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The (sexual) politics of evolution: popular controversy in the late 20th-century United Kingdom



The (sexual) politics of evolution: popular controversy in the late 20th-century United Kingdom



History of Psychology 10(2): 199-226



This article outlines the major threads of controversy around the emerging subject of evolutionary psychology in the U.K. mass media during the 1990s. Much of this controversy centered on the role of evolution in shaping human gender roles and sexualities, contributing to the subject's mass appeal. This case is used to illustrate the argument that in theorizing about evolution and humans, "human nature" and "human origins" both provide a flexible resource for making arguments about how people do and should relate to one another and that such theorizing is therefore reflective of how power is held (and contested) in society. In the case of popular evolutionary psychology, shifts in the U.K. political landscape during the 1990s combined with changes in gender and sexual politics to create a situation where evolutionary theorizing about humans became more acceptable than it had been in the past. This was particularly true in left-liberal media, where a newfound compatibility between certain aspects of Darwinism and feminism created a very different space for debating gender, sexuality, and the role of human nature in today's society.

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Accession: 056158236

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PMID: 17645131

DOI: 10.1037/1093-4510.10.2.199


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