Updates Contents

Section 11.0 (Introduction to Homophobia) has been enhanced by adding a comment documented by Michael P. Wright and a description of what constitutes homophobia by V. Wall.

Section 11.2 (The Origins of Homo-Hatred and Homo-Opposition)

The following article by Ramon Gutierrez on the status of the American-Indian berdache (two-spirit person; cross-dressing male homosexual) is highly recommended.(1)

Ramon Gutierrez on the status of the American-Indian berdache


  1. R. Gutierrez, Out/Look 4, 61–7 (1989)

Section 11.2 (The Origins of Homo-Hatred and Homo-Opposition)

Here is a series of comments concerning a blog post that is relevant to the note on sexual selection in my book. The comments are unedited.

Blogger “Theresa” posted an essay titled ‘Individualism versus "sexual proprietariness"’ at Gene Expression (gnxp.com), regarding honor killings among Moslems living in Europe, on March 3, 2005. Her article featured the following passage:

So, all of this violence toward spouses/partners "makes sense" when we view it from the perspective of males attempting to maximize their reproductive success by trying to exercise "property" rights over (especially young, i.e. fertile) women while at the same time reducing the chances of themselves winding up as providers for other males' offspring (i.e. being cuckolded). I'd even suggest that the women's families (fathers, mothers, brothers) also sometimes get into the act (as in the German Turkish cases) because the future of THEIR genes is on the line, too -- they all want to ensure that the genes they share with the female in question get the best (in their eyes) reproductive chance possible (3).
(3) What I personally found to be one of the most cynical aspects of the Der Spiegel story was that "in many cases, fathers -- and sometimes even mothers -- single out their youngest son to do the killing, Boehmecke said, 'because they know minors will get lighter sentences from German judges.'" What cowards, to make a decision to kill one's daughter and not have the guts to follow through on that decision oneself.

I responded to this passage as follows:

Well, look at it his way: reducing sexual freedom for women also diminishes the opportunities that men have with respect to inseminating multiple women, which is not in the best interests of men because a single woman has limited childbirth capacity but inseminating several women allows a man to have a huge number of offspring. So, there are limits beyond which it does not help men to further reduce the sexual freedom available to women.
It is clear that in a society consisting of a high level of sexual freedom, men who are compromised at courtship do not benefit from the high level of sexual freedom with respect to inseminating several women, but men who are favored at courtship certainly benefit. Therefore, a Middle-Eastern system will be favored by courtship-compromised men but not courtship-favored men, and will likely prevail if the former exceed the latter in numerical prevalence, especially in positions of power. Similarly, courtship-compromised women do not benefit from a high level of sexual freedom because they stand to lose their men to more attractive women and not obtain any high quality men if they have to court their men. Therefore, once gain, a Middle-Eastern system will be favored by courtship-compromised women but not courtship-favored women, and will likely prevail if the former exceed the latter in numerical prevalence.
A Middle-Eastern-type system with arranged marriages as the norm is widespread, even in many non-Moslem societies, and is diametrically opposed to the high levels of sexual freedom in Northern Europe; Northern Europeans even better tolerate homosexuality, pedophilia, and other deviant sexual practices. Northern Europeans also harbor less discrepant sex role expectations compared to other Europeans. Since high intensity sexual selection requires both a high level of sexual freedom and sex-based egalitarianism with respect to sexual freedom, a major proportion of the variance in the Northern Europe--Middle-East discrepancy mentioned above is likely accounted for by stronger sexual selection among Northern Europeans compared to Middle-Eastern populations over several thousands of years such that relatively fewer Northern Europeans are compromised at courtship, especially those in powerful positions. There is some evidence for stronger sexual selection among Northern Europeans but is not concise enough to mention here; it is listed in this book in the context of explaining better Northern European tolerance of homosexuality.

To my comment above, Razib, the site admin of Gene Expression, responded as follows:

on sexual selection. a recent book suggests that sexual selection via female surplus drove the physial changes among ice age europeans. this is a key point: sexual selection is often driven by high reproductive skew among males, that is, polygyny. which societies "traditionally" have more polygyny, middle easterners or northern europeans? as for what type of society "courtship-favored men" men would prefer, why would they opt for sexual freedom if they could stack a society so that it was polygynous and they could make sure they made it to the top of the heap? ("courtship-favored men" usually have good traits that allow them to rise in status and so attain polygynous marriages) you seem to imply that arranged marriages do not favor the "fit," and to some extent, i think they might select for a different type of personality, but i am skeptical they are that much less assortative in their end. and as i suggest above, if middle eastern societies were "traditionally" more polygynous than perhaps one could argue recently they have been more shaped by sexual selection?
frankly, these are "just so" stories, because i don't grant that one can backproject modern habits and norms thousands of years. i don't totally deny this methodology, but, you have to be cautious. 2500 years ago middle eastern women were losing their virginity as temple prostitutes, and egyptian and mesopatamian women had property rights (egypt was somewhat matrilineal). beginning with the reformation and up until this century northern europe was ovecome by puritanism in concurrence with protestantization. single cultural differences are stark as a function of geography, but they tend to blur a lot more (in my opinion) when viewed over the long term, which is what matters for evolution (also, the idealized differences are often far greater than the reality on the ground).
instead of sweeping geographic populations, you should focus on specific groups with long histories. for example, the nayars of south india practiced a consortship system with the namboothiri brahimins whereby nayar women had several brahmin lovers (all younger sons) who would sire her sons and daughters, who would join the nayar community. what type of men did these women choose? we all know about the fact that reproductive skew is a major fact among some papuan tribes. what implications?
and just to be clear, i do think there are intergroup differences in median personality (or range of personalities). this probably has cultural-civilizational implications. but, i tend to find many of the trait distinctions to be facile and historically unfounded.

I responded to Razib’s comment above in a two-part reply; the first part was:

razib, the Middle-Eastern polygyny that you refer to vs. Northern European monogamy is a reference to the socially-sanctioned marriage system. Behavior is a different matter. Courtship-favored Northern European males, given the relatively high sexual freedom of Northern Europe, have long been able to inseminate many women (except for a short period of rule by Christian extremists), i.e., function as polygynous males, even if only monogamous marriages have been recognized. In Moslem Middle East, only a few men are able to have multiple wives (4 simultaneous maximum if I am not mistaken), and these men do not come anywhere close to the number of women a courtship-favored Northern European male can inseminate.
Northern European-style sexual freedom with monogamous marriage is conducive to more intense sexual selection than Middle-Eastern polygyny with heavily curtailed sexual freedom. Think about this: if you are a really good looking rich man who wants to sleep with lots of women, would you rather live in the U.S. or in Saudi Arabia?
Middle-Eastern societies seem to be dominated by mullahs who would often be lifelong bachelors were it not for arranged marriage and their use of violence and intimidation to maintain high status; their high status apparently persuades parents to be more willing to marry off their daughters to them. In other words, the reproductive success of high-ranking mullahs with multiple wives isn’t exactly a good example of sexual selection.
Also consider that in a society dominated by an arranged marriage system, courtship-compromised individuals will usually be paired off with opposite-sex others, often courtship-compromised others, by the elders, and these individuals will reproduce, whereas, in a society where young individuals chose their own mates, as in many Western societies, several courtship-compromised individuals will not be able to find partners and end up not reproducing, which will add to the reproductive skew in several Western societies.

The second part of my reply was:

razib, you cite some scenarios where more intense sexual selection could have taken place. However, the scenarios you cite have remained localized to some tribes or did not persist for long. DNA studies would help in assessing long-term patterns across major populations. In this regard, a study of Y-mismatch distributions in Europe suggested that contemporary Europeans have descended from a fixed-size ancestral male population while the female population was expanding; see: Mol Biol Evol 2001;18(7):1259-71. The population sizes referred to here are obviously the effective population sizes, which reflect reproductive skew between males and females, not actual population sizes. On the other hand, expanding ancestral male populations (along with expanding ancestral female populations) emerged in two studies using largely non-European samples; see: Mol Biol Evol 1999;16(12):1791-8 and Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2000;97(13):7354-9. These studies suggest greater variability of reproductive success among European males compared to non-European males, which may or may not be consistent with more intense sexual selection among Europeans.
The point is that more intense sexual selection among Northern Europeans quite likely explains a major proportion of the variance as to the greater sexual freedoms and sex-based egalitarianism among Northern Europeans compared to the Middle-Eastern Moslems. Some may invoke culture here, but several courtship-compromised individuals will surely embrace Middle-Eastern puritanical culture and maintain it, i.e. to some extent, culture is likely reflecting the central tendency of the tastes of the people in the first place. Your reference concerning past Northern European Puritanism is a reference to Christian extremism. As you would know, Christianity originated among a Semitic people in the Middle East, was spread throughout Northern Europe upon pain of death, and has largely been abandoned in Northern Europe, which should not be surprising to those who are familiar with Norse culture, which by itself would never give rise to any of the Semitic religions.

Razib’s response was:

erik, i have to pull a greg cochran here, you are wrong. i will look up the genetic stuff, i have stumbled on to some it if before, but your historical-social conjectures are way off on first glance. i doubt there's any point in arguing with you about this, because it's quite ridiculous to make assessments about what types of personalities "mullahs" have and how much they would attract the ladies (even taking into account that only a tiny fraction of the population were ever "mullahs" and the mullocracy only really got big during the ottoman period in imitation of european clerical structures).

My reply was:

razib, it is not that ridiculous to make inferences about mullah attitudes, personality, and how they would fare if they had to court women for dating or marriage. You are presumably familiar with mullah attitudes toward women and should understand that men who harbor mullah-type attitudes toward women do not exactly endear themselves to women and would disproportionately remain dateless. In the event that you are not familiar with mullah attitudes toward women, I recommend that you either interact with them or read their scriptures, which reflect their attitudes well, and also read a rebuttal to mullah apologetics concerning alleged misinterpretations of the Islamic attitude toward women here and here.
You are right about only a small proportion of Moslems being mullahs, but as John Emerson points out, mullah mentality is widespread among Moslems, and this modal mentality is what is relevant to our discussion.
Mullah-type mentality with respect to attitude toward women is found among some men in all cultures; it is the proportion of these men and their distribution across positions of varying power/influence that vary with society. For instance, the almost certainly dateless and disproportionately courtship-comprised young Hindu males who vehemently or violently oppose Valentine’s day celebrations in India surely display mullah-type mentality in that these men consider it below their dignity and perhaps effeminate to court women and may also have a difficult time obtaining a date for a number of additional reasons. Such men have a lot to lose genetically in the event a high level of sexual selection takes place given that high intensity sexual selection corresponds to widespread opportunities for fornication and adultery, and these men will have few opportunities to fornicate with women other than prostitutes and potentially stand to have their wife cheat on them if there are plenty of opportunities available for adultery. In a nutshell, some inferences about the significance of mullah-type mentality can surely be made.

Razib’s angry response was:

For instance, the almost certainly dateless and disproportionately courtship-comprised young Hindu males who vehemently or violently oppose Valentine’s day celebrations in India surely display mullah-type mentality in that these men consider it below their dignity and perhaps effeminate to court women and may also have a difficult time obtaining a date for a number of additional reasons
look, eric you don't know what you're talking about. let me repeat: please stop talking about things you don't know about. most of the anti-valentine's day activists in india are almost certainly hindutva activists, often high caste males. since hindus enforce monogamy on high caste males, this results in there being a lot of competition for them, ergo, dowries! have you heard of them eric? women are competing for these men!
now, let me repeat it one more time, stop spamming me with irrelevancies. i am more willing that typical to entertain thought experiments, but you have a tendency to string together semi-plausible conjectures and link them together as if your interpretation is obvious.
so, not to put too fine a point on it, stop spamming my comments with barely informed historical conjectures. you obviously don't know much about that. i grant you bring up some interesting biological points, but you are presenting wide, broad and sweeping assertions, and poking holes in them is not really that hard. on the other hand, i'm not going to waste my time with it because i doubt i could move you to doubt.
i want these message boards to serve as reasoned, balanced and informed places. you need to stop your shit now-because i'm not going to let you talk about history and anthropology you clearly know little about. otherwise, i'm going to open the door for every half-wit who thinks they have the "answer."

I wanted to respond to this, but Razib would surely delete my comment, so I emailed him the following:

This is a reply that I felt like posting to the ‘ Individualism versus "sexual proprietariness"’ post after your last comment there, but decided against it because I do not wish to post what you consider as spam. However, since you are so much more informed than me, I request that you correct my ignorance by clarifying some of the questions that I have concerning your last comment, and if you allow the following to be posted online, along with your response, then it would surely greatly clarify several issues for others too.
The passage in question is the following:
“look, eric you don't know what you're talking about. let me repeat: please stop talking about things you don't know about. most of the anti-valentine's day activists in india are almost certainly hindutva activists, often high caste males. since hindus enforce monogamy on high caste males, this results in there being a lot of competition for them, ergo, dowries! have you heard of them eric? women are competing for these men!”
Well, the dominant system of marriage in India is the arranged type. Therefore, your assertion that “women are competing for these men” is curious because it appears that the parents of unmarried women are competing with each other for a high caste groom, not the women themselves.
Now, Indian women would surely want to marry high status males, but they would prefer high status males who do not consider it beneath their dignity to court women and also treat women with respect, and would certainly not want high status males who are courtship-compromised because breeding with a courtship-compromised male increases the risks of producing courtship-compromised offspring, which is not good from a genetic standpoint for women. Furthermore, whereas courtship-compromised high-caste men do not have to fear losing their women to lower caste men, they should certainly be concerned about losing their women to courtship-favored men of a similar or higher caste. Therefore, several courtship-compromised men, irrespective of their caste, are expected to oppose a Western system where most individuals either court a partner on their own or remain partnerless, and the young Hindu males violently opposing Valentine’s day celebrations in India are surely compromised at courtship, not with respect to their caste status, but with respect to their ability to court women when competing with other men after controlling for the caste factor, i.e., competing with same-caste men.
Surely, monogamy is required of high-caste Hindus, but marital monogamy is also the societal expectation in Northern Europe, and Northern European women obviously intensely compete with each other to obtain high status men, yet we do not see a dowry system there. The dowry system in India has been prevalent for a long time and is actually testimony to the fact of less intense sexual selection, on average, among Indians, within recorded history, compared to Northern Europeans, as is explained more fully below.
In societies with a large number of courtship-compromised individuals, one is unlikely to see widespread courtship, and one way for such societies to persist, i.e., for a large proportion of individuals in such societies to reproduce in any given generation, is to have widespread arranged marriages. Parents obviously want the best spouse for their children, and it should not be surprising if they come up with a dowry system to obtain the best possible spouse for their children. Thus, in some societies such as Moslem societies, the man and his family have to come up with a large dowry to obtain the best possible wife, and in other societies such as Hindu societies, the woman’s family has to come up with a large dowry to obtain the best possible groom. The specific type of dowry system is obviously related to the historical development of such societies, but it appears highly likely that a long-term stable dowry system along with widespread arranged marriages reflects a society with a much greater proportion of courtship-compromised individuals than a society with a long-term stable system where most individuals court their own partner.
I could be wrong about the above, and you surely know better, but please do not go into a rant about me not knowing what I am talking about, or my points being irrelevant or barely informed, or that “poking holes” into my assertions is easy; rather, please substantiate your rebuttal.
Your charge of broad and sweeping assertions appears to be in reference to my focusing on central tendency differences. Central tendency differences do matter and are not undermined by outliers. For instance, whereas some Northern Europeans remain chaste till marriage and never indulge in adultery, there are others who fornicate and live a swinging lifestyle after marriage. Such extremes surely exist in all societies, although the swingers are either forced to remain closeted in some parts of the world or limit themselves to their fantasies, yet Northern Europeans are (like their Norse ancestors), on average, considerably more tolerant of fornication and adultery than most other societies, and harbor less discrepant sex role expectations than most other societies, and these between-populations central tendency differences are not undermined by the outlier or long-term unstable instances of apparently more intense sexual selection in some non-European societies that you cite.
Besides, how fine are the examples of intense sexual selection that you cite? Your example of temple prostitution has little to do with high levels of sexual selection because temple prostitutes have reduced choice with respect to what men they will allow themselves to be inseminated by. Your example of better property rights among ancient Egyptian women and Mesopotamian women does not appear to control for ancestry. You are likely familiar with DNA research that shows a strong flow of alleles from the Levant to Europe within the past 10,000 years. If this gene flow came from ancestral Middle-Eastern populations who looked like the Middle-Easterners do today (mostly non-white), then a substantial proportion of Europeans wouldn’t look as European as they do today, i.e., present-day Middle-Eastern populations are likely not the direct descendents of the populations that resided in the same region several thousands of years ago, but are heavily admixed descendants of the ancient people whose women had better property rights. You also cite the case of Namboothiri Brahmin males consorting with the lower caste Nayar women. Consider how gender-asymmetric the sexual freedoms are here, namely that the Namboothiri women cannot consort with Nayar men, even though some Nayar men would surely prove to be better partners for them than some Namboothiri men.
On the other hand, the best form of high intensity sexual selection, apart from manifesting in the form of widespread availability of opportunities for fornication and adultery, also requires that both men and women have similar opportunities with respect to fornication and adultery (dissimilar opportunities lead to genetic problems within a few generations, which you can look up yourself with respect to Drosophila research; see: Nature 1996;381(6579):232-4 ).
In summary, it is not unreasonable to propose that sexual selection has operated more strongly among Northern Europeans than many other human populations over a long period of time. I recommend that you read the three papers that I cited concerning apparent greater variability of reproductive success among European males compared to non-European males in general, which may reflect more intense sexual selection among Europeans. Consider also my previous post about the gracility of the jaw among Northern Europeans in conjunction with the better developed chin among them compared to other populations, which appears to be strongly related to sexual selection.
Since I have materials concerning sexual selection in my book on homosexuality, I will likely be posting this thread within my website. Whereas you won’t let this discussion take place in more detail on GNXP, you are more than welcome to respond to this email and I will post all your responses online. Thank you for your help with respect to clarifying or rebutting the above and I look forward to your response.
Erik Holland

Razib never responded to the above.