When I work until late at night, just about the only TV programme left to watch afterwards is often The Jeremy Kyle Show. At first I watched it for its comic value, as dysfunctional couples and families shout at each other over non-existing problems before turning to the namesake presenter of the show for guidance and, more importantly, to solve their real problems with DNA paternity and lie detector tests.
But then I realised that this broadcast is much more useful than an average comedy show. It has exposed at least two things.
The first is how in the lives of the people appearing in Kyles' studio - who are British reprentatives of what American sociologist Charles Murray and others call the "underclass" - Christianity has totally disappeared.
The underclass is a new social class, it is no longer the working class. It is not characterised by its economic status so much as by its behaviour, mores and ethos.
It has a disproportionately high illegitimacy rate, school drop-out rate, unemployment rate and crime rate. It is anti-social in its outlook, attitudes, rules and codes.
In the US the underclass is disproportionately black - which is why the American version of the JK Show has mostly black guests - but in Britain it is mainly formed by indigenous Britons.
The complete abandonment of Christian values and principles, particularly those of self-discipline in every area of life - ranging from what psychologists today call "anger management", and was once the fight against the sin of wrath, to sexual self-restraint -, seems more than a mere coincidence in the type of problems that Kyle guests face.
The second thing that this TV show evidences is how in today's society the pendulum has gone too far in favouring women over men, in many different fields but specifically here in the case of paternity issues.
Gerd Gigerenzer's book on risk and its statistical aspects, Reckoning with Risk: Learning to Live with Uncertainty (Amazon USA), (Amazon UK), explains how human males are exceptional in the animal kingdom in being expected to contribute to the rearing of a child without certainty of fatherhood. Paternity uncertainty coupled with parental responsibility is a very heavy burden that society forces men to bear:
Why is there wife battering all around the world? And why do many more men than women kill their partners? Although there are many contributing variables, such as alcoholism, the classic explanation is paternal uncertainty. Unlike in the majority of mammalian species, in which males contribute nothing to the upbringing of their offspring, in the human species males and females cooperate in providing parental care. Fathers face a problem that mothers do not, and which according to evolutionary theory is so serious that most mammalian fathers opt out of paternal investment entirely. This problem is cuckoldry. That is, a man has to accept some degree of uncertainty about whether he actually is the father of his children. A woman, in contrast, can be certain that she is the mother of her children (barring an accidental exchange of babies in the hospital). Paternal uncertainty can be reduced by many means, one of which is for a man to control his partner physically to ensure that she is not consorting with other men. According to this argument, the cost of male parental investment brings with it male sexual jealousy, which leads men to use methods ranging from vigilance to violence to controlling sexual access to their mates.Or, as the Romans put it in their lapidary, succinct way: Mater semper certa est, pater numquam (the mother is always certain, the father never).
How certain should human fathers be about their paternity? Probably not as certain as is conceivably possible since the mid-1980s, when DNA fingerprinting became available as a highly reliable method for paternity testing. Using DNA fingerprinting, researchers found that 5 to 10 percent of children in Western countries who had been studied have a different biological father from the one they thought they had. [Emphases added]
At least since the advent of feminism, it's always been considered sexist (in the direction of misogyny) to stigmatise female adulterous and promiscuous behaviours in a way that male corresponding behaviours are not.
In fact, in light of the serious repercussions on paternal uncertainty, what is sexist (in the direction of misandry) is not to stigmatise women more than men for sexually promiscuous habits.
It has to be noted that Gerd Gigerenzer is not a political writer. He is a psychology academic, former Professor of Psychology at the University of Chicago and currently director of the Center for Adaptive Behavior and Cognition (ABC) at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin.
The book from which I quoted deals with statistics, calculation and assessment of risk in human and medical sciences. It is a scientific work, with hardly any political implication.
His political views on this matter are unlikely to be similar to mine, i.e. right-wing or anti-feminist, firstly because he would by now have been sacked from his academic position, secondly because his work is highly recommended by openly Leftist, Guardian columnist and author of Bad Science (Amazon USA), (Amazon UK), Ben Goldacre, and thirdly because the application of DNA paternity tests that he mostly advocates is for catching fathers trying to avoid their responsibilities.
He writes, for instance:
Before DNA testing, court proceedings were often colored by the public humiliation of unmarried mothers...I don't see anything wrong with public humiliation and stigma for unmarried mothers. It's because Western societies have abandoned this stigma that illegitimacy rates have been steadily rising in all EU countries, North America and Australia.
DNA testing has helped to dispense with the humiliating [for the mother] character that court hearings had in the past. Now that DNA evidence for paternity exists, courts rarely subject mothers to cross-examinations about their sex lives...
My point is that the mere possibility of DNA fingerprinting can be sufficient to end denial, to spare the mother an inquisition into her sex life, and to oblige the father to pay child support.
In 2009, 41% of children born in the US were illegitimate, from 5% a half century ago. As for the European Union:
In 2011, 39.5% of all births in the 27 EU countries were extramarital. In that year, births outside marriage represented a majority in Iceland (65.0%), Estonia (59.7%), Slovenia (56.8%), Bulgaria (56.1%), France (55.8%), Norway (55.0%), Sweden (54.3%), and Belgium (50%). The proportion of extramarital births is also approaching half in Denmark (49%), the United Kingdom (47.3%) and the Netherlands (45.3%)...In the UK most children will be born out of wedlock by 2016.
In the EU, the average percentage of extramarital births has risen steadily in recent years, from 27.4% in 2000 to 39.5% in 2011.
While people were too concerned about sexual liberation and women's rights, children and society at large were paying the price. I cannot cover in this post all the consequences of fatherlessness - and they are all negative -, although I will in future articles.
But I'll say that the price is astronomical in terms of children's psychological wellbeing, children's poverty, crime levels, antisocial behavior, unemployment, and finally the welfare state bills for taxpayers.
Also, observe the double standard. Whereas hormonal and other biological factors are often utilised in women's favour, as excuses even for murders allegedly due to Pre-Menstrual Tension (PMT) or postpartum psychosis, similar factors are never employed to excuse men in cases of rape, for example, or, as in this case, paternity uncertainty is never recognised as an intense stressor for a man and used to justify his jealous, controlling or violent behaviour.
Men are expected to provide for and in other ways contribute to a child's upbringing, no questions asked.
Not many consider this immense factor of stress for men, in the same way as in public discourse it's very rare for someone to examine things from a man's perspective. It is politically incorrect. It's only from a woman's viewpoint that we are supposed to look at everything.
Whereas oceans of ink and light years of film have been devoted to all the various problems associated with the woman's role in reproduction, hardly anybody has paid even the scantest attention to those related to the man's role.
Photo by toledo clubber (Creative Commons CC BY-ND 2.0).