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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

War of the Sexes: Part 4 - Gamy

In trying to understand the War of the Sexes, I was wondering whether or not we can learn anything from the mating habits of other mammals.  I haven't spent a lot of time researching it, but my current conclusion is: probably not.  The following few paragraphs summarize what I found.

There are plenty of examples of monogamous, polygamous, and promiscuous mating systems found across mammals and primates.  Every single mating system is utilized by some primate or other.  Our cousins the gorilla have "a unimale social system and a polygynous mating system." Our closest cousins, the chimpanzees, are promiscuous with lots of variations within the promiscuous mating system, both within and between species (common and bonobo chimps). Various human cultures have utilized most of the mating systems as well.

Rape or "[s]exual aggression by males toward females is widespread among social mammals."  Non-human females don't seem to be terribly bothered by sexual coercion in that they seem to remain fully functional in its aftermath. Human females may be uniquely fragile in that they sometimes suffer debilitating trauma from unwanted sexual activity.

The difference in human and chimp genomes is 1.23 percent:
the publication of a rough draft of the chimp genome in the journal Nature immediately told scientists several important things. First they learned that overall, the sequences of base pairs that make up both species' [i.e., humans and chimps] genomes differ by 1.23% -- a ringing confirmation of the 1970 estimates -- and that the most striking divergence between them occurs, intriguingly, in the Y chromosome, present only in males. [emphasis added]
The emphasized words could be interpreted to mean that human females are mostly somewhat refined, hairless chimpanzees, while the human male is significantly more evolved from our closest cousins:
As far back as 1972, Elaine Morgan, a feminist, writing in The Descent of Woman, noted that in fact the role of females hadn't changed much from chimp to human. Mothers nurse and care for their offspring in basically the same way chimps do. In terms of social role, there really isn't much difference between human females and other animals. 
What has changed is the role of males. Among chimps, males hang out in groups, form alliances, forage together, and do a lot of bickering over status. They do not participate at all in child rearing. By the time hunting-and-gathering tribes arrive, however, men have been folded into the family. Monogamy predominates and both parents participate in child rearing. The extraordinary innovation is "fatherhood," a role that doesn't really exist elsewhere in nature.
Of course, not all human societies are monogamous.  And with the War of the Sexes, we seem to be moving rapidly away from monogamy to some combination of polygamy and promiscuity. Promiscuous as far as having sex goes, though having sex with the intention of avoiding children may not count as "mating."  As far as having children goes, my guess is that we're moving mostly towards a polygamous society with the alpha males servicing (but not marrying) the majority of females.

Relative to polygamy, monogamy benefits beta males, allowing them to mate.  It also benefits alpha females, allowing them to monopolize an alpha male.  In a species where the females are completely responsible for child-rearing (which is the vast majority of species), polygamy hugely benefits beta females.  In a species that relies on males to help with raising children, and in particular in a species where males will only willingly help with raising their own children, polygamy is substantially less advantageous for beta females.

In the past, when western civilization was much less wealthy and had almost no safety net, it was a real struggle for a single woman to raise children on her own and survive (and have the children survive).  It was far better for her to be stuck with a beta male helping raise the family - survival for her and her brood was much more likely.  Indeed, they might even thrive in good times.  Sure, the children might be genetically inferior relative to having an alpha male as a father, but it was still better than no surviving children at all.

The west is much richer now.  With safety nets in place, survival is virtually guaranteed.  As a result, it's far less imperative that a beta female attach herself to a beta male.  There may still be advantages to being married to a beta male, but having healthy children and being able to raise them through adulthood is not one of them.  Thus, it seems predictable that beta females would become much more demanding regarding which males they would be willing to mate with and they would be willing to leave that male much more quickly if even the possibility of a better opportunity presented itself.  The downside is pretty small, especially with the reasonable, or even favorable divorce settlements that women often get.

My guess is that this female "hypergamy" is the basis for women and men "going their own way."  Beta women are logically choosing to mate above their "station" (where "mating" means having children as opposed to just having sex) and beta men realize they have nothing to offer relative to alpha males and look for alternative ways to fill their lives.  My guess is that the impact on civilization as a whole will be significant, but not devastating, but those are topics for future posts in this series.

32 comments:

Howard said...

Of course I'm just the kind of patriarch who would advocate turning the marriage penalty into the marriage bonus. If properly structured, that could contribute to a worthwhile course correction.

erp said...

Howard, if they were all like you, we wouldn't be having this conversation...

and just for the record, I've said it before and I'll say it again, Feminism has nothing to do with women's rights. It's merely another hook for the narrative, which BTW I'm seeing referred to by that name quite often now and aren’t we lucky living at a time when as the media assures us, things couldn’t be better!

Bret, As far as having children goes, my guess is that we're moving mostly towards a polygamous society with the alpha males servicing the majority of females. I’m pretty sure this ain't gonna happen unless we go back to Pashas and harems – unless you mean that children in future will be mass produced in government nurseries like potted plants – then I agree the embryos will be custom made.

I agree with you on "fatherhood" being a modern construct and I'm not sure how it works or whether I'd have liked it. In our house, dad’s job was to go to work; mom’s job was to run the family circus on what he earned. The kids’ job was go grow up strong and healthy, go to school and become grown ups (providing grandchildren was the icing on the cake).

There was some crossover responsibilities, but basically that covered all bases.

Mommy did not feel unfulfilled or diminished by her role as much of feminist doggerel alleges. In fact, I had a very high paying job before taking on motherhood, so I knew it was a heck of a lot easier than the 24/7 job of being mom, especially in the days before microwave ovens!

Bret said...

Howard wrote: "Of course I'm just the kind of patriarch who would advocate turning the marriage penalty into the marriage bonus."

Well, that should at least boost the gay marriage rate! :-)

Bret said...

erp wrote: "I’m pretty sure this ["polygamous society with the alpha males servicing the majority of females"] ain't gonna happen unless we go back to Pashas and harems – unless you mean that children in future will be mass produced in government nurseries like potted plants – then I agree the embryos will be custom made."

I wasn't clear. I was using the zoological definition of polygamy - mating as opposed to marriage. The alpha male won't bother to marry the beta females, he'll just get them pregnant. Some (or maybe even most) will use the sperm bank, but using an alpha male directly gives the opportunity to visualize where the sperm is coming from.

Ultimately, the children will be supported at least in part by the government, just as single mothers get support now. I predict that support will increase over time (though it hasn't increased in a while).

Perhaps "test tube" babies will become a common reality one day. Then, of course, men can have children without women as well.

erp wrote: '..."fatherhood" being a modern construct...'

Again, that's with regard to doing anything to support the young. No other primate male supports child rearing in any way. Human males working and earning money and allowing that to be used to raise the children counts as "fatherhood" and is perhaps the most important thing a father can do.

On the other hand, even long ago, fathers were usually available to interact with children, teaching them skills (especially sons) and modeling behavior. Perhaps giving some moral and disciplinary guidance as well.

erp wrote: "...in the days before microwave ovens."

There were days before microwave ovens? :-)

erp said...

Yes, no nuking and it was hades!

Getting back to fatherhood. Of course fathers interacted with kids. Kids learned life skills from their parents, but in many, even most households, men controlled the purse. I was very much in the minority as manager of family funds (even through my husband is a CPA -- perhaps thinking it over now, that was the reason -- he didn't want to bring his work home).

:-)

Bret, please sit down for this: There were no credit cards back then either and lots of people didn’t even have checking accounts. Husbands doled out greenbacks for household expenses or had tabs running at the local butcher, baker and candlestick maker. Nice part about that was groceries were delivered. Most women my age didn’t drive until after they were married and moved to the suburbs where it was a necessity.

Yes, traditionally many wives had to ask their husbands for money for everything. Ya still think men had it equally bad?

IMO things began to change for women after the war just as it did for blacks and everything would have progressed in an orderly manner had the narrative in the form of rabble rousers/community organizers not revved up and turned our world up-side-down using women’s rights, Jim Crow and the draft as hooks and then proceeded to throw the baby out with the bath water.

Bret said...

erp,

I was joking. There were no microwaves when I was young either. I didn't have a microwave until well after college when a house guest couldn't stand to not have a microwave available and bought one for us.

I don't watch TV and didn't bother to own one, but my father-in-law visited and couldn't stand not having a TV available and bought us one of those. It then sat gathering dust after he left.

erp said...

Bret, it wasn't a question of not having a microwave, they weren't available for the mass market until 1967 and my super cautious engineer brother advised they were not, in his opinion, safe for use around kids, so we didn’t get one until the late 70’s when we moved to Vermont and the kids were mostly grown.

Clovis e Adri said...

Guys,

Well, while you remember so many years past, I wish you a nice news years's eve for the one that's coming.


IMHO, there are a few flaws in your analysis Bret, to begin with this binary division between alpha and beta males. Not to mention the bit about fatherhood being present only among humans (take a look at penguins, for example).

But the main point I disagree with is your conclusion: "Beta women are logically choosing to mate above their "station" [...] and beta men realize they have nothing to offer relative to alpha males and look for alternative ways to fill their lives."

IOW, so called beta males have seen a resource getting scarcer, and the result is that such resource gets less and less valuable. Makes perfect sense, right?

Actually, supply and demand logic would point us to the contrary of your conclusion. As most men/women need no wife/husband today in order to mate, why would they bother? Where supply is plenty, why stick to scarcity?

If liberalism is leading to the fall of nuclear family, I rather doubt it is for lack of women for the males out there, whatever adjective you box them in.

Bret said...

Clovis wrote: "... to begin with this binary division between alpha and beta males."

Thought it was obvious that it's not binary, rather two somewhat overlapping groups. I'll probably update the post at some point since it wasn't clear to you, it won't be clear to others either.

Clovis wrote: "...fatherhood..."

Well, perhaps that author was exaggerating a bit, but I'm not sure penguin fatherhood is quite the same, "Happy Feet" not withstanding. :-)


Clovis wrote: "...beta males have seen a resource getting scarcer, and the result is that such resource gets less and less valuable. "

I think you have this upside down. If for some reason beef becomes scarcer, steak gets more and more expensive, fewer people can afford steak and therefore don't eat it (they switch to chicken or beans instead). As desirable women get more and more scarce, fewer men can afford them and decide to go elsewhere.

Or perhaps I'm not sure what you're trying to say.

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

Following your own example, people stuck with beans usually crave for the day they'll be able to afford steaks.

The lack of interest for women implied in the "men on strike" narrative does not conform to the above picture.

It is better compared to the case of chicken: being affordable and plenty, people consume it but do not care much about it.

There again, it is a story about over-supply, not about scarcity.

Bret said...

Clovis,

I'm completely lost now.

You wrote, "Where supply is plenty, why stick to scarcity?"

The supply of what is plenty?

Clovis e Adri said...

Mating partners, Bret.

Annoying Old Guy said...

Clovis;

This is clearly not consistent - "being affordable and plenty, people consume it". The whole point is the lack of "consumption".

Bret said...

Clovis,

Regarding "mating partners," are you talking all/some, all/male/female, all/alpha/beta, potential/actual, sex-only/hookups/short-term-relationships/child-bearing/long-term/lifelong?

This post is focused on beta-females no longer needing beta-males for survival and fulfillment. I'm still unable to decipher your comments relative to that (or any) context.

One minor difference between steak and females is that steak doesn't set its own price (buyers and sellers do), whereas females get some say in their own price.

Clovis e Adri said...

AOG,

---
The whole point is the lack of "consumption".
---
I disagree - there is no lack of consumption whatsoever.

People are mating more than ever, they just are not necessarily doing it under the vows of a marriage.

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

I am not adopting your alpha/beta scheme because, sincerely, I have not the slightest idea what does that mean.

So regarding mating partners, to answer your questions in their orignal order, I am talking about: all, all, all, potential and actual, and the last one is not meaningful.


Trying to clarify my point, Bret, there is no shortage of women for men, and if they are not in stable marriages at the same rate of bygone days, that has nothing to do with lack of mating partners, but with the opposite - too much choice and possibilities for people to conform to one long term option only.

Peter said...

Whenever Bret & co. get in touch with their inner evolutionists on this subject and start going on about mating systems, procreation, alpha and beta men and women, survival advantages, etc., I am overcome with a desire to see the anniversary cards they give to their wives.

Bret said...

Clovis wrote: "I am not adopting your alpha/beta scheme..."

The rule-of-thumb is that an alpha male is a "666" male: 6 figures income, 6 feet tall, and has a 6-pack. In other words, if someone barely makes $100,000, is barely 6 feet tall, and barely has a six-pack, he's just barely an alpha male. Obviously, that's not hard and fast and there are tradeoffs, but rather a guide post. Beta-males are non-alpha males. Alpha and beta females are those that in a strictly monogamous society would naturally end up pairing with the alpha and beta males respectively.

So that's as good a definition as any. And while the "666" qualities may not all be directly more attractive than non-666 qualities to all women, those qualities are probably pretty highly correlated with other things that are. For example, relative to someone making minimum wage, 5' 6", and 60 pounds overweight, they probably are more charismatic, have more leadership abilities, exude a more powerful aura, are probably more self-confident, are probably more in control, etc., all of which at least some women find attractive.

But I suppose your not knowing what I "mean" has little to do with lack of definition, and more to do with you believing that for every fat and stupid little frog there's somewhere a toad who thinks he's the pinnacle of Prince Charmings.

That's definitely not what it looks like to me after decades of observation, both my generation and my children's. If the frog/toad metaphor is how you see it, then we'll just have to disagree. The fat and stupid little frogs are never desired by anybody except in desperation. And there's no desperation any longer.

Clovis wrote: "...there is no shortage of women for men..."

No physical shortage. The women have chosen to "price" themselves such that only alpha males can afford them.

There are now thousands of websites with men complaining that women are demanding more than they can possibly deliver and other websites where women complaining about how useless men are. Those women physically exist but are not accessible to beta men.

Clovis wrote: "...has nothing to do with lack of mating partners, but with the opposite - too much choice..."

That's what I'm sayin'. Beta females now have a great deal more choice and their choice is to NOT commit and mate with beta males. Staying single, sperm banks, flings with alphas, or short term marriage and then divorcing betas are all way, way ahead of the traditional "till death do us part" with a beta.

And if I was a beta female, I'd choose all those ahead of being stuck with a beta male too!

Bret said...

Peter wrote: "...get in touch with their inner evolutionists..."

What does this have to do with evolution? It would look exactly the same if it evolved or was created, no?

Bret said...

Clovis wrote: "People are mating more than ever..."

I think that having sex with the intention of NOT (ever) having children doesn't count as "mating" in this context. For this context, that's more in the entertainment category and is little different than, say, masturbation.

It's a gray area, but more on that in future posts in this series.

erp said...

Bret, isn't 666 the devil's number? Maybe those guys get the starlet like good lookers, but I’ve noticed lot of real alpha males (they come in all sizes and shapes), especially those who've played around quite a bit, look for more than the flashy good looks when they decide to get married. So please describe the alpha female because standard good looks isn’t part of the mix I don’t think. Beta females who have nothing but looks going for them don't get the alpha males of the type you describe except temporarily. It starts in junior high, it’s more likely they’d get a nerd who’s bedazzled by them.

Anyway, what does a girl do if after a couple of years the paragon of manly attributes you marry, loses his job either due to gambling, women, drinking, etc. or to the economy tanking, 6 pack and hair long gone and even probably shrinks a little due to the 60 extra pounds pulling down on his back??? Dump him and look for the nerdy guy who wants nothing more than a wonderful girl like you and a family and as a bonus, might make big bucks as well.

I think it was Bill Gates who said, “Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.”

Annoying Old Guy said...

Peter;

You would probably treasure a picture of my wife's face when I told her I started dating her as the result of a research project to select my best mating options.

Clovis;

AFAICT it is the alpha males who are enjoying the increased sexual supply, while beta males turn to porn and computer games, not just not mating (using Bret's terminology) but not interacting with females in general.

erp said...

Howard, Bret & aog, you too Skipper:

Just for my own edification, do you give your wives "Hallmark Moments" type greeting cards on your anniversary?

Bret said...

Erp wrote: "...Hallmark..."

Sometimes.

More often it's something I created. A poem or something like this song that I wrote for her or something like that.

Annoying Old Guy said...

erp;

Now and then. SWIPIAW much prefers flowers, which I get for birthday and anniversary without fail.

She also got a mother in law who said to her "I'm so happy you put up with my son. Let me now if know if he gives you any trouble.".

Bret said...

erp wrote: "So please describe the alpha female ..."

Sorry. Can't, except as they are chosen by men.

Women are simpler in this regard, in my opinion. Women are attracted to wealth and power, each of which is quantifiable. Men are more visual and are attracted to that which they are visually attracted to and other than things like "big boobs" (which I happen to find unattractive) and "shapely" (whatever that means), the rules for what men are attracted to seem to be harder to put into words.

Re: nerds. Techies are often 666 men. The ones who are tend to be less nerdly than other techies.

Peter said...

Evolution, natural history, whatever, Bret. The point is that this stuff can be pretty persuasive until one remembers no one actually chooses a "mate" or gets married for any of these reasons.

As a member in good standing of Local 362 of the International Brotherhood of Beta Males (we prefer mediation and never go on strike), I think it's a tragedy so many alpha women don't realize what they are missing until it's too late. OK, so maybe we struggle a bit to compete in the area of "procreation" (nudge, nudge...wink, wink), but if it's a cup of hot cocoa and a foot rub before bed you're after, we're definitely the ticket.

erp said...

Bret, that was beautiful. The music and words brought a tear to my eye. Mrs. Bret is a lucky girl, but then you're obviously worthy of her too.

aog, I'm sure SWIPIAW never had to bring in reinforcements. My daughter's mother-in-law said something similar to me. She said she can't understand how her son got a girl like my daughter. I kinda thought the same thing, but after 31 years, they're still together in every way.

Flowers are lovely.

Looks like both you boys are on the same page as your girls.

May it always be so.

erp said...

Women are attracted to wealth and power ...

That's an outrageous statement!

Look around you. Is that what see among friends and family? I don't.

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

---
The rule-of-thumb is that an alpha male is a "666" male: 6 figures income, 6 feet tall, and has a 6-pack.
---
Boo. As Erp pointed out, your definition gets murky once you realize those features may change over time.

Maybe, instead of spelling Greek letters, you should just talk about rich versus non-rich males. That pretty much covers your points, since the number of digits in income clearly surpass in importance the other numbers involved.

---
Alpha and beta females are those that in a strictly monogamous society would naturally end up pairing with the alpha and beta males respectively.
---
Which means that men command the women letters - if rich females marry poor guys, she is still beta? The amusing thing is that you are a father of two girls, really...

---
But I suppose your not knowing what I "mean" has little to do with lack of definition,
---
No, no. I really had no idea what definition you had in mind. This talk about alpha males may have made some sense when we were hunter-gatherers, or something a bit later too, but IMO it makes little sense for quite some time now.

---
The fat and stupid little frogs are never desired by anybody except in desperation. And there's no desperation any longer.
---
Most nerds I know have either married or something near that, even people I couldn't ever think would be capable of.

Maybe we live in quite different societies, but in the ones covered by my experience, I keep telling you: men have no problem finding women if they want to. It may take some time, e.g. nerds usually shunned while teenagers may need to wait until adulthood, but that's how it has been since olden days too.

---
The women have chosen to "price" themselves such that only alpha males can afford them.
---
You just can't back up that with some statistically significant data, can you?

Stories about women in search of rich men are as old as our species, yet that has never been really much of a problem.

---
There are now thousands of websites with men complaining that women are demanding more [...]
---
Gosh, Bret, that must be the worst argument you've ever made.

There are now thousands of websites with men complaining they were kidnapped by aliens too.


---
Beta females now have a great deal more choice and their choice is to NOT commit and mate with beta males. Staying single, sperm banks, flings with alphas, or short term marriage and then divorcing betas are all way, way ahead of the traditional "till death do us part" with a beta.
---
We must ive in very different worlds indeed, Bret.

In the world I see around, those women wishing to stay single are the exception by far.

And if you track the statistics of the beta divorcers, they usually end up hooking up with new betas all over again, so if the beta status was the problem, they surely don't know it.

---
I think that having sex with the intention of NOT (ever) having children doesn't count as "mating" in this context.
---
To which you forget that people in such relationships do not have a zero rate of error in their contraceptive efforts.

Clovis e Adri said...

AOG,

---
AFAICT it is the alpha males who are enjoying the increased sexual supply, while beta males turn to porn and computer games, not just not mating (using Bret's terminology) but not interacting with females in general.
---
I don't live in your society, neither lived the many long years you already have, but that's definitely not my impression.

What I see is young (and not so young) adults who just won't commit (or won't commit for too long) because they don't need to, for there is no longer rewards for settling to a nuclear family life. In not few cases, there may even be incentives to the contrary.

Of course, there are those non-relational people who keep to themselves by will or have great difficulty to socialize - but there again, it has been always like that, think Eleanor Rigby.

Bret said...

Clovis wrote: "...you should just talk about rich versus non-rich males..."

I think power is an important part of the equation.


Clovis wrote: "...if rich females marry poor guys, she is still beta?..."

If he's a super hunk, then he's still alpha, though it seems to me that some more well-off females marry what I'd call a "pet" who's most assuredly not alpha.

But I'm not saying that absolutely everybody or even nearly everybody exactly follows the alpha/beta rules. Just that in my experience and observation, it's an inclination.


Clovis wrote: 'Maybe we live in quite different societies..."

I suspect you're right.

One thing to keep in mind is that I suspect all of your peers are alphas relative to the larger society. Mine peers are as well.


Clovis wrote: "...can't back up that with some statistically significant data..."

Not sure. Likely nothing direct so only indirect like falling marriage rates, increasing number of never married people, and falling fertility rates which were presented in the previous part.


Clovis wrote: "...that must be the worst argument you've ever made."

No, I've made worse, I'm sure - I'm old after all with plenty of time to make iffy arguments. However, your retort might actually be the worse argument you've ever made. :-)


Clovis wrote: "...you forget that people in such relationships do not have a zero rate of error in their contraceptive efforts. "

Not really. There's always abortion so if they keep the baby it's by choice, at least after the fact.