“Manthropology,” a tongue-in-cheek look at the science of maleness, examines what recent discoveries in the fields of archaeology and anthropology can teach us about the state of modern masculinity. Ice Age aboriginal tribesmen, he discovers, were able to run long distances at approximately the same speed as modern-day Olympic sprinters. Classic Grecian rowers could attain speeds of 7.5 miles an hour, which today's rowers can only attain for short bursts of time. Our culture may be obsessed with muscles: He notes that, since 1982, G.I. Joe's Sgt. Savage has gotten three times more muscular and Barbie's Ken now has a chest circumference attainable by only one in 50 men, but the luxuries of our contemporary lifestyle have caused a steady decline in genuine physical power. The book may be a light, breezy work, but it puts our current debate around masculinity into fascinating context. Salon spoke with McAllister on the phone from Australia, about the current state of American manhood, hypermuscular toys and whether the recession is bringing back old-school masculinity.
You make the very intriguing argument that muscularity and aggression are increasingly being weeded out of the gene pool.
I've cited some studies of children of the Viking Berserkers [a group of notorious Norse warriors known for their aggression], and found that these are hyperviolent men and actually did have more children than comparable warriors in that society. In the past when muscular strength was everything, there was a real likelihood that genes would be spread by that kind of behavior. With the society that we live in now, that kind of self-destructive thing gets people out of the gene pool. Young males that have nothing to lose — they're hyperaggressive, they get into gang violence, they're liable to die at a very young age. Aggressive men go to prison and they go for longer periods of time, and they commit more offenses that keep them in there, which impedes their ability to have a family life and reproduce. And thanks to the rise of reproductive control, like the pill, when women have liaisons with muscular males, it doesn't have the reproductive consequences that it did. That's good news for the cuckolded husbands of old, because studies show that they're often stuck raising the children that result from women's liaisons with the beefcakes.