Human Nature

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 1–32

The evolutionary origins of patriarchy

  • Barbara Smuts

DOI: 10.1007/BF02734133

Cite this article as:
Smuts, B. Human Nature (1995) 6: 1. doi:10.1007/BF02734133


This article argues that feminist analyses of patriarchy should be expanded to address the evolutionary basis of male motivation to control female sexuality. Evidence from other primates of male sexual coercion and female resistance to it indicates that the sexual conflicts of interest that underlie patriarchy predate the emergence of the human species. Humans, however, exhibit more extensive male dominance and male control of female sexuality than is shown by most other primates. Six hypotheses are proposed to explain how, over the course of human evolution, this unusual degree of gender inequality came about. This approach emphasizes behavioral flexibility, cross-cultural variability in the degree of partriarchy, and possibilities for future change.

Key words

Patriarchy Male dominance Sexual coercion Human social evolution 

Copyright information

© Walter de Gruyter, Inc 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barbara Smuts
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MichiganAnn Arbor

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