Fellow Spearhead contributor Jack Donovan wrote a fantastic article earlier today about how the system known as “patriarchy” actually works better than competing theoretical (or even practical) systems. It’s well worth a read and reflection and comment.
In my own reflections, I posted a long comment there which probably should be a post of its own, both so as not to distract further from reflections and comments on Jack’s article, but also because my own take on the same issue is a bit different and touches on some disparate points of reference. So, without further ado, reposted here, with some formatting changes, is my earlier comment.
Indeed, Jack. There is no historical precedent for a non-patriarchal society thriving in the long-term.
However, this does appear to be a cycle in the course of human history. Oxford anthropologist J.D. Unwin penned a book at the beginning of the 20th century titled “Sex and Culture” which explains this dynamic fairly well. Following a rather exhaustive survey of human cultures around the world, Unwin concluded that societies which restrain female sexuality tend to thrive, but eventually, as a result of their prosperity and success, tend to erode these restraints, due to women demanding this and men acquiescing. In other words, the societies thrive, and this gives rise to demands from women to participate in the success and prosperity, and men generally acquiesce (at least the powerful ones do) at some stage — and that acquiescence pretty much always takes the form of relaxing the strictures of marriage and allowing women to exist “independently” from men — sexually and otherwise. The history here is revealing and, in the broader world, largely unknown. For example, very few people are aware that ancient Babylon, prior to its collapse, instituted civil reforms to family law such as no-fault divorce and child support. Or that Sparta, which is widely known for its military tradition, had liberated women to such a degree that they ran the Spartan economy, and as a result had below replacement rate birth rates, leading to a collapse, eventually, to surrounding patriarchal states. Or that marriage in late Rome had declined so precipitously that the Empire tried to encourage men to marry by instituting a bachelor tax (to no avail, mind you, because men did not *need* to marry due to the relatively freely available sex after women were “liberated”).
The historical record is quite clear: at some point in prosperity and power, it appears that a common trend in civilizations of Europe and the Middle East is that women get, to some degree, “liberated” from having to be married to men in order to have access to the good things of life — in other words, they get liberated from sexual restraint, because one of the main points of marriage has always been to sexually restrain men and women so as to coaxe men into forming lasting pair bonds with women for the benefit of the tribe/civilization. Once the civilization gets sufficiently fat and happy, this seems to be less needed, as the whole thing seems nigh on invulnerable — so the rules are relaxed, women’s sexuality becomes liberated (and, living in the age we do, we know very well what that looks like when it happens), family life breaks down, birth rates drop, sexual immorality becomes rife, and the whole house of cards comes crashing down faster than anyone would have thought when they made the reforms to family law and social mores around sex.
What has happened in the contemporary West in the last century is simply a reprise of this pattern. The West is, by definition, the “fattest and happiest” civilization ever on the planet. The strictures of monogamy, sexual restraint, and marriage seem quaint and unnecessary to the vast majority of people living in the West. And so the laws were reformed (in ways very similar to how they had been in Babylon millennia ago), the social mores on female sexual expression were relaxed, and the West entered a period of utter sexual saturation, loose sexual mores, devalued monogamy, devalued family life, lower birth rates and so on — all following a familiar pattern. The distinctive characteristics of this particular iteration of “female liberation” are technological — abortion, contraception, the rise of non-labor-based work as the staple of the economy –> these changes made the current iteration of female liberation more robust than the earlier ones, more like “cooking with gas” than the earlier ones, and are what has made this version of it change things as fast as it has. And, the West is, in relative terms, much stronger, for the time being, than the rest of the world. This will change as the economies of the West gradually soften (already happening), requiring diversion away from military spending (already being called for), and proliferation equals the playing field in terms of tactical weaponry. Citadel West seems impregnable now, and it very well may be for the time being, but things change fast in the current environment, and the economic decline of the West, in relative terms, seems unavoidable — and this, in turn, will result in a military decline for the simple reason that there will be less money to spend on the military, relatively, than there was in the past. All of this is taking place in the context, of course, of the contemporary version of female liberation: sexually “empowered” women who live lives “independent” of men, if they wish, with the full backing of the state power, increasing numbers of unmotivated, underperforming men who are dragging down the social productivity rate, and a less than replacement birth rate when compared with birth rates of people from cultures that are not exactly embracing the values of the “contemporary West”. It’s impossible to look to the future with a crystal ball and predict what will happen, particularly due to technological advancements which are true game changers, but if the script keeps going in the direction it seems to be going, Unwin’s book may well prove to be a prophetic vision describing the decline of our own civilization in our time.
But more fundamentally, the real deal here is that, as Matt Ridley points out in his book “The Red Queen”, men and women are in competition within our species. Normally this is a kind of collaborative competition, but it is a competition nonetheless. That competition is to get the “leg up” reproductively, on the other — in other words, at the most reductive level, men and women are reproductive resources to each other, and each exploits the other. The pair bond is a way of making this more of a win/win, but there are always incentives to cheat the pair bond to make it a better deal for either partner. However, every now and then, women get the opportunity to get the “leg up” on men, reproductively, by gaining “liberation” from the pair bond itself — exploiting male reproductive resources without having to commit to sexual loyalty in a pair bond. This allows women to access “higher gene” reproductive resources among the men (see: Lysistrata), and is a short term benefit for women as a class. As with any imbalance, however, it is not sustainable in the long-term. In the longer term, men become disincented to pair bond with women, and become relatively debauched (see: Late Rome, Late Babylon) and women tend to have fewer children, even below replacement rate (see: Babylon, Rome, Sparta). So in the long-term there is a correction, as we see in the histories of Babylon, Rome and Sparta — namely, the society cannot sustain itself with one sex having the “leg up” on reproduction due to the demotion of the pair bond from being the most sacred social institution to being an optional lifestyle choice. That can only last for so long — it cannot last in the long term barring technological changes that fundamentally transform our species. But, importantly, it is very much a part of the endless warfare between men and women in our species. Sometimes men have the upper hand and sometimes women do. We live in an age when women have the upper hand, and we are not alone historically in that. However, we also know that the societies that have thrived the longest are the ones where men have had the upper hand by having regimes of enforced monogamy (i.e., restrictions on sexuality, especially female sexuality), while societies that have relaxed these restrictions have eventually declined under their own weight and decadence. So the war of the sexes never really ends, folks, and we are simply living through a reprise of a chapter that has played itself out in the history of other great civilizations — a downward chapter, to be sure, but not a final one.