Guilty men and innocent women

For several weeks now we have had news stories about men making unwanted approaches to women. And of course we condemn them, particularly when the male is in a senior position and can influence the fortunes of others. Interestingly, it seems to me, allegations of sexual misbehaviour do not require the same levels of evidence needed for other allegations. While we outwardly maintain the principle that someone is innocent until proved guilty, inwardly we suspect that the allegation is true. I wonder if that tendency comes from our awareness of our own hidden sexual vulnerabilities.

Let’s dig a little deeper. Watch any television programme of the life of an animal species. It invariably shows that all the events tend to support reproduction. That’s no surprise because evolution, and therefore the survival of a species, is the major factor in the life cycle. Is it so for human beings?

We are far more complex, and much of the human purpose is concerned with other, and more edifying, values. Yet reproduction and its surrounding circumstances, which we may pretend to hide under the table, still play a huge part. If it didn’t, the human race would have died out millennia ago.

Let’s look at evolution’s plan. It is not hard to identify. First it provides the male as a necessary trigger. This requires an ability to recognise women who have at least an average capacity for child bearing. So features such as good breasts, ideal hip to waist proportions and symmetry attract. Ideally he should subconsciously recognise the signals, such as dilation of the pupils, from a woman who is going through her monthly stage of fertility. He is not required to note any of these consciously, it is enough to be attracted unconsciously. As far as evolution is concerned, the wider he spreads his seed the better.

The woman is complementary. Evolution requires a healthy looking man to impregnate her, and its main task is to find one who will be able to provide for her and her children at least for several years. She looks for capability and potential stability. And she wants to see in him the characteristics which will enable her children to have successful lives. In terms of sexual competition she is offhand or even brusque to men who do not match up. Her negative or positive attitude to partners is more marked at ovulation. And she is skilled enough to give the interrogatively glad eye to qualifying suitors without compromising her external modesty.

I am aware that these male and female characteristics read cynically. While they are necessarily general they are all supported by good evidence. Evolution itself does not have emotions or any moral sense. By its own internal dynamic it necessarily favours the characteristics required to ensure adequate reproduction. And it has another quirk. Because long term relationships are the best background for the success of the young, the desires which are triggered for mating easily expand to broader activities which support the relationship. And here cultural change plays its part.

Until very recently, sexual activity involved the danger of unintended conception, and so the mores of society harshly condemned mistakes. Modern control of conception has largely separated sexual activity and committed relationship. We do not know the long term outcome of this, although early indications suggest that evolution cannot be evaded without consequences.

So when we read of the casual abuse of women we might start by abandoning any automatic assumption that the man is a vile predator and the woman a modest maiden. They are both being strongly influenced by evolution to suit their reproductive needs: she by her unconscious recognition of how the male in question would serve as a long term mate; he by his unconscious recognition of how she would serve as a mother. Both, normally, are able to overrule their instincts so we are right to condemn those who offend. And we condemn more harshly if repeat behaviour is involved – though the solution may more readily come from a psychiatrist than from social punishment.

And we need to be careful about our judgments. It is easy to identify the male predator by what he says or what he actually does. But it will in some cases be his fallible attempt to read the messages a woman is unconsciously sending. The female predator – and, believe me, there are plenty – sends signals of a subtlety which can only be recognised rather than measured, let alone presented in court. But the worst is over for the moment: a recent international study shows a marked rise in sexual interest around Christmas, confirmed by a peaking of births nine months later. Unless you are in a Muslim country: for you it will be Eid-Al-Fitr – which celebrates the end of Ramadan.

(This text is marginally different from what is published in the Catholic Herald.)

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Catholic Herald columns, evolution, Moral judgment, Neuroscience and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Guilty men and innocent women

  1. Nektarios says:

    Quentin
    I see your preamble to the topic for the week as so much fact, so much philosophy, so much religious views and so much morality.
    All of it seems to me as seeking to find the right descriptives for relationships and procreation.

    But all this was in place in the man and the woman prior to our speculative, philosophical, religious and ethical thoughts on the matter. Did man and woman have all the above baggage, or something much more primordial, in his and her nature?

    God obviously made a woman for a purpose, (not initially procreation) for He said, ‘it was not good for man to be alone’. It would be a little later, God said after the fall, to go forth and populate the earth.

    The idea of attraction has been around for many years. The descriptives you site all seems too well thought out, too mechanical. However, attraction is only a description of what actually takes place. As I have said many times on the blog, the descriptive can never be the actual.

    Perhaps one of the best illustrations or descriptives of what is actually taking place in forming a relationship onwards, this seeking and finding of oneanother and procreating, is very ancient.
    Man is a fire and seeks the cooling effects of the woman, water. The woman is cool being water and seeks the fire to warm her.
    This is more that the physical, but a deep need in ones nature.

    Abuses due to our fallen nature, to not negate the urge to merge.

  2. galerimo says:

    I agree, Quentin when you condemn people using their power and influence to prey on others for sexual gratification. You describe how the human sexual drive can be understood in terms of attraction and selection. And you rightly point to the fundamental role of reproduction within the greater process of evolution.

    But I find it hard to avoid the conclusion that the exploitation you condemn amounts to little more than “doing what comes naturally”. This group of famous, powerful and horrible men are subject to the internal human dynamics required by evolution for adequate reproduction.

    But my issue is with the narrow context of the whole argument.

    The world we live in appears to be regulated in two ways – by law and by chance. And the evolutionary process, it seems to me, is far more chancy than lawful. Does it really have a purpose? Our sexy ways of doing reproduction will hardly amount to much for our species if the world just wipes us out in the course of its evolution – purely by chance.

    We share this journey of life with many different and varied forms. They impact on us and we on them: geology, meteors and climate are among them. The loss of our respect for each other (essentially the heart of the “Me Too” campaign) is symptomatic of our loss of respect for these fellow travellers in our evolving universe.

    In the past, for example, mass extinctions have eliminated many species. No doubt these losers were eagerly and wantonly sizing each other up for hip to waist dimensions or good long-term employment prospects, the way we all do. None of that mattered.

    Science tells us two extinctions at the beginning of the Cambrian period, 570 million years ago, and at the end of the Permian period, 245 million years saw the loss of most forms of life on earth. Between 80-90 per cent of all species were destroyed.

    No one can deny that we too face extinction of many species, including our own, today. But unlike previous events ours now has a moral character. In fact it results from human action and inaction. It coming about because of our failure to appreciate the connection we have to, and the responsibility we have for, the reproductive process in all of nature and not just humanity.

    We continue to live with a Copernican view of reality with humanity, at the centre of our universe of concern. However the broader truth is that we exist within a greater context than the reproduction of our own little species.

    If our reproduction is to mean survival and evolutionary progress it can only do so if we guarantee the same survival for the other animal and non-human species with which we share our planet.

  3. galerimo says:

    Clearly some ground breaking research here Quentin, with the international survey you mention showing an increase in sexual activity at Christmas time.

    Who would ever have suspected such “ding donging” going on “so merrily on high?

    By contrast, my own quick investigation sadly shows how the Australian police expected a 25% increase in reports of domestic violence during the festive season.

    With all that bonking and biffing you cant help wondering how on earth folk find the time to accommodate their brussel sprouts and Christmas pudding.

  4. John Nolan says:

    You can’t deny biology. Most of the organs in the human body – brain, heart, liver etc. function in the individual without reference to anyone else. The reproductive organs cannot do so. They require the complementarity of an individual of the opposite sex in order to function.

    People of the same sex do not, because they cannot, engage in sexual intercourse. All they can do is to counterfeit it using a form of masturbation. No-one who masturbates alone believes that he or she is ‘having sex’ although they may wish to do so and are indulging in the ‘solitary vice’ faute de mieux.

    ‘Gay sex’ is therefore a misnomer. The Catholic Church has it right in this regard; playing with the genitals of a person of the same sex is not ‘having sex’ in any meaningful sense, and is a grave sin into the bargain.

    Not to mention sodomy, which is one of the four sins which ‘cry out to heaven for vengeance’.

  5. Geordie says:

    John Nolan, “Not to mention sodomy, which is one of the four sins which ‘cry out to heaven for vengeance’.” I wonder if Pope Francis knows about this. Perhaps we should let him know.

  6. John Nolan says:

    Can anyone explain the following? Women claim the same rights as men. This sounds fair enough. It is now very difficult for men to associate with other men and exclude women. This extends even to the armed forces. Yet when women are included in a gathering it introduces a sexual element. Whereas men will wear formal dress which makes them look very much like one another, women will dress in a way that makes them distinct from other women and sexually alluring.

    Anyone who has served as an officer in HM forces knows that there is a difference between a ‘guest night’ and a ‘ladies night’. Nowadays every ‘guest night’ is in effect a ‘ladies night’. Since 2007 Working Men’s Clubs have been obliged to accept women.

    Although the Catholic Church does not admit women to Holy Orders, the Novus Ordo Mass is very much a feminized liturgy. Boys are less inclined to be altar servers because girls have muscled in. The vast majority of (mostly unnecessary) EMHC are women. There are no ‘Boy Scouts’ anymore (although girls are allowed their own organization, the Girl Guides).

    Yet these emancipated women are all too ready to adopt ‘victim’ status when it suits them, and apply it to all their sex, which amounts to at least half the human race. It seems to be a case of having one’s cake and eating it.

  7. Vincent says:

    John, I think there’s a much more serious problem. Why am I not allowed the great privilege of carrying a baby for nine months, nor the triumph of a successful birth (once any necessary stitching has been done)? How come I am not asked to breastfeed a baby at 2am? You’re right — women have all the advantages.

  8. Iona says:

    Among human beings relationships of power are closely tangled up with sex. Hence rape as an instrument of war.
    This seems to be the case among some groups of animals, as well; though certainly not all.

  9. ignatius says:

    Seems to me this weeks thread is a bit wierd…. 🙂

  10. Nektarios says:

    Sin has affected the whole person, male or female, in our mind, heart and will. We have tried (hypocritically in my view), to stem the effects of sin, by morality, by punishments, but it seems not to have made much difference then or now. It is a bit like King Canute thinking by his puny decree he could stem the tide of the sea. We are helpless to hold it back of ourselves.

    Sin leads to confusion in ones whole perception of anything, and none more examined by some in the last 200 years than in the matter of sexual conduct. The wider view of sin affecting the whole man, even ones physical, leading to death, because the wage of sin is death, and after death Judgement does not change the sinner at all.

    By our examination of such matters leads one to conclude, that man is deliberately sinning,(he cannot do anything else). One cannot understand the Gospel at all, until we have reached this point – of ourselves we can do nothing and Salvation is a work of God. If we are going to be saved, want to be saved God must accomplish it in us.
    And this He has done in Christ.

    One cannot change until one is actually changed by God, try what we can, we just cannot do it.
    But the rebel against God, will continue to rebel. Only God has the power to forgive and change a rebel against Him.
    This God has done, is doing and will continue to do until the last of His children have come home to Him.

  11. G.D says:

    A factor to be considered – i don’t think it has so far from my brief reading of the comments – is the connection with the innate desire to be ‘whole’, to regain ‘perfection’ as it were. To create something perfect?
    We are told there is no ‘male or female’ ‘no marriage’ in ‘heaven’. Why might that be so?
    Why is the sexual climax likened to, akin to, states of ‘ecstasy’, and ‘loss of self’ in the other.

    Is the foundation of physical sexual attraction the desire to regain ‘wholeness’; simply because we are not?

    Are the many needless gender divides, and horrendous (and not so horrendous) physical perversions, produced due to many persons trying to reproduce that perfection in their own frustrated, maladjusted, partial image(s) of physical ‘perfection’; discounting any spiritual content, and identifying too much with their personal physical ‘gender’?
    Hence ‘pre-dating on’ the opposite gender, rather than ‘procreating with’.

    Symptoms are not the cause of an illness (dealt with & ‘medicated’ as they must be) only the signs something is lacking, or something foreign been added.

    • G.D says:

      i add … the desire will never go away …. There was a young novice, troubled by sexual fantasies, asked an old monk how to get rid of them. To which he replied ‘i’ll let you know when they do’.

  12. Nektarios says:

    This following is a copy from infowars on the latest on sex scandals to break within the Vatican and Roman Catholic Church where presently there are over 8000 pedophile priests it is reported, and Cardinal Pell third highest ranking in the RCC is facing pedophile and sex crimes in Australia presently This shows the Vatican is still covering up its hideous sex crimes: It is sad to read this and demonstrates the exceeding depths of the sinfulness of sin.

    Pope Francis defended a bishop accused of covering up pedophilia during a visit to Chile by labeling sex abuse victims as slanderous.
    According to the Associated Press, Francis made the comments to reporters while discussing Rev. Fernando Karadima, a member of the Catholic Church found guilty by the Vatican in 2011 of sexually abusing minors.
    The Pope stated that until proof surfaces showing that Bishop Juan Barros helped cover up Karadima’s actions, accusations made against him are “all calumny,” or maliciously false.

    “The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I’ll speak,” Francis said. “There is not one shred of proof against him. It’s all calumny. Is that clear?”
    Karadima, who was sentenced by the Vatican to a lifetime of “penance and prayer,” was never charged in a criminal court due to the amount of time that had passed since the abuse.
    Juan Carlos Cruz, who says Barros stood by and watched while he was abused by Karadima as a child, argued the Pope’s comments show “Nothing has changed” in the church.
    “As if I could have taken a selfie or a photo while Karadima abused me and others and Juan Barros stood by watching it all,” Cruz said. “These people are truly crazy, and the pontiff talks about atonement to the victims. Nothing has changed, and his plea for forgiveness is empty.”
    The scandal, dating back to 2002 when Karadima’s victims first attempted to alert the church, was reignited in 2015 when Francis chose Barros to be the bishop of the southern diocese of Osorno.
    Catholics and priests, the AP says, “staged an unprecedented protest during his 2015 installation ceremony and have protested his presence ever since.”
    “His appointment outraged Chileans, badly divided the Osorno diocese and further undermined the church’s already shaky credibility in the country,” the AP added.
    The Pope’s latest remark has undoubtedly made the situation even more dire for the Catholic Church.
    Patricio Navia, a political science professor at Santiago’s Diego Portales University, also noted that the Karadima situation has caused Chilean parents to second-guess their children’s Catholic education.
    “In the typical Chilean family, parents (now) think twice before sending their kids to Catholic school because you never know what is going to happen,” Navia told the AP.

  13. ignatius says:

    So what exactly, is wrong with asking for proof of an alleged crime before declaring a person guilty?
    Oh and by the way..
    “This shows the Vatican is still covering up its hideous sex crimes: It is sad to read this and demonstrates the exceeding depths of the sinfulness of sin…”
    Doesn’t this amount to slander on your part?

    • Nektarios says:

      Ignatius

      It was not me that said it, but AP (Associated Press).
      One well understands as Pope, he defends the Catholic Church, but with all the proof, cases, millions paid out in compensation, he still, like his predecessors resorts to blaming the sex abused victims – the Pope is defending the indefensible.

      More worrying to me however, Ignatius, is the continuous denial and cover ups within the Vatican and I wonder when the Roman Catholic Church will wake up and see this is totally unacceptable and get rid of them.
      As the system (the latin word is sewer), of the RCC administration, does not allow the members to do just that, then vote with your feet.

      I recognise it is just too painful for words, and most Catholics are so conditioned and are caught in the grip of what is their ecclesiastic power. Not real power, just ecclesiastic power.

      • galerimo says:

        It is true the Barros scandal dominated Pope Francis’ trip to Chile. The Pope apologized for asking for “proof” and out of respect for victims he agreed that “evidence” would be a more appropriate way of expressing his position.

        The Pope was criticized by his own top adviser on abuse (Cardinal O’Malley) and having listened he then retracted and made his apology. Francis, in the absence of evidence, has twice refused the offer of resignation (in the interests of Church unity) by the accused Bishop.

        I am no supporter of how the Catholic Church has managed the criminal behavior of some of its priests. I do support the due process of natural justice – it is not unreasonable to ask for evidence as mentioned here by Ignatius.

        We can all make a poor choice in the words we use. On this occasion, as a Catholic I am impressed to see openness to criticism and admission of mistakes in the course of an honest pursuit of justice by the papacy. As a Church we are very visibly struggling to be reconciled with each other in the face of some terrible human corruption. Some are voting with the feet. I decline your offer to do so.

        Our recent Royal Commission into allegations of Child Abuse in public institutions in Australia was not confined to the Catholic Church.

        Without mentioning the many government institutions, among those investigated were members of Churches who identified as Anglican, Salvation Army, Protestant, Presbyterian and Reformed, Uniting Church, Other Christian, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baptist, Pentecostal, Judaism, Baha’i, Brethren, Buddhist, Churches of Christ, Eastern Orthodox, Hindu, Islam, Latter-day Saints, Church of Jesus Christ of LDS (Mormons), Lutheran, Miscellaneous religions, Oriental Orthodox, Seventh-day Adventist, Spiritualism and unknown religions.

        All were found to have their accusers.

  14. Ignatius says:

    Ooooops…….sorry, I meant ‘libel’ not ‘slander’

  15. Nektarios says:

    galerimo

    Sin infects and affects the whole man or woman. That is why Salvaton of God is for the whole person.

    Proof of this particular case I cannot speak about apart from what I read in the AP ( Associated Press). It seems the proof is there and how it is affecting the Church there in Chile.
    As sex abuse is a criminal act, so and it is not up to the Pope to say anything but the local and legal authorities of Chile to determine the proof or otherwise.

    If, within the RC Church you have no say with those who make the decisions over you, then one has to fight ones corner. Failing that, what is left to do but vote with ones feet and go somewhere else as some are doing in Chile and elsewhere.
    As you seem to be inferring it is in every church and denomination there is nowhere safe to go?
    But some places are much safer than in the RCC presently. Plus, one has more of a saying church, and the legal authorities will deal with the case as to proof and if found guilty, the punishment.

  16. Nektarios says:

    galerimo

    Sorry for the error….. it should read. ‘ Plus, one has more of a say in church,……..

  17. ignatius says:

    Nektarios:

    To return to my point and to the fact that I quoted your words and your words alone not those of AP:
    ” This shows the Vatican is still covering up its hideous sex crimes: It is sad to read this and demonstrates the exceeding depths of the sinfulness of sin..”
    These were your words were they not, Nektarios? This is you sticking your oar in isn’t it?
    If your words mean anything then you are saying here that something you have read by a News Agency “shows the Vatican is still covering up its hideous sex crimes”
    You go on to say that ‘this’ “demonstrates the exceeding depths of the sinfulness of sin”
    You seem to be saying that the news article proves that the Pope is culpable of covering up a sexual abuse and then you go on to say how painful this is for catholics. Libel, I think, Nektarios; plain mud slinging libel.

    • Nektarios says:

      Ignatius

      It would seem you are not willing to face facts. I am not personally being libellous, but basing them in facts, not only of this particular case, but of many cases over the years of child sexual abuse.
      As child sexual abuse exits throughout all areas of society, it is not confined to the Church, granted, but it demonstrates the exceeding depth of the sinfulness of sin.
      To the degree we understand that in all of us as sinners, then we have not understood at all what it is to be truly Christian. Nor does no appropriate or believe aright Christ as Saviour, nor the Apostolic Doctrine, Teaching and Practice.

      I also said that such cases as child sexual abuse is criminal, and against the law in practically every country. It is a civil matter and they should address it by investigating it
      and prosecuting where necessary.
      It is not for the Pope to investigate criminal activity, good grief, I don’t want to open a can of worms existing in the Vatican.
      Enough Ignatius.

      • ignatius says:

        Nektarios,
        ” This shows the Vatican is still covering up its hideous sex crimes: It is sad to read this and demonstrates the exceeding depths of the sinfulness of sin..”
        Are these or are they not your own words?

  18. Nektarios says:

    Sorry for the typo error, it should read:
    Nor does one appropriate………

  19. John Nolan says:

    Nektarios

    You seem to be labouring under the misapprehension that the (mainly historical) clerical abuse cases occurred within the Vatican.

    The Latin for sewer is ‘cloaca’. So what?

    I happen to believe that Protestantism, in its myriad manifestations, is a heresy. I would not visit a Protestant blog to lecture its readers, in extreme and vituperative language, on their errors. Yet you use a Catholic site to spread your poison, and bleat that you are being victimized when someone calls you to account.

    I have a Latin word for you, a 2nd conjugation imperative: tace!

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