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Hip Hop Evolution Files: Could domestic violence be a cuckold defense tactic

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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My Hip Hop Sexual Selection class has no official text, but research papers by David Buss, Psychology Professor at Univerity of Texas, are quickly making up the majority of the papers we read and discuss in class.  I deliberately expect my students to examine human sexual behavior within the evolutionary context of sexual selection, as a result his papers keep coming up – week after week.

I have to admit, despite my tendency to rail on Evolutionary Pscychology, I do enjoy reading his (lab’s) work.  It is quite thorough – clear testable hypotheses, assumptions put front-and-center, and bold yet not too crazy interpretations of results.  I encourage my students (senior level biology majors) to rethink sexual behavior (their own and that of others around them) in a new, behavior ecology way. For example, we’ve discussed the importance of big breasts, big penises, the significance of male and female climaxes, tricks to attract the opposite sex as well as the desirability of thugs and other bad boys.  His papers have been quite engaging.  With each topic I ask them to consider the evolution and maintenance of each trait or behavior evolutionarily.  What might be driving the selection? What would be the adaptive signficance of the trait? What predictions would you make about such systems?

So when I ran across this headline last week, Domestic violence gets evolutionary explanation, I shared it with them.  Considering how much Buss we’ve been reading, I was curious to know what they thought of applying ‘adaptive value’ to an ugly behavioral trait.

“There are very predictable circumstances in which violence occurs,” says Buss. “For instance, with the threat of sexual infidelity or the threat of relationship termination.”

Buss has previously suggested that jealousy is an adaptation to keep couples together.

Hmmm. Reminds me a lot of this song.

The Rain – Oran “Juice” Jones

I saw you (and him) walking in the rain
You were holding hands
and I’ll never be the same.

Tossing and turning another sleepless night
The rain crashes against my window pane
Jumped into my car didn’t drive too far
That moment I knew I
would never be the same.

Now here you are begging to me
To give our love another try
Girl I love you and I always will
But darling right now I’ve got to say goodbye
‘Cause

(I saw you)
Hey hey baby how ya doin’ come on in here
Got some hot chocolate on the stove waiting for you
Listen first things first let me hang up the coat
Yeah how was your day today
Did you miss me
You did? Yeah? I missed you too
I missed you so much I followed you today
That’s right now close your mouth
‘Cause you cold busted
Now just sit down here, sit down here
I’m so upset with you I don’t know what to do
You know my first impulse was to run up on you
And do a Rambo
I was about to jam you and flat blast both of  you
But I didn’t wanna mess up this thirty-seven hundred dollar lynx coat
So instead I chilled — That’s right chilled
I called up the bank and took out every dime.
Than I cancelled all your credit cards…
I stuck you up for every piece of jewelery I ever bought you!
Don’t go lookin’ in that closet ’cause everything you came here with is
packed up and waiting for you in the guest room. What were you thinking?
You don’t mess with the Juice!
I gave you silk suits, blue diamonds and gucci handbags.
I gave you things you couldn’t even pronounce!
But now I can’t give you nothing but advice.
Cause you’re still young, yeah, you’re young.
And you’re gonna find somebody like me one of these days . . .
Until then, you know what you gotta do?
You gotta get on outta here with that alley-cat-coat-wearing,
punch-bucket-shoe-wearing crumbcake I saw you with.
Cause you dismissed!
That’s right, Silly rabbit, tricks are made for kids, don’t you know
that. You without me is like corn flakes without the milk!
This is my world. You’re just a squirrel trying to get a nut! Now get on
outta here. Scat!
Don’t touch that coat…

This is a straight stalker meets Ike Turner song. I hear abuse and threat of violence all over it.  The video even reinforces his male bravado, entitlement over her – controlling her movements and definitely interfering with her access to another man, and seems to applaud his cruelty to her as justified and appropriate.

Could there be an adaptive value to domestic violence?  My students are often quick to cite ethical or modern rational reasons to avert harmful or foolish behavior of any kind, but still I make them consider.  I remind them – Adaptive Value means traits or behaviors that contribute to Survival and Reproductive Success.  The ultimate goal (in Evolution) is the have as many babies as possible. Enhanced Reproductive Success is what it is all about.

Could such a tactic, as unsavory as it is, be used to ensure mate fidelity? Sure. Fear is a motivater.  At the very least Oran Juice Jones does divest immediately in the female because of her suspicious behavioir – another tactic that maximizes reproductive success for males.  Judging by the lyrics and video he has many resources, and he is not at all interested in sharing them with her or questionably-sired offspring. Yes, his reaction seems to strongly suggest he is intolerant of cuckoldry.

But does plausibility of an explanation make it automatically true? Of course not, but my goal is to get my students to at least think about the evolutionary baggage we (humans) have with us at all times and sex is one complicated subject.

Which brings me to one final thought.  I recognize the craggy and slippery slope when I casually throw in a music diddy to discuss complex evolutionary concepts AND decide to take on very serious topics – physical abuse and domestic violence.

None of this is to make light of either the science or domestic violence and it definitely isn’t about ‘justifying’ socially unacceptive behaviors.  I know many people assume that studies that offer scientific explanations for socially unacceptable behaviors believes that Science is letting perpertrators off of the hook. No, that is not it at all.  It is merely to point out that life is very complicated and nuanced and not everything we discover is beautiful or easy or will land us a Nobel Prize.  In fact, alot of work might earn us the ire of friends, family, the public, and policy makers.

Sometimes science tackles thorny issues, but that doesn’t mean this type of research should be nixed. No, it is still valuable, even if it makes us terribly uncomfortable to share.

DNLee About the Author: DNLee is a biologist and she studies animal behavior, mammalogy, and ecology . She uses social media, informal experiential science experiences, and draws from hip hop culture to share science with general audiences, particularly under-served groups. Follow on Twitter @DNLee5.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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