Are Women Naturally Monogamous?
Charles Darwin, the father of evolutionary biology, was skeptical of evolutionary psychology, which sees women as monogamous and men as polygamous, due to genetics. Let’s take a closer look.
Children have the best shot at surviving if their mothers mate with only one man, who sticks around to provide support and resources. Thus, women prefer men who are older and richer. Moms put a lot into their kids because they have a small number of eggs compared with the millions of sperm that men produce. And all this is genetic, so says evolutionary psychology.
On the other hand, men will have more children (and reproduce their genes) if they are promiscuous because of their large sperm count. Again, the behavior is in the genes.
This premise seems to contradict the prior point that children are more likely to survive if their fathers are around to support them. Maybe more survive than don’t. Or perhaps it’s a survival of the fittest worldview: Babies who can survive without resources improve the gene pool?
The bigger dilemma: How do men manage to enjoy many partners when women are monogamous?
Men also value beauty above all else because attractiveness indicates health and an ability to reproduce. Oddly, supermodels are the most sought-out, yet they’re often so thin that they no longer menstruate. And I hadn’t known that so-called unattractive women were infertile. But never mind.
Returning to Darwin’s concern – and it doesn’t take a genius like him to make this observation – while evolutionary psychology had fit nicely with British middle-class behavior, where women sought resources and men sought beauty, Darwin pointed out that the theory did not fit with the British upper class. There, men were more concerned with wealth than good looks.
Now that Western women are able to make their own money, they have become more concerned with looks than in the past. And men now like to marry women who can earn some money – it’s a plus.
Other cultures don’t fit the theory so well, either.
Gauguin’s infatuation with Tahiti likely came in part from the women’s desire for many sex partners (prior to European influence).
Meanwhile, Europeans who were among the first to arrive in the Americas were shocked by similar behavior among the native women.
In these Tahitian and Native American societies the entire community cared for children, and property passed through women, so men’s resources weren’t an issue. These women weren’t called sluts, either.
Once Europeans transformed the cultures, things quickly turned around.
It appears that social structure and culture trump biology in explaining women’s monogamy.
There is more to discuss, but I’ll leave that for later.
For now I must ask: Are evolutionary psychologists unfamiliar with this information, or do they simply ignore it because the theory so well justifies a status quo in which women are told to stay monogamous, but understand men’s need for many partners, aka the double standard?
After all, it’s in men’s genes – or was that jeans?
Sources: Lips, Hilary M. Sex and Gender, 4th Edition. Mayfield. 2001; Eagly and Wood 1999. “The origins of sex differences in human behavior: Evolved dispositions versus social roles.” American Psychologist, 54 (6)
See also: Angier, Woman: An Intimate Geography; Fauso-Sterling, Myths of Gender; Hrdy, Mother Nature; Meston and Buss, Why Women Have Sex; Ryan and Jetha, Sex at Dawn
Posted on August 17, 2010, in feminism, gender, men, race/ethnicity, sex, sexism, women and tagged American Indians, Charles Darwin, Charles Dawrin, culture, Evolutionary Psychology, feminism, gender, monogamy, monogomy, Native Americans, polygamy, sexism, sexuality, Tahiti. Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.