The Gender Wars

For a million years our ancestors played the courting game. As time passed, the game became more intense, more extended, more complicated. Brief sexual interludes gradually evolved into prolonged erotic intimacies. The hairy apes had sex; the naked humans made love. And, in the process, powerful bonds of attachment developed between males and females. That is to say, between particular males and particular females. The human pair-bond was born.  In the simple tribal setting all was well and our ancestors flourished, spreading our across the globe to conquer the entire planet. But in their rush to global dominance, something changed, striking note of discord between the males and the females. How did human sexuality survive the arrival of the modern urban condition?  What happened to bring about the battle of the sexes?
            We live in a time of great cities, where half the world's human population is caged in an urban zoo. Conditions there are unkind to simple loving family  sexual relationships . The great city may be full of novel excitements and ambitious possibilities, but it is a harsh environment for all those who fail to make it to the top. For the vast majority, all too often, there is stress and frustration. How can this pent-up emotion find an outlet?
            The answer, sadly, is that the most convenient victim, the one closest to hand (or fist), is the sexual partner. The people who should be the most loved become the most abused, simply because they are there. In 1996 in the United States, more than two million cases of battered women were reported to the police and many more went unreported. Because men are physically stronger than women, abused husbands are less common, although many will suffer a verbal battering when the  pressures of the day become too much for their hard-pressed mates. Based on these USA figures, the following information emerges:

  1. Physical battering by a man is the single biggest cause of injury to women.  Even when all the injuries caused by road accidents, muggings and rapes were added together, the total obtained still did not exceed the figure for domestic violence.  These figures suggest that as many as one in three women will be assaulted by their male partner at least once in their lifetime.
  2. When one partner attacks another, it is 10 times more likely to be the man that attacks the woman.
  3. When pregnant, women are twice as likely to be battered by their male partners.  It is significant that, at the very time when women need the greatest protection and caring from their men, they receive instead the highest level of physical abuse.
  4. Long-term revenge is a key factor in human aggression.  Of the men who did the battering, 73 percent were themselves  battered as children.  Redirected aggression is another key element in human violence.  If we are not strong enough to attack our attackers, we turn elsewhere: 50 percent of battered women beat their children.  And it is sobering thought that more than three million children  witness acts of domestic violence each year.  (It is does not come as much of a surprise to discover that  at least 80 percent of men in prison in the USA in 1996 grew up in homes where domestic violence occurred.)
  5. Of all the female murder victims, 30 percent die at the hands of their male partners .  By contrast, only 4 percent of male victims were killed by their female partners.  (Intriguingly, the average prison sentence for men who kill their female partners is only two six years, while for women who kill their male partners it is 15 years.  If these figures are accurate, it means that the United States is still falling seriously short of true sexual equality.)
  6. Of the homeless women and children in the United States, 50 percent are refugees from domestic violence.  Twenty years ago the first battered women's shelter was opened.  Today there are 1500 of these shelters.

Because marital discord is so common today, we have sometimes wrongly imagined that this is an inevitable condition and that the battle of the sexes has raged throughout human history.  Cartoonists often reflect this attitude by depicting our primeval ancestors as sexual  brutes, the prehistoric caveman dragging his screaming mate off to their den by her hair.  The truth must have been rather different.
            Contrary to popular belief, our primeval days must have been amazingly affluent.  We had discovered meat as a new and highly nutritious form of food and we had outclassed our carnivore rivals by inventing simple weapons.  With group co-operation and language of sex we rapidly became the most successful species on the planet, and before long we had occupied almost every corner of the earth.  We could not have done this if our little tribes had been constantly squabbling, bickering and fighting.
            Today we can get a glimpse of what life in a small tribe must have been like by watching what happens in one of the few groups of people  that still live the same kind of lifestyle.    A study of the Baka pygmies of West Africa, who remain hunter-gatherers  to this day,  shows us a culture in which men and women  from lasting pair-bonds  and  enjoy the kind of harmony that has become increasingly threatened in the more 'advanced' urban societies.  The concept of the 'noble savage' is often sneered at, but the concept of a peaceful tribe is far from being a fantasy.  It is the caveman thug who is more likely to be the far-fetched fiction.
            A key feature of early tribal life is that men were away hunting for a great deal of the time, while the women remained at the center of society in the tribal  settlement.  By combining the efforts of the men and women, the whole tribe could feast together.  The men relied on the women  for many things for gathering valuable vegetable food, for organizing the village, for building the little huts and preparing the feasts.  The women relied on the men for animal food and for protection  against outside dangers.  It was a well-balanced system in which the sexes depended heavily upon one another.

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