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