According to Dr Satoshi Kanazawa (London School of Economics) in his book The Intelligence Paradox: why the intelligent choice isn’t always the smart one (2012), general intelligence is, in evolutionary terms, the faculty to deal with “novel and nonrecurrent adaptive problems.” He argues that in the African savanna where humanity’s ancestors evolved till the relatively recent (at evolution scale) advent of agriculture, the use of general intelligence was limited to such one-off, isolated problems, and consequently selection pressure upon the development of intelligence did not exist in the environment of evolutionary adaptedness (EEA). He further contends that in our modern man-made environments the capacity to deal with novel and nonrecurrent problems has become of utmost importance, yet this capacity, i.e. general intelligence, is not the best way to solve the general adaptive problems mankind still faces. The most important of these general adaptive problems is optimizing one’s fitness via mating, the coping with which relies on specific regions of the brain different from those in charge of intellect: namely, those in charge of emotions, or instincts.
There is something quite intuitive in the idea. Often enough people perceived as extremely intelligent tend to be derided by their peers as geeks or eggheads. Culture and mass culture frequently display funny characters who are very intellectual and at the same time awkward in many respects, such as Murray in the TV series Riptide; among my circle of school friends, to call someone “Murray,” based on the series, was one way to mock, though not with an altogether spiteful intent, an awkward guy, especially one who would fail to achieve anything outside the classroom.
Yet, no matter how intuitive, such a view runs counter to one tenet of evolutionary psychology (EP) – a field to which Kanazawa’s book belongs –, namely that high-status males are more reproductively successful than other males. In the view of EP, the Murrays of the world are the greatest womanizers, because it is general intelligence that has become the principal highway to status in our modern man-made environments. (For a broader discussion of EP findings on reproductive inequalities, see xxxii and xxxiii, or better all my posts from xxvii on.)
By presenting Kanazawa’s intelligence paradox in the terms above, I don’t do him justice, although that would render rather well his book’s subtitle “why the intelligent choice isn’t always the smart one,” but I have found myself in a quandary since I have wished to discuss his book, because of several inconsistencies.
The intelligence paradox is based on what Kanazawa calls “the Savanna-IQ Interaction Hypothesis,” that reads as follows: “Less intelligent individuals have greater difficulty comprehending and dealing with evolutionarily novel entities and situations that did not exist in the ancestral environment than more intelligent individuals. In contrast, general intelligence does not affect individuals’ ability to comprehend and deal with evolutionarily familiar entities and situations that existed in the ancestral environment.” (p. 56)
Given this hypothesis, the intelligent choice is out of reach of the smart brain whereas neither the smart nor, by definition, the intelligent choice is out of reach of the intelligent brain, although the intelligent brain may or may not make smart choices (smart is defined as the way to cope successfully with “evolutionary familiar situations”). So far, so good. But the negative relationship I have being talking about (that intelligent people are geeks wanting in smartness) is clearly alluded to in the title of chapter 12: “Why Intelligent People are the Ultimate Losers in Life.” Relying on the Savanna-IQ Interaction Hypothesis, intelligent people should not be the ultimate losers, since their intelligence “does not affect their ability to comprehend and deal with evolutionarily familiar entities.” Moreover, if the hypothesis is true there should be no “intelligence paradox” at all, because smartness and intelligence would then be two uncorrelated abilities, whereas both the notion of a paradox and the idea that intelligent people are the ultimate losers in life imply a negative relationship. Let us look at some of Kanazawa’s contentions in more detail.
According to Kanazawa, the intelligence paradox predicts that more intelligent people are more homosexual than the general population because homosexuality is not natural, it is not common among animals nor among contemporary tribes of hunter-gatherers: “Even though some form of homosexuality is observed in many species, the basic biological design of all mammalian species is heterosexual reproduction, and exclusive or predominant homosexuality is rare in nature.” (p. 127) Kanazawa then says the data shows homosexuals are more intelligent.
He does not say, unless I’m mistaken, that it is the exclusive homosexuals that are more intelligent, which is in fact what the paradox predicts, not that occasional homosexuals, or bisexuals, are more intelligent, because such behaviors being observed in many species, as Kanazawa acknowledges, one may argue they’re natural. This is what Robin Baker says: Homosexual behaviors are quite common among animals. Moreover, most homosexuals, Baker argues, are bisexual, only a minority of them are exclusive homosexuals (see xxviii). The reason why exclusive homosexuality even exists is the same as why schizophrenia (according to Baker) exists, both at about 1% of the population: Both occur, namely, inside a process of mutation-selection balance. A gene mutation occurs that makes people exclusive homosexuals or schizophrenics and, as most of these individuals do not reproduce, selection prevents the mutation being forwarded.
Other than exclusive forms of homosexuality are in fact strategic, they are a way to deal with familiar adaptive situations, and one finds these behaviors among animal species quite frequently, so the intelligence paradox would not predict that people engaged in such behaviors are more intelligent. In fact, the intelligence paradox cannot even predict that exclusive homosexuals are more intelligent if it does not predict at the same time that schizophrenics are more intelligent, nor that any people affected by severe genetic mutations that would make them unfit for the ancestral savanna are more intelligent.
Certainly Kanazawa’s most astonishing contention is that the intelligence paradox predicts that intelligent people consume more drugs, alcohol and cigarettes because such consumption is not natural. On this score, he finds the results “somewhat equivocal” (p. 176), still he is inclined to consider the prediction realized. On this particular point, I would first like to quote one of Kanazawa’s mentors (named twice in the book’s acknowledgments), Dr Richard Lynn, in his book Dysgenics (2011): “Cigarette smoking (…) is, like alcohol consumption, an expression of weak self-control over immediate impulse gratification.” As I explain in xxx, the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment shows that children with self-control are more intelligent for they get higher status later in life and intelligence is the principal highway to high status today. So, if the intelligence paradox predicts that intelligent people drink, smoke and take drugs more than others, it can safely be dumped.
However, does the paradox really predict such a thing? According to Kanazawa, smoking did not exist before the culture of tobacco, nor drinking before the advent of brewery and distillation, nor taking drugs before the development of refining techniques, in a word they could not exist before agriculture and were nonexistent in the African savanna. Yet, many tribes of hunter-gatherers are familiar with psychotropic substances they encounter in the course of their foraging activities, such as hallucinogenic mushrooms, so the dependence on agriculture seems erroneous. I am not categorical that our ancestors in the savanna knew such substances and consumed them; I am merely doing what EP scholars do when they try to describe the life of our ancestors, taking contemporary tribes of hunter-gatherers as the closest approximation.
The vocabulary of psychotropic and stimulating substances used by hunter-gatherers is quite extensive. In the Spanish language alone, I know the following terms, most of them being taken from the vernacular languages of Amerindian tribes: achuma, ayahuasa or ayahuasca, bacuey or macuey (aphrodisiac), chamairo, chamico, cochizpacle, cocoyome, cojoba, colorín, curupa, frijolito (“little bean”), gasparito, jabí, jícore, masacoate (name of a Mexican boa which flesh was consumed by Indians as an aphrodisiac), ñorbito (aphrodisiac), paricá, peyote, pillunchuca, sumarique, señí, tacualispacle or clacualispacle (aphrodisiac), xtabentún, yagé. For more details on some of these words, see my glossary of Aztequismos (here) and Americanismos I (here) and II (here) (Spanish and French).
If taking such drugs predates agriculture and was familiar in the EEA, the intelligence paradox cannot predict what Kanazawa says it does.
Kanazawa predicts that “more intelligent men (but not more intelligent women) value sexual exclusivity” (p. 97) – “having one sexual partner in a committed relationship” (p. 101) –, and the data proves him right. More intelligent men value sexual exclusivity because it’s not natural, since polygyny was rampant in the savanna, whereas for a woman, sharing her man with other women or not, she was supposed sexually exclusive to that man. Intelligent men are decent Murrays. So far, so good.
Yet, Kanazawa also finds that more intelligent men have more extramarital affairs (figure 7.2, p. 108), and here is his explanation: “Note that the Intelligence Paradox is about individual preferences and values, what people desire and want in their heads; it’s not necessarily about what people actually do. If people have complete choice over their behavior, they are expected to pursue what they desire and want, but they do not always have such complete choice. And, when it comes to sex and mating, men have very little choice.” (p. 109) In other words, Dr. Kanazawa is telling us intelligent men desire to be monogynous but women force them to be polygynous.
He means that a man “has no realistic choice to say no” to a woman (p. 105). This is a rather audacious step from the finding of evolutionary biology regarding the differential biological costs of reproduction which imply males’ somewhat indiscriminate sexual outlook compared to females’ choosiness. I say it’s audacious because evolutionary biology also posits that males are urgent and females coy, which is not altogether the same proposition. In biological terms, if a male is not urgent – not proactive – no female will choose him. A man, thus, may be thought to always have the choice either to enter the arena (the lek) in the hope of being chosen or remain outside and attract no attention at all. Still, a man can desire to be monogynous, i.e. faithful, yet be induced into temptation and succumb to it in the course of his social interactions with many persons of the other sex, occasions allowing for the succumbing, without our being justified to call his behavior proactive in the proper sense. That would be, then, the lot of intelligent men, namely to be seduced by women, to be chosen by women without wanting to be chosen, and succumb because of males’ universal urgency.
So the question is: Are more intelligent men, although they desire to be monogynous and as a consequence are not urgent with women once they have got a partner, more likely to be chosen and induced into sex by women? According to Kanazawa, the answer is yes. As to this, I repeat here what I have said under the head of addictions, that more intelligent men also have more self-control, so if to begin with they desire to be monogynous although it’s not natural, they also are in a better position to resist succumbing, albeit that, too, is not natural.
But a more important question perhaps is about the attractiveness of intelligent men. According to Kanazawa, they are more attractive: “More intelligent individuals – both men and women – are on average physically more attractive than less intelligent individuals.” (p. 106). The source of this assertion is Kanazawa (2011) and Kanazawa & Kovar (2004), that is, papers from the same. As a complement, “more intelligent individuals – both men and women – are significantly taller than less intelligent individuals. And, once again, women prefer taller men as mates.” (p. 107) (Note that Kanazawa elsewhere says Asians are “slightly more intelligent than other races.” (p. 124). As Asians are also shorter than other races, his findings on the relationship between height and intelligence must apply inside one race and not across races.)
As to intelligent women’s attractiveness, here is another distinct statement by Kanazawa, which he does not relate to the previous assertions even though they likely bear on the discussion: “modern British people are not very endogamous on intelligence [the talk is about the British because one of the three studies used by the author is the British National Child Development Study (NCDS), the other two being from US; these studies sometimes contradict one another, like in the case of correlations between IQ and smoking already mentioned]. More intelligent men do not appear to marry more intelligent women in the contemporary United Kingdom.” Given the fact that more intelligent men are supposed to be more attractive and that at least their status is no obstacle to attracting a partner (when it’s not the very reason that attracted the partner in the first place) because it is more likely to be high than not, one is entitled to conclude from this study that intelligent women are not physically attractive on the whole, contrary to quote p. 106 from the previous paragraph.
As to men’s attractiveness, I invite the reader to read my essay xxxii. I add two remarks. 1/ Kanazawa et al.’s papers on attractiveness are based on judgments on photographs, “by two different judges.” I suggest that such minimal tests may not be very convincing, especially since it is known that women’s appreciation of men’s attractiveness varies during the course of their menstrual cycle. Thornhill and Palmer write in their Natural History of Rape (2000): “Perret et al. (1998) report that women in their study found men’s faces that were slightly feminized more attractive than men’s faces that were highly masculine. Highly masculine faces show greater effects of testosterone. This is interpreted by the researchers as a female preference for men who will invest in women. However, the same research group found that women who are not on the pill (i.e., are having ovulatory cycles) and are at the fertile point of their cycle prefer the most masculinized faces.” (pp. 203-4). The study alluded to posits a cyclic variation of individual women’s preferences through time.
2/ Kanazawa finds more evidence for his stance in the following: “The evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey F. Miller has consistently argued that women preferentially select men with higher levels of intelligence to mate with. … There appears to be some evidence for this suggestion. … more intelligent men are significantly more likely to have ever been married and to be currently married at age 47 than less intelligent men.” (pp. 184-5) This overlooks the irrelevance of marriage (or any other form of pair-bonding) to assess women’s sexual preferences, according to the springboard model (see xxxii) and the phenomenon of cuckoldry. Among Darwinian scholars, I have found so far that only Robin Baker does not overlook the predictable consequences of human sperm competition and female sexuality. Especially when intelligent men “are not very endogamous on intelligence” are they likely to be cuckolded by their partners because, as we shall see next, intelligent women are less eager to want children, consequently less eager to look for sexy sons’ genes outside their pair.
In this discussion, Kanazawa surmises that more intelligent men value sexual exclusivity because it’s not natural, but I think it depends more on how a male fares in sperm competition. If a male is uncompetitive, he would waste his time and energy in affairs, so he’d better invest in mate-guarding and parenting, like the good Murray he is. The fact that more intelligent men value sexual exclusivity proves my point right, that more intelligent men are meagerly endowed, virilely speaking.
Incidentally, when EP scholars talk of high-status men in the past, they show us an emperor with his harem, in the present for aught I know they may be talking of a restaurant manager, who is perhaps more likely to cuckold his employees than the reverse. Perhaps, then, one should not equate high status with elites; these would be two radically distinct concepts. In the classic of sociology The Children of Sanchez by Oscar Lewis, we have the example of a “high-status man,” Sanchez, whose job is to buy food for a restaurant in Mexico City. Hardly a high-status job, yet this man provides resources to three women living in different places of the same squalid barrio.
The overlooking of elite men’s poor virile endowments by most EP scholars so far may be due to some kind of sycophancy, the will (probably unconscious) to avoid presenting elite people in an evolutionarily unpleasant light. The sycophancy derives from certain notions about virility and manliness. If a high-status man fails to take advantage of his high status by inseminating many women, why care about status to begin with? Why be rich rather than poor, since it’s so much more trouble earning money than feeding on charity or welfare? The “unpleasant” is that high-status men are not emperors with harems like in the past; a good deal of them are (but sometimes I’ve got my doubts, especially after reading EP books) quite decent fellows, and that’s the shame, you see. By the same token, they may be suspected to be weak. Are weak elites true?
As to the question of why be rich rather than poor, I think the intelligence paradox predicts that, all men on the savanna having to hunt and forage, intelligent men are slackers.
As we have already seen, more intelligent individuals have more homosexual partners than less intelligent individuals (although I have contended this is not predicted by the intelligence paradox). They also have, on a declarative basis, more heterosexual partners (p. 137). The figures are: very bright Americans (IQ > 125) (5% of the US population) have had 9.98 heterosexual partners; bright (110 < IQ < 125) (20% of the US population) 9.79; normal (90 < IQ < 110) (50% of the US population) 8.9; dull (75 < IQ < 90) (20% of the US population) 7.92; very dull (75 < IQ) (5% of the US population) 7.10. Murray Bozinsky is a myth. You may call him a geek, or any person who looks like him a “Murray,” but he cuckolds you in your back. There are the haves and the have-horns!
Yet, as the figures here are based on individual statements, some of the statements may be deceptive. I should think the dull and very dull especially may have a tendency to under-declare their numbers of mates, because, as Kanazawa explains in chapter 5, they tend to be more conservative in politics, so under-declaring would be a way for some of them to display greater consistency between conservative ideas and their behavior. Same thing, perhaps, for intelligent people, who would think they would appear as lacking consistency if they did not over-declare their numbers of mates.
Male urgency patterns also depend on one’s time allocation. Men who work more have less time to court women (outside work, that is; please let me know if the workplace is the greatest sex club available, I need to know for productivity choices). Who works more: organization men or the leisure underclass?
A Parenthesis on the Clark-Hatfield Experiment
The Clark-Hatfield experiment is dealt with by Kanazawa (pp. 102-4) to explain female choice and men’s taking it as it is. It shows that 75% of male college students approached by an unknown attractive woman (a confederate in the experiment) who ask them if they would like to have sex with her the same night respond “yes,” comparing to 0% of female students approached by an unknown attractive man making the same proposal. I find the experiment silly. Men with a little knowledge of life, a little knowledge of women and courtship would have much reason to suspect the woman’s motivations. Some of the guys surely thought it was a hidden camera TV show. Some others may have been thinking the woman was a prostitute (I know a couple of streets in my city where unknown women ask you to get laid with them), some others that she was a schizophrenic intent on killing them, some others that it was a third-type encounter with an extraterrestrial, and all these were the least nincompoops of the batch. Apparently, none of the guys tried to embrace or kiss the woman on the spot, whereas she, if deemed sincere, would have been eager to respond.
Intelligent people are the “ultimate losers in life” because they fail more often to have “as many children as one can potentially raise to sexual maturity so that the children themselves can reproduce,” (p. 178), which is the definition of optimizing one’s fitness, “an evolutionary familiar goal.” In the discussion, Kanazawa only deals with data of children raised by the respondents, so all children begot by men outside their bonds are ignored, which is by itself problematic since it has been argued that more intelligent men have more affairs and presumably beget more children outside wedlock.
The picture below shows figures 12.3 and 12.4 (pp. 182-3).
Before dealing with the intelligence component in these tables, some general considerations on fertility. According to Baker (Baby Wars), in industrial countries about 10% of people are infertile, roughly the same number of men and women. I’m not sure if this includes people who could have children but decide not to; the present figures show a greater number of childless people, so the sample must be warped or Baker’s figures must be wrong — or alternatively the number of people who remain deliberately childless, if not included in the 10%, must be high.
As a matter of fact, on these tables 444 women out of a sample of (444 + 2210) = 2,654 have not had children at age 47 (which means, for all practical purposes, that they will never have: “99.7% of women and 96.5% of men complete their lifetime reproduction by the time they are 45” p. 181). Cross-calculation gives the proportion of 16.7% of women being childless. For men, the figures are 475 men out of 2,319, which gives us 20.4% (same remark as for women). One woman out of six, one man out of five remain childless.
If we follow evolutionary psychologist David Buss, the difference in figures between childless women and childless men should be greater, with much more childless men than childless women: “The primary reason men are so much more given to violence, and specifically to the violence of murder, is that the stakes of the mating game are so much higher for men than for women, because there is much more variability among men than among women in reproductive success.” (The Murderer Next Door, 2005). The present figures do not seem to support this statement, because if the variability does not depend on the number of childless people, men and women as pairs, taken broadly, have the same numbers of children respectively: If a woman has two kids, the man has two kids. If variability does not depend on childless individuals, it depends on putative fathers who are not the biological fathers of the children they raise (10-15%), on the number of single mothers (X), and on the number of men who remarry and make more children (X). I don’t know if these latter phenomena can account for a much greater variability among men than among women in our societies. In any case, there (still) is more variability among men.
Two other tables (pp. 179-80) show answers to the question “Do you ever want children?” (asked at age 23). According to these tables, 10.6% of women and 10.95% of men say they do not want to have children. Seemingly, physiological causes of infertility (infections etc.) and failure to attract mates account, thus, for only half cases of childless men.
Among the individuals who say at age 23 they do not want to have children, more intelligent individuals, both men and women, are in relatively greater numbers. Kanazawa shows that intelligent men change their minds before they reach 45 and make as many children as other men (so they’re not “ultimate losers” after all), but intelligent women don’t change their minds (or they do but men don’t want them!).
The reason more intelligent men do not, at age 23, desire to have children may be due to the high costs of parenting I exposed in my essay xxxiii (How To Make Successful Children Without Parenting) and the reason they change their minds, whereas intelligent women do not, perhaps is because men don’t want status to get a mate (and children) but rather they want a mate (and children) to get status – they fear ostracism (see the Cyberball experiment: no matter how trivial the context, how low the stakes, ostracism generates great stress).
In the case of intelligent women, if it’s not only that men, no matter how intelligent, are not particularly interested in them (and we have seen that men may not be endogamous on intelligence), it might be due to some particularity of female sexuality. No matter how you take it, the burden of parenting is greater on women (although it has become absurdly heavy on men these days – but then, again, men will accept the burden if they think it can help them avoid ostracism). Now, something evolutionarily advantageous (or required) is pleasurable. Sex is. People derive enjoyment from sex in order for their genes to replicate (routine sex is hardly pleasurable because it is a by-product of sperm competition), but reproduction (gene replication) can be thwarted by contraception. If having children and having to have routine sex is viewed by a hedonistic intelligent woman as likely to prevent her from enjoying sex, she will not have children. Intelligent women are not reproductively successful because they’re more polyandrous. Studies show they’re indeed more testosteronized (cf. Nyborg). There is truth in the conservative view that a life of pleasure alienates the individual from family life. This being said, many other considerations beside sexual “emancipation” may conduce one to deliberately avoiding parenting, and, considering the above figures, it seems that such a deliberate choice is not so rare.
All in all, I do not think Kanazawa is justified, because a few intelligent women remain deliberately childless, to end his book by the question: “Why is the tendency [intelligence] to commit the greatest crime against nature [voluntary childlessness] the ultimate gauge of human worth?” He has not shown with sufficient clarity that such a breach against nature is really the crime of the intelligent; he has even brought forth data to the contrary. As to his questioning the value people place on intelligence, it is all the more irrelevant given that intelligence has become the main highway to social status.
Intelligence has become the main highway to social status – to a point. Very intelligent people may easily be barred from every opportunity by coalitions of less bright people as it is more difficult for them, due to sparse numbers, to form coalitions with as intelligent people as them.
Pure science does not pay as much as applied science, so the applied scientist must be more intelligent than the pure scientist because the former’s status is higher.
In conclusion, Dr Kanazawa’s is a stimulating book and I recommend it.
About My Friend Deirdre Barrett
Another stimulating book that I recommend is Waistland: The (R)Evolutionary Science behind our Weight and Fitness Crisis (2007) by my friend Dr Deirdre Barrett from Harvard Medical School. (I call her my friend because I wish her well.) I am not going to discuss the book’s content, though; I just want to show its jacket (picture).
On this jacket you can see a prehistoric man standing on a big, bright-colored double cheeseburger. The book deals with the fact that we are not prepared to cope with an environment of abundantly available fatty foods and that this has provoked a major fitness crisis. The picture of the prehistoric man on the burger appears both on the front cover and the spine, so you can’t put the book in your library without seeing the flashy burger, even if only peripherally, when you look at your library unless you drop the jacket before.
This troubles me a lot because Deirdre writes: “Even more analogous to Tinbergen’s dummies, the exaggeration of visual elements in addictive foods often plays a role in hooking us” (p. 33) and “Food ads increase both immediate and long-term consumption of junk food.” (p. 90).
As I have repeatedly said in my series on advertising, advertisers today rely heavily on the effects associated with peripheral vision, in which peripheral stimuli are not treated by regions of the brain involved in conscious processes, so even if you think you never look at the burger in your library it will not escape your peripheral attention when you look in the direction of your library, and you’ll be the more easily hooked that you will not be mobilizing rational defenses.
At the same time that Deirdre warns against exaggerate visual elements and visual food ads that make us addict to junk food, she flashes gaudy burgers at her readers in this fashion! How is this possible? How can publishers treat their authors with such disregard and contempt? How can authors accept it and let their message be drawn in the dirt by publishing houses’ marketers? I am dissatisfied with my friend because she now looks like a fool.
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).