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.
Dr Robin Baker’s Science of Sex: A Discussion
The Science of Sex is the subtitle of one edition of Dr Robin Baker’s work Sperm Wars (1996), a book that was followed by the equally important Baby Wars (1998) and Sex in the Future (1999). This Sex Wars trilogy provides the broad public with tremendous insights on human sexuality and human nature, based on biology research. As works of scientific vulgarization, these best-selling books present the results of decade-long research and publications in scientific journals. With the present essay, my aim is to discuss a few of these major findings, under thematic heads. For an introduction, see my Reflexions XXVII (here).
References: Sperm Wars (Basic Books, 2006) (further on abbreviated as SW), Baby Wars (Ecco Harper Collins, 2000) (BW), Sex in the Future (Arcade Publishing, 2000) (SF), and Sperm Competition in Humans. Classic and Contemporary Readings, by Todd K. Shackelford and Nicholas Pound (ed.) (Springer, 2006) (SCH). The latter book gathers several papers by Dr Baker and his colleague Mark Bellis, as well as papers from other scholars, some disagreeing with Baker and Bellis, and parts of a 1984 book by the pioneer researcher in the field of human sperm competition, Robert L. Smith (University of Arizona).
Penis Shape and Size
According to Dr Baker, the shape of the human penis has been evolved in the context of sexual promiscuity and sperm competition among our primate ancestors. Not only does it allow insemination, but it also serves as a tool to remove, via intercourse thrusting, semen present in the female’s genital tract. This hypothesis has been tested with dildos and artificial matrices, and has been found to be correct. By removing the sperm already present in the tract, the male prevents it from achieving fertilization, while placing his own semen in the tract to the same fertilization purpose, in a process of reproductive competition. In species characterized by male dominance (alpha males), sexual competition takes the form of male aggressivity and aggressivity displays, on which outcome depends access to females. In species characterized by promiscuity, such as chimpanzees, access to females is open to every male, and sexual competition takes the form of sperm competition. Testis and penis endowments are similar across chimpanzees, and other promiscuous primate species, and humans (the data at my disposal concerns testis and penis size, but I suppose the same must hold true for penis shape as well, otherwise the difference would require some explanation). Sperm competition means that semen from different males compete in the female’s tract to fertilize an egg. To that effect, semen does not only contain ‘egg-getter’ sperm, whose task is to fertilize the egg, but also ‘killer sperm’, designed to destroy the competing sperm. In order to increase the performance of one’s own sperm, a male would also remove sperm from the tract during thrusting, chances being that sperm is present indeed, and that it is another male’s. The coronal ridge of the glans is here called to task, and the bigger the penis the more effective the removal.
This is the usual scenario in a context of rampant promiscuity. If we assume, now, that promiscuity is not as rampant among contemporary humans as it was among their primeval ancestors, what the man is doing while having intercourse with his regular partner is removing his own sperm from her tract, most of the time. Even if promiscuity is still widespread, in a monogamous context it is rarer that a woman cheats her regular partner with a regular lover than that she cheats him with one-off lovers, so most of the time it is his own sperm, again, that her regular partner, during their routine sex, removes from her tract. In such a context, if realistic, I suggest that the function of the penis shape as sperm remover might become an hindrance to the male’s reproductive success, rather than an advantage, because, intuitively, it seems that such a constant inseminating and removing of one’s own semen cannot be as efficient as letting the semen once inseminated doing its job. In any case, if penis shape was evolved in a context of rampant promiscuity, it is reasonable to assume that it cannot be as efficient if the context has changed.
It would be another case of some evolved trait turned dysfunctional in modern societies, such as the preference for fatty food. Such preference was evolved in times when fatty food was scarce (cf Konrad Lorenz); now that it is abundantly available in Western societies, eagerness for it has provoked an obesity epidemic of tremendous proportion in these countries. If obesity decreases one’s reproductive stamina, then obese people, because of their very obesity, will reproduce less than other people, and in this way strong eagerness for fatty food, and/or less capacity to repress it, can be expected to diminish in the population with time. This is not the case with testis and penis endowment.
As explained above, in a context of reduced promiscuity, and of monogamy, human penis shape and size may lower a man’s reproductive stamina. Dr Baker has described something along these lines with the notion of ‘sperm wars specialist’: ‘Put the specialist in a monogamous situation and he was sub-fertile. After each insemination, huge numbers of his killers and egg-getters clustered around his partner’s egg. Multiple sperm entered the egg simultaneously and dense concentration of deadly chemicals were released by the surrounding sperm hordes. The egg always died. But send his sperm in to battle, and he was virtually invincible.’ (SW 160). The ‘sperm wars specialist’ here described is the man with big testes, able to ejaculate abundant sperm, but the notion applies to men with big and well-shaped penises as well, able to dispose of greater quantities of competitors’ semen: in a monogamous situation the latter too are sub-fertile. Whatever the nature of his sperm wars speciality (testes or penis, but I believe the two are correlated), for the individual in question monogamy is fatal.
One solution to his problem is to partner with a promiscuous woman, in whose genital tract he will find plenty of alien semen to destroy, rather than destroying the egg. In such a case, a man would have to be grateful to his wife for cheating him… However, it is more likely that promiscuous women mate with promiscuous men, so his chances, competing with other sperm wars specialists, are even. As a consequence, the best reproductive strategy for such a man remains to cuckold average guys. In this way, the genes for big penis size and specific shape do not diminish in the population, although they have become dysfunctional in a monogamous context.
Dr Baker describes female orgasm as a strategy utilized by women in order to favor one man’s sperm in her tract over other men’s. It would function as a pump sucking up the semen deeper inside the tract, closer to the fertilization area. The question is whether the mechanism really is refined enough to be able to discriminate among different sperm. I lack the anatomical and physiological knowledge to answer, but such a system strikes me as most efficient and fine-tuning, given that it is supposed to have evolved, like penis shape, in a context of rampant promiscuity where females carry the semen of different males inside their wombs most of estrus time. Is the climaxing woman’s tract able to pump up semen from the ejaculating man without pumping at the same time the semen already present here after being inseminated by other men, i.e. without bringing the whole semen present in her tract closer to the fertilization area? Certainly this must be the case, and Dr Baker can make it perfectly clear with a few more words.
Beside this anatomical question, female orgasm, it must be noted, seems to be one of the most mysterious phenomena in human sexuality. The figures relative to the proportion of women experiencing it during intercourse very much differ across studies: from 30% (Hite, 1970s) to 70% (Saad, 2011), through 50% (Reik, 1940s). Somewhere between 0 and 100%, one would say, trying to make something out of it. As all these different figures have been compounded from questionnaires, this should warn us to be cautious with questionnaire results.
Then, there is the question of vaginal vs clitoral orgasm, of vaginal vs clitoral women, of the G-spot, and so on, all very mysterious, and probably myths. Also associated to female orgasm is the question of female ejaculation, which, for some scholars, does not exist, although some pornographic material is advertised as depicting female ejaculation (so-called ‘fountain women’). I am not aware that Dr Baker has discussed the latter phenomenon.
In the paradigm of evolutionary biology reproduction is central, so one wonders what can be, in a reproductive strategy, the purpose of such practices as oral sex which cannot bring about fertilization. According to Dr Baker, fellatio serves two aims for the woman: via sensory clues (smell, etc), it provides her with information 1/ regarding the man’s health; 2/ regarding his faithfulness: she can detect if the penis has penetrated another vagina. Cunnilingus serves the same both aims for the man.
In this context, it is surprising that men have not evolved a dislike for fellatio, nor women a dislike for cunnilingus, since both practices expose them to negative consequences in terms of reproductive success. Knowing that a woman, via fellatio, may find him unsuitable for sex due to the state of his health, or unsuitable as a long-term partner because of his cheating, a man should search to avoid fellatio, if only to keep the possibility to cheat on the woman if it ever occurs to him that it would be to his advantage. Similarly, the woman should wish to avoid cunnilingus being performed on her.
When absence of dislike already comes as a surprise, then the fact that fellatio is mostly men’s demand, and cunnilingus women’s demand, clearly runs contrary to Dr Baker’s view. These findings are found in Eysenck, Sex and Personality (1976): based on questionnaires, ‘Women have done almost four times as many [sexual] things they disliked as men. … Only just over 50 per cent of females who had indulged in fellatio actually enjoyed doing so.’ See also Eysenck & Nias, Sex, Violence, and the Media (1979), referring to the same study: ‘Men nearly always enjoyed what it was that they had done; women in nearly half the cases said that they had not enjoyed various activities, including fellatio and ‘69’, although they had participated in them. Thus if showing oral sex in films has the effect of making this type of activity more popular among males (who after all constitute the majority of viewers of pornographic material) it would also have the effect of forcing many women to take part in fellatio, say, in order to please their men, while in reality disliking it.’ It does not make sense that males evolved a taste for a practice, fellatio, that is so contrary to their reproductive goals, and women a dislike for so useful a tool. Either Eysenck et al.’s finding is wrong (because of unreliable questionnaires), or it must be Dr Baker’s view.
People’s taste for other persons as sexual mates is based on fairly objective traits, and, unfortunately for some, beauty is not so much in the eyes of the beholder than part and parcel of the genetic endowment. What constitutes beauty is now better known by biologists; it is an aggregate of various traits that supplies the prospective mate with proof both of health and sound genetic endowment.
Dr Baker describes male beauty as follows: ‘The features she [a woman] finds most attractive are clear eyes, healthy skin and hair, firm buttocks, a waist that is about the same in circumference as his hips, shapely legs, broad shoulders, quick wit and intelligence. She is also attracted by symmetry in his physical features.’ (SW 145). He describes female beauty in that way : ‘In addition to shape, men all over the world also respond strongly to clear eyes, healthy hair and skin, and the shape of the face, particularly its symmetry.’ (SW 148). In another place, he writes: ‘In addition to shape, men all over the world also respond strongly to clear eyes, healthy hair and skin, and the symmetry of the face and body – again, features that are strong indicators of health and hence fertility.’ (BW 131).
Why clear eyes are indicators of health is beyond my understanding, and Dr Baker offers no explanation. Clear eyes are depigmented eyes, the clearer the more depigmented, with blue as the most depigmented, then grey, then all shades of green and brown to the most pigmented black eyes. Why the lack of iris pigment should be a sign of health I have no idea, and the assertion is puzzling, since in the world population at large pigmented iris is the rule rather than the exception. In fact, clear eyes are rare, they are virtually inexistent outside the white, so-called Caucasian race, which includes Arabs and Indians of India, among whom clear eyes are rare too.
The fact is even more puzzling when another trait ascribed to women’s preferences is dark skin: ‘at high cycle fertility … women … prefer relatively high degrees of male skin coloration (melanin- and hemoglobin-based) that may correspond to elevated testosterone’ (Randy Thornhill, SCH viii). Mention of high cycle fertility refers to the two dimensions of women’s sexual choice, one being the search for a long-term partner, based on social status evaluation, and the other, the search for genetic endowment. Women’s physical preferences are relevant for the second dimension, which is here under consideration. On the one hand, Dr Baker contends that women in search of genetic endowment prefer clear eyes, and on the other hand SCH affirms they prefer dark skin. A clear eyes-dark skin combination is even rarer than clear eyes alone, because in general clear eyes are correlated with fair skin. Moreover, if dark skin is an indicator of testosterone level, is it also the case with clear eyes, or rather are not dark eyes a sign of elevated testosterone?
In the context of sperm competition, male masturbation would be useful as it disposes of decaying sperm, allowing the man to inseminate more efficient semen during intercourse. Obviously, inseminating old or decaying sperm into the woman’s tract is taking the risk to have one’s semen underperform against competing sperm. Thus, while the common discourse on male masturbation is that the practice ends with the advent of ‘normal’ sexual activity, i.e. with sexual intercourse becoming regular, for Dr Baker it remains a normal activity during the whole life, when circumstances require it, that is whenever the time span between two copulations exceeds a few days. Surveys would show practice to be consistent with this, with very few men masturbating when copulations are close enough, and masturbatory activity increasing together with time span between copulations.
Dr Baker explains the popular prejudice existing against masturbation in spite of the current medical discourse (as opposed to the medical discourse of the past) that masturbation is sound and healthy, as a form of mischievous hypocrisy, by which some men would try to dissuade others to masturbate, while masturbating themselves whenever required, in order to get an edge on reproductive competition.
Since I have noted elsewhere (here, in French) the existence of such a popular prejudice, and attempted to explain it as sound, I feel bound to further explain my point of view here. My advocacy of temporarily restraining masturbation is aimed at young people having no sexual activity yet on a regular basis. I contend that masturbation places them on a physiological plane of permanent satiation, and inappetancy, no matter how frustrated these young men may feel psychologically, whereas the tension created by unreleased libido provides surrounding females with the necessary clues that the male is ‘on’ for sex; thus, a little repression would lead to quick regular intercourse, whereas by masturbation intercourse may be delayed indefinitely, as happens, I am told, with many students. I must admit, though, that in the final analysis such repression, if maintained, might lead to greater sexual indifference (and, in extreme cases of abstinence, to impotence), and thus impair reproductive success; it’s a double-edged weapon.
This being said, Dr Baker himself provides me with a situation where masturbation restraint may be advisable: the ‘sperm wars specialist’ (see ‘Penis Shape and Size’ above). As the specialist’s sperm is, in a monogamous situation, usually too powerful an engine of destruction so that deprived of sperm competition it attacks the egg itself, advising that man to inseminate not the best of his sperm, but some old sperm matured in his ducts, perhaps is a way to offer him better reproductive prospects with his partner.
One of the most intriguing findings of Dr Baker’s research relates to the quantity of sperm ejaculated; it offers not a mechanistic view but a teleologic one (based on final causes). Let the reader be reminded that final causes were excluded from scientific discourse by Enlightenment philosophers as being theological by nature, but they have come in full force again with Darwinian theory. In Dr Baker’s view, the volume of sperm ejaculated into the genital tract depends on what volume is necessary to ‘top up’ the woman, that is on the optimal volume needed in the context of sperm competition.
This has been a major surprise for me, especially because I had relied on a mechanistic view of ejaculation to describe routine sex as a female strategy to detect the man’s unfaithfulness (the theory is sketched in one of my published poems, in French). According to that view, which I will have no difficulty to discard if necessary, when a man and woman are engaged in routine sex, the woman’s interoceptive sense allows her to evaluate the volume ejaculated, which only depends (correcting for health states) on the time elapsed since last ejaculation. So, if these mates have had fairly regular intercourse twice a week, for instance, for weeks or months, there can be no way for the man to ejaculate outside his mate’s tract without her noticing it at the next intercourse, due to the unusually low volume then ejaculated. As a consequence, routine sex would be the woman’s demand, as a mate-guarding strategy.
Dr Baker proves me wrong on that point. If he is correct, the volume ejaculated inside a partner’s tract depends on two factors: 1/ time elapsed since last intercourse; and 2/ time spent together since last intercourse. If the partners spent most of the time together, the semen will be scarce because the man has little doubt of the woman’s faithfulness – his estimate of the chances that she cuckolded him is low, and accordingly he can be economical with his sperm. On the contrary, if they have been separated for a long time, his doubts about possible sperm competition will be raised, and the quantity ejaculated increased accordingly. So, the man ejaculates not the quantity that is available but the quantity that is optimal (with a view to facing sperm competition).
There is apparently a problem with the intuitive, mechanistic discharge model: Spermatic ducts are always full, sort of (SW 32). ‘Even the greatest rate of insemination (9.3 million sperm/h since last in-pair copulation when couples spend less than 25% of their time together) is lower than the estimated rate of sperm production by humans of 12.5 million/h (Johnson et al. 1980). It thus seems likely that observed insemination rates are in some ways strategic and not simply due to physiological constraint.’ (Baker & Bellis, SCH 166). This fact seems to imply some inconsistency in Dr Baker’s picture. As we saw in the previous paragraph, the man is willing to be economical with his sperm, because there would be an energetic trade-off implied. But does it make sense at all to talk of energetic costs of ejaculation, and of a trade-off, in such conditions of superabundant sperm production? In the normal use of the notion, a trade-off implies some scarcity, whereas we are faced here, seemingly, with such abundance that one cannot even talk, in the proper sense, of discharge nor of replenishing.
Moreover, given the trade-off, masturbatory ejaculates would be less abundant than copulatory ejaculates (Pound, Shackelford & Goetz, SCH 19), a fact that has been validated experimentally. The makeup of these different ejaculates would also be different: ‘The percentage of motile and morphologically normal sperm also is higher for copulatory ejaculates (Sofitikis & Miyagawa, 1993)’ (SCH 19). Given that, in Dr Baker’s view, morphologically normal sperm is made of ‘egg-getter sperm’, whereas ‘killer sperm’ displays other shapes, how is one to explain that there is more ‘egg-getters’ in a masturbatory ejaculate, when they can meet no egg?
Conception Via Sperm Warfare: The Figures
Under the present head, I have a slight problem with the figures advanced by Dr Baker. ‘A recent study in Britain concluded that 4 per cent of people are conceived via sperm warfare. In other words, one in every twenty-five owe their existence to the fact that their genetic father’s sperm out-competed the sperm from one or more other men within the reproductive tract of their mother.’ (SW 47). Elsewhere, Dr Baker considers this figure to be valid world wide: ‘Humans, with 4 per cent or more of children conceived via sperm warfare’ (SW 349).
Then, he also writes the following : ‘World wide, it has been calculated from studies of blood groups that about 10 per cent of children are in fact not sired by the man who thinks he is their father. This is also the level found in industrial Western societies.’ (SW 63-4), and: ‘Internationally, child support agencies are reporting a non-paternity rate of about 15 per cent.’ (SW 64), a figure he repetes elsewhere: ‘Of the men who resist supporting a child on the grounds of paternal uncertainty, 15 percent have their doubts verified by DNA fingerprinting.’ (SF 26). SF also confirms the 10 percent figure based on blood group studies. Dr Baker does not mention the 4 percent figure again in that book.
Let us stress that the number of people ‘conceived via sperm warfare’ must be higher than the number of people ‘not sired by the man who thinks he is their father’, because, among the former, there must be some who were sired by the man who thinks he is their father, that is to say sometimes the woman’s long-term partner, or husband, must have won the warfare and, even though he was cheated, that had no consequences on paternity issues. At least in some cases – even if Dr Baker shows that a woman is more likely to cheat on her partner while in estrus. So, a 4 percent figure of people ‘conceived via sperm warfare’ in a population hints at a lower number of people not sired by the putative father in that population, say 3 percent. Given the 10 percent figure from blood group studies, there cannot be a world wide 4 percent figure of people conceived via sperm warfare, because 10 percent of people not sired by the putative father hints, in turn, at a higher figure for sperm warfare, not a lower one.
Lastly, it must be stressed that the 10 percent figure is not an indicator of women’s unfaithfulness, which must be higher than that, because cheating does not always lead to pregnancy, presumably.
A way to reconcile these figures would be to state that British women are much less promiscuous than women in the world at large – 3-4 percent vs 10 percent. In this way John Stuart Mill would be proven wrong when he attributes our judgments on women to prejudice: ‘An Oriental thinks that women are by nature peculiarly voluptuous … An Englishman usually thinks that they are by nature cold. The sayings about women’s fickleness are mostly of French origin.’ (The Subjection of Women). As far as French women are concerned, a Frenchman is not so blinded by prejudice when he considers them to be fickle (souvent femme varie…), because more than 10 percent of them cheat on their legitimate partners, whereas an Englishman may have some reasons to say English women are cold, as sperm warfare is seemingly much less frequent among them.
Mainstream biology has been proven wrong by the sperm competition model in one important respect. Biologists relied on a model of ‘differential parental investment’ which they believed entitled them to conclude that men are promiscuous and women monogamous. Dr Robert L. Smith has pointed out that such view lacked consistency: ‘The biological irony of the double standard is that males could not have been selected for promiscuity if historically females denied them opportunity for expression of the trait. If strict monogamy were the singular human female mating strategy, then only rape would place ejaculates in position to compete and the potential role of sperm competition as a force in human evolution would be substantially diminished.’ (SCH 68).
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 infedility 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). The genetic traits in favor have been described under the head ‘Clear Eyes’ (see above); important notions here are testosteronization (pretty obvious) and low fluctuating asymmetry (a mark of sound genetic endowment).
The broad outlines of the model being given, some details seem to border on inconsistency. 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) Both statements (BW 131 and BW 44-5) are rather intuitive, I should say, but still they do not fit quite well, taken together. Why short-term lovers – the men who cuckold other men – are mostly of high status, when high status is what is demanded of a long-term partner? Even if all women cannot have a high-status long-term partner, what benefits does one-off sex with a high-status man provide them with? Material benefits of some sorts, perhaps, but what about the genetic benefits implied in the springboard model? Or is it compulsory sex, with pressure being exerted by a socially dominant individual on a socially dominated individual? Similarly, 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.
As we will see later, extra-pair sex with a high-status man also involve an important negative effect for low-status families (see ‘Optimizing vs Maximizing’).
One way to interpret these findings is to assume that high status and genetic endowment are correlated. In alleged ‘meritocracies’, this certainly makes sense, except that the relationship between male beauty and capacity is far from obvious and, in the above list of favored genetic traits, some are intellectual and no doubt contribute to status, while others seem to be completely independent from social capacity.
Most homosexuals are bisexual: ‘The vast majority (80 per cent) of those who have sex with men also have sex with women’ (SW 284) and, according to Dr Baker, they reproduce fairly well, somewhat better, in fact, than heterosexual men. This means that, among the 10 percent of children not sired by the man who thinks he is the biological father (see ‘Conceptions Via Sperm Warfare’), a good deal were sired by bisexual homosexuals, and this, in turn, supplies the clue as to the major engine of the prejudice against homosexuals. Dr Baker has provided part of the explanation with respect to that prejudice by stating that homosexuals are perceived to be significant carriers of sexually transmitted diseases. This implies that they are perceived as being especially prone to promiscuity, and I contend that the basis of the prejudice lies on this latter notion. In fact, monogamous men are prejudiced against all promiscuous men, and if another group, beside homosexuals, were perceived to be promiscuous, then individuals from that group too would be prejudiced against.
It is not simply ideology. I believe people are indifferent, that is tolerant, toward anybody whose behavior does not affect them in any way, even if they do not share their ideas nor understand their way of life; if they are not affected, they simply shrug shoulders. But in the case of promiscuity a monogamous man is at risk. He may have to raise a child not his own, and raising a child is not simply an idea, it means sweat and blood.
One may contend that genes are not the important thing in raising a family, that it is transmitting one’s values that matters, and that people adopting children of different genetic makeups are proof enough of it. Adoption is certainly worth mentioning in that respect, but on the other hand it is known that foster children and children of recomposed families suffer much more abuse, rape, and murder at the hands of their caretakers, with whom they are not related genetically, than biological children at the hands of their biological parents. It is my prediction that, with the development of the reproduction technologies described by Dr Baker in Sex in the Future, adoption will progressively disappear. What will remain is benevolent adoption of babies from deprived or chaotic countries or environments, by well-off parents who already have biological children, but people who cannot reproduce through intercourse will favor technologies that ensure they can raise children of their own genetic makeups, when these technologies become available.
The prejudice against gay men, and promiscuous men, will end as soon as paternity uncertainty ends, with the generalization of paternity tests. Pro-gay rights legislations passed in Western countries, like gay marriage, gay adoption, etc, tend, in the meantime, to tame bisexual gays in ways of life more acceptable to the monogamous citizen – or at least are intended as make-believe.
In relative terms, rapes conduct more often to pregnancy than routine intercourse. Various hypotheses are discussed by Dr Baker as to the possible reasons, but there is one element he does not discuss, which should make rape much less likely to lead to pregnancy, contrary to the data: ‘Insufficient lubrication prior to coitus, as in rape, may result in trauma to the vaginal wall with the discharge of blood into the vaginal cavity. Blood serum contains the spermatotoxic protein gamma globulin and often sperm antibodies as well.’ (Robert L. Smith, SCH 105). The reasons that make rape relatively more prolific must be powerful enough to counterbalance these chemical hindrances – and such powerful agency by necessity must entail some strong evolutionary benefits, otherwise it would not have developed as a powerful agency in the first place.
Whereas in BW Dr Baker contends that modern societies ‘are rapidly becoming, probably the most puritanical and repressive of all’ (BW 235), he has this to say in his introduction to the 2006 edition of SW: ‘The current batch of American under-thirties has even been branded ‘Generation Porn’. Sex is everywhere, from Web to television, and it would be encouraging to think that it reflects or at least precedes the development of the healthy, informed, and nonjudgmental attitude that Sperm Wars is intended to promote.’ (SW xxiii). Although this is more the expression of a wish, it seems that, in the meantime, Dr Baker has decided to take things at face value.
There is no reason to think that a ‘Generation Porn’ would be endowed with more healthy attitudes toward sex than the preceding ‘Generations Bordello’, and Dr Baker must be aware that a great number of serious studies have dealt with the many unhealthy aspects of pornography.
Although I believe that censorship is hardly enforcable in mass media societies (I do not even believe it is enforced, with respect to pornography, in regimes like China, and I am told, also, that it is not difficult for a Westerner to find child pornography, although it is prohibited), I see nothing healthy about the genre. Pornography was first legalized in Denmark in the 1960s, at a time when the Danish government was headed by a clergyman. This brave man was convinced, in his deepest inner self, based on what evidence I wonder, that prohibition was the problem and that, once legalized, pornography would cease to appeal to anyone. I am making fun of this man but it is not fair because pornography was legalized in every Western country shortly thereafter, clergymen or not, and this has more to do with the nature of mass media as an externalized central nervous system (McLuhan) than with anything else – but this is not the subject either. As to the clergyman’s or similar ideas, here is what Dr Dolf Zillmann has to say: ‘The finding of growing boredom, in contrast, seems in conflict not only with the increasing commercial success of pornography (a success attesting to insatiable interest) but with theoretical considerations also … Massive exposure to standard erotic fare fosters acceptance of not-so-standard forms of pornography. Massive exposure to coital scenes led to diminished reactions of repulsion to sadomasochistic activities and acts of bestiality.’ (Connections Between Sexuality and Aggression, 1998).
Interestingly, Dr Baker provides the following figures concerning prostitution: ‘In the United States in the 1940s, 60 percent of men had inseminated a prostitute at least once in their lives by the time they were about fifity. In the UK in the 1990s, 10 percent of men had paid for sex at least once in their lives by the time they were about fifty.’ (SF 279-80). Although the figures are taken from two different countries, if we assume similar conditions in both, they indicate a sharp decline. Clearly, prostitution has receded, and it has not been replaced by more healthy attitudes toward sex, but rather by the ‘commercial success of pornography’.
Dr Baker’s views on another phenomenon should have prevented him, I think, to ever express positive appreciations of videotaped pornography. As a biologist, he knows that in nature the viewing of copulation triggers copulation readiness; the instinctual message is: ‘When you see copulation, take immediate action toward copulation.’ He explains it in the context of sperm competition. Now, what happens in movie theaters, when people are exposed to sex scenes (as is well known, they have become utterly banal)? The excitation is repressed, energy cannot be released, the spectator stays quiet and silent. The public is compelled to remain impassive in presence of excitatory stimuli. This is what I call silver-screen conditioning. The message is: ‘When you see copulation, do not make a move.’ (It is important to note that the difference between real life and media is immaterial; as Reeves and Nass have shown, ‘the media equation’ is ‘real life = media’. This is another occurrence of an evolved trait turned odd in our society; see ‘Penis Shape and Size’.)
It is the same with hardcore pornography when viewed in groups. The boys just sit and watch, perhaps exchanging a few words. When they consume pornography alone in their bedrooms, it is for masturbatory purposes; then the message becomes: ‘When you see copulation, beat off.’ I do not perceive any likelihood of better reproductive stamina in any of these instances.
A last word on erotica consumption. It is assumed, since Kinsey, to be men only. Recent studies, however, report identical excitatory responses in men and women (Zillmann). Maybe one day we will find that women never ever turned their back to pornography when alone. I believe that the puzzling variety of answers across questionnaires about women’s behavior is one dimension of what Dr Baker calls ‘female crypsis’.
Optimizing vs Maximizing
At first sight, the demographic transition undergone by Western countries these last decades, with incipient population decline, runs contrary to the idea that people are genetically programmed to enhance their reproductive success. Discarding family planning and contraception as the causes of this shift, for, according to him, such practices have existed from time immemorial, Dr Baker outlines a history of humanity in three stages. In their condition of hunter-gatherers, humans lived in small nuclear families, and it is only with the advent of agrarian societies and a carbohydrate-rich diet inducing massive rates of infant death, that families expanded, both as a way to compensate the death toll and to get more hands for the manual work in the fields. With the advent of new technologies, nuclear families would return to former small sizes: ‘The reduction in family size to the levels found in modern industrial societies was not due to improved contraceptive technology, but to women subconsciously planning smaller and smaller families in response to the improved survival prospects of their children.’ (BW 141).
Dr Baker explains this in more detail with a distinction between maximizing and optimizing the number of one’s offspring. Typically, an individual projects himself on the next two generations, children and grand-children. It is not clever to make many children if they cannot be oferred survival conditions that ensure they get a fairly good number of offspring themselves, die too young, or contract disabling diseases, or become vagrants, and so on. Dr Baker tells us the fictional story of two women from a similar social background growing up as friends in the same environment. One made more children than the other, but in the next generation she was the loser because her children did not fare as well as her friend’s. The former maximized the number of her children, and she losed, the latter optimized that number, and she won. All this is very nice, but it deserves further review.
Dr Baker believes that world population will stabilize in the future when people learn to optimize, rather than maximize, the number of their children, that is when their survival prospects are improved. He states that the average number of children will be two – the magic number that is to stabilize world population. Such optimism I deem unfounded, as things are.
If material conditions are the one factor on which depends the reproductive success of one’s children, as Dr Baker seems to imply (for instance, he is saying nowhere that the number of parents at two individuals puts an upper limit to the optimum, although he writes that being a single parent is a disadvantage), people who can offer greater material conditions to the children they raise, will make more children, insofar as it raises their own reproductive success without impairing the reproductive success of their offspring. In other words, if the optimum number of children for a middle-income couple is two, the optimum number for a couple earning twice that income, able to proffer double wealth and material conditions to their children, would be (assuming, provisionally, a linear function) four. On the lower side of the scale, people are then expected to make no more than one child, and deprived people to make no children at all because they cannot provide them with material conditions worth the name.
As to deprived people, their tendency is to make many children, and this has been the case from the remotest antiquity. The word ‘proletarian’ derives from the Latin proles, which means ‘offspring’; the proletarians are those who make many children – and we do not call proletarians the rich, in spite of Dr Baker. It is not necessarily because poor people do not understand how to use condoms or cannot control their sexual urges, although these defects certainly are to be taken into consideration. When a woman is hopeless as to her prospects and cannot expect bright days in the future unless a miracle takes place, then she might be willing to maximize the number of her children anyway, and place them ‘in the hand of God’ (this is a metaphor I use: she does not have to be a believer), because, mind the logic, a miracle is more likely to occur for one out of x children than for one children alone. This is what Dr Baker calls low survival prospects, but we see such low prospects in the midst of rich nations, with a so-called underclass of unemployable people on the increase everywhere.
Furthermore, when a high-status man impregnates a low-status woman (see ‘Cuckoldry’), he contributes to widening the gap between the actual and optimum number of children in this family. Taking no financial responsibility for his act, he impairs the future prospects of these children. Even if a high-status male multiplies ad infinitum the number of such extra-pair children, it does not improve his reproductive success in regard to the number of children he is raising. If below optimum, it remains so, and his female partner bears the consequences: she fails to reach her optimum.
Several studies tend to show that high-status families are below reproductive optimum. In fact, this has been the contention of many scholars since Galton’s, and as Dr Baker must know of these studies I am surprised he is not discussing them, since they run contrary to his own predictions. In his book Dysgenics (2011), Dr Richard Lynn provides a table (by Lynn & Harvey, 2008) with fertility rates and IQ by country for year 2000, showing an inverse relationship between number of children and IQ at international level. Whether IQ measurements are relevant in the discussion I do not decide, but I perceive a robust correlation between these IQ measurements and GDPs, so there would be also an inverse relationship between fertility and wealth. Worse-off individuals and nations make more children than better-off; this must involve some consequences upon the survival prospects of all.
Promiscuity and Culture
Optimizing rather than maximizing may require some insight connected with genetic endowment, and so it cannot be expected to occur, in the absence of compulsion or incentive, in the population as a whole.
Insight may also lead some people – males – to evaluate uncertainty, and its cost, associated with the parenting effort that would be required of them, as too great, and consequently to relinquish all attempts at paternity (some others, only at parenting). There is a trade-off here, which has been finely expressed by Ferdinand Lundberg and Marynia F. Farnham, who, although they make allegiance to the exploded psychoanalytic school and have, besides, remained inconspicuous names, deserve to be quoted: ‘The cultural formula is: In proportion as one has children, all other things being equal, one will be handicapped in the competitive struggle for ego recognition, prestige and economic well-being. The psychic formula, however, is: In proportion as one feels oneself unable to have children, for whatever reason, one is handicapped in obtaining psychic gratification and general psychic stability.’ (Modern Woman. The Lost Sex, 1947).
It exists, I contend, a relationship between culture and promiscuity, but not with the causal direction usually thought of. It is not culture that debases mores, as claimed by philosophers like Ibn Khaldun or Rousseau, it is debased mores that enrich culture, because, with increased paternity uncertainty, more males relinquish all efforts associated with procreation. Where women are tightly controlled, males are relatively sure about paternity, and culture does not progress.