Sex and seduction: the lessons of evolutionary psychology

Do you need a wingman (an ally) to seduce? Today we offer you nothing less than Darwin's help. Or at least the help of Peggy Sastre, doctor of philosophy of science, specialist in evolution. She recently published Orphan hatred, by Anne Carrière editions, a very documented but also very funny essay (oh yes, let's clarify: Peggy Sastre has a very cash style). Here is the perfect opportunity to get back on track, sexually, before summer.

What is the physical type that women are "wired" to prefer?
It all depends on the context … As a general rule, like other females in the rest of the animal kingdom, women have desires responding to a double reproductive strategy: if they are looking for a sire or if they are looking for a father (for their children). In the first case, it is the fairly low genetic quality of the forehead that prevails: we want the big, strong, testosterone because it is an index of good immunity (and we are seduced without even being strictly aware of it) . In the second, the physical does not matter as long as you have signals of power, lavishness and protection: the goal is to find someone who will be able, quite literally speaking, to protect your genes from the need .

In many species, only the first strategy counts because the father's investment is in absent subscribers: the main thing is to find a good genetic and basta party, happen that may (especially since life is “lonely, poor, unpleasant, brutal and short ”, as the other said). In humans, it is different and a little more complex, in particular because we are part of the approximately 5% of species for which the parental investment of males does not necessarily end once the ovum is fertilized. It can even vary its reproductive success or fitness at all, that is to say roughly the number of children that we can have and who will reach sexual maturity so that they reproduce in turn and offer posterity to our genes.

The irony of the story is that the few studies analyzing a possible change in female choices under the effect of hormonal contraception show that it tilts the pendulum … on the low side of the forehead. As if technoscience were a revealer of our most primitive instincts.

What behaviors stand out from the crowd?
In a species as social – and with sociality as complex – as ours, it is a safe bet that behavioral variability was a reproductive asset much more powerful than morphological variability on the scale of evolution. And again, the context is crucial. For the past few years, I have taken a passion for research analyzing the effect of demography on fluctuations in the sex market.

Depending on the operational sex-ratio of a population (i.e. the number of individuals of reproductive age), males and females (whether or not they are human) do not have the same interest in to be sexually fussy, to target partners of sexual value equivalent or not to theirs, to focus on the search for contenders of the opposite sex or to participate in a nasty competition with their fellow men of the same sex.

According to the models of the mathematician David M. Ramsey, the men would be bimodal (in search of partner / taking care of their offspring) while the women would be trimodal (in search of partner / not receptive / in the process of take care of their offspring). When in research mode, the success of individuals therefore logically depends on the proportion of members of the opposite sex connected to the same wavelength.

In the essay, you explain that women prefer men who are already in a relationship, or who are already fathers: how is this possible?
Because they signal an aptitude for engagement. In species with a strong paternal investment like ours, a female has every interest in shoeing the best possible father, that is to say a male most able to provide him, as well as with his offspring, time, energy, attention, protection, resources, territories and so on. It is therefore biologically logical that a man in a couple and / or already a father is terribly attractive. It’s as if our prehistoric spirit whispered in our ears: “If one of your fellows has the grappling hook, it's probably a good match, then go ahead and steal it. ”

It is one of the multiple manifestations of the law of least action omnipresent in the known universe: why get tired of doing the sorting and selection work yourself if someone else has already stuck to it ? That's as much energy as we can save and invest elsewhere.

Is this also valid for men: they prefer women already in a relationship, already mothers ?No. This is the great injustice of the state of a placental mammal: only females literally bring offspring into the world and therefore have the certainty of sharing 50% of their genes with it. In human males, it is known that fatherhood uncertainty has been a major adaptive problem during their evolutionary history. This risk, if proven, means that you have invested resources at a loss in offspring that are not yours. In terms of fitness, it is a vital danger equivalent to that represented by parasites and which, for many researchers, comes just after the danger of death. So it's not nothing … Reason why natural selection has produced men rather attracted by signals of youth and fertility, because they are living beings who, like everyone else, want to put their genes at 'shelter.

To summarize: you can bet on testosterone at the same time (without necessarily appropriating the attitudes bottom-of-the-fore) AND on fatherhood (commitment plays in your favor), while having good excuses when your eyes slide on the students at the beach.
But of course, a little nuance. Different reproductive strategies work on different people in different contexts. Childless intellectuals are not condemned to celibacy.

→ To find out more: La Haine Orpheline, by Peggy Sastre. (The book talks about many other evolutionary aspects in our daily lives. Personally, I loved the chapter on intergenerational conflicts. Big recommendation!)

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