Women's subordination refers to the practice of treating women as lesser beings which is common across cultures and history and it is often desired by men, but also at least by some women as evidenced by the prevalence of rape fantasies, rape baiting, hybristophilia, scelerophilia, hypergamy, masochism, Stockholm syndrome and a desire to be 'conquered' and dominated, which are near-exclusively female phenomena. This, of course, does not mean that women ought to be subordinated, that they are lesser human beings or second class citizens, and the prevalence such practices may be mere artifacts of ancient, harsher ecologies, but nonetheless, the constancy of this phenomenon suggests there may be an evolutionary basis for it that is worth investigating. Women being in dominant social positions or even equal to men can be considered evolutionarily novel, though it is an open question to which extent this results in an outright evolutionary mismatch.
Causes[edit | edit source]
The tendency for women to be subordinated to men, or for women displaying subordinating behavior may be explained by a variety of factors:
- Male dominance/female surrender: Anthropologist Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt suggested the tendency for women to submit to dominant men may a remnant of ancient adaptations in which pair formation only succeeds when the male is able to dominate the female and overcome her coy reluctance. This male dominance/female surrender pattern can be observed in fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals. In many species, including humans, the greater parental investment on part of females causes females to be coy and males to engage in contest competitions over reproductive opportunities. A result is that males evolve to be taller and stronger in an evolutionary arms race. Critelli & Bivona (2008) further suggest that “the display of male dominance may function as a way for females to assess genetic quality and the ability to protect” (bodyguard hypothesis). Much of female nastiness, tantrums and childlike testing of boundaries may be driven by a wish to be met with coercion or even violent containment as an adaption to test the male.
- Resource dependence and parental investment: Besides the more ancient, fast life history adaptations mentioned above that derive from male competition in an unpredictable ecology, women display a heavy dependence on men in harsh environments, mainly owing to a much higher parental investment than men. This investment primarily stems from women's much greater involvement in the highly complex and costly socialization process of the offspring, but also the highly costly and long pregnancy and a relatively risky birth due to the large human head that evolved itself as a result of the behavioral complexification due to sociocognitive competition. This dependence reaches back at least to hunter-gatherers and it can, to some extent, even be observed in our closest primate relatives, with the males sometimes sharing their food with their mate and their offspring. The amount of resources men provide is quite extreme compared to most animals and unique among primates, with men providing twice as much calories in hunter-gatherers than women and exclusively providing the more nutrient dense meat from hunting, which men used to get mating opportunities and invest into offspring and their mate ever since. The importance of resources to women is apparent even in egalitarian societies such as the Ache and the Sharanahua, where the best hunters are able to attract the most sexual partners, and also in modern societies, women disdain qualities in men that signal inability to accrue resources, such as lack of ambition (d = 1.38).
- Reproductive advantage of female-directed violence: Barbaro (2017) summarized that "evidence […] suggests that over evolutionary history men who employed violence judiciously, on average, conferred replicative advantages compared with men who did not judiciously employ violence, in part, to control women’s sexuality." Since violent, oppressive males have a reproductive advantage, it is advantageous for women to be subordinated by such men.
Paternity assurance: An additional explanation is that men, in their natural role as provider, do not want to waste their resources on another man's offspring, so they have a strong preference for exclusive sexual access as a measure to avoid being cuckolded. Not just men have this preference, but men's mothers and their entire families that may invest their family wealth in the offspring as well, who were usually heavily involved in partner choices. Such behavior by relatives can possibly also be adaptive by kin selection. This should imply women have been selected to be obedient, agreeable, childlike and weak, i.e. easily controllable like a child. This could also explain men's attraction to underage, fertile girls/women (hebephilia) which is a quite prevalent sexual desire among men. Patricia Gowaty (1992, p. 231-40) writes in "Feminism and Evolutionary Biology":
There should be strong selection on males to control females' reproduction through direct coercive control of females […]. Evolutionary thinkers, whether informed by feminist ideas or not, are not surprised by one of the overwhelming facts of patriarchal cultures, namely that men […] seek to constrain and control the reproductive capacities of women […]. Juvenilization decreases the threat some men may feel when confronted with women; many men are comfortable around women whom they can clearly dominate and are profoundly uncomfortable around women whom they cannot so clearly dominate.
Cuckolding another man is also a strong dominance signal as it means the cuckold is being outcompeted and thus potentially emasculated, or at least lowered in dominance status. Hence, men are motivated to defend their mate against defenders to save face (mate guarding).
- Female intrasexual competition: Women being chosen based on their faithfulness is thought to fuel female intrasexual competition by gossip and accusations of sluttiness, also explaining how, historically, females have massively contributed to restraining one another's sexuality.
- Child care specialization: Another explanation could be (like Schopenhauer claimed) that women are childlike and subordinative because women are adapted to take care of young children, so they are more similar to them psychologically and this helps them relate to them.
- Testing of men's parenting abilities: Simulating childish behavior may also test for the man's ability to contain the tantrums of a child and socialize it well.
- Solipsism as reason for containment: Furthermore, being neotenous and prone to cry like children, nobody likes to correct women, so they develop severe solipsism, insanity and unbearable nastiness, hence people prefer to keep their behaviors tightly constrained. Islamic scholars and imams, often talk about female insanity and throughout human history intellectuals all over the world have reported of insufferable female behavior, e.g. Otto Weininger summarized femininity as "vapid horniness" (see timeless quotes on women).
- Feedback loops: Selection for submissive women has possibly a number of self-reinforcing effects (feedback loops), e.g. any kind of sexual dimorphism gets amplified by sexual selection as being more feminine or more masculine enhances the attraction. Further, any sex difference tends to result in a clear and simple social norms which then re-enforces sex differences via socialization. E.g. many honor-shame cultures place strong pressures on men to restrain the promiscuity of their wife and daughters, comparable to runaway virtue signaling.
- Kink/fetish: The desire for sex-differentiated dominance and subordination may also be explained by a mere adopted sexual interest. There is evidence that individuals with a higher sex drive more often adopt sexual fetishes (paraphilias), in fact sex differences in sex drive largely explain the sex difference in prevalence of paraphilias. This suggests, men and women with a high sex drive and a fast life history may be more likely engage in such dominance/submission displays, while those with a slower life history may desire more equality.
Cross-cultural evidence female subordination[edit | edit source]
One sees women to be heavily controlled and sequestered away in many higher cultures.
- Japan: In Japan, women are encouraged to act in a cute way (kawaii), e.g. to keep a short, childlike gait and to smile a lot.
- Middle East: Purdah is a very salient contemporary example of female subordination, referring to the practice in certain Muslim and Hindu societies of screening women from men or strangers, especially by means of a headscarf, curtain or veil.
- Chinese foot binding was a painful practice that significantly and permanently limited the mobility of women. By the 19th century, 40–50% of all Chinese women may have had bound feet, almost 100% among upper-class Chinese women.
- The ancient Greeks kept all non prostitute women secluded 24/7, apart from lower class women, who were permitted to leave their houses (often with a male chaperone) to attend to chores like drawing water (apart from the more feminist Spartans, who permitted their women much greater freedom of movement).
- Impractical fashion: Women's fashion is in many cultures a lot more impractical than men's, e.g. long finger nails, high heels, oversized dresses, non-functional pockets, purses. Much of this serves to arouse attention from men, but it also expresses a high dependence on and submission to men who have to take care of all the things that the fashion prevents women from doing.
- Literary tropes warning of female disobedience: The very story of Adam and Eve is an example of this, with Eve's carelessness spoiling the paradise for everyone, basically putting pressure on women to behave and be controllable, presumably with the ultimate goal to assure paternity.
Tantrums, shit tests and nastiness[edit | edit source]
Some manospherians have shared anecdotes about women exhibiting unruly and provocative behavior, seemingly with a conscious or subconscious intention or wish to be met with force. Certain online forums are even dedicated to women sharing stories and strategies on how to bait men into raping them. Women also more likely than men initiate intimate partner violence on average, which may also be related to an innate desire to provoke a reaction from the male (though this finding could also be explained by men facing greater legal consequences). In the manosphere, it has often been suggested that feminism has the character of a shit test, essentially expecting to be restrained in response to their more provocative claims. Many in the manosphere, including Jordan Peterson suggested feminist women are subconsciously fascinated by Islam due to its traditions to subordinate women. More evidence of the desire to be subordinated to be widely prevalent is that even emancipated women display the same amount of sexual masochism and rape fantasies, if not even slightly more.
See also[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
- Eibl-Eibesfeldt I. 1989. Pair Formation, Courtship, Sexual Love. In: Human Ethology. Rougtledge. [Excerpt]
- Mogielnicki C, Pearl K. 2020. Hominid sexual nature. [Article]
- https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/bbf7/77fbe21100d32ebd55a41b65de7151628235.pdf (Cashdan 1996)
- Barbaro N. 2017. Violence to Control Women’s Sexuality. In: Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science, pp.1-6. [Abstract]