Rubens's Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus

"If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” Congressman Todd Akin, the Republican nominee in Missouri for U.S. Senate famously said this week.

Yeah? Well tell that to Genghis Khan.

And tell it to the chimps.

According to 2003 research by geneticists and biologists at universities across Europe and Asia, approximately 8% of the men now living in areas of Asia once occupied by Genghis Khan’s army are direct descendants of the legendary conqueror. This is roughly the equivalent of 0.5% of the world’s total population of adult men.

Testing the blood of 2,123 living men, researchers from the UK’s Oxford University, China’s Harbin Medical University, Italy’s University of Ferrara, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Islamabad’s Biomedical and Genetic Engineering Labs, Uzbekistan’s Academy of Sciences, the UK’s University of Cambridge, and the Mongolian Academy of Sciences identified a completely novel Y-chromosomal lineage apparent in the descendants of 16 different populations. Using scientific software for modeling genetic mutation and population processing, they estimated that the chromosome originated with a single male ancestor about 1,000 years ago and spread like wildfire from city to city and tribal area to tribal area. The geographic boundary in which the chromosomal aberration was found is a remarkable match with the boundary of the Mongol empire at the time of Khan’s death.

How could Genghis Khan have been so successful at spreading his seed? Lei Chang, a psychologist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, has one idea. Chimps commonly spread their seed by kidnapping females during inter-group raids and then raping them. Chang suggests that from our evolutionary ancestors, male humans have inherited the tendency to make war in order to impregnate females—both the willing ones enamored of military swagger and the unwilling ones taken against their will. According to Chang, the innate urge to spread seed rampantly could be the reason that, in the 50,000 years or so of Homo sapiens history, war has proven ineradicable.

To test this theory about lust and war mongering, Chang and a small group of colleagues from both Chinese and Hebei Universities conducted several experiments. First, they showed young heterosexual men pictures of women's faces, and asked them to rate their agreement with war-supporting statements. The men shown photos of attractive faces were statistically more likely to endorse war. In another experiment, men shown pictures of attractive women's faces and legs showed a statistically higher speed of response to warlike imagery than did men shown pictures of a national flag. The researchers also tested women. In all measures of interest in war, analysis showed no statistically significant effect of pictures of attractive men.

In “The Face That Launched a Thousand Ships: The Mating-Warring Association in Men,” Chang and his colleagues concluded that the thought or sight of a pretty woman can make men both more destructive and more reactive. Chang acknowledges that the idea of war as an evolutionary strategy meant to abet baby making is controversial. "But a species-wide evolutionary strategy does require individuals to acquire sexual partners," he explains, "and mate-seeking can be crude and selfish. All species go extinct eventually. The human species is no different, and our run-away male warfare may bring us to our end."

In the meanwhile, a thousand-year-old chromosomal trail originating with one man and ending in the DNA of roughly 8% of men in the former Mongol empire provides clear evidence. The bodies of a huge number of Asian women most probably raped 1,000 years ago did not have ways of “shutting the whole thing down.” From an evolutionary perspective, 1,000 years is but a heartbeat. Virtually nothing about reproductive biology has changed since then.

Tell it to Congressman Akin.

***

Rebecca Coffey's eBook MURDERS MOST FOUL: And the School Shooters in Our Midst is available on Amazon.com,BarnesAndNoble.com, and in the iBook store. 

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