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Avuncular Tendencies and the Evolution of Male Androphilia in Samoan Fa’afafine

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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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ORIGINAL PAPER
Avuncular Tendencies and the Evolution of Male Androphilia
in Samoan Fa’afafine
Paul L. Vasey ÆDoug P. VanderLaan
Received: 27 February 2008 / Revised: 24 June 2008 / Accepted: 24 June 2008
!Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008
Abstract The kin selection hypothesis for male andro-
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
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 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-
pared 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 andro-
philia, further research is needed before deeming male an-
drophilia an adaptation for promoting elevated avuncularity.
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).
Keywords Male androphilia !Samoa !Evolution !
Avuncular tendencies !Kin selection
Introduction
A large body of research indicates that there is a biological
basis for male androphilia
1
(Mustanski, Chivers, & Bailey,
2002), and familial studies point to a genetic component (e.g.,
Bailey, Dunne, & Martin, 2000; Kendler, Thornton, Gilman,
& 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-
ovich Partners, 1994). In light of the apparent fitness benefits
associated with male gynephilia, one would expect genes for
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
human prehistory (e.g., Nash, 2001; Yates, 1993). Moreover,
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
e-mail: paul.vasey@uleth.ca
1
Androphilia 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
presented here.
123
Arch Sex Behav
DOI 10.1007/s10508-008-9404-3
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
is a measure of an individual’s impact on the fitness of its kin
(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-
sexual, offspring become altruistic towards close relatives in
order thereby to increase their own overall inclusive fitness’’
(p. 20). Given that what is at issue here is a theory that can
account for the origin of same-sex sexual attraction, it seems
reasonable to interpret these statements as indicating that
same-sex sexual attraction, itself, is a prerequisite for the
expression of elevated kin-direct altruism, not childlessness.
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 did not differ significantly from 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
and Hull (2005) also found no evidence that androphilic men
were more inclined towards avuncularity compared to their
gynephilic counterparts.
Vasey, Pocock, and VanderLaan (2007) compared the
altruistic tendencies of androphilic and gynephilic males in
the non-Western Polynesian island nation of Independent
Samoa using similar methods to those employed by previous
researchers working in the US and England (Bobrow &
Bailey, 2001; Rahman & Hull, 2005). In Independent Samoa,
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;
Vasey & Bartlett, 2007). Despite this heterogeneity in gender
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,
and engage in sexual interactions with, masculine males who
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
self-identified straight men are gynephilic, but may engage in
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 &
Wunderman, 1999).
In contrast to research conducted in Western settings,
Vasey et al. (2007) found that fa’afafine reported signifi-
cantly higher avuncular tendencies relative to straight men in
Independent Samoa. These findings are consistent with the
basic prediction of the kin selection hypothesis for male an-
drophilia, and raise the possibility that androphilic fa’afafine
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
conclusion that either male androphilia or elevated avuncular
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
care responsibilities. In the Vasey et al. (2007) study, none of
the fa’afafine participants had children (n=38). In contrast,
58% of the gynephilic men (n=43) who participated in that
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.
In this article, our goal was to ascertain whether the sexual
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-
ous research by comparing avuncular tendencies in fa’afafine
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
123
avuncular tendencies, if present, could be explained in terms
of their lack of direct parental care responsibilities. If so, then
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.
Method
Participants
All participants were recruited through a network sampling
procedure on the two larger and more populated islands of
Independent Samoa: Upolu and Savai’i. A network sampling
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
participants who, in turn, provide further referrals, and so on.
The rate of participation for all groups was greater than 90%.
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-
entation was assessed using Kinsey ratings of sexual feelings
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
most sexual feelings toward females, but some defini te sexual
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-
philic men with at least one child, we combined the data from
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 (Kinsey rating =6), and one (2.6%) reported most
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),
and three (7%) reported most sexual feelings toward females,
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-
pants who were deemed by the researchers to be insufficiently
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
(Bobrow & Bailey, 2001; Rahman & Hull, 2005; Vasey et al.,
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
level of education received (i.e., post-secondary, high school,
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-
ing to the Kinsey scale (Kinsey et al., 1948), that the category
‘males’’ included straight men and/or fa’afafine, whereas the
category ‘‘females’’ included women.
Participants were also asked to complete the Avuncular
Tendencies Subscale. This subscale is a measurement in-
strument containing nine items and has been used to quantify
willingness to allocate resources to nieces and neph-
ews in previous studies (Bobrow & Bailey, 2001; Rahman &
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 for the children, tutoring one of the children in a subject
you know well, helping to expose the children to art and
music, contributing money for daycare, contributing money
for the children’s medical expenses, and contributing money
for the children’s education. For each item, participants were
asked to rate whether they would be willing to exhibit the
behavior towards nieces and nephews that were the children
of a sibling with whom they were emotionally close and who
lived nearby. Responses to these items were based on a 7-
point Likert-type scale that ranged from 1 =‘Strongly
Disagree’’ to 7 =‘Strongly Agree.’’ Participants’ avuncular
Arch Sex Behav
123
tendencies scores were calculated as the mean rating given to
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
Vokey, 2003).
Results
Replication Study
Table 1summarizes results of the replication portion of the
present study. Internal consistency reliabilities, standardized
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
(G
1
2
=.001, ns). Fa’afafine exhibited greater avuncular
tendencies than gynephilic men. A Cohen’s dindicated a
moderate effect size difference between fa’afafine and gy-
nephilic men for avuncular tendencies (d=.57).
Comparison of Fa’afafine, Gynephilic Men with No
Children, and Gynephilic Men with at Least One Child
Table 2summarizes results of the comparisons of fa’afafine,
gynephilic men with no children, and gynephilic men with at
least one child. Internal consistency reliabilities, standard-
ized item alpha (a), were computed for fa’afafine, gynephilic
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).
An analysis of variance (ANOVA) indicated a main effect
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
gynephilic men with no children (p\.001), but did not differ
in this regard from gynephilic men with at least one child.
Gynephilic men with at least one child had significantly
higher annual incomes than gynephilic men with no children
(p=.002). A GLM showed that fa’afafine and gynephilic
men did not differ in terms of the highest level of education
they received (G
2
2
=1.53, ns).
An analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was performed
with Avuncular Tendencies as the dependent variable, group
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-
dren, and gynephilic men with at least one child are presented
in Table 3.
A two-tailed Pearson’s rcorrelation 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-
ticipant group. There was no significant relationship between
these variables for fa’afafine (r=.07, df =91, p=.52), gy-
nephilic men without children (r=.20, df =63, p=.12),
Table 1 Replication sample: results summary
Fa’afafine (n=56) Gynephilic men (n=95) Two-tailed t-test
M SD M SD t
a
df p
Age (in years) 27.95 5.96 27.82 8.66 \1
b
145.31 ns
Income (USD) 6099.11 9496.57 3661.42 3712.77 1.84
c
65.05 .07
Avuncular tendencies 6.27 1.04 5.62 1.30 3.49
d
135.66 .001
a
Between group equality of variances not assumed
b
Levene’s test for equality of variances, F=5.85, p=.017
c
Levene’s test for equality of variances, F=4.08, p=.045
d
Levene’s test for equality of variances, F=5.49, p=.02
Arch Sex Behav
123
or gynephilic men with at least one child (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).
Discussion
In contrast to research conducted in Western countries
(Bobrow & Bailey, 2001; Rahman & Hull, 2005), Vasey et al.
(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
orientation difference in avuncular tendencies using a larger,
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
Vasey et al. (2007) differed from those conducted in Western
countries (Bobrow & Bailey, 2001; Rahman & Hull, 2005),
despite the fact that all employed very similar methodologies.
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 variance
a
M SD M SD M SD F df
within
p
Age (in years)
c,d,e
29.48 7.31 21.88 4.22 33.39 7.48 53.33 229 \.001
Income (USD)
c,e
5956.36 7980.22 2400.50 3517.59 5636.10 5096.89 7.42 229 .001
Avuncular tendencies
b,c,d
6.20 .92 5.56 1.06 5.55 1.37 9.18 227 \.001
a
Between-groups df =2 for all analyses
b
Groups were compared using ANCOVA with age and income included in the model as covariates
c
Statistically significant difference (p\.05) between fa’afafine and gynephilic men with no children
d
Statistically significant difference (p\.05) between fa’afafine and gynephilic men with at least one child
e
Statistically significant difference (p\.05) between gynephilic men with no children and gynephilic men with at least one child
Table 3 Individual Avuncular Tendencies Subscale items for fa’afafine, gynephilic men with no children, and gynephilic men with at least one child,
controlling for age and income: results summary
Act Fa’afafine
(n=94)
Gynephilic men
with no children
(n=66)
Gynephilic men
with at least one
child (n=72)
F
2, 227
p
M SD M SD M SD
Babysitting for an evening
a
6.36 1.35 5.53 1.89 5.84 1.89 4.10 .018
Babysitting on a regular basis
a,b
5.51 2.01 4.55 2.19 4.90 2.12 3.64 .028
Taking care of the children for a week while their parents are away
a,b
5.71 1.89 4.77 2.22 4.81 2.30 4.96 .008
Buying toys for the children
a,b
6.26 1.44 5.36 1.76 5.67 1.67 6.09 .003
Tutoring one of the children in a subject you know well
b
6.64 0.79 6.36 1.10 6.00 1.70 4.57 .011
Helping to expose the children to art and music
b,c
6.47 1.16 6.26 1.13 5.45 1.93 8.40 \.001
Contributing money for daycare 5.73 1.80 5.18 1.75 5.17 1.79 2.60 ns
Contributing money for the children’s medical expenses
a
6.49 1.17 6.08 1.29 6.10 1.44 2.75 ns
Contributing money for the children’s education
a,b
6.67 0.87 5.95 1.41 5.97 1.54 8.54 \.001
a
Statistically significant difference (p\.05) between fa’afafine and gynephilic men with no children
b
Statistically significant difference (p\.05) between fa’afafine and gynephilic men with at least one child
c
Statistically significant difference (p\.05) between gynephilic men with no children and gynephilic men with at least one child
Arch Sex Behav
123
situated (2,934 km
2
total; Lal & Fortune, 2000). Owing to its
small size, fa’afafine may be more geographically connected
to their kin compared to androphilic men in Western cultures.
Second, the family unit, or aiga (extended family), is of
great importance to Samoans (Mageo, 1998; Schmidt, 2003).
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;
Tiffany, 1975), fa’afafine may be more socially connected to
their kin compared to androphilic men living in Western
cultures, which are generally recognized as being more
‘egocentric’’ (Mageo, 1998) or individualistic (Hofstede,
1980).
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-
tance they enjoy, the manner in which they are integrated into
the quotidian fabric of Samoan life, and their highly public
presence stand in stark contrast to their Western counterparts
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.
2
Say for a wedding
he’ll [the fa’afafine] be the one cleaning and decorating
the church even if he is working another job and he’ll
contribute money too. He’ll do the gowns and the cake.
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
for her to accept it. We loved him dearly and we were all
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?
Samoan woman (smiling): Well, up until the day of the
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
Samoans as a net loss, not a net gain. Given this high level of
social acceptance, estrangement of androphilic males from
their families may be less likely in a Samoan cultural context
(Besnier, 1994; Croall & Wunderman, 1999; Danielsson
et al., 1978; Vasey & Bartlett, 2007) when compared to many
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,
3
not egalitarian male
androphilia.
4
Archeological 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,
1998; Africa: Brooks & Bocahut, 1998; Middle East: Wikan,
1977; India: Nanda, 1998; South-east Asia: Coleman,
Colgan, & Gooren, 1992; Graham, 2004; Johnson, 1997;
Koon, 2002; Polynesia: Besnier, 1994). In contrast, egali-
tarian male androphilia appears, with very few exceptions, to
be a historically recent phenomenon that is quite rare outside
of Western settings (e.g., Greenberg, 1988; Murray, 2000).
For reasons that remain unclear, transgendered male andro-
philes are often described by the gender-normative members
of their societies as being superior to men and women in terms
of various labor practices, often combining the best that both
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
2
The word fa’alavelave can be translated in several ways, but is
commonly used to imply ‘‘trouble.’’A fa’alavelave is a traditional event
(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).
3
Transgendered male androphilia occurs between a male who is
markedly gender-atypical and another who is more or less gender-
typical for his own sex.
4
Egalitarian male androphilia occurs between two males not markedly
different in age, gender-related characteristics, or other traits. Within the
relationship, partners do not adopt social roles, and they treat each other
as equals.
Arch Sex Behav
123
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,
relatively speaking.
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
follow culturally-specific feminine gender roles with respect
to the care of nieces and nephews. If so, then fa’afafine’s
avuncular tendency scores should be relatively similar to the
materteral tendency scores of a feminine class of individuals
who also lack direct parental care responsibilities, namely,
women without children. At the same time, both of these
groups should differ for these measures from more masculine
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,
unlike some gynephilic men, they have no children and, thus,
no direct parental care responsibilities. To test this possibil-
ity, we compared the avuncular tendencies of fa’afafine with
gynephilic men whose familial circumstances afforded them
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
children should not differ in this 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
that a lack of direct parental care responsibilities can account
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
affect willingness to allocate altruism to nieces and nephews.
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
whether the fa’afafine’s androphilia reflects an adaptation for
promoting kin-directed altruism, and thereby offsetting the
fitness costs associated with male androphilia. To ascertain
whether this is indeed the case, more research will be needed
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
cogently that male androphilia does not appear to be specially
designed to facilitate elevated kin-direct altruism. As LeVay
(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,
whereas male androphiles often do (Saghir & Robins, 1973).
As such, asexuals and celibates have more time and energy to
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
case.
We also stress that our findings do not provide sufficient
evidence to make strong conclusions regarding whether the
fa’afafineselevated avuncular tendencies reflect an adap-
tation to increase the fitness of kin, and thereby offset the
fitness costs associated with male androphilia. To ascertain
whether this is indeed the case, more research will be needed
to determine whether fa’afafine’s elevated avuncular ten-
dencies are characterized by special design features that are
indicative of adaptations (see Williams, 1966). Some authors
have expressed doubt that kin-directed altruism as expressed
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% of their 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
tendency towards avuncularity is the sole factor contributing
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 to produce directly, he would
need to compensate for this by facilitating the production of,
on average, two additional nieces and/or nephews that would
Arch Sex Behav
123
not otherwise have existed (Haldane, 1955; Hamilton, 1963).
From this perspective, it would seem that fa’afafine would
have to be ‘‘super’’ uncles, dispensing a much greater quan-
tity of avuncular behavior so that their inclusive fitness would
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
with not reproducing directly. Future research will be needed
to address this question.
Alternatively, quality of avuncular tendencies may be
more important than quantity, such that certain kinds of
avuncular altruism may result in relatively large fitness gains
for both the recipient and the donor. If so, then the significant,
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 to evaluate whether the quality of avuncularity is more
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
altruism that are actually expressed by their androphilic male
relatives.
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,
aunts) of androphilic men exhibit greater fecundity compared
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,
male androphilia, could be conceptualized as a by-product of
an adaptation
5
(sensu Buss, Haselton, Shackelford, Bleske, &
Wakefield, 1998; Gould & Vrba, 1982) for increased female
fecundity. In such a situation, increased avuncularity among
male androphiles could potentially facilitate reproduction by
female kin and thereby have positive effects (sen su Williams,
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
needed to test these various evolutionary perspectives on the
origins and maintenance of male androphilia.
Acknowledgments We thank Resitara Apa, J. Michael Bailey, Nancy
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
and all of the individuals who agreed to participate in our study. We also
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
Alberta Graduate Scholarship, a NSERC Canada Graduate Scholarship-
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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... In light of this evidence, it is striking that the kin selection hypothesis has been repeatedly supported in Samoa, where transgender androphilic males predominate and are recognized as a third gender (i.e., fa'afafine). Multiple studies have shown that the avuncular tendencies (i.e., uncle-like willingness to allocate resources toward nieces and nephews) of fa'afafine are significantly elevated compared to those of Samoan gynephilic men Vasey & VanderLaan, 2010b;. In addition, fa'afafine exhibit significantly elevated avuncular tendencies compared to the materteral (aunt-like) tendencies of Samoan mothers Vasey & VanderLaan, 2009) and childless women (Vasey & VanderLaan, 2009), although this latter effect requires further replication. ...
... Research demonstrates that fa'afafine's elevated avuncularityas opposed to the lack thereof among gay men in other culturesdoes not appear to be attributable to any of the following: socially desirable responding on the part of fa'afafine (Vasey & VanderLaan, 2010a); greater social acceptance of same-sex sexuality in Samoa compared to other cultures (Forrester et al., 2011); lack of direct parental responsibilities (Vasey & VanderLaan, 2009, 2010b; close geographic proximity to family (Abild et al., 2014); a collectivistic cultural context ; taking on the childcare role of women as part of their "thirdgender" status (Vasey & VanderLaan, 2009); having more time to allocate to nieces and nephews due to a lack sexual/romantic relationship involvement ; and, (trans)gender role expectations that fa'afafine will contribute more than other family members to caring for nieces and nephews (VanderLaan et al., 2015a). ...
... In contrast, cisgender androphilic "gay" men behaviorally defeminize as they transition into adulthood (Bailey, 2003) and become much more masculine in comparison to fa'afafine. Consistent with the predictions of the adaptive feminine phenotype model, Samoan fa'afafine exhibit elevated avuncularity in adulthood (Vasey & VanderLaan, 2009;2010b, 2010c, but Canadian gay men do not (Abild et al., 2014;Forrester et al., 2011;VanderLaan et al., 2016). Among Samoan fa'afafine, childhood concern about the well-being of siblings is positively associated with adulthood avuncularity , which is consistent with the suggestion by VanderLaan et al. (2011b) that the former is a developmental precursor of the later. ...
... In contrast, a program of research conducted on transgender male androphiles in Samoa has repeatedly found support for the kin selection hypothesis. This research demonstrates that transgender androphilic males, known locally as fa'afafine, report being more willing to invest time and resources towards their nieces and nephews when compared to gynephilic males and androphilic women (VanderLaan, Vasey & VanderLaan, 2009, 2010a, 2010b. These tendencies appear to manifest as actual behavior given that fa'afafine report investing more money towards their nieces when compared to Samoan men and women (Vasey & VanderLaan, 2010c). ...
... Specifically, we tested whether avuncular tendencies towards nieces and nephews differed between Istmo Zapotec gynephilic men, androphilic women, and cisgender and transgender muxes. We predicted that transgender muxes (i.e., muxe gunaa) would exhibit higher altruistic tendencies towards nieces and nephews when compared to gynephilic men and androphilic women (Study 1, Prediction 1), similar to Samoan fa'afafine (e.g., VanderLaan et al., 2017;Vasey & VanderLaan, 2009, 2010a, 2010b. In contrast, we predicted that cisgender muxes (i.e., muxe nguiiu) would not exhibit higher altruistic tendencies towards nieces and nephews when compared to gynephilic men and androphilic women (Study 1, Prediction 2). ...
... Furthermore, there was no significant difference in number of offspring between sister groups nor a significant correlation between sisters' number of offspring and their male siblings' kin-directed altruism. These findings suggest that muxes' elevated kin-directed altruism are not a result of a greater need for childcare support among their sisters because of a greater number of children. 4 Overall, these findings corroborate those obtained from Study 1 and from previous studies conducted in Samoa (Vander-Laan et al., 2017;Vasey & VanderLaan, 2009, 2010a, 2010b. In addition, these findings suggest that androphilic males' elevated willingness to engage in kin-directed altruism translate into actual behavior as suggested by previous research on monetary exchange in Samoa (Vasey & VanderLaan, 2010c) and Java (Nila et al., 2018). ...
Article
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Male androphilia (i.e., sexual attraction and arousal to adult males) is considered an evolutionary puzzle because it reduces direct reproduction, but is influenced by genetic factors, reliably occurs across cultures, and has persisted over evolutionary time. The kin selection hypothesis states that genes for male androphilia can be maintained in a population if the costs of not reproducing directly are offset by enhancing the reproduction of kin. We tested this hypothesis among the Istmo Zapotec of Oaxaca, Mexico, where transgender and cisgender androphilic males are known as muxe gunaa and muxe nguiiu, respectively. We compared altruistic tendencies towards kin and non-kin children between muxe nguiiu (n = 106), muxe gunaa (n = 106), gynephilic men (i.e., men sexually attracted and aroused to adult females; n = 172), and androphilic women (n = 130). We also assessed whether the sisters of muxes (n = 96) reported receiving more childcare support from their muxe sibling compared to women with only gynephilic brothers (n = 65). The results showed that cisgender and transgender muxes reported more kin-directed altruistic tendencies than men. Muxe nguiiu also reported more kin-directed altruistic tendencies than women. When controlling for altruistic tendencies towards non-kin children, both muxe types exhibited more kin-directed altruistic tendencies than men and women. Women with muxe siblings reported receiving more childcare support from these relatives compared to women with only gynephilic brothers. These findings provide support for the kin selection hypothesis and highlight its potential role in elucidating the evolutionary paradox of male androphilia.
... 2. The genes that give rise to exclusive homosexuality also make homosexuals more likely to give economic or other support to their relatives, helping them raise more offspring (Vasey and Vanderlaan 2010) 3. The genes that give rise to exclusive homosexuality make their male and female relatives more cooperative with each other because they show a willingness to yield in disputes which gives the kin group an advantage in rearing children (Muscarella 2000, Werner 2006 There is some evidence for all of these theories: One study showed that the female relatives of male homosexuals were, indeed more fertile (Iemmola and Camperi 2009). Another study showed that homosexual males did indeed help their siblings raise more children (Vasey and Vanderlaan 2010). ...
... 2. The genes that give rise to exclusive homosexuality also make homosexuals more likely to give economic or other support to their relatives, helping them raise more offspring (Vasey and Vanderlaan 2010) 3. The genes that give rise to exclusive homosexuality make their male and female relatives more cooperative with each other because they show a willingness to yield in disputes which gives the kin group an advantage in rearing children (Muscarella 2000, Werner 2006 There is some evidence for all of these theories: One study showed that the female relatives of male homosexuals were, indeed more fertile (Iemmola and Camperi 2009). Another study showed that homosexual males did indeed help their siblings raise more children (Vasey and Vanderlaan 2010). Homosexuals have, indeed, been shown to have more submissive personalities (Jozifkova and Flegr 2006) and many of their physical and psychological traits are characteristic of submissive individuals (Bogaert 2010, Brooks 2004, Bullough 1973. ...
Conference Paper
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This talk points out the importance of personal dominance hierarchies for human societies in questions that have escaped the attention of most scholars. After literature reviews it makes numerous suggestions for specific research projects. The presentation first looks at the confounding of what “is” with what “ought to be,” and explains the evolutionary origins of this confusion, drawing attention to the role of hierarchies in the evolution of our moral sense. It then turns to the role of personal hierarchies in explaining common characteristics of leaders, cultural variations in despotic rule, and the “whys” of leadership inheritance. Next examined are the social and psychologcial factors that generate “unstable hierarchies” and the importance of this instability in generating violence. The relevance of personal hierarchies for explaining sexual mating preferences, cultural variations in the frequency of rape, and homosexuality form the next topic. Finally, the role of power relationships within a society are related to specific religious beliefs.
... In particular, they did not find any significant differences in the general willingness to give resources to family members, but they found significant differences to avuncular tendencies, which measured the participants' willingness to give resources to nieces and nephews. More specifically, they found that homosexual participants scored higher in this dimension than heterosexual participants, a finding that was replicated in two subsequent studies in Samoa Vasey & VanderLaan, 2010). Vasey and VanderLaan (2012), attempted to replicate this finding outside Samoa in Japan, but found no significant differences in comparing the scores of avuncular tendencies between heterosexual and homosexual men. ...
Chapter
Sex, in case you did not notice, is an important part of the human condition. And just as people differ in their personality characteristics, so too do they differ in their sexual behaviors, attitudes, and preferences. In this chapter, we will begin by identifying some important aspects of sexuality and examining their relations with personality. We will then examine several important issues concerning the nature of these sexuality dimensions, including their biological bases, their genetic and environmental origins, and their evolutionary function.
Article
I defend an account of sexual orientation, understood as a reflexive disposition to be sexually attracted to people of a particular biological Sex or Sexes. An orientation is identified in terms of two aspects: the Sex of the subject who has the disposition, and whether that Sex is the same as, or different to, the Sex to which the subject is disposed to be attracted. I explore this account in some detail and defend it from several challenges. In doing so, I provide a theoretical framework that justifies our continued reference to Sex-directed sexual orientation as an important means of classifying human subjects.
Chapter
Evidence discussed in previous chapters indicates that, a considerable proportion of the population experiences same-sex attractions, these attractions are not always stable in an individual’s lifetime, they differ in how they are distributed between men and women, and their development involves both environmental and genetic components. In the current chapter, I will review existing evolutionary theories, and I will attempt to examine how well they do in explaining this evidence. Most of these theories focused on male homosexuality, ignoring other forms of same-sex attraction. There have been however, some theories which have attempted to understand same-sex attractions in women. I conclude that the existing theories are largely inadequate for explaining the observed patterns of same-sex attraction in men and women.
Article
Full-text available
Male androphilia (i.e., sexual attraction toward adult males) is influenced by biological factors, reliably occurs across diverse cultures, and has persisted over evolutionary time despite the fact that it reduces reproduction. One possible solution to this evolutionary paradox is the sexually antagonistic gene hypothesis (SAGH), which states that genes associated with male androphilia reduce reproduction when present in males but increase reproduction when present in their female relatives. The present study tested the SAGH among the Istmo Zapotec—a non-Euro-American culture in Oaxaca, Mexico, where transgender and cisgender androphilic males are known as muxe gunaa and muxe nguiiu, respectively. To test the SAGH, we compared offspring production by the biological relatives of muxe gunaa (n = 115), muxe nguiiu (n = 112), and gynephilic men (i.e., cisgender males who are sexually attracted to adult females; n = 171). The mothers and paternal aunts of muxe gunaa had higher offspring production than those of muxe nguiiu. Additionally, the relatives of muxe gunaa had more offspring than those of gynephilic men, whereas no such differences were found between the families of gynephilic men and muxe nguiiu. Elevated reproduction by the mothers and, particularly the aunts, of muxe gunaa is consistent with the SAGH. However, the absence of group differences between gynephilic men and muxe nguiiu, and the group differences between the two types of muxes are not predicted by the SAGH. This is the first study to demonstrate reproductive differences between kin of transgender and cisgender androphilic males within the same non-Euro-American culture.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
This talk points out the importance of personal dominance hierarchies for human societies in questions that have escaped the attention of most scholars. After literature reviews it makes numerous suggestions for specific research projects. The presentation first looks at the confounding of what “is” with what “ought to be,” and explains the evolutionary origins of this confusion, drawing attention to the role of hierarchies in the evolution of our moral sense. It then turns to the role of personal hierarchies in explaining common characteristics of leaders, cultural variations in despotic rule, and the “whys” of leadership inheritance. Next examined are the social and psychologcial factors that generate “unstable hierarchies” and the importance of this instability in generating violence. The relevance of personal hierarchies for explaining sexual mating preferences, cultural variations in the frequency of rape, and homosexuality form the next topic. Finally, the role of power relationships within a society are related to specific religious beliefs.
Thesis
This thesis addresses general questions about the relationship between the making of gender, the politics of national and ethnic identities, local - global articulations and the process of cultural transformation amongst Muslim Tausug and Sama communities in Sulu, the Southern Philippines. Specifically, I am concerned with the meaning, and experience, of the bantut, transvestite / transgender, homosexual men in Sulu. There is a long tradition of transvestism and transgendering in island Southeast Asia, where transvestites were considered to be sacred personages, ritual healers and/or, as in Sulu, accomplished singers and dancers who performed at various celebrations and rites of passage: embodiments of, and mediatory figures for, ancestral unity and potency. More recently, however, transvestites have emerged as the creative producers of an image of beauty defined in terms of an imagined global American otherness. This thesis is an attempt to understand and explain this phenomenon. In particular, I explore the relation between the collective endowment of the bantut as the purveyors of beauty, and their symbolic valorisation as impotent men and unreproductive/defiling women: those who are seen to have been overexposed to and transformed by a potent otherness. What is ultimately at stake, I argue, (and what is being asserted through the symbolic circumscription of the bantut) is local persons' autonomy over the process and consequences of cultural and political transformation in the face of the exclusionary violence of state enforced assimilation. However, the thesis is also concerned with the expressed transgenderal projects of the bantut themselves, a project which is variously about status and gender transformation, the elation and pleasure they experience in the production and performance of beauty, and the attempt to overcome the prejudice of the local populace, whilst establishing relationships that are based on mutuality and shared respect. What this thesis demonstrates is that there is nothing ambiguous about ambiguity, sexual or otherwise. Rather, it is the specific product or effect of different historical relations of power and resistance through which various cultural subjects are created and re-create themselves.