Back to Africa:
Sexual Atavism in the Modern West

SexualUtopiaCover [1]3,593 words

Swedish translation here [2]

Editor’s Note:

The following chapter from F. Roger Devlin’s Sexual Utopia in Power [3] is the full version of an article that appeared in much-shortened form in American Renaissance, vol. 19, no. 6, June 2008.

About the middle of the “roaring twenties,” as America was enjoying a spell of peace and prosperity, the eminent literary critic Irving Babbitt issued a dire warning:

Sexual unrestraint [he wrote] is wreaking fearful havoc to society. . . . The resultant diseases are . . . a menace to the future of the white race. . . . There is an undoubted connection between a certain type of . . . self-indulgent individualism and an unduly declining birthrate. The French and also the Americans of native descent are, if we are to trust statistics, in danger of withering from the earth. Where the population is increasing, it is, we are told, at the expense of quality. The stocks to which the past has looked for its leaders are dying out and the inferior or even degenerate breeds are multiplying.

When Babbitt came to consider possible ways of remedying the situation, however, he acknowledged: “the evidence is slight that the individual can be induced to control himself on such general grounds as the good of the country or . . . the good of the white race menaced by ‘the rising tide of color.’” He goes on to argue that traditional ideals of self-restraint would be of greater practical effect than explicitly eugenic considerations. One might add that external constraints are sometimes more effective than either, and that it was in fact the discipline imposed by the Great Depression and Second World War which actually put an end to the profligacy (sexual and otherwise) of the twenties. These hardships were followed, not accidentally, by the baby boom. But the baby boom turned out to be a kind of one generation wonder. Today the sexual situation in the Western world has reverted to a condition worse than Babbitt could have imagined possible, and his warnings are timelier than when he gave them.

And I want particularly to reiterate his point that racial purposes are not necessarily best achieved by adducing explicitly racial considerations. While it is important to publicize accurate information about race, we cannot continue our civilization simply by winning debates about IQ scores. Ideas may have consequences, but they do not have children. And normal people do not make basic life decisions involving marriage and children on the basis of scientific findings or considerations of racial politics.

I would even caution against too heavy an emphasis on the issue of intermarriage. Whites actually seem to marry outside their race less often than others: Sam Francis called the numbers “negligible.” On the other hand, vast numbers of our women are either not reproducing or doing so at below replacement level. Yet some racialists seem to be more concerned over one interracial union than fifty childless white couples. The reason, I believe, is that they can see the occasional white mother pushing her mulatto baby around in a stroller, but they cannot see the white children other women are not having. The greatest threats to a nation, however, need not be those which strike the eye.

I want to share with you some thoughts on the dire threat posed to our race and civilization by a movement to which some racialists may not attend because it seems to be nonracial in character: sexual liberation. In my essay “Sexual Utopia in Power,” I explained why a polygamous mating pattern inevitably emerges with the breakdown of marriage. This is not because evil men are able to exploit helpless, innocent lasses; it is simply the natural result of women’s own socially unconstrained choices. They themselves compete to mate with the most attractive males, in a manner we can directly observe among the lower mammals. Now, even among humans, polygamous societies are nothing new, and a great deal is known about how they operate. It so happens that the most polygamous part of the world is a region of special interest to Americans—it is none other than West Africa, the ancestral homeland of our own black population. A look at that society might shed some useful light on what is happening in the West today.

An unusual feature of the region is that women produce nearly all the food: one anthropologist calls it “the region of female farming par excellence.” This is not because Africans have an enlightened and progressive belief in careers for women, but because West African agriculture is of an unusually primitive type. Cultivation tends to be extensive rather than intensive, and the principle tools are simple hoes which women can wield as easily as men. The more challenging climate of Europe, by contrast, calls for intensive plough cultivation, entailing female dependence on male provisioning.

Since the women of West Africa can provide for themselves, and often for their husbands as well, men do not need to worry about the cost of taking multiple wives. A wife may even, contrary to our expectations, take the initiative to encourage her husband to marry another woman, since this usually relieves her of some of her chores. As for the men—well, they end up enjoying considerable leisure, which they mostly devote to politicking, fighting, drinking and the pursuit of what ethnographers delicately refer to as “polycoity.” A Dutch traveler left us an amusing description of the typical polygamist on the 17th-century Gold Coast, who “idly spends his time in impertinent tattling and drinking of palm-wine, which the poor wives are frequently obliged to raise money to pay for.” Husbands are not even duty-bound to share any personal earnings with their wives; community of property is not assumed to be part of the definition of marriage.

Moreover, polygamous husbands are positively discouraged from spending too much time or becoming too emotionally intimate with any particular wife, as this would tend to provoke jealousy in the rest and thus interfere with the smooth functioning of the household. Most wives, therefore, are resigned to marital neglect. On the other hand, in a polygamous society there will always be plenty of footloose bachelors roaming about who are more than willing to keep lonely harem-wives company. Few of these African women are Roman Lucretias prepared to plunge daggers into their breasts to preserve their sacred honor. In fact, sometimes the whole distinction between licit and illicit relations becomes blurred, and men and women lose any notion of a permanent marriage bond. They simply have “relationships.” (Is this starting to sound familiar?) The upshot of the whole mess is that paternity in West Africa tends to be extremely uncertain. As a result, men do not put much effort into fatherhood; why should they when they do not even know whether the children are theirs?

The weakness of fatherhood in Africa makes for an emphasis on kinship through the maternal line; anthropologists describe African family life as “matrifocal.” But this does not mean that mothers make up for the neglect of children by fathers. They are often content to delegate care of their offspring to more distant relatives or friends to whom they pay a modest fee. This practice, known as “fosterage,” is in no way seen as a dereliction of a mother’s duties in black Africa. Why do mothers do it? One motive is that the absence of children from the house may make them more attractive to new male suitors. Fosterage can begin when the child is quite young, since early weaning allows the mother’s ovulation cycle to recommence quickly. Relieved of her offspring, she is able to devote her full attention to having more babies. In other words, the effort she saves on childrearing goes into childbearing. The obvious result is a vast number of lackadaisically reared children. (It is perhaps worth mentioning that, in another parallel with the “progressive” West, Africans do not bother to raise boys and girls very differently, though such “nonsexist” upbringing has not led to any egalitarian paradise there either.)

Western humanitarians appalled by what seems to them the scandalous poverty of Africa and anxious to relieve it are sometimes surprised to learn that Africans themselves do not share their concerns. They seem breezily confident the children will get along somehow. This may be a racial trait, but it is undoubtedly reinforced by the practice of fosterage: parents who delegate care of their children to others do not feel the same need to husband their own resources carefully. Once the children are out of the house, they may have little idea what kind of care they are actually getting. Clearly, this is an invitation to wishful thinking.

Finally, as the number of children in fosterage grows, the small fees paid out to the foster parents begin to add up. The biological parents’ money is bled off, and capital is not accumulated. Even relatively prosperous families usually have no “nest egg” in our sense. This is an important factor contributing to the poverty of the region.

In summary, we may describe this whole family system as based on short-term responses to circumstances rather than deliberate, long-term planning.

Now, the simpler and more spontaneous culture of West Africa may more or less be able to muddle along in this fashion, but the civilization which produced Shakespeare, Mozart, and Newton cannot. The achievements which form our cultural heritage presuppose stable social arrangements. Predictable familial and civic relations, long apprenticeships, capital accumulation, and the rational allocation of resources are what allow men of talent to invest time and effort in endeavors which do not necessarily have any quick or obvious economic payoff. This is what makes the arts and sciences possible.

It is probably true that Europeans are naturally better adapted (through evolutionary pressures) to monogamy and deferral of gratification, but it would behoove us not to presume too much upon this. One of the reasons for studying Africa is that it is like a window onto our own remotest past. During declining phases of civilization, primitive cultural forms tend to reappear. Whites are not immune to what might be called “re-Africanization,” and there is plentiful evidence that some such thing is now taking place. Western man is in certain ways returning spiritually to the Dark Continent from which he laboriously emerged long ago.

In the first place, let us consider the contemporary West’s obvious and abnormal preoccupation with sex. Anthropologists speak of reproductive effort as a combination of mating effort and parenting effort. There is a natural tradeoff between these two components. The less time people spend looking for mates, the more they have left to devote to their children. The traditional European practice is to encourage young people to pair off early and emphasize fidelity in order to reduce sexual competition and allow adults to concentrate on the serious business of raising families.

But this is not a universal human pattern. Africans make the tradeoff between mating effort and parenting effort differently, with the result that sex assumes greater importance in their lives over a longer period of time. White writers of earlier days frequently noted the prominence of sex in the black man’s thoughts; when recalled now, such observations are, of course, cited with horror as proof of our ancestor’s terrible “racism.” In fact they were merely reporting what they observed, and what is still observed by professional anthropologists in West Africa today.

As monogamy continues to decay in the West, our mating system increasingly comes to resemble the more competitive African model, and with similar results. We see young women become completely consumed by the effort to maximizing their sexual allure in order to snag high status men, and men competing for status in order to obtain access to these women. All this comes at the expense of childrearing and family life.

Secondly, the feminist program of cajoling or forcing women into the workplace means that women once again become self-supporting, as are the female farmers of West Africa. The Dilbert world of air-conditioned work cubicles may not outwardly resemble the miserable farming plots of Africa. But both stand in marked contrast to the male-breadwinner model traditional in the West, in which devoted childrearing was a woman’s first and most important duty. Indeed, the modern workplace, optimized for risk-free, repetitious, sedentary work is probably the best conceivable environment for eliminating women’s economic dependence upon men. By the same token, it discourages the moderately large families of well-brought-up children which are the indispensable and timeless precondition of Western Civilization. If sufficiently many women fail or refuse to marry and become mothers of such families, our way of life cannot be sustained.

The most important effect of economic autonomy upon women is that it reduces the benefits of monogamous marriage to them. This affords them the freedom to mate as they please, which naturally results in catty competition over the most attractive men. That is what the college “hook-up” scene is really about (and not callous men “preying upon” wide-eyed virgins). The women use attractive men partly for pleasure, but often just as much to demonstrate their sexual powers to other women; they use affluent men for their resources (either not marrying or marrying and then divorcing them), and they rely on the police to get rid of “stalkers and harassers,” i.e., men who find them attractive but for whom they have no use.

A second economic factor influencing female sexual behavior today is easy consumer credit. The credit card functions similarly to the expectation of providing for children through fosterage in Africa. It conceals from young, present-centered women the need for frugality. The contemporary American economy is fueled to a great extent by massive consumer debt. How much of this reckless spending do you suppose is done by married men with children to support? Feminists complain that men continue to earn more than women, but they say little about which sex spends more. And, of course, the more time and effort women devote to careers and personal consumption, the less they have for such children as they do manage to bear. The phenomenon of “latchkey children,” raised by television sets and unsupervised peer groups, was an entirely predictable result of the feminist project.

So, in summary: the contemporary West resembles traditional West African society in (1) female economic self-support; (2) polygamous and unstable mating patterns; (3) absence of long- range planning or deferred gratification; (4) a tendency to overestimate available resources; and (5) low investment parenting.

But all analogies break down at some point, and when this one does it is to the credit of Africa rather than us. The African system does not, as I noted, produce a particularly advanced civilization, but it does at least ensure procreation, which is more than can be said for our present way of life. Although Africans do not usually sacrifice all that much for their offspring, they are extremely fond of children. They have a proverb: “If you have a child, you have a life.” One of the justifications they offer for practicing fosterage is that without it the poor foster-parent would be deprived of the pleasure of juvenile company. Africans not only want to have children, they want to share them with all their friends and neighbors. Accordingly, efforts by Western busybodies to interest them in birth control have not met with much success: fourteen of the sixteen most fertile countries in the world are in black Africa.

Sociobiologists speak of high investment vs. high fertility reproductive strategies, but it is clear the contemporary West does not fall into either category. We are practicing both low fertility and low parental investment. It is uncanny how many of the “progressive” causes being pushed among us involve thwarting procreation: female careerism, unrestricted abortion, so-called “safe sex,” and special political protections for homosexuality. A society which makes these its priorities can only have a death wish.

Much has already been written in the conservative press in condemnation of the sexual revolution, of course, but in my view most of the criticism is worse than worthless because it is simply an expression of male rescue fantasies rather than an informed and rational assessment of the situation. Thus, there are calls for greater protection for women whose chief problem is that they are overprotected to begin with. Lonely bachelors who could easily find a wife in a monogamous society are portrayed as dangerous predators upon female innocence when the only reason they remain bachelors is that women are furiously competing to join the harems of a few unusually handsome and successful men. Hard working men are berated for failing to provide for women who enjoy preferences in hiring and advancement at their expense and have better economic prospects than they do.

The misguided gallantry of the typical male pundit may to some extent simply be a component of male heterosexuality: since men naturally desire women, they have a vested interest in believing women worth having. Conservatives who cannot heap enough ridicule upon Rousseau’s doctrine of the natural goodness of man are often among the most naïve in asserting the natural goodness of woman. This is a kind of ideology, with an ideology’s characteristic capacity to ignore or explain away conflicting evidence. Many men continue to insist, in defiance of all the evidence of women’s actual behavior, that they are pining away for morally upright men to love, honor, and obey, and that the poor dears cannot find happiness only because other men (never the writer himself, of course) are selfish, irresponsible cads.

To some extent, I sympathize with these commentators. It is indeed baffling that any woman could prefer the barren existence of the career woman to having a home with a devoted husband and offspring to care for. I once heard a man observe that if young women had any sense they would be in the streets demanding the return of the meal ticket that marriage once gave them. But actions speak louder than words, and obviously this is not happening. The short term incentives of independent incomes, material self-indulgence, and transitory “relationships” with attractive men are visibly winning out over the long term benefits to women of marriage and family. It is past time for men to wake up to this reality.

The most important form of “racial activism” is childrearing. This goal cannot be achieved by the conservative’s usual ham-fisted methods of calling for more punishment of men, making endless excuses for women, and putting everyone to sleep with moral exhortation about the sacredness of marriage. Instead, we must consider the actual incentives now operating upon men and women, as economists long ago learned to do, and focus our efforts on altering them in ways conducive to family formation.

Let me illustrate what I mean with reference to the issue of racial intermarriage, which as I said some racialists counterproductively harp upon. Today there are more than a few American men going to enormous trouble and expense to seek wives in exotic places like the Philippine Islands and South America. For the most part, they are doing so not because they lust after exotic flesh but because the women in these societies treat men better, are more feminine, and give family life priority over any work they may do outside the home. It is futile to say to such men, “You have a racial duty to beg a spoiled Western girl to accept a diamond ring from you and put up with her nagging until such time as she gets bored, walks off with the children, and sues you for child support.” White men do not have any such duty, and outside the ranks of a few hardcore racialists, such exhortations will be entirely without effect. If you wish to influence the average man of the West, who does not read American Renaissance or The Occidental Quarterly or perhaps even think much about race directly, to marry a white woman and start a family as his ancestors did, the only way to do it is to make white women marriageable once again. This means undoing at least forty years of feminism.

Or again, let us consider those white women who take up with black men. This too is happening for a reason. There has been plenty written about the injustices of so-called affirmative action, even by mainstream conservatives, but I have never any-where seen a direct discussion of its sexual consequences. Given the hypergamous nature of the female sex instinct, however, there certainly are such consequences. Our current laws mean that white men are in effect being forced to labor for the benefit of blacks. Furthermore, they must carefully watch their words to avoid “offending” blacks, but not vice-versa. Women perceive all this: they have a keen sense of which males are dominant. Once again, direct attempts to change behavior through scolding and exhortation are simply not likely to be effective. It is the incentives to which these women are responding which must be changed.

Far from women being naturally monogamous, as our fathers were often encouraged to believe, the family probably first came into being when men forcibly imposed monogamy upon women in order to insure their own paternity and minimize sexual competition. But, once established, the benefits of the system were so great that women came to appreciate it as well. If our civilization is to survive, we must join together again to restore the monogamous heterosexual family as the normal unit of society.


I would like to thank Steve Sailer, Henry Harpending, and Peter Frost for directing me to some relevant anthropological literature. The views expressed are my own.