The connection between aggressive sexuality, hunting, domestic violence, and fighting?
25th March 2011
Humans are animals who have evolved just like every other organism, with selection favoring particular traits over others.”
Maryanski, A 1994
Fifty years ago, ethnologist Konrad Lorenz placed the human aggressive instinct firmly in the context of animal aggression arguing that human beings share a general instinct for aggressive behavior with other animals. (Wilson, 2006, p. 175) In Demonic Males, Professor Richard Wrangham drawing on his own field observations and examples from a number of other sources explored a similar question. He describes how gangs of male chimpanzees hunt, raid and engage in lethal conflict with other males, often over territory, but they have also been found at times to rape females. These kinds of behavior, are not limited to chimpanzees but are exhibited in one form or another by all primates, especially the great apes. Wrangham believes that these behavioral patterns were developed in the common ancestors of chimpanzees and humans, and that they have persisted through five million years of human evolution to the present day, forming the instinctual basis for much of the inter-group aggression, including warfare, that are exhibited in today’s modern societies. (Wrangham, 1996, p61)
Wrangham writes that, a group of chimpanzees setting off to attack a neighboring male exhibit particular behavioral patterns. In contrast to their typical boisterous conduct, they walk silently through the jungle in single file in what primatologists refer to as a “Border Patrol”. Despite his criticism of Wrangham’s ideas Watts reported similar behavioral observations. Watts says that, when following a group of males, they “will switch into what we call patrol mode. They’ll go silent, which is unusual for chimps, and just look and listen. When they hear neighboring chimps, they respond in a pretty predictable way. If there are just a few chimps in the group, for instance, they’ll quietly move back toward the center of their own territory. If it’s a big group, they’ll respond vocally and listen to the responses. If they decide they are evenly matched, that can lead to major aggression. They’ll chase down, surround, and attack rivals. Sometimes they kill them.” (Watts in King, 2007, pp.14-15) The resulting kill is a “Lethal Raid”. Chimpanzees kill males in other groups to gain access to food in their territory and, by eliminating rival males, increase their chances of sexual selection by preventing them from being able to mate with their females. Sometimes the victor “persuades” the females whose males they have killed to join their group.
During the 1970’s Wrangham and Goodall recorded observations on one particular group of chimpanzees that divided into two distinct factions. The members of one group killed every male and some of the females in the other. The victims had until recently been their companions. (Wrangham, 1996 p. 7; Goodall, 2003) From these observations and others, Wrangham went on to develop a theory that would explain human violence based on the aggression he had witnessed. Beginning by pointing out, that humans are hardly a peaceful species, Wrangham constructed a theory that he calls the Demonic Male Hypothesis, arguing that human males and chimps share a tendency to be aggressive with our closest common ancestor. Humans are related more closely to chimpanzees than chimpanzees are to gorillas, which, Wrangham and Peterson claim allows chimpanzees and other ape species that seem to have changed little in 10 or even 15 million years to be viewed as “time machines,” taking us back to the origins of behavior that we now consider uniquely human. (Wrangham, 1996, p.41-43) Silverberg and Gray however disagree, they state, that there is no single pattern of antagonistic behavior among nonhuman primates and that the importance of dominance, violence, reconciliation and so on varies greatly among different species and among different populations of the same species. (Silverberg & Gray, 1992, p. 24) All agree however that at the very least killing a neighbor reduces competition over resources. (Wrangham 1986, p.165)