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Thread: Human sexuality: what's the real story?

  1. #1

    Human sexuality: what's the real story?

    In another thread (that really had little to do with the subject of this thread), I brought up a book called Sex at Dawn, which paints a very different narrative of sexuality then the standard narrative. evilbaga then pointed out another book called Sperm Wars, which also disagrees with some aspects of the standard narrative. I thought it might be good to start on thread that attempts to analyze how we're really wired. Is the standard model correct or is it mistaken in one or more aspects? Let me know what you guys think. I'll start with the author of Sex at Dawn views to be the standard narrative:

    Readers acquainted with the recent literature on human
    sexuality will be familiar with what we call the standard
    narrative of human sexual evolution (hereafter shortened to
    “the standard narrative”). It goes something like this:

    1. Boy meets girl.

    2. Boy and girl assess one another’s mate value from
    perspectives based upon their differing reproductive agendas/
    capacities:

    • He looks for signs of youth, fertility, health, absence
    of previous sexual experience, and likelihood of
    future sexual fidelity. In other words, his assessment
    is skewed toward finding a fertile, healthy young
    mate with many childbearing years ahead and no
    current children to drain his resources.

    • She looks for signs of wealth (or at least prospects of
    future wealth), social status, physical health, and
    likelihood that he will stick around to protect and
    provide for their children. Her guy must be willing
    and able to provide materially for her (especially
    during pregnancy and breastfeeding) and their
    children (known as male parental investment).
    3. Boy gets girl: assuming they meet one another’s criteria,
    they “mate,” forming a long-term pair bond—the
    “fundamental condition of the human species,” as famed
    author Desmond Morris put it. Once the pair bond is formed:

    • She will be sensitive to indications that he is
    considering leaving (vigilant toward signs of
    infidelity involving intimacy with other women that
    would threaten her access to his resources and
    protection)—while keeping an eye out (around
    ovulation, especially) for a quick fling with a man
    genetically superior to her husband.

    • He will be sensitive to signs of her sexual infidelities
    (which would reduce his all-important paternity
    certainty)—while taking advantage of short-term
    sexual opportunities with other women (as his sperm
    are easily produced and plentiful).

    Researchers claim to have confirmed these basic patterns in
    studies conducted around the world over several decades.
    Their results seem to support the standard narrative of human
    sexual evolution, which appears to make a lot of sense. But
    they don’t, and it doesn’t.
    While we don’t dispute that these patterns play out in many
    parts of the modern world, we don’t see them as elements of
    human nature so much as adaptations to social
    conditions—many of which were introduced with the advent
    of agriculture no more than ten thousand years ago. These
    behaviors and predilections are not biologically programmed
    traits of our species; they are evidence of the human brain’s
    flexibility and the creative potential of community.

    In the previous thread, evilbaga mentions "in Africa, where promiscuity is rampant - men actually invest more in their sister's children than their own (wife's) children. This gene stuff runs deep." I respond by continuing where the above excerpt left off:

    *****************
    [To take just one example,] we argue that women's seemingly consistent preference for men with access to wealth is not a result of innate evolutionary programming, as the standard model asserts, but simply a behavioural adaptation to a world in which men control a disproportionate share of the world's resources. As we'll explore in detail, before the advent of agriculture a hundred centuries ago, women typically had as much access to food, protection and social support as did men. We'll see that upheavals in human societies resulting from the shift to settled living in agricultural communities brought radical changes to women's ability to survive. Suddenly, women lived in a world where they had to barter their reproductive capacity for access to the resources and protection they needed to survive. But these conditions are very different from those in which our species had been evolving previously.

    It's important to keep in mind that when viewed against the full scale of our species' existence, ten thousand years is but a brief moment. Even if we ignore the roughly two million years since the emergence of our Homo lineage, in which our direct ancestors lived in small foraging social groups, anatomically modern humans are estimated to have existed as long as 200,000 years.* With the earliest evidence of agriculture dating to about 8000 BCE, the amount of time our species has spent living in settled agricultural societies represents just 5 percent of our collective experience, at most. As recently as a few hundred years ago, most of the planet was still occupied by foragers.
    Later on, it states:
    Several types of evidence suggest our pre-agricultural
    (prehistoric) ancestors lived in groups where most mature
    individuals would have had several ongoing sexual
    relationships at any given time. Though often casual, these
    relationships were not random or meaningless. Quite the
    opposite: they reinforced crucial social ties holding these
    highly interdependent communities together.

    We’ve found overwhelming evidence of a decidedly casual,
    friendly prehistory of human sexuality echoed in our own
    bodies, in the habits of remaining societies still lingering in
    relative isolation, and in some surprising corners of
    contemporary Western culture. We’ll show how our bedroom
    behavior, porn preferences, fantasies, dreams, and sexual
    responses all support this reconfigured understanding of our
    sexual origins. Questions you’ll find answered in the
    following pages include:

    • Why is long-term sexual fidelity so difficult for so
    many couples?

    • Why does sexual passion often fade, even as love
    deepens?

    • Why are women potentially multi-orgasmic, while
    men all too often reach orgasm frustratingly quickly
    and then lose interest?

    • Is sexual jealousy an unavoidable, uncontrollable part
    of human nature?

    • Why are human testicles so much larger than those of
    gorillas but smaller than those of chimps?

    • Can sexual frustration make us sick? How did a lack
    of orgasms cause one of the most common diseases
    in history, and how was it treated?
    I haven't gotten to the answers yet, but I'm working on it, laugh :-)

    A little more:
    A Few Million Years in a Few Pages

    In a nutshell, here’s the story we tell in the following pages:
    A few million years ago, our ancient ancestors (Homo
    erectus) shifted from a gorilla-like mating system where an
    alpha male fought to win and maintain a ha*rem of females to
    one in which most males had sexual access to females. Few,
    if any experts dispute the fossil evidence for this shift.

    But we part company from those who support the standard
    narrative when we look at what this shift signifies. The
    standard narrative holds that this is when long-term pair
    bonding began in our species: if each male could have only
    one female mate at a time, most males would end up with a
    girl to call their own. Indeed, where there is debate about the
    nature of innate human sexuality, the only two acceptable
    options appear to be that humans evolved to be either
    monogamous (M–F) or polygynous (M–FFF+)—with the
    conclusion normally being that women generally prefer the
    former configuration while most men would opt for the latter.
    But what about multiple mating, where most males and
    females have more than one concurrent sexual relationship?
    Why—apart from moral disgust—is prehistoric promiscuity
    not even considered, when nearly every relevant source of
    evidence points in that direction?
    After all, we know that the foraging societies in which human
    beings evolved were small-scale, highly egalitarian groups
    who shared almost everything. There is a remarkable
    consistency to how immediate return foragers live—wherever
    they are.
    *
    The !Kung San of Botswana have a great deal in
    common with Aboriginal people living in outback Australia
    and tribes in remote pockets of the Amazon rainforest.
    Anthropologists have demonstrated time and again that
    immediate-return hunter-gatherer societies are nearly
    universal in their fierce egalitarianism. Sharing is not just
    encouraged; it’s mandatory. Hoarding or hiding food, for
    example, is considered deeply shameful, almost unforgivable
    behavior in these societies.

    Foragers divide and distribute meat equitably, breastfeed one
    another’s babies, have little or no privacy from one another,
    and depend upon each other for survival. As much as our
    social world revolves around notions of private property and
    individual responsibility, theirs spins in the opposite
    direction, toward group welfare, group identity, profound
    interrelation, and mutual dependence.
    Though this may sound like naïve New Age idealism,
    whining over the lost Age of Aquarius, or a celebration of
    prehistoric communism, not one of these features of
    pre-agricultural societies is disputed by serious scholars. The
    overwhelming consensus is that egalitarian social
    organization is the de-facto system for foraging societies in
    all environments. In fact, no other system could work for
    foraging societies. Compulsory sharing is simply the best way
    to distribute risk to everyone’s benefit: participation
    mandatory. Pragmatic? Yes. Noble? Hardly.
    And then they get to the part that I find to be the most interesting. I bold my favourite part:
    We believe this sharing behavior extended to sex as well. A
    great deal of research from primatology, anthropology,
    anatomy, and psychology points to the same fundamental
    conclusion: human beings and our hominid ancestors have
    spent almost all of the past few million years or so in small,
    intimate bands in which most adults had several sexual
    relationships at any given time. This approach to sexuality
    probably persisted until the rise of agriculture and private
    property no more than ten thousand years ago. In addition to
    voluminous scientific evidence, many explorers, missionaries,
    and anthropologists support this view, having penned
    accounts rich with tales of orgiastic rituals, unflinching mate
    sharing, and an open sexuality unencumbered by guilt or
    shame.
    If you spend time with the primates closest to human beings,
    you’ll see female chimps having intercourse dozens of times
    per day, with most or all of the willing males, and rampant
    bonobo group sex that leaves everyone relaxed and maintains
    intricate social networks. Explore contemporary human
    beings’ lust for particular kinds of pornography or our
    notorious difficulties with long-term sexual monogamy and
    you’ll soon stumble over relics of our hypersexual ancestors.


    Our bodies echo the same story. The human male has testicles
    far larger than any monogamous primate would ever need,
    hanging vulnerably outside the body where cooler
    temperatures help preserve stand-by sperm cells for multiple
    ejaculations. He also sports the longest, thickest penis found
    on any primate on the planet, as well as an embarrassing
    tendency to reach orgasm too quickly. Women’s pendulous
    breasts (utterly unnecessary for breastfeeding children),
    impossible-to-ignore cries of delight (female copulatory
    vocalization to the clipboard-carrying crowd), and capacity
    for orgasm after orgasm all support this vision of prehistoric
    promiscuity. Each of these points is a major snag in the
    standard narrative.
    As the authors say, our testicles aren't quite as large as that of chimps... still, I thought that bolded part was just.. wow.
    *****************

  2. #2
    Responding from the thread this subject started in..

    Quote Originally Posted by evilbaga View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Scott75 View Post
    Apparently, it wasn't always so. Here's an excerpt from a book I've started reading, Sex at Dawn:
    ***BIG ASS QUOTES***
    I haven't got around to reading that yet (or your quotes)...
    I laughed out loud when I read that "BIG ASS QUOTES" bit you put in, laugh :-)

    Quote Originally Posted by evilbaga View Post
    but I guess its worth it and Ill get it from the TPL soon.
    Ok.

    Quote Originally Posted by evilbaga View Post
    For now, another book worth reading is "Sperm Wars".
    I took a look at the article on it in wikipedia. I may not agree with some of the things he says, but others sounded quite interesting.

  3. #3
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    The comment about Africans investing more in their sisters children is likely because many African systems are matrilineal rather than patrilineal. Which of course, has nothing to do with genetics.

  4. #4
    Interesting read.

    Why do horses have gigantic penises?

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by diehard View Post
    Interesting read.

    Why do horses have gigantic penises?

    You're kidding right? For the same reason elephants, ducks, whales, and barnacles have huge slongs. To get to where it's got to get to.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by blackrock13 View Post
    You're kidding right? For the same reason elephants, ducks, whales, and barnacles have huge slongs. To get to where it's got to get to.
    My guess is that blackrock is on the money here. The important thing isn't the size of the penis; like plumping, it's generally as long as it needs to be to get from point a to point b. The real interesting thing, apparently, is the size of the testicles in relation to the species' bodies; it seems that this speaks of how often the species is expected to get busy.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by diehard View Post
    Interesting read.
    Thanks :-)

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Scott75 View Post
    Responding from the thread this subject started in..
    I laughed out loud when I read that "BIG ASS QUOTES" bit you put in, laugh :-)

    Ok.

    I took a look at the article on it in wikipedia. I may not agree with some of the things he says, but others sounded quite interesting.
    The part I most remember from the book is that a wife is 900% more likely to get pregnant during an affair than a tryst with her husband.
    Reason? Simple, even though the impregnation is the same...the woman is more excited about the affair...and her body reacts accordingly to suck up the sperm.

    Thus, women have innate evolutionarily adapted mechanisms to cuckold and/or get different/superior genesets.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by rld View Post
    The comment about Africans investing more in their sisters children is likely because many African systems are matrilineal rather than patrilineal. Which of course, has nothing to do with genetics.
    Unless likelyhood of genetic transmission affects social structure...
    Ever read "The Selfish Gene"?

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by evilbaga View Post
    The part I most remember from the book is that a wife is 900% more likely to get pregnant during an affair than a tryst with her husband.
    Reason? Simple, even though the impregnation is the same...the woman is more excited about the affair...and her body reacts accordingly to suck up the sperm.

    Thus, women have innate evolutionarily adapted mechanisms to cuckold and/or get different/superior genesets.
    That really does sound interesting alright. Personally, I wish we could go back to the type of culture that Sex at Dawn believes we had before the advent of agriculture; just with the agriculture, laugh :-).

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by evilbaga View Post
    Unless likelyhood of genetic transmission affects social structure...
    Ever read "The Selfish Gene"?
    I have read the Selfish Gene, but I am in the Gould camp on this issue. I can see no mechanism by which the environment impacts genes directly and vice versa. I view genetic trends as a symptom or outcome of natural selection, not a cause. Genetic variation is a cause but not genetic trends. I also have very significant doubts about most of the whole field of evolutionary psychology.

    And, even if we take for a moment the possibility that there is some genetic reason that men take good care of their sisters children, it poses two questions I am not sure how we answer even within that framework:

    1) he shares 50% of his genes with his children and the same amount (roughly) with his sister's children. If in both cases there is a 50% transmission rate, what is the genetic evolutionary advantage with favouring his sister's children over his own?

    2) if african cultures are older than say european cultures and this practice gives a genetic advantage, why did all of the younger european cultures flip around and become patrilineal? What is the genetic advantage in that?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Scott75 View Post
    My guess is that blackrock is on the money here. The important thing isn't the size of the penis; like plumping, it's generally as long as it needs to be to get from point a to point b. The real interesting thing, apparently, is the size of the testicles in relation to the species' bodies; it seems that this speaks of how often the species is expected to get busy.
    I think the original question was somewhat asked in jest, but the BR13 explanation is only partially right, if our limited understanding of reproductive advantage in evolution is correct.

    I preface my next comment by saying that the field of reproduction advantage in evolutionary theory is in its infancy and is changing almost monthly.

    From an evolutionary perspective the issue is pretty simple. After the equipment meets the minimum standard to do the job, the question then becomes how has the equipment changed over time. Is the current iteration larger or smaller than previous iterations? What happens to populations with movement in either direction? After we know that information, you can then form some hypothesis as to why the size is trending in one direction or another.

    IF the equipment size is not big enough to do the job, than the damned thing never reproduces and it becomes an evolutionary dead end.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by evilbaga View Post
    Unless likelyhood of genetic transmission affects social structure...
    Ever read "The Selfish Gene"?
    The Selfish Gene was -awesome- :-). One of my favourite books for sure. My favourite chapter was one that wasn't in the first edition of the book, called "Good Guys Finish First". It's not as simple as it sounds, though; in essence, the key to it working in evolutionary terms, requires reciprocal altruism. This is apparently what our ancestors did, which went to the point that apparently everything was shared; not just food, but each other, with the offspring being taken care of by everyone in the communal group.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Scott75 View Post
    The Selfish Gene was -awesome- :-). One of my favourite books for sure. My favourite chapter was one that wasn't in the first edition of the book, called "Good Guys Finish First". It's not as simple as it sounds, though; in essence, the key to it working in evolutionary terms, requires reciprocal altruism. This is apparently what our ancestors did, which went to the point that apparently everything was shared; not just food, but each other, with the offspring being taken care of by everyone in the communal group.
    While reciprocal alturism is a really cool idea, recent mathematical studies and modelling have cast a great deal of doubt on whether or not it really occurs in the animal kingdom.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by rld View Post

    1) he shares 50% of his genes with his children and the same amount (roughly) with his sister's children. If in both cases there is a 50% transmission rate, what is the genetic evolutionary advantage with favouring his sister's children over his own?
    I dont understand this at all. The whole point is, they are living in a promiscuous culture...ergo his 'wife' sleeps with other men. So he could share 0% genes with 'his' children. However since he shares 50% of his genes with his sister, he guaranteed shares 25% of genes with his sisters children (remember, he invests in his sister's children - not his brothers).

    Quote Originally Posted by rld View Post
    2) if african cultures are older than say european cultures and this practice gives a genetic advantage, why did all of the younger european cultures flip around and become patrilineal? What is the genetic advantage in that?
    The advantage of patriarchy over matriarchy is men aren't constantly mateguarding and/or fighting with each other over the women - this frees them to co-operate with each other, make bigger badder weapons, and conquer the cultures around them that are still matriarchies. Thereby, through social evolution, their patriarchal tendencies spread. Its not a straight genetic advantage.

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    Quote Originally Posted by evilbaga View Post
    I dont understand this at all. The whole point is, they are living in a promiscuous culture...ergo his 'wife' sleeps with other men. So he could share 0% genes with 'his' children. However since he shares 50% of his genes with his sister, he guaranteed shares 25% of genes with his sisters children (remember, he invests in his sister's children - not his brothers).



    The advantage of patriarchy over matriarchy is men aren't constantly mateguarding and/or fighting with each other over the women - this frees them to co-operate with each other, make bigger badder weapons, and conquer the cultures around them that are still matriarchies. Thereby, through social evolution, their patriarchal tendencies spread. Its not a straight genetic advantage.
    Is there good data that these african cultures are more promiscuous? And by what manner do the genes tell a person it is more important to invest in his sister's children?

    And, more importantly from a evolutionary perspective, is there evidence of pre-matriarchal cultures not being successful for that reason?

    I apologize if you covered this before but I must have missed the other thread.

    So you are suggesting that at some developmental tipping point, that genetic advantage takes a back seat to cultural advantage?

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by rld View Post
    Is there good data that these african cultures are more promiscuous? And by what manner do the genes tell a person it is more important to invest in his sister's children?

    And, more importantly from a evolutionary perspective, is there evidence of pre-matriarchal cultures not being successful for that reason?

    I apologize if you covered this before but I must have missed the other thread.

    So you are suggesting that at some developmental tipping point, that genetic advantage takes a back seat to cultural advantage?
    You're completely changing the signposts here. You accepted that they were more promiscuous and denied a relationship. now you are skeptical if they are.
    I read it somewhere... I really cannot find it again. I cant 'prove' it.

    But it makes solid sense from the selfish gene perspective.

    So you are suggesting that at some developmental tipping point, that genetic advantage takes a back seat to cultural advantage?
    Yes. Im suggesting that the greatest achievement of western civilization, and its basic engine, was not gee wizardry technology, but Long Term Marriages. Unfortunately, this screws over two groups - women, who now cannot share a geneset from the 'best' man. And 'alphas', who cannot impregnate multiple women.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by rld View Post
    Is there good data that these african cultures are more promiscuous? And by what manner do the genes tell a person it is more important to invest in his sister's children?

    And, more importantly from a evolutionary perspective, is there evidence of pre-matriarchal cultures not being successful for that reason?

    I apologize if you covered this before but I must have missed the other thread.

    So you are suggesting that at some developmental tipping point, that genetic advantage takes a back seat to cultural advantage?
    I think he would be surprised how many matriarchal societies still exist in the world. I can think of perhaps five in North America alone. many of them have been around since the dawn of modern man and earlier.

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by blackrock13 View Post
    I think he would be surprised how many matriarchal societies still exist in the world. I can think of perhaps five in North America alone. many of them have been around since the dawn of modern man and earlier.
    Yes, and they are all back-assward places where the people live in mud huts.

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by evilbaga View Post
    Yes, and they are all back-assward places where the people live in mud huts.
    Again you show how little you really know. It's been a while since any North American society lived in mud huts, the Adobe Indians set a side and I wouldn't be too quick to call those dwellings huts.

  21. #21
    Balderdash.
    How much of that is technology transferred from patriarchies?

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by evilbaga View Post
    Balderdash.
    How much of that is technology transferred from patriarchies?
    Wha? Could you expand on that? It does not seem to connect to the preceding post.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by evilbaga View Post
    You're completely changing the signposts here. You accepted that they were more promiscuous and denied a relationship. now you are skeptical if they are.
    I read it somewhere... I really cannot find it again. I cant 'prove' it.

    But it makes solid sense from the selfish gene perspective.



    Yes. Im suggesting that the greatest achievement of western civilization, and its basic engine, was not gee wizardry technology, but Long Term Marriages. Unfortunately, this screws over two groups - women, who now cannot share a geneset from the 'best' man. And 'alphas', who cannot impregnate multiple women.
    I don't mean to be changing the sign posts at all. I am trying to evaluate the theory. No where did I suggest I accept the promiscuity as fact, I was silent on that issue. Was it in Sperm wars?

    My problem with the "selfish gene" perspective is that (among other things) I don't understand how the gene is supposed to communicate information or be acted upon by the environment, which is kind of important for Darwinian evolution.

    For instance in African matrilineal cultures, not only do the men invest resources in their sisters children, matters of tribe and royalty are passed down the same way. How does a culture or group of people, who have no idea of genetics know to do this?

    And if we are to believe that this gene favouring behaviour evolved through Darwinian (as opposed to Lamarkian) evolution (and this is a tricky area) we should see some evidence of pre-mat cultures failing for that reason, or perhaps some intermediate forms. Otherwise we are engaging in a series of "just so" hypothesis which is fun, but not scientifically very helpful.

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by rld View Post
    I don't mean to be changing the sign posts at all. I am trying to evaluate the theory. No where did I suggest I accept the promiscuity as fact, I was silent on that issue. Was it in Sperm wars?

    My problem with the "selfish gene" perspective is that (among other things) I don't understand how the gene is supposed to communicate information or be acted upon by the environment, which is kind of important for Darwinian evolution.

    For instance in African matrilineal cultures, not only do the men invest resources in their sisters children, matters of tribe and royalty are passed down the same way. How does a culture or group of people, who have no idea of genetics know to do this?

    And if we are to believe that this gene favouring behaviour evolved through Darwinian (as opposed to Lamarkian) evolution (and this is a tricky area) we should see some evidence of pre-mat cultures failing for that reason, or perhaps some intermediate forms. Otherwise we are engaging in a series of "just so" hypothesis which is fun, but not scientifically very helpful.
    I dont see why it cant be Darwinian. A man who invests more in his wife, if she is promiscuous, ends up genetically being weeded out. So all that needs to evolve is an awareness of how much promiscuity is around him. If its a high figure, men simply treat their wives as live in prostitutes for sex. If its low they have mechanisms to pair bond ('love' as its called).

    Right here, many men wouldn't love a prostitute - but fuck her, but love their wives. So you see the elements of it already - its not something theoretical.

    For instance in African matrilineal cultures, not only do the men invest resources in their sisters children, matters of tribe and royalty are passed down the same way.
    There is very little difference between these two statements, eh? If men start investing in their sisters more than their wives, matters of the tribe will soon follow the same pattern - those are resources too.

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