Chapter 26: A sly rabbit has three burrows – Part 2

The notion of human sperm competition provides another reason why promiscuity makes sense from a reproductive standpoint. Defined as the “competition between sperm of two or more males for the fertilisation of an ova”[1], sperm competition results from the choice of a woman to have sex with several men. The “sperm war”[2] she sets in motion helps her ensure that the most successful sperm cell will prevail and that she will conceive a baby with the contestant with the strongest army (made of millions of eager spermatozoa) fighting on his behalf.[3] Since human seed can stay alive within the woman’s reproductive system for up to a week, the race can easily take several days. So if she has unprotected sex with more than one man within that time frame, she sets the stage for a battle of their gametes.[4] The victor (there can be only one) gets to fertilise her egg (the Prize), thus initiating her maternity (the Quickening). Given that the winner has to beat not only the spermatozoa of its own kind but also those of one or more external rivals, the genetic material it carries must be of supreme quality. In line with the slogan “competition is good for business”, a promiscuous woman does nothing else than creating more choice for her valuable ovum, thereby improving the chances to produce more viable offspring. In this context, notice that the concept of “sperm competition” is different from the “sperm retention” theory, which states that women have more “high sperm retention” orgasms with their affair partners than with their primary mate (as measured by the amount of semen churned out immediately after inter­course).[5] In addition, it appears that unfaithful women tend to time their sexual escapades with their lovers (that is, their orgasms) around ovulation, i.e., at that point of their menstrual cycle when they are the most fecund.[6] Whether or not the decision is deli­berate, these findings show that the wish for procreation can play an important role in adul­tery, and may also explain why ladies place particular importance on sexual gratification when electing their paramour.[7]

As previously observed, women are essentially attracted to men who can provide two types of benefits: Plenty of resources and good genes. Alas, one single man is not always able to fulfil both requirements at the same time, which are often regarded as contradictory (think about the hard working nerd who neglects his personal appearance, or about the beefcake who prefers to spend his time in the gym rather than studying). Even if such a prospective mate does exist, he could be a philanderer or a “bad boy” himself,[8] not willing to commit to the woman in question. Worse still, he might be so popular that he ignores her, or is not interested in her at all. In such a situation, she faces a classical Dads vs. Cads[9] trade-off: Should she try to get an average-looking, but responsible provider husband who will offer her food, shelter, care, and invest in her progeny? Although he is likely to be a good father and a loyal partner, it is possible that he will score lower on the “health” or “gene quality” scale. Or is she better off with the handsome, masculine-looking hunk that will pass his first-class genes to her babies? The risk here is that he could channel some of his assets and sexual energy toward other females and their children. One way to deal with this dilemma is by opting for a so-called dual mating strategy and try to enjoy the best of both worlds.[10] Under this scheme, a woman simply hooks up with several men: One who delivers the vital resources and with whom she is in an (officially) monogamous relation­ship; and a few other ones on the side who are in charge of impregnating her with healthy, fit and robust off­spring, while at the same time delighting her with orgasmic pleasures. By spreading her luck between various mates, she not only garners genes from someone she considers as geneti­cally superior but also makes sure that her successors will be safe, have enough to eat, as well as have a good education.[11] Such a plan can only work out if her cuckold husband does not find out, in which case he could withhold his support and even banish her and her bastards. In other words, the dual strategy always comes with a number of risks. Never­theless, if she is smart and cautious, she can probably get away with it.

Theoretical constructs such as the sexy son hypothesis[12] also support the proposition that women are by nature interested in sexual variety. Due to the relatively long gestation period of human babies, it is not as easy for females to disseminate their genes as it is for males, at least not immediately. However, they can achieve this goal indirectly, through their sons. In order to increase the viability and reproductive success of their future generations, they need to select one or more casual sex partners who can help them bear sons who themselves will have a high value on the mating market. For that purpose, what else could be more effective than a casual fling with a well-favoured bad boy?[13] According to the sexy son hypothesis, women who pick potential fathers for their genetic merits rather than their qualities as caregivers reap an evolutionary advantage.[14] While this logic runs against the assumption that women nominate partners based on their ability to gather resources and on their wil­lingness to make a long-term commit­ment,[15] let us clarify once more that what is being said here only applies to the selection of a lover (not of a husband).

 


Notes

[1]    Parker (1970)

[2]    Baker (1996)

[3]    Campbell (2002), p. 48

[4]    Buss (2000), pp. 171-172

[5]    See chapter 32 “Hearing something one hundred times is not as good as seeing it once”.

[6]    Ridley (1993), p. 225

[7]    Buss (2000), p. 173

[8]    See chapter 22 “Man not bad, woman won’t bed”.

[9]    Campbell (2002), p. 185

[10]  Meston / Buss (2009), p. 14

[11]  Titus / Fadal (2009), p. 64

[12]  See chapters 14 “Fair lady is what gentleman seeks” and 19 “If you plant melons, you get melons; if you plant beans, you get beans”.

[13]  Quirk (2006), p. 129

[14]  Cited in: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physical_attractiveness#Possible_gender_differences_for_preferences

[15]  See chapters 17 “Finding a good job is nothing compared to finding a good husband” and 21 “You can’t lead the life of a whore and expect a chastity monument”.

Chapter 26: A sly rabbit has three burrows

Don't put all your eggs in one basket

狡兔三窟
jiǎo tù sān kū

The concept that men are inherently promiscuous, seeking copulation with numerous females, has already been discussed rather extensively throughout the book.[1] Women, in contrast, are often depicted as restrained, coy and conservative in terms of sensuality.[2] The fact that this does not necessarily have to be the case is also highlighted elsewhere. These chap­ters intro­duce and explain the notion that females seek and enjoy carnal pleasures, which do not always have to be connected with love and feelings. In other words, sex for fun is pos­sible also for women.[3] Moreover, it is established that their sex drive is gover­ned by various biolo­gical impulses, which themselves result from centuries of evolution and millions of inter­actions with the environment, specifically with males.[4] In a way, the following chapter complements those ones by shedding light on ladies’ wanton sides. As we are about to discover, some components in their genetic programming compel women to be just as loose as men, and, contrary to expectations and common beliefs, to seek sexual rela­tion­ships with more than one partner.

Under certain circumstances, it can indeed be in a lady’s best interest to have casual sex. The proverb chosen here reflects the potential superiority of the multiple- over the single-mate strategy and the cleverness of those individuals pursuing it.[5] Based on the premise that in order to thrive, one must have several alternatives, this chapter examines the benefits of promiscuity. During the discourse, the emphasis will lie on biological aspects (for example, as related to sexual selection) rather than on rational ones (e.g., when a woman sleeps with a man in exchange for meals or gifts, or in the hope to lift her social status or obtain future invest­ments). As David Buss writes in Evolution of Desire, “[j]ust as men have the capacity for commitment as part of their strategic repertoire, women have the capacity for casual sex within theirs, and they, in fact, pursue casual sex when they perceive that it is to their advantage to do so.”[6] This indicates that there must be a number of psychological mecha­nisms that drive them away from the monogamous mindset of the single, permanent mate towards more temporary coupling behaviours.

The first benefit to be mentioned here is related to the quality of the genes that a woman hopes to secure for her offspring. Procreating with a number of men instead of just one increases the genetic diversity of her children. This allows her to “hedge” her own invest­ment across several possible options.[7] For example, if she has sex with four men (a smart one, an eloquent one, a muscular one, and a tall one – assuming, for illustration purposes, that these characteristics are mutually exclusive), she can reasonably expect to have four children, each possessing the same quality as their father, i.e., a smart child, an eloquent one, a muscular one, and a tall one. With this multiple-mate strategy, she has four chips instead of one in the survival game, which could come in handy in the event of major environmental changes. Who knows, maybe the muscular or tall children have a compa­rative advantage today. But what if a technological or social revolution comes in, altering the rules? At that time, her smart daughter or eloquent son might have better chances of success. Since women can only bear a child every nine months at most, it is extremely important for them to choose a partner who will protect and help raise their progeny.[8] This is only possible with a man who is faithful and generous with his resources and who has the ability to provide day-to-day care. At the same time, females need to take other factors into consideration if their babies are to land the best possible genes and to have a good chance of survival.[9]


Notes

[1]    See chapters 3 “Men like, women love”, 4 “Beauty is the troubled water that brings disasters”, and 35 “No cat can resist snatching fish”.

[2]    See chapters 2 “A good woman doesn’t go with a second man”, 9 “The path to a woman’s heart passes through her vagina”, and 30 “You can’t help shoots grow by pulling them up higher”.

[3]    See chapters 21 “You can’t lead the life of a whore and expect a chastity monument”, 22 “Man not bad, woman won’t bed”, and 25 “A drop of sweat spent in a drill is a drop of blood saved in a battle”.

[4]    See chapters 16 “When you have musk, you will automatically have fragrance”, 19 “If you plant melons, you get melons; if you plant beans, you get beans”, and 29 “Cosiness and satiety breed lust”.

[5]    Notice that despite the reference to rabbits (which, due to their reputation as prolific breeders, are often used as symbols of playful sexuality – see the Playboy logo) the original proverb does not contain any sexual connotation whatsoever. The story behind the saying, told in the chapter about the Strategies of Qi (齐策, qí cè) in Strategies of the Warring States (战国策, zhàn guó cè), has more to do with long-term political skills than with sexual conquest. The chronicle itself remains unclear as to why this animal, in particular, was chosen to represent ingenious tactics.

[6]    Buss (2003), pp. 215-216

[7]    Buss (2000), p. 19

[8]    See chapter 17 “Finding a good job is nothing compared to finding a good husband”.

[9]    Pease / Pease (2009), p. 111

Chapter 25: A drop of sweat spent in a drill is a drop of blood saved in a battle – Part 3

Another reason why men and women should have sex before marriage is that practice makes perfect. At a certain age, people should find out what is going on in terms of pro­creation. The arguably best way to be kept on top of things is through “learning by doing”. Like that, would-be brides and grooms avoid the humiliation of underperforming or even not knowing “how it works” on the big (wedding) night. If a man cares about someone, he should better find an opportunity to develop or polish his lovemaking skills with others before he put himself to the test with his dream girl. A variety of embarrassing events can occur during an act (involving, for example, strange noises, cramps, erectile dysfunctions, or other mishaps), so it is better to have been through these, to be prepared, and to know how to react before they occur when it really matters. Statistics show that sexuality is an impor­tant factor for the well-functioning of romantic partnerships. Like for everything else, cou­ples want this aspect to be handled carefully and respectfully, in order to make it work per­fectly.[1],[2]

In general, one can assume that the more experience someone has (both in terms of the number of partners and of coitus carried out in total), the better. Not only does it help to acquire confidence; versed lovers also have a deeper understanding of the opposite sex, which makes them easier to be around. Women also tend to be better kissers and are usually more accomplished in the bedroom.[3] Furthermore, science shows that, for females, the likeli­hood of attaining an orgasm increases with her sexual experience. No surprise here: The more opportunities she has to experiment and determine what she likes, what she dislikes, what helps her climax, etc., the easier it is for her to communicate her desires and to guide her darling.[4] This means that the couple as a whole benefits from such enhanced skills, even if only one of the two took the time (or liberty) to sharpen them. In other words, foo­ling around before marriage can, under certain circumstances, be regarded as a selfless ges­ture: Knowing that she risks damnation, she still chooses to go through a training process, all for the sake of the pair’s mutual well-being. That is what I call true love!

In addition, what was just mentioned for sex in general is also applicable to specific partners as well. The lack of sexual chemistry with a prospective boyfriend can definitely be a deal-breaker. Hence, intercourse offers a unique opportunity to assess how compatible or com­ple­mentary the two of them are, to find out, and to discuss their respective needs.[5] For instance, a woman can see how concerned her boyfriend is about her happiness and satis­faction, acquiring valuable cues about his flexibility, sensitivity, or tenderness. This infor­ma­tion, in turn, helps to improve visibility into the relationship’s chances of success and its long-term viability. Bearing in mind that sexual mismatch increases the chances of adul­tery and thus of divorce,[6] we conclude, once more, that pre-marital sex is not only good but also advisable.

Young people should, therefore, be encouraged to shop around in order to compare various options and spot the proper partner. “Make mistakes with Mr. Wrong, so that they do not happen with Mr. Right” – that should be the credo. Fortunately, young people have more opportunities than ever before, not least due to advancements in contraception. Modern society tolerates, sometimes even favours, individuals to make choices and decisions.[7] Out of respect for our past generations, who did not have that luxury, we ought to take some liberties and play as much as we can. Women, in particular, have a lot to win from this new freedom; but also to lose if they miss the chance to explore the possibilities. Whereas sex was only there to fulfil their husbands in the past, they can afford to expect much more from the same activity today. Instead of doing it for someone else, she does it for herself. She can finally look into and get pleasure from her sensual side, reconnecting with her femininity.[8]

After a long lecture about the benefits of pre-material sex, the chapter shall conclude with a word of advice. It may be true one cannot speak of a “relationship” as long as the couple has not slept together. After all, romance is indeed based on desire and sexual attraction. How­ever, this does not mean that any of the partners has the right to force or blackmail the other into coition. On no account should one of them accept to make love under threat (e.g., of breaking up) or in exchange for something else (e.g., marriage). Let us never fornicate out of fear. But let us never fear to fornicate.

Related proverbs and citations:

女人不骚,男人不要

nǚrén bù sāo, nán rén bù yào

Men don’t like nice girls.

Body not tainted, woman not sainted. Men don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses.

千军易得,一将难求

qiān jūn yì dé, yī jiāng nán qiú

It is easy to find a thousand soldiers, but hard to find a good general.

熟能生巧

shú néng shēng qiǎo

Practice makes perfect.

Experience can give way to skill.

路是人踏出來的

lù shì rén tà chū lái de

The road is made by people walking on it.

The road to success (or the solution to a problem) is found by engaging into uncharted territory.

 


Notes

[1]    Cited in: Meston / Buss (2009), p. 158

[2]    Kramer / Dunaway (1990), p. 20

[3]    Santagati (2007), p. 264

[4]    Meston / Buss (2009), pp. 158-161

[5]    Brown (2012)

[6]    Buss (2003), pp. 87-88

[7]    Pease / Pease (2009), p. 50

[8]    Gray (1995), p. 5

Chapter 25: A drop of sweat spent in a drill is a drop of blood saved in a battle – Part 2

This new openness, which is mainly the result of the sexual revolution that was initiated about 60 years ago, is reflected in a series of statistics. Various US surveys confirm that pre-teens and teens become sexually active at younger ages than their counterparts in previous generations. For instance, the proportion of women who lose their virginity to the man they are engaged to or marry dropped from 60 percent in the 1950s to 1 percent in the early 2000s.[1] In 1950, a woman’s “first time” happened when she was 20 years old on average; by 2000, i.e., fifty years later, the average age had fallen to 16. Then, the 1953 Kinsey report revealed that 40 percent of the female respondents had had pre-marital sex. According to a similar study carried out in 1994, 80 percent of the women examined were non-virgins before tying the knot.[2],[3] No equivalent figures are available for China or Japan, where vir­ginity still plays an important role in the eligibility of a poten­tial wife. However, the prevalence of hymen reconstruction surgeries (also known as hymenorrhaphy or hyme­no­plasty[4]) and the popularity of so-called “virginity restoration kits” there may be interpreted as evidence that pre-marital sex has become relatively common in these coun­tries as well.[5],[6]

Not only is getting sex out of wedlock more and more acceptable among women. Media and advertisements are also contributing to the promotion of sexual behaviour, making their tar­get audience (including children and teenagers) increasingly receptive to such dissolute indul­­­gence in sensual pleasure. The transition is now going so far that virginity has turned “from a virtue into a stigma that some people do not want to admit about themselves”.[7] Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but the choice of sexual abstinence before mar­riage as a lifestyle is just as respectable as regarding the loss of innocence as a virtue. No matter how strange or creepy virgins may appear nowadays, it is not fair to criticise or ridi­cule their vow. Doing so would represent that same injustice our ancestors committed at times when women with pre-marital sexual experience were condemned for being loose. Fur­ther­more, as the stress on the chastity is already a restriction on human nature in itself, they probably suffer a lot already. There is no point in rubbing salt in the wound.[8]

So what are the arguments speaking in favour of giving in to one’s own desires? First of all, it is a fundamental characteristic of humanity to seek knowledge. As the Greek philosopher Plato implies at the beginning of his Allegory of the Cave, what we perceive as true is actually false, as our imperfect interpretations of reality and goodness are controlled by other people. In the context of sexuality, the “puppeteers” are often parents, the clergy or mem­bers of older generations, who manipulate us into thinking that intercourse is unheal­thy, dirty or evil. Some of us will tend to accept their words as facts, while others will strive for enlightenment and search for the truth, trying out new things (e.g., novel forms of plea­sure, ideas for recreation). Those individuals who dare to break their chains become aware of the reality, discovering feelings, physical sensations, or mental states that they never thought existed. They are now free of illusions and continue their life sophis­tica­tedly.[9] As for virgins, all they know is that they know nothing (and no one).


Notes

[1]    Cited in: Pease / Pease (2009), p. 49

[2]    All studies cited in: Meston / Buss (2009), p. 147

[3]    Admittedly, the two studies may not be entirely comparable due to differences in sample size and constitution. However, the gap (40 vs. 80 percent) is large enough to suggest the growing incidence of pre-marital intercourse.

[4]    The purpose of this type of surgical procedure is to restore, repair or replace the hymen of a woman. The vaginal bleeding during the (real or alleged) first intercourse can serve as a proof of her chastity.

[5]    Buss (2003), p. 68

[6]    Lin (2010)

[7]    Rosen (2007), p. 18

[8]    “Which wound?”, virgins may correctly counter though.

[9]    Warning: The present interpretation of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave contains several flaws and should not be taken at face value. It is mentioned here for illustrative purposes only.