June 26th, 2009

breaking bad

Rape as reproductive strategy

Many evolutionary psychologists, as I assume you know, have argued that reprehensible as it might be, rape is a positive reproductive strategy. That is, although it is morally wrong, it nevertheless increases a man's chance of passing on his genes to the next generation.

My counter-argument, based just on intuition, was that the reproductive costs of rape outweigh its advantages. In a society without formal legal systems, the families of raped women will kill rapists, and the wider society will shun sexual transgressors (and being shunned is a big deal). There are of course destitute and unprotected women, without family to shelter them, but these women are in no position to raise babies. Destitute women will use abortion and infanticide, and of course lose babies at a much higher rate to disease and famine.

(ETA and there is rape in wars and in clan feuds, but these are not 'good reproductive opportunities' for child survival as we have seen in places like Rwanda. I hate to use these terms, but these are the terms that are used.)

And to be even blunter: reproductive success in humans is not mainly about 'getting women pregnant' because women are not passive receptacles and raising human children takes years of hard work, to which women must consent.

In contrast I think concubinage - keeping young women as extra 'second wives' - is actually a good reproductive strategy, although it's not great for women. So, I'm not all happy clappy saying 'nice things are reproductively successful and nasty things aren't'. Just that one particular nasty thing - rape - is only a good reproductive strategy in male fantasy land.
Collapse )