Men’s RIghts Redditor: When stepfathers abuse children “it’s not about men being violent. It’s an adaption to maximise genetic transfer to the next generation.”

Note: Not a human male

Note: Not a human male

Men’s Rights activists — or a good portion of them, anyway — seem to suffer from what we might call “Male Responsibility Bypass Syndrome.” Whatever terrible things a man (or a group of men) has been shown to have done, MRAs have a remarkable ability to find a woman to blame for it.

Nowhere is this clearer than when it comes to excusing violence. If a man is violent, MRAs tend to argue, it’s because he was provoked by a woman unaware that “equal rights mean equal lefts.” Or it’s the fault of his mother for not raising him right. Or the fault of his female ancestors for “choosing” violent men to “mate” with.

And if a stepfather abuses a child, it’s the fault of the mother for inviting him into the home. Take this generously upvoted comment from DavidByron2 in the Men’s Rights subreddit, who attempts to give a “scientific” — that is, an Evo Psych — excuse for the abuse:

DavidByron2 18 points 1 day ago* (39|21)  That's a disingenuous way of putting the data.  The violence against children massively increases when a female finds a new mate. Often it is the mother who inflicts the harm, but it's always because of her. You see this in animals an awful lot. It's an adaption because the female of the species needs to attract a mate and the male isn't going to benefit evolutionarily from protecting another male's offspring. That doesn't propagate his genes. So the solution for the new pair is to eliminate the offspring from the old male mate.  Amazingly this sort of pattern of behaviour is exhibited in human beings too, with some research recording a 100 fold increase in violence in these situations compared with normal families.  Human are not animals though, so you have to really wonder about it. At any rate it's not about men being violent. It's an adaption to maximise genetic transfer to the next generation.

In a later comment, Byron explains that he wasn’t really “blaming” the “females” in question, just saying that “the female is causal. She/it makes the decision to get a new mate or not.”

Oh, yeah, that’s much better.

But it’s that last bit, borrowed from Evo Psych, that’s even more remarkable, based as it is on the notion that male violence isn’t really violence if someone somewhere has come up with a genetic explanation for it.

Really? Animals need to survive in order to propagate their genes and “maximize genetic transfer to the next generation,” and they need to eat to survive. But I’m pretty sure that if I went to the middle-eastern restaurant on the corner, punched a customer in the head, and ran off with their Lamb Kabob entrée the cops wouldn’t be very sympathetic to my evolutionary argument. Biology doesn’t excuse bad behavior.

In the part of Byron’s comment I left out of the screencap, he links to summaries of the research of evolutionary psychologists Martin Daly and Margo Wilson, who’ve written a good deal about what’s come to be called the “Cinderella effect,” that is, the fact that child abuse seems to be many times more prevalent in homes with stepparents than in those without.

While empirically this is true — though often overstated, and more complicated than “evil stepfather” theories would have it, given that studies often include other men, including uncles and grandfathers, in the same category as stepfathers — we still don’t actually know why this is. Are human males really just wired like male lions, who kill cubs fathered by other lions when they link up with new mates? Or is it that, say, men inclined to abuse children target vulnerable single mothers in order to get access to their kids?

Or could it be that child abuse and neglect  — which takes many different forms, from emotional abuse to sexual abuse to physical violence — is a complicated and messy subject that can’t be reduced to a single explanation?

I’m guessing the latter, but leave it to the MRAs to jump on an explanation that gives them an excuse to absolve men of responsibility for their actions BECAUSE GENES.

h/t to LieBaron on Reddit.




About David Futrelle

I run the blog We Hunted the Mammoth, which tracks (and mocks) online misogyny. My writing has appeared in a wide variety of places, including Salon,, the Washington Post, the New York Times Book Review and Money magazine. I like cats.

Posted on May 5, 2014, in a woman is always to blame, empathy deficit, entitled babies, evil single moms, evo psych fairy tales, excusing abuse, female beep boop, men who should not ever be with women ever, misogyny, MRA, reddit, sexual abuse, single mothers and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 285 Comments.

  1. I prefer to believe that he’s committing elaborate performance art. Some personification of failure or something.

    I prefer to view all of the trolls here as attempting performance art. Really lousy performance art.

  2. Fair enough, but this man shouldn’t be taken as representative of evo-psych theorists as many people in this thread have seemed to. Evolutionary psychology only seeks to explain human behaviour in biological terms

    It fails. I just tried to read, “Before the Dawn”. A more rampant case of, “my ass is full of facts” I’ve not seen in some time. Apalling levels of Victorian moralising masquerading as science. In the first chapter we have “we must assume” about things which aren’t presumtive, as well as some significant palming of cards and blatant distortions of actual facts, married to intellectual dishonesty to hide a gaping flaw in an argument.

    And this is pretty par for the course.

    Look, be sensible. These behaviours are seen in all societies and throughout all of history. They are simply part of the human condition and they must have evolved to fulfil some biological purposes.

    Just like that pile of blather.

    Lots of people have freckles. Lots have predispositions to cancer, or atherosclerosis. The idea that all behaviors/traits are part of some biological imperative driven by evolution is a fallacy. Evolution has no purpose. It just is. Sometimes what it makes is a useless side-effect. It won’t leave the system unless it’s something which prevents reproduction. Imputing “purpose” is complete nonsense.

  3. “to point out the obvious fact that bad boys are the most virile and reproduce the most because chicks dig them, as shown by all the single mothers who got knocked up and then ran out on?”

    I had a sudden image of George III there – fifteen children he and Queen Charlotte had. He was anything but a ‘bad boy’. No, I have no idea why I thought of him just then.

    Notice how the idiot troll phrases it as if it was the women’s fault – “the single mothers who got knocked up”. Not “the women these ‘bad boys’ got pregnant and then deserted”. The passive phrasing is all about not placing responsibility for pregnancy on the man, at all, ever.

  4. A population of people can be murderous, chaotic and immoral but as long as they reproduce fast enough to replace those that die that population will persist.

    Nope. In a non-agrarian setting such a society is unstable,and will fall apart. The only way to make it persist is to have a structure which forces the victims of the bad actors to stay and take it. In a hunter-gather society there is no such compelling force. Which means all it takes to collapse the group is for the offended to leave. Once enough have left to reduce the people they are ostracising themselves from to bare subsistence (because successful hunting and gathering has forms of surplus, even in such difficult areas as the remaining groups have been marginalised to; in the past when there weren’t as many people/there weren’t urban/agricultural groups preventing free movement there was even more situational surplus in the times of non-migrational living: think the plains indians of the US), there will be collapse.

    And the replacement rate for a hunter-gathering group is slow. That is part of why it took so long for humans to hit the levels of density which probably sparked the shift to agriculture.

    At roughly 2-3 years to reach semi-independent status from parents, another 5-10 years to become moderately productive members of the society (as opposed to a moderate drain) and another 4-5 years to become able to reproduce the rate of replacement is slow. Given that in non-agrarian cultures the interval between children is 3-4 years, it’s a good twenty years to have a stable (as opposed to growing) population. Throw in some infant mortality, accident, disease, etc., there isn’t that much leeway for intra-group conflicts which lead to murder. The social instability which rape creates is also a significant inhibition.

    Inter-group hostility/rape is more common (but still far from “common”) in non-agrarian societies, but that falls outside the scope of, “all men only restrain themselves because of powerful central authorities handing down laws,” which is the core of your argument.

    As to the HG groups you mention, none of them are in “a state of nature”, i.e. all of them have had significant outside contact.

    Even the “best case” of the Highland Interior of New Guinea suffers from a massive artificial constraint: the people there were geographically contained, and fairly close to the carrying capacity of the landscape. And the violence in which they engaged was amazingly stylised; so that only a small portion of the population was at significant risk of being killed.

    In short, the evidence fails to support any of your claims.

  5. “In short, the evidence fails to support any of your claims.”
    I’m shocked, shocked I say, that racist, misogynist dude is full of crap

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