Pre-Class Sexuality: Free, Warm and Wild

Issue: 140

Terry Sullivan

Recently in this journal Sheila McGregor1 has written about sexuality in pre-class societies and its evolution. Colin Wilson replied arguing that McGregor’s analysis is incorrect.2 In turn, John Molyneux has countered Wilson.3 Most recently, Wilson has responded, and Molyneux countered again.4 In this article I wish to show that, while there are shortcomings with McGregor’s account, it is Wilson who is fundamentally mistaken. In so doing I elaborate on two points that Molyneux makes and defend him from two erroneous criticisms made by Wilson.

Wilson argues that there is no evidence to support the claim that sex in primitive communist societies was typically consensual. He also makes the extraordinary claim that human sexuality did not evolve with a pleasurable aspect to it. However, in his response to Molyneux, Wilson argues the very opposite. Further, Wilson goes on to wrongly assert that Molyneux equates sex with reproduction and, as a result, that Molyneux is being “heteronormative, if not actually homophobic”.5

Most importantly, I argue that Wilson rejects a Marxist account of the nature of pre-class societies and as a result denies that socialism alone is the means to human liberation. He does correctly point out that certain ways in which sexual behaviour is described, such as “homosexual”, “heterosexual”, “bisexual”, etc, are relatively recent. Wilson claims that such categories or concepts are “socially constructed”. However, he mistakenly goes on to argue that sexuality itself is “socially constructed”. In the process he draws the fallacious conclusion that evolution and biology more generally are unimportant in helping to shape human sexuality but also in understanding it. Finally I argue that there is little support for one of McGregor’s claims, namely that humans have evolved a tendency to form couples.

Sex in pre-class societies was typically consensual

Modern humans, anatomically virtually indistinguishable from the humans of today, appeared in Africa about 170,000 years ago. Further, they lived in a state of “primitive communism” until the cultivation of crops and the domestication of animals for food and clothing in the Nile Delta around 10,000 years ago led to the rise of class societies. Eleanor Burke Leacock captures primitive communism well when she writes that it: “refers to the collective right to basic resources, the absence of hereditary status or authoritarian rule, and the egalitarian relationships that preceded exploitation and economic stratification in human history”.6 Such societies that persist or did so until relatively recently are generally referred to as “hunter-gatherer” societies.

McGregor argues that we can make certain assumptions about sexuality in such pre-class societies based on their generally egalitarian nature. Her key claim, Wilson asserts, is that given “human sexual behaviour developed in an egalitarian and cooperative environment. It would have most likely been consensual in nature”.7 However, he argues that “no evidence exists for these assumptions, either in prehistoric times or among hunter-gatherers today”.8

Curiously, however, Wilson does go on to present evidence from contemporary hunter-gatherer societies, but it concerns two examples of the threat or actual incidence of gang-rape. It is not at all clear if he does so to show that sex in primitive communist societies would most likely not have been consensual—this would be an extraordinary claim—or if he does so in order simply to emphasise what he takes to be the problematic nature of generalising about sex in hunter-gatherer societies.

But what of Wilson’s examples themselves? One concerns the Mehinaku people of Amazonian central Brazil. Wilson states that the Mehinaku men: “use the threat of gang-rape to deter women seeing rituals”.9 He goes on to say that the oldest Mehinaku men, though perhaps tellingly not the women, recall an incident when a woman was raped by several men at the same time after seeing some of the flutes that are used in the rituals. Wilson also quotes—but does not name—an author who claims that, like the Mehinaku, some Australian Aboriginal men use the threat of rape to keep women away from certain ceremonies. However, Wilson does not tell us how prevalent such practices are. This is important given that there are something like 200 different Australian Aboriginal communities exhibiting a great deal of diversity with regard to customs and languages. The fact that such acts occurred in one Australian Aboriginal community is hardly grounds for arguing that all men in Australian Aboriginal communities, let alone all men throughout primitive communism, acted in this manner. Wilson himself quotes another unattributed author who says that rape only became an aspect of Aboriginal life since colonisation. This suggests that rape was not a typical part of such communities and may have been introduced in some way through contact with colonisers.

It is important to note that some argue explicitly that sex during primitive communism was much along the lines that McGregor suggests. For example, Timothy Taylor in The Prehistory of Sex writes that “hunter-gatherer sex had been modelled on an idea of sharing and complementarity”.10 Nancy Lindisfarne and Jonathan Neale recently make a similar point in this journal.11 Further, Taylor makes no mention of rape in pre-class society at all in the entirety of his book.

Given the above I think we should conclude that it is Wilson and not McGregor who is mistaken and that sex in primitive communist societies would indeed most likely have been consensual.

Primitive communism—still a model for revolutionary socialists

Let us return to the key claim that Wilson contests in McGregor’s account—given that: “Human sexual behaviour developed in an egalitarian and cooperative environment. It would most likely have been consensual in nature.” Wilson, as we have seen, mistakenly claims that there is no evidence to support the conclusion of this argument: namely, that sex in primitive communist societies was consensual. Further, he also rejects the premise of McGregor’s argument, that primitive communist societies were egalitarian and co-operative. Moreover in doing so he fundamentally rejects a Marxist understanding of the world and the idea that socialism alone is the means to human liberation.

While Wilson holds that primitive communist societies are characterised by the absence of classes and some degree of equality between men and women, from the examples he uses he also thinks that there are other less desirable aspects of hunter-gatherer societies. “For example”, he writes, “the !Kung practise infanticide of newborn babies with visible impairments, and hunter-gatherer societies have until recently gone to war”.12 Further he quotes Leacock who writes of the Naskapi people of northern Canada that: “Naskapi women joined in the protracted torture of Iroquois prisoners with even more fury than the men”.13 Such examples lead Wilson to write of hunter-gatherer societies that: “Despite their equality in terms of class and gender, we are not looking at societies populated by noble savages, which provide a model for us today”.14 This is a remarkable claim, as I will argue it is a rejection of how Marxists should understand the importance of primitive communism.

To see why Wilson’s claim is remarkable consider that at the end of The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State Frederick Engels quotes from Lewis Henry Morgan’s Ancient Society:

The time which has passed away since civilisation began is but a fragment of the past duration of man’s existence; and but a fragment of the ages yet to come. The dissolution of society bids fair to become the termination of a career of which property is the end and aim, because such a career contains the elements of self-destruction. Democracy in government, brotherhood in society, equality in rights and privileges, and universal education, foreshadow the next higher plane of society to which experience, intelligence and knowledge are steadily tending. It will be a revival, in a higher form, of the liberty, equality and fraternity of the ancient gentes.15

Chris Harman makes a similar point:

The dominating question for everybody ought to be whether it is possible to use the wealth [undreamt of even by our grandparents] to satisfy basic human needs by getting rid of oppressive structures, to subordinate it to a society based upon the values that characterised the lives of our ancient ancestors for the hundreds of generations of primitive communism.16

So for Marxists, as Engels and Harman argue, the future socialist society will be a revival, albeit with a massively increased quantity and quality of productive forces, of the communistic aspects of primitive _communism—collective ownership of resources, equality and freedom from all forms of oppression.

To be clear here I do not invoke Engels and Harman in some appeal to dogmatic authority. Rather I refer to them because Wilson holds that McGregor’s claims are not “compatible with a Marxist account of the world”.17 However, it is Wilson’s rejection of primitive communism as a model for a future society that is at odds with a Marxist view of the world.

As revolutionary socialists and classical Marxists we hold that the rise of class society brought about alienation and the oppression of women, as well as societies that were increasingly unequal. Further, as Marxists we believe that the overthrow of capitalism by the working class led by an organised and disciplined revolutionary vanguard party will end all oppression, rid us of alienation and bring about a fundamentally equal society. This revolutionary overthrow will eventually revive the communism of primitive communism but with productive forces having been so developed by class societies that we will be able to bring about “advanced communism”.

However, if you hold, as Wilson does, that primitive communist societies saw frequent child abuse, in the form of infanticide as well as war and torture, not to mention the fact that sex may typically not have been consensual, then the source of these ills cannot be class divisions. Further, if class divisions did not create these ills, then eradicating class divisions, that is, the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism, will not eradicate them either—something else other than socialism will be needed. Consequently, the conclusion is that the grand historical project of human liberation is not one that socialism alone can achieve. In short, the rejection of primitive communism as a model for a higher stage of communism is a rejection of revolutionary socialism and classical Marxism. However, as we shall see, a fuller consideration of Wilson’s examples does not support this rejection.

Wilson refers to infanticide among the !Kung to supposedly show us the violent nature of primitive communism. This is a curious example, not because the killing of newborn infants is not a violent act but because of the circumstances which lead to it and what they actually tell us about !Kung society and primitive communism more generally. Richard Lee in The !Kung San, perhaps the most extensive study of the !Kung, describes the circumstances surrounding infanticide as follows:

The !Kung women consider childbirth and child care as their sphere of responsibility, and they guard their prerogatives in this area. For example, the fact that women go to the bush to give birth and insist on excluding men from the childbirth site is justified by them in terms of pollution and taboos; but the underlying explanation may be that it simplifies matters if a decision in favour of infanticide is made. Because the woman will commit a considerable amount of her energy to raising each child, she examines the newborn carefully for evidence of defects; if she finds any, the child is not allowed to live and is buried with the afterbirth. By excluding men from the childbed women can report back to the camp that the child was born dead without fear of contradiction. But if the child is healthy and wanted by the woman, she accepts the major responsibility for raising it. In this way the women exercise control over their own reproduction.18

So for Lee infanticide is seen as a way for !Kung women to exercise control over their own reproduction and is part of the equality that women experience in !Kung society. However, Wilson instead only sees violence and tries to use this as an argument to overturn a Marxist understanding of the importance of primitive communism.

Wilson’s second example is that hunter-gatherers, at least until recently, went to “war”. We must be careful here by what we mean by war, especially of comparisons to modern day warfare where tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands can be involved in a conflict using weaponry that can often kill large numbers of people in a short period of time. This is definitely not the war that took place in hunter-gatherer societies. Rather this could involve scores of people perhaps armed with spears and bows and arrows as well as knives. Such wars did no doubt take place. However, we must be careful how we understand them. As Ernestine Friedl writes:

Contests for territory between the men of the neighbouring groups are not unknown… But on the whole, the amount of energy men devote to training for fighting or time spent on war expeditions among hunter-gatherers is not very great… Conflicts within bands are normally settled simply by the departure of one of the parties to the dispute.19

Nevertheless, it might be argued that the occurrence of infanticide and “war” in primitive communist societies would be consistent with historical materialism. It could be argued that they occur as a consequence of a low level of development of productive forces. With regard to infanticide among the !Kung this does seem to be what Lee is arguing. That is, the low level of productive forces means that some women carefully select which of their offspring they would raise. A similar argument might be put to explain those instances of warfare that did occur. However, I do not see how this argument could be generalised to non-consensual sex, even if it were much more prevalent in primitive communist societies than I have argued.

Sex is pleasurable—at least some of the time, at least a little

McGregor writes that “since human beings are not restricted to ‘mating’ at only certain times of the year, human sexuality appears to have evolved with a pleasurable aspect to it”.20 In response to this and to a number of other claims, Wilson argues “that no evidence exists for these assumptions, either in prehistoric times or among hunter-gatherers today”.21 This is another extraordinary claim and one that not only seems patently false but is also particularly disparaging to women.

Even in contemporary society with massive inequality, alienation and sexism the vast majority of people enjoy sex—at least to some extent and at least some of the time. Furthermore, if this is the situation in class societies, then in societies without alienation, inequality and women’s oppression this is even more likely to be the case.

Moreover, if sex is not pleasurable, then why do people engage in it? Wilson does not provide an answer. Further, his failure to do so leaves him open to misinterpretation since other explanations will be sought. One such explanation is genetic determinism, which asserts people have sex because they are directed to do so by their genes so that the genetic information they contain may be passed on to the next generation.

In his response to Molyneux, Wilson makes a remarkable about face. He acknowledges that sex is pleasurable—at least some of the time, at least a little. Wilson then uses this new found acceptance to criticise Molyneux who he accuses of a “conflation of sex and reproduction”.22 According to Wilson this conflation:

Means that [Molyneux] makes reproductive acts (heterosexual vaginal intercourse) into a normative standard, while non-procreative acts, such as those performed by same-sex couples, are implicitly categorised as peripheral. This is certainly what LGBT activists call heteronormative, if not actually homophobic.23

This is a very strong claim, particularly since I can find no example of where Molyneux equates sex with reproduction. Further, as noted above, in his response to McGregor, Wilson argues that there is no evidence that human sexuality evolved with a pleasurable aspect to it. So it seems that he is himself in danger of equating sex and reproduction, since if people do not enjoy sex, they must be doing it in order to reproduce.

The social construction of theories not reality

Wilson argues that McGregor’s key claim flies “in the face of most recent research into sexuality, a field which has undergone a dramatic change in the last 40 years”.24 To illustrate his point he writes:

The editors of a recent anthology of articles sum up the change by arguing that “in the last few decades, there has been a revolution in the study of sexuality. Sex is today understood as fundamentally social.” They contrast this understanding with the approach taken previously, which “viewed sexuality as natural” and “believed that sex was built into the body, into human genetics, hormones, into the very physiology of individuals”.25

However, again things are not quite as Wilson suggests. In the very same article the very same authors also write: “The new sexuality studies perspective does not deny the biological aspects of sexuality”.26 Even a cursory look at the writings of some of the other authors Wilson refers to exhibit the same seemingly contradictory analysis. For example, David Halperin writes that sex “is a natural fact, grounded in the functioning of the body”.27 However, he goes on to also claim that “sexuality is a cultural effect”.28 By offering an explanation of these seemingly contradictory statements we will be able to account for Wilson’s mistaken rejection of any important role for biology in shaping human sexuality. This explanation, as I will outline below, is a running together of sex and sexuality and theories of sex and sexuality.

At times Wilson talks of the “categories ‘homosexual’ and ‘heterosexual’”29 and notes that the “concepts of sexuality vary between human societies”.30 That is, he is concerned with descriptions or theories of human sexuality. Wilson goes on to argue that the categories of homosexuality, heterosexuality, bisexuality, etc are “socially constructed”,31 a phrase which he attributes to Michel Foucault. Elsewhere Wilson tells us what he means by “socially constructed”, namely: “varying from one period and society to another”.32 However, Wilson’s characterisation simply will not do as it fails to capture the term’s most important and interesting aspects.

The term “socially constructed” is used widely across the humanities and social sciences. Many uses relate to the fact that categories or theories are, surprisingly, “invented” or “made up” and, further, that social causes produce or control the selection of categories or theories with some meanings rather than others. For example, when Andrew Pickering writes of the social construction of quarks he is addressing the process by which the theories of the quark are produced.33

Returning to an example we have already considered, when Halperin identifies the absence of the categories of homosexuality and heterosexuality from ancient Greece he is considering how one set of categories or theories of sexuality was selected rather than another. However, there is an important distinction to be made between on the one hand categories and theories, and on the other what these refer to with regard to social constructionism. When Claudius Ptolemy offered a geocentric theory of the universe in the second century AD, he contributed to the social construction of something: namely, a geocentric theory of the universe. We can talk about how and when that theory arose, and how it changed over time, but in doing so we are simply talking about theories, categories and the like. It would be a mistake, obviously, to slip from those claims into saying that he constructed a geocentric universe. Similarly, it would be a mistake to slip from claims about the social construction of a theory of sexuality into the social construction of sexuality itself. But this is just what Wilson does. For example, he writes: “Sexuality is socially constructed”.34

In contrast, by remaining clear about the distinction, I would argue that we can explain why, for example, Seidman, Fischer and Meeks assert that “sex is today understood as fundamentally social” and that “the new sexuality studies perspective does not deny the biological aspects of sexuality”. In the first instance they should be understood to be talking about theories of sex and sexuality while in the second they are concerned with sex and sexuality themselves. However, Wilson does not adhere to his distinction. One consequence of this is that he rejects an important role for biology in shaping sexuality.

Why biology and evolution matter to sexuality

Readers of this journal may have sympathy with Wilson’s rejection of a major role for biology in shaping human sexuality—with his rejection of an account of sexuality that “roots sex firmly in biology”.35 After all many disgusting claims have been put forward in biology’s name. But we must not let such examples deter us from correctly understanding how our biology helps shape our bodies and our behaviour, including our sexuality. For as Stephen Jay Gould writes:

A proper understanding of biology and culture both affirms the great importance of biology in human behaviour and also explains why biology makes us free. The old equation of biology with restriction, with the inherent (as opposed to malleable) side of the false dichotomy between nature and nurture rests upon errors of thinking as old as Western culture itself. The critics of biological determinism do not uphold the equally fallacious (and equally cruel and restrictive) view that human culture cancels biology. Biological determinism has limited the lives of millions by misidentifying their socioeconomic disadvantages as inborn deficiencies, but cultural determinism can be just as cruel in attributing severe congenital disease, autism for example, to psychobabble about too much parental love, or too little.36

So those who reject biological or genetic determinism should not be forced into accepting that there is no role for our genes or biology to play in affecting human behaviour. We should also reject environmental or cultural determinism, that is, the claim that it is the environment or culture alone or overwhelmingly that determines how we behave. Rather the correct approach is to understand that our behaviour is the result of the complex interaction of both our biology and our environment.37

In his response to Molyneux, Wilson performs another remarkable about face. He criticises Molyneux for interpreting “social constructionism” as being “a claim that sex is purely social or cultural, with no connection to the biological human body”.38 However, it is not surprising that Molyneux interprets Wilson’s claims in this way. This is because, as we have seen, Wilson does seem to argue something very similar in his response to McGregor. He argues, as outlined above, that the field of human sexuality had undergone a dramatic change in the last 40 years and sexuality is no longer seen as biological or natural but rather “fundamentally social”.

So once more we should welcome Wilson’s reconsideration of his position. We should welcome his acceptance that both society and biology profoundly affect human sexuality. However, we must be clear that this is a departure from what he argues when criticising McGregor and therefore that Molyneux is correct in criticising Wilson’s original account.

Wilson also takes issue with the claim that evolution helped to shape our sexuality, in particular McGregor’s assertion that the “evolutionary process that gave rise to modern humans also shaped and gave rise to human sexuality”.39 It should be acknowledged that McGregor is perhaps not as precise as she might have been. What exactly does she mean by arguing that evolution “gave rise to human sexuality”? It is certainly true that this is the kind of language that could be used by those who hold that evolution exclusively or almost exclusively determines our behaviour, including our sexuality, although I think it is unlikely that this is what McGregor meant.

However, Wilson appears to object to the very general claim that evolution has to some extent shaped human behaviour.40 Again, while we might sympathise with his concerns, he is wrong to do so. The human species, like all life, evolved and continues to do so and that evolutionary process has affected our bodies, brains and behaviour.

Nevertheless, simply rejecting the false dichotomies of biological and environmental determinism, and solely evolutionary and solely social causes of human behaviour is not enough. Humans are not simply the passive outcome of our biology and environment, or evolution and society. As Marx noted in “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte” we “make our own history”.41 In any account of human behaviour this must be integrated into our framework and Steven Rose captures well what this must look like:

The evolutionary path that leads to humans has produced organisms with profoundly plastic, adaptable brains/minds and ways of living. Humans have created societies, invented technologies and cultures. We, the inheritors of not merely the genes, but also the cultures and technologies of our forbears, are profoundly shaped by them in ways that make our future as individuals, societies and species radically unpredictable. In short, the biological nature of being human enables us to create individual lives and collective societies whose futures lie at least in part in our hands.42

Monkey business and evolution’s rainbow

Wilson argues that “Marxists have always understood that animal and human sexual behaviours cannot really be compared”.43 However, once more Wilson is mistaken. For example, Harman surveys the last 40 years of the study of chimpanzees, bonobos (or pygmy chimpanzees) and gorillas and concludes:

There is more sharing of food, more female initiation of sexual activity, and more of a break with the “baboon” model of social interaction since a group of females tends to play a central role in holding the troop together. The evidence from apes in the wild, from pygmy chimps in particular challenges the usual image of innately aggressive and competitive behaviour. It also shows how in certain conditions elements of what we usually think of a uniquely human forms of behaviour arise among humanity’s nearest relatives—and so could also have begun to arise among our common ancestors of more than 4 million years ago.44

One of the things that Harman is arguing here is that the initiation of sexual activity by female pygmy chimps or bonobos provides evidence that this is not uniquely human.

McGregor refers to Phillipe Brenot and Pascal Picq’s Le Sexe, l’Homme et l’Evolution, which considers the sexual practices of orangutans. These practices apparently include caressing, reciprocal masturbation and oral sex. In the light of this McGregor writes that Brenot and Pascal “argue, reasonably in my view, that practices that involve both seeking and giving pleasure presuppose a capacity to conceive of the needs and desires of the other”.45

Wilson argues that we need to be “careful about making comparisons with animals, such as orangutans, which are not closely related to humans”.46 However, Wilson is wrong to claim that orangutans are not closely related to humans. Of the approximately 8.7 million species thought to currently exist on earth,47 orangutans are the fourth most closely related. Orangutans are classified as hominoids along with humans, bonobos, chimpanzees and gorillas. Bonobos and chimpanzees shared a common ancestor with humans about 4.6 to 5 million years ago, gorillas did so a further 0.3 to 2.8 million years, while orangutans did so a further 4 million years ago.

Another curiosity is that when Wilson notes that orangutans are more distantly related to humans than bonobos, chimpanzees and gorillas he cites the work of Frans de Waal, a prominent ethologist and primatologist. What is curious about this is what Wilson does not tell us about the article he cites, “Bonobo Sex and Society”. For example, de Waal writes: “The bonobo’s behavioural peculiarities may help us understand the role of sex and may have serious implications for models of human society”.48 So Wilson cites the work as part of his argument that we should be “extremely sceptical” about the relevance of animal behaviour to human sexuality but de Waal explicitly argues that we should welcome it.

So Wilson wrongly criticises McGregor, arguing that her key claim flies “in the face of most recent research into sexuality”. Moreover, he makes only passing mention of fascinating research into animal sexuality. For example Bruce Bagemihl argues that same-sex sex “occurs in more than 450 different kinds of animals worldwide, and is found in every major geographic region and every major animal group”.49 Bagemihl documents same-sex: mutual masturbation, body rubbing, mounting from behind as well as front to front, anal sex and oral sex. However, his book is not simply about sex. For example, he documents that some mammalian species bond for life in same-sex pairs and that same-sex pairs raise young. Species that have been documented to do this include grizzly bears, red foxes and warthogs. Same-sex pairs, male and female, have been noted to rear orphaned young and sometimes even abduct offspring of opposite-sex pairs. Bagemihl argues that sex between same-sex pairings is seen in both vertebrates and invertebrates, with 15 to 30 percent of extant species exhibiting this behaviour.

Disagreeing with McGregor—no tendency to be a couple

McGregor argues that there are “strong indicators of human beings having evolved both as social beings and with a tendency towards forming couples”.50 Here I want to take issue with her. As Wrangham notes of the three species with which we share the most recent common ancestor—bonobos, chimpanzees and gorillas—none exhibit “a tendency towards forming couples”.51 Further, it is not clear from what we know about how humans live today that we have evolved a tendency to form couples. For example, consider the 1,231 societies that appear in Ethnographic Atlas.52 Of these, 186 were classified as monogamous, 453 were classified as occasionally polygynous, 588 as more frequently polygynous and four as polyandrous.53 Polyandry in fact seems much less rare than these figures suggest. For example, Starkweather and Hames have recently argued that there are in fact 91 societies in which polyandry is practised.54 So the picture from existing societies is that while it is far from rare for humans to live in couples they also live in a number of “non-couple” relationships.

Sexuality—Strong and warm and wild and free,

Sexuality—Your laws do not apply to me,

Sexuality—Come eat and drink and sleep with me,

Sexuality—We can be what we want to be.

Billy Bragg, Sexuality (1991)


1: McGregor, 2011, and McGregor, 2013.

2: Wilson, 2013a.

3: Molyneux, 2013a.

4: Wilson, 2013b, and Molyneux, 2013b.

5: Wilson, 2013b.

6: Leacock, 1983, p394.

7: McGregor, 2011, p179.

8: Wilson, 2013a, p156.

9: Wilson, 2013a, p161.

10: Taylor, 1996, pp142-143.

11: Lindisfarne and Neale, 2013.

12: Wilson, 2013a, p160.

13: Leacock, 1981, p22.

14: Wilson, 2013a, p159.

15: Engels, 1972, p237.

16: Harman, 1999, p9.

17: Wilson, 2013a, p155.

18: Lee, 1979, pp451-452. My emphasis.

19: Friedl, 1975, p28, quoted in Harman, 1999, p6.

20: McGregor, 2011, p180.

21: Wilson, 2013a, p156.

22: Wilson, 2013b.

23: Wilson, 2013b.

24: Wilson, 2013a, p161.

25: Wilson, 2013a, p161, quoting Seidman, Fischer and Meeks, 2011, pxv.

26: Seidman, Fischer and Meeks, 2011, pxiii.

27: Halperin, 1993, p416.

28: Halperin, 1993, p416.

29: Wilson, 2013a, p161. My emphasis.

30: Wilson, 2013a, p161. My emphasis.

31: Wilson, 2013a, p162.

32: Wilson, 2008, p156.

33: Pickering, 1984; quarks are one of the fundamental particles of matter.

34: Wilson, 2013a, p164.

35: Wilson, 2013a, p156.

36: Gould, 1987, p148.

37: For a straightforward introduction to these issues see Sullivan, 2001.

38: Wilson, 2013b.

39: McGregor, 2011, p179.

40: In another change Wilson acknowledges that evolution has indeed importantly affected human sexuality. Again we should welcome this correction by Wilson; however, it must be pointed out that this too is not what he argues when criticising McGregor.

41: Marx, 1978, p595.

42: Rose, 2000, p263.

43: Wilson, 2013a, p157.

44: Harman, 1994, p90.

45: McGregor, 2013, p100.

46: Wilson, 2013a, p157.

47: Mora and others, 2011.

48: De Waal, 1995, p88.

49: Bagemihl, 1999, p12. See also Roughgarden, 2009.

50: McGregor, 2013, p100.

51: Wrangham, 1987.

52: Gray, 1998.

53: In polygynous societies several women exclusively have a relationship with one man whereas in polyandrous societies several men exclusively have a relationship with one woman. There are, of course, other “non-couple” relationships which may exist. Several men and women may have an exclusive relationship with one man or woman. Several men may have an exclusive relationship with one man. And several women have an exclusive relationship with one woman.

54: Starkweather and Hames, 2012, p149.


Bagemihl, Bruce, 2000, Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity (Stonewall Inn).

Brenot, Philippe, and Pascal Picq, 2012, Le Sexe, l’Homme et l’Evolution (Odile Jacob).

Engels, Frederick, 1972 [1884], The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (Lawrence and Wishart).

Friedl, Ernestine, 1975, Women and Men: the Anthropologist’s View (New York).

Gould, Stephen Jay, 1987, An Urchin in the Storm (Norton).

Gray, J Patrick, 1998, “Ethnographic Atlas Codebook”, World Cultures, volume 10, number 1.

Halperin, David M, 1993, “Is There a History of Sexuality?” in Henry Abelove, Michele Aina Barale and David M Halperin (eds), The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader (Routledge).

Harman, Chris, 1994, “Engels and the Origin of Human Society”, International Socialism 65 (winter),

Harman, Chris, 1999, A People’s History of the World (Bookmarks).

Leacock, Eleanor B, 1981, Myths of Male Dominance: Collected Articles on Women CrossCulturally (Monthly Review Press).

Leacock, Eleanor B, 1983, “Primitive Communism”, in Tom Bottomore (ed), A Dictionary of Marxist Thought (Blackwell Reference).

Lee, Richard B, 1979, The !Kung San: Men, Women and Work in a Foraging Society (Cambridge University Press).

Lindisfarne, Nancy, and Jonathan Neale, 2013, “What Gender Does”, International Socialism 139 (summer),

McGregor, Sheila, 2011, “Sexuality, Alienation and Capitalism”, International Socialism 130 (spring),

McGregor, Sheila, 2013, “Marxism and Women’s Oppression Today”, International Socialism 138 (spring),

Marx, Karl, 1978 [1852], “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte”, in Robert C Tucker (ed), The MarxEngels Reader, Second Edition (W W Norton and Company),

Molyneux, John, 2013a, “History Without Nature? A Response to Nancy Lindisfarne, Jonathan Neale and Colin Wilson”, International Socialism 140 (autumn),

Molyneux, John, 2013b, “Sexuality and Social Constructionism: A Reply to Colin Wilson”, International Socialism 140 (autumn),

Mora, Camilo, and others, 2011, “How Many Species Are There on Earth and in the Ocean?” PLoS Biology, volume 9, issue 8,

Pickering, Andrew, 1984, Constructing Quarks: a Sociological History of Particle Physics (Edinburgh University Press).

Rose, Steven, 2000, “Escaping Evolutionary Psychology”, in Hilary Rose and Steven Rose (eds), Alas, Poor Darwin: Arguments Against Evolutionary Psychology (Jonathan Cape).

Roughgarden, Joan, 2009, Evolution’s Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People, Second Edition (University of California Press).

Seidman, Steven, Nancy Fisher, and Chet Meeks, 2011, “General Introduction”, in Steven Seidman, Nancy Fisher, and Chet Meeks (eds), Introducing the New Sexuality Studies: Original Essays and Interviews (Routledge).

Starkweather, Katherine E, and Raymond Hames, 2012, “A Survey of Non-Classical Polyandry”, Human Nature, volume 23, number 2.

Sullivan, Terence, 2001, “The Lewontin Test”, Radical Philosophy 110 (November/December).

Taylor, Timothy, 1996, The Prehistory of Sex: Four Million Years of Human Sexual Culture (Fourth Estate).

de Waal, Frans B M, 1995, “Bonobo Sex and Society”, Scientific American, 272 (3) (March).

Wilson, Colin, 2008, “Michael Foucault: Friend or Foe of the Left?”, International Socialism 118 (spring),

Wilson, Colin, 2013a, “Sexuality in Pre-class Societies: A Response to Sheila McGregor”, International Socialism 139 (summer),

Wilson, Colin, 2013b, “A Response to John Molyneux on Sexuality”, International Socialism 140 (autumn),

Wrangham, Richard W, 1987, “The Significance of African Apes for Reconstructing Human Social Evolution”, in Warren G Kinzey (ed), The Evolution of Human Behaviour: Primate Models (State University of New York Press).