Manosphere grifters misuse evolutionary psychology to promote anti-feminist views

New research in the journal Evolutionary Human Sciences, from University of Kent researchers Louis Bachaud and Sarah Johns, explores how members of various manosphere communities (think Andrew Tate and his ilk) misuse research and concepts from evolutionary psychology to bolster their own misogynistic views. Bachaud and Johns conducted a qualitative study of various groups—including Men's Rights' Activists (MRAs), Pickup-Artists (PUAs), Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW), the Red Pill (TRP) and incels ('involuntary celibates')—that collectively constitute the "manosphere," a primarily internet-based movement of individuals and communities that forward masculine (and often misogynistic and anti-feminist) perspectives and beliefs, and defend male interests. Here's the study's abstract:

While early evolutionary accounts of female sexuality insisted on coyness and monogamous tendencies, evidence from the field of primatology started challenging those assumptions in the 1970s. Decades later, there exist many competing and overlapping hypotheses stressing the potential fitness benefits of female short-term and extra-pair mating. Female mammals are now seen as enacting varied and flexible reproductive strategies. This is both a victory for science, with a better fit between theory and reality, and for feminism, with the downfall of narrow stereotypes about female sexuality. However, evolutionary hypotheses on female mating strategies are routinely invoked among the antifeminist online communities collectively known as 'the manosphere'. Based on extensive qualitative analysis of manosphere discourse, this study shows how these hypotheses are sometimes interpreted in misogynistic online spaces. Indeed, evolutionary scholars might be surprised to see sexist worldviews reinforced by the 'dual mating strategy' and 'sexy son' hypotheses, or by the latest research on the ovulatory cycle. The manosphere has its own version of evolutionary psychology, mingling cutting-edge scientific theories and hypotheses with personal narratives, sexual double standards and misogynistic beliefs. After analysing this phenomenon, this article suggests ways to mitigate it.

Olivia Miller, writing for University of Kent, provides an overview of the research. She explains:

The research, published by Evolutionary Human Sciences, demonstrates how evolutionary studies about women's behaviour (particularly sexual behaviour such as infidelity) are being scrutinised by the 'manosphere' online to justify anti-feminist and sexist beliefs. In contrast, research about male sexual behaviour is being overlooked, signifying a double standard. . . 

Louis Bachaud said: 'The hypothetical nature of evolutionary behavioural science is always obscured. The 'manosphere' is taking hypotheses out of context and embedding them in their broader grievances, personal experiences, and sexist tropes. There is a bias towards presenting women as more determined by biology than men, and mostly applying the evolutionary lens towards women, but more rarely towards men and their behaviour.

'This research is just a first milestone in the direction of disentangling the complex appropriations of science in the 'manosphere.'

Derek Beres, one of the hosts of the Conspirituality podcast, provides more information about the study's findings in a new piece he calls The Growing Misogyny of Bro Science. He explains:

New research from the University of Kent's School of Anthropology and Conservation finds that the manosphere regularly misinterpret scientific studies to promote misogynistic claims about biology and evolution—and sex.

Namely, the sex that men believe women want to have (mate choice) and the sex that these men aren't having (male autonomy versus female "coyness"). As will become clear, these framings lead to dark places. . . 

The authors note that female mate choice is regularly discussed in these communities—from male-skewed pseudoscience, usually only involving input from other men. 

Topics tend to focus on how to "get" women and discovering what women "really" want. Adherents from all these communities believe that systemic power is in the hands of women, with men increasingly losing their rights in a "blue-pilled" society.

At the end of the research article, authors Bachaud and Johns ask:

If these communities are already prejudiced against women, and hold moralistic views on female sexuality, can evolutionary sex researchers really avoid seeing their work being misinterpreted? Probably not. However, they can take steps to make such interpretations more difficult, and to ensure their own language does not unnecessarily reflect that of the manosphere.

Their recommendations include, first, removing sexist language from academic writing. They cite reputable, published academic work still using terms such as "cuckold," and argue that "The standards of scientific writing should dictate the abandonment of a term which has traditionally been gender-biased and morally loaded, and is now increasingly politically charged." Other morally-loaded terms they suggest that academics should abandon include "genetically superior men," "infidelity," and "promiscuity." They also posit that metaphors and other simplifications that help translate evolutionary science research to general audiences should only be used if clearly contextualized. They urge researchers to remind readers, for example, that "people do not act consciously in their genes' interests." Adding such language and contextualization to academic papers is important because their analysis found that these articles transcend academic spaces and are 

routinely read, shared and discussed by online communities. Moreover, in abstracts, titles and conclusions, academic publishing also encourages the communication of results in very definite terms. This contributes to simplistic understandings of empirical findings, such as monocausal explanations for complex phenomena, or ignorance of effect sizes.

Finally, the authors suggest that scholars should engage directly with the online manosphere communities who are misusing their work. They state that evolutionary psychology (EP) scholars:

might decide to engage directly with the issue, calling out or debunking biased interpretations of their research. This article is just the beginning, as there are many areas of evolutionary science that garner substantial attention from the manosphere. For example, research on mate preferences or on the behavioural effects of hormones. An article debunking the claims of online body language 'experts' was recently published in this journal (Denault & Zloteanu, Reference Denault and Zloteanu2022). Ultimately, this might not contribute to mitigating the prevalence of EP in manosphere communities – after all, EP is a rich and blossoming discipline. However, it would at least make it harder for serious scholarship to get assimilated by the general public to reactionary and misogynistic discourse.

Read the entire article here.