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Pascal Picq

And Evolution Created Woman Sexual Coercion and Violence in Men

Pascal Picq is associate professor in the chair of paleoanthropology and prehistory at the Collège de France. He is the author of bestselling books: Au commencement était l’homme, Lucy et l’obscurantisme, L’Homme est-il un grand singe politique ?, and De Darwin à Lévi-Strauss. L’Homme et la diversité en danger.
Male against female violence has been regularly highlighted in the news.
Beyond current events, this violence is a cause of female mortality deeply rooted in our species.
Where does this behavior come from? Is it a natural characteristic of the species and therefore genetically rooted? Or is it an effect of the culture and organizational modes of human societies? These are the questions addressed in the book. Picq tries to provide elements of an answer by examining our understanding of relations between men and women from a biological and evolutionary point of view, based on what is known about relations between males and females in other animal species and in the past of our own.
The book examines behavior in gendered species and classifies species according to the sexual coercion exercised by males towards females, focusing primarily on primates and great apes. It then looks at the origins of sexual coercion in humans, and for traces of it in our ancestors, starting with Lucy. It analyzes the biological conditions of reproduction in humans, from obstetric constraints - linked to neotenia and the transition to standing - to the organization of societies, with a particular difference between hunter-gatherer and agricultural societies. In each case, it analyzes the place of women in society, and the particular conditions of their evolution, under the constraint of both biological and cultural factors.
Pascal Picq thus offers a sketch of what the evolution of women and gender relations may have been during prehistory, seeking to escape from stereotypes and avoid projecting contemporary representations into the distant past. What animates him, of course, is the hope that by understanding the reasons for such exceptional male violence towards women, in the natural world, we may also find ways to remedy it.