This is the fifth issue of the Science of Sex series, triggered by reading the Sex Wars trilogy by best-selling author Dr Robin Baker as well as other behavorial ecologists and evolutionary psychologists.
“Springboarding” the Mogul
Despite the alleged evidence brought forth by several scholars that low-status men are more likely to be cuckolded by their partners than high-status men (see XXXI), I shall presently explain why the reverse is likely to be true or, at least, why high-status men, i.e. moguls – known collectively as the joking class – are equally exposed to cuckoldry than men from the working class.
In essay XXVIII, I wrote, quoting Baker: “It leads us to the model I call, from a graphic word used by Dr Baker, the springboard model: ‘Once a woman has a long-term partner, the costs of one-off intercourse are reduced as long as her infidelity remains undetected. Her long-term relationship provides a springboard from which to exploit the genetic benefits of one-off sex with selected men without risking too much. She does not have this freedom, however, if she does not have a partner.’ (SW 260-1) According to this model, a woman is not much interested in one-off sex while single, because she may end up with a pregnancy and no male support to help her bear the burden. As a single woman she is in search of a lasting relationship, and this can easily lead one to think women are monogamous. However, once she is engaged in a lasting relationship, the ‘springboard’ is provided for extra-pair or one-off sex, with which she may improve her reproductive success with mates whose genes appeal to her. As a single person, the woman seeks a partner, and her choice relies on status more than good looks; if need be, she will sacrifice the latter. As an engaged person, she seeks lovers and genetic endowment (BW 131).”
Then I added: “If BW 131 is correct (‘In choosing a short-term partner for sex … looks are much more important’), the following needs some explanation: ‘Some men have a higher chance of being cuckolded than others, and it is those of low wealth and status that fare worst. … Moreover, the men most likely to cuckold the lower-status males are those of higher status.’ (BW 44-5) (…) it is not clear why women partnered with high-status men would not be likely to cuckold them with low-status men if the latter possess the required genetic endowment. Dr Baker explains that these women have much to lose if their unfaithfulness is detected, but that means, then, that sacrificing good looks while choosing a long-term partner is detrimental, because in reality the springboard is not even provided.”
Since then, I made a quote from Buunk et al. that support Baker’s statements, but Baker, in a footnote to his published books he sent for publication on the present blog (of which I am very honored), took, at least as I interpret it, some distance with these, stressing their somewhat hypothetical nature and the lack of data:
“The question over the number of children (and grandchildren) produced by high and low status/income males is one that is desperately in need of real data, data that even now is impossible to obtain. But until we do, the discussion will continue and everybody can hold their different views.” (Comment on XXX) & “Like you, I haven’t read the papers on children produced by high and low status males and females that you reference. I like the conclusions (because they fit my expectations) but cannot comment on how convincing the data are on which they are based. But my comments which you highlight still stand. The advantage to high-status women of producing fewer offspring with high status males is that by making a higher investment with his help in those fewer children she eventually benefits through the succeeding generations (how many generations we cannot say) by eventually producing more descendants than high status women who initially produced and tried to raise more children. So my comment that the data do not exist to prove the matter one way or the other in evolutionary terms is still valid. To my knowledge, no one has yet been able to follow survival and reproduction through enough generations to make the necessary tests. It will need to be over more than one generation and the more the better. I cannot see how this can be done at present.” (Comment on XXXI).
As I am convinced of the relevance of the springboard model, I shall present evidence that the very model does not allow us, provisionally, to retain Buunk et al.’s statement (“Even in contemporary Western society high-income men have more biological children than low-income men, whereas among women the opposite is true”) as valid.
1/ First, that “the men most likely to cuckold the lower-status males are those of higher status” is contradicted by the following (from David Buss, The Dangerous Passion, 2000, p. 164):
“The contrast between the minimums women express for regular mates and for one-night stands is especially striking because women relax their standards for many qualities when seeking brief encounters. For degree of education, for example, women required husbands to be in the 61st percentile, but for one-night stands they required only the 47th percentile. In sharp contrast, women became more exacting in a one-night stand on precisely the qualities one would expect according to the theory of sexy sons. Whereas they wanted their husband to be in the 58th percentile on sexiness, they wanted their brief flings to be in the 76th percentile. On physical attractiveness, they required husbands to be only in the 54th percentile, but demanded the 77th percentile for one-night stands.”
Based on this study, women’s expectations as to their lovers’ degree of education are fairly moderate and, as is well known, in our meritocracies, degree in education predicts status accurately.
2/ Second, as both Baker and Buss talk of one-night (one-off) stands, I am led to assume this is the most common method of cheating adopted by women and, since Baker also writes that one-off flings are hardly detectable, his line of argument according to which women married to high-status men have more to lose if detected, is unconvincing.
3/ Third, high status nowadays being linked to long studies (see The Bell Curve 1994), high-status men must be called, plain and simple, eggheads. How do eggheads score on sexiness and physical attractiveness? According to some line of research (Helmuth Nyborg 1994), there exists some hormonal trade-off that tends to make brainiacs not particularly studly, hence not quite adequate to one-off flings.
What is, by the way, the function of the pervasive office of spin doctors, in politics, if not to turn eggheads and geeks into manly men and womanly women in the eyes of the public?
4/ Fourth, if a large penis is of any relevance for a man’s attractiveness as a short-term partner, which after reading Baker (“females should prefer to mate with males who will give them male descendants with a penis more efficient at removing a rival’s sperm (HSC, 174)”) I believed was the case, then the same trade-off as just exposed makes high-status men uncompetitive on the short-term partners market.
Baker has corrected me on this point as to his real meaning: “Regarding large and small penises (and testes) I simply refer back to my conclusion in Sperm Wars and Human Sperm Competition. The size distribution of both in the population is fixed by evolution at the stable situation where each gains the same advantage. In which case there is no need for anybody to be envious or gloat. The average and distribution of sizes will differ in different populations because the selective pressures are different, thus shifting the ESS [evolutionarily stable strategy] in one or other direction accordingly. But each size distribution should be adaptive to the local conditions. Everybody is equal except during phases that the pressures change and evolution starts shifting the equilibrium point. Only during those phases is there an advantage in being larger or smaller.” (Comment on XXXI).
One explanation for the size distribution and equilibrium evoked by Baker in his comment could be provided by the springboard model itself: If women marry small-penised brainiacs for their status and resources and at the same time look for large-penised studs in order to give birth to “sexy sons” (Breiling & Buss), such dual behavior would maintain some fairly constant size distribution among any given population, if children are sired by both husbands and lovers.
One confirmation of the hormonal trade-off alluded to is provided by a comparison of both penis size and IQ for Mongoloids and Caucasoids. According to Baker & Bellis (HSC 169), average penis size is 10-14 cm for Mongoloids and 14-15 cm for Caucasoids (with a difference also noticeable as to testes’ weight). Now, world records on IQ are: Singapore (108), Hong-Kong (108), South Korea (106), North Korea (106), Japan (105), China (105), and Taiwan (105); compared with US (98), UK (100), France (98), Germany (99), Spain (98), Italy (102) (Lynn, 2011).
(Baker writes, as quoted above: “each size distribution should be adaptive to the local conditions.” Does it imply that a difference in penis size should be found between Northern and Southern Mongoloids? Except Singapore, Southern Asian nations score less well on IQ measurements than Northern Asian nations. Environmental conditions certainly play a role. If we take Singapore, world record at 108, for instance, the country’s ethnic background is as follows: Chinese 76%, Malay 12%, Indian 9%; IQ by country for these populations: China (& Taiwan) 105, Malaysia (& Brunei) 92, India (& Pakistan & Sri Lanka) 82; expected IQ for Singapore based on ethnicity alone would be 105(.76) + 92(.12) + 82(.09) = 98. If IQ really measures intelligence as the capacity to learn (cause) and not a level of education (effect), then it is not education that can play the major environmental role, but other things such as nutrition, climate…)
Some great minds, based on the medical knowledge of their time, already had the notion of a trade-off between penis size and intellectual capacities. Strindberg, in his book Vivisections (a book he wrote in French – a rather clumsy French), said: « les organes générateurs se rétrécient, lorsque l’homme d’élite n’est pas un animal reproducteur et que le besoin sexuel doit être un passe-temps pour lui, vivant sans famille. Hürtel : Anatomie II : 69. « Chez des hommes forts il est très petit ; chez des poltrons et onanistes bien grand. D’une longueur remarquable chez les Crétins. » Les statues antiques semblent prouver cette théorie. Dans la France, le pays culturel, cet organe est plus petit que chez les autres nations. Voir : les dimensions des préventives. » (“The organs of generation shrink in the case of the elite man who is no longer a reproducing animal and for whom, living without family, sexual needs are only a pastime. In his Anatomie II: 69, Hürtel states that ‘strong men have it very small; cowards and onanists quite large. It is remarkably large by cretins.’ Statues of the antiquity seem to prove this theory. In France, the country of culture, that organ is smaller than in the other nations, as attested by the dimensions of preservatives.”)
5/ Fifth, May-December marriages, so-called, certainly occur more frequently for high-status men. Some of these men marry late because they want to achieve status before, and that takes long years of studies and a strong commitment to one’s career. Some marry at the same age as others but they may divorce and remarry later. Whatever his age, a high-status man has the financial means to attract a young wife. However, “when a man is substantially older than his partner, he may be especially vulnerable to being cuckolded and abandoned for two reasons. First, women usually want men who are only a few years older than they are, not men substantially older. Women married to much older men may therefore have a desire that remains unfulfilled. Second, a young wife is likely to elicit more interest from other men, opening up more frequent opportunities to switch mates.” (D. Buss, pp. 126-7). If a man much older than his wife is more likely to be cuckolded, and if it is true that a man much older than his wife is more likely to be a mogul, then credence to Buunk et al.’s assertion is further undermined. (As to the first reason advanced by Buss here, it is consistent with common sense but all the science of sex I have absorbed makes me find it difficult to see the reason behind it – being observed that Buss offers no explanation at all. It may be a consequence of evolved “mate insurance” strategies.)
All this hints at high-status men standing high on the wedding (springboard) market but being discarded as possible short-term lovers.
6/ Now, that “some men have a higher chance of being cuckolded than others, and it is those of low wealth and status that fare worst,” should depend, according to what has just been said, on low-status men’s sexiness and physical attractiveness, and, in fact, according to the same trade-off alluded to above, these men may score rather high on both, as well as on penis size and manliness in general, so they would be much thought-after by married women for one-off flings. Provided, that is, they be not gangrened by too high levels of cortisol (the stress hormone).
In any case, when looking for (or falling for) a short-term lover, women are not after the same traits that make the ideal husband, so if it is high status that makes the ideal husband, the only way for the fact that low-status men be more cuckolded than high-status men to be true would be that the same set of men possess all the required endowments for both marriage and one-night flings.
7/ Last but not least, cuckolding a poor devil does not seem as evolutionarily sound – because the possible offspring is more likely to be raised in a dysfunctional home that will impair their prospects in life – as cuckolding a mogul, because then the lover’s offspring will benefit from the mogul’s wealth. So, even if in general unlawful inseminators are high-status men, there still is that incentive to cuckold men from the same set, which would contradict the second part of the assertion. The more I think about it, the more I rate the incentive as very strong.
Spousal Rape As Legal Object
Imagine for a moment you’re a mogul and married to a beautiful young woman, the jewel of her sex. The only problem is: She has made a springboard of you. And not only that, but also: There is nothing you can do about it. You may divorce but if you remarry the situation will be the same: There is nothing you can do in the bonds of matrimony. Please follow my reasoning.
“Women, of course, can experience sexual desire at any phase of their cycle. Nonetheless, they are five times more likely to experience sexual desire when they are ovulating than when they are not.” (Buss, p. 21). Furthermore, “Women who stray tend to time their sexual liaisons with their affair partners to coincide with the peak of their sexual desire, when they are most likely to conceive. Sex with husbands, in sharp contrast, is more likely to occur when women are not ovulating, a strategy that may be aimed at keeping a man rather than conceiving with him.” (id.) These conclusions are the outcome of “the most extensive study of ovulation and women’s sexuality,” in the course of which “several thousand married women were asked to record their sexual desires every day for a period of twenty-four months.” (id., p. 20).
No need to take great lengths of rhetoric – for the results talk by themselves – to make it clear that the only way at your disposal to impregnate your legal wife is to force copulation on her. Because if you always let her choose, and never ignore a refusal, then you will be stuck inside the infertile phase of her cycles, and the children she will beget and you will raise will not be yours. (Buss is only talking of the “women who stray,” of course.)
For all the good intentions that may lie at the core of spousal rape legislation and the chilling stories of domestic battering and abuse that have prompted such measures, one cannot help thinking they happen to be a fine tool for the enslavement of men. The creation of spousal rape as a legal object makes women’s strategy unbeatable, the man utterly defenseless against it.
The topic has been treated at rather great lengths in XXVIII and XXIX. Baker’s view runs contrary to a firmly grounded popular notion in a radical way. According to him, copulatory female orgasm allows the woman to privilege, in sperm competition, the man with whom she orgasms by insuring a better retention of his sperm inside her tract. The question I have so far failed to ask is: What is man’s role in the operation? In such a depiction, it seems that, contrary to popular belief, the man does not “make the woman come,” but rather that she had made up her mind beforehand that she wanted to advantage that man in sperm competition, that is to improve his chances of siring a child with her and that this would require that she “come.” In other words, if the woman wants to privilege one man, she orgasms with that man, otherwise she does not orgasm. Male performance vanishes from the scene.
Is premature ejaculation, then, not a problem? Imagine that, after a few preliminaries needed to lubricate the genital tract and penetrate it in proper conditions of moisturization (that may be via kissing merely), you ejaculate five seconds after intromission. Does it leave the woman who wants to favor your sperm enough time to orgasm? One would be tempted to conclude, following Baker’s view, that women cannot be willing to privilege such men, that by their very nature they cannot help wanting to privilege copulatory performant men – a sort of pre-established harmony. Otherwise, male performance must play a part, which remains undefined in Baker’s picture. The decision to favor a man may occur during intercourse, the woman considering (consciously or not) that his performance entitles him to be favored in his reproductive goals. In this way, orgasm would be a tool in the woman’s hands but its usage would depend on the man’s performance – needless to say, such interpretation leaves no room for the notion of copulatory orgasm as a female strategy: the man makes the woman come and forces her to retain more of his sperm. Baker’s findings would then amount to this: Performant men’s sperm gets pole position inside the female tract, and his own interpretation, about female strategies, would be unwarranted.
Baker probably discarded such interpretations as mine because, if correct, the question as to how female orgasm evolved in the first place would be quite complex, the whole matter quite puzzling. However, this would not be the first case of this kind: “The hymen is one of the great unsolved mysteries of human anatomy. I know of no plausible hypothesis for any physiological function it may serve, and I know of no other organ in the animal kingdom evolved inevitably to be injured. … Historically, male dominated-societies have universally evolved politics that reinforce individual anticuckoldry adaptations and have instituted a variety of new practices that serve this function. Very recent social institutions evolved in the context of sperm competition may even have selected a female structure, the hymen, that is unique to humans.” (R. L. Smith in SCH 103 & 110). With hymen, then, we would have a female body part evolved as dictated by mate guarding requirements, i.e. for the sake of male control. Similarly, female orgasm could be a female function evolved for the sake of performant males’ success and control.
Research on sperm competition has shown that viewing hardcore polyandrous pornography results in sperm improvement. “Interestingly, even though men will often state that one of their most frequent fantasies is to have sex with multiple women simultaneously, many pornographic movies are just as likely (if not more so) to show multiple men sharing one woman (…) Evolutionary psychologist Nicholas Pound provided a compelling explanation for this otherwise recurrent image in pornographic movies. He argued that males in numerous species become sexually aroused at the sight of another male mating with a female. In other words, the presence of other males serves as an excitatory visual clue. It would appear that the possibility of sperm competition between rival males gets men to rise – literally – to the occasion. (…) It seems unequivocal that men find sexual images laden with implications of sperm competition to be visually arousing. That said, if one were to discover that such images actually have an effect on men’s sperm motility… now that would be something to get excited about! This is exactly what Sarah J. Kilgallon and Leigh W. Simmons found. They provided men with sexual images that cue sperm competition (two men with one woman) or alternate images that did not (three women). The men masturbated while watching the images, and subsequently provided the researchers with the fruits of their manual labor. Two key semen metrics were analyzed: sperm motility and sperm density. Amazingly, Kilgallon and Simmons found that the sexual image that cued sperm competition yielded sperm samples that possessed greater motility (though sperm density was lesser in those samples).” (Gad Saad, The Consuming Instinct, 2011, pp. 248-50).
A good news for the industry, doubtless, for it now can advertise and sell its most hardcore productions as sperm-improving merchandise. As sex in an evolutionary sense is competition and pornography consumption may provide a manifest advantage, unsuspected so far, what man will dare dispense with it?
I have already exposed my views on the phenomenon, centered about the notion of silver-screen conditioning, for movie screens, the same as crystal-screen conditioning (from a Thai name for television, จอแก้ว, tjo-keo, “crystal screen”), and sexploitation, subliminal or otherwise, by advertisers as conditioning a form of fetishism, in the true psychiatric sense, for merchandises. I would also like to refer to Deirdre Barrett’s book Supernormal Stimuli (already quoted in XXIX), which explains how pornography fits in the category of such stimuli. She talks of a “wanker nation” (the US) and of the increasing number of men who consult therapists in the hope to be freed from an addiction to porn. In the same way that cheap fatty and/or sweet food is responsible for the current pandemic of obesity, easy access to pornography is triggering a mental pandemic whose consequences will be major. Like obese men and women, the most affected from a young age on will remove their genes from the surface of this earth, stuck to practices of hours-long stop-and-go masturbation in a universe of surgically improved (supernormal) sex attributes. Their sperm’s motility will have been improved in vain.
March 1st, 2016
PS. The book by David Buss here quoted is The Dangerous passion: why jealousy is as necessary as love and sex (2000). Robin Baker’s name and works are cited on several occasions: pp. 17-8 (notes), 170-2, & 216 (notes).