The Human Nature of Sex
Why do men like blonde bombshells (and why do women want to look like Barbie)?
Why do men go to prostitutes and watch porn?
Why might handsome men make bad husbands?
Why (and how) are contemporary westerners polygynous – which means multiple women are with one man?
These are just four of the many interesting answers in the book, “Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters: from Dating, Shopping, and Praying to Going To War and Becoming A Billionaire — Two Evolutionary Psychologists Explain Why We Do What We Do.”
Two researchers look at evolutionary psychology studies and explain that the reason for everything from suicide bombings to why men beat their wives to why diamonds are a girl’s best friend and just male politicians risk everything for affairs.
Much of our human behavior boils down to sex: To procreation of the species. Our behaviors are dictated by our need to pass on our lineage.
The authors explain in their “Savanna Principle” that we have a Stone Age brain even though we live in the 21st century. We are adapted for hunting and gathering, not for sitting in front of a desk which means our brain gets “tricked” by newfangled situations and technologies.
Our brain has trouble telling the difference between a “friend” on TV and a friend in real life or between a true potential mate and an image of a woman on a porn site. Men are still driven by jealousy which, in human evolution, helped prevent them from having to support a child fathered by another man. Even though today women have reproductive and sexual freedom to have a variety of partners and there is genetic testing now available to determine paternity, men’s Savanna brains still generate jealousy.
This book is about the differences between sexes and how those differences create our culture. “Men and woman are not different because they are socialized differently; they are socialized differently because they are different.” Men can sow their seed across thousands of women in a lifetime because sperm production is easy and takes just minutes to impregnate a fertile woman. There is no limit to the number of offspring a man can potentially father.
Women, on the other hand, can only gestate twenty to twenty five pregnancies in a lifetime and it takes her a year to produce a single offspring.
Most women have at least one child but because many cultures around the world include the situation where one man has a number of wives, many men get boxed out of the opportunity to father a child. This is why men are more violent, aggressive and focused on amassing wealth than women. Women gravitate toward men with wealth, even if they have to share them with other women. Poor men do not get to propagate their genes. This is why social behavior and our cultural politics, religion and economics ultimately come down to procreation of the species. The culture of our species is grounded in our reproductive success.
This is why men want to mate with “blonde bombshells” and women want to look like them. The youthful, plump breasted, small waisted, long blonde hair and blue eyed woman signals fertility and “reproductive value.” Lush hair is a sign of health. A 36-24-36 measurement is a low .07 waist-to-hip ratio that men around the world prefer. Women like men with a 0.9 waist-to-hip ratio as expressed in
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Why big boobs? Because you can see them sag from a distance across the Savanna. An old woman with saggy boobs is not a candidate for your semen injection. There were no calendars on the Savanna so you had to “eyeball it. “The condition of breast tissue is a dead giveaway of a woman’s age, as is the health and length of her hair.
Why blonde hair? On the Savanna you were naked or lightly clothed but as our ancestors headed north and covered themselves in furs, hair was a visual indication of age. Young girls were blonde and as they aged, their hair color darkened. Men who mated with younger women had increased likelihood of passing on their genetic material.
Why blue eyes? Pupil dilation is an involuntary indication of attraction and easier to see in a light colored iris.
Around the world, people prefer faces that are physically attractive because they are symmetrical and have average instead of extreme features. Apparently pathogens and parasites and genetic inbreeding and mutations distort features and are avoided around the world as unhealthy. Pretty people are actually healthier. Symmetry is a desirable quality because beauty is a signal of health. Mating with a healthy woman further ensures your progeny.
Men don’t need to be handsome. As a matter of fact, attractiveness in men is a detriment to being “husband material.” Why? Because men have two different reproductive strategies called, the Dad or Cad options. Women make the decision about whom to have sex with. Ugly men opt for the Dad strategy. They make money and mate long term to get offspring. Handsome men get the lion’s share of sex partners, “have more extra marital affairs and are not as committed to their marriages, which many wives may consider undesirable.” They take the Cad Strategy.
What about the men who cannot attract a mate and are not attractive enough to be a handsome lover on the side?
They go to prostitutes.
Because women gain no reproductive benefit from having a large number of sex partners — they need only one to help them make the one baby a year they can have — they haven’t historically desired a large number of sex partners. (Though now that women are more financially independent and have birth control available, they are enjoying the ability to have sexual variety on par with men.) Men, on the other hand, can spread their seed infinitely, given access to a variety of women. This “asymmetry in reproductive biology” creates that desire for sexual intercourse with a large number of women. Therefore, prostitution has evolved to satisfy that urge for reproductive variety in men. Women, because they are “the deciders” about whether to have sex with a partner, do not have the equal desire to visit prostitutes.
This is also why men’s sexual fantasies have historically involved a much larger number of women and why women have heretofore preferred the construct of the romance novel. Women primally need to feel adored and sexually irresistible.
And what is this “polygyny?”
That’s when one man has two or more women. It’s quite common throughout the world and the authors posit that humans are naturally polygynous. How do they know? They say because men are taller than women. Because bigger and taller males compete with each other for mates and monopolize a disproportionately higher number of females. That means smaller, less fit men do not get the chance to reproduce. “Thus, through both competition among men and preference by women, only big and tall males can reproduce and pass on their “big and tall” genes to their sons, while most females of all seizes reproduce and pass on their full range of sizes to their daughters.” “Over many generations, males will get bigger and taller while females will retain the same distributions of height and weight in each generation.” Because men are bigger and taller than women and this follows other animals in the kingdom, we are biologically oriented toward being polygynous when wealth is scarce.
The book goes on to explain why women are smaller and mature earlier in polygynous societies. And that one theory suggests even though humans are naturally polygynous, monogamy is preferred by women when there is a more equal wealth distribution in a society. If there are only a few wealthy males, many women will be with a single man. If there is a wide distribution of wealth, there will be more monogamy. Women do not prefer to share their man unless she does not have a wide enough pool of husbands wealthy enough to support her offspring.
Though you may believe we are monogamous, many evolutionary biologist including the preeminent Dr. Helen Fisher explains that men and women today are serial monogamists (and serial cheaters – mostly in parallel) throughout our lives. Rich men throughout history have had a wife and lover(s) on the side. This is more common for women in the 21st century as well. A man who divorces and remarries multiple times is the equivalent of a latter day polygynist. The authors also state, “whether married or not, wealthier men in the US and Canada have more sex partners and have sex more frequently than less wealthy men.” The authors go on to explain that more frequent sex for wealthy men is not because wealthy men can afford prostitutes. Actually more women seek rich men out for sex.
The book goes on to answer a litany of fascinating cultural themes including why having sons reduces the likelihood of divorce, why diamonds are a girl’s best friend, and why beautiful people have more daughters. There are chapters on crime, violence, politics and religion with sound evolutionary research to support our understanding of human nature. The books is not always politically correct, but it is logical. What hit me hard was how we, as wriggling tubes of DNA, have constructed elaborate cultures based on our most primal drive, our sex drive.
The next time you have a “meta-mind moment,” chalk up the behavior you witness to the primal trigger of procreation and see if that explains a little bit of our crazy.
“Reminder: This is a book review. These are not my personal opinions. I am reporting on only some of the book’s points. I welcome your comments below. “
“An absolute gem of a book. The rare combination of theories we humans find most dear — sex, mating, family, status and violence.” — David M. Buss