protection of women and children from other males (chivalry/bodyguarding)
the “sinfulness of fun”
The particular religious sexual norms of our species are a puzzle – why are humans
so different from other animals in what we [officially] see as acceptable?
Human sexual behaviour differs from that among other mammals, in the fact that it
is narrowly restricted by widespread social and religious norms.
These norms forbid behaviour that is routine among other mammals. Perhaps these
norms are enforced most strongly by the monotheistic religions (Christianity, Islam,
In other mammals, we see that homosexuality, and promiscuous recreational sex, "every
which way", are routinely enjoyed. [Balcombe]
Humans are different from other mammals in that we have social, religious and cultural
norms (expected standards of behaviour that are like social legal laws).
Humans are unique among the great apes in that our breeding system is largely monogamous.
Eighty-four percent of the world's cultures allow a man to marry multiple wives.
Very few men in these cultures, however, have the resources to support a large family.
In reality, then, most families in the world contain one man and one woman. [de
Waal & Lanting]
Monogamous animals partner up with a single mate, sometimes for the duration of a
breeding season and less commonly over multiple seasons and years. Monogamy has
particular advantages, and is often the chosen strategy where young are more vulnerable
and require both parents for protection and feeding. In serial monogamy, having
different partners each season helps maintain genetic diversity. [BBC 01]
Polygynous sexual behaviour is the system in which a single male mates with multiple
females, but each female mates with only one male. This usually entails fierce competition
between the males during the breeding season. Females invest more heavily in their
offspring and all the parental duties fall to the mother. They become much more
choosy about their mate as a result, while the males attempt to have as many mates
as possible in order to leave a maximum number of offspring. However many males
fail to win or impress a female and remain unmated their entire lives. [BBC 02]
Polygynandrous describes a multi-male, multi-female polygamous mating system, such
as that seen in lions and bonobos. Females are usually more numerous than the males
and mating occurs only within the group. The advantage of this form of polygamy
is greater genetic diversity, less need for males to compete with each other and
greater protection for the young. [BBC 03]
Mate guarding is the seclusion of females, by males, away from the reproductive clutches
of other males. It has two aspects: 1) monopolising: keeping the females to oneself
for the purposes of reproduction; 2) bodyguarding: protecting the females from harm
by other males.
Great ape mating systems
Humans practice monogamy, polygyny, and polygynandry (outside marriage).
Chimpanzees and bonobos practice polygynandry.
Gorillas practice polygyny.
Orang utans were until recently thought to practice polygyny, but we now know that
they practice polygynandry.
Evolution of patriarchy
The present hypothesis is that the patriarchy and the religious enforcement of narrow
sexual norms are a result of:
the sacralisation (making sacred) and institutionalisation of certain of these norms
the adoption of cooperative norms by organised religion as part of its cooperative
The key implication of this scenario is that the hierarchy based on fighting ability,
in great apes, is no longer generally available to human males. At the same time,
males still wish to prove how masculine they are. The goal of having a good place
in the hierarchy, monopolising females, is still available to human males. This
monopolisation is achieved through societal control as well as purely individual
control. Societal control is therefore, partly, a transformation of the great ape
masculine hierarchy into a different form.
This model predicts that, where patriarchy is strongly institutionalised,
male homosexuality is disapproved of because it makes males look like females.
patriarchy becomes more intense where masculinity is threatened.
females are treated as possessions by males and by society in general.
females are undervalued because they are not male and because they are treated as
sex outside marriage may be forbidden.
sexual deviancy is forbidden.
of course, "cheating" while married is forbidden.
“fun” is demonised as leading people to do forbidden things.
The future of patriarchy
Patriarchy is harmful to females except in its “bodyguarding” aspect. Females are
at a slight physical disadvantage compared with males, and protective "bodyguarding"
of females by males is generally a good idea.
At the same time, both genders wish for pair-bonded marital relationships, so it
is redundant for males to need to actively monopolise their females, because females
want precisely the same thing, and in fact have a lot more invested in the situation
than males (it is one of their few chances to reproduce).
1. The evolution of monogamy – the “stone tools” hypothesis and evidence for it
Male primates want to monopolise as many females as possible, leading to mate guarding.
The hypothesis is that the introduction of the use of stone tools by pre- and early
humans evened out the sexually competitive advantages between males based on size,
leading to a situation where one male was only able to monopolise one female.
... all types of marital unions could be cultural variants ultimately derived from
the same ancestral mating pattern. What, then, was that stem pattern like?
In all likelihood its essence lay in the single major feature that transcends all
types of marital arrangements: their selective and relatively stable character. Regardless
of the exact nature of marital unions, men and women form enduring pair-bonds, a
term that encompasses more than strictly dyadic, monogamous unions. In polygynous
unions two or more women are paired with a single man, who is in fact maintaining
two or more distinct pair-bonds simultaneously. The same applies to polyandrous
unions, with a woman maintaining several pair-bonds concurrently. This is precisely
why the expression “pair-bonding” is commonly used to characterize the human mating
system even though a large number of marital unions are not limited to a single dyad.
Pair-bonding is, essentially and simply, the opposite of sexual promiscuity – short-term
mating relations with several partners. It includes all types of enduring reproductive
relations between particular males and females. Pair-bonding thus refers to a specific
property of mating arrangements: their duration.
... much of the sexual promiscuity in humans takes place premaritally, and the permissive
character of premarital sex only serves to emphasize the social importance of marital
unions. Moreover, sexual promiscuity by married individuals is universally disapproved
of. Thus not only are stable breeding bonds consistently present across human societies,
but they prevail over promiscuity. For that matter, procreation in humans is expected
to take place in the context of marital bonds. All human societies differentiate
between legitimate and illegitimate children, a distinction that further illustrates
the centrality of pair-bonding in the human mating system. Logically, therefore,
the stem ancestral pattern out of which emerged all known human mating arrangements,
whether polygynous, polyandrous, or even homosexual, is the enduring breeding association
1.1 main factors leading to particular mating systems
density of distribution of food and females
male sexual competition based on rank in hierarchy
As mating systems evolve as a result of the outcome of competition between individuals
to maximize their reproductive success, they are inevitably linked to individual
reproductive strategies shaped by sexual selection. ...
Differences in mating systems are created by variation in the potential of males
to monopolize access to females, and can be understood by considering the vast differences
in reproductive potential between male and female mammals. ... predation risk and
food availability influence female distributions, with male distributions then following
suit according to males’ best strategies for maximizing reproductive success. This
is based on Bateman’s principle that female reproduction is limited by access to
the physical resources they need to reproduce (i.e., food), while male reproductive
success is limited by access to fertile females. The operational sex ratio (the
ratio of fertile females to sexually active males) that emerges is a measure of the
degree to which males can monopolize reproduction with females. The degree to which
any one male can successfully defend exclusive mating access with females results
in variation in the intensity of sexual selection mechanisms (intrasexual competition,
mate choice, sexual conflict), which ultimately explains the variation we see among
and within different mating systems. [Petersdorf]
Therefore, density of distribution of females is proportional to density of food
distribution. If we assume that the area of territory that a male can defend is
fixed, then we know that this area can support more or less females depending on
the density of food that it can support.
Individual males will attempt to monopolise as many females as they can, as a fundamental
part of their strategy to reproduce as much as possible. The mating frequency of
a male depends largely on his place in the dominance hierarchy of his group.
The biological explanation for sexual rivalry between males is as follows. A female
can only be fertilized by one male. By keeping other males away from her a male
increases the certainty that he will be the father of her child. ...
Whereas the males fight for the right to fertilize as many females as possible, the
situation for the female is completely different. Whether she copulates with one
or one hundred males, it will not alter the number of children she will give birth
to. [de Waal]
Dense distribution of food and females
leads to polygynandry (multi-male multi-female mating), because the territory contains
too many females for a single male to monopolise. [Chapais]
Sparse distribution of food and females
leads to polygyny (single-male multi-female harems), because a single male is able
to monopolise all females in the unit territory. [Chapais]
This hypothesis finds support in the observation that savanna baboons, which typically
form large multimale multifemale groups, may sometimes subdivide into polygynous
units in harsher ecological conditions. [Chapais]
1.2 environments of pre- and early humans
Palaeoanthropologists are trying to unravel the role of climate change in human evolution.
In sub-Saharan Africa, geological evidence from the last 10 million years suggests
a trend towards cooling temperatures, while the uplift of the East African Rift System
led to increased dryness. These factors probably caused a shift from woodland to
grassland. Superimposed on such long-term trends was extreme climate variability,
with East African lakes fluctuating between high and low water levels. ...
African apes still live in forest and woodland habitats, suggesting that they were
important in early hominin evolution. Bipedal, ground-living primates like the early
hominins probably lived in open, seasonal woodlands rather than in dense tropical
forests. Here food resources are less predictable, and exploiting them successfully
requires flexibility in diet and in foraging behaviour. [Roberts]
1.3 “two-step hypothesis” for evolution of monogamy:
The fossil record indicates that early hominids (australopithecines) were anatomically
more similar to chimpanzees and bonobos than to gorillas in terms of absolute body
size and relative brain size. The fact that early hominids had a chimpanzee-like
body mass suggests that their diet had more in common with the chimpanzee diet than
with the low-quality diet of gorillas. This in turn suggests that the behavioral
ecology of early hominids, in terms of group size, group composition, ranging pattern,
and so forth, more closely resembled that of chimpanzees. [Chapais]
Therefore we suggest that the earliest human/pre-human mating system was multi-male
multi-female like our closest relatives, the chimpanzees and bonobos.
If the ecological conditions of pre-humans became more harsh and difficult over time,
this suggests a move from polygynandry to polygyny, as a territory could support
fewer females, and these could have been monopolised by a single male.
A phenomenon whose evolution was progressive, irregular, and largely cultural did
equalize the competitive abilities of hominid males, namely, the rise of technology.
Any tool, whether it was made of wood, bone, or stone, and whatever its initial
function, from digging up roots to killing animals, could be used as a weapon in
the context of intraspecific [within species] conflicts, provided it could inflict
injuries. Armed with a deadly weapon, especially one that could be thrown some distance,
any individual, even a physically weaker one, was in a position to seriously hurt
stronger individuals. In such a context it should have become extremely costly for
a male to monopolize several females. Only males able to monopolize stone tools
or males forming coalitions could do so. But because all males can make tools and
form coalitions, generalized polygyny was bound to give way eventually to generalized
The first indirect evidence for stone tool use in pre-humans comes from 3.39 million
years ago, with fossils of Australopithecus afarensis in Ethiopia. The first direct
evidence appears in East Africa around 2.5 million years ago. The first Homo species
arose around this time. [Roberts]
First, polygyny is much more common than monogamy in primates and mammals in general,
attesting to the intensity of sexual competition among males and the recurrent capacity
of males to monopolize more than one female. Second, some primate species exhibit
the multiharem structure, but none display the multimonogamous family structure,
an observation that further illustrates the importance of male sexual competition.
Third, the fact that a majority of human societies are polygynous strongly suggests
that the ancestral hominid pattern was generalized polygyny, not generalized monogamy,
and that in the course of human evolution some factors operated as strong constraints
on the feasibility of polygynous unions ...
If monogamy did not evolve as a result of specific selective pressures, the drive
for polygyny was merely checked, not eliminated. Polygyny could reemerge whenever
some males secured more competitive power or were able to attract several females
based on attributes other than physical prowess. Human societies amply testify to
this reemergence. [Chapais]
1.4 the “parental collaboration hypothesis” suggests that pair-bonding serves an
adaptive function for humans, i.e., that enduring parental pair-bonding is especially
useful or necessary for human thriving, and/or surviving, and/or reproducing.
There is good evidence that this hypothesis is true: that in humans, having two parents
is beneficial for reproductive success.
In the other great ape species, the fathers do not take care of the infants. All
caring is done by the mothers.
In humans, the infants are provisioned (fed) for much longer – until around the age
of 16-17 – than in other great apes; and human mothers have more than one infant
at a time, whereas mothers of other great ape species only have one infant at a time.
Human infants are therefore much more costly in terms of resources to look after
than other great ape infants. Moreover, in hunter-gatherer societies, the big game
hunted by fathers provides much more nutritional value per unit of work than plant
Not only are human infants more costly to look after than other great ape infants,
but in hunter-gatherer societies, the fathers help to meet this cost by hunting.
Human families as we know them are variants of the same model, the latest in a series
of models that thrived in the hominid evolutionary tree. One may envision polygynous
or monogamous families that were essentially mating units in which the father’s contribution
was basically procreative, others in which family members enjoyed some level of mutual
tolerance around food gathered on a sporadic or regular basis, and still others in
which mutual coprovisioning was characterized by various degrees of sexual specialization.
But however different, all versions of the hominid family shared the same fundamental
feature: the enduring breeding bond. All had in common the father’s presence and
We begin with the origins of early humans’ more expansive (compared with other great
apes’) helping and sense of sympathetic [empathic] concern for others. That is to
say, we are concerned ... with how great apes’ prosociality towards kin and friends
became early humans’ morality of sympathy [general empathic concern]. It arose,
we will argue, in the context of a general “taming” of the species and a newly collaborative
way of obtaining basic resources. ...
The initial move in the direction of human morality was addition by subtraction.
Specifically, what had to be subtracted was great apes’ almost total reliance on
dominance – either by individuals or by coalitions – to settle any and all disputes.
Individuals had to become less aggressive and less bullying if they were going to
forage together collaboratively and share the spoils peaceably at the end. The proposal
is that this began happening soon after the emergence of the genus Homo some 2 million
years ago in a transformation that may be thought of as a kind of self-domestication.
This self-domestication was very likely the product of three intertwined processes:
the evolution of pair-bonding, both polygynous and monogamous,
the necessity for early humans to be able to scavenge peacefully together on the
same carcass, and
We can see that 1) relates to sex, 2) to food, and 3) to childcare: perhaps the three
most basic necessities for thriving, surviving and reproducing.
2.1 consequences of pair-bonding for peaceful cooperation.
Family bonds would have been strengthened, because:
fathers knew who their offspring were, because the pair-bond meant that only he could
have mated with their mother;
offspring knew who their fathers were, as the adult male who provisioned, mated with,
and spent a lot of time with their mother;
offspring knew who their brothers and sisters were, as the other infants who were
looked after by their mother and father; and
all family members could identify each other as such, through their mother, father,
and siblings. [Chapais]
Infants know who their mother is through the mother-infant bond.
Generalised monogamy would likely have been accompanied by a general reduction in
male-to-male aggression. Intermarrying between families in different groups would
have strengthened the bonds between groups. [Chapais]
2.2 tolerance around, and sharing of, scavenged big game.
Chimpanzees do not share their food, except very unwillingly, and bonobos also do
not share as a rule, although they are more likely to do so. Humans will share their
best consumables with complete strangers and hospitality is seen as a virtue.
It is likely that before humans began hunting, there was an intermediate stage of
scavenging game, including large carcasses that other creatures also wanted to feed
Individuals would have been forced to work together in a coalition [a cooperative
unit] to chase away the lions or hyenas feasting on a carcass before they themselves
could scavenge. Any individual who then hogged all the meat would have been the
target of another coalition aimed at stopping him. ... in general, almost all contemporary
hunter-gatherer groups are highly egalitarian, and overly dominant individuals are
quickly brought down to size by coalitions of others. Evolutionarily this would
have meant that there was social selection against bullies, food hogs, and other
dominants, and thus social selection for individuals who had a greater tolerance
for others in cofeeding situations. Indeed, in modern-day chimpanzees, collaboration
in an experimentally created foraging task goes best when the pair is made up of
individuals who are tolerant of one another around food. [Tomasello]
This meant that early humans were forced to share their food with anyone who could
help them to keep the other creatures away from carcasses. This was a major innovation
in general prosociality.
2.3 the pacifying effect of cooperative breeding.
We do not know how cooperative breeding evolved, but it may partly have been a result
of generalised food-sharing in the context of cooperative coalitions of early humans
being forced to share in large scavenged carcasses. It must have also been the result
of other factors coming together, as everything has multiple causes. If most or
all members of a small group were taking part in child care, this must naturally
have had a pacifying effect on the whole group. We must remember that fathers were
now provisioning their own children, something that other great ape fathers do not
When early humans first started learning to cooperate, it would most likely have
been in temporary pairs or small teams who came together for a particular task. Important
features of this situation are the joint goal, mental role-reversal, and agent-independence:
each individual sees the goals and intentions of all the others, as part of their
understanding of the cooperative venture; and each role may in principle be filled
by any other person with the right skills. Therefore, people and roles were seen
as interchangeable; and here we see an early form of objectivity: the view from many
For each task, there would have been better or worse, successful or less successful
ways of fulfilling the roles, and the successful ways would have become to be recognised
as ideal ways, the right ways – ‘role ideals’.
3.1.1 partner control in small groups
If a pair or small number of people is cooperating to obtain food, then all individuals
need to be good cooperators: to pull their weight, help where necessary, see the
project through to completion, share the rewards fairly, etc., otherwise the success
of the venture could be negatively affected, or it could even fail.
The moral aspects of this are important: individuals would expect a cooperative partner
to help them in response to need, and to treat them with respect.
To this end, since people are at least partly selfish, there need to be mechanisms
for promoting or ensuring good cooperative behaviour and discouraging or preventing
cheating or free-riding. These policing mechanisms are collectively called ‘partner
control’. They would include protesting against unfair treatment, or the threat
of punishment, or of rejection and finding a new partner.
At this time, perhaps 2 million years ago, moral norms were not in place in society,
and the cognitive skills of cooperation were still evolving. If someone is offended
against, he can make a ‘respectful protest’ towards the offender, making his resentment
known and appealing to the offender’s ‘cooperative identity’.
Second-personal protest ... treats the offender respectfully as a competent cooperative
partner, and if she lives up to that by respecting the claim, then she keeps this
identity; if not, then she is at risk of losing her cooperative identity. The attempt
at partner control represented by second-personal protest is thus implicitly backed
up – in the event that the offender compounds the disrespect by disregarding the
protest – by the threat of exclusion via partner choice: if you do not shape up,
I will ship out. [Tomasello]
3.1.2 cooperative identity
A cooperative identity is how one is seen by oneself, and others, as a good cooperator.
It is a source of our worth in the eyes of ourselves and others. We are always
being monitored by others, and in turn, each of us is always monitoring others in
3.2 large groups
Small groups became very successful over time and expanded, becoming, we believe,
large tribes made up of smaller bands. In the archaeological record, by around 150,000
years ago, we see cultural differences marked out between large groups. There were
two problems associated with this expansion in size:
1) how to coordinate people on a large scale, with interpersonal negotiations difficult
or impossible between large numbers of people who did not know each other;
2) partner control: how to prevent cheating or free-riding and to promote good behaviour,
since interpersonal protest between large numbers of people who did not know each
other is difficult or impossible; and we may not know someone’s reputation enough
to judge whether they are a good cooperator before joining forces with them.
The first was solved by similarity, culture, conventions, and group loyalty; the
second by the (linked) introduction of social norms, enforcing an objective standard
of right and wrong, and good and bad, by everyone on everyone equally, through a
variety of authority mechanisms.
3.2.1 solving the coordination problem through loyalty and similarity
As groups grew larger, division of labour would have increased, which in turn increased
the interdependence of everyone in the group, as each person was even more dependent
on others in the group to supply necessaries of life. This would have led to increased
loyalty to the group.
At the same time, it would have been necessary that everyone in the group did things
in the same way, so that people who had never met could work together easily. This
similarity of behaviour would have strengthened feelings of group membership and
3.3 partner control in large groups
3.3.1 conventional cultural practices, agent-independence and objectivity
Over time, together with mechanisms of cultural transmission (teaching, showing,
communicating by word of mouth) there would have built up a body of common knowledge
of the better or worse ways to do things, and in fact, the ‘way we do things’ ultimately
leading these conventional cultural practices to be considered the right and wrong
ways to do things.
At the same time, individuals would have been aware that the collective intention
of the group provided the standard for what were the right and wrong ways, and that
individuals were interchangeable within this system, leading to an ‘objective’ (i.e.
rational, group-wide) way of looking at things.
3.3.2 social norms
These objectively right ways to do things became conventional norms, and the morally
right ways to treat others became moral norms: together called social norms: the
taken-for-granted shared expectation that in ‘these’ circumstances, ‘we’ behave ‘this’
In effect, such social norms conventionalized and collectivized the process of evaluating
and protesting against noncooperators and thus scaled up second-personal [me and
you] partner control into group-level social control, with the aim of ensuring the
smooth functioning of social interactions within the group. [Tomasello]
3.3.3 generalised enforcement and reputation
By this time, around 150,000 years ago, we believe that language had been invented,
and so a person’s public cooperative identity could become widely known among the
group, which obviously would help to keep them in line. An individual could be punished
directly or through their reputation for violating social norms. The ultimate threat
would have been expulsion from the group, which would make the survival of an individual
much more difficult.
... in addition to following social norms, modern humans will also enforce social
norms on one another, including from a third-party position as an unaffected observer.
[in young children] ... the norm enforcer is acting not just as an individual expressing
a personal opinion but, rather, as a kind of representative of the cultural group.
The fact that particular social norms were created by the group is prima facie evidence
for the individual that they are good for the group and its functioning, and this
makes it a good thing, a legitimate group-minded thing, for the individual to enforce
them on everyone. [Tomasello] ...
Social norms are thus presented to individuals as impartial and objective. In principle,
any member of the culture may be their voice, as representative of the culture and
its values. In principle, any member of the culture may be their target, since they
apply in an agent-independent manner to everyone alike (perhaps within some demographic
or contextual specifications). And, in principle, the standards themselves are “objective”
in that they are not how the enforcer or other group members want things to be but,
rather, the morally right and wrong ways for things to be. This three-way generality
– agent, target, and standards – explains why the voice of norm enforcement, like
that of teaching, is generic: “It is wrong to do that.” The norm enforcer refers
the violator to an objective world of values that he himself may consult directly
and impartially to see that his behavior is morally wrong. ... the objectification
of moral judgments in this way is crucial to the perceived legitimacy of the process
because it provides a common metric by which one may judge one’s own and another’s
moral values, “bonding individuals together in a shared justificatory structure.”
Thus, social norms ... come to have an independent and objective reality for individuals
such that moral violations become less about injuring the particular person and more
about rupturing the moral order. [Tomasello]
3.4 “our group is right and everyone else is wrong”
An implication of having objectively right group-wide social norms is that those
in other groups are seen as objectively wrong if they differ from “ours”.
WE AFFIRM that God has designed marriage to be a covenantal, sexual, procreative,
lifelong union of one man and one woman, as husband and wife, and is meant to signify
the covenant love between Christ and his bride the church.
WE DENY that God has designed marriage to be a homosexual, polygamous, or polyamorous
relationship. We also deny that marriage is a mere human contract rather than a
covenant made before God.
WE AFFIRM that God’s revealed will for all people is chastity outside of marriage
and fidelity within marriage.
WE DENY that any affections, desires, or commitments ever justify sexual intercourse
before or outside marriage; nor do they justify any form of sexual immorality.
WE AFFIRM that God created Adam and Eve, the first human beings, in his own image,
equal before God as persons, and distinct as male and female.
WE DENY that the divinely ordained differences between male and female render them
unequal in dignity or worth.
WE AFFIRM that divinely ordained differences between male and female reflect God’s
original creation design and are meant for human good and human flourishing.
WE DENY that such differences are a result of the Fall or are a tragedy to be overcome.