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March 03, 2005

Individualism versus "sexual proprietariness"

Der Spiegel reports >>

In the past four months, six Muslim women living in Berlin have been brutally murdered by family members. Their crime? Trying to break free and live Western lifestyles. Within their communities, the killers are revered as heroes for preserving their family dignity. How can such a horrific and shockingly archaic practice be flourishing in the heart of Europe?

[T]he first extensive data the German government collected about the lives of Turkish women was published last summer, as part of a study done by the Ministry for Family Affairs. The study showed that 49 percent of Turkish women said they had experienced physical or sexual violence in their marriage.

Since I am a Western woman, it won't surprise anybody when I say that I find "honor killings" to be abhorrent and completely unacceptable. I find it hard to resist putting myself into the place of these women and, as an individual, feel I can relate to the fact that they want to take control of their own lives and (what it ultimately boils down to) their own reproductive futures.

I found that I gasped out loud at the figure of 49% of Turkish women in Germany reporting to have experienced physical/sexual violence in their marriage -- but, then I wondered what the figure in the United States might be. There's always certainly a lot of talk about domestic violence in the States -- I didn't want to judge German Turks too harshly before I found out some facts.

What I found was (also unacceptable) >>

22.1% of surveyed women [National Violence Against Women Survey, U.S. Dept. of Justice], compared with 7.4% of surveyed men, reported they were physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, boyfriend or girlfriend, or date in their lifetime.... Approximately 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States.

And >>

In 1998, intimate partner homicides accounted for about 11% of all murders nationwide. They constituted about 33% of murder of women but only 4% of murders of men. Female murder victims were substantially more likely than male murder victims to have been killed by an intimate partner; of the 1,830 persons murdered by intimates in 1998, 72% (1,320) were women.

So, from those figures, it appears that while American men (1) are no saints, "only" one-in-five (roughly) American women report having been physically assaulted by their spouses, nearly one out of every two Turkish women in Germany have experienced abuse. Sobering figures all around, but particularly shocking behavior on the part of the Turks.

Still, despite the differing figures, there does seem to be something universal going on here -- many men appear to be violent toward women -- and, to a large degree, toward the women with whom they are intimate. What is going on?

Wilson and Daly convincingly discuss male violence towards partners in terms of "sexual proprietariness" >>

The ostensible motivating circumstances in most uxoricides [killing of wife by husband] reflect what we have called male sexual proprietariness: Husband who kill usually appear to have been moved by an aggrieved intolerance of the alienation of their wives, either through (suspected or actual) adultery or through the woman's termination of the marriage. Daly and Wilson reviewed several studies of well-described spousal homicide cases, and in each sample, such sexual proprietariness was apparently the primary motivational factor in over 80% of the cases.... Studies of nonlethal violence against wives indicate a more diverse set of motives, but the predominant one is apparently the same: When asked what are the primary issues around which violent incidents occurred, both beaten wives and their assailants nominate "jealousy" above all else.

Our findings [data from Canada and elsewhere] include the following: (a) much higher rates of uxoricide after estrangement than in coresiding couples, (b) highest rates of uxoricide and nonlethal assaults for the youngest wives and a steady decline with age (2), (c) higher rates of uxoricide and nonlethal assaults in common-law marital unions than in registered marital unions, and (d) higher rates of violence when the woman has coresident minor children sired by a previous partner.

So, all of this violence toward spouses/partners "makes sense" when we view it from the perspective of males attempting to maximize their reproductive success by trying to exercise "property" rights over (especially young, i.e. fertile) women while at the same time reducing the chances of themselves winding up as providers for other males' offspring (i.e. being cuckolded). I'd even suggest that the women's families (fathers, mothers, brothers) also sometimes get into the act (as in the German Turkish cases) because the future of THEIR genes is on the line, too -- they all want to ensure that the genes they share with the female in question get the best (in their eyes) reproductive chance possible (3).

Of course, all evolutionary psychology does is offer possible explanations for what is going on -- it does not offer ethical solutions or planning guidelines for the future of humanity. We have to decide whether we want it to be permissible in our society for individuals, or families, to use violence and murder to coerce others into doing their (reproductive) bidding. My personal choice is no -- I do not want to live in such a society. I would wish to eliminate such behavior as much as possible since I value my own, individual freedom to choose.

In light of this, I say that Germany and the Netherlands and other European countries ought to demand that immigrants, whatever part of the world they hail from, must adhere to Western ideals. I have nothing against people CHOOSING to follow whatever religion or other custom(s) they wish to -- but there must be FREE choice involved. Otherwise, we are simply giving away our Western heritage of freedom and individualism.

As one Dutch politician said: "We have been tolerant to the nontolerant, and we got intolerance back."


(1) "Among women, being black, young, divorced or separate, earning a lower income, living in rental housing, or living in an urban area were all associated with higher rates of intimate partner victimization between 1993 and 1998....

"Overall, blacks were victimized by intimate partners at significantly higher rates than persons of any other race between 1993 and 1998. Black women experienced intimate partner violence at a rate 35% higher than whit women, and about 2.5 times the rate of women of other races. Black men experienced intimate partner violence at a rate about 62% higher than that of white men and about 2.5 times the rate of men of other races."

(2) "Women ages 20 to 24 were victimized by an intimate partner at the highest rate (21 victimizations per 1,000 women). This rate was about eight times the peak rate for men (3 victimizations per 1,000 men ages 25 to 34)."

(3) What I personally found to be one of the most cynical aspects of the Der Spiegel story was that "in many cases, fathers -- and sometimes even mothers -- single out their youngest son to do the killing, Boehmecke said, 'because they know minors will get lighter sentences from German judges.'" What cowards, to make a decision to kill one's daughter and not have the guts to follow through on that decision oneself.

Posted by theresa at 11:12 AM