Desire and DNA: Is Promiscuity Innate?

LouPaulsen LouPaulsen at
Fri Aug 8 06:54:01 MDT 2003

Oh, bosh...

> Desire and DNA: Is Promiscuity Innate?
> New Study Sharpens Debate on Men, Sex and Gender Roles
> By Shankar Vedantam
> Washington Post Staff Writer
> Friday, August 1, 2003; Page A01

> The idea that male promiscuity is hardwired -- and therefore "normal" --
> drew swift and furious criticism. Scholars who assert the primacy of
> culture in shaping human behavior charged Schmitt with choosing his facts,
> making his conclusions less about science than "wishful thinking."

You know, there's even better documentation for the global tendency of men
to be more likely to murder other people.  And yet surprisingly very few men
suggest that this proves that murder is "normal", or that murder shouldn't
be punished, or, for that matter, that men should be subjected to strict and
systematic police surveillance.

The idea that 'hardwired = normal' is somewhat odd in this day and age.  I
suppose that I personally am hardwired to be myopic, fall down stairs, and
starve to death because I can't throw a spear and hit a giraffe.  I cheat by
wearing corrective lenses.  (This doesn't make me adept with the spear

> "I bet a lot of males might leave class and talk to their girlfriends and
> say, 'You know what I learned in class? It's natural I don't want to
> to you and that I feel attracted to other women -- it's because I am a
> man,' " Fisher said.

And a lot of women will say 'men are jerks, big news [yawn]'

> The basic idea of evolutionary psychology is that human behavior -- like
> human physical features -- is the product of evolution.

It goes farther, though.  To use this theory, you have to believe that a
given cluster of behaviors that you're looking at is the product of a gene,
not just an epiphenomenal product of other genes, so that there can have
been differential survival for people or groups with or without the gene.
You have to believe that behavior is not like the chin, for example; the
human chin is a product of evolution to be sure, but not in the sense that
people with chins were more likely to survive.  It's a more or less
accidental product of the fact that our teeth are smaller than primate teeth
but our jawbones are not much smaller, and if you fiddle with the growth
rates of those two fields that way you end up with chins even there is no
gene for the chin.

> For if men and women naturally have different desires for sexual variety,
> this easily becomes a justification of male promiscuity. Sociologists and
> social psychologists assert that differences in sexual proclivity arise
> because of a double standard in male-dominated societies, where female
> sexuality is tightly controlled: Thus, a man with multiple partners is a
> "stud" while a woman with multiple partners is a "slut."

Even without playing the culture card, which of course any Marxist can do in
his or her sleep, I can come up with several 'evolutionary' explanations for
women tending to want fewer partners:

(a) Human males tend to have greater height and weight in any gene pool.
That makes male strangers more potentially dangerous to females than female
strangers to males, so women are more cautious than men.

(b) Human males have inherited a psychological disposition to irrational
violence.  That makes male strangers more dangerous, etc.  (not so
flattering to men, this one)

(c) Human males have inherited a psychological disposition toward being
insensitive clods.  This means that sex with a male stranger is likely to be
less satisfying for a female than sex with a female stranger is for a male,
so it's less appealing to women and they want it less.  The optimal strategy
for a woman is to find one not-so-stupid man and train him.

But all this is utterly meaningless in real life because EVEN IF there were
a systematic inherited tendency for men to behave differently than women,
these inherited systematic differences are so small in comparison with the
effects of culture and individual psychology that why should we act as if
they were important?

Lou Paulsen

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