Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Domestic Violence as Nature's Fidelity? No Fucking Way by Alex Snider

SO MUCH RAGE and sadness. Thanks Twitter, for bringing me such news as: "Ten Percent of D.C. 8th Graders Have Considered, Attempted Suicide" and "Roman Polanski honoured at Zurich film fest" and apparently Nancy Grace had some kind of nipple slip? On Dancing With the Stars? Apparently Nancy Grace is on Dancing With the Stars? Why humanity? Why are we so terrible? And then there was this solid little gem brought to my feed by New Scientist: "This is going to be controversial: Domestic violence gets an evolutionary explanation" with a link to this article which sure enough denotes how one psychology professor believes male on female partner violence can be explained away by evolution. That shaking below your feet? That was Darwin rolling over in his grave. 

Evolutionary biologist Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas David Buss, has concurred that domestic violence is so common because men are jealous and want to make sure they're the ones puttin' babies in their women.
Buss has previously suggested that jealousy is an adaptation to keep couples together.
"There are very predictable circumstances in which violence occurs," says Buss. "For instance, with the threat of sexual infidelity or the threat of relationship termination."
Buss and his colleague Joshua Duntley at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey in Galloway say that several studies support the link between violence and reproductive success.
For instance, a small study of 65 pregnant women in North Carolina found that those whose partners attacked them were more likely to be carrying another man's child (Journal of Family Violence, vol 19, p 201). Another study involved quizzing 8000 women in Canada about their partners. Some 14 per cent of those with a history of domestic violence agreed that their partner "is jealous and doesn't want you to talk to other men" – less than 1 per cent of women who experienced no violence agreed with the statement (Current Directions in Psychological Science, vol 5, p 2).
The audacity to victim-blame and then back it up with studies done on such tiny subject pools is staggering (never mind that in the actual study cited only 3% of the women reported different paternity). 

The connection between possessiveness and abuse is nothing new, pick up even a Cosmo Girl and know that over the top jealousy is a big red flag. It doesn't matter if once upon a time there were homo sapiens who had jealousy issues too, the repercussions of excessive possessiveness and the domestic abuse and violence that stems from that jealousy are modern day problems in need of solutions, not excuses. 

The desire to sum all of society's shortcomings (racism, sexism, ableism ect.) to evolution is one that I'll never quite understand. We should be striving to overcome those negatives, not explain them away because doing so absolves them; doing so strips us of our responsibility to do right by our fellow people. Using early hominid behaviours to  explain humanity's ugly nature, especially in this case where Buss has given every abuser a ready excuse and an opportunity for further abuse, is negligent, it is dangerous and it is faulty. 

New Scientist should be ashamed for reporting the story in the first place which is clearly just a ploy for page hits. I'm writing a letter to the editor telling them why I feel that writing an article about such an obviously false and ill-researched hypothesis is highly irresponsible and that they should consider how many people they are hurting by publishing such fallacies. The article states that more than 500,000 American women a year report domestic abuse, I guess New Scientist is banking on none of those women or people who love those women reading their magazine. 


  1. Even if it were true (and I'm not saying it is!), that still wouldn't make it ok to hit your spouse. The only thing it would prove is that men who abuse their wifes are not able to control their urges and emotions and might actually be considered less human - since being human means being more than an animal that is controlled by its urges.

  2. Hey, I saw your link at Feministe, and I want to offer one REALLY important correction: David Buss is NOT an evolutionary biologist. He is a professor of psychology who has a very poor understanding of evolutionary theory. Many actual evolutionary biologists hate "evo psych". I've made this mistake before, but in interest of accuracy, please change your wording. I would hate to see feminists irrationally turn against real scientists because people peddling pseudo-science are such assholes.

  3. Thanks for the correction, Amanda. The original article listed him as a evolutionary biologist and I followed suit.

  4. Not to mention one of the leading causes of death for pregnant women is being murdered by their partner. How does killing your mate and procreation fit in with this theory?

  5. Yeah, that little nugget seems to be conveniently omitted.