evolutionary psychology and toxic masculinity

A well-known tension exists between evolutionary psychology theorists and feminist theorists. Feminists reasonably complain that evolutionary psychologists are simply reinforcing sexist paradigms—particularly the sexism that still pervades scientific inquiry—while evolutionary psychologists reasonably argue that their findings simply derive from examining our species’ mental adaptations necessary to ensure survival.

I’m not here to argue about which viewpoint is right. Truth probably lies in both modes of inquiry.

However, I’ve been thinking about “toxic masculinity”, a concept that wouldn’t exist without the feminists having identified it.

Let’s assume that “toxic masculinity” exists as the feminists define it.

Let’s also assume that toxic masculinity is a phenomenon we want to rid society of, that it is a bad thing.

Is it enough to simply think our way out of this mess? My experience suggests no. We need to examine the deep psychological pull of toxic masculinity, particularly in woman’s lives. (I’m assuming here without rigor that women are complacent in its social realization—part of the problem).

I propose that evolutionary psychology might explain some of this.

Assume that the patriarchy has dominated human relationships and individual humans’ self-realization since at least the time we settled down to start growing our food (about 10k years ago). Assume further that toxic masculinity evolved in men’s psyche as a way to maneuver within this patriarchy—that men who exhibited toxic masculinity prospered while men who didn’t exhibit it did not. Then it follows that natural selection favored the men who carried toxic behavior.

Women relied on men’s successes, and therefore it is possible that women who found toxic masculinity initially attractive (in terms of sexual/emotional arousal) would have more success finding a mate. Over millennia, natural selection might have favored this behavior.

Thus we may have a deep attraction to toxic masculinity written deep into our DNA.

Okay, so how does this help? If this hypothesis holds water, we know what we are up against and can adjust our cognitive reframing work and cultural change efforts accordingly.

god likes scientists

I don’t believe in astrology, but I do firmly believe in the Resurrection. As far as scientific evidence goes, both prove equally absurd. WTF? Why accept even one of them? Why not both? I have no good answer for this!

I could say that “events” in my life confirm my Christian experience, but that might be pattern recognition bias—seeing confirmation of my faith in patterns that my brain constructs out of non-patterned signal (because brains do that [1]).

Similarly, because I’ve never bothered to look for confirmation of astrological interpretations of my life, I’ve never “found” them in my life narrative. Again, pattern recognition bias.

Perhaps—and I am so completely unfamiliar with astrology to know for sure—astrology is about finding comfort in the universe’s design—that there is a “plan”. Is there anything in astrology that is meant to be uncomfortable? I don’t know!

The Christian experience is not comfortable; at least I don’t seek it out for comfort with regard to my place the universe. If God asks me to, I’ll perform God’s work in Hell.

Maybe its about love: I do not perceive that the universe as expressed as stars, planets, mass, and energy “loves” me. But I need to feel love and the Christian narrative offers that. The Resurrection itself is a love story.

Perhaps I created God in my image—an image of a human who needs love. And the need for love comes from evolutionary psychology; human-to-human attachment driving tribal cooperation, driving survival, driving gene propagation. The selfish gene [2].

“What is truth?” retorted the Pilate [3].

I’m going to continue trusting God and continue trusting my faith in God, even without these questions answered. And the God I believe in wants us to wrestle with these matters; God gave us brains and expects us to use them critically.

God likes scientists: “Doubting” Thomas just wanted evidence. He was not rejected for asking for it.

“Faith” and “belief” mean different things. I see “belief” as getting hung up on the facts—where science and logic matter to defining reality. “Belief” has its place: For example I believe in “F=m*a” at appropriate velocities and definitely believe in God’s existence and love.

But I do not emphasize belief in my spiritual practice, which is where “faith” comes in. “Faith”, in my book, is trusting the divine deep within my soul without needing to understand all the particulars about where things are headed.

Sometimes faith doesn’t even require much commitment to reality. I tell a story in my article “an allegory of affection from a Hindu goddess” about a visitation by Durga that I experienced during a dream. I do not worry about whether this visit really happened or not; the experience enriched my faith in the Christian god while enhancing my understanding of Hinduism. I’m not going to argue about what is “real” in this situation. Rather, I’ll just accept the personal growth that came of it.

This is the embrace of faith.

References

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apophenia
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Selfish_Gene
  3. John 18:38 (New International Version)
  4. The image below is copied from https://www.wikihow.com/Be-a-Good-Scientist.

my spinning moral compass

I’ve discovered a complete willingness to manipulate men into one-night stands purely to stroke my ego. (The trick is to let men feel like their own ego is in charge).

However, I experience complete moral repulsion at the idea of treating women this way.

I think my reason comes from evolutionary psychology: Women may become pregnant and therefore require support during their “down time”, the period when hunting and gathering would be difficult due to carrying a child—consequently they learned to highly value relationship stability across an evolutionary timeframe.

However, men can deliver sperm without such risk to their livelihood. Therefore they experienced less evolutionary pressure to value relationships than women. Given that I don’t want to hurt anyone, I provide far more ongoing commitment to my romantic relationships with women than men, due to the difference in evolutionary psychology between the sexes illuminated above.

Men do love, and greatly. I certainly did when I identified as one.

Moreover, I’ve realized that the manner in which I love IS very masculine (culturally), and that that is extremely unlikely to change. For example, I carry a strong “hero instinct”–want to solve problems for my beloved. I delight in the role of “pursuer”: Will combine culturally masculine flirtation technique to make my intention clear no matter how impeccably feminine I appear. I would feel shame if I couldn’t economically provide for a partner, despite the fact that times have supposedly evolved beyond that. Most significantly, I want to provide a constant beacon of (inner) strength.

Certainly, I have love-traits we could label as culturally feminine (commitment to radical kindness and collaboration). But the sum total of how I love leans strongly masculine.

And that is where things get interesting. Evokes my moral crisis:

I am a complete predator when I pursue women. Calculating. Shrewd. Persistent. Experimental. Adaptive. Creative. Subtle. Patient.

My motives prove decent but never pure. I operate by gaining the trust of women through my innate femininity (even did so back when I was “Dan”), and then later strike at opportune moment. My metaphor for this activity is “moving through the back door” when most suiters only show the wit to try the front. I suppose the redeeming feature of this maneuver is that the trust I establish is 100% genuine—as my intent always is to create a successful long term relationship (which relies firmly on trust).

So I demonstrate capacity for commitment during my pursuit. I only act this way when I’m prepared to deliver.

The other redeeming feature in this approach is that I only practice it when I’m completely besotted. Therefore the woman involved holds all the power!

The moral crisis lies in the fact that I do not like the idea of being a “predator”. But that is the correct word, so I’ve accepted it. More to the point, I’ve accepted the duality of being simultaneously predatory and noble in my pursuit, of delivering both genuine trust and absolute danger.