Science — the kind that requires evidence and reason.

Human social norms of sexuality and gender

This topic contains 3 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Tom Sarbeck 4 years, 1 month ago.

Viewing 4 posts - 1 through 4 (of 4 total)
  • Author
  • #5797

    Simon Paynton

    How does this stack up?


    Why do humans have their particular social norms regarding sexuality and gender?

    • monogamy
    • control and dominance of females by males at a cultural and societal level, and double-standards between male and female norms
    • widespread prohibition on (especially male) homosexuality

    Human sexual behaviour differs from that among other mammals, in the fact that it is governed by widespread social norms.

    These social norms forbid behaviour that is routine among other mammals.  Perhaps these norms are enforced most strongly by the monotheistic religions (Christianity, Islam, Judaism).

    In other mammals, we see that homosexuality, and promiscuous recreational sex, “every which way”, are routinely enjoyed.  [Balcombe]



    Humans are great apes.  In the other great apes, the mating setup is either polygyny (one male, several females) or multi-male, multi-female (promiscuous mating).  [Chapais]



    The common factor is that a male will attempt to control and guard as many females as he can get away with.



    In other great apes, a male’s access to females to mate with is determined by his position in the dominance heirarchy, and this depends on his fighting ability.  [Tomasello, “A Natural History of Human Morality”.]  Therefore there is sexual selection by females for larger, more dominant males. [Chapais]

    Homo erectus, or similar other very early human species, around 2 million years ago, were the first primates where the males and females were approximately the same size.  This seems to correspond roughly with the appearance of stone tools, and suggests that the possession of weapons evened out the playing field between males.  [Chapais]

    Thereby, each male was approximately as powerful as any other, and therefore had an approximately equal ability to control and guard females as any other male.  This leads to a situation where a single male is only able to get away with controlling a single female (if gender ratio is 50/50).

    This process can be regarded as a crucial part of the “self-domestication” [Tomasello, “A Natural History of Human Morality”] of the human family tree, which made in-group cooperation possible.



    This leads us to a situation, in the newly-cooperative human family tree, where:

    – monogamy (or, more rarely, polygyny) is the only available child-producing male-female partnership.  We may observe that monogamy is a vulnerable situation and is prone to failing.

    – males are largely left without their evolutionarily standard way of demonstrating their masculine prowess to the world (by gaining a harem through fighting off other males).

    1. How can monogamy be enforced, without fighting among males?
    2. How can males prove their masculinity, without fighting among males?
    3. How can females be guarded, without fighting among males?

    The answer is, perhaps, social norms that promote monogamy (especially among females), prohibit extra-marital sex (especially among females), and discourage effeminacy among males.  The combination of these leads to a widespread, deep-seated prohibition on [especially] male homosexuality.

    The fact that these norms are flexible, cultural, and really just a matter of opinion, demonstrates that they are just that – social norms.

    The other fact that monogamy is fundamental to the survival of the human race suggests that it is a very good way for humans to bring up children.



    Balcombe, Jonathan – “Pleasurable Kingdom – animals and the nature of feeling good”

    Chapais, Bernard – “Primeval Kinship – how pair-bonding gave birth to human society”

    Tomasello, Michael – “A Natural History of Human Morality”



    Why do humans have their particular social norms regarding sexuality and gender?

    There is no social norms rearding sexuality and gender for humans. They vary greatly from place to place and over time. Even within the same country there are enormous differences per culture, class, education, profession etc. In some parts of the world women dominate society and men are only useful for fighting wars and defending the tribe. In others women are virtually like dogs, walk around in black tents, are a human posession and for some they are walking vagina-babymachine-caregivers. In others women are equal to men in the extreme problems they both face under opressive conditions or severe poverty. Among some classes of women in some countries being objectified and abused is very likely. In others, a lifetime goes by with next to no pecieved discrimination or assault or none [though that is, unfortunately, not the case for most].

    You might want to focus on Modern-Western gender types (and even then better to focus on North American, European, Japanese or Russian. They face gender problems not half as bad as most in India, the Muslim World or parts of Africa…but there is certainly no shortage of opression and abuse in Russia or North America, slightly less in Europe.


    • This reply was modified 4 years, 1 month ago by  Davis.


    @davis In Fiji, at the tribe gatherings the men speak and the women are not permitted to address the meeting, other than by whispering into their husbands ear and having him speak.  Sometimes the men do not convey their woman’s words.  If this happens, the woman starts to sing.  Men are not permitted to speak whilst a woman is singing.  Sometimes other women join in, to support her.  In very short order, the man indicates to her that he will repeat her words, and she gracefully brings the song to a close. Or the series of songs.  The men can’t walk off during a meeting so inevitably there is acquiescence.

    You can add that to your narratives, I witnessed it personally!


    Tom Sarbeck


    That’s miles better than later telling him she has a headache.


Viewing 4 posts - 1 through 4 (of 4 total)

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.