Sex and violence

by on July 12, 2004 at 7:40 am in Science | Permalink

In the Company of Strangers examines economic institutions in light of what we know of man’s evolutionary history. The division of labor, for example, looks even more amazing when one contrasts it with man’s inclination to violence. If you are familiar with the material in say McMillan’s Reinventing the Bazaar and Pinker’s The Blank Slate much of this book will be familiar but the author, Paul Seabright, does have a knack for the apposite phrase or quotation. I’d never read Shakespeare so literally, for example, as Seabright does in this passage:

Killing an unrelated member of the same sex and species eliminates a sexual rival. This incidentally seems a likely explanation for the disturbing tendency of violence to be associated with a sexual thrill; it is not, regrettably, a pathological response of a sick minority …It is one that has been reinforced down the ages by a tendency on the part of females – far from universal, but sufficient to make a difference – to be drawn sexually to those who have displayed prowess in contests of force, as Shakespeare knew well he made Henry V rally his troops before Agincourt with the cry that:

…gentlemen in England now abed

Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,

And hold their manhoods cheap while any speaks

That fought with us on St. Crispin’s Day.

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