MALE DISPOSABILITY – What is male disposability? And what keeps it going?

What is male disposability and what is behind it? Short answer: 1) Male disposability is the belief that males are disposable for the good of their families and societies, and for  women, in a way that females are not and 2) it makes a culture more successful in war and at grabbing resources.

Male disposability is a cultural value that says that men and only men should sacrifice thier lives and health and emotional well-being for the good of the family or community, and should be happy doing this, and should be ridiculed, condemned and even jailed if they refuse in some way. Male disposability is part of the male gender role in some but not all cultures, and I have yet to see and adequate explanation for that.

So that’s male disposability. What gives rise to it? Why does it exist and what good if any comes of it?

The standard explanation is the rare egg theory. Girl Writes What describes male disposability as a cultural response to the biological fact that eggs are scarce while sperm are not, that males are disposable because there is an infinite supply of sperm but a finite supply of eggs, which have to be husbanded carefully. There are two problems with this explanation.

First – egg scarcity is a matter of biology, so male disposability should be standard across all cultures, and it’s not. People recognize this in the form of rather unflattering stereotypes. “Hey, want to buy some Italian Army rifles – only been dropped once.” This variation has to be explained, and a biological reality common to all human societies won’t do it.

Second – the egg scarcity explanation relies on the fast that a woman has a finite supply of eggs, but ignores that there is an almost infinite supply of women. The fact is that throughout history men of one group have gone out and killed men of another group, to take their land perhaps or whatever other reason, and the women of that second group have been taken into the first group as secondary wives or some other kind of dependent. Because men are the primary victims of war, war has always meant an over-abundance of women among the survivors. Look at this chart for the population structure in Germany. Note that at the very upper end of the chart, 80 years and older, there is a conspicuous imbalance between the percentages of men and women. That’s the generation that came through WWII. I am sure the same chart for Afghanistan, if it were possible to anything like complete data, would look pretty similar for the male cohort 15-30 years old. So perhaps eggs are not quite so scarce, relative to the population of available men, as we assume they are,

The scarce egg explanation presupposes lifelong monogamy. Lifelong monogamy, for time out of mind, was not really an option even when it was desired – women died young, and all the time, and they had to be replaced, because until very recently, a woman’s labor was irreplaceable unless you had servants. There’s a reason for the Wicked Stepmother trope in folktales – everyone had a stepmother sooner or later.

Of course there were always more women, since daughters either married and moved out or stayed home unmarried for their brothers to support along with their wives, while unmarried brothers either stayed and added their labor to running the farm or moved on down the road for lives as day laborers.

Back to male disposability and how some cultures manifest it so much more than others. What’s going on, why the variety across cultures? Does male disposability have some adaptive value that applies for some cultures and not so much in others? It’s hard to see what benefit it would offer in stable farming cultures, but it has it has obvious adaptive value where the males have to be disposable, as in economies based on long-rage fishing or trade or on raiding and other firms of warfare. And there’s the real engine of male disposability – it is not just adaptive to certain specific challenges certain cultures face, but it is quite advantageous to any culture in conflict with another over resources or territory.

The real payoff with male disposability is success in war – and in the colonialism and imperialism that war enables. Anyone who promotes any aspect of the psychological edifice that is male disposability is enabling warfare, colonial domination and imperialism. Any aspect.

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  • Copyleft

    It’s the mental and social conditioning that amazes me. Whenever make disposability in war is discussed, you inevitably get multiple active-duty or veteran types proudly declaring “Yeah, I’m the best of the best. The whole country depends on ME to keep you safe, and you should thank me for it.”

    Completely missing the point that their disposability has been dressed up as ‘courage’ and ‘nobility,’ they instead BRAG about how they much deadly danger they face and await their applause. The fact that they get my pity instead just angers them.

  • Copyleft

    (oops, that’s “MALE disposability in war.”)

  • Ginkgo

    “Completely missing the point that their disposability has been dressed up as ‘courage’ and ‘nobility,’ they instead BRAG about how they much deadly danger they face and await their applause. The fact that they get my pity instead just angers them.”

    The problem with male disposabiliy is not the disposability part – disposability is a piece of the evolutionary strategy of a social species. It’s part of being a full adult.

    The problem with male disposability is that it’s male. Women are exempt. That’s the problem.

  • Mark

    Are there any cultures where there is no male disposability at all?

    I`m not so sure there is no biological basis for male disposability and I think some of it will remain even if you remove the driving forces that have amplified it previously and you maximize the the potential for gender equality given the biological gender differences I think are there to some degree. I think the tendency for that which is not neotenous to protect that which is neotenous has a fairly strong genetic basis. I do however think it can cross gender in a way it has not done before based on how I have shifted my own perceptions lately.

    Over time I have reduced certain tendencies in myself towards male disposability which I think have been taught to me culturally. For example the willingness to go to extreme risks just to protect a woman/ save a woman regardless of circumstance, be the hero in the fairy tale/movie really. Or to see a man as having to take physical and verbal beatings just because of being a man and a related overprotectiveness of women. However, once I have stripped away a lot of that I still maintain some of the same patterns in a far less extreme form that varies a lot with with the degree of neoteny and femininity in the woman/man in question. I have also found shifts in this lately as my testosterone levels have increased. I have lift weights for a long time rather inconsistently and have experienced clear testosterone surges after a session and progressive increases over time when I have been consistent but lately I have been training much more frequently and entirely consistently. This has lead to very noticeable and large increases in testosterone for the last weeks. As I have noticed these shifts I have noticed clear differences in how I relate to emotions, emotional disturbances, hostility from others, risk and the desire for women and especially the desire for feminine women and most importantly the desire to protect that which seems feminine and vulnerable/neotenous. This is an amplification of how I felt before.

    What I have observed is that I look at women and I see if they seem like the very open vulnerable type that take in the feedback they receive from other people where strongly and directly, if they feel very strongly and seem to be captured and swayed very strongly by what they feel. If I observe that to be very strong in a woman I feel a strong desire to shield her from that in various ways. So, I would talk less harshly towards her if I was angry at her because I would be afraid it would pain her more, scare her, even make her cry if I was really harsh. In short I am gentler with her. If I perceive her as more stoic/masculine/more hard, I don`t have the same tendency. If she is blunt like a man, talks aggressively and does not display the same emotional range and depth of taking in bad feelings I don`t feel as much need of being gentle and will be “harder” with her in every way. That means everything from displaying stronger anger if I am angry at her, speaking more bluntly about everything we are discussing and there is a presumption in me that she is more able to “take care of her self”/less need for protection in all senses. I don`t dislike such women but enjoy the more guy like way of interacting and basically treat her more like one of the guys as opposed to more obvious feminine women which I treat a lot more in the way men conventionally have treated women. I also find that this all flows nicely. The “harder” women enjoy me being more direct, more blunt and me not interfering with their independence sort of while the more feminine women on the other hand seem to light up more when I am gentle with them and with displays of chivalry and seem more drawn to hints of protectiveness. Previously I had the same tendencies to adapt to the woman at hand but I was less flexible and treated them more based on belonging to the box woman and man with less emphasis on adapting to the personality at hand.

    With men its been a bit different. I´ve noticed that the rougher he seems the less need I feel to be careful of his feelings and this also seem to work. With more feminine/emotional men I`ve had to tendencies. One is a certain inclination towards pushing them a little to make them man up a bit if they seem too soft. The other is a desire to let them be what they are an shield them a bit in the same way I shield more feminine women. I´ve noticed the tendency to want to push them a bit to toughen up a bit comes from a thought that says “man you NEED to toughen up a bit in order for you to handle what you need to handle”. In this case since I don`t perceive men to need to go to war or be physically tough or assert themselves very much amongst other men in the very rich non violent gentle society I live in where success can be obtained by other means I notice that might inclination to make them toughen up a bit comes solely from my perception comes from wether I perceive them as being able to attract and handle women or not. If I perceive that the way he is emotionally reactive/soft is to a degree AND in a way that I feel certain will be a turn off for women and make relationships hard for him THAT is what makes me want to toughen him up a bit. If I perceive him as feminine and visibly emotional but in a way that still contains an element of sufficient strength/game/frame control then I don`t have the same reaction. My baseline reaction is to leave them as they are and apreacate them as they are for their way of being which I can enjoy a lot just as men that are more masculine but in a different way. I notice in the same manner that I am more gentle with more sensitive women I am somewhat more gentle with more sensitive men but not anywhere near to the same degree as I simple perceive them as not needing or desiring it to the same degree.

    Now if war or some sort of group fighting was involved my natural instinct would be to get involved if I felt it was important for the group/the right thing to do. I feel a strong pull towards that and enjoy martial arts a lot. Who would I want at my side? Just like in the Jack Donovan quotes in the article I linked I would want people who had or where able to handle the classical masculine virtuous he mentions. I want people that I think can handle it and have my back. I perceive quite a lot of men as having that already and I see a lot of potential for developing it most men if it was required yet there are some men I perceive as having so little potential for it that I would not want them at my side. If I take away the idea that men all need to man up and take care of war I feel naturally inclined not to push them. There are only a small handful of women I would want at my side and very few I feel have the raw material to develop the right virtuous. And while war is horrible for most men there is certainly a part of many men that can simulatiously enjoy it on a certain level if they feel it as a fair fight and to at least handle it. I think I could. I see far less of that in most women yet I see it in some. I think it simply has to do with genetic masculinity and how enhanced that has been. A very feminine woman would feel overwhelmed and have very little “warrior energy” to mobilize in order to plow through, keep things at a mental distance sort of and enjoy the battle from a certain perspective despite the horrors of it. My instinct would be to spare those who would suffer the most and that includes most women and a few men.

    So, in short what I think will happen based on how my perception shifts is that what is achievable and also probably to a certain degree fair is for things to organize more according to degree of masculinity/hardness. I think instinctually that will lead to people being treated more like they feel like being treated and need to be treated. That leaves some male disposability. Especially with regards to war but it is not strictly about males anymore but about masculinity. When it comes to war I see that just because some are more mentally resilient for the task does not make sacrificing their lives fair, the key part is death or not. However, I think there would be a strong inclination for people to want to self organize like that. There would both be an inclination for those who can handle it best to want to spare those who can not and a desire to not have to be burdened by fighting next to people that can not handle it.

    The one thing I am most uncertain of is how the least masculine men will fare in the dating market. There is some degree of reverse polarity between masculine women and feminine men. They seem to be socially drawn to each other as they fit well together in a certain way socially and I think they have genetic attraction towards each other because they have opposite immune systems and compatible genes in general but but they still tend to struggle with sexual attraction since the women perceive themselves as dominating the men and loose respect. I`m not sure that can be changed.

  • Schala

    My instinct would be to spare those who would suffer the most and that includes most women and a few men.

    I think this is entirely cultural.

    In a culture where women were encouraged to go to war/fight you wouldn’t see this 80/20 and 20/80 “fighting capacity” distinction. You would probably see a 60/40 40/60 or even 55/45 45/55 ratio. If there is even a disparity.

    And everyone, yes, everyone, can get that adrenaline rush as you’re saving your life. Some like it, some endure it, and some have been traumatized by it. And believe it or not, their genitals had nothing to do with the reaction they had.

    There are only a small handful of women I would want at my side and very few I feel have the raw material to develop the right virtuous.

    Well yea, in a culture where frailty, victimhood, asking for help, not having any visible muscle mass and damseling are all “a boost” to perceived feminity, while having very little immediate drawbacks (can always ask a man to do shit for you, it only bites your ass when there is no man), it’s totally normal to see this.

    Feminism would say it’s the evil men forcing men into feebleness, but it’s only the path of least resistance to people who are coddled, protected and allowed to get away with getting away from responsibility.

    Your cat COULD hunt for its subsistance, but it’s got a dumbass spending money on food and various comforts. Why would they go hunt? Food’s there. SOME cats will hunt regardless (maybe they think it’s fun), but the path of least resistance will be to not care one bit about it and eat those bonbons.

  • Schala

    ” evil men forcing men into feebleness,” forcing women, sorry, typo

  • teh Bastard formerly known as SWAB

    hey Ginko,

    you might find this interesting…

    http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/04/mcchrystal-writes-about-career-on-linkedin.html

    note how unlike an MRA or Feminist, he doesn’t welcome victimhood…

    but, yeah, isn’t he involved somehow in Tillman’s fragging cover up???

    probably not a hero…

  • Ginkgo

    “probably not a hero…”

    Effectiveness is the standard he’s judged by, and that’s why he was replaced – he let his subordinates and their banter make him ineffective with a public who couldn’t ever understand any of it. The perils of military service in a democracy – far better than the alternatives.

  • http://dannyscorneroftheuniverse.blogspot.com Danny

    It’s the mental and social conditioning that amazes me. Whenever make disposability in war is discussed, you inevitably get multiple active-duty or veteran types proudly declaring “Yeah, I’m the best of the best. The whole country depends on ME to keep you safe, and you should thank me for it.”

    Completely missing the point that their disposability has been dressed up as ‘courage’ and ‘nobility,’ they instead BRAG about how they much deadly danger they face and await their applause. The fact that they get my pity instead just angers them.
    This is no different than black people who believe that “thug culture” (commit crime, embrace violence, refuse to be productive for the community, wallowing in ignorance, etc…) is a thing that should be engaged in as a way to verify one’s blackness.

    For the longest time various groups have been led to believe that such actions are a good thing despite the damage it does to them.

  • Ginkgo

    ” is a thing that should be engaged in as a way to verify one’s blackness.”

    Internalized racism, internalized misogyny, internalized misandry. This is how black people can be racist – not racist against white people but against black people. We are all in the system. In the end it doesn’t matter if it is insitutional or coio-cultural, if you are on the reociveng and then the giving end of it.

  • http://thedamnedoldeman.com TDOM

    @Ginkgo

    I usually tend to agree with your opinions, rarely taking exception. But this is one of those times. Your criticism of the scarce egg theory actually seems more like its justification. The scarce egg theory is based more on limited reproductivity than scarcity. A woman is more valuable and less disposable than a man because she can reproduce only about once a year while a man can reproduce daily (or even more). Therefore it takes more women to sustain a society than it does men. However, male/female birthrates are almost 1 to 1 meaning that there is an almost equal amount of each and therefore men become expendable because a single man can impregnate multiple women but a woman can only be impregnated by a single man (in any given year). Therefore a society can sacrifice a high percentage of tis men, but not its women if it is to survive and thrive. Your first criticism that it is not biological because it does not occur across all cultures doesn’t fit. It may not be instinctual, but the biological limit to the number of offspring that each woman can produce makes male disposability (or at least female preservability) a function of biology.

    As an example, take a village of 100 men and 100 women. It falls under attack and sends 100 of its members to defend it. Half are killed. If all 100 of the defenders are men, 50 will return and the village will now contain 100 women and 50 men. If these 50 men impregnate all 100 women, 100 babies will be born over the course of the next year. If however, half of the defenders are women and half of those are casualties, the village will now contain 75 women and 75 men and only 75 babies will be born if all women are impregnated upon return. Thus by risking only its men and preserving its women a village can recover more efficiently.

    As to your second criticism, one of the reasons the men of the victorious group have frequently taken the women of the defeated group is because of the limited reproductivity of women. Being victorious doesn’t mean they didn’t suffer losses and the incorporation of the defeated village’s women into their own society means that these losses can be more efficiently replaced. There is no presupposition of lifelong monogamy for either men or women. Either could (in theory) have multiple partners. The only presupposition is that the women are necessary for reproduction. The fact that women died young (mostly due to childbirth) and had to be replaced, made them even more valuable (and by contrast, this made men even more disposable in order to preserve the women). The fact that different cultures respond to this in different ways can be explained by the different sets of environmental circumstances experienced by each culture. All of human behavior can be explained by the interaction between biology and environment. Male disposability is no different.

    Success in war is perhaps the most obvious example, but by no means is it the explanation. The Mosuo people of China have created what may be the most matriarchal of all societies currently in existence. They are also considered a very peaceful people. Yet male disposability is readily apparent in this culture. Men are more or less the property of their family matriarch. Formal marriage does not exist, neither does fatherhood. Men are forbidden from owning property and earnings become the property of the matriarch. Yet the men are the ones expected to defend the village and take the risk of interacting with the outside world (by taking goods to market) while the women remain safely in their villages. Men also are expected to take the risks associated with that society’s dirty work (raising livestock, ploughing fields, harvesting crops, erecting buildings, etc.). Thus male disposability has little to do with success in battle and certainly nothing to do with domination or imperialism in the Mosuo culture.

    I would state that your definition of male disposability is in line with its function, but I do not agree with your conclusion that war is what keeps it going. I would define male disposability as a cultural reaction to the biological limitations placed on female reproduction as manifested by the relative value of men to women in sustaining any given society. Further, that women are always seen as more valuable than men because of their limited reproductivity in comparison to men. Success in war is the most obvious example of male disposability, but not what sustains it. It is sustained by the higher reproductive value of women in conjunction with the male’s ability to defend and/or acquire necessary resources (including women).

  • Ginkgo

    TDOM,

    ” A woman is more valuable and less disposable than a man because she can reproduce only about once a year while a man can reproduce daily (or even more). Therefore it takes more women to sustain a society than it does men. However, male/female birthrates are almost 1 to 1 meaning that there is an almost equal amount of each and therefore men become expendable because a single man can impregnate multiple women but a woman can only be impregnated by a single man (in any given year).”

    You are missing a crucila piece of this.

    You point out that individual women are more valuable than individiaul men. Leaving aside the fact that successful reporduction takes a lot more than getting a rare egg fertilized, and almost all of that requires a designated male to make it happen, the part you are missing is that this is not a one-to-one comparison. This is not a state of peace where there is one woman for every man, or where the population of men is stable.

    This is the normal state of afairs, where the relative gender composition, men to women, of society is not determined by the birthrate of boys but by the deathrate of men, and there is no certainty that all of the boys who do survive will actually marry and reproduce. Whether a man repordcues depends on his group membership, and weak groups will reporduce les than strong ones regardless of their actual numbers, as the strong crowd the weak away from resources.

    Your objection rests on the presumption of a stable, basically egalitarian society. that kind of society is a fragile construct that we have attained only after centuries of concerted effort, long may it suvive.

  • Rebecca

    Pregnancy and childbirth is an intrinsically risky activity for human females – it’s still the leading cause of death for young adult women in less developed parts of the world. (You almost hit on this in your point about monogamy). Perhaps male disposability is is an adaptation – cultural or biological – that helps keep the male/female ratio somewhat in balance during childbearing years.

  • Ginkgo

    Welcome, Rebecca.

    “Pregnancy and childbirth is an intrinsically risky activity for human females – it’s still the leading cause of death for young adult women in less developed parts of the world”

    And even here it can be risky. I hope my reference to that didn’t come across as a handwave because I didn’t mean it to be. What I was referring to amounted to a form of female disposability (Yes, female diposability is a thing.) and society just had to accomodate it.

    “Perhaps male disposability is is an adaptation – cultural or biological – that helps keep the male/female ratio somewhat in balance during childbearing years.”

    It has that effect; in fact it overshoots that objective often.

  • H. E. Pennpypacker

    On the subject of a biological basis for male displosability I think its worth noting that whenever you make an argument about why people do things based on how many babies an imaginary society could have in an imaginary situation you’re on incredibly shaky ground. It’s just such a leap to go from this to what actual people actually do. Many of the worlds most dominant societies have far lower birthrates than they could theoretically achieve with a population that had twice as many men as women.

    I would argue there probably is a biological basis but it would be more to do with the fact that men are in general far more capable of inflicting violence. If you want people to inflict violence on others you also have to teach them to consider themselves as potential targets of violence. This reaches its purest form in the veneration of male death in pursuit of a particular cause – I’m thinking here of certain extreme forms of religion and with the upperclass culture of Victorian Britain. If you want men to go and commit violence in the name of something, the best way to get them to do it is to convince them that dying for this thing – not winning but DYING – is probably the best way to go about it.

  • http://thedamnedoldeman.com TDOM

    I wish I could have been more timely in this reply but I have been very busy during the week.and haven’t had time.

    @Ginkgo

    In my example I contrast the egalatarian society with a male-disposable society to illustrate that fewer men than women are necessary for a society to recover its lost population after a catastrophy (war in this example). Because of this, men are more expendable than women. The theory does not depend upon a stable society. Your example of the stronger man crowding the weaker away from scarce resources (thereby preventing the weaker from reproducing) is merely another method of illustrating this point. A higher percentage of women than men will reproduce either because the weaker (lower class) men won’t be chosen or because many men will be sent to die before they can. Rebecca hits on a good point, however. Many women will die in childbirth and as a result won’t reproduce. This is somewhat of a counter-balance that keeps the relative populations of men and women equal.

    A while back I was in a discussion (I think it was on this site) about the biological basis for sex roles. It is primarily about the differences between male and female capacity for rerproduction. The female sex role developed around her value to society (reproduction). The male role developed around his value to society (production). Due to the influence of the industrial revolution (technology) these relative values have changed for modern society. Overpopulation combines with reduced risk of death from childbirth to devalue the female sex role (giving rise to feminism and greater egalatarianism). This has also devalued the individual male (making him even less necessary than before) because the individual woman now has the ability to support herself. However, due to the increased dependency of women (as a group) on governmental support, the male remains necessary (as a group) to provide the governmental support (taxes). The shift to collectivism has devalued the individual of both sexes, but maintained the relative higher value of the female over the male collectively. this is why in the distribution of governmental resources those that are distributed to men tend to lead to their distruction (military) and those that are distributed to women lead to their benefit (welfare). Because the individual has little value (in today’s society), society can be more egalatarian (individually), but collectively it must maintain male disposability.

    @HEP

    The imaginary society was merely an illustration of the argument, not the basis for it. I like to keep my iluustrations simple so it seemed like making up an example would best do that. Accou nting for too many complicating factors would just get confusing (and lengthy).

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  • Theodmann

    I think it was Patton who said the goal of war was not to die for one’s cause, but rather to make the other guy die for his.

    So I like H.E.P.’s account better. Society needs men to inflict violence on its behalf, and inflicting violence makes one the object of violence. Men must thus be somewhat disposable in order to play that role. Women aren’t very good at inflicting violence, since their physiology has to direct so many resources towards reproduction. And since reproduction is also very important for society, it’s been better historically to have them concentrate on what their bodies are good at.

    Women are less disposable because they’re generally not that good at the activities that require disposability of that (violent) sort anyway. They’re much better at making babies, which, as has been pointed out, has historically been quite dangerous as well. Nobody ever shielded women from the dangers of childbirth by telling them not to have babies. In that role women were always as disposable as men were in theirs.

    Notice that modern medicine has concentrated on making childbirth safe to the near-exclusion of men’s health issues, but modern warfare is also geared toward reducing the risk to soldiers. The emphasis on drones, smart bombs and whatnot shows that we would really rather that our men not die while killing the enemy. The difference is that medical science helps pretty much everybody (everybody who can afford it, that is), but only a very tiny fraction of the population is in the military, so money spent there helps most people only indirectly, whether by intimidating potential enemies or through secondary uses for military technology.

  • gwallan

    “The emphasis on drones, smart bombs and whatnot shows that we would really rather that our men not die while killing the enemy. ”

    The boys and men among the “enemy” de jour are still quite disposable however. That means any boy big enough to hold a gun.

  • Ginkgo

    TDOM,

    “Because of this, men are more expendable than women. The theory does not depend upon a stable society. Your example of the stronger man crowding the weaker away from scarce resources (thereby preventing the weaker from reproducing) is merely another method of illustrating this point. A higher percentage of women than men will reproduce either because the weaker (lower class) men won’t be chosen or because many men will be sent to die before they can.”

    The point is that any individual woman is more disposable than a man who is a member of the lineage that woman is attached to as a spouse (until one of her sons becomes powerful in that lineage.)

    You are right about more women than men reproducing. There is clear genetic evidence for this.

  • dungone

    Nobody ever shielded women from the dangers of childbirth by telling them not to have babies. In that role women were always as disposable as men were in theirs.

    They most certainly did. Numerous cultures have developed numerous strategies to prevent women from getting pregnant by undesirable men. Whether they’re sanctions against men or the women themselves (i.e. FGM), there’s plenty of it to go around. The American colonies used to forbid single men from living outside of “family rule,” that is, at home with their parents or boarding with another family. And likewise, the colonies used to specifically target single men for military conscription in order to deter bachelorhood. All the while, these men had to meet certain financial obligations to become “eligible bachelors,” that is, worthy of even being considered for marriage.

    Then take the European Marriage Pattern and the Hanjal Line, which very clearly demonstrates that Western European cultures were literally telling their women not to have too many babies. Women in this part of the world would typically wait a decade or more after menarche before getting pregnant. They (and their future husbands) would work as servants or farm hands until both of them put together had saved up enough money to live in their own home, get married, and have kids. The EMP itself was an important reason why the industrial revolution took place in Europe and not elsewhere – Europe had a huge pool of single, child-free factory workers.

  • Theodmann

    dungone,

    Numerous cultures have developed numerous strategies to prevent women from getting pregnant by undesirable men.

    Undesirable men, yes. They weren’t prevented from having babies at all, though, in the way they were prevented from going to war. Society wanted them to get married (and stay married) and have babies, otherwise it wouldn’t have put so much effort into making sure the men would be good husbands. All the things you mention seem to be set up to protect women from unworthy men rather than from the dangers of childbirth.

    Even the European Marriage Pattern (which I’d never heard of before; not my area of expertise) seems more a tendency to delay marriage and parenthood until circumstances (finances) were right rather than a clear “don’t have children, women; you could die” message. The concern seems to have been more to avoid poverty than childbirth.

    Although I wonder if the cultural divide had anything to do with the East-West Schism in Christianity. I’ve just been reading a book about the Christian view of sex, and whereas the Western (Catholic) Church looked on sex as something vaguely shameful even within marriage, the Eastern (Orthodox) Church saw it as a very good thing, within marriage of course. Orthodox priests even today may be married and have children, although they have to be married already when they’re ordained. A priest may not (re)marry. So I’d expect Orthodox Christians to feel better about having sex with their spouses and thus probably have more, and accordingly have more babies. I only mention it because it’s on my mind and the Hajnal line coincides approximately with the Great Schism. I expect there’s much more to it than this.

  • dungone

    Theodman, but why should women be discouraged from having children at all? This is first of all something natural that women actually want to do for themselves. It’s not like the Queen decided to conscript girls into birthing wards and impregnate them against their will. The fact is that various societies cared deeply about birth control and family planning, which not only prolonged women’s lives but made them more comfortable throughout. They may not have had the medicine to prevent complications due to childbirth, but they did go out of their way to ensure that women wouldn’t have to fend for themselves after the fact.

  • Ginkgo

    Theodmann,
    “Although I wonder if the cultural divide had anything to do with the East-West Schism in Christianity. I’ve just been reading a book about the Christian view of sex, and whereas the Western (Catholic) Church looked on sex as something vaguely shameful even within marriage, the Eastern (Orthodox) Church saw it as a very good thing, within marriage of course. ”

    This is an interesting observation. Western Christianity is far more Augustinian, for more build around the doctrine of original sin, and far more likely to view sex as the expression of original sin. Augustine was an out-of-control Scorpio for the first part of his life, and while they say Scorpio rules the genitals, the reverse is much more often the case, and when Scorpio decides to turn the tables on his genitals, he does it with the usual Scorpio totalizing obsessiveness. So there’s that. This is about personality types, BTW, not astrology.

  • Theodmann

    dungone,
    No, women weren’t conscripted and forced to have babies, but as I understand it there was great social pressure to get married; there’s a reason “spinster” is an insult. But I think I’ve drifted from my original point, which was that there was some symmetry between the obligations of men and of women. Men were forced to fight, but there’s always been a big push to have the best equipment and weapons so “we” can kill “them” before “they” kill “us”. Women were expected and pressured to have babies at some point in their lives, but medical science has always pushed to make that as safe as possible. A man might well die in war, but we’ll try to make it so he doesn’t. A woman might well die in childbirth, but we’ll try to make it so she doesn’t. It’s a kind of symmetry, albeit one that’s well out of date by now.

    Gingko,
    The book I mentioned (One Flesh by Lawrence Farley) is written from the Orthodox perspective, so it doesn’t endorse St. Augustine’s views, but it does say he refers to sex as a mild sin.

    Augustine defines the sinfulness of married concupiscence mildly, calling it only “venial sin,” something dealt with by the normal daily repentance involved in asking for forgiveness of our trespasses in the Lord’s Prayer, or by giving alms. It was reason to blush, not to feel guilty.

    Apparently the general feeling in those days (in his part of the Christian world at least) was that sex was fatally sinful, that marriage had no place in a proper Christian’s life–they thought everyone should be celibate monastics. He was trying to say something like “Yeah, sex isn’t good exactly, but within marriage it’s not that bad either, because it can lead to babies (and everybody loves babies) and defend against even worse stuff like fornication and adultery.” So he was apparently a fairly moderate voice in his time and place. But his position that children are the only good thing that could ever come from sex leads to the Catholic stance against contraception, which Orthodoxy (at this point perhaps predictably) doesn’t share.

  • dungone

    Theodmann, it’s an incredible stretch to compare conscription of single men, plus all other forms of male disposability, versus the encouragement of women to wait for and attain a sustainable marriage before having babies. Let’s not confuse rich versus poor, either. Rich women were pressured to have children to ensure lineages, that’s true. But poor women weren’t. Poor women had more children per woman than even the rich, though, because child mortality was very high among the poor. If you’re looking for a cultural reason why poor women died at childbirth, I don’t think it’s there. If you’re looking for a cultural reason why poor men were disposable, that certainly was there to some extent.

    Now, if we’re talking about the state monopoly on the use of force, that is something that actually saved men’s lives versus the alternative. Medicine, also, was developed to save lives on the battlefield. Hippocrates himself said, “war is the only proper school for surgeons.” And that hasn’t changed since. Technology, as well, was advanced to save men’s lives on and off the battlefield. I’ve always said that technology is to men what charity is to women. All in all, the underlying trend of civilization is that men become less disposable as societies grow richer, and this in turn helps societies grow richer still. I would argue that male disposability, then, is actually not in our evolutionary best interest as humans.

    The irony of it is, though, that even though men have become increasingly less disposable over the centuries, our cultural values have actually gone against the grain, holding men in very low esteem and young single men in even lower esteem.

    Re: Hanjal Line. Yes, it coincided with religious divides. But it also coincided with economic divides. In the east you had a lot of serfs who couldn’t own land and weren’t permitted to travel, in the west you had people who were allowed to resettle and had a chance to own their own home if they saved money for it.

  • Ginkgo

    “No, women weren’t conscripted and forced to have babies, but as I understand it there was great social pressure to get married; there’s a reason “spinster” is an insult. ”

    It was more a matter of economic than social pressure. A man without land, even rented land, was reduced to being a day laborer. A women who didn’t have a household was reduced to being a servant in someone else’s household, if she could even get that work, or to being a permanent dependent in some brother’s house in line behind the kids and under the thumb of a sister-in-law. No wonder so many women men with such slim prospects – it was better than any of the alternatives.

    “Apparently the general feeling in those days (in his part of the Christian world at least) was that sex was fatally sinful, that marriage had no place in a proper Christian’s life–they thought everyone should be celibate monastics.”

    In the West there are saints whose claim to sainthood was that they were asexual (“virgin”) spouses. That was considered a spiritual excellence.

    Consider also that in the western church for the first thousand years weddings were conducted just outside the front door, because marriage was considered inferior to monastic life and had no real place in the church.

    “He was trying to say something like “Yeah, sex isn’t good exactly, but within marriage it’s not that bad either, because it can lead to babies (and everybody loves babies) and defend against even worse stuff like fornication and adultery.”

    That sounds more like Paul although I cannot bring the exact text to mind to cite.

    Paul; also was involved in the anti-marriage movement. He was associated with a Saint Thecla, one of many female saints who became saints specifically because they refused marriage.

    “Medicine, also, was developed to save lives on the battlefield. Hippocrates himself said, “war is the only proper school for surgeons.” And that hasn’t changed since.”

    I bet if you listed all the medical advances of the last 1,000 years a huge proportion would be related to military medicine. That’s where a lot of hygiene and food safety stuff developed, for instance. Improvements in childbirth would be the main exception. Ah – developments in reaction to epidemics – well, those are the functional equivalent of war. Crisis is what drives progress.

    Hey dungone, for whatever reason I cannot get into my genderratic email account; can you email me at blueoak(@gmail.com? Maybe even forward your earlier email?

  • dungone

    @Gingko, are you sure that’s the right email? I took out the ( and I think it emailed the wrong guy.

  • Ginkgo

    Fuck. That is the wrong email.

    Here’s the correct one: blueoak9@gmail.com

    Fat-fingered the Shift key. sorry to be wasting your time this way.

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