Sunday, March 8, 2015

Mating system and Power: Implications for the Society

We have evolved over millions of years, sharing ancestry with innumerable beings and reaching our current state. During the course, we have transcended the limits of natural world and constructed a whole new dimension of life for ourselves which we label as culture. Such is the nature of culture that it is dynamic, malleable and diffuses easily. I will try to trace the changes in culture that occurred in recent times, which could possibly impact the mating systems and let to heinous crimes against females.
The human mating system has evolved mostly as a monogamous system, with both females and males having specific roles as highlighted by the sexual selection. The monogamous pair might not be universal and local cultural variations may be found adapted to their respective ecology. We have cultures ranging from polygynous to polyandrous, but biologically; we find a nearly universal pattern of sexual selection. In an extensive study by David Buss across 150 cultures, it was found that males were mostly valued for their resourcefulness and social standing and females were valued for the traits showing higher fertility. Various studies have adduced the selection of secondary sexual features such as swollen breasts and wider pelvis, purporting higher fertility. When we find such a pattern, it reflects evolutionary mating systems that have shaped the sexual relationships in every culture.  
A change that occurred in the mid-17th century Europe has been, perhaps, the most pugnacious in the history of human evolution. With inception of individualism in western nations and its spread across the globe, the social situation has been altered a great deal. From a community oriented life, we have been dragged into a world of individual identities. Here, among all the other changes, the most disquieting was changing gender roles. Gender is a social construct which, like other elements of society, is malleable and transforms easily with time. A platform was created where gender neutral positions were created in the socio-economic frontier. It challenged the notion of male as ‘provider’ and female as ‘fertile’. Independence and liberation of females from their tradition gender roles has challenged the role of males as ‘provider’ in the context of mating systems. Now, the gender constructs centred around the mating systems are interacting with the new social life defined by individualism.  The conflict between the old and the new has manifested itself in the form of ‘power’ play between the sexes. A threat over male’s role as provider is hovering over the society. The basic norms of patriarchy are being challenged.
With incipient individualism, a profound transformation in the social situation of India can be observed. On one hand, we have conservative patriarchal cultural norms and practices which now seem to be exploitative and rendered as primitive and on the other hand, we have liberalization taking place, which challenges the old mind-set. Such change is altering the mating system which has influenced the nature of sexual relations to a large extent. Changes in the position of power, blurring the sex-divide seems unacceptable to many, especially males. The conflict between the old and the new has manifested itself in the form of ‘power’ play between the sexes. A threat over male’s role as provider is hovering over the society. The liberal movement is chiselling away the constructs of patriarchy. Amid the process, the dynamics of mating systems are also changing. The thought of female having her discretion regarding mate choice is something new to Indian society.  With such changes, a struggle for power starts. In the documentary ‘India’s daughter’, depicting the Nirbhaya rape case that occured in New Delhi 2 years ago,  the views of the prime accused were a testament to that. While describing the act, he said that the struggle put up by the victim triggered them to commit such crime. It was not a simple act of aggression. What triggered such extreme act of  brutality and violence, was the unacceptable notion of a strong female who refuses subjugation. The passive behaviour on the part of females has been a norm. When such changes are seeping into the society, it is not easy for everybody to adapt so easily.
I believe such power conflict could be one of the reasons for increasing crimes against women. When the position of males in the mating system is being challenged increasingly, a violent and heinous pathway is being exercised by several members of the society. The changes are occurring fast but the response to such changes is slow. The confluence of changes and adaptation is necessary for survival. Without it, the whole population could lapse into the pitfall of extinction. These changes in the distribution of power need to be realized. There is a strong requirement for gender sensitization and sex education, which should incorporate a liberal view of the changes occurring in our society. We shall thrive in future only if we adapt. We need to work together to extend the purview of necessary liberal view across the whole society to avoid such atrocities against women.
Here, I have tried to substantiate the occurrence of rape from an evolutionary viewpoint, which is not necessarily universal. I have put forth a causal explanation that might explain some aspects of crime against women.

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