Exclusive In-Groups and the Development of Cultural Norms: Restricting Entry through Sex

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In the intricate tapestry of human social evolution, in-groups have frequently employed strategies to limit membership to safeguard their resources. One intriguing aspect of this phenomenon is the development of cultural norms and taboos discouraging the use of sex as a means to gain entry into these exclusive groups. This article explores how in-groups strategically employed such norms to protect their resources.

Resource Protection

In-groups often possessed valuable resources, be it fertile land, prime hunting grounds, essential tools, or social connections. These resources were vital for the group's survival and prosperity. To ensure these assets were not depleted or overused, in-groups needed to control access.

Limiting Membership 

A primary strategy for resource preservation was restricting membership. Only individuals who adhered to the group's customs, norms, and values were admitted. The stringent membership criteria aimed to guarantee that new members would contribute positively to the group's well-being. In extreme cases, membership was restricted based on one’s heritage. The concept of nobility may be said to appear out of such a consideration.

The Role of Sex 

Sexual relations, with the potential for reproduction, could be used as a means to gain entry into an in-group. This posed a threat to the group's stability, as it risked introducing individuals who might not align with the group's values and objectives, as well as the eventual loss of resources becoming more likely as those who gained entry produced heirs who would not see eye to eye with the rest of the group. To counter such a threat, the concept of the ‘bastard’ (i.e. a child out of wedlock) was often used to make sure said bastard would not inherit the rights and resources that were accessible by the rest of the group.

Development of Cultural Norms

To counter the threat of using sex as an entry strategy, in-groups developed cultural norms and taboos surrounding sexual behavior. These norms discouraged casual or opportunistic sexual relationships aimed solely at gaining membership. If one has a mind to find out why women have been so heavily persecuted and criticized in history and literature, one might look here.

Preservation of Social Order

Cultural norms governing sexual conduct served to maintain social order within the group. They reinforced the importance of committed partnerships and procreation within the established social structure. Having people at each other’s throats over adultery would not make for a very stable future otherwise.

Reinforcement of Values

The taboos and norms also acted as a means of reinforcing the group's values and principles. Individuals who wished to join the group had to demonstrate not only their commitment but also their alignment with these values. One might view the public testing of these values (as well as the derived customs and manners therefrom) as strict exams that all hopefuls were forced to sit through. Not unlike college entrance exams.

The development of all of the above strengthened the group's cultural identity and cohesion. Members shared a sense of purpose and adherence to a common set of rules, fostering unity and a shared vision for the group's future.

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