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19 February 2008
New Book Slams Caveman Myth
by George Atkinson

The notion that a man's sexual promiscuity and physical aggression can be traced to his stone-age ancestors is a myth, argues author Martha McCaughey in her new book that dissects what she calls caveman mystique. "For all these things that men are criticized for doing, evolution claims that they are just cavemen inside and that it's something their male ancestors did. We need to get rid of those justifications and get men to take responsibility for their behavior instead of relying on these cultural narratives," she said.

McCaughey's book, The Caveman Mystique: Pop-Darwinism and the Debates Over Sex, Violence, and Science, tackles the notion that we are modern-day people with cave-day brains. "I dispute a lot of that and caution my students and others not to unquestioningly accept what they read about evolution, and to recognize that these are speculative claims without hard scientific evidence."

McCaughey, from Appalachian State University, admits that it's a hard task, as popular writers put their own interpretation on these theories and readers often accept as scientific fact that the differences between men and women are solely rooted in evolutionary heritage. She also finds that her students — both male and female — think male aggression is rooted in evolution and therefore natural.

To truly understand men and their behavior, suggests McCaughey, it's important to understand the emotional, economic, political and sociological changes that have occurred over time, and to also recognize how magazines, commercials, television programs and other forms of popular media often contribute to a skewed understanding of men and male behavior. "Without a critical, historical view of how scientific stories have emerged to answer questions about men's sexual behaviors and feelings, evolution has become the paradigm through which many people understand men," she writes in the book.

She also dismisses the dogma that a man's reluctance to commit to a monogamous relationship is solely based on his ancient ancestors' desires for many partners as a way of ensuring the continuation of his genes. Instead, she theorizes that the nation's changing economy, wage stagnation and other factors contributed to a shift away from men marrying in their early 20s to marrying later in life.

"In the 1950s, men had jobs that allowed them to be successful breadwinners for their family," McCaughey says. "A man in his 20s today can't economically support a wife and children as the sole breadwinner the way many more men in the 1950s could. As a result, men are marrying later in life. This reluctance to commit to marriage is not because of the caveman brain or a man's promiscuity. It's tied to the economic and political changes that have occurred during the past decades."

"Evolutionary psychology paints a picture making us think all men are one way and all women another when there are considerable variations over time," she continues. "The caveman mystique crushes men's potential by defining them as moral and physical drifters." She adds that when men and women better understand the social origins of ideas and the effects those ideas have on society and individuals' feelings and behaviors, they will view masculinity differently and dismiss the caveman stereotype.

Attractiveness: The Evolutionary Aftermath
Monogamy Unnatural in the Natural World
Evolution And The Penis
Will Science Make Men An Endangered Species?
The Penis Preference

Source: Appalachian State University

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