Male Androphilia in the Ancestral Environment

An Ethnological Analysis

Abstract

The kin selection hypothesis posits that male androphilia (male sexual attraction to adult males) evolved because androphilic males invest more in kin, thereby enhancing inclusive fitness. Increased kin-directed altruism has been repeatedly documented among a population of transgendered androphilic males, but never among androphilic males in other cultures who adopt gender identities as men. Thus, the kin selection hypothesis may be viable if male androphilia was expressed in the transgendered form in the ancestral past. Using the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample (SCCS), we examined 46 societies in which male androphilia was expressed in the transgendered form (transgendered societies) and 146 comparison societies (non-transgendered societies). We analyzed SCCS variables pertaining to ancestral sociocultural conditions, access to kin, and societal reactions to homosexuality. Our results show that ancestral sociocultural conditions and bilateral and double descent systems were more common in transgendered than in non-transgendered societies. Across the entire sample, descent systems and residence patterns that would presumably facilitate increased access to kin were associated with the presence of ancestral sociocultural conditions. Among transgendered societies, negative societal attitudes toward homosexuality were unlikely. We conclude that the ancestral human sociocultural environment was likely conducive to the expression of the transgendered form of male androphilia. Descent systems, residence patterns, and societal reactions to homosexuality likely facilitated investments in kin by transgendered males. Given that contemporary transgendered male androphiles appear to exhibit elevated kin-directed altruism, these findings further indicate the viability of the kin selection hypothesis.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Beginning in the 1700s, after the Spanish introduction of the horse, various North American Plains Indian ethnolinguistic groups subsequently became specialists in hunting bison from horseback (Shimkin 1983). This specialization in foraging pattern influenced the group sizes, home ranges, hunting success rates, and travel costs of these groups. Because we are interested in reconstructing the sociocultural environment of ancestral humans prior to the domestication of the horse, we do not consider data from equestrian hunter-gatherers here.

  2. 2.

    It is only during the past 30,000 years that the arctic has been occupied by modern Homo sapiens (Vaughan 1994). Occupation of this biome had concomitant influences on residential group size. Consequently, Marlowe (2005) argues that if we are interested in the period prior to 30,000 years ago, it is reasonable to exclude arctic foragers from analysis pertaining to residential group size.

  3. 3.

    A religion is shamanic when a shaman is the center of most religious practice, a strong belief in animism is present, there are no calendrical rites, and laypersons rely on a shaman as the sole intermediary between themselves and the supernatural (Sanderson and Roberts 2008).

  4. 4.

    In bilateral descent systems, ego’s mother's and father's lineages are equally important for emotional, social, spiritual, and political support, as well as for transfer of property or wealth.

  5. 5.

    Bilocal patterns of postmarital residence are characterized by regular alternation of a married couple’s residence between the household or vicinity of the wife’s kin and of the husband’s kin. Bilocal residence is sometimes referred to as multilocal or duolocal residence.

  6. 6.

    A religion is communal when laypersons are the center of religious practice and calendrical or other collective rites of some sort are present. Although a shaman may be present, there are groups (e.g., kinship groups, age grades, or the whole society) that specialize in acting as a mediator between the people and the supernatural (Sanderson and Roberts 2008).

  7. 7.

    A religion is polytheistic when a hierarchically organized priestly class is present to direct laypersons in ritual practices, and the center of worship is a pantheon of distinct gods (Sanderson and Roberts 2008).

  8. 8.

    A religion is monotheistic when a hierarchical priestly class is present to direct laypersons in ritual practices, but there is a belief in a single, all-powerful god rather than a pantheon of specialized and lesser gods (Sanderson and Roberts 2008).

  9. 9.

    Some sources treat ambilineal and bilateral descent systems as synonymous, but ambilineal descent systems are defined as existing when individuals have the option of choosing one of their lineages for membership.

  10. 10.

    In double descent systems, individuals receive some rights and obligations from the father's side of the family and others from the mother's side.

  11. 11.

    Avunculocal residence involves a man moving to his mother's brother's household, or the newly married couple establishes their home near, or in, the groom's maternal uncle's house.

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Acknowledgments

The authors thank the Editor, Drew Bailey, J. Michael Bailey, Raymond Hames, Martin Lalumière, Sergio Pellis, and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions on a previous version of this paper. This research was supported by the University of Lethbridge, by a Canada Graduate Scholarship (Doctoral Level 3) from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada, a Ralph Steinhauer Award of Distinction, and a Sexual Medicine Society of North America (SMSNA) Fellowship awarded to DPV, as well as a NSERC of Canada Discovery Grant to PLV.

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Correspondence to Doug P. VanderLaan.

Appendix

Appendix

Table 9 Standard Cross-Cultural Sample (SCCS) society numbers and names for the societies included in the present study according to society type

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VanderLaan, D.P., Ren, Z. & Vasey, P.L. Male Androphilia in the Ancestral Environment. Hum Nat 24, 375–401 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12110-013-9182-z

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Keywords

  • Ethnology
  • Standard Cross-Cultural Sample (SCCS)
  • Sexual orientation
  • Human evolution
  • Kin selection
  • Transgenderism