Searching for the “roots” of masculinity in primates and the human evolutionary past

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    16 Scopus citations


    The reconstruction and prioritization of masculinity in human evolution (and thus human nature) is often rooted in reference to other primates and the hominin fossil and archaeological record. And it almost always involves violence. Whether it be the “demonic males” hypothesis, the trope of aggressive alpha maleness and sexual coercion, or gender-biased representations of toolmaking, hunting, and fierce encounters between different populations of the genus Homo in the Pleistocene, a particular pattern of masculinity (maleness)—and violence—permeates most popular discourse and much of the academic discourse. While there are some significant sexual differences and divergent strategies among our closest cousins, and the fossil record does offer important insights into the development and deployment of gender, much of the data do not fit seamlessly with typical assumptions. In fact, much in our contemporary understandings of other primate behavior and the hominins either contradicts or complexifies assumptions and assertions about the origins and “ancestral” patterns of contemporary human masculinity and its associated violence. This paper articulates what we do and do not know about maleness in primates and past humans and offers some possibilities for how such information might assist in elaborating more integrative understandings of the complexities of human masculinities.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)S13-S25
    JournalCurrent Anthropology
    Issue numberS23
    StatePublished - Feb 2021

    All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

    • Archaeology
    • Anthropology
    • Archaeology


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