Avuncular tendencies and the evolution of male androphilia in Samoan fa'afafine.
ABSTRACT The kin selection hypothesis for male androphilia holds that genes for male androphilia can be maintained in a population if the fitness costs of not reproducing directly are offset by enhancing indirect fitness. Kin share some proportion of genes identical by virtue of descent. Theoretically speaking, androphilic males can increase their fitness indirectly by allocating altruistic behavior toward kin, which, in turn, allows kin to increase their reproductive success. Research conducted in Independent Samoa has shown that androphilic males (known locally as fa'afafine) report significantly higher avuncular tendencies relative to gynephilic men. Here, we replicate this sexual orientation difference, using a larger, independent sample, suggesting that the documented sexual orientation difference in avuncular tendencies in Independent Samoa is genuine. We also extend previous research by showing that fa'afafine exhibit significantly higher avuncular tendencies even when compared to a more closely matched control group that also lacks direct parental care responsibilities (i.e., gynephilic men with no children). Although the greater avuncular tendencies of fa'afafine relative to gynephilic men are consistent with the predictions of the kin selection hypothesis for male androphilia, further research is needed before deeming male androphilia an adaptation for promoting elevated avuncularity. Likewise, more research is needed before deeming elevated avuncularity in fa'afafine an evolved adaptation for promoting indirect fitness. We discuss these findings in the context of alternative evolutionary explanations for male androphilia (i.e., an evolved by-product of an adaptation).
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ABSTRACT: The kin selection hypothesis posits that male androphilia (i.e., sexual attraction to males), although detrimental to reproduction (i.e., direct fitness), has persisted and evolved because androphilic males compensate by increasing their indirect fitness via increased investment in kin. In previous studies, Samoan androphilic males (known locally as fa'afafine) reported elevated avuncular (i.e., uncle-like) tendencies compared to Samoan gynephilic (i.e., sexually attracted to females) men. Their avuncular tendencies were also greater than the materteral (i.e., aunt-like) tendencies of androphilic women. The present study examined whether the avuncular cognition of fa'afafine was enhanced for maximizing indirect fitness. To do so, it examined whether fa'afafine had a stronger propensity than Samoan gynephilic men and androphilic women to invest in kin categories that would result in more reliable and substantive increases in indirect fitness (i.e., young, female kin) in hypothetical investment scenarios. In a forced-choice paradigm, although all individuals showed some degree of bias to invest in adaptive kin categories during non-frivolous investment contexts in which the consequences of investment were relatively non-trivial, fa'afafine showed greater adherence to the predicted pattern. In addition, shifting the context from frivolous investments, in which the consequences of investment were relatively trivial, to non-frivolous investments prompted fa'afafine to exhibit an enhanced preference, relative to Samoan gynephilic men and androphilic women, to invest in adaptive kin categories. These findings were consistent with the kin selection hypothesis and suggest that, although all individuals exhibit cognitive biases for increasing indirect fitness, the avuncular cognition of androphilic males has undergone selective enhancement to maximize the accrual of indirect fitness via kin-directed altruism.Archives of Sexual Behavior 03/2014; · 3.53 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Samoan transgendered males are known as fa'afafine. Although Samoan women are characterized as the primary child care providers, fa'afafine report elevated willingness to invest in nieces and nephews compared to men and women. We hypothesized that Samoans hold unique transgender role expectations such that fa'afafine are expected to invest more toward nieces and nephews compared to others. Participants (N = 214) included Samoan men (30.23 years ±8.19), women (30.00 years ±10.93), and fa'afafine (30.25 years ±7.45). For a variety of child care activities, participants nominated men, women, fa'afafine, or all three of these categories of individuals as responsible for investing toward nieces and nephews. Participants also reported how frequently their family members asked them to perform these activities for nieces and nephews. Responsibility for performing these activities was typically designated for women; men and women viewed fa'afafine as least responsible. Men's, but not fa'afafine's, family members asked them to allocate investment toward nieces and nephews more frequently. These findings are not consistent with the transgender role expectation hypothesis. Discussion details how the findings contribute to the literature on child care in Samoa. Alternate hypotheses for explaining why fa'afafine report elevated willingness to invest in nieces and nephews are considered.The Journal of Sex Research 04/2014; · 2.53 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: The kin selection hypothesis posits that male androphilia (male sexual attraction to adult males) evolved because androphilic males invest more in kin, thereby enhancing inclusive fitness. Increased kin-directed altruism has been repeatedly documented among a population of transgendered androphilic males, but never among androphilic males in other cultures who adopt gender identities as men. Thus, the kin selection hypothesis may be viable if male androphilia was expressed in the transgendered form in the ancestral past. Using the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample (SCCS), we examined 46 societies in which male androphilia was expressed in the transgendered form (transgendered societies) and 146 comparison societies (non-transgendered societies). We analyzed SCCS variables pertaining to ancestral sociocultural conditions, access to kin, and societal reactions to homosexuality. Our results show that ancestral sociocultural conditions and bilateral and double descent systems were more common in transgendered than in non-transgendered societies. Across the entire sample, descent systems and residence patterns that would presumably facilitate increased access to kin were associated with the presence of ancestral sociocultural conditions. Among transgendered societies, negative societal attitudes toward homosexuality were unlikely. We conclude that the ancestral human sociocultural environment was likely conducive to the expression of the transgendered form of male androphilia. Descent systems, residence patterns, and societal reactions to homosexuality likely facilitated investments in kin by transgendered males. Given that contemporary transgendered male androphiles appear to exhibit elevated kin-directed altruism, these findings further indicate the viability of the kin selection hypothesis.Human Nature 12/2013; 24(4). · 1.96 Impact Factor
Avuncular Tendencies and the Evolution of Male Androphilia
in Samoan Fa’afafine
Paul L. Vasey Æ Æ Doug P. VanderLaan
Received: 27 February 2008/Revised: 24 June 2008/Accepted: 24 June 2008
? Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008
philia holds that genes for male androphilia can be main-
tained in a population if the fitness costs of not reproducing
directly are offset by enhancing indirect fitness. Kin share
some proportion of genes identical by virtue of descent.
Theoretically speaking, androphilic males can increase their
which, in turn, allows kin to increase their reproductive
success. Research conducted in Independent Samoa has
shown that androphilic males (known locally as fa’afafine)
report significantly higher avuncular tendencies relative to
gynephilic men. Here, we replicate this sexual orientation
difference, using a larger, independent sample, suggesting
that the documented sexual orientation difference in avun-
cular tendencies in Independent Samoa is genuine. We also
extend previous research by showing that fa’afafine exhibit
significantly higher avuncular tendencies even when com-
no children). Although the greater avuncular tendencies of
fa’afafine relative to gynephilic men are consistent with the
predictions of the kin selection hypothesis for male andro-
philia, further research is needed before deeming male an-
Likewise, more research is needed before deeming elevated
avuncularity in fa’afafine an evolved adaptation for pro-
moting indirect fitness. We discuss these findings in the
context of alternative evolutionary explanations for male
androphilia (i.e., an evolved by-product of an adaptation).
The kin selection hypothesis for male andro-
Avuncular tendencies ? Kin selection
Male androphilia ? Samoa ? Evolution ?
A large body of research indicates that there is a biological
basis for male androphilia1(Mustanski, Chivers, & Bailey,
& Kessler, 2000). At the same time, research demonstrates
that androphilic males reproduce at about one-fifth to one-
tenth the rate of gynephilic males (Bell & Weinberg, 1978;
Hamer & Copeland, 1994; Saghir & Robins, 1973; Yankel-
male gynephilia to have long replaced those for male an-
drophilia. Despite this prediction, archaeologic evidence
suggests that male same-sex sexual behavior existed during
male androphilia seems to occur at similar (albeit, low) fre-
quencies across different cultural and environmental land-
scapes (Whitam, 1983). This situation is perplexing when
considered within the context of natural selection, a process
that favors the persistence of those traits enabling their
bearers to achieve reproductive success. As such, the main-
tenance of a trait that lowers direct reproduction requires
explanation when viewed from a functional perspective.
The kin selection hypothesis has been advanced as one
possible explanatory framework to account for male
P. L. Vasey (&) ? D. P. VanderLaan
Department of Psychology, University of Lethbridge, 4401
University Drive, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada T1K 3M4
1Androphilia refers to sexual attraction to adult males, whereas
gynephilia refers to sexual attraction to adult females. The usage and
meaning of homosexual and heterosexual vary cross-culturally, ren-
dering them poor constructs for the type of cross-cultural research
Arch Sex Behav
androphilia (Ruse, 1982; Weinrich, 1987; Wilson, 1975).
The hypothesis holds that genes for male androphilia can be
maintained in the population if the fitness costs of not
reproducing directly are offset by enhancing indirect fitness.
From the perspective of kin selection theory, indirect fitness
(who share some identical genes by virtue of descent),
weighted by the degree of relatedness. Theoretically speak-
ing, androphilic males can increase their indirect fitness by
directing altruistic behavior toward kin, which, in principle,
allows kin to increase their reproductive success. In partic-
ular, androphilic men should allocate altruistic behavior to-
wards close kin, because they share more genes in common
with such individuals.
In formulating this theory, Wilson (1975) stated that
‘‘Freed from the special obligations of parental duties, they
[androphilic males] could have operated with special effi-
ciency in assisting close relatives’’ (p. 555). Similarly, Ruse
(1982) commented that ‘‘…the effect is that in being homo-
order thereby toincrease their ownoverall inclusive fitness’’
(p. 20). Given that what is at issue here is a theory that can
accountforthe originofsame-sex sexualattraction,itseems
reasonable to interpret these statements as indicating that
same-sex sexual attraction, itself, is a prerequisite for the
expressionof elevated kin-direct altruism,notchildlessness.
If so, then male androphiles should exhibit elevated kin-
directed altruism, whereas male gynephiles (childless or
otherwise) should not. Such a pattern would be consistent
with the notion that male androphilia is a specially designed
adaptation for promoting kin-directed altruism.
Bobrow and Bailey (2001) found that androphilic men in
the United States didnotdiffer significantlyfrom gynephilic
men in terms of their avuncular tendencies. In addition, they
found that androphilic men were more estranged than gyne-
philic men from their respective kin, which runs contrary to
the predictions of the kin selection hypothesis for male an-
drophilia. In a similar study conducted in England, Rahman
were more inclined towards avuncularity compared to their
Vasey, Pocock, and VanderLaan (2007) compared the
altruistic tendencies of androphilic and gynephilic males in
the non-Western Polynesian island nation of Independent
researchers working in the US and England (Bobrow &
androphilic males are referred to as fa’afafine, which means
‘‘in the manner of a woman.’’ Most fa’afafine tend to be
effeminate, but they range from extremely feminine to
unremarkably masculine,although instances of the latter are
rare (Bartlett & Vasey, 2006; Besnier, 2000; Schmidt, 2003;
role presentation, fa’afafine are, with very few exceptions,
exclusively androphilic, but they do not engage in sexual
activity with each other. Instead, fa’afafine are attracted to,
self-identify as ‘‘straight men’’ (Bartlett & Vasey, 2006;
Danielsson, Danielsson, & Pierson, 1978).
In a Samoan cultural context, ‘‘straight men’’ are those
who self-identify as men and are masculine with respect to
gender role presentation. Inclusion in this category is not
contingent on exclusive sexual activity with women. Most
sexual activity with fa’afafine or other straight men on a
temporary basis, particularly if female sexual partners are
unavailable. Our participants informed us that most straight
men in Samoa have engaged in sexual interactions with
fa’afafine at least once in their lives (see also Croall &
In contrast to research conducted in Western settings,
Vasey et al. (2007) found that fa’afafine reported signifi-
Independent Samoa. These findings are consistent with the
basic prediction of the kin selection hypothesis for male an-
may act as ‘‘helper-in-the-nest,’’ caring for nieces and
nephews and, by extension, increasing their indirect fitness.
Although their findings were consistent with the basic
prediction of the kin selection hypothesis for male andro-
philia, Vasey et al. (2007) were careful to stress that their
results did not provide strong evidence in support of the
tendencies in fa’afafine represent specially designed adap-
tations resulting from past selection over evolutionary time.
Rather, they suggested that increased avuncular tendencies
by fa’afafine might simply reflect a generalized adaptive
tendency on the part of all biological males to invest in kin,
regardless of their sexual orientations. Some males, such as
the fa’afafine, may, however, be able to exhibit elevated
levels of avuncularity because they have no direct parental
thefa’afafineparticipantshadchildren(n = 38).Incontrast,
58%ofthegynephilicmen(n = 43)whoparticipatedinthat
study had at least one child (range = 0–4). Unfortunately,
Vasey et al.’s (2007) samples of gynephilic men with, and
without, children were too small to perform the necessary
analyses to properly test this hypothesis.
orientation difference in avuncular tendencies originally re-
ported in Vasey et al. (2007) could be replicated using a
larger, independent sample. In addition, we extended previ-
with two distinct control groups, namely, gynephilic men
with and without children. In conducting these latter com-
parisons, our aim was to test whether fa’afafine’s elevated
Arch Sex Behav
avuncular tendencies in fa’afafine should not differ signifi-
cantly from those of gynephilic men without children, but
both of these groups should differ significantly for this
measure from gynephilic men with children.
All participants were recruited through a network sampling
procedure on the two larger and more populated islands of
procedure involves contacting initial participants who dis-
play qualities of interest (i.e., status as fa’afafine or gyne-
philic men), then obtaining referrals from them to additional
To replicate the study by Vasey et al. (2007), new data
were collected from 56 self-identified fa’afafine and 95 self-
identified straight men that had not been interviewed previ-
ously. These data were collected during two field trips
(September–October 2006, April–June 2007). Sexual ori-
over the previous year (Kinsey, Pomeroy, & Martin, 1948).
All 56 of these fa’afafine described their sexual feelings
as exclusively androphilic (Kinsey rating = 6). Of the 95
straight men for whom Kinsey ratings were obtained, 82
(86.3%) described their sexual feelings as exclusively gy-
nephilic (Kinsey rating = 0). Seven (7.4%) reported most
sexual feelings toward females, but occasional fantasies
about males (Kinsey rating = 1), and six (6.3%) reported
feelings about males (Kinsey rating = 2).
In order to obtain sufficiently large sample sizes to com-
pare fa’afafine, gynephilic men with no children, and gyne-
the 56 fa’afafine and 95 gynephilic men in the replication
sample with data from the sample of 38 fa’afafine and 43
gynephilic men interviewed in Vasey et al. (2007). Of the
additional 38 fa’afafine interviewed in Vasey et al., 37
(97.4%) described their sexual feelings as exclusively an-
drophilic(Kinseyrating = 6),andone(2.6%)reportedmost
sexual feelings toward males, but some definite feelings
toward females (Kinsey rating = 4). Of the additional 43
gynephilic men interviewed in Vasey et al., 35 (81.4%) de-
scribed their sexual feelings as exclusively gynephilic, five
(11.6%) reported most sexual feelings toward females,
but occasional fantasies about males (Kinsey rating = 1),
but some definite sexual feelings about males (Kinsey
rating = 2). After combining these two samples, there were
94 fa’afafine, 66 gynephilic men with no children, and 72
gynephilic men with at least one child.
Procedure and Measures
All participants were interviewed using standardized ques-
tionnaires. A Samoan-speaking research assistant was pres-
ent for those interviews for which participants indicated that
they preferred to do the interview in Samoan or for partici-
fluent in English. Questions were read aloud in English by
one of the researchers and in Samoan by a research assistant
when necessary. The questionnaire used in this study was
available in English and Samoan, after being translated and
back-translated by two fluent Samoan-English speakers.
The questionnaire employed in this study was a modified
version of a previously used Kin Selection Questionnaire
2007). The questionnaire included questions about the fol-
lowing basic biographic information: age, sex, sexual ori-
entation identity (i.e., fa’afafine or ‘‘straight’’ man), highest
junior high school, and primary school or less), and annual
income. Data on the participants’ annual incomes were
converted to American dollars (USD). Samoans, both inside
and outside the fa’afafine community, recognize that
fa’afafine are biological males that are socially distinct from
men and women. Nevertheless, for the sake of consistency,
participants were told, prior to answering questions pertain-
category ‘‘females’’ included women.
Participants were also asked to complete the Avuncular
Tendencies Subscale. This subscale is a measurement in-
willingness to allocate resources to nieces and neph-
Hull, 2005; Vasey et al., 2007). The nine items of the
Avuncular Tendencies Subscale are as follows: babysitting
for an evening, babysitting on a regular basis, taking care of
the children for a week while their parents are away, buying
toys forthe children, tutoring one of the children ina subject
you know well, helping to expose the children to art and
music, contributing money for daycare, contributing money
asked to rate whether they would be willing to exhibit the
behavior towards nieces and nephews that were the children
lived nearby. Responses to these items were based on a 7-
point Likert-type scale that ranged from 1 = ‘‘Strongly
Disagree’’to7 = ‘‘StronglyAgree.’’Participants’avuncular
Arch Sex Behav
the nine items.
In keeping with our previous study (Vasey et al., 2007),
ordinal data were analyzed using a general linear model
(GLM) for an ordinal multi-way frequency analysis (see
Table 1 summarizes results of the replication portion of the
item alpha (a), were computed for both fa’afafine and gy-
nephilic men on the Avuncular Tendencies Subscale. Reli-
abilities were high on this subscale for both groups
(fa’afafine: a = .85; gynephilic men: a = .88). Two-tailed
independent t-tests revealed that fa’afafine and gynephilic
men did not differ in terms of age or annual income. A GLM
showed that fa’afafine and gynephilic men did not differ in
terms of the highest level of education they received
tendencies than gynephilic men. A Cohen’s d indicated a
moderate effect size difference between fa’afafine and gy-
nephilic men for avuncular tendencies (d = .57).
2= .001, ns). Fa’afafine exhibited greater avuncular
Comparison of Fa’afafine, Gynephilic Men with No
Children, and Gynephilic Men with at Least One Child
least one child. Internal consistency reliabilities, standard-
men without children, and gynephilic men with at least one
child (range = 1–12) on the Avuncular Tendencies Sub-
scale. Reliabilities were high for all three groups on this
subscale (fa’afafine: a = .84; gynephilic men with no chil-
dren: a = .83; gynephilic men with at least one child:
a = .91).
of group for age of participant. Post-hoc Fisher’s Least Sig-
nificant Difference (LSD) revealed that fa’afafine were sig-
nificantly older than gynephilic men with no children (p\
.001), but significantly younger than gynephilic men with at
least one child (p\.001). Gynephilic men with at least one
child were significantly older than gynephilic men with no
children (p\.001). An ANOVA indicated a main effect of
group for annual income. Post-hoc Fisher’s LSD revealed
that fa’afafine had significantly higher annual incomes than
in this regard from gynephilic men with at least one child.
Gynephilic men with at least one child had significantly
(p = .002). A GLM showed that fa’afafine and gynephilic
men did not differ in terms of the highest level of education
they received (G2
An analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was performed
as the fixed factor, and with age and annual income as
covariates. This analysis revealed a main effect of group.
Post-hoc Fisher’s LSD revealed that fa’afafine had signifi-
cantly higher avuncular tendencies scores relative to gyne-
philic men without children (p = .001; Cohen’s d = .65)
and gynephilic men with at least one child (p = .001; Co-
hen’s d = .56). The two groups of gynephilic men did not
differ significantly from each other (Cohen’s d = .01).
Comparative data on individual Avuncular Tendencies
Subscale items for fa’afafine, gynephilic men with no chil-
in Table 3.
A two-tailed Pearson’s r correlation indicated no signifi-
cant relationship between avuncular tendencies and number
of children parented among gynephilic men (n = 138,
r = .02, p = .81).
Partial correlations between avuncular tendencies and
age, controlling for income, were calculated for each par-
thesevariablesforfa’afafine(r = .07,df = 91,p = .52),gy-
nephilic men without children (r = .20, df = 63, p = .12),
2= 1.53, ns).
Table 1 Replication sample: results summary
Fa’afafine (n = 56)Gynephilic men (n = 95)Two-tailed t-test
Age (in years) 27.955.96 27.828.66
aBetween group equality of variances not assumed
bLevene’s test for equality of variances, F = 5.85, p = .017
cLevene’s test for equality of variances, F = 4.08, p = .045
dLevene’s test for equality of variances, F = 5.49, p = .02
Arch Sex Behav
orgynephilicmenwithatleastonechild(r = -.20,df = 69,
p = .10).
Also, partial correlations between avuncular tendencies
and income, controlling for age, were calculated for each
participant group. There was also no significant relationship
between these variables for fa’afafine (r = -.06, df = 91,
p = .57), gynephilic men without children (r = .16, df =
63, p = .22), or gynephilic men with at least one child
(r = .04, df = 69, p = .73).
In contrast to research conducted in Western countries
(2007) showed that androphilic males (fa’afafine) reported
significantly greater avuncular tendencies than gynephilic
males (‘‘straight men’’) in the Polynesian island nation of
Independent Samoa. In this study, we replicated this sexual
independent sample. This replication suggests that the doc-
umented sexual orientation difference in avuncular tenden-
cies in Independent Samoa is genuine and not the result of
sampling bias. This finding is consistent with the kin selec-
tion hypothesis prediction that androphilic males should
direct more altruism toward kin than gynephilic males.
A number of potentially interrelated proximate factors
might account for why the avuncular tendency results ob-
tained for androphilic males (fa’afafine) in this study and
countries (Bobrow & Bailey, 2001; Rahman & Hull, 2005),
To begin with, Independent Samoa is a relatively tiny nation
consisting of four populated islands, which are closely
Table 2 Combined sample: results summary
Fa’afafine (n = 94)Gynephilic men with no
children (n = 66)
Gynephilic men with at
least one child (n = 72)
Analysis of variancea
MSDM SDM SDF dfwithin
Age (in years)c,d,e
29.487.31 21.884.2233.39 7.4853.33 229
6.20.92 5.561.065.55 1.379.18 227
aBetween-groups df = 2 for all analyses
bGroups were compared using ANCOVA with age and income included in the model as covariates
cStatistically significant difference (p\.05) between fa’afafine and gynephilic men with no children
dStatistically significant difference (p\.05) between fa’afafine and gynephilic men with at least one child
eStatistically significant difference (p\.05) between gynephilic men with no children and gynephilic men with at least one child
Table 3 IndividualAvuncularTendenciesSubscaleitemsforfa’afafine,gynephilicmenwithnochildren,andgynephilicmenwithatleastonechild,
controlling for age and income: results summary
(n = 94)
with no children
(n = 66)
with at least one
child (n = 72)
MSDM SDM SD
Babysitting for an eveninga
Babysitting on a regular basisa,b
Taking care of the children for a week while their parents are awaya,b
Buying toys for the childrena,b
Tutoring one of the children in a subject you know wellb
Helping to expose the children to art and musicb,c
6.361.355.531.89 5.841.894.10 .018
5.512.01 4.552.194.90 2.12 3.64.028
6.26 1.445.361.765.67 1.676.09.003
6.64 0.796.36 1.106.001.704.57.011
6.471.16 6.26 1.13 5.45 1.93 8.40
Contributing money for daycare
Contributing money for the children’s medical expensesa
Contributing money for the children’s educationa,b
6.670.875.951.415.97 1.54 8.54
aStatistically significant difference (p\.05) between fa’afafine and gynephilic men with no children
bStatistically significant difference (p\.05) between fa’afafine and gynephilic men with at least one child
cStatistically significant difference (p\.05) between gynephilic men with no children and gynephilic men with at least one child
Arch Sex Behav
Second, the family unit, or aiga (extended family), is of
Samoan families are usually quite large and often live to-
gether or in closely situated dwellings. When a distance
separates members of a family, emotional proximity is
maintained via frequent visits (Mageo, 1998). Due to the
‘‘sociocentric’’ manner in which Samoans organize famil-
ial relationships and patterns of residency (Mageo, 1998;
their kin compared to androphilic men living in Western
cultures, which are generally recognized as being more
‘‘egocentric’’ (Mageo, 1998) or individualistic (Hofstede,
Third, most fa’afafine enjoy a high level of acceptance
within their families and within Samoan society in general
(e.g., Bartlett & Vasey, 2006; Croall & Wunderman, 1999;
Danielsson et al., 1978; Mageo, 1996; Vasey & Bartlett,
2007). It would be an over-statement to say that fa’afafine
never experience any discrimination (Schmidt, 2003; Vasey
& Bartlett, 2007). Nevertheless, the level of societal accep-
the quotidian fabric of Samoan life, and their highly public
for whom widespread discrimination is the norm (e.g.,
Cochran, Stewart, Ginzler, & Cauce, 2002; Namaste, 2000).
Indeed, it was not uncommon to hear family members com-
ment on how fortunate they were to have a fa’afafine in the
family. As one woman stated:
Sometimes we joke with the mothers of fa’afafine and
we say ‘‘You’re so lucky to have a fa’afafine son,’’
because they do everything in the house and they do
everything for the fa’alavelave.2Say for a wedding
the church even if he is working another job and he’ll
Another woman we spoke to recounted with sadness the
story of her fa’afafine cousin who married a woman after
being pressured by his church to do so.
Samoan woman: His sisters felt they lost him. His
mother refused to believe it when he said he had a
girlfriend. The mother told him to stop. It took months
very sad he turned into a boy. He doesn’t act like a girl
now and we can’t sleep in the same bed with him. We
don’t know how to act with him now.
Interviewer: Why did he turn into a boy?
Samoan woman: He joined a different church and be-
came ‘‘born again’’ and his church wanted him to be
‘‘straight.’’ The church says they are this big evil, but
how ironic is that? They help the community so much.
They do fundraising all the time.
Interviewer: Does he still have sex with men?
wedding, they [the bride and groom] never kissed, so
what do you think?
The preceding dialog illustrates how gaining a man as a
relative at the expense of a fa’afafine is perceived by some
Samoansasanet loss,notanet gain.Given thishighlevelof
social acceptance, estrangement of androphilic males from
(Besnier, 1994; Croall & Wunderman, 1999; Danielsson
Western settings, in which hostile attitudes towards andro-
philic males are more common (Fone, 2000).
Fourth, in Independent Samoa, almost all fa’afafine ex-
hibit transgendered male androphilia,3not egalitarian male
androphilia.4Archeological evidence suggestive of trans-
gendered male androphilia has been documented (Knu ¨sel &
Ripley, 2000) and it is known to occur in a wide variety of
cultural regions (e.g., North America: Williams, 1992;
Central America: Chin ˜as, 1995; South America: Kulick,
1977; India: Nanda, 1998; South-east Asia: Coleman,
Colgan, & Gooren, 1992; Graham, 2004; Johnson, 1997;
Koon, 2002; Polynesia: Besnier, 1994). In contrast, egali-
of Western settings (e.g., Greenberg, 1988; Murray, 2000).
For reasons that remain unclear, transgendered male andro-
sexes have to offer (Herdt, 1994; Williams, 1992). For
example, one woman stated: ‘‘A fa’afafine is more respon-
sible than a son or a daughter. They contribute more to the
family. Everyone knows that.’’ Thus, it is possible that the
greater avuncular tendencies of fa’afafine are somehow tied
2The word fa’alavelave can be translated in several ways, but is
(i.e., a wedding, a funeral, the opening of a new church) that involves
very costly economic contributions (i.e., money, food, livestock) or
time-consuming ceremonial activities by the families involved (e.g.,
decorating a church, sewing special clothing).
3Transgendered male androphilia occurs between a male who is
markedly gender-atypical and another who is more or less gender-
typical for his own sex.
Arch Sex Behav
to their status as transgendered male androphiles, whereas
this relationship is lacking in the West among egalitarian
male androphiles who tend to be more gender normative,
Alternatively, it is possible that femininity, not transgen-
dered status, per se, is the important proximate factor influ-
encing elevated avuncularity among the fa’afafine. Numer-
ous researchers have reported that Samoan women are more
involved in childcare activity compared to men (Freeman,
1983; Holmes, 1987; Nardi, 1983; Ochs, 1982; Ritchie &
Ritchie, 1983). This raises the possibility that Samoan
fa’afafine, who behave ‘‘in the manner of a woman,’’ might
to the care of nieces and nephews. If so, then fa’afafine’s
avunculartendency scores should berelatively similartothe
materteraltendency scores ofafeminine class ofindividuals
who also lack direct parental care responsibilities, namely,
women without children. At the same time, both of these
individuals (i.e., gynephilic men with and without children).
Future research will be needed to assess this possibility.
In this study, we examined whether fa’afafine’s elevated
avuncular tendencies were simply owing to the fact that,
no direct parental care responsibilities. To test this possibil-
similar opportunities to invest in kin (i.e., gynephilic men
without children). If direct childcare constrains avuncular
tendencies, then fa’afafine and gynephilic men without
childrenshouldnotdiffer inthis regard. However,fa’afafine
had significantly higher avuncular tendencies even when
compared to gynephilic men without children. Gynephilic
men with, and without, children did not differ significantly
from each other for this measure. As such, it seems unlikely
for the elevated avuncular tendencies of fa’afafine.
Given our finding that fa’afafine exhibited greater avun-
cular tendencies relative to gynephilic men, both with and
without children, we assessed whether a certain level of
parental responsibilities constrained avuncular tendencies.
We did so by testing whether number of children correlated
negatively with avuncular tendencies scores among gyne-
philic men. However, there was no such correlation, which
again suggested that parental care responsibilities did not
Taken together, these results were consistent with pre-
dictions derived from the kin selection hypothesis that male
androphiles should exhibit higher altruistic tendencies to-
wards kin compared to male gynephiles, including those
without children. Although our results were consistent with
these conclusions, we stress our findings do not provide
sufficient evidence to make strong conclusions regarding
promoting kin-directed altruism, and thereby offsetting the
fitness costs associated with male androphilia. To ascertain
to determine whether fa’afafine’s androphilia is character-
ized by special design features that are indicative of adapta-
tions (see Williams, 1966). Some researchers have argued
(1993) states, ‘‘To put it crudely, why do gay men waste so
much time cruising each other, time that according to this
theory would be better spent baby-sitting their nephews and
nieces?’’ (p. 129). Given this apparent contradiction, some
theorists have argued that kin selection theory has little
explanatory power in terms of the origin of male androphila,
but rather is better suited to explaining the existence of
asexual individuals or those that actively choose to be celi-
bate (Dickemann, 1995). Although all these groups could be
characterized as ‘‘non-reproductive’’ morphs, asexuals and
celibates do not invest time or energy in mating effort,
invest in kin relative to male androphiles. In line with this
reasoning, asexuals or celibates should exhibit elevated kin-
directed altruism compared to male androphiles. Future re-
search will be needed to ascertain whether this is indeed the
We also stress that our findings do not provide sufficient
evidence to make strong conclusions regarding whether the
fa’afafine’s elevated avuncular tendencies reflect an adap-
tation to increase the fitness of kin, and thereby offset the
fitness costs associated with male androphilia. To ascertain
to determine whether fa’afafine’s elevated avuncular ten-
dencies are characterized by special design features that are
by androphlic males in real world situations could ever be
sufficient to offset the costs associated with not reproducing
directly (e.g., Bailey, 2003). Individuals share more genes
with their sons and daughters than with nieces and nephews.
On average, humans share 50% oftheir genes with offspring
and 25% of their genes with nieces and nephews in popula-
tions that mate randomly and are previously outbred
(Haldane, 1955; Hamilton, 1963). As such, if an increased
to the evolution and maintenance of male androphilia, then
fa’afafine’s avuncularity would have to be sufficient to
compensate for the fitness costs associated with not repro-
ducing directly. Theoretically speaking, for every offspring
that an androphilic male failed toproduce directly, he would
need to compensate forthis byfacilitating the production of,
Arch Sex Behav
From this perspective, it would seem that fa’afafine would
have to be ‘‘super’’ uncles, dispensing a much greater quan-
be on par with that of gynephilic men (Bailey, 2003). The
difference in mean avuncular tendencies observed between
fa’afafine and gynephilic men was significant, but the effect
size was not large. This raises the question of whether mod-
erate increases in avuncular tendencies, as exhibited by
fa’afafine, are sufficient to make up for the costs associated
to address this question.
Alternatively, quality of avuncular tendencies may be
more important than quantity, such that certain kinds of
but moderate effect size differences in mean avuncular ten-
dencies observed between fa’afafine and gynephilic men
becomes less of an issue when attempting to account for this
pattern within an adaptationist framework. Research from
another Pacific island locale, Ifaluk atoll in Yap, Federated
States of Micronesia, suggests that moderate increases in
particular types of kin directed altruism (e.g., food sharing)
by non-reproductive kin (i.e., first and second born pre-
reproductive daughters) can have significant fitness effects
for reproductively active kin (i.e., mothers; Turke, 1988). In
order toevaluatewhether the quality ofavuncularity ismore
evolutionarily important than the quantity, it will be neces-
sary to undertake appraisals of the fitness-related benefits
accrued by kin as a result of particular types of avuncular
In conclusion, although our results were consistent with
some of the basic predictions of the kin selection hypothesis
for male androphilia, it is possible that androphilia in
fa’afafine does not represent an evolved adaptation for
increasing kin directed altruism. Likewise, it is equally
possible that elevated avuncular tendencies do not represent
an evolved adaptation for offsetting the reproductive cost of
male androphilia. Despite all this, the fa’afafine’s elevated
avuncular tendencies may, nevertheless, contribute to the
fitness of genetic factors underlying male androphilia.
Camperio Ciani, Corna, and Capiluppi (2004) reported that
the female maternal relatives (i.e., mothers, grandmothers,
to the female maternal relatives of gynephilic men in
an Italian sample (see also Camperio Ciani, Cermelli, &
Zanzotto, 2008; Iemmola & Camperio Ciani, 2008). Other
studies have reported elevated fecundity for the mothers
(King et al., 2005; Rahman et al., 2008), maternal grand-
mothers (McKnight & Malcolm, 2000) and maternal aunts
(Bailey et al., 1999; Rahman et al., 2008; Turner, 1995) of
androphilic males relative to their gynephilic counterparts.
Vasey and VanderLaan (2007a, 2007b) reported that the
mothers of fa’afafine were significantly more fecund than
those of gynephilic men. These findings raise the possibility
that reproductive costs associated with genes for male an-
drophilia may be offset by the reproductive benefits that
occur if the same genetic factors result in increased repro-
ductive success among female kin. From this perspective,
Wakefield, 1998; Gould & Vrba, 1982) for increased female
fecundity. In such a situation, increased avuncularity among
1966) on the genetic factors for both increased fecundity in
females and, by extension, its conjectured by-product, male
androphilia. Williams (1966) invoked the term ‘‘effect’’ to
designate the fortuitous operation of a useful character not
built by selection for its current role (for further discussion,
see Gould & Vrba, 1982). Clearly, more research will be
neededtotestthese various evolutionary perspectiveson the
origins and maintenance of male androphilia.
H. Bartlett, Vester Fido Collins, Peniamina Tolovaa Fagai, Liulauulu
Faaleolea Ah Fook, Daniel B. Krupp, Tyrone Laurenson, Jeannette
Mageo, Gaualofa Matalavea, Nella Tavita-Levy, David S. Pocock,
Trisha Tuiloma, the Kuka family of Savai’i, the Government of Samoa
thank two anonymous reviewers and the Editor for their helpful com-
ments. We extend special thanks to Alatina Ioelu without whose help
this study would not have been possible. D.P.V. was funded by an
D3, and a Grant-In-Aid of Research from Sigma Xi, The Scientific
Research Society. P.L.V. was funded by the University of Lethbridge
and a NSERC Canada Discovery Grant.
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