the cuckoo not indicate that the purpose of evolution is to continue your lineage? The cuckoo simply uses a strategy of cheating other birds into wasting resources on the cuckoo’s young.

    It’s the avian version of Mick Philpott.

  8. JuliaM,

    Wicca is a post-war religion of social liberalism, while combined with the sort of rose-tinted view of living off nature of Tolkein and the Olympics Ceremony.

  9. The Stigler: I didn’t say it was about rewiring brains. My point is that we don’t need to slavishly follow what evolution has laid down for us. We can use our forebrains to avoid doing things that our hindbrains urge, so this:

    it is the left which rightly insists on the truth of evolution but also the left which so rages against the behaviours that evolution has left us with.

    is no contradiction at all.

  10. I had taken a well-earned retirement and then I saw the phrase “hunter gatherer”.

    Back in half an hour with 10,000 words on the topic of economics and its relation to evolutionary biology . . . . .

  11. “it is the left which rightly insists on the truth of evolution”: it quite happily denies evolution in humans over the last 100k years or so. At least the loonie creationists are consistent in their sincere delusions. The left are just lying scumbags.

  12. Politics posing as science. E.g. jealousy : why are women jealous? Why is a man jealous even if his wife is incapable of bearing a child? And religious requirements of chastity, in Christianity at any rate, do not discriminate between the sexes. .

  13. A young woman once assured me that female chimpanzees (homo sap’s closet relatives, also hunter-gatherers) have sex with as many males as possible. Evolutionary theorists say that’s to ensure every male has a potential investment in helping her raise the baby.

  14. It’s not chimps it’s bonobos the story is about. And it’s wrong anyway. Chimps are as jealous and bloodthirsty as we humans are.

  15. John Miller,

    I confess I have not read Darwin’s own words but the concept that “In evolutionary terms, spending time and resources feeding and protecting offspring that will not continue your own genes is a costly mistake” is, as you put it, “not anything to do with evolution” is drastically at variance with any standard modern account of evolution. The metaphorical evolutionary “arms race” between females “trying” to “trick” males into helping raise infants not their own, and males “trying” to stop them is one of the most studied fields in evolutionary science.

    Far from being an argument against this possibility the cuckoo illustrates it. Cuckoo eggs have evolved to closely resemble the eggs of target species.

  16. A typical feminist analysis which completely ignores female intra-gender competition and fails to explain why females would have “a sexuality” at all; it reduces females to passive victims (as usual), while tying the theory to current feminist campaigns. For instance, “slut shaming” and FGM are of most use to other women in reducing competition.

  17. It is the right wing Social Darwinists who take “the survival of the fittest” (not Darwin’s phrase) to be an excuse for their anti-social, uncooperative ,self centred, typically Tory behaviour. The left more inclines to the anarchist Kropotkin’s idea that man found “Mutual Aid: A factor of evolution” to cite one of his titles.

  18. “their anti-social, uncooperative ,self centred, typically Tory behaviour.” I used to meet a lot of Tories: on the whole they were pleasant, kind people. Not MPs, I mean, just supporters.

  19. Ian B – For instance, “slut shaming” and FGM are of most use to other women in reducing competition.

    Dunno about FGM (I don’t disagree, just dunno), but “slut shaming” is definitely something women do to other women.

    It’s not a male mate-guarding behaviour at all. Most men love sluts. That’s the problem – as far as women see it.

    How about the rest of her litany of abuses?

    victim-blaming after rape or assault

    Maybe in Pakistan. In the West, this is nonexistent. The closest thing we have to “victim-blaming” is reasonable people advising young women not to dress like a hooker, get plastered, and then totter down a dark alley at night in a rough part of town. Or asking if a young woman’s confused and belated report of “rape”, where there is no physical evidence and she declined to go to the police, is really true.

    Female supremacists call this “victim-blaming” because they don’t believe women should ever take responsibility for their choices and want the criminal justice system to punish men on any woman’s say-so, facts be damned.

    Anyway, if “victim-blaming” (real or imaginary) is a mate-guarding strategy, it’s a poor one. A better one would be to execute or castrate rapists.

    revenge porn

    Revenge porn isn’t about mate guarding either. Revenge is about revenge. Same as the scorned woman who vandalises a man’s possessions then tells everybody he has a tiny cock.

    and religions that venerate chastity and punish those who have sex before marriage

    I think she has the beginning of a point here, but misses the wider picture because she’s looking through a feminist microscope.

    As JuliaM points out, all major religions promote family bonding and fidelity within the family group. And yes, that involves sanctions (real or social) for people who deviate from their sexual mores.

    Why do they do that?

    Is it *just* to ensure paternity? That seems excessively reductionist to me.

    I suspect religion plays a much wider and more important role in societies than oppressing women (as per feminists) or opiating the masses (as per communists) or giving weak minds who can’t handle SCIENCE! something to cling to (as per neo-atheists).

    Though procreation is, of course, fundamental. Is it even possible for an irreligious civilisation to sustain itself? The evidence so far isn’t encouraging.

  20. Revenge porn isn’t about mate guarding either. Revenge is about revenge. Same as the scorned woman who vandalises a man’s possessions then tells everybody he has a tiny cock.

    The first “revenge porn” I ever saw on the internets was back during the good old days of Web 1.0 when a girl had posted pictures of her boyfriend’s tiny cock on her webpage, to much hilarity.

    As to “major religions” it is worth noting that there are very few these days and the majority of the world worship variations of the Jewish faith. I’ve written a lot about this variously, but the value system it encapsulates is Levantine patoralist clan polygamy, the maintenance of which required extreme sexual controls for reasons I’m to lazy to reiterate again.

    What evidence we have of pre-Christian Europe, and some logic I’m also too lazy, etc, indicates a much “looser” value system was in operation. The Romans castigated the Celts (at least some of them) for their acceptance of female promiscuity (and homosexuality, funnily enough). Talking evolution, this is probably reflected in the relatively low sexual dimorphism of northern Europeans, with the female tendency to be tall and skeletally robust, all of which ties into the tendency in our climes for affectionate monogamy (rather than arranged polygamy), exogeny rather than endogeny and high tolerance for sluts compared to less fortunate peoples.

  21. “Is it even possible for an irreligious civilisation to sustain itself?”

    Yes. The key difference between Post-Christian Western Europe and its predecessor is the lack of constant and increasingly catastrophic wars.

    More widely, we can see that state-imposed ideologies, whether it be Christianity, Communism, Islam or whatever are pretty ruinous.

  22. Jack C – The key difference between Post-Christian Western Europe and its predecessor is the lack of constant and increasingly catastrophic wars.

    Correlation is not causation, though one might equally say that a key difference between Christian and post-Christian Europe is that the former wasn’t headed for demographic oblivion.

    More widely, we can see that state-imposed ideologies, whether it be Christianity, Communism, Islam or whatever are pretty ruinous.

    Yes, State imposed anything often turns out poorly.

  23. Steve,
    Correlation may not be causation, but causation is.

    A great many of those wars were explicitly religious cock-waving.

  24. Jack C – A great many of those wars were explicitly religious cock-waving.

    WW1 and WW2 weren’t. The rest pale into insignificant beside the butcher’s bill for those.

  25. “WW1 and WW2 weren’t. The rest pale into insignificant beside the butcher’s bill for those.”

    Not really, no. The 30 Years’ War (essentially, Catholics against Prots and certain versions of Prots against other Prots plus Great Power involvement) killed 25-40% of the populations in the areas the war was fought over. 60-70% in some areas.

    Note “populations” not “soldiers”.

    Great War for the UK was more like one in 12 of combatants. Which is different from total population.

    One of the things we Brits have to recall is that Continental Wars were hugely bloodthirsty. We forget this because WW1 and II were aberrations for us and normal for the continent. Butcher’s Bill for France, Germany, etc etc, in WWI wasn’t out of line, per day of fighting, with Sedan, Napoleonic Wars and the rest. Even Frederickan for Germany. We just didn’t send conscript armies to any of them.

  26. One also has to ask why supposedly Christian nations ended up facing each other in the trenches in the first place.

    Rochester Cathedral, which is pretty much a military church, has some hilarious references to God guiding us home in a variety of dodgy turf wars across the globe. There may be a clue here.

    Oh, and if Nazism was very much a state-imposed religion.

  27. @Tim: It’s not chimps it’s bonobos the story is about. And it’s wrong anyway.

    It’s not wrong: Nicholas Wade says: Chimp reproductive behavior requires a female to mate with all the males in her band, or at least as many as possible. She is estimated to copulate between 400 and 3,000 times per conception. This labor provides an insurance policy for her children, since each male who thinks he might be the father of her child is more likely to refrain from killing it.

  28. On chimps: JeremyT is correct. Copulation is also such a casual activity for chimpanzee females that they will often carry on eating during it. This, by the way, is one of the lines of evidence that cast doubt on the assumption (regarding humans) that high investment offspring requires choosiness in females, an assumption made by many pondering our own sexual biology.

  29. So Much for Subtlety

    For thousands of years, a woman’s virginity had literal worth; it was sold like property by her father in exchange for a dowry.

    She is a fatuous idiot. Worse than that. For a start, Fathers did not sell a woman’s virginity. He may have sold a marriage partner, if you want to misuse the word “sold”. The hymen just made her relatively more valuable because, obviously, she is.

    But she cannot even get her basic sociology right. A dowry is not something the groom’s family gives the bride’s father. That would be a bride price – very common in polygamous societies like the Middle East and East Asia. The dowry is something that the bride’s family gives the husband. A bribe, basically, to marry their daughter. It is a negative value sort of attached to virginity.

    Hence Winston Churchill’s father marrying a rich American heiress. He needed the cold hard cash. In the European tradition you have to pay people to marry your daughter.

    The rest of her argument is just childish.

  30. it takes a particularly one eyed view to come up with “oppression and denial of female sexuality” because we all know the world is full, really properly full of men who can’t have sex because women won’t let them.

    And I’d like to see some slut shaming, where can I find some?

    Oh, yeah, and where can I find some sluts?

  31. So Much for Subtlety

    Matthew L – “That’s because one of the things we evolved is a social brain, which we can use to alter the behaviours wired into our lizard brains. Just because our ancestors did something doesn’t mean we need to accept it today.”

    Can we? We like to think we can, but can we?

    The Left demand we all accept evolution. But then they don’t just say that we are naturally inclined to be jealous but we can fight it if we like. They say that we are a blank slate and we can choose any political, social or cultural set of values we like. Not that we need to repress our lizard brain in the same way the Wee Frees do with sexuality. But that evolution puts no constraints on what we can do.

    This is nonsense.

    DBC Reed – “It is the right wing Social Darwinists who take “the survival of the fittest” (not Darwin’s phrase) to be an excuse for their anti-social, uncooperative ,self centred, typically Tory behaviour.”

    There is no such thing as Social Darwinism. It is a term invented by an American publicist to cover up the fact that the Nazis were Darwinists. It is a way of reconciling the contradiction between the Left’s contempt for religion and supposed support for science with what that science says.

    Anyone who uses the term is an idiot and a fool and probably selling you snake oil.

    “The left more inclines to the anarchist Kropotkin’s idea that man found “Mutual Aid: A factor of evolution” to cite one of his titles.”

    If by the Left you mean Stephen Jay Gould, sure. But you don’t. You just think that you are not enslaved to the ideas of a cute little podgy Marxist with a penchant for faking his results. But alas you are.

    The Left has no interest in anarchism at all. They abandoned pretty much all leftist alternatives to Stalinism because they thought Stalin would win and they would all get government jobs sending people they did not like to the Gulag.

  32. So Much for Subtlety

    Tim Worstall – “Butcher’s Bill for France, Germany, etc etc, in WWI wasn’t out of line, per day of fighting, with Sedan, Napoleonic Wars and the rest. Even Frederickan for Germany. We just didn’t send conscript armies to any of them.”

    Per day of fighting is cheating. Given most of those battles were over in a day. Nor do I think that is a fair comparison. Berlin got captured at least twice during the 18th century. By the Russians. The Russians did not mass rape all the women. They did not even steal much. The Berliners did not resist. When the Russians took Berlin in 1945, they lost about as many soldiers in Berlin alone as the Americans did in the whole campaign in Northern Europe.

    Twentieth century war was much more brutal than 18th century war and the populations knew it.

    By the way, we probably did send conscripts to fight on the mainland in some of those wars. We did not call them that but they were. The Napoleonic Wars certainly.

  33. Ian B:
    ‘On chimps: JeremyT is correct. Copulation is also such a casual activity for chimpanzee females that they will often carry on eating during it.’

    A common trait among Newcastle lasses too. Among the bins in the alleys off the Bigg Market as I recall.

  34. SMFS and Steve,
    Yes the Eastern Front was hideous, but then both sides were idealogically driven, just like the warring Christian factions before them.

    So, the question becomes: “Is it even possible for a religious civilisation to sustain itself?”

    It’s not the secular and democratic nuclear powers that give cause for alarm now is it?

  35. So Much for Subtlety

    Jack C – “Yes the Eastern Front was hideous, but then both sides were idealogically driven, just like the warring Christian factions before them.”

    Ideologically driven by science and atheism. Whatever else you can say, the alternatives to Christianity, especially mild Anglicans with a slight evangelical tilt, are vastly worse.

    “So, the question becomes: “Is it even possible for a religious civilisation to sustain itself?””

    No it isn’t. We know the answer to that. Religion is a sine qua non.

    “It’s not the secular and democratic nuclear powers that give cause for alarm now is it?”

    Yes and no. One of those secular and democratic nuclear armed powers was actively encouraging Communism all over the world. Three if you count the Soviet Union and China although they were not democratic. Britain is not a secular country in theory.

  36. So Much for Subtlety

    The Stigler – “The real reason is technology. Reliable contraception and safe abortion meant that women could have sex without procreation.”

    That technology has hit all developed countries. They have all had the same impetus. They have not had the same results. Neither Japan nor Italy have a huge single mother problem. Neither has had quite the same level of family breakdown through divorce. Admittedly traditional values are still stronger – to the point that two Gay fashion designers can make a theologically-based defence of normal marriages in Italy. Who would have thought Dolce and Gabbana would say something worthwhile? I shall have to buy some.

    Anyway, it is not just the technology. One thing Italian and Japanese boys have not got is the indoctrination. They have not been taught that it is manly to abase themselves and reject all their natural instincts in order to allow a woman to do whatever the hell she wants. So they don’t. English speaking boys have been raised on a diet of Pretty Woman or the like and so they think it is normal to throw away their lives rescuing a prostitute from her poor choices and enabling her to live a life of some comfort while they slave their guts out for mediocre sex once a blue moon.

    It is technology *and* that feminism Ian B is always going on about.

  37. “Religion is a sine qua non”.

    In what way? Britain may not be a secular country in theory, but it is in practice.

    I think I’d take secular Britain over, say, Iran or similar. Wouldn’t you?

    It’s certainly a pity that the Christians of Germany and Italy (very much including the Vatican) failed to reject Fascism. Something in the religious mind-set perhaps.

  38. “English speaking boys have been raised on a diet of Pretty Woman or the like and so they think it is normal to throw away their lives rescuing a prostitute from her poor choices”.

    This though is exactly right. Not only are they taught this, and pretty much to the exclusion of all else, there are never sufficient prostitutes to go round when the poor boys leave school. The disappointment is enormous.

    Worse, many end up with women who work just as hard as they do, and enjoy astonishingly robust sex lives.

    The Blitz generation would just shrugged their shoulders and got on with it, but those days are gone.

  39. Smfs, I believe that you are incorrect in your view about death rates. It isn’t the per day rates that are the issue, it’s the total deaths per head of population. On that basis, as Tim points out, some of the earlier European wars were far more destructive. We’re talking of up to 60-70% of the entire population of an area being killed.

    One difference is that in WW1 most of the local population were able to move from the battle areas and were not subject to looting and pillaging to anything like the same extent.

    But if you want a really destructive war, the Plate wars in Paraguay in the late 19th century are thought to have killed up 90% of the population in some areas, leaving mostly old women and a few old men and young children alive.

  40. Why would virginity be attractive to our hunter-gatherer forebears?

    Uhm, it wouldn’t be of any particular concern.

    There’s tons of evidence that the importance of knowing lineage arose with large-scale civilization – Kings, property, line-of-succession stuff.

    While looking at *existing* H-G societies shows little concern with that.

    IMO, because a small tribal grouping has little private space for fooling around. Its simply not a huge concern because Lord So-and-So isn’t going to be spending two years off pillaging the nearest infidel’s holdings.

  41. Plus, thinking about it, virginity is a one-time thing. Meaning that there’s a very narrow window where the lack of virginity would be important – the time between the sex and when you can be assured she’s not gotten pregnant. To 1-2 months (obviously 9 at the most).

    Its not *virginity* that people have been obsessed with, its *chastity* – which virginity is used as a proxy measure for.

    And there are tons of modern H-G and quasi-settled societies where chastity is simply not that important. Not *poly* but where serial monogamy is the norm.

  42. So Much for Subtlety

    Jack C – “In what way? Britain may not be a secular country in theory, but it is in practice.”

    I am not sure. I think our elites have made it so that we used to have to say we believed when we didn’t and now we have to say we don’t when we do. I think that Britain remains a country of fundamental folk Christianity. At least in the remaining White population.

    “I think I’d take secular Britain over, say, Iran or similar. Wouldn’t you?”

    Well some religions are certainly preferable to others.

    “It’s certainly a pity that the Christians of Germany and Italy (very much including the Vatican) failed to reject Fascism. Something in the religious mind-set perhaps.”

    It is not a pity that anyone failed to reject Fascism of the Italian variety. And the Catholics did reject the Nazis. Comprehensively.

    Jack C – “Worse, many end up with women who work just as hard as they do, and enjoy astonishingly robust sex lives.”

    No they don’t.

  43. So Much for Subtlety

    Agammamon – “Uhm, it wouldn’t be of any particular concern.”

    Of course it would. Its importance becomes more important when syphilis arrives from the Americas.

    “There’s tons of evidence that the importance of knowing lineage arose with large-scale civilization – Kings, property, line-of-succession stuff.”

    No there isn’t. This is just Margaret Mead-type romanticism. People have always cared about virginity.

    “While looking at *existing* H-G societies shows little concern with that.”

    Plenty of people would disagree. Napoleon Chagnon for instance.

    Agammamon – “Plus, thinking about it, virginity is a one-time thing. Meaning that there’s a very narrow window where the lack of virginity would be important – the time between the sex and when you can be assured she’s not gotten pregnant. To 1-2 months (obviously 9 at the most).”

    A woman who is incapable of impulse control and has a history of making poor choices is likely to go on having poor impulse control and will continue to make poor choices. Thus the lack of virginity is important.

    “Its not *virginity* that people have been obsessed with, its *chastity* – which virginity is used as a proxy measure for.”

    I am not sure that is true. Chastity is important too.

    “And there are tons of modern H-G and quasi-settled societies where chastity is simply not that important. Not *poly* but where serial monogamy is the norm.”

    I doubt that. Strongly. Name three.

    What you have is hippy anthropologists seeking support for their lifestyles in hunters and gatherers. In real life, wives get beaten for even looking the wrong way at men in those sort of societies. Caring about chastity seems hard wired.

  44. So Much for Subtlety

    Ed Snack – “We’re talking of up to 60-70% of the entire population of an area being killed.”

    For the incredibly unusual and atypical Wars of Religion. Maybe the Hundred Years War too. It is not typical of the wars of the 18th century. John Churchill did go about killing half the population of Bavaria.

  45. The English Civil War was also a religious war, by the way.

    On the surface. Behind the scenes it was also about politicians trying on a power grab, bankrolled by some nouveau riche middle classes seeing the opportunity to clear some old money out of the way.

  46. SMFS:

    “Jack C – “Worse, many end up with women who work just as hard as they do, and enjoy astonishingly robust sex lives.”

    No they don’t.”

    Well how can one argue with that?

  47. So Much for Subtlety

    Jack C – “Well how can one argue with that?”

    I have no idea. I have never seen you try to argue. Abuse yes, argument, no.

    But conservative women report better and more frequent sex. For what that is worth. Couples who share the housework equally are more likely to be dissatisfied with their sex lives. Couples where the men do the men’s jobs and women do the housework are more likely to be happy with their sex lives and have sex more often. For the last claim see this:

    http://thefederalist.com/2015/03/17/want-more-sex-ignore-sheryl-sandberg-and-her-silly-talk-about-choreplay/

    You simply do not know what you are talking about but are regurgitating leftist crap foisted by the media.

  48. SMFS, so you agree, WW1 & 2 were not as bloody as some earlier wars. The claim wasn’t that all earlier wars were bloodier, but that some certainly were. Thank you for your acknowledgement.

  49. SMFS,

    “Anyway, it is not just the technology. One thing Italian and Japanese boys have not got is the indoctrination. They have not been taught that it is manly to abase themselves and reject all their natural instincts in order to allow a woman to do whatever the hell she wants. So they don’t. English speaking boys have been raised on a diet of Pretty Woman or the like and so they think it is normal to throw away their lives rescuing a prostitute from her poor choices and enabling her to live a life of some comfort while they slave their guts out for mediocre sex once a blue moon.”

    What boys and girls do in Japan and Italy is respond to financial incentives. In the case of both countries, there is not much in the way of child benefit. That means girls don’t give it up so easily (Italian women on average lose their virginity at 20, Japanese women around 19) as they choose more wisely (even with reliable contraception).

    But these are still variations that don’t dispute my general hypothesis. First marriage is closer to 30 for women in both countries – so, there’s no doubt that in both countries people are no longer valuing virginity as they once did when they were overwhelmingly virgins when they married.

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