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Darwin and the Making of Sexual Selection$
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Evelleen Richards

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226436906

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226437064.001.0001

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(p.517) Epilogue Last Words
Darwin and the Making of Sexual Selection

Evelleen Richards

University of Chicago Press

The arguments of the book are summarized. Darwin’s sources and intellectual concepts, and the social, cultural and institutional contingencies that shaped the making of sexual selection are reviewed. The reasons for its “eclipse” are adduced. They include: Darwin’s failure to build a network of supportive, influential allies for the promotion of sexual selection; the rise of non-selectionist theories of evolution; the inherent contradictions of Darwin’s theorizing; the general resistance to the notion of an animal aesthetics; and the linking of female choice with disreputable free love, birth control, eugenics and socialism and the social and political aspirations of New Women - all threatening to undermine established sexual and gender relations and Darwinian respectability. The subsequent history of sexual selection is briefly discussed (notably in relation to the work of Ronald A. Fisher and Julian Huxley, the rise of sociobiology, a militant second wave feminism and the beginnings of the erosion of conventional sexual and gender stereotypes). It is argued that its late twentieth century revival was as much due to social and cultural reasons as to biological ones.

Keywords:   sexual selection, eclipse, reasons, non-selectionist theories of evolution, New Women, Darwinian respectability, Ronald A. Fisher, Julian Huxley, sociobiology, second wave feminism

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