The Currency of the Human Cohabitation Contract

This article is somewhat different from those I usually post here, in that it is not explicitly about a computing subject.  However, it asks questions about what happens when assumptions on which expectations are dependent evolve over time, thus changing definitions in the process.  It is something I have been thinking about for a while and have finally decided to write it down so the idea does not get lost.

 

Children are the currency of the human cohabitation contract.

Traditionally a man’s role was to provide a woman children in exchange for companionship and nurture.  A woman’s role was to provide a man children in exchange for companionship and protection. These sex specific roles in the cohabitation contract go back to way before the agricultural revolution some 12,000 years ago, to our hunter and gatherer ancestors.  All the way back to the early Hominins like Homo Erectus, as much as a million years ago.

The evolution of cohabitation roles is now changing this equilibrium.

As men become more capable of nurturing and women become more capable of protecting, the role of each sex is changing.  Each is becoming more like the other.

One result of the evolution of the roles in the cohabitation contract is the increase in the number of single parent family units and the increased acceptance of homosexuality.

After a certain point neither sex needs the traditional services of the other as they once did.  They have begun to provide these services for themselves.  Thus the definition of the cohabitation contract roles is evolving.  However, the definition of the services provided are not.

This shows the difference between sex and gender.  Sex is the biological difference between males and females.  Gender is sociological differentiation between men and women.  Throughout history gender was determined by sex.  Males were men and females were women.[i]  The roles of the cohabitation contract were essentially sex roles.  Now they are evolving into gender roles.

No one knows how far the evolution of cohabitation roles will go.  Will there be a tipping point when the trend reaches the critical mass to produce an accelerating change in human society?  Will this change then become a permanent stable condition?  Will it be uniform across the globe?

Power has almost always accrued to the cohabitation role providing protection.  This role has traditionally been played by men in nearly every civilization in history, and even pre-historically.

Will males in mass realize and become aware of the change in their role expectations?  Will this awareness be perceived by men as a loss of power?

Will females become aware in mass of the change in their role expectations?  Will a significant number of women form alliances to protect this newly realized power?

One key to answering these questions is whether roles produced by changes in the cohabitation contract will be perceived as gender roles, or will they continue to be perceived as sex roles.

How cohabitation roles are perceived should have a measurable effect on the maturation process of boys into men, and girls into women.  The gender roles, man and woman, may actually change.  Possibly each immature sex will evolve into its mature form in an environment where males will no longer just be men, and females will no longer just be women.  We might no longer think of men only as male, nor women only as female.  Cohabitation contract roles may change so much that they may become disassociated from either sex or gender.  The roles of nurturer and protector may someday not even be exclusively performed by humans[ii].

Regardless of the change in the definition of the roles, children will continue to be the currency exchanged for services between these roles in the cohabitation contract.  As long as these services are provided in a manner acceptable to both genders, it will make little difference who plays these roles.

 

[i] Note the word in English used to identify the two groups. The stem word in both cases designates the man/male and the “modified” word identifies the “wo”man/”fe”male.  This could be a by-product of, at least in the English speaking parts of the world, the male dominating the female socially throughout history.  In some languages (ex: Estonian, Hindi) there are distinct words for “man” and “male”, while “woman” and “female” are not differentiated, with a single word for both.

[ii] An argument could be made that this has already begun to happen..

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