Female infanticide provides a patrifocal society the leverage to sexually select for a narrow window of macho male personality types, upholding cultural stability, curtailing innovation.

Female infanticide is a manifestation of sexual selection in a cultural context. Female infanticide can be understood as patrifocal, cultural acceleration and/or stabilization. By decreasing the number of women to less than the number of available men and by being more specific about features that can be chosen for in the character and genes of the males, the more culturally rigid, both in terms of cultural ideas and the genetic pool, the culture will continue to be.

A culture keeps tight control of its degree of diffusion or drift by maintaining a low female/high male ratio. This control results in a shift toward a selection of highly specific traits. As a culture starts to idealize war, the families of those women or their fathers choose a mate based on success-in-war criteria. Female infanticide decreased the number of men likely to create progeny, increasing the likelihood that the warlike criteria would be passed on to the next generation. With a high percentage of young men who are potentially mateless, aggressive posturing abounds, violent confrontations increase and opportunities for men to show their “character” emerge. The successful men will be rewarded with a mate or mates.

In a sense, the ship of state can steer left or right, depending on how many girl babies are thrown overboard.

Embrace the female. Innovation can proliferate as criteria for the perfect mate can vary as a larger number of young women can choose from a wider variety of men.

Suppress the number of women by killing them as embryos or babies. Then fewer men can sire a child and only those highly valued, aggressive male personalities can achieve a mate. In a patrifocal society, those highly valued males can often effectively wield authority and obediently serve the established hierarchy. Creativity is not their strength.

Contrary to what the neo-Darwinists and sociobiologists would suggest, evolution is a lightning fast process driven often by sexual selection, often by abrupt changes in the rate and the timing of maturation. When prolonged, these changes in rate and timing are called neoteny. One way we have been controlling our own evolution is by committing female infanticide. Another way we direct how society transforms is by choosing mates for their nonviolent, creative, cooperative tendencies.

“…Silver foxes had been bred in captivity since 1892 on fur farms, and although some selective breeding for traits such as fertility and high fur quality had been practiced, the animals were not domesticated in any strict sense. They retained all of the essential characteristics of their wild counterparts. They molted and came into heat in a strict seasonal cycle, as in the wild; their behavior toward humans was no different than that of a wild fox raised in captivity. So Belyaev decided to try an experiment. He would rigorously select animals applying but a single criterion: Those animals that showed consistently tame behavior toward humans would be kept; those that did not would be eliminated from the breeding program. Within five generations changes were already apparent. By 1979, twenty years into the experiment, the results were astonishing. His tame-selected foxes were not just tame; they acted for all the world like domestic dogs. They approached familiar persons and licked their hands and faces. They barked like dogs. They even sought the attention of strangers by whining and wagging their tails. Their annual molting cycle was disrupted, and the females began to come into heat twice a year, like dogs, and unlike both foxes and wolves, they also developed some physical characteristics of young foxes, such as drooping ears, and some of the variations in traits seen in other domesticated animals, such as piebald coat coloration. Belyaev in an astonishingly short time produced not just one new trait, but a whole package of new characteristics. What he had done, by selecting for nothing more than tameness, was to tap into the same powerful evolutionary tool that nature had employed as a solution to the successive ecological catastrophes of the ice ages: neoteny.” (Budiansky 1992: 96-7, The Covenant of the Wild)

We humans, particularly women, are selecting tame humans, cooperative males, and changing our species in the process. Whereas female infanticide steers society toward hierarchy, male posturing, stability and war; females selecting cooperative, creative, sensitive to interdependence, independent males construct a society that is open to change.

In the way that foxes can be transformed into dog-like creatures in a mere 20 years, humans are in the process of transforming each other by picking mates for their cooperative inclinations.

Clearly, if we’re going to survive the next 100 years, it’s the males that have to change.

(Click here to review how female foeticide effects these issues.)


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