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”.

Introduction – Part 3

Even if these diverging opinions and mentalities do not necessarily have to result in open clashes within the couple, they can cause women to feel bewildered and get caught in dilem­mas. “Is it acceptable to sleep with a guy I like, although I have no intention of getting married to him?”, “Shall I tell him that I want him to satisfy me orally?”, “Should I buy myself this sex toy?” are the kinds of questions that ladies may ask themselves. In the past, the answer would have been quite simple: “No”. Nowadays, it is all the more important to commu­nicate as a means to understand oneself and one another. Candidness can help resolve the confusion many people are confronted with. This blog is here to enlighten perplexed readers, and to guide them on their path to determine what is right and what is wrong – for them. In the end, lust, love and lechery are personal matters, and everybody should ascertain and decide for themselves what they want.

As many of us may have learned from John Gray’s popular book series, men and women come from two planets far far away.[1] They are different in many sexual aspects, including their desires, impulses, motivations, fantasies, responses, preferences, behaviours, etc. In order to get a better understanding of each other, it can be useful to compare these facets and to realise what these polarities are and where they come from. Sometimes, it will seem that there is no real distinction in their urges and orientations and that both genders want the same thing after all. While a certain convergence may be observed, it is rather unlikely that the process is going to continue forever. Sexual selection is the result of an intra-sex struggle (or a game). As males always need to fight harder in order to reproduce, they grow increasingly stronger, more beautiful or smarter, while the manoeuvres and tricks they employ to gain access to females also get more and more vicious. The latter then adapt to these unfamiliar methods by evolving novel devices and mechanisms meant to counter them (and vice versa, i.e., males adapting to females’ developments). With all these changes taking place in the last 50 years, it is quite probable to see men and women displaying more dissi­milar lust patterns again in the future.

Meanwhile, this blog attempts to sensitise the public to these fundamental contrasts and to examine the reasons for their existence. This should help readers acknowledge them, raise atten­ti­ve­ness, and avoid misunderstandings. I sincerely believe that those who are perce­ptive, cognisant, conside­rate, and tolerant enough of these gender differences can make better choices, thus enjoying better as well as longer and more successful relationships. It is my hope that this blog will have such an influence on people, especially on those who are open-minded enough to embrace the ideas presented here.

As Jared Diamond writes in the preface of his work Why Is Sex Fun?:

The subject of sex preoccupies us. It’s the source of our most intense plea­sures. Often it’s also the cause of misery, much of which arises from built-in con­flicts between the evolved roles of women and men.[2]

The present publication is based on the same premise, and also seeks to provide answers. Luckily enough, proverbs turn out to come in extremely handy in this endeavour. One will be surprised how much insights about men, women, sex, desire, passion, temptation, pro­mis­cuity, etc. these locutions contain in particular. Thanks to these maxims, the nature of intimate relationships suddenly becomes graspable. As we are about to discover, the most incom­prehensible thing about sexuality is that it is comprehensible. This alone should be good news for most of us.

Notice, however, that the purpose of the blog is to clarify who we are (men and women), what we want, and why that is so. With some rare exceptions, it does not show how to solve problems. In other words, reading this blog will neither introduce any sex tricks nor explain how to seduce men, turn on women, spice up foreplay, deal with adultery, etc. What it may have an impact on is how both sexes differ and on why human beings are behaving or reacting the way they do. At this, the discussion covers various forms of information that could be interesting or futile, ranging from known knowns (“women like sex”) through known unknowns (the exact time of the “first time”) to unknown unknowns (“what does a woman want”). At any rate, it is up to each reader to determine how to act on this knowledge in order to attain his or her objectives.

Critics may argue that the content is nothing more than new wine in old wineskins. Admit­tedly, such an objection is not incorrect. Nothing in this blog has been invented. On the contrary, most of the ideas were adopted or quoted from existing publications, including research studies, academic papers, relationship guidebooks, maga­zine or website stories, Wiki­­pe­dia articles, etc. Consequently, no claim is made that the present work is scientific in nature, despite the numerous citations and references. The footnotes and quotes are there for further reference only, not to prove the theoretical rightness of my statements or argu­ments. The notions conveyed here are merely models explaining how men and women feel and react sexually when exposed to certain triggers or impulses. Although they seem to be amazingly accurate for the people I spoke to during my research, it does not imply that they are universally applicable. The discourse is meant to trigger reflection, and should not be interpreted as practical advice like the ones you would find in a relationship guidebook.

Another point of criticism may reside in the fact that the text neglects Chinese cultural aspects. Based on the title, one would expect more historical or etymological facts as well as anecdotes about each proverb. Although such background stories would undoubtedly add some flavour to the discussion, they would also divert the reader’s attention away from the main theme of the blog – which is the relationship between men and women, not Chinese culture. The thirty-six pro­verbs are not the object of the investigation itself, but simply constitute the vehicle to make some key notions more apprehensible. This is the reason I consciously refrained from developing into too much detail the primary meaning of the proverbs and from recounting their origins. While such details would be interesting to many readers, I chose to offer a rather pragmatic than a historical treatment of the subject. Furthermore, after many years in the country, I tend to think that, in general, it is much more important to learn from the Chinese than about the Chinese. The blog serves precisely that former purpose.

Nevertheless, I hope that Chinese readers will forgive how I sometimes treat their beloved pro­verbs. A few distor­tions are intentional, while others are rather due to my misinterpre­tation of them. I apologise in advance for any offence or discomfort this may cause. Like­wise, as many of the explanations and justifications I provide are based on Western ideas (most of the sources quoted were originally published in English by Western authors), the whole work must appear somewhat Euro- or Ameri­cen­tric.[3] Given the title, a sino­centric approach would have been more logical or meaningful, but it finally proved impracticable, mainly because of the lack of literature about the principal subject. That being said, I trust that non-Westerners will find the Book of Sexes equally interesting and relevant for themselves and their partners, irrespective of their country of origin.

The same apology shall be expressed to whomever (representative of any of the sexes) will feel displeased about the blog’s style. Some passages may indeed raise outrage, for example when the topic of sex is handled in a rather open or crude way. Moreover, readers may be annoyed by my biased views, which more often than not favour sexual openness, forni­cation and pre-marital promiscuity. Admittedly, such behaviour can be considered as a betrayal of traditional ideals and may lead to the destruction of family values. At the same time, I demon­strate that sex and sexual freedom carry countless benefits, for instance in terms of improved health, physical and mental well-being, reproductive fitness, and so on.

People may also deplore that the work was tainted with sexist overtones or is plainly phallo­go­centric, that is, privileging “the masculine (phallus) in the construction of meaning.”[4] If so, I wish to clarify that it is definitely not my intention to discriminate or insult anyone. Rather, my objective is to make the text interesting, pertinent, entertaining and accessible to as many men and women as possible, even if it requires including petty statements or cheap humour. By the way, I am not sure how much bearing the text can have for homo­sexuals, but I wish to straightforwardly disclose that it would make me divinely proud to know that some gays or lesbians are following this blog. Although I did not write it with the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community in mind, I hope that some of the insights will be applicable in the context of homo­eroticism as well. I believe in questioning and flamingly encouraging everyone to be curious about the “last great minority”. From the point of view of sexual selection, it is my absolute conviction that homosexuality is actually beneficial for straight individuals, speci­fically by attenuating competition in the mating game. Taken in this light, the only thing we should not queer are queers themselves.

 


Notes

[1]    For example, Gray (1993), Gray (1995), Gray (2009), Gray (2012)

[2]    Diamond (1998), p. ix

[3]    In this context, eurocentrism shall be defined as “a worldview centered on Western civilisation” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurocentrism) and americentrism as “the idea or perceived bias to judge other cultures and nations by American standards” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Americentrism).

[4]    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phallogocentrism