O&P website and blog,
are where most of my new writing on M/s appears. The IE website will stay
online indefinitely to host the IE Essays and lili's writings.
Male submission, Evolution and Enslavement
One repeated accusation levelled against the Internal Enslavement website
is that we are in some way opposed to female dominance or male submission.
This is simply false.
In attempting to understand relationships of Enslavement between masters and
female slaves, we have limited the scope of our work, without claiming that
similar relationships do not take place between people of other genders and
Part of the reason for this self-imposed limitation, is that
we suspect that different forces are at work in men and women,
just as we subscribe to the existence of the more "vanilla" gender
differences identified in Evolutionary Psychology and other fields.
Consequently, we limit the size of the field we're trying to understand
at this stage.
This essay is a departure from that policy and is the result of a recent
discussion on the interplay between
genetics and D/s, and outlines some ways in which one candidate theory about
D/s - that
men are genetically predisposed to submission - fails to measure up. Since
the interactions of sex, genetics and power naturally apply differently to
men and women, these arguments start to map how D/s might relate to
Evolution (in this case, by excluding one possibility.) As such, it provides
one part of the wider landscape into which an understanding of
female internal enslavement must eventually fit.
Are men naturally submissive?
(This essay mostly discusses Evolution, which
naturally deals with averages and statistically significant
tendencies. So these trends are observable in populations, even if
some individuals choose to deviate from how most behave.)
The assertion I'd like to discuss goes like this: "Since men want sex,
and can reproduce by getting a woman pregnant even in a casual encounter
with no committment, men are more likely to be submissive, since they will
do anything the woman wants to get sexual access to her.
This leads to submission in men having a genetic basis - that is,
as an adaptive trait which has been selected for."
Human males use two reproductive strategies. First, they try to get
casual access to as many females as they can outside of a relationship
(the "mate once" scenario, or "Extra-Pair Copulations"),
since these are almost "free" (the effort required to
generate a table spoon of semen is negligible.)
However, their second strategy is more common: they form a long term
bond with a female and expend most of their own resources supporting
her and her offspring (in the hope that her offspring are also his.)
They then employ various control tactics to try to prevent other males
getting sexual access to her, and all of these tactics involve
relationship skills (things like love, but also threats of punishing
infidelity, or forming coalitions with family members or other men to
enforce female fidelity [which ultimately leads to institutionalised
marriage, for example.])
If a human male can control his long term sexual partner, he gains by
being able to put resources into supporting her offspring with some
confidence they are also his offspring. If this isn't possible, then
males and females become solitary rather than mated because it's
not in males' interests to offer that support. The fact that humans, unlike
many other species, haven't lost this behaviour, shows that this confidence
has largely been present during the period of human evolution.
As long as a man is sure his partner is faithful, she doesn't need
to control him to get him to support her and her (his) children, since
that is in his reproductive interests too (of course, this is a
statistical statement, and specifics can kill a relationship too: for
example, loss of access to resources themselves ["When the wolf is at
the door, love goes out the window."])
Even more fundamentally, why do females want to engage in
extra-pair sex? (and risk losing their long term partner and his
contribution.) They do this when a "fitter" (in terms of long term
reproductive success) male comes along, that her genes will benefit
from mixing with in her pool of offspring.
(This is a bit like the man who asked his wife, after seeing Indecent
Proposal, "Would YOU sleep with Robert Redford for a million
She replied, "Yes, but they'd have to give me some time to come up
with the money.")
In these encounters, the man is of higher status in the "market"
the women, and he is exchanging his fitter genes in return for access
to her womb (and the resources of the poor sap at home who is
supporting her day in day out.) Consequently, he doesn't need to
submit to her, since he's in something like a seller's market.
And as I've outlined above, men in long term relationships
supporting women and their offspring need to control them (at least
as far as their sexual encounters with other men goes.) If they don't,
their line dies out, since other, higher status men, win out.
(They are documentated cases of pre-industrial societies where 50% of
each generation are offspring of the village chief, one way or
another, so this danger is very real.)
For these reasons, we argue that male submissiveness is not an adaptive
trait which has been selected for (that it "does not have a genetic
basis" and is "not part of human nature".)
Objections to an Evolutionary Psychological approach
This kind of attempt to understand the interplay between
genetics, human nature and behaviour offends some people's sense of
Political Correctness, even when the conclusion is in accordance with the
PC orthodoxy of "nurture not nature":
we're saying that the male submissiveness we see is a product
of culture and environment, not of genetics.
In doing this, we suffer from the same kinds of objections as are levelled
at Evolutionary Psychology in general.
First, that if male submission is not genetic or part of human nature, it is
"Unnatural" and therefore Bad. This is a restatement of the
Naturalistic Fallacy, which claims that which is Natural is Good, and that
which is Unnatural is Bad. A brief look at the statistics of murder in
hunter/gatherer societies (where something like one third of all young men
are killed in fights, disputes or warfare) quickly dispells this myth.
Consequently, we do not for a moment claim that there is anything wrong with
male submission, because (like brain surgery and web design) it's not a
genetic trait that evolution has selected for over hundreds of thousands of
Secondly, that evolutionary arguments are meaningless, because many things
about humans have no genetic basis. This is a more subtle argument, but it
falls down when the predictions of evolutionary arguments are looked at: if
we are able to identify possible features of human nature which have been
selected for or selected against, we can make predictions about
human behaviour in general, and test our claims.
For example, it could be asserted that
"masturbation doesn't lead to
offspring, but people masturbate, so leading to offspring can't
solely determine what behaviours people show. So presence or lack of
male submission in human nature tells us nothing about whether male
The most likely explanation of masturbation is as
a by-product of human (mostly male) sexual drives.
By products themselves don't need their own explanation, since they
are perfectly well explained by something else which is
adaptive (ie promotes reproductive success) and they don't get in the
way of success themselves.
For example, the utility of the umbilical cord provides
a perfectly good explanation of the belly button as a by-product.
This hypothesis predicts that if masturbation is a by-product, sex with
another person must be preferred over it in human nature (as is indeed the
Therefore it's presence, like the belly button's, is
mostly safely hidden from the reproductive fitness of the individual.
(For example, if a man jerks off and then, to his dismay, immediately
gets a chance to have sex with an attractive woman, he's still usually
got another "one in him" for sufficiently exciting situations like
However, as explained above, male submission isn't a neutral by-product
of this sort, because it interferes with both human male reproductive
strategies, and in particular, increases his risk of bringing up
other men's offspring instead of having children with his own genes.
Consequently, these issues are crucially
important to reproductive success. This importance naturally has a
huge effect on how many men exhibit these behaviours.
So one prediction of this conclusion is that
if there was a widespread genetic trait that produced
male submissiveness, we would expect to see that behaviour widespread
in the general human population. We don't. There is not one human society
led by its women, as a class, rather than by its men, as a class.
This is not to say that male submission doesn't exist: it is merely a
statement about how common it is in the wider human population.
We don't believe rubber or fur fetishes have a genetic basis either (other
than people's general ability to build up associations between sex
and random stimuli.) That
doesn't for a moment mean that fetishes don't exist or that they are wrong:
just that a
population that naturally preferred fur to sex would not have survived for
hundreds of thousands of years into the present day.
Last updated 5 April 2004.