On the Broader Dangers of Sexual Control - The Politics of Sexual Control

Sex, Power, and Partisanship: How Evolutionary Science Makes Sense of Our Political Divide - Hector A. Garcia 2019

On the Broader Dangers of Sexual Control
The Politics of Sexual Control

One of the most common manifestations of sexual control—limiting access to birth control—is increasingly recognized for the manner in which it fuels instability and violence by creating population surges. One major reason population booms are dangerous is that they increase the ratio of young men to women and older men. Malcolm Potts and Thomas Hayden offer an extensive review of how this ratio has been a robust predictor of greater violence, more frequent raiding, greater political instability, more incidence of genocide, and more warfare across history, cultures, and geography—from the conflict among the Mojave tribes in America to the lead-up to World War II in Germany to the enduring conflicts in the Middle East.65

This observation has also been put to the test empirically. Researchers Christian Mesquida and Neil Wiener of York University in Toronto quantified the magnitude of conflicts across the globe by tallying the number of fatalities they caused. In their study, the ratio of men aged fifteen to twenty-nine predicted one-third of all the variance in the number of total dead.66 Other research has found similar trends in the United States, where homicide rates increase and decrease along with the relative proportion of men aged fifteen to twenty-nine.67 Essentially, flooding a population with young men creates a societal powder keg, for reasons ultimately rooted in male mate competition.

Young men often enter the fields of mate competition with fewer resources to offer women, what behavioral ecologists call “embodied capital.”68 They must compete with older, more established higher-ranking men who control more resources, which women generally prefer in light of the costs of child-rearing. In fact, research finds that when male sex ratios are high, women expect men to spend more money on them in their mating efforts.69 With young men facing these demands and the peril of being shut out of the mating game, violent risk-taking among young males has been an evolutionarily sensible strategy.70 Not desirable, but effective, helping young men in acquiring scarce or monopolized resources, challenging the existing male dominance hierarchy, or raiding the rival clan. Young men in our past who couldn't take risks were more likely to become evolutionary dead ends. Today risk-taking and antisocial behaviors are strongly associated with being young and male across societies worldwide,71 and men at their reproductive peak tend also to be most inclined to violence, a phenomenon known as young male syndrome.72 In short, more balanced age ratios equal more balanced societies.

Most importantly, outlawing or restricting access to abortions or contraception creates population booms, which cause havoc when male baby boomers grow up to become violent sexual competitors. Conversely, across nations when abortions became legalized, crime rates dropped, including in the United States.73 Despite the clear links between population swells and social instability, there are many on the right wing who resist the very notion of population control.

On Conservapedia.com, population control is dubiously pitted against one of the most ancient, fundamental survival imperatives—competition with other species: “Population control means reducing the human population of the earth, in favor of other species or to promote political or ideological goals (see eugenics). Population control is based on pseudoscience and ill-founded economic assumptions.”74

Nonetheless, the danger of population surges is well understood by key sectors on the Right, notably among those with the highest pedigrees in national security. General Michael V. Hayden, former director of the NSA and CIA, identified rapid population growth as among the biggest threats to global security.75 Similarly, as US ambassador to the United Nations, George H. W. Bush wrote of family planning: “Success in the population field, under United Nations leadership, may, in turn, determine whether we can resolve the great questions of peace, prosperity, and individual rights that face the world.”76 As a Republican congressman (before he too became director of the CIA), George H. W. Bush was nicknamed “Rubbers” for his advocacy of family planning but was forced to disavow these ties when he ran on Ronald Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign ticket as the vice presidential nominee.

In 1985, a string of Islamic terrorist hijackings, bombings, kidnappings, and deadly attacks at the Rome and Vienna airports brought back Rubbers's voice. The next year, as head of a task force on combating terrorism, Bush broke ranks and gave the following warning: “Fully 60 percent of the Third World population is under 20 years of age, half are 15 years or less. These population pressures create a volatile mixture of youthful aspirations that when coupled with economic and political frustrations help form a large pool of potential terrorists.”77

It is also worth mentioning that Bush's father, Prescott Bush, was once the treasurer of Planned Parenthood (in 1947), an organization frequently in the crosshairs of US conservatives. This tie is believed to have cost him his first US Senate race in 1950, particularly in the heavily Catholic Connecticut where he ran.78 Family planning is generally considered a signature concern of the Left, and the Left is often portrayed as being naïve about human nature and even soft on security. But Prescott was a Republican, a field artillery captain during World War I, and once wrote a piece in Readers Digest that suggested he well understood the power of primate threat displays: “To Preserve Peace Let's Show the Russians How Strong We Are.”79

George H. W. Bush and Hayden's observations about the dangers of population surges have been strongly corroborated by other US military men; Generals Dwight D. Eisenhower, Al Haig, Colin Powell, and William Draper all voiced the importance of family planning to national security.80 In addition, after 9/11 a commission was set up under George W. Bush to help us grasp the causes of the World Trade Center attacks. The 9/11 Commission Report was unequivocal on the issue of population control: “By the 1990s, high birthrates and declining rates of infant mortality had produced a common problem throughout the Muslim world: a large, steadily increasing population of young men without any reasonable expectation of suitable or steady employment—a sure prescription for social turbulence.”81

The stabilizing power of contraceptives is further evinced by the fact that the most violent societies are those in which women are kept out of the political process to serve as reproductive machines. Excluding women not only allows male reproductive imperatives to maintain a monopoly on the political process but also tends to reinforce male-centric reproduction policies that are more likely to flood the population with volatile young males. The next chapter will explore female reproductive psychology and will examine what happens when women are allowed into the political arena.