I noticed in my stats that someone found this site by typing “patrifocal” into Google.  This struck me as strange.  Getting high rankings for single word searches is notoriously difficult.  Then I noticed that the word “patrifocal” has less than 5,000 sites using that word, a tiny number.  “Matrifocal” revealed almost 40,000 sites with that word, still a miniscule number.

How does the academic world discuss issues of social structure and mate selection?  Evidently “matrifocal” and “patrifocal” are not frequently used terms.  It seems to me an important distinction sleeps beneath the notice of most academics studying social change.

Scanning the literature, there doesn’t seem to be a very deep intuition for the relationship between sexual selection and social structure outside discussion of lineality, as in matrilineal or patrilineal frames of reference.  Perhaps this is why fundamental changes in Western society characterized by a dramatic surge in the direction of female choice go mostly unremarked.  Lineality issues are not involved.  Folks mostly know who the father is.  Lineage is traced through the father’s last name regardless of matrifocal or patrifocal proclivities.  There was a brief time in the 60s where hyphenated last names were experimented with, providing matrilinealists the opportunity to be supported.  The default frame quickly reverted back to father’s last name.  (It would be interesting to do a study on whether folks carrying hyphenated last names reveal matrifocal tendencies, such as increased left-handedness, commanding women, cooperative men.)

Identifying matrifocal or partnership cultures by tracing lineage through the mother (father often unknown) is a convention that has lost its usefulness.  Deep changes in our society are occurring without the benefit of perspective as we shift toward matrifocal values with full knowledge of who the father is.  This is particularly true with the emergence of cheap genetic tests.  This is totally anomalous, with no comparable situation among almost 200 primates or human culture up until recently.

One way matrifocal societies distinguish themselves from patrifocal societies is that in matrifocal societies males exhibit, whereas in patrifocal societies males demonstrate.  I define “exhibit” as a more passive demonstration, providing females the choice of taking or leaving the aesthetic being proffered.  Among humans, an exhibitor is engaged in romance.  The male pays close attention to what the female is signaling as valued in the male’s behavior, and then the male adjusts the presentation to make clear that he has a cooperative nature.  Talent for mirroring or feedback is being selected along with skill at the aesthetic being exhibited.  In the context of the uber theme of this blog, the female is selecting a male with neotenous tendencies.  A result of this selective paradigm is a proliferation of unique cultures as females encourage creativity by guiding males into unique behaviors as the females seek males with facility for change.

In a patrifocal society, a male demonstrates.  Exaggeration is highly valued.  Escalation is revered.  The female is not engaged in a process where her choice informs the productions of society or a variety of talent nuances are encouraged.  Instead, the female is awarded or awards herself to the males who best demonstrate insensitivity to artfulness and a talent for doing some one thing better than all the rest, usually having to do with vanquishing an opponent.

Matrifocal selective processes create increasingly unique cultures as males exhibit a variety of productions to satisfy discriminating females.  In the past, this has been characterized by children not necessarily knowing who their father was.  Those days are over.  We need more signature concepts than just lineality to identify when we have shifted to a partnership society.  I use the words “matrifocal” and “patrifocal” as defaults.  As noted above, they are not exactly conventional words.  We don’t yet have a common language that provides an ability to trace emerging patterns in the context of biological and social evolution.

It seems that society is evolving while asleep.


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