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Sexual Orientation in Men and Avuncularity in Japan: Implications for the Kin Selection Hypothesis

Abstract

The kin selection hypothesis for male androphilia posits that genes for male androphilia can be maintained in the population if the fitness costs of not reproducing directly are offset by enhancing inclusive fitness. In theory, androphilic males can increase their inclusive fitness by directing altruistic behavior toward kin, which, in turn, allows kin to increase their reproductive success. Previous research conducted in Western countries (U.S., UK) has failed to find any support for this hypothesis. In contrast, research conducted in Samoa has provided repeated support for it. In light of these cross-cultural differences, we hypothesized that the development of elevated avuncular (i.e., altruistic uncle-like) tendencies in androphilic males may be contingent on a relatively collectivistic cultural context. To test this hypothesis, we compared data on the avuncular tendencies and altruistic tendencies toward non-kin children of childless androphilic and gynephilic men in Japan, a culture that is known to be relatively collectivistic. The results of this study furnished no evidence that androphilic Japanese men exhibited elevated avuncular tendencies compared to their gynephilic counterparts. Moreover, there was no evidence that androphilic men’s avuncular tendencies were more optimally designed (i.e., were more dissociated from their altruistic tendencies toward non-kin children) compared to gynephilic men. If an adaptively designed avuncular male androphilic phenotype exists and its development is contingent on a particular social environment, then the research presented here suggests that a collectivistic cultural context is insufficient, in and of itself, for the expression of such a phenotype.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Eiji Enomoto, Deanna Forrester, Chiji Masafumi, Kiyoshige Murata, Ayumi Sawada, Yoshiko Sawada, Hideki Shiraume, Takashi Yanai, Ryoko Yoshikawa, and all of the individuals who agreed to participate in this study. Funding was obtained from the University of Lethbridge and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada.

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Correspondence to Paul L. Vasey.

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A version of this article was presented at the University of Lethbridge Workshop, The Puzzle of Sexual Orientation: What Is It and How Does It Work?, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, June 2010.

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Vasey, P.L., VanderLaan, D.P. Sexual Orientation in Men and Avuncularity in Japan: Implications for the Kin Selection Hypothesis. Arch Sex Behav 41, 209–215 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-011-9763-z

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Keywords

  • Male androphilia
  • Sexual orientation
  • Evolution
  • Kin selection
  • Avuncularity
  • Japan