Cannibalism, Abortion, and R/K Selection.

Reindeer herder, from "Quarter of a Million Reindeers to be Butched... after Anthrax Outbreak" : "Serbian officials have demanded a huge cull of a 250,000 reindeers by Christmas over the risk of an anthrax outbreak. Currently 730,000 animals are being kept in the Yamal Peninsula and the rest of the Yamalo-Nenets region."
Reindeer herder, from Quarter of a Million Reindeers to be Butched… after Anthrax Outbreak: “Currently 730,000 animals are being kept in the Yamal Peninsula and the rest of the Yamalo-Nenets region.”

In Hunters, Pastoralists, and Ranchers: Reindeer Economies and their Transformations [PDF,] Ingold describes the social distribution of food among hunter-gatherers. In normal times, when food is neither super-abundant nor scarce, each family basically consumes what it brings in, without feeling any particular compulsion to share with their neighbors. In times of super-abundance, food is distributed throughout the tribe, often quite freely:

Since harvested animals, unlike a plant crop, will not reproduce, the multiplicative accumulation of material wealth is not possible within the framework of hunting relations of production. Indeed, what is most characteristic of hunting societies everywhere is the emphasis not on accumulation but on its obverse: the sharing of the kill, to varying degrees, amongst all those associated with the hunter. …

The fortunate hunter, when he returns to camp with his kill, is expected to play host to the rest of the community, in bouts of extravagant consumption.

The other two ethnographies I have read of hunter-gatherers (The Harmless People, about the Bushmen of the Kalahari, and Kabloona, about the Eskimo aka Inuit) both support this: large kills are communal feasts. Hunter gatherers often have quite strict rules about how exactly a kill is to be divided, but the most important thing is that everyone gets some.

And this is eminently sensible–you try eating an entire giraffe by yourself, in the desert, before it rots.

Even in the arctic, where men can (in part of the year) freeze food for the future, your neighbor’s belly is as good as a freezer, because the neighbor you feed today will feed you tomorrow. Hunting is an activity that can be wildly successful one day and fail completely the next, so if hunters did not share with each other, soon each one would starve.

Whilst the successful hunter is required to distribute his spoils freely amongst his camp fellows, he does so with the assurance that in any future eventuality, when through bad luck he fails to find game, or through illness or old age he can no longer provide for himself and his family, he will receive in his turn. Were each hunter to produce only for his own domestic needs, everyone would eventually perish from hunger (Jochelson 1926:124). Thus, through its contribution to the survival and reproduction of potential producers, sharing ensures the perpetuation of society as a whole. …

Yet he is also concerned to set aside stocks of food to see his household through at least a part of the coming winter. The meat that remains after the obligatory festive redistribution is therefore placed in the household’s cache, on which the housewife can draw specifically for the provision of her own domestic group (Spencer 1959:149). After the herds have passed by, domestic autonomy is re-establisheddraws on its own reserves of stored food.

But what happens at the opposite extreme, not under conditions of abundance, but when everyone‘s stocks run out? Ingold claims that in times of famine, the obligation to share what little food one has with one’s neighbors is also invoked:

We find, therefore, that the incidence of generalized reciprocity tends to peak towards the two extremes of scarcity and abundance… The communal feast that follows a successful hunting drive involves the same heightening of band solidarity, and calls into play the same functions of leadership in the apportionment of food, as does the consumption of famine rations.

I am reminded here of a scene in The Harmless People in which there was not enough food to go around, but the rules of distribution were still followed, each person just cutting their piece smaller. Thomas described one of the small children, hungry, trying to grab the food bowl–not the food itself–to stop their mother from giving away their food to the next person in the chain of obligation.

Here Ingold pauses to discuss a claim by Sahlins that such social order will (or should) break down under conditions of extreme hunger:

Probably every primitive organization has its breaking-point, or at least its turning-point. Every one might see the time when co-operation is overwhelmed by the scale of disaster and chicanery becomes the order of the day. The range of assistance contracts progressively to the family level; perhaps even these bonds dissolve and, washed away, reveal an inhuman, yet most human, self-interest. Moreover, by the same measure that the circle of charity is
compressed that of ‘negative reciprocity* is potentially expanded. People who helped each other in normal times and through the first stages of disaster display now an indifference to each others’ plight, if they do not exacerbate a mutual downfall by guile, haggle and theft.

Ingold responds:

I can find no evidence, either in my reading of circumpolar ethnography, or in the material cited by Sahlins, for the existence of such a ‘turning-point’ in hunting societies. On the contrary, as the crisis deepens, generalized reciprocity proceeds to the point of dissolution of domestic group boundaries. ‘Negative reciprocity’, rather than closing in from beyond the frontiers of the household, will be expelled altogether from the wider social field, only to make its appearance within the heart of the domestic group itself.

Thus the women of the household, who are allowed to eat only after the appetites of their menfolk have been satisfied, may be left in times of want with the merest scraps of food. Among the Chipewyan, ‘when real distress approaches, many of them are permitted to starve, when the males are amply provided for’…

In situations of economic collapse, negative reciprocity afflicts not only the domestic relations between husband and wife, but those between mother and child, and between parent and grandparent. If the suckling of children is the purest expression of generalized reciprocity, in the form of a sustained one-way flow, then infanticide must surely represent the negative extreme. Likewise, old or sick members of the household will be the first to be abandoned when provisions run short. Even in normal times, individuals who are past labour have to scavenge the left-overs of food and skins (Hearne 1911:326). In the most dire circumstances of all, men will consume their starving wives and children before turning upon one another.

Drawing on Eskimo material, Hoebel derives the following precepts of cannibal conduct: Not unusually . . . parents kill their own children to be eaten. This act is no different from infanticide. A man may kill and eat his wife; it is his privilege. Killing and eating a relative will produce no legal consequences. It is to be presumed, however, that killing a non-relative for food is murder. (1941:672, cited in Eidlitz 1969:132)

In short, the ‘circle of charity’ is not compressed but inverted: as the threat of starvation becomes a reality, the legitimacy of killing increases towards the centre. The act is ‘inhuman’ since it strips the humanity of the victim to its organic, corporeal substance. If altruism is an index of sociability, then its absolute negation annuls the sodality of the recipient: persons, be they human or animal, become things.

297px-world_population_v3-svgThis is gruesome, but let us assume it is true (I have not read the accounts Ingold cites, so I must trust him, and I do not always trust him but for now we will.)

The cold, hard logic of infanticide is that a mother can produce more children if she loses one, but a child who has lost its mother will likely die as well, along with all of its siblings. One of my great-great grandmothers suffered the loss of half her children in infancy and still managed to raise 5+ to adulthood. Look around: even with abortion and birth control widely available, humanity is not suffering a lack of children. ETA: As BaruchK correctly noted, today’s children are largely coming from people who don’t use birth control or have legal access to abortion; fertility rates are below replacement throughout the West, with the one exception AFAIK of Israel.

c08pnclw8aapot6Furthermore, children starve faster and are easier to kill than parents; women are easier to kill than men; people who live with you are easier to kill than people who don’t.

Before we condemn these people, let us remember that famine is a truly awful, torturous way to die, and that people who are on the brink of starving to death are not right in their minds. As “They’re not human”: How 19th-century Inuit coped with a real-life invasion of the Walking Dead recounts:

“Finally, as the footsteps stopped just outside the igloo, it was the old man who went out to investigate.

“He emerged to see a disoriented figure seemingly unaware of his presence. The being was touching the outside of the igloo with curiosity, and raised no protest when the old man reached his hand out to touch its cheek.

“His skin was cold. …

The figures, of course, were the last survivors of the Franklin Expedition. They had buried their captain. They had seen their ship entombed by ice. They had eaten the dead to survive. …

Inuit nomads had come across streams of men that “didn’t seem to be right.” Maddened by scurvy, botulism or desperation, they were raving in a language the Inuit couldn’t understand. In one case, hunters came across two Franklin Expedition survivors who had been sleeping for days in the hollowed-out corpses of seals. …

The figures were too weak to be dangerous, so Inuit women tried to comfort the strangers by inviting them into their igloo. …

The men spit out pieces of cooked seal offered to them. They rejected offers of soup. They grabbed jealous hold of their belongings when the Inuit offered to trade.

When the Inuit men returned to the camp from their hunt, they constructed an igloo for the strangers, built them a fire and even outfitted the shelter with three whole seals. …

When a small party went back to the camp to retrieve [some items], they found an igloo filled with corpses.

The seals were untouched. Instead, the men had eaten each other. …

In 1854, Rae had just come back from a return trip to the Arctic, where he had been horrified to discover that many of his original Inuit sources had fallen to the same fates they had witnessed in the Franklin Expedition.

An outbreak of influenza had swept the area, likely sparked by the wave of Franklin searchers combing the Arctic. As social mores broke down, food ran short.

Inuit men that Rae had known personally had chosen suicide over watching the slow death of their children. Families had starved for days before eating their dog teams. Some women, who had seen their families die around them, had needed to turn to the “last resource” to survive the winter.

Infanticide, cannibalism, and human sacrifice were far more common prior to 1980 or so than we like to think; God forbid we should ever know such fates.

According to Wikipedia:

“Many Neolithic groups routinely resorted to infanticide … Joseph Birdsell believed that infanticide rates in prehistoric times were between 15% and 50% of the total number of births,[10] while Laila Williamson estimated a lower rate ranging from 15% to 20%.[6]:66 Comparative anthropologists have calculated that 50% of female newborn babies were killed by their parents during the Paleolithic era.[12] Decapitated skeletons of hominid children have been found with evidence of cannibalism.[13]

400px-Magliabchanopage_73r“Three thousand bones of young children, with evidence of sacrificial rituals, have been found in Sardinia. Pelasgians offered a sacrifice of every tenth child during difficult times. Syrians sacrificed children to Jupiter and Juno. Many remains of children have been found in Gezer excavations with signs of sacrifice. Child skeletons with the marks of sacrifice have been found also in Egypt dating 950-720 BCE. In Carthage “[child] sacrifice in the ancient world reached its infamous zenith.”[11]:324  …

“According to Shelby Brown, Carthaginians, descendants of the Phoenicians, sacrificed infants to their gods.[25] Charred bones of hundreds of infants have been found in Carthaginian archaeological sites. One such area harbored as many as 20,000 burial urns.[25]

Picture 4Plutarch (c. 46–120 AD) mentions the practice, as do Tertullian, Orosius, Diodorus Siculus and Philo. The Hebrew Bible also mentions what appears to be child sacrifice practiced at a place called the Tophet (from the Hebrew taph or toph, to burn) by the Canaanites. Writing in the 3rd century BCE, Kleitarchos, one of the historians of Alexander the Great, described that the infants rolled into the flaming pit. Diodorus Siculus wrote that babies were roasted to death inside the burning pit of the god Baal Hamon, a bronze statue.

“… the exposure of newborns was widely practiced in ancient Greece, it was even advocated by Aristotle in the case of congenital deformity — “As to the exposure of children, let there be a law that no deformed child shall live.”[30]

“The practice was prevalent in ancient Rome, as well. … A letter from a Roman citizen to his sister, or a pregnant wife from her husband,[35] dating from 1 BC, demonstrates the casual nature with which infanticide was often viewed:

“I am still in Alexandria. … I beg and plead with you to take care of our little child, and as soon as we receive wages, I will send them to you. In the meantime, if (good fortune to you!) you give birth, if it is a boy, let it live; if it is a girl, expose it.” [36][37]

CgxAZrOUYAEeANF“In some periods of Roman history it was traditional for a newborn to be brought to the pater familias, the family patriarch, who would then decide whether the child was to be kept and raised, or left to die by exposure.[39] The Twelve Tables of Roman law obliged him to put to death a child that was visibly deformed. …

“According to William L. Langer, exposure in the Middle Ages “was practiced on gigantic scale with absolute impunity, noticed by writers with most frigid indifference”.[47]:355–356 At the end of the 12th century, notes Richard Trexler, Roman women threw their newborns into the Tiber river in daylight.[48]” …

400px-Kodeks_tudela_21“Philosopher Han Fei Tzu, a member of the ruling aristocracy of the 3rd century BC, who developed a school of law, wrote: “As to children, a father and mother when they produce a boy congratulate one another, but when they produce a girl they put it to death.”[63]

“Buddhist belief in transmigration allowed poor residents of the country to kill their newborn children if they felt unable to care for them, hoping that they would be reborn in better circumstances. Furthermore, some Chinese did not consider newborn children fully “human”, and saw “life” beginning at some point after the sixth month after birth.[65]

“Contemporary writers from the Song dynasty note that, in Hubei and Fujian provinces, residents would only keep three sons and two daughters (among poor farmers, two sons and one daughter), and kill all babies beyond that number at birth.[66]”

Sex Ratio at birth in the People's Republic of China
Sex Ratio at birth in the People’s Republic of China

“It was not uncommon that parents threw a child to the sharks in the Ganges River as a sacrificial offering. The British colonists were unable to outlaw the custom until the beginnings of the 19th century.[82]:78

“According to social activists, female infanticide has remained a problem in India into the 21st century, with both NGOs and the government conducting awareness campaigns to combat it.[83] …

“In the Eastern Shoshone there was a scarcity of Indian women as a result of female infanticide.[100] For the Maidu Native Americans twins were so dangerous that they not only killed them, but the mother as well.[101] In the region known today as southern Texas, the Mariame Indians practiced infanticide of females on a large scale. Wives had to be obtained from neighboring groups.[102]

Meanwhile in the Americas:

In 2005 a mass grave of one- to two-year-old sacrificed children was found in the Maya region of Comalcalco. The sacrifices were apparently performed for consecration purposes when building temples at the Comalcalco acropolis.[2] …

Archaeologists have found the remains of 42 children sacrificed to Tlaloc (and a few to Ehecátl Quetzalcóatl) in the offerings of the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan. In every case, the 42 children, mostly males aged around six, were suffering from serious cavities, abscesses or bone infections that would have been painful enough to make them cry continually. Tlaloc required the tears of the young so their tears would wet the earth. As a result, if children did not cry, the priests would sometimes tear off the children’s nails before the ritual sacrifice.[7]

And don’t get me started on cannibalism.

James Cook witnessing human sacrifice in Tahiti
James Cook witnessing human sacrifice in Tahiti

It is perhaps more profitable to ask which cultures didn’t practice some form of infanticide/infant sacrifice/cannibalism than which ones did. The major cases Wikipedia notes are Ancient Egypt, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (we may note that Judaism in many ways derived from ancient Egypt, and Christianity and Islam from Judaism.) Ancient Egypt stands out as unique among major the pre-modern, pre-monotheistic societies to show no signs of regular infanticide–and even in the most infamous case where the Egyptian pharaoh went so far as to order the shocking act, we find direct disobedience in his own household:

3 And when she [Jochebed] could not longer hide him [the baby], she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river’s brink.4 And his sister stood afar off, to wit what would be done to him.

pharaohs_daughter-15 And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river; and her maidens walked along by the river’s side; and when she saw the ark among the flags, she sent her maid to fetch it.

6 And when she had opened it, she saw the child: and, behold, the babe wept. And she had compassion on him, and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.”

7 Then said his sister to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call to thee a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for thee?”

8 And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.” And the maid went and called the child’s mother.

9 And Pharaoh’s daughter said unto her, “Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages.” And the women took the child, and nursed it.

10 And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. And she called his name Moses: and she said, “Because I drew him out of the water.”

–Exodus 2:3-10

I don’t know the actual infanticide numbers in modern Muslim countries (le wik notes that poverty in places like Pakistan still drives infanticide) but it is officially forbidden by Islam.

According to Abortions in America: • Black women are five times more likely to abort than white women. • 69% of pregnancies among Blacks are unintended, while that number is 54% among Hispanics and 40% of pregnancies among Whites. • Planned Parenthood, ... has located 80% of its abortion clinics in minority neighborhoods
According to Abortions in America:
• Black women are five times more likely to abort than white women.
• 69% of pregnancies among Blacks are unintended, while that number is 54% among Hispanics and 40% of pregnancies among Whites.
• Planned Parenthood, … has located 80% of its abortion clinics in minority neighborhoods

Today, between the spread of Abrahamic religions, Western Values, and general prosperity, the infanticide rate has been cut and human sacrifice and cannibalism have been all but eliminated. Abortion, though, is legal–if highly controversial–throughout the West and Israel.

According to the CDC, the abortion rate for 2013 was 200 abortions per 1,000 live births, or about 15% of pregnancies. (The CDC also notes that the abortion rate has been falling since at least 2004.) Of these, “91.6% of abortions were performed at ≤13 weeks’ gestation; … In 2013, 22.2% of all abortions were early medical abortions.”

To what can we attribute this anti-infanticide sentiment of modern monotheistic societies? Is it just a cultural accident, a result of inheritance from ancient Egypt, or perhaps the lucky effects of some random early theologian? Or as the religious would suggest, due to God’s divine decree? Or is it an effect of the efforts parents must expend on their few children in societies where children must attend years of school in order to succeed?

According to Wikipedia:

In ecology, r/K selection theory relates to the selection of combinations of traits in an organism that trade off between quantity and quality of offspring. The focus upon either increased quantity of offspring at the expense of individual parental investment of r-strategists, or reduced quantity of offspring with a corresponding increased parental investment of K-strategists, varies widely, seemingly to promote success in particular environments. …

In r/K selection theory, selective pressures are hypothesised to drive evolution in one of two generalized directions: r– or K-selection.[1] These terms, r and K, are drawn from standard ecological algebra as illustrated in the simplified Verhulst model of population dynamics:[7]

d N d t = r N ( 1 − N K ) {\frac {dN}{dt}}=rN\left(1-{\frac {N}{K}}\right)

where r is the maximum growth rate of the population (N), K is the carrying capacity of its local environmental setting, and the notation dN/dt stands for the derivative of N with respect to t (time). Thus, the equation relates the rate of change of the population N to the current population size and expresses the effect of the two parameters. …

As the name implies, r-selected species are those that place an emphasis on a high growth rate, and, typically exploit less-crowded ecological niches, and produce many offspring, each of which has a relatively low probability of surviving to adulthood (i.e., high r, low K).[8] A typical r species is the dandelion Taraxacum genus.

In unstable or unpredictable environments, r-selection predominates due to the ability to reproduce quickly. There is little advantage in adaptations that permit successful competition with other organisms, because the environment is likely to change again. Among the traits that are thought to characterize r-selection are high fecundity, small body size, early maturity onset, short generation time, and the ability to disperse offspring widely. …

By contrast, K-selected species display traits associated with living at densities close to carrying capacity, and typically are strong competitors in such crowded niches that invest more heavily in fewer offspring, each of which has a relatively high probability of surviving to adulthood (i.e., low r, high K). In scientific literature, r-selected species are occasionally referred to as “opportunistic” whereas K-selected species are described as “equilibrium”.[8]

In stable or predictable environments, K-selection predominates as the ability to compete successfully for limited resources is crucial and populations of K-selected organisms typically are very constant in number and close to the maximum that the environment can bear (unlike r-selected populations, where population sizes can change much more rapidly).

Traits that are thought to be characteristic of K-selection include large body size, long life expectancy, and the production of fewer offspring, which often require extensive parental care until they mature.

Of course you are probably already aware of Rushton’s R/K theory of human cultures:

Rushton’s book Race, Evolution, and Behavior (1995) uses r/K selection theory to explain how East Asians consistently average high, blacks low, and whites in the middle on an evolutionary scale of characteristics indicative of nurturing behavior. He first published this theory in 1984. Rushton argues that East Asians and their descendants average a larger brain size, greater intelligence, more sexual restraint, slower rates of maturation, and greater law abidingness and social organization than do Europeans and their descendants, who average higher scores on these dimensions than Africans and their descendants. He theorizes that r/K selection theory explains these differences.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention that the article states, “Rushton’s application of r/K selection theory to explain differences among racial groups has been widely criticised. One of his many critics is the evolutionary biologist Joseph L. Graves, who has done extensive testing of the r/K selection theory with species of Drosophila flies. …”

Genetics or culture, in dense human societies, people must devote a great deal of energy to a small number of children they can successfully raise, leading to the notion that parents are morally required to put this effort into their children. But this system is at odds with the fact that without some form of intervention, the average married couple will produce far more than two offspring.

Ultimately, I don’t have answers, only theories.

Source: CDC data, I believe
Source: CDC data, I believe

Open thread / Links / Aaargh

So I wrote this great (by my standards, anyway,) post, and then there was a glitch and it disappeared. Totes frustrating.

So while I re-write it, here’s an Open Thread / Links post. Feel free to chit-chat, ask questions, whatever. Just keep things civil or whatever.

Some things I’ve been reading:

1. The incredible story of one couple’s trip across the Democratic Republic of Congo: Lubumbashi to Kinshasa. (I actually read this a while ago, but have been meaning to recommend it.) Story is notable in several ways:

A. The raw descriptions of what life is actually like in the heart of the DRC, where even Coca Cola can’t go because there are no roads.

B. The perspectives on what has happened since the end of colonialism (basically, the collapse or outright destruction of colonial infrastructure like roads and buildings):

When I walk around our cities, I often think about what their ruins will look like to explorers in a thousand years
“We also pass a ruin of what once must have been a grand building. The walls are marked with logos from a Belgian University. This must have once been some scientific study centre of sorts.”


C. It was the first thing I’d read in about a decade that gave an actually positive impression of religion.


2. Real History of the World, which is kind of like my blog, but devoted to the conspiracy theory that all human life began in Africa and then spread out from there to the rest of the world. “But wait,” I hear you saying, “Isn’t that, like, the accepted scientific consensus on the origins of humanity?” Why yes, yes it is. But Real History of the World thinks that “they” (“albinos”) are trying to keep you from knowing that.

Their site is part actually accurate, part inaccurate (jfc, “Black Celts” are not black-skinned people, they are Welsh people with dark hair like Catherine Zeta-Jones:

This is what the old books mean by "Black Celts"
This is what the old books mean by “Black Celts”)

and part insight into the irrational paranoia of people who hate you.

This website is a good demonstration, btw, why I don’t believe conspiracy theories.


3. More perspectives on people who hate you (or at least me): Black Girl Dangerous’s This Is What Rihanna’s BBHMM Video Says About Black Women, White Women and Feminism

Still from Rhianna's music video about torturing a white woman for money
Still from Rhianna’s music video about torturing a white woman for money

“Yes, there are images of a woman being kidnapped, held hostage, and even hung upside down from the ceiling while topless. These are the kinds of images we see a lot in violent revenge films. They can be upsetting and harmful. I didn’t like seeing them here. But they’re also not the entire story.

Let me tell you what I see when I watch this video: I see a black woman putting her own well-being above the well-being of a white woman. …

if a white woman has to suffer some so that she, a black woman, can survive, so be it. After all, white women have been surviving on our suffering for hundreds of years.” –Black Girl Dangerous (Her bold, not mine.)

Feminists declaring themselves “allies” with people who beat, rape, and murder women is, of course, as much a betrayal of feminism’s goals as Anarchist communities getting taken over by Marxists.


4. Rushton’s Race, Evolution and Behavior: A Life History Perspective (second abridged edition.)

Rushton lays out an impressive array of data in support of his theory that different branches of the human family tree (whites, blacks, and Asians,) mature at different rates (eg, different gestation lengths) and have different r/k reproduction strategies.

On a similar note, “Multiplication is for White People”: Raising Expectations for Other People’s Children is actually an anti-racist book. I only read the first few pages before I had to leave the bookstore, but the author had some interesting, Rushton-supporting information about cross-cultural infant development rates, including early crawling in African infants.


5. Next, I am totally going to finish Moby Dick.

Melanin, aggression, and sexuality

I began researching melanin and its effects based on rumors that injecting it into animals makes them more aggressive. The search, so far, has led me down even weirder rabbit holes than usual.

Why do people tan? Not physically, but cosmetically. Cosmetic tanning is probably unhealthy (skin cancer,) costs money if you use a tanning salon, historically novel, and boring as fuck.

Tanning is especially confusing if you take the ideas of Critical Theory/White Privilege seriously, because then why would anyone want to look ethnically darker than they actually are? Are millions of whites unconsciously trying to pull a Doleazal?

But women do not pair their tans with darker hair; they pair their tans with lighter hair. The result, I suppose, is like a dark-skinned German. It makes about as much sense to me as ganguro girls.


The obvious answer is that women tan because it gets them sexual interest from men, which is the answer to virtually every question along these lines, but this only kicks the question back a notch: why are men sexually interested in tan women? Of course, something could arise, chicken and egg, as nothing more than a signal of sexual availability that men then respond to as a signal of availability. But this is a dull hypothesis, so let’s abandon it and carry on.

First, a  quick note on what melanin is: melanin is a kind of “natural pigment” found in your brain, (eg, the substantia nigra,) skin, irises, the feathers of birds, squid ink, fungi, plants, micro-organisms, etc. There are a few different types of melanin, which cause different skin colors.

White people, btw, aren’t albino.

Overall, I find that conservative and politically moderate women tend to tan, (and bleach their hair,) while liberal women do not. I suspect that conservatives and moderates do more of almost any image-enhancing thing, perhaps because they are more often on the sexual market (conservatives have more divorces than liberals and become sexually active younger.) It’s not clear to me, though, if this is just a “thing dumb people do” rather than a specifically conservative/moderate thing.

Peter Frost suggests that melanin plays a role in visually identifying adults (and men.) Children (of all races) tend to be lighter skinned/have less melanin than adults*, like this girl from Vanuatu, whose hair is that color naturally:


Her hair will darken with age, just like many other blond children.

*I suspect this is just because adults have spent a longer total amount of time in the sun than children.

Women generally have lighter skin than men, which Frost proposes is a neotenous trait which thus:

1. Increases the male desire to provide for women, making marriage more likely

2. Decreases male aggression toward females, making marriage less likely to result in dead women

3. implies a lack of sexual experience with other men.

He suggests that the tanned appearance, therefore, implies sexual maturity; purposeful tanning or glorification of tanning, therefore, implies a desire for sexual availability rather than virginity.

In a culture where evolutionary success is determined by the stability of one’s monogamous pair-bond, people valued and cultivated traits that led to or implied that one would be a good partner. In a culture where success is determined by one’s ability to get multiple partners over one’s lifetime, traits that enhance sexual availability will be valued.

Men also tan, (often in conjunction with weightlifting,) in order to better fit the archetype of “tall, dark, and handsome” and thus get laid. On one post I found contained explicit denunciation of PUA “personality” and “conversation” techniques as just for men who want stable, long-term relationships rather than lots of one night stands with hot chicks, the body-builders’ goal. Well, that’s a new criticism.

Does more melanin actually lead to more sex? Certainly there is a correlation among humans between pigmentation levels and (reported) frequency of sex. According to Rushton’s article, “Do pigmentation and the melanocortin system modulate aggression and sexuality in humans as they do in other animals?” Ford and Beach (1951) report that Pacific Islanders and Native Americans claim to have sex 1 to 4 times per week, US Whites 2–4 times, and Africans from 3 to >10. Rushton and Bogaert (1987 and 1988) concluded, based on Kinsey data, that Blacks more sex than whites. The WHO reports that, (for married 20-somethings,) the Japanese and Chinese have sex 2.5 times per week, American whites 4 times per week, and American blacks have sex 5 times per week. Also,

“A Los Angeles study found that the age of first sexual activity in high school students was 14.4 years for Blacks, 16.4 years for East Asians, with Whites in the middle. The percentage of students who were sexually active was 32% for East Asians and 81% for Blacks, with Whites again between the other two. In another study, White Americans reported more sex guilt than Black Americans and that sex had a weakening effect. Blacks said they had casual intercourse more and felt less concern about it than Whites.”

Correlation, correlation, correlation.

Luckily (for our purposes, anyway,) there appears to be a sub-population of people actively injecting themselves with chemicals intended to increase the amount of melanin in their skin, and reporting the effects on the internet. (While some of the posts on the subject sound too similar too each other, and thus I suspect they were made by shills trying to market the drugs they’re selling, I think some of these posts are legit.)

First, a digression: Yes, there are people out there making injectible tanning drugs. No, I don’t recommend them, because everything about them comes with a big warning label that says, “THIS MIGHT CAUSE CANCER.” They haven’t been approved by the FDA, so you can’t buy them from legal sources.

Why invent a tanning drug? Aside from the obvious reasons, because there are people with vitigilio and rare skin conditions that make them super-prone to burning who could potentially use it. The drugs aren’t injectible melanin. (I haven’t seen anything about anyone injecting actual melanin.) They’re an artificially synthesized chemical similar in structure to α-Melanocyte-stimulating hormone (a-MSH,) which, as its name implies, stimulates the body to produce melanocytes, which are cells that produce melanin.

So, what happens when people inject themselves with a drug kinda like a-MSH? Well, they get tan. They get a better night’s sleep. And they get constant erections.

Apparently, the drugs are also being investigated as an alternative to Viagra.

One thing almost no one seems to be noticing is aggression. One guy did note he was feeling some anger, but everyone else responded that they’d felt nothing of the sort, so it was probably just some random thing going on with one guy. That said, I’m not convinced that people are all that good at realizing that they’ve become more aggressive–they tend to just blame their aggression on other people suddenly sucking more. I also assume that people who are getting constant erections are going to try to do something about it, which could lead to more sexually aggressive behaviors, without causing, say, random fights.

So, Melanotan II/melanin/a-MSH does seem to have some causal relationship with sex, but so far nothing shows that it increases aggression.

Some black people have noticed that whites are injecting themselves with Melanotan II to make themselves look darker and get more erections, and while some of them think this is absolutely hilarious, others take it very badly. (This is interesting, but slightly off-topic, so I will reserve these observations/comments for a later post.)

Anyway, back on subject.

Another reason people may tan is that it appears to trigger the release of endorphins, leading to speculation that some people are actually addicted to tanning:

“While many report that the desire for a tanned appearance is the strongest motivation for sunbathing and tanning bed use, tanners also report mood enhancement, relaxation, and socialization. It has been suggested by the popular media and suspected by dermatologists for years that one reason tanning is so popular is that UV light is addictive. …

“UV light has been shown to increase release of opioid- like endorphins, feel-good chemicals that relieve pain and generate feelings of well-being, potentially leading to dependency.

“A 2006 study used naltrexone, a drug that blocks the endorphins produced in the skin while tanning, to induce symptoms of withdrawal in frequent tanners. … These symptoms were not observed in any of the infrequent tanners given naltrexone in the study.

“Another study found that frequent tanners were able to distinguish between otherwise identical UV and non-UV light-emitting tanning beds. Tanners in this study showed an overwhelming preference (95 percent) to tan in the UV light-emitting bed. Participants suggested that UV tanning created a more relaxed mood and even relieved pain, possibly due to endorphin release.”

A former tanning addict writes:

“I was a tanning addict. Being brown was being me. If I wasn’t tanned, then I didn’t look like “me”. Silly I know, but that’s just the way I felt. Having a tan made me feel better about myself. I used to say it was like a “tonic” – it made me feel more confident and more healthy.”

Here’s her picture:


Tanned and bleached. But I think the ganguro girl rocked the style better.

What does the scientific literature have to say about melanin levels and aggression? Like, what happens when you inject a mouse with melanin-inducing hormones, or breed mice to have low melanin levels?

Luckily for me, Takase et al have done a meta-analysis of studies done on mice who’ve been genetically modified not to produce much melanin. “MCH” stands for Melanin-Concentrating Hormone. As far as I can tell, More MCH => More Melanin. Phrases like “MCH knockout,” “MCH deletion,” and “MCH deficiency” all refer to mice that have been modified so that they don’t make much (or any) MCH. So Less MCH => Less Melanin. (If I’ve got thi wrong, please tell me.)

From the paper:

“Overall, the meta-analysis revealed that the deletion of MCH signaling suppressed non-REM sleep, anxiety, response to novelty, startle response, stress-induced hyperthermia, conditioned place preference, and olfaction (p<0.05) and that MCH signaling deficiency enhanced locomotor activity, wakefulness, alcohol preference, motor activation by psychostimulants, aggression, male sexual behavior, and social interaction (p<0.05).”

So, in plain speak, Less Melanin => crappy sleep, anxiety, aggression, and sex.

However, I would like to caution that you are not a mouse. There are some big differences between you and mice, like that mice can synthesize vitamin C and you can’t. Also, your body has had thousands of years to adapt to your melanin levels, to keep you healthy under certain environmental conditions. MCH-deficient mice don’t have that same luxury; their bodies might just not be adapted to cope with some side effect of MCH deficiency.

So let’s keep looking.

Demas at all have an interesting article, “Adrenal hormones mediate melatonin-induced increases in aggression in male Siberian hamsters (Phodopus sungorus)

From the article:

“In Experiment 1, male Siberian hamsters received either daily (s.c.) injections of melatonin (15 Ag/day) or saline 2 h before lights out for 10 consecutive days. In Experiment 2, hamsters received adrenal demedullations (ADMEDx), whereas in Experiment 3 animals received adrenalectomies (ADx); control animals in both experiments received sham surgeries. Animals in both experiments subsequently received daily injections of melatonin or vehicle as in Experiment 1. Animals in all experiments were tested using a resident–intruder model of aggression. In Experiment 1, exogenous melatonin treatment increased aggression compared with control hamsters. In Experiment 2, ADMEDx had no effect on melatonin-induced aggression. In Experiment 3, the melatonin-induced increase in aggression was significantly attenuated by ADx. Collectively, the results of the present study demonstrate that short day-like patterns of melatonin increase aggression in male Siberian hamsters and suggest that increased aggression is due, in part, to changes in adrenocortical steroids.”

“Several studies have demonstrated photoperiodic changes in aggression in both male and female rodents (Badura and Nunez, 1989; Fleming et al., 1988; Garrett and Campbell, 1980; Jasnow et al., 2000). For example, male Syrian hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus) maintained in short days for 8 weeks undergo gonadal regression and display increases in aggression compared with long-day hamsters, despite basal serum concentrations of testosterone (T) (Garrett and Campbell, 1980). Interestingly, prolonged maintenance (i.e., N15 weeks) in short days triggers gonadal recrudescence and the short-day increases in aggressive behavior largely disappear, returning to long-day levels of aggression by 21 weeks…”

(I think “gonadal regression” means the gonads got smaller, which would imply less sexual activity.)

“…both pinealectomy and treatment with exogenous melatonin within species-typical physiological ranges also affect aggression in photoperiodic species. For example, pinealectomy eliminates the short-day increase in aggression in female Syrian hamsters, whereas exogenous melatonin treatment augments aggression in long-day-housed animals (Fleming et al., 1988). Short-term treatment with exogenous melatonin also increases aggression in male Syrian hamsters without altering serum T concentrations (Jasnow et al., 2002).”

Now we’re getting somewhere, right? Except, wait, that’s MELATONIN, not melanin. Different chemical. Melatonin is a chemical your brain makes (in your pineal gland) in response to darkness/dim light helps you fall asleep and helps keep your circadian rhythms functioning properly. Increasing melatonin appears to decrease melanin–“As early as 1917, Carey Pratt McCord and Floyd P. Allen discovered that feeding extract of the pineal glands of cows lightened tadpole skin by contracting the dark epidermal melanophores.” (from the Wikipedia.) This makes sense: Longer days => less darkness => less melatonin => more melanin so you don’t burn in the sun. Shorter days => more darkness => more melatonin => less melanin so you can absorb more of the limited sunlight.

But I suspect that here we have found the source of the original rumor: Someone read a study about melatonin, which makes hamsters cranky and aggressive, and confused it with melanin, which appears to make mice less aggressive.

But wait. Aren’t hamsters (and other rodents) nocturnal? Whereas humans generally aren’t?

Yup. So hamsters and mice might actually be designed to be more active when they have more melatonin, and humans might be designed to be less active.

Luckily for us, humans regularly consume supplemental melatonin. According to eHealthMe, “2,237 people reported to have side effects when taking Melatonin. Among them, 32 people (1.43%) have Aggression.”

Honestly, 1.43% is nothing; that’s more like statistical noise in your data.

Some parents who’ve put their autistic kids on melatonin report aggression or aggression-like symptoms:

“…tonight he was grabbing his face and squeezing it(which he has never done before) and just kept crying then fell asleep about ten minutes later???”

“I have used Melatonin to help my Autistic son sleep but when I do he gets very aggressive and knocks things over and lashes out. I actually have to hold him down or wrap my legs and arms around him from behind or he will try and head butt you until he settles and this behavior repeats for a couple of days till the Melatonin leaves his system and then he is mellow again, for takes 72 hours to leave his system. This behavior manifests itself only when I gave him melatonin.”

But other people report the opposite:

” …good things with the Melatonin. It has been a few weeks and aggression is still significantly down as is the stimming.”

“I Started Taking Nightrest With Melatonin And Ive Gotten Much Deeper Nights Sleep. My Work Outs Got Better, Recovery Was Way Better And Aggression Level Decreased…”

Some of the moms suggest that what’s actually happening when the autistic kids become “aggressive” is that they are experiencing some form of night terrors/waking dreams, since melatonin makes people have more/deeper REM sleep, (I think that’s accurate,) rather than actual aggression.

One wonders if scientists could tell the difference between a sleep-walking hamster and a regular one!

Well, shit, this isn’t looking good for any interesting theories. I might end up with a boring result: nothing.

But let’s take a quick look at sexuality. Does summer correlate with conception? I took the birth month data from Live Science, divided by number of days per month and subtracted average gestation length to get the number of conceptions per day:

April: 11k per day

May: 11k per day

June: 11.5k per day

July: 11k per day

August: 11.5k per day

September: 12k per day

October: 12k per day

November: 12.5k per day

December: 12.5k per day

January: 12k per day

February: 12k per day

March: 11.5k per day

So, conceptions per month increase from July through December–that is, as the days get shorter and melatonin increases. Conceptions decrease from Jan through May–as the days get longer and melatonin decreases. This conception schedule is also consistent with the traditional availability of food in the northern hemisphere, with the harvest beginning in July and still enjoyed in December, but the supply dwindling as winter and then spring commence. (On the other hand, LiveStrong claims, ” high levels of melatonin may have a contraceptive effect on those hoping to conceive. Men using the supplement may notice a decrease in sperm count, decreased sperm mobility and increased breast size. Both men and women may experience a decrease in sex drive.” but doesn’t offer a source. The University of Maryland Medical Center says something similar, though, and they seem fairly trustworthy.)

Since rodent gestation lengths and human ones are radically different, I’m not going to bother looking up when mice have babies.

That violent crime (and even political revolutions) goes up in the summer is well-documented, but most theories attribute this to people getting out more or heat making them cranky.


No one seems to be injecting melanin, but synthetic versions of melanin-producing hormones do seem to make people horny and tanning releases happy hormones. No one is reporting increased aggression as a result of increased melanin.

Mice who’ve been bred not to produce melanin are more aggressive than mice who haven’t.

Injecting hamsters with melatonin makes them aggressive. Melatonin isn’t melanin, but it sounds similar. Increasing melatonin appears to decrease melanin.

Melatonin supplements don’t really seem to make humans more aggressive. There are some claims that melatonin decreases libido.

Humans do conceive more babies in fall (when melatonin levels are rising) than in spring (when they are falling) and commit more crime in the summer (when melanin is up) than in winter (when it’s down.)

Conclusion: Someone probably mixed up melanin and melatonin.