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Sexist Beatdown: "Year One" As Explanation For, Basically, Everything Edition

You know people: nostalgia has kind of been dominating the news today! But what of our nostalgia… for times long past? For CAVEMAN TIMES, in fact!

This is basically the entire point of the “science” known as evolutionary psychology! In case you are wondering. In this “science,” we take common stereotypes and facets of “human” “behavior” and imagine that cavemen did them, and thereby passed these “genes” onto us! It is a very common explanation for basically everything. Such as, for example, sexism. Or, uh… rape. Yeah, there’s a “rape gene” theory involved.

Here is some surprising news for you: all of this is bullshit.

Here, Amanda Hess of The Sexist and I discuss!

SADY: hello!


SADY: i am very excited to discuss caveman times with you today. scientifically, of course! with caveman science! evolutionary psychology has always been my favorite bullshit science because it just sounds like some creepy guy going, “i’m just WIRED this way” over and over and over.

AMANDA: allow me to suppress my rape gene in order to converse with you for several minutes about all of our rape genes. ahem, yes, evolutionary psychology. it’s interesting how in these debates there seems to be a tendency for people to figure out what IS and then justify why what already IS is inevitable (and/or good). people rape? must be because people were so rapey in the past, and now there’s just nothing we can do about it. evo psych makes everything so easy!

SADY: right: although, what IS, is predicated very much on stereotypes. like, one part of the article i found fascinating is the idea that rape is actually disastrous in a small community: the “rape” gene is actually a “get beat up and not given food by your fellow tribespeople and also someone might kill your rape baby which defeats the whole procreative rape-gene-spreading thing” gene. or, the idea that male jealousy is somehow intrinsically different from female jealousy and that is why dudes kill “unfaithful” mates. basically, boiling everything down to reproduction entirely misses the point of everything else people have to do to survive. not being known as a dangerous killer or other threat, in a community as small as these very primitive ones we’re talking about, is a good survival tactic. well, “primitive” is a bad word for it, since they’re using data from contemporary hunter-gatherer cultures to test these points.

AMANDA: sure, and one thing the article doesn’t talk about is in nowaday-land, how many women are actually stopping reproductive function entirely by sticking devices in their vaginas and medicine in their bodies. that’s just one example where science can help defeat science when our evolutionary history doesn’t really fit our needs right now.

SADY: right? exactly! but the whole appeal of the field is that it calls back to One True Natural Human Experience, before the dag-blasted condoms came to take it all away. and it seems – by sheer magical coincidence! – to be a version of True Humanity in which women ought to be sexy, men ought to be powerful, and violence against women makes you happier and more successful. it’s kind of ricockulous to project all that back onto Caveman Times, when the fact is that those attitudes are clearly part of our culture NOW, but if you want to run with Fred Flintstone as archetype of undiluted manliness, go on ahead.

AMANDA: and that’s why men rape, because at one point, not every man raped, and those men died out because they were PUSSIES.

SADY: CORRECT. Also, men of ye olden days KILLED their stepchildren. do you hear me, timmy? there was none of this “time-out” crap back when men were men!

AMANDA: it’s difficult for me to see “rapist” as a characteristic born unto man in any real sense

is “rapist” the magical quality that helps you understand that “no” means “yes”?

or is “rapist” the magical quality that helps you not care, specifically, whether another person wants to have sex with you or not?

SADY: “rapist” is all of that, and more! but, more importantly, “rapist,” in this theory, is the MAGICAL GENETIC GETAWAY CAR that allows you to say YOU didn’t do it. it was your pesky genes! clamoring for evolutionary dominance! whereas, as the article notes, being a rapist in a small community where that’s not tolerated actually has more repercussions than being a rapist in a LARGE community where it’s hard to bring rapists to justice. i mean. i think whether you’re a rapist might have a lot to do with how rape is received within your culture.

AMANDA: what is this “culture”? that’s an interesting point, especially when we’re talking about “date rape” or the dreaded (aiee) “grey rape” scenarios—people tend to dislike these terms because they make some forms of rape seem less “serious” than others. but they also, i think, are an attempt to push ACTUAL RAPISTS into thinking of their behavior as rape. when, in the past, many people haven’t considered pass-out scenarios as rape at all. so if you can’t even think of something as rape, you don’t have to think of yourself as a rapist, and that’s really convenient!

SADY: right. because “no” was the criteria, not the absence of “yes.”

AMANDA: yes but Sady, we were BORN with the “no means no” gene. that’s the only way we are able to define rape, as a result.

SADY: oh, right! i mean: how many other “genes” are we born with? is there a bukkake “gene?” is there a blow-job “gene?” is the fact that i find the naked picture of sascha baron cohen on the cover of GQ at once attractive and offensive attributable to a “gene?”

because i’d really like an explanation of that which in no way reflects upon my psyche.

AMANDA: it’s natural. can we go back to the beginning for one second? what do you make of the headline of this piece: “Why Do We Rape, Kill and Sleep Around?” a little bit of a one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-other trick going on there, Newsweek!

SADY: I like the equation of the last item on the list to the first two! Raping. Murdering. CASUAL SEX. All evil! I also like the fact that these “genetic” explanations for sex do nothing to explain people having sex for fun and profit. it’s all procreation, all the time!

AMANDA: how did these fornicators not get weeded out?

SADY: yeah, but. you will notice. the slant of these theories is that male sexuality is a positive, ALWAYS, and female sexuality, if it even exists, is a negative. and there’s some beeswax about how ladies have to be “picky” to ensure that they only mate with “the best genetic material,” because apparently our vaginas are all hitler, but dudes just have to stick it into ladies as often as possible. no concerns about genetic fitness affect them! so, the headline should really read, Why Do Dudes Rape, Murder, And Sleep Around, Because Ladies Are All Waiting For Their Genetic Prince Charming And Therefore Don’t Do Any Of The Above, Except Sometimes They Do?

AMANDA: right. and the answer is, as this story suggests, a lot of these scientists are themselves just kind of fucking weirdos.

SADY: right. i liked the part where the scientists responded to critiques of their work with accusations of MARXISM. “i believe your data to be faulty.” “COMMUNIST!” that is what science is all about, right there.

AMANDA: also, that some of these quotes were taken from a scientist bbq.

SADY: oh, lord. why didn’t they film the scientist bbq? THAT, i would pay to see.


  1. Eusthenopteron wrote:

    Presumably there is a genetic basis for rape, since it occurs in nature as well (in everything from insects to ducks to dolphins and orangutans), which means there's some selective advantage to it…

    Friday, June 26, 2009 at 4:15 pm | Permalink
  2. Broggly wrote:

    When I read The Selfish Gene, the new foreward made very clear that people shouldn't use "but it's just how I evolved" as a moral excuse. Apparently some people confused "Genes are the things that are being reproduced, so they're going to be "selfish" to survive (even though this is a bit of an anthropomorphisation) even if the organism is acting altruistically" with "Genes are selfish, so you should be too!" Of course how they could then justify "Some birds murder their siblings, so you can do it too!" Dawkins is very strong on the whole "being human means you can make moral decisions" thing.

    Friday, June 26, 2009 at 9:09 pm | Permalink
  3. Kel D wrote:

    Very good analysis.
    I feel sorry for ev psychs because sometimes the question they ask is "why does that optical illusion work?" and the answer is "our eyes have evolved a certain way and so you know, that's why"

    Friday, June 26, 2009 at 10:36 pm | Permalink
  4. slave2tehtink wrote:

    Am I the only one who feels that she would be really, really creeped out by hanging out with the evo psych guys? I just can't see ever wanting to get within ten feet of someone who can argue with a straight face that he's totally wired to rape as many women as possible.

    Saturday, June 27, 2009 at 2:02 am | Permalink
  5. Vertigo wrote:

    love this!

    Saturday, June 27, 2009 at 3:09 am | Permalink
  6. Eleniel wrote:

    Nothing annoys me more than people who insist that evo psych is valid. So yay this post!

    Saturday, June 27, 2009 at 6:19 am | Permalink
  7. Sniper wrote:

    Am I the only one who feels that she would be really, really creeped out by hanging out with the evo psych guys?

    No, you are not. Listening to an evo-psych debate is like listening to the weird guy in the laundry room talk about his perfect date. Women exist only as fantasy objects in evo-psych, as witnessed by the fact that it never occurs to them that a rapist might end up with his bits hanging from a post.

    Saturday, June 27, 2009 at 11:49 am | Permalink
  8. snobographer wrote:

    So where does the "women are wired to be highly selective about who they procreate with" gene come in when procreation itself is all about dudes forcibly inseminating as many women as possible? Oog confused.

    Saturday, June 27, 2009 at 7:57 pm | Permalink
  9. CaitieCat wrote:

    I think in evo-psych, "highly selective" means "won't put out, the frigid bitches".

    Sunday, June 28, 2009 at 8:22 am | Permalink
  10. Nanella wrote:

    It's funny, every single evo-psych adherent I've met (usually men, *ahem*) invariably falls into one, or more, of the following categories: chronic adulterer, sex addict, misogynist, eww-creepy-psychopathic-type-go-away-GO-AWAY. The highly convoluted and inarguably biased logic of evo psych only makes sense to people with twisted minds who spend half their lives rationalizing away their bad behavior.

    Btw, ricockulous is officially my new favorite word.

    Sunday, June 28, 2009 at 12:34 pm | Permalink
  11. Lindsay wrote:

    "…ladies always have to be 'picky' to ensure that they only mate with 'the best genetic material,' because apparently our vaginas are all hitler"

    Bwaa ha ha ha!! Best thing ever.

    Sunday, June 28, 2009 at 10:05 pm | Permalink
  12. berryblade wrote:

    That whole article had more holes in it than Emmental.

    Monday, June 29, 2009 at 3:21 am | Permalink
  13. Sniper wrote:

    This discussion is inspiring. I may have to go a bullshit diploma-mill school so I can create my own version of evo-psych that proves that women are hard-wired to read blogs all day, go to lunch with their friends, and drink refreshing beverages while the men do the dishes. The forumula seems pretty simple: X + Y = My desired outcome.

    Monday, June 29, 2009 at 6:59 am | Permalink
  14. Maud wrote:

    My vagina can't be Hitler. It's mustache is too bushy.
    I know. I'm very sorry.

    And, Sady, misogyny always seems less scary after I read your blog. It's good to know that (some) younger women know exactly what they're dealing with, and that at least one can be this funny while taking it apart.

    Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 5:47 pm | Permalink