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/
• 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:
Later on, it states:[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.
I haven't gotten to the answers yet, but I'm working on it, laugh :-)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
• Why does sexual passion often fade, even as love
• 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?
A little more:
And then they get to the part that I find to be the most interesting. I bold my favourite part: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
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.
As the authors say, our testicles aren't quite as large as that of chimps... still, I thought that bolded part was just.. wow.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
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