Ms. magazine  -- more than a magazine a movement

SIGN UP FOR MS. DIGEST, JOBS, NEWS AND ALERTS

FEMINIST WIRE NEWSBRIEFS

ABOUT
SEE CURRENT ISSUE
SHOP MS. STORE
MS. IN THE CLASSROOM
FEMINIST DAILY WIRE
FEMINIST RESOURCES
PRESS
JOBS AT MS.
READ BACK ISSUES
CONTACT
RSS (XML)
 
feminist wire | daily newsbriefs

January-26-99

Studies Question Biological Basis for Sex Roles

Scientists have long hypothesized that women's biology makes them naturally monogamous and that men are naturally prone to stray and seek multiple sexual partners. This argument is based on the theory that women's more limited opportunities for reproduction (9 months for each pregnancy, with time to wean children in between) and need for help in child-rearing and protection have made them more choosy about their sexual partners, while men's more frequent opportunities for reproduction have compelled them to seek out multiple partners.

Now, anthropologists Stephen Beckerman of Penn State University and William Crocker of the Smithsonian Institution have revealed evidence that contradicts those long-held theories of human reproduction.

In this weekend's annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Beckerman and Crocker reported that studies of several South American cultures have yielded evidence that men's and women's reproductive roles are not determined by biology alone.

For example, the Canela of Amazonian Brazil and several other traditional South American cultures believe that children have many fathers, and that conception occurs only after women have sex with many men. Thus, these cultures do not encourage women to be monogamous, and male sexual jealousy is unnecessary.

Beckerman noted that children of the Bari of Venezuela who had more than one father were more likely to survive than children with just one father. Bari society expects the extra fathers of children to provide support, although the main responsibility is held by a woman's husband.

"All of this calls into question the old evolutionary bargain, in which fidelity is the coin in which women pay for resources from the males," Beckerman said. "You can build a perfectly viable society....[with] male jealousy suppressed, lack of female fidelity -- things that are supposed to be inherent in human nature."

Another anthropologist, Kristen Hawkes of the University of Utah, has done research that flies in the face of theories that men are biologically ingrained to provide resources for their own wives and progeny, and to withhold those resources from others who do not pass on their DNA. In studies of the Hadza of Tanzania and the Ache of Paraguay, Hawkes found that men contributed to their tribes as a whole, and not to their individual families.

Media Resources: UPI - January 23, 1999


© Feminist Majority Foundation, publisher of Ms. magazine

If you liked this story, consider making a tax-deductible donation to support Ms. magazine.

 

 

Send to a Friend
Their
Your
Comments
(optional)


More Feminist News

7/28/2014 Study: Texas Laws Have Significantly Reduced Access to Abortion - The Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP) released a study in the medical journal Contraception finding that access to abortion has been significantly reduced since the state enacted it omnibus anti-abortion law HB2. The study, released last week, details the striking impact that HB2 has had on abortion access in Texas. . . .
 
7/28/2014 Wisconsin Will Not Enforce Contraceptive Coverage Law If Employers Raise Religious Objections - Citing the recent United States Supreme Court ruling in Burwell v. . . .
 
7/25/2014 Senate Foreign Relations Committee Passes Disabilities Treaty - By a vote of 12 to 6, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee agreed to recommend ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to the full US Senate. "One hundred forty six nations and the European Union have ratified the Disabilities Treaty, but it will require American leadership to ensure the treaty's protections become a reality," said Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee. . . .