We Predators


I wrote here about managing the risks of child sex abuse, and the long-term cost to society of teaching children that men are out to hurt them.

There’s a large amount of naivete that contributes to our society’s dealings with sex abusers. Take this quotes from the WSJ.com article that inspired the “managing” post:

People assume that all men “have the potential for violence and sexual aggressiveness,” says Peter Stearns, a George Mason University professor who studies fear and anxiety.

I won’t say “all men” because nothing is true of all men. But men have the potential for violence and sexual aggressiveness. It’s biologically hardwired.

It’s unfortunate that “predator” has come to have a negative meaning, because men are naturally sexually predatory. Humans didn’t get to the top of the food chain because their males were meek and sexually passive. For most of our history (the first 140,000 years or so, until about 10,000 years ago), the individuals whose genes got passed on were those who fought better and mated more.

Fortunately for society, three things ordinarily restrain our predations: 1) taste — most of us don’t view children as appropriate sexual “prey”; 2) ethics — most of us don’t want to hurt others; and 3) powerful prey — the female of the species is in most ways (other than the purely physical) stronger than the male.

Men who prey on children are different, but their problem is not that they are predators; their problem is that they do not have the same restraints as we do. Here’s part of the abstract of a 1988 article about sexual aggression in our nearest biological relatives, the great apes:

These data suggest that male sexual aggression in our closest biological affiliates commonly occurs when females are rendered vulnerable to the male by the absence of the normal social constraints and spatial prerogatives typical of the natural habitat.

We don’t do anyone any favors by pretending that sexual aggression is not the primal state of man. Denying it serves only to make the state harder to deal with. The man who denies that he is driven by sexual aggressiveness is like the junkie who denies that he is addicted (or the U.S. senator who denies that he is gay). The state still exists, and it’s bound to cause problems — to himself and those near him, individually and societally — until it’s recognized and confronted.


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