Biology of Sex and Gender: Patriarchy


Patriarchy is a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it. However, could patriarchy still be the result of the obvious physical differences between the sexes, where men are larger so therefore instantly seen as stronger and more powerful? Where does patriarchy originate?

In ‘Men in Groups’ (1970) by Lionel Tiger, he cites evidence from a variety of social and biological sources, which support his contention that there is an innate, biological propensity for human males to “bond”. He argues that this bonding between males is vitally linked to male dominance and political power.

Tiger begins his analysis with the argument, which is now generally accepted that Homo sapiens evolved as a hunting species that pursued game in groups. Hunting groups were all male as females were pre-occupied with the rigors of pregnancy, childbirth and childrearing. Over time, Tiger believes a nonerotic male-male link became just as important and parallel to the male-female link for the survival of the species. This male-male link, this “bond” became biologically programmed into the genetic structure. Bonding became a general male characteristic because those who had it resulted in breeding advantages. Females were more aroused by the bonded males, as they were better hunters and more efficient in the group which meant they were better protectors of the communities and so more successful in producing offspring. This links to the modern ideas of males being the providers and protectors and females the supporters and protected. Females desire safety and security, which the bonded male can provide Tiger suggests.

Tiger claims that aggression, “is directly a function and/or outgrowth of corporate male interaction” (p.247) it strengthens cohesion and cooperation within bonded male groups. Stratification, to form or arrange into strata, is also obvious and necessary within male bonded groups.  In all sorts of groups: economic, societal, political or religious, somebody must be in charge and the others must be willing to follow. According to Tiger, females are not found in positions of strength or leadership because given male bonding they do not provide the “releasers” for followship behaviour (p. 96-97). Tiger suggests that females may not be politically active because political activity rests on the basis of male bonded groups and an innate, presumably male, territoriality.

Territoriality is the ownership of a particular area or territory, which is protected from invasion by other members of the same species, a characteristic found in a number of animal species. Individual territoriality, means a male, virtue to his land will attract one or more mates then permit another other male access to his land. Communal territoriality is when a group holds and defends a territory against invasion from other groups of the same species. Within these groups there is a status of hierarchy. Breeding advantages go to the highest status male. Ardley (1966) suggests that Homo sapiens are also territorial, which Tiger accepts and links this to male bonding and male dominance in political activity. He suggests that females desire to form “relationships with adult males who will protect them when the group is attacked and who will enforce social order when internal disturbance occurs….the hypothesis contains the proposition that the defenders and policemen must be males” (p109-110).

Overall, Tiger suggests that it is the male-bonding phenomenon, which has put males above females in strength, occupation and dominance. Male bonding is evident in sports, societies and war and so on, which explored extensively in “Men in Groups”. Tiger shows how males “court” other males and “validate” their maleness through interaction, often through an aggressive and violent nature. These overt expressions of masculine behaviours in male bonded groups such as being aggressive and dominant have become innate biological male characteristics. Thus, informing our ideas of what a ‘normal’ masculine identity is and what masculinity is altogether: strength, dominance and power. However, Tiger ignores the fact that greater physical strength of males could allow them to appropriate power and privilege, regardless of bonding. I would argue here that it is too the largeness and strength of the males physicality which automatically authorizes him as a figure of power and leader and I’m sure the bigger the male the higher status he would achieve in this sense.


Chafetz, J.S. (1974). Masculine/Feminine or Human? London: F.E.Peocock Publishers, Inc. . p1-

Tiger, L (1969) Men in Groups. Transaction Publishers.

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