Dr Robin Baker’s Science of Sex II
In his reply to my essay on what I called his Sex Wars trilogy (Dr Robin Baker’s Science of Sex: A Discussion, XXVIII, here), Robin Baker pointed out three blunders I made, and for the rest invited me to read the book he authored with Mark Bellis, Human Sperm Competition. Copulation, Masturbation and Infidelity (1995), which presents the results of their research in a more systematic and detailed fashion. I then ordered the book and read it. The present essay is intended as a sequel to XXVIII; it acknowledges that my non-specialist objections on particular points of Baker’s theory have found satisfactory answers in Human Sperm Competition, and further expatiates on a few inferences I draw from the theory.
As a sequel, the present essay perhaps should not be read before taking cognizance of the content of the original essay (here). A brief introduction on human sperm competition can also be found here (XXVII).
The abbreviations for the book titles have been maintained from the former essay. Further on Human Sperm Competition will be found abbreviated as HSC. I am using the first hardback edition by Chapman & Hall, 1995.
Before I tell how my objections and doubts have been satisfied, one word on the blunders Baker pointed out in his reply (a reply I have posted as a comment to XXVIII). They are three: one on method, two on content.
On the method, I had made some quotes from the collective work Sperm Competition in Humans (SCH) without naming the authors of the passages quoted. I have since then corrected the slip in the text itself, acknowledging the fact in a further comment.
Another blunder I made, this time regarding the content of Baker’s books, was that I construed the expression ‘clear eyes’ as meaning ‘fair eyes’. Hence my questions on this point lacked an actual ground, because they were based on a semantic misunderstanding. Baker made it clear in his reply.
The second blunder on content concerns some figures on the extent of human sperm competition. Baker answered with an extensive quote from HSC showing that my remarks, here again, were groundless. I shall deal with this point more at length, explaining the nature of my blunder, under the head “Conception Via Sperm Warfare: The Figures.”
I shall now proceed with exposing how my objections have been answered, under the same heads, or subtitles, used in XXVIII.
Under this head I did not exactly make an objection; it was rather a request for more information. I requested, namely, a confirmation that via copulatory orgasm, as an operation by which the outcome of sperm competition can be slanted, women really manage to discriminate between sperm from different men, and how. I think I now understand the mechanism better.
As I understand things, female copulatory orgasms discriminate between different sperm as long as these are not mixed in one and the same seminal pool. It means that copulatory orgasms are of no avail when two successive copulations by two different men occur before a flowback (expulsion of sperm from the female’s genital tract) has resulted from the first insemination. Quoth: “The overall pattern is more or less as predicted by the ‘upsuck’ hypothesis, female orgasm in some way assisting uptake of sperm from the seminal pool before the remainder of the sperm are ejected in the flowback.” (HSC, 236, box 10.5). & “Orgasm facilitates the passage of sperm from the seminal pool to the cervical mucus. It could do this in one or all of several ways: (1) dipping the cervix further into the seminal pool; (2) promoting greater mixing of cervical mucus and seminal fluid; (3) lengthening and/or increasing the number of seminal projections into the cervical mucus; and/or (4) lengthening the time that the cervix is dipped in the seminal pool.” (HSC, p. 237). Thus, the mechanism of female copulatory orgasm in any case exerts itself on a given seminal pool, and would not be able to discriminate among the content of that pool if composed of various sperm.
As a result, the example I took in XXVII of an orgy is an instance where a woman would be least likely to slant the result of insemination, if male participants inseminate her by turns without interruption, because orgasm upsuck would then apply to a multifarious seminal pool in which the favorite male’s semen is mixed with other males’ sperm. Admittedly, such configuration is relatively rare (even in the context of an orgy, flowbacks may occur between several inseminations, if the participants make breaks; quoth: “Median time to emergence of the flowback after male ejaculation is 30 minutes with a range of 5-120 min” [HSC, 45]) and copulatory orgasms remain useful in the majority of cases of sperm competition, the woman favoring the sperm contained in a homogeneous seminal pool although she may at the moment of orgasm shelter sperm from another insemination in her cervical crypts and/or oviducts (these latter sperm being not impacted by orgasm).
If this is so, it raises a question: What sperm does the penis, in its function of sperm-removal tool, actually remove? Is it only ‘flowback sperm’, so-called, forming a seminal pool in the upper vagina and due to be ejected very soon? Quoth: “Backward and forward thrusting of the penis during copulation, combined with the shape of the penis in a distended vagina should successfully remove a major part of any soft copulatory plug or liquid seminal pool.” (HSC, 171). It thus seems that the answer to the question is yes. However, “The greater the suction, the greater the chance of removing cervical mucus with perhaps older sperm from the cervix itself.” (HSC, 170, box 6.13). I stressed the word ‘perhaps’ because it makes a big difference whether the penis can remove sperm already stored in the cervix or not; for if it cannot, it then applies to present seminal pools merely, that is, in the context present-day customs, it never serves most of times. In the absence of a seminal pool, if we keep assuming that the penis can’t remove sperm stored in the cervix, it can still remove sperm, but it is flushed-out sperm mixed with leucocytes that invalidate them and cells and debris from the female (HSC, 40, box 3.5), that is, sperm unlikely to perform fecundation anyway – sperm that is being removed by the female tract itself (after flowback), without the help of a ‘piston penis’.
As we saw from quote HSC, 45, in general flowbacks occur fairly quickly after intercourse. The probability that another intercourse occurs before flowback should in normal circumstances be deemed small as a consequence, and if ‘flowback sperm’ merely is exposed to the action of the piston penis, it makes the latter’s usefulness rather low. This way open to men to slant sperm competition seems fairly inadequate, whereas the corresponding way open to women, their copulatory orgasms, is effective in most cases and can be foiled by very specific contrivances only (above mentioned), which anyway imply a degree of sperm competition.
The picture I have just outlined, based on my understanding of the facts, is that of a radical asymmetry between women and men in regard of their respective physiological endowments for slanting sperm competition. HSC has provided me with a confirmation that female copulatory orgasm can discriminate among different sperm, in the limits above presented, and with the insight that the limits of the piston penis’ usefulness are important. Of course, we should not disregard the fact that Baker & Bellis consider that the penis can ‘perhaps’ remove sperm from the cervix as well, but they give no clue as to how that would happen.
My objection, under this head, was that the passive gender in an act of oral sex (men in the case of fellatio, women in that of cunnilingus) should have evolved a dislike for the practice, and that, not only have they not, but according to a study by Eysenck et al. it is the active gender that generally expresses a dislike (men say they dislike cunnilingus, women say they dislike fellatio). As Baker, in his trilogy, presents oral sex as a way to collect information (on health and faithfulness), I could have replied to my own objection myself: since it is about exchange of information, if one partner is eager to get information the other may as well be willing to provide it. Which is what Baker & Bellis say: “The main feature of overt orgasms is that the climaxing individual is giving their partner information. … If the transference of this range of information is sufficiently advantageous to both male and female, it could be enough evolutionarily to maintain the observed behaviour. The main topic of theoretical interest then becomes the optimum ratio of cryptic to overt orgasms for male and female performers and observers.” (HSC, 115).
For the man, giving information is a straightforward transparency operation, but Baker & Bellis hint at another set of motivations for the woman: “As far as the climaxing female is concerned, the interplay of cryptic and overt orgasms is a major part of her strategy to confuse the male over levels of sperm retention. Allowing the male to observe a non-copulatory orgasm could be an important element in this strategy.” (HSC, 115).
As to Eysenck et al.’s study, the fact that primates and other mammals practice oral sex (HSC, 101) may cast some doubt on the validity of its results. Otherwise, it could be that the dislike is true generally and that oral sex is performed because of its strategic importance albeit not accompanied by pleasure, but such a view would run contrary to the notion that evolutionary useful acts are predicted to be pleasurable to their performers.
Under the present head, I expressed some doubt on the likelihood of an energetic trade-off model, based on the testes’ huge sperm productivity. It turns out the trade-off considered by Baker is not necessarily that which I thought of: “Such restraint over the number of sperm ejaculated when the risk of sperm competition is low implies that males suffer some disadvantage if they ejaculate too many sperm on any given occasion. Two main disadvantages have been suggested: (1) that the sperm and other constituents in an ejaculate are costly to produce (Dewsbury, 1982); and (2) that, in the absence of sperm competition, the more sperm a male ejaculates, the lower his chances of fertilizing the egg(s) of the current female (Baker & Bellis, 1993).” (HSC, 24). So, the idea of an energetic trade-off is credited to Dewsbury, whereas Baker & Bellis, quoting their own research, hint at another phenomenon, namely that too many sperm may act as a chemical weapon against the woman’s eggs.
My objection taking sperm productivity into account (for the figures, see XXVIII) could still hold against Dewsbury’s model, but it is limited to sperm and I have nothing to say about the productivity of ‘other constituents’ of an ejaculate, i.e. the seminal fluid, which may be much more costly to produce and spend than sperm themselves.
Baker & Bellis do not formally reject Dewsbury’s model and in at least one occasion they seem, on the contrary, to rely on it: “The disadvantage of small testes should be that their possessors produce fewer sperm per day and thus, all else being equal, must either: (1) ejaculate less often and, on average, inseminate older sperm; or (2) ejaculate as often and, on average, inseminate fewer sperm.” (HSC, 111). Such calculations are based on a cost analysis of sperm production and seem to imply the validity of Dewsbury’s energetic trade-off as regard sperm themselves.
Furthermore, the idea that sperm competition itself has being selecting big testes for their capacity to produce more sperm and thus give their owner an advantage in sperm competition, fits the energetic model. There is, seemingly, no way to escape the model, no matter how the figures of sperm production make the very idea of a trade-off along energetic lines puzzling.
Accordingly, Baker & Bellis’s careful conclusion is not surprising: “At present, we cannot determine the relative importance of this factor [optimizing sperm numbers according to levels of sperm competition] and any constraint on sperm numbers due to the cost of producing ejaculates (Dewsbury, 1982). Inevitably, ejaculate cost must have been a factor in the evolution of species-specific rates of sperm production. It is possible, however, that at least for mammals ejaculate cost could be less important than the factors discussed here in influencing restraint over the number of sperm inseminated on any given occasion.” (HSC, 227).
Conception Via Sperm Warfare: The Figures
Baker has replied to my remarks under this head by quoting extensively the relevant passage from HSC (see his reply in comment on XXVIII). To put in a nutshell, I had lost sight of one important possibility, which Baker & Bellis put thus forth: “a female may be paired to one male, conceive by another (via infidelity, and perhaps sperm competition)” (HSC, 200, box 8.4). When writing that part of my essay, I fancied that no woman would conceive via infidelity without sperm competition, because I overlooked the possibility of breakdowns in routine sex. Given that “On average, human pairs engage in IPC [intrapair copulation] at median intervals of about every three days” (HSC, 206), and that Baker & Bellis retain a life expectancy of sperm inside the female tract of 5 days (they present this figure as a conservative estimate), in the normal course of events no female infidelity goes without sperm competition. But one must not rule out the possibility that some men may be crazy enough to neglect routine sex with their long-term partner, or that ‘accidents’ can occur, and that a woman might cheat her partner when he has been lying on a hospital bed for weeks. Because of that blunder of mine, the discussion of the figures in XXVIII is meaningless.
With this head, the discussion of the strictly biological aspects of Baker’s writings is through. I have acknowledged my mistakes as far as I could detect them, and I now proceed to some social considerations, where I find my opinions are more solid.
HSC does not deal with pornography as such. However, some passages confirm my point of view as to how the phenomenon should be construed. As previously stressed, Baker has evolved from the idea that Western societies are becoming increasingly puritanical to the more optimistic view that the current ‘generation porn’ represent an emancipated and enlightened brand of humanity. My own view is that neither picture is correct, but rather that there is a risk that we become increasingly incapacitated sexually. Puritanism has sometimes been construed as a way to cope with sexual inadequacies, but as an ideal of strict monogamy, it cannot, except in marginal cases, be interpreted as such, and Puritans of the past are known among other things for their philoprogenitiveness.
From the evidence of SF 279-80, I have stressed that prostitution in the West has been declining. (Although he provides the figures on which I rely, Baker himself does not construe them in this way; he just offers them as evidence of prostitution in the USA and UK.) In the past, particularly when brothels were legal and widespread, many a young man would have his first sexual experience with a prostitute (of which scores of novels attest, as well as sociohistoric literature). These data make one conclusion pretty tempting, I should think, and HSC buttresses it: “Inexperienced male monkeys and chimpanzees, when encountering a receptive female, become strongly sexually aroused but are often so awkward at attempting intromission that the mating is never completed. Adults who have been denied the opportunity to gain sexual experience when younger are often unable to copulate (Ford and Beach, 1952). A level of experience with other males would be of obvious advantage in increasing the success of an individual’s first mating opportunitites with a female. There may well be some advantage in using other males as targets for practice rather than females. Females, because of the risk of conception, may less often than males be prepared to allow males the opportunity to experiment.” (HSC, 118). Needless to say, Baker & Bellis generalize the findings to humans. In a nutshell, they credit homosexual practice with the same ‘educative’ virtues evidenced by prostitution in the past.
So, if it is true that prostitution has declined (and let the reader be reminded of recent legal developments in some countries such as France, where paying for the services of a prostitute has been criminalized; this criminalizing occurring at a time when prostitution has already sharply declined, law-makers cannot contain the lyrical flows of their eloquence against such a barbarous exploitation of women, failing to see, or rather feigning not to see the far more impressive figures of pornography), if, I say, prostitution has declined, and homosexuality has not increased in due proportion, of which I am not aware (and Baker says it remains stable), certainly one should expect that more men stay virgins for want of experience at the right time.
Do contemporary mores compensate for that? At least two elements should induce us to doubt it. First, feminism has been a strong deterrent to male urgency, as well as the most recent forms of democratism: the vanishing of an utterly dependent servile class has narrowed opportunities for well-off young men to inseminate female servants with the certainty of avoiding unpleasant consequences. Some stories by a Maupassant, for instance, cannot but be met with incredulity nowadays, although they may be more realistic in the context of his time. Second, the mediatic buzz about AIDS, now receding, has certainly played a deterrent role. I have shown elsewhere (here, in French) that the treatment of this sexually transmitted disease by the French media in the nineties was disproportionate. I have shown that, at the apex of the AIDS razzmatazz, an heterosexual individual was 55 times more likely to die in a car accident, and 10 times more likely to die assassinated; and that drugs-addicts were far more likely to contract AIDS via intravenous injection by contaminated syringes (one out of 25 drugs-addicts was then expected to die from AIDS) than gays via sexual intercourse! The buzz must have had a powerful deterrent effect, especially since the only known way to prevent AIDS apart from abstinence, the condom, could never be deemed 100% safe. On this last point, I reminded my reader of the failure rates generally acknowledged, but HSC brings forth even higher figures: “condoms retain a high chance of fertilization. Although, when used properly, the risk of conception with a condom may be as low as three pregnancies per 100 woman years, in normal usage the risk varies from 5 to 30 pregnancies per 100 woman years. This is up to about half the risk experienced by a fertile couple with no protection.” (HSC 178). A risk of conception means a risk of contracting STDs as well. With such a miracle weapon against AIDS – and AIDS, for a long time, has meant certain death at the end of ghastly sufferings – I can’t see many a reasoning mind taking the risk lightly, especially when the horrors of the disease are blasted in your ears daily, year in and year out.
In such a context, what can pornography do for us? I think I know what it can for its producers, but for the viewers it cannot serve the same ‘educative’ purposes as homosexuality (according to Baker) and/or prostitution. At best, it remains theoretical knowledge. At worst, as stressed by sexual ‘educators’ of the past, like Wilhelm Reich, it generates anxiety. Young viewers, especially, might be led to see themselves as inadequately equipped for sex, both physically, with respect to penis size, comparing with the performers’ penises, and psychologically, perceiving that they cannot be callous enough to engage in sexual games.
This is my own interpretation of what Lundberg & Farnham (already quoted in XXVIII) call, with their psychoanalytic lens, an ‘extensive psychological castration of the male.’ It stresses the dismantling of sex-educative institutions for men, and their replacement by a counterproductive substitute.
Incidentally, contrary to common belief, pornography may well be consumed by women. I have already hinted, in my previous essay, at studies cited by Zillmann concerning physiological reactions to erotica. In the current belief, held including by some evolutionary psychologists, such as Gad Saad, holder of a chair on ‘Darwinian consumption’ (sic) at Concordia University (Montreal, Canada), pornography appeals to male psychology, while women are interested in romance novels à la Barbara Cartland (The Consuming Instinct, 2011). No doubt men find no appeal in romance novels, but women’s taste for such books is only one side of the coin. They appeal to a woman as seeker of a long-term partner, seeker of the gentleman who will help her raise her children and who therefore must be faithful, caring, protective, considerate, earn a lot of money, and so on. But remember that the gentleman in question is a springboard for the woman as seeker of gene-providing lovers (springboard model). In this latter state of mind, any reason preventing pornography from appealing to her may be illusory.
In conclusion, the situation, I believe, is like the French saying “Ce sont ceux qui le font le moins qui en parlent le plus” (the less they do it, the more they talk about it), but at the collective level. The fact that “sex is everywhere, from Web to television” (Baker, in his 2006 introduction to SW) is not reassuring, really, even from a non-Puritan point of view. To make it clear from an analogy, the current tendency, in Hollywood movies, to depict heroines as women of action coping with obstacles with their muscles, comes handy. An alien from Mars watching such movies would get a very inaccurate picture of our reality. The motives behind such a distorted picture I can only surmise: on the one hand the need to keep making popular action movies for cash, on the other hand the moral imperative to give women a fair share in our symbolic representations…
But I am no prophet of doom and I bring, instead, a message of hope. Hags can take the place of whores! There is already, I am told, a significant trend in pornography depicting female performers far past the age range usually appealing to men in search of mates (see what these evolutionary determined preferences are in XXVIII). Old women, the refuse of sex life, would be attractive enough to inexperienced men (inexperienced past experiencing age) who badly need training to improve their self-confidence – the training men used to have with prostitutes in more relaxed times. If one of these men can get his hands on such a one, and they are easily available for the prurience never dies, he will give her the time of her life, being like a starved beast of prey, and having developed severe, and interesting, deviations – imaginations. Hence, the refuse gets the best.
Optimizing vs Maximizing
On this topic I will be discussing also a source of Baker & Bellis, namely Despotism and Differential Reproduction. A Darwinian View of History (1986) by Laura Betzig.
My objection was to Baker’s prediction that world population will stabilize in the future (at 11 billion individuals around 2100, a fairly precise prediction). HSC details his arguments. Quoth: “There is a close relationship (a) between family size and life expectancy (P = 0.008, controlled for the geographical areas illustrated) which is not significantly different from the relationship (b) between family size and use of moder contraception (P = 0.004).” (HSC 182, box 7.4). Baker & Bellis here discard modern family planning as having played a motor role in the demographic transition. According to them, contraceptive methods “enhance psychological predispositions and strategies evolved much earlier in mammalian history” (HSC 183), and life expectancy is the key factor. As this factor increases in developing countries, birth rates will diminish, as they have diminished in Western countries with the increase of life expectancy, to stabilize at the number of children that optimizes reproductive success – a number that according to Baker fixes at replacement level, i.e. two children per woman.
This model relies on differential observations about developed and developing countries, rich and poor, and the same observations seem to hold for individuals inside countries: “A first attempt to model the situation was made by Rogers (1990). The conclusions were that at the lower wealth ranges of a population, long-term fitness is maximized by using the currently available wealth to maximize family size. The more wealthy ranges, however, gain relatively little from increasing family size and thus may benefit, in long-term reproductive success, from limiting family size so that those few offspring raised are reproductively more successful. As Rogers recognizes, the conclusions are sensitive to a number of assumptions. At the very least, however, the model shows that the reduction in family size during the demographic transition could well have been a response that actually increased individual reproductive success.” (HSC 183).
Interestingly, these views seem to buttress my own linguistic argument on the etymology of the word ‘proletarian’, an argument I used against Baker’s prediction. My construction of this word derived from Latin proles, i.e. offspring, as meaning those who make many children, is not partaken as such by linguists or Latinists. Generally speaking, the word is construed as meaning those who possess nothing but children, or in the classic Latin-French dictionary by Gaffiot, “qui ne compte dans l’État que par ses enfants” (whose worth in the state depends entirely on his children); but both constructions imply some maximizing reproductive behavior, because if one’s wealth, or worth, equals one’s number of children, then one will maximize one’s number of children, for in the case of wealth or worth a distinction between optimizing and maximizing is irrelevant.
So, both Rogers and I agree that lower classes make more children. However, Darwinian theory, as Betzig explains, predicts that the more wealthy and powerful one is, the more women he will inseminate: “As a rule, the evidence is overwhelming that rich and powerful men do enjoy the greatest degree of polygyny cross culturally” (Betzig, 1986, p. 34), and she quotes Darwin: “Polygamy … is almost universally followed by the leading men in every tribe.” Baker & Bellis, quoting another book by Betzig, write the same, adding some historical restrictions: “the advent of agriculture and animal husbandry (c. 15 000 years ago) seemed to herald a universal swing in the human population towards polygyny and extreme reproductive inequality between males (Betzig, 1988). … The critical factor in this swing seemed to be the clumping of resources associated with agriculture and husbandry and the inevitable increase in differences between males in the resources they could accumulate, defend and offer.” (HSC, 140).
Both sets of data seem hard to reconcile. Why didn’t polygynous men of the past optimize their reproduction and why, instead, did they make more children than proletarians? Had they not a higher life expectancy than the subjected populations? If I had read Betzig before, to be sure, I wouldn’t have written that proletarians have been making more children ‘from the remotest antiquity’ on (XXVIII) without further consideration.
Betzig circumscribes yet another time limit in the validity of her ‘Darwinian view of history’: “A decline in both despotism and differential reproduction seems to coincide with industrialization.” (Betzig, 1986, 97). She hypothesizes that, in a context of technical specialization, a decrease in differential reproduction is a necessary concession from the ruling classes to the useful specialists (p. 104). In the same way that, at the beginning of the twentieth century, some intellectuals warned that Darwinian survival-of-the-fittest mechanisms did not function any longer and there were no more natural checks to the proliferation of defects in industrial societies, which were therefore doomed to see the burden of defective individuals increase, we here have another cesura in our Darwinian view of history across the industrialization line, with differential reproduction reversing from the haves to the have-nots. (Or is it the same idea?)
First of all, the data presented by Betzig might not impair my position as to the behavioral characteristics of proletarians in the remote past as much as one may think, because rich men’s polygyny increases also poor women’s, their servants and others’s philoprogenitiveness, whereas rich women’s reproduction may remain suboptimal.
(As a parenthesis, I would like to expatiate on this point by dismissing a possible objection to my statement in XXVIII that a rich man who cuckolds a poor man contributes to widening the gap between the actual and optimum number of children in that poor family. The objection would be that the poor women having routine sex with their poor partners anyway, children will be born even without a rich man cuckolding the poor man. This is not quite so simple, because a woman is more likely to become pregnant in the course of extra-pair copulation [EPC] than of IPC: “The more fertile the female (i.e. in terms of stage of menstrual cycle and type of contraceptive), the higher the proportion of copulations that are double matings.” [HSC, 198] & “Women are significantly more likely to use contraception during IPCs than during EPCs, particularly double matings.” [ibid.] & “There is a clear increase in the incidence of EPCs, including double-matings, when the risk of conception is greater.” [HSC, 197, box 8-3]. Statistically, my remark must hold true.)
Second, one should perhaps distinguish, even before industrialization, between sex warlords and bourgeoisie. Sex warlords, due to their military way of life, might have had a life expectancy that was hardly higher than their subjects’s. As a result, they too maximized their offspring. Bourgeoisie, on the other hand, is the shrewd and prudent class; they optimize. Baker & Bellis talk about those suboptimal men in sperm competition who are most willing to take a wife as a long-term partner and as a consequence must specialize in parenting skills. What are these parenting skills if not the self-same skills that enable men to provide for the needs of a family in the long run? This is bourgeoisie, biologically speaking.
Finally, even before industrialization, there must have existed in the very social structure checks to extreme reproductive inequalities. Especially in despotic societies, the social pyramid (▲) is the inverted picture of the alleged reproductive pyramid (▼). In the Ottoman Empire, at the passing away of the sultan, one of his numerous children was placed on the throne at the end of shadowy court intrigues (in which women would play a great part) and all his siblings exterminated, so his reproductive success must be regarded as not so very great after all. In Western feudal aristocracies, among which property was indivisible, only the first-born male inherited the land and title. The second-born was destined to become a sterile cleric in the Church, the other ones making a career in the military or disappearing altogether from the scene, in the commonalty. Property being indivisible, feudal interests are disconnected from the number of children; besides the biological urge, there is no social incentive to make many children. Conversely, among classes or under regimes in which conveyances are divided, the interest of the family is clearly to reduce the number of children; dynastic (family) success is impaired by transmission to many siblings.
These several considerations tend to promote the idea that data from primitive tribal societies as regards reproductive inequality ought to be taken with a pinch of salt when discussing other types of societies, civilizations namely, however remote.
I shall now proceed to a few other considerations that the reading of HSC has newly triggered.
Under the head “Ejaculates” in my previous essay, I described a theoretical model of female mate-guarding I had designed based on a number of assumptions, particularly concerning male ejaculation. The idea was that the volumes ejaculated by a man depend only on time elapsed between ejaculations, and that this allows the woman, in a context of routine sex, to detect, through interoceptive evaluation of the volume ejaculated, unfaithfulness (or cryptic ejaculations outside her). I have found in HSC that such an assumption (volumes depending on time) has been made by biologists too. Baker & Bellis call it the ‘physiological constraint model’: “This model assumes that, at each IPC, males inseminate all of the stored sperm mature enough to be ejaculated. On this model, number of sperm inseminated at each IPC will be a function of time since last ejaculation and the rates at which sperm mature (minus those which are shed or destroyed.” (HSC, 208). They dismiss it, based on laboratory evidence, and propose instead their own ‘topping-up model’, of which I have already talked.
However, another consideration could save my own model, because I have discarded it offhand on a certain misunderstanding and confusion. What the topping-up model is dealing with is the number of sperm ejaculated, not the volume of seminal fluid, and in my own story the important factor is the volume of seminal fluid inseminated in the genital tract, because it is that volume that would be sensed, and evaluated or measured, by an hypothetic interoceptive sense of the woman (not so hypothetic, perhaps, because we will all agree that the genital tract is sensitive; the question is whether its sensitivity would allow the woman to perform the evaluation I surmise).
HSC confirms that the volumes of seminal fluid and the volumes of sperm are two different stories: “In principle, a female could also gain from stimulating her partner to ejaculate without copulation in order to observe the amount of seminal fluid ejaculated by the male. This could give some information on how long it is since last ejaculated. However, as seminal fluids recover relatively quickly (Mann and Lutwak-Mann, 1981), the female could probably only tell whether the male had ejaculated in the previous 12 hours or so. Within the context of her partner’s infidelity, however, this could still be useful information.” (HSC, 115) Baker & Bellis come to the same idea of female mate-guarding through information got from the amount of seminal fluid ejaculated, but they apparently do not think such estimates possible inside the female genital tract: the information has to be gathered from ‘ejaculates without copulation’, be it through masturbation or fellatio. This being said, they explain how such information from seminal fluid works, and what kind of assumptions it allows.
Perhaps the data could be further refined, and correspondences established between volumes of ejaculated seminal fluid and sperm, to see if any correlations exist (if such studies exist, I pray the reader to forgive me for being a layman.) Let us assume for a moment a strong correlation between the amounts of both elements, seminal fluid and sperm, during ejaculation (although we’ve just seen the story is different for each). That would allow my model to stand on its feet, beside the topping-up model, with only one further restriction. If the volumes ejaculated depend on (1) time elapsed since last ejaculation and (2) time spent together by the partners (topping-up model), the woman could still detect the man’s infidelity via estimates of the volumes he ejaculates in her tract, thanks to an hypothetic interoceptive sense, if the partners have regular routine sex and if at the same time they have adopted a regular, routinized way of life by which they spend the same amount of time together from one week to the other. Such conditions being fulfilled, any variation of the volumes would warn the woman that something is afoot. A process of extreme routinization in every aspect of life is implied in successful mate-guarding.
Under the head “Male Masturbation,” I expatiated on some views I had published elsewhere, the gist of which was that the young man refraining from the practice would be sending signals to women that he is sexually ‘on’. “So what?” a biologist might reply, “Don’t you know that males are urgent and females coy (HSC, 13, box 2.7)? Even if the woman gets signals, being coy she can’t make nothing of it. A male sending signals, that makes no sense; the man just takes action.” It is true that such views of mine at first sight do not quite fit the urgent-coy dichotomy, nor the more popular one of active-passive. To my mind, the male is opportunist: not so much active as ‘activated’. Truly active men are sexual predators and rapists; the bulk of us is not in search of preys but of opportunities. In the absence of certain signals, the man remains passive. I contend he can force the woman to send signals to him, by pleasing her. The idea of opportunism is of course implied in male urgency, but it qualifies it. Unqualified urgency is predation.
Another way to get at the idea of opportunism is, indirectly, through the notion of coquettishness and of a coquette. The word has fallen into desuetude, but Henry James’s stories and novels, for instance, give us a clue as to its importance in not so remote a past. A coquette was not a fallen woman yet, but she could not be regarded as a lady any more. In a nutshell, the coquette would send deceptive signals to opportunist men, she would ‘activate’ them for the mere fun of it, and that was a disgrace.
A man who gets signalled at by women everywhere he goes is what I shall call, for the sake of simplicity, an alpha male. Beta or zeta males often enough admit they suffer from woman’s choosiness (a consequence of her coyness), but they know what an alpha male is; when they spot one, they do their best to become one of his close acquaintances. It’s the best way they can find to get access to women, because an alpha male is bound to create much disappointment among the feminine crowds that signal at him madly (there is just not enough time in a man’s life to enable him to lavish his assiduities in all directions whence the signals come), and, either by despair or resentment, many broken hearts will let the zeta boys bring them a much-needed solace. It’s the well-known story of Elvis’s hairdresser and that of the inconspicuous bassist of the Rolling Stones. (I hope these examples will not appear too trivial. I know many a savant book on the market proffers abundant trivialities, but I have always thought they come from the editors of the publishing house’s staffs, rather than from the authors themselves.)
But let us return to our favorite subject, on which Baker & Bellis provide us with new insights.
Quoth: “when the lineage leading to the genus Homo began to evolve large brains and hence large vaginas, selection was imposed, via sperm competition, on males with larger penises.” (HSC, 174). Here I perceive some circularity in the reasoning. Baker & Bellis say that large penises are better able to remove alien sperm from large vaginas. As we have seen under the head “Female Orgasm” at the beginning of this essay, a large penis is a significant advantage only in the context of rampant promiscuity, for we have expressed some doubt on the possibility that the penis be able to remove sperm stored in the cervix (although Baker & Bellis say it ‘perhaps’ can). If it cannot remove cervical sperm, its action is limited to flowback sperm, so-called, that is sperm forming a seminal pool in the upper vagina, after insemination and before flowback. Which means, its utility is limited to cases of intercourse occurring shortly after another intercourse has taken place with the same female. Thus, a significant selective pressure towards large penises could not exist outside rampant promiscuity (perhaps circumscribed to limited mating seasons). But rampant promiscuity, like among chimpanzees, goes with large penises. Chimpanzees have the highest penis size to body size ratio among the principal primate species; are their brains particularly large ? 275-500 cm3, compared with small-penis gorillas: 340-752 cm3, prlease find the brain size to body ratio for both, and tell me which species has the greatest. If chimpanzees do not have large brains, large brains are not causative in any sense among them.
Another insight I would like to discuss under the present head: “If penis size is an important factor in sperm competition, it would be surprising if males and females did not have some reaction to penis size. First, males should perceive males with a penis larger than themselves as more of a threat if they ever show a sexual interest in the same woman. Second, 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).
It has been remarked (in German völkisch circles), based on the evidence of Greek statues, that small-penis men have been selected against inside Caucasoid populations. It would not be a waste of time to collect penis measurements on an appropriate sample of Greek statues, treat them with tables of correspondence or a formula converting penis size at rest into size during erection, and then compare the results with the data provided by HSC on contemporary penis sizes: for Caucasoids 14-15 cm on average (HSC, 169, box 6.12, from Rushton & Bogaert, 1987). (Incidentally, I remember that, in high school and college, a persistent rumor was that the average size of an erect penis was 18 cm. The adverse effects of such an evil rumor on the self-confidence of inexperienced young men are easy to imagine. The psychologic warfare waged in the field of sex notions is endless. Another fiendish rumor construed testicular asymmetry, the normal case, as an abnormality that required chirurgical intervention.) No doubt the results of such a study would confirm that small-penis men have been selected against from antiquity to modern days.
One cannot rule out, of course, some artistic convention. Ithyphallic satyrs, for instance, are represented with huge penises. The convention would then reflect the notion of a trade-off: testosteronized hormotypes are beastlike unspiritual beings. One could also contend that, as most of these statues were orders from the upper classes, from priests for temples, from wealthy individuals for private altars and esthetic enjoyment, and from rulers for publicity, they reflect these classes’ hormotypes. That is, Greek upper classes were not particularly testosteronized. Which leads to the incident question as to how testosterone is distributed in society. Given the manner in which I describe the bourgeoisie, above, I am not expecting that upper classes be highly testosteronized as a rule.
Another of my previous contentions I would like to discuss further. I talked about a possible sexual indifference arising with time from restraint, but as I did not expatiate on what I meant, some may find the statement bold and oppose me with the medical evidence that shows that on the contrary sexual restraint provokes perversions and other forms of mental trouble.
I always found baffling the idea that Puritans, who are married men, should be deemed better examples of moral ‘self-conquest’ than Catholic clerics, who, normally, are sexually abstinent. Max Weber, for instance, calls Puritans “virtuosi of asceticism,” as if it were more ascetic to live monogamously with one wife than to abstain from sex altogether. The conclusion I have drawn from the ubiquity of such a judgment, if this judgment be unprejudiced (to be sure, it is absent from such a profound book as The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James), is that it is more difficult not to be a lecher when having sex routinely than to remain consistent and firm in one’s abstinence, and that it must be because over time abstinence creates an indifference to sex – rather than perverted tastes – becoming a habit, maybe not too unpleasant nor too uncomfortable, and thus not so praiseworthy as the resisting temptation of extra-pair intercourse by a married man engaged in routine sex year in and year out. Even more so if abstinence leads to impotence in the long run, because then a eunuch has no merit at all abstaining from sex. It is perhaps more difficult also for the routine-sex man to refrain from consuming alcoholic drinks and other intoxicants, from seeking base entertainments and other things associated with a worldly unascetic life, from anger, envy, resentment, whereas overriding these would be a mere trifle for the no-sex man (qui peut le plus peut le moins) and not so meritorious as a consequence. – Unless the whole affair is a misunderstanding on my part, and in the above statement by Weber is implied, rather, that Puritans have succeeded in their ideal of monogamy whereas the Catholic clergy has failed in his own ideal of sexual abstinence, be it through masturbation, and thus has always been a community of failures and frauds.
From the quotes HSC 197 and 198 above, it must be clear that a woman taking the pill is less likely, all other things being equal, to cuckold her partner, because a woman normally cuckolds her partner during the fertile phases of her cycle. So much so for the sexual adventurism of contemporary women.
In Sex in the Future, published in 1999, Baker lays great hopes on the paternity test technology; his visions of the future are grounded on the basic idea that the technology will become widespread. Fifteen years later, why are paternity tests not a common feature yet? Why have smartphones become in a few years, or even months, a staple of the Western world, and not paternity tests? Why such inertia? The market exists; over the last couple of years, there has been 3.9 million births each year in the US alone, 10 700 births per day.
The answer is that free access is not enough. The state must make tests compulsory for each birth. Otherwise, the technology will never spread, it will remain restricted to litigation as it is today and has always been since it has become available. Why, if the man asks his partner to take a test, she will be disgusted by his suspicion, or terrified at the idea of being exposed, and she will miscarry. No man can ask for a test in free-market conditions. I suppose no man has ever asked for it.
Consequences of a generalization would be far-reaching indeed, notably in one direction untold by Baker. The polygynous is a kind of parasite of the monogynous. The monogynous can (and had rather) live without the polygynous, whereas the polygynous needs the monogynous in order to cuckold him behind his back. No doubt, often enough crop up in the monogynous’ mind fantasies of uprooting. Is he to blame for that? No more than the polygynous for his cuckolding. With paternity tests generalized, the wheat would be separated from the chaff – in this world.
“It is a mathematical inevitability that populations come to be dominated by those heritable characteristics that impart greatest multiplication power to the descendants of the lineage founder.” (HSC, 7, box 2.2). This is the fundamental of ‘behavioral ecology’ and what allows her to speak of reproductive ‘success’ and ‘failure’. To complete it, “Thus, when we come to examine the sexual behaviour of humans or other animals at the present time, we are seeing populations that are dominated numerically by heritable characteristics that imparted the greatest multiplication power on generations of past possessors. This statement has the certainty of all mathematical axioms and as such is immune to any further philosophical or ideological discussion.” (ibid.) I certainly do not wish to discuss a mathematical axiom, but in case it would serve as a call to “multiply and replenish the earth,” that is as a moral rule of conduct, I may have some objections to present on philosophical grounds.
As Oscar Wilde said, “The only thing one really knows about human nature is that it changes. Change is the one quality we can predicate of it. The systems that fail are those that rely on the permanence of human nature, and not on its growth and development.” (The Soul of Man Under Socialism). At the root of change in living forms, we find mutations, so the future belongs to mutants. If the future belongs to mutants, it doesn’t matter in the least whose offspring it is that mutates. The mutant of the future does not look more like his ancestor than like any sterile individual of our days.
When a mutation procures a sustainable advantage and creates a mutant species, it is not the qualities my descent and I do share that are important to my descent, but those they and I do not share. Were my descent not my descent, but another’s, it would be the same; my mutant descent and I are strangers to each other, in virtue of that very minority rule that is at the ground of inclusive fitness or kin selection: “Any two members of a species, whether they belong to the same family or not, usually share more than 90 per cent of their genes. What, then, are we talking about when we speak of the relatedness between brothers as ½, or between first cousins as 1/8? The answer is that brothers share ½ of their genes over and above the 90 per cent (or whatever it is) that all individuals share in any case.” (Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, 30th Anniversary Edition, p. 288). If the genes I share with a few are of more paramount importance to me than the genes I share with many, then the genes I am the only one to possess are the top of the top, and the rest is so much rubbish. Thus could speak the mutant’s body.
By the way, remember what I said about those hopeless low-status women, who would maximize their offspring in any case because they can expect nothing but a miracle. Here the miracle is the mutation. If we aim at giving birth to the founder of the mutant lineage of the future, then we must maximize the number of our children. Away with optimizing!
Technology vs Biology
Biologists occasionally report the attacks they are subjected to, because of their writings, by mystics and philosophers, but they fail to see, seemingly, that their most dangerous enemy is not those metaphysicians and literati, but technology – not because technology would prove biologists wrong, but because it is going to make their knowledge unimportant, at best anecdotal, when intelligence becomes independent of any genetic support.
No doubt biologists can explain technological developments in Darwinian terms, and I would be delighted to read such treatises, but one cannot help smiling when reading phrases such as “if the recent … technological environment stays stable long enough” (HSC, 186), for this ‘long enough’ must indeed be a long time, the authors dealing with evolutionary scales. The phrase is naive, and it was already a little bit naive in 1995. In 1997 the computer Deep Blue beat the world champion at chess; today no human chess master can beat a computer. Exponential trends in the development of computing and other technologies have led some scholars to forecast a ‘singularity’ in the future, although I strongly object to the name because it compares something that has never happened yet under the conditions of our experience, namely an intelligence independent from genetic support, with things that cannot happen under no condition of our experience, namely infinite density in relativistic black holes and infinite heat in the relativistic Big Bang, so-called singularities of physics (see Thoughts III here).
Elsewhere (here, in French) I have stressed that genetic reproduction is a hindrance to knowledge transmission, because every new individual must be taught from scratch, and the loss of time and energy this state of affairs generates is tremendous. This, linked with certain characteristics of mental activity, has convinced me of an autonomous movement of technology towards the making of a new kind of being. Let me add the following. By responding to needs, technology has made the biological mechanisms that respond to those needs an encumbrance. It creates the need to get rid of these biological mechanisms, even though they are connected to the recipient organs of the service. In contemporary urban settings, people are compelled to devote significant portions of their time to futile physical exercizes, such as jogging on treadmills, with the sole aim of preventing their bodies from impairing their activity. Our bodies are not suited any more to the life we’re living.
To illustrate the autonomy of technological development, let’s take leisure. Technological conditions have been fulfilled for decades to put an end to most of human toil, but humanity keeps toiling. “Leisure is a condition for which the human species has been badly prepared, because until very recently it was enjoyed by only a few, who contributed very little to the gene pool.” (B. F. Skinner, Beyond Freedom and Dignity).
Only a collapse of the technological civilization could preserve genetic transmission. By reading Baker’s writings, one is primed, in a way, to see any achievement outside reproduction as castles in the air (however transient the priming may be and the final impression always that science must go on). This, in Ibsen’s famous play The Master Builder, is of what Hilde convinces the master builder Solness – he dies before eloping with her, by the way. Technology, however, is no castle in the air if its definition is: the making of a new being. DER GEIST is awakening.
January 3rd, 2016
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. Testes and penis endowments are similar across chimpanzees, and other promiscuous primate species, and humans (the data at my disposal concerns testes 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 testes 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?
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.
[See comments on my misunderstanding in this section. When reading ‘clear eyes’ I wrongly undestood ‘fair eyes.’]
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 passage 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 – if they are not intended as make-believe, that is.
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 with the blessings of the head of the national clergy. This brave man was convinced, in his deepest inner self, based on what evidence one wonders, 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.