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Sexual Selection, Part 2

November 10, 2013

“Higamous hogamous, women are monogamous, hogamous higamous, men are polygamous”.

Higamous hogwash, I say. Here’s why:

Suppose you’re a pre-agricultural human, a woman living as part of a small tribe, and you don’t know where babies come from. You’re not always especially interested in sex, but when you want it, you REALLY want it. At those times, when you feel a strong sexual pull, perhaps with a certain man, you will often be the one to initiate sexual activity. The man will typically climax within about five minutes and then, characteristically, collapse from exaustion. You, however, will feel like you are just getting started and are far from being satisfied. Fortunately, however, your vocalizations during intercourse will have alerted other nearby men (most likely other members of your tribe whom you know well and have ongoing sexual relationships with) that you are aroused and sexually active, and they will have begun to congregate. You feel like you can fuck all of them, and you do. You’re not even particularly concerned with how physically attractive they are, because you’ll still get off just fine. Even afer you climax the first time, your endurance doesn’t flag and you are still willing and able to enjoy sex for as long as it is available.

And guess what? Your genes are happy! They wired your body to become particularly aroused right around the time you are ovulating, to seek and achieve sexual climax without becoming exhausted, and to vocalize loudly during intercourse. You only have one chance each month to create offspring, and your body invests heavily in this process whether or not you actually become pregnant, so every month that goes by without you getting pregnant is a missed opportunity for your genes to propagate. And when you get pregnant, it’s going to cost you a single egg (of which you are born with many more than a lifetime supply) regardless of how many men you mate with. In fact, the more men you mate with the better, because, given that you are going to get pregnant, your genes would prefer to be mixed with those of the most potent possible sperm. Fitness, health, and looks matter somewhat, mainly as a screening mechanism for diseases, but what matters even more for reproductive purposes is the efficacy of the male’s sperm. The more men’s sperm there is competing inside you at once, the more fit and potent the victor sperm is likely to be. So mating with as many men as possible can only work out in your genes’ favor.

Suppose, on the other hand, that you are a man living with the same tribe. You are pretty much always interested in sex, but especially with young, fit, attractive females. In fact, the more young, fit, and attractive the better. Given a choice between two women to pursue sexually, this will almost always be the deciding factor, and given all of the women in your tribe, you are most interested in the one who is most young, fit, and attractive at any given time. You would pass up any number of slightly less young, attractive, and fit-looking women to mate with this one. Of course, you will always move on to them afterwards if you have the opportunity, or settle for them if your first choice isn’t accessible, but first things must come first.

And your genes not only prefer this approach, they design for it. They can only produce so many copies of themselves per day, and the vast majority of these will be wasted. They designed your body to be highly keyed in to signs of fitness and fertility in a females, and to maintain a state of constant readiness to impregnate a viable candidate when she gives signals of consent. However, such a woman will also be desirable to, and desirous of, many other men, so your sperm is likely to be in competition with that of many others. Therefore, your best strategy is to reserve it for the most promising opportunity; if you expend it with whatever women happen to be available at any given time, you will be at a severe disadvantage in the competition for the ideal woman’s egg. So, you will be fixated most of the time on the most desirable woman you can find, and will only become interested in less desirable women after you have made an entry into her genetic lottery, or it has become clear that she is inaccessible. From your gene’s perspective, it is better to have a smaller chance of impregnating a highly desirable woman than to have a greater chance of impregnating a less desirable woman, but the latter is still better than no chance at all.

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2 Comments
  1. hollowroseheart permalink

    Very enjoyable read. 🙂

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  1. Psychology Today: Why Women Prefer Aggressive Men « Sexcapades of a Kitten

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