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

12/19/2014 Woman on Life Support Revives Ireland Abortion Debate - Debate surrounding Ireland's ban on abortion has come up again following a current case involving a woman who is being kept on life support because she is pregnant. The woman's family wants her to be taken off life support, but doctors refuse because Irish law says they must do what they can to protect the 16-week-old fetus. . . .
 
12/19/2014 DC City Council Unanimously Approves Reproductive Health Anti Discrimination Bill - Wednesday, the Washington, DC City Council unanimously passed a bill that will prohibit employer interference in the reproductive health decisions of their employees. The Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2014 was first introduced by DC Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), just ahead of the Supreme Court's ruling in favor of for-profit retail chain Hobby Lobby this summer. . . .
 
12/19/2014 Incremental Gains for Women in Congress - When the 114th Congress is sworn into office on January 3rd, 2015, there will be exactly the same number of women in Senate as the year before, 20, and a record-high number of women in the US House, 84. . . .