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August 06, 2004

Studs and sluts

Time for another entry in what I like to call my "annoy as many people as possible with my half-assed theories" collection. Today the topic is why promiscuous men are lauded (or at least tolerated with a roll of the eyes) and why promiscuous women are condemned (or at least viewed by most with a certain degree of contempt). If you're sitting comfortably, let us begin...

It's the genes, stupid. Isn't everything? Come with me to a time way back when, in the distant past, when men wrestled sabre-toothed tigers and considered the possibility of somehow projecting a moving image of the world around us (preferably the exploding fireballs around us) onto a giant screen so they could watch it while scratching themselves, and women gathered berries and dreamed of the day someone would invent cute shoes. In those halcyon days the males of the species would try to have sex with as many females as possible, starting with the most attractive and ending with the least, and again ad infinitum, while the females of the species would (rapes aside) consider each potential suitor in turn and allow one of them to, er, fulfill himself.

In slightly more detail, men would first approach the most attractive female. That is, the woman with the clearest skin, brightest eyes, shiniest hair, etc. -- all the things that contribute to sexual attractiveness and, not in the least coincidentally, also indicate good health. He would attempt to win her over. Whether or not he succeeded would depend on the female. If she considered him sexually attractive -- meaning the same indicators of health men sought but also muscularity indicating strength, as well as non-physical factors such as the male's status within the group (often indicating ambition and intelligence) and so on. If the woman considered the man worthy, she would allow him to have sex with her. This, she may or may not have been aware, would often lead to pregnancy.

Thus it was that the healthiest, most attractive women and the healthiest, strongest, most ambitious men tended to find each other, while the weaklings, the unhealthy and the lazy tended not to reproduce, and thus it was our species grew ever stronger and more clever with each passing generation. This is how our genes control us, the way genes control every animal on the planet. The genes (and memes, but that's another topic) are in charge.

This natural order did not cease to exist once we became civilized and began building SUVs. It is still very much present today, as exemplified by all the attractive, healthy females on the covers of magazines, the chiseled male models, the obsession with fitness and fatness, and in many other ways. One of the most interesting ways is in how promiscuity is viewed.

As I said above, male promiscuity is far more socially acceptable than female. Why is this? Have women been systematically repressed so that they feel their sexuality need to be hidden, as it were, under a bushel? Yes, of course. No argument there. The real question, though, is why that's been the case, almost universally. Why has a woman's expression of her sexuality been frowned upon? You guessed it: those millions of years of heritage we all carry round with us, in tiny troublemaking spirals.

Men, as we've established, are somewhat less than picky when it comes to choosing a mate. Certainly he'll start with the one he finds most attractive, but if she is unreceptive he'll continue through the rest, quite content, in the end, to sew his seed in whichever field is available, and then, the next day, move on to another. His task is simply to procreate as often as he can. Women, on the other hand, have a great deal more responsibility. With every partner comes the possibility of pregnancy, thus it is very important, from the point of view of the survival of the species, for her to choose wisely, and mate with the best candidate available. If women had the same mentality as men the very concept of "survival of the fittest" would collapse. It is incumbent upon them to find the strongest, healthiest, most powerful man, so that she may have a strong, healthy, powerful baby.

Women who behave the same way as men -- sexually, I mean -- those we call "sluts" and upon whom we pour scorn, are seen by our genetic mind as threatening this order, and thus threatening the survivability of the species itself. Genes care little for equality, only for producing better and stronger copies of themselves, and women who are less than careful in their choice of mates undermine this process. While we're mostly unaware of this genetic influence, it is always present in the dark, ancient areas of our minds. A promiscuous man, on the other hand, is simply fulfilling his destiny, which is to spawn as many copies of himself as possible.

None of this justifies the stigma we place upon women who behave like men, of course. It merely explains it. It's a reflection of reality rather than an attempt to excuse inequality. With the advent of modern contraception this stigma should no longer apply, since women can control with unprecendented precision by whom they become impregnated. For a woman to indulge in "casual sex" is no longer a threat to the species. But tell that to the genes we inherited from our contraception-less ancestors.

There, I had my turn. Now it's yours. Be gentle ;).


At October 6, 2004 at 5:37 p.m. , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are almost right.

The reason why women are unable to sleep with men at will has nothing to do (directly) with improving the gene pool.

The problem that the woman faces is that pregnancy is a tremendous liability. When she gets pregnant, her ability to gather food and protect herself diminish greatly. Also, caring for the child consumes most of her time and available resources. She *needs* someone there to assist her in providing for her children. If there is no one to help her, there is a good chance that her child will die.

In the days before birth control and modern medicine, it was not uncommon for 8 children to be born, and for 6 to die before reaching maturity. With each child, a considerable amount of risk and resources went into providing for their development.

All that said, she needs someone to help bring food to her and her young children. Generally, this means her man. We must consider the man's motivations for providing for the woman.

If the man is providing food for the woman, he is not out sleeping with other women, and he is also diminishing the food for himself. The strategy he would be employing here would be to ensure the survival of several of his offspring rather than taking a risk with one night stands. As already stated, children without two providers often died.

He needs to know that the children he is helping raise are his own. Without DNA tests, the only way he can know this is if his woman is faithful. If she is not, he is furthering the cause of other men, and his genes do not carry on. He loses. He wastes his time dealing with her when he could be out securing the survival of another woman who WOULD be the mother of his children.

This is why men are prone to walk away when women cheat, and why women fight for their man (most of the time) when men do. Generally, in the woman's mind, to be without man is a very great fear, deeply ingrained and seemingly irrational when seen out of context of our genetic history. Men, on the other hand, simply have more food on the table for themselves when they walk away. All they lose out on is sex for the time being, and since the value of that sex was in question, they don’t even lose much there.

This is why men are looked upon as studs when they sleep around (women are willing to risk all of the above for them), and why women are looked upon as sluts.


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