, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 821-830
Date: 23 Sep 2008

Avuncular Tendencies and the Evolution of Male Androphilia in Samoan Fa’afafine

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Abstract

The kin selection hypothesis for male androphilia holds that genes for male androphilia can be maintained in a population if the fitness costs of not reproducing directly are offset by enhancing indirect fitness. Kin share some proportion of genes identical by virtue of descent. Theoretically speaking, androphilic males can increase their fitness indirectly by allocating altruistic behavior toward kin, which, in turn, allows kin to increase their reproductive success. Research conducted in Independent Samoa has shown that androphilic males (known locally as fa’afafine) report significantly higher avuncular tendencies relative to gynephilic men. Here, we replicate this sexual orientation difference, using a larger, independent sample, suggesting that the documented sexual orientation difference in avuncular tendencies in Independent Samoa is genuine. We also extend previous research by showing that fa’afafine exhibit significantly higher avuncular tendencies even when compared to a more closely matched control group that also lacks direct parental care responsibilities (i.e., gynephilic men with no children). Although the greater avuncular tendencies of fa’afafine relative to gynephilic men are consistent with the predictions of the kin selection hypothesis for male androphilia, further research is needed before deeming male androphilia an adaptation for promoting elevated avuncularity. Likewise, more research is needed before deeming elevated avuncularity in fa’afafine an evolved adaptation for promoting indirect fitness. We discuss these findings in the context of alternative evolutionary explanations for male androphilia (i.e., an evolved by-product of an adaptation).