Evolution of the female sexual mentality
An online comment on AJ Sundar’s article “A politically incorrect truth” (Student Life, Feb. 4) objected that Sundar’s reasoning was really nothing more than a gossip column dressed in philosophical stealth gear. And that person has certainly a valid point: Whenever we enter the male-female discussion (sex, not gender) everyone has an opinion, and most of them are rubbish. Just recently, the idea that women talk more than men was scientifically disproved. Scientific data on this subject is not exactly abundant, so we have let ourselves be guided by our intuitions. Fortunately, twitching on our intuitions and belief systems is a philosopher’s bread and butter. Sundar’s “naked woman” thought experiment is the perfect example. I think everyone would agree that a guy is much more likely to have sex with someone than a girl is when someone genuinely offers it. Now, the author offers exceptions. For example, guys who are in relationships are less likely to agree to such an offer. But I think the same can be argued for women in relationships. For this matter, let me declare “being in love” to be another state of mind that serves a different biological purpose.
The average pregnancy lasts about nine months and is only repeatable a limited number of times. In order to ensure that their offspring will play the game of evolution successfully, women need to select the best possible mate. For men it is more of a numbers game. They have an almost unlimited supply of semen and accordingly they will want to distribute as much DNA as possible. Women worry about quality and men about quantity.
Of course, modern society has changed the circumstances. Thanks to modern methods of contraception, women have more control over their bodies. Having sex once does not necessarily mean that you have to care for another human being for the next 18 years (oftentimes without any help from the person who is at least 50 percent responsible). But statistically speaking, it’s much more efficient for a man to produce as many children as possible with different women than to stay with one and to make sure that one child is well-off.
Numbers are not everything, however. The biological process of falling in love with someone you find exceptionally amazing seems to be another counterbalance. Love encourages women to give up their more conservative and careful sexual behavior for that special someone, while it prompts men to be more caring and altruistic for a particular person.
So should we officially declare female sexual behavior a sort of psychological appendix? Does it still serve any purpose in the age of the Pill and the condom? If we want to pursue modern implications we cannot leave culture out of the equation. We need to move away from nature to nurture and from sex to gender.
The biological equilibrium between female monogamy and male polygamy seems quite unfair. And indeed it is. Why should men be able to jump around and have sex with whomever they want, while women have at least two decades of hard work on their hands? An equal and just society has to design an environment in which this biological injustice is counterbalanced. One crucial step is the sexual liberation of women. All humans have a natural desire for sex, but for women it has certainly more consequences. So it is understandable why the Pill is such a great human achievement.
Still, even with those modern methods of female empowerment, we shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss the old biological behavior patterns. In vast parts of the world, and even here in the United States, any kind of contraception is hard to come by, be it for ideological, social or religious reasons. What is more, women are still at a disadvantage and discriminated against. The average salary of a man is still higher than that of a woman doing the same job. And any woman who tries to fight back with a kind of male ruthlessness is still characterized as being cold, egoistic and mannish.
But in this global environment, women still have one powerful tool: the fact that maybe, just maybe men are a bit more crazy about them than they are about men.