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Dec 09 2010

Pop psych mag cites evolutionary evidence for female fickleness

Few pseudo-entities spook the spinster butt-boils like pseudoscience, and few pseudosciences are as a hot spork in a spinster’s obstreperal lobe like evolutionary psychology.

Evolutionary psychology rests on the shaky (often enpornulated) hypothesis that modern human social behaviors are actually species-preserving adaptations. Because evolutionary psychology, like all psuedoscience, is administered by jackasses who are heavily invested in patriarchy, the behaviors in question just happen to be the very same behaviors commonly observed to be beloved of patriarchyists. And also of sexists, misogynists, horndogs, militarists, straight people, politicians, consumers of pornography, consumers of “beauty,” racists, godbags, liberal men, Hollywoodists, homophobes, matrimonialists, and other cogs in the megatheocorporatocratic machine. Everybody who loves the current world order loves the romantic myth that it is the result of the random interaction of mindless genes, or biological “design.” Sadly, the world order is actually the result of something way more sinister: the completely arbitrary social construct of the culture of domination and submission.

Here are some of the modern human social behaviors explained by evolutionary psychology as the result of natural impulses that apparently evolved around the ancestral campfire: rape, heterosexuality, shooting innocent Texas Hill Country deer with crossbows and consuming the meat at tailgate parties conducted in parking lots at football games, femininity, etc.

By invoking no less an indomitable and popular force of nature than evolution itself, evolutionary psychology confers upon itself the gravitas of scientific holy writ. And for sheer gravitas, you can’t beat the American periodical Psychology Today.* Check out this illustration accompanying a Psychology Today article on the effects of women’s menstrual cycles on their hotness:

Nothing says “take this research seriously” like photos of pornulated women gettin it on with giant plushies.

Like many articles in popular magazines, the aforementioned “The Double Life of Women” by Annie Murphy Paul** unlocks for the pornsick psychology buff the sexy mysteries of those ineffable bizarros, women. Annie Murphy Paul uses revelations facilitated by evolutionary psychology to make the (tired old) case that women are pretty much prisoners of biology, or, more specifically, of the menstrual cycle. Her apparent thesis: ovulating women are constrained by biological impulse to go to bars, wear tight dresses, and emit musical, magical laughter, whereupon they become attracted to male lantern-jawed superheroes. Non-ovulating women, on the other hand, are practically a different species. They are drab and dull and fail to effervesce or mate, and prefer pansy-ass dudes.***

Paul cites research conducted, unfortunately, by psychologists and “dating advisers,” since who else would know from this shit? One researcher dude juxtaposed menstrual cycle data with the nightly revenues of (a whopping) 18 lap dancers. Awesome.

Research dude: Hmm. I wonder where we could conduct some research on ovulating women?

Grad student dude: How about a strip club? We can totally multitask by working and abusing the sex class at the same time.

Research dude: It’s pure genius! I’ll take full credit.

In this case research dude concluded that not only do strip club clientele discern whether lap dancers are ovulating, but that pervs lavish more cash on ovulating lap dancers than they do on dull old non-ovulating ones. Paul calls this “one of the most arresting studies of male responses to female fertility cues.”

Female fertility cues! Apparently women who work in strip clubs are not, contrary to what spinster aunts have maintained through the ages, just trying to make the best of their fucked-up sex class status by working themselves through law school or a drug habit or a musician boyfriend. These hotsy-totsy babes are in fact sending their slavering clients “female fertility cues.” Furthermore, strippers who take birth control pills are “‘shooting [themselves] in the foot,’ since [they'll] miss out on the bountiful tips garnered by women in estrus.” That’s right. Sexploitation isn’t about male domination, it’s about human reproduction. Human reproduction is natural. Natural is good. Therefore sexploitation is good.

And that, young onions, is how ev-psych shills for patriarchy.

Meanwhile, so strong is the ovulating human female’s instinct for total sexiness, it turns out, that its expression is involuntary and entirely automated by evolutionary design. Even if she does not wish to advertise her ovulational status, apparently the truth will out. Ovulating women sparkle, they physically morph into hotter versions of themselves, and they take “social risks.”

“It’s difficult for women to fully conceal all signs of fertility — some of them inevitably leak out. [...] We call this ‘leaky cues hypothesis’.”

Ovulating women are not in control of their cues! They simply cannot resist the primal urge to exude pornulated dudefantasy. They are hardwired for hustling! That’s why you see so many drunk women in bars, their fertility cues puddling up at their feet.

“With her tight clothes, alluring scent, and seductive waist-hip ratio, a woman in estrus is sending out a signal not unlike the chimp or the cat in heat.”

It will amuse the patriarchy blamer to note that Paul here reprises one of her earlier remarks, wherein she alluded to the “genitalia of female chimps” which “swell and turn a dramatic shade of pink”. It is a fact — documented by the Spinstitute for the Study of EvPsych Clichés — that no author contriving an antifeminist paean to evolutionary psychology can ever resist comparing sexxed-up women to the dramatically pink butts of chimpanzees. The yowling feline trope, tired and moldy though it is, is a pure bonus track.

So, to recap: women are completely at the mercy of the menstrual cycle, which makes them awesome sexbots one day, and spineless mice the next.

But isn’t this just a reiteration of the hysterical women stereotype? Not at all, says one of the kindly dude researchers.

“The traditional and rather patronizing male view was that women are fickle, that their preferences are random and arbitrary. Now it turns out that what looks like fickleness is actually deeply adaptive and is shared with the females of most animal species.”

OK, let’s get this out of the way first: does Dude even realize that ‘most animal species’ are either arthropods or nematodes, depending on which geek you’re talking to? Together they number in the millions. As in, millions of species. Here at Spinster HQ we were unable to locate any research on, for example, the fickleness of female flatworms. Maybe they like to sport around in spandex when it’s that time of the month, but published studies omit to mention it. So this guy, in his attempt to science-ize an enormously detrimental sexist stereotype, grossly mischaracterizes the scope of the planet’s animalian diversity to further his own anthrocentric worldview.

And also, do not speak to me, dude, of “the rather patronizing male view.” How fucking patronizing is it to argue that ‘fickleness’ is a fucking adaptation shared by all females everywhere? That women’s behavior is, in fact, irrational, only now this irrationality has scientifically proven reasons? This dude is killin’ me!

Oh, and you’ll love this: the helpful suggestion that women can keep themselves out of harm’s way by not “drinking too much at a bar or party at that time of the month.” I’m not even kidding. Dudes cannot resist violating fertile females, so lock yourself away from life’s rich pageant when you’re ovulating or you’re just askin’ for it.

Thus we see that evolutionary psychology attempts to rationalize the worst aspects of humanity by asserting, essentially, this:

Boys will be boys.

______________________
* I found my copy of Psychology Today in the checkout lane at Whole Foods. Pop psychology is apparently a good fit with $27 apples and biohealthy yeast-o-matic colon-cleansing pills. The instances of heteronormative dudecentricity exhibited by this magazine cover are too numerous to list. Help me out!

** Paul, Annie Murphy. “The Double Life of Women.” Psychology Today Dec. 2010: 72-79. Print.

***Naturally, because evolutionary psychology cannot satisfactorily explain homosexuality, no mention is made of the randy double lives of ovulating lesbians, even though they are women. After a fashion.

Photo: Miller, Greg. “The Double Life of Women.” Psychology Today Dec. 2010: 77. Detail. Print.

137 comments

3 pings

  1. DancesWithCats

    Shoot, now I gotta run out and score a copy of that issue of Psychology Today. I simply MUST find out whether I’m too good-looking, and what detrimental repercussions* I can expect if this turns out to be the case (which it probably will).

    If I am, indeed, too good-looking, how can I counteract this? What measures should I take to nullify the effects of my blinding good looks on passers-by? Should I employ a veil, ski mask, or prosthetic warts?

    Also, I am quite concerned about the decline of the Renaissance Man. This could herald the end of civilization.

    *Aside from the obvious: unwanted attention from dudez.

  2. Yardshark

    That mag cover is barf-inducing. Psych Today USED to be somewhat respectable, didn’t it? And now it wants to be Cosmo?

    This is what I and my Nigel call “4th-season-itis.” You know, just before a TV series is about to jump the shark, out come the boobs and stereotypical antifeminist behaviors in female characters who previously were more like real women.

    I conclude from this that Psychology Today is going to be cancelled soon.

  3. Zygar

    “lap dancers”—strip club workers who perform provocative dances for male customers

    Reading the article the “study” about these lap dancers was even worse than I anticipated. Science!

  4. Treefinger

    I’m hoping to get THE BONUS POINTS regarding the cover!

    - The cover of an issue on beauty displays a woman’s body, not a man’s, and the blurb detail on the article confirms that the beauty compliance of women in heteropatriarchal relationships is the only focus.
    - The representation of “beauty” selected is a blonde, white, skinny, big-boobed model wearing next to nothing.
    - The model’s head has been chopped off, since the part of her body containing her brain is (let’s be honest chaps!) not the focus here.
    - There’s a giant arrow pointing to the woman’s sexified (and probably photoshopped) curves for no discernible reason.
    - Despite the fact that PT purports to cover serious academic matters, the cover looks, at a glance, identical to the covers of Maxim and Playboy. Gotta seduce that young male market! They just threw in some pink text and relied on the fact that many women’s magazines also look identical to Maxim as a favour to the less important female readership.
    - The model’s boxing gloves are also pink. This quickly assures the dude viewer that any “female aggression” the presence of the gloves implies is only to be spent on the appropriate feminine “battle” to stay young-looking and compliant.
    - The blurb about the main article positions “what matters to men” as of the greatest importance, with an ellipsis showing that it’s actually a surprise twist that they are going to (allegedly) feature women’s opinions! Who’d a thunk it?
    - The other articles that this issue boasts include laments over the decline of the Renaissance Man (that smooth talking master of the arts and disciplines. He’d know how to put his women in their place!) and an accusatory line about “every woman’s double life”.
    - The “every” there deserves special emphasis, since it is of crucial importance that women not be treated as individuals, but as an amorphous alien mass that shares the same universal experience.
    - “Can you be too good-looking?” raises the possibility that even the most slavish devotion to complying with the beauty ultimatum is not good enough, or rather, too good. Also, it sounds like a question that should be on the cover of Cosmo.
    - It mentions the “taboo of age and sex”, which it is perpetuating itself with the cover and the ev-psych nonsense within, with a reference to a creepy song about an older woman.
    - The intense irony of asking “Depression: does it start in the gut?” when the entire cover is a trigger for the fucking disorder (at least, it is for mine).

    and finally:

    - That there is an entire issue on beauty in the first fucking place! I think the rest of the magazine business is doing a good enough job beating that horse, thanks.

    Oh, and great essay, by the way.

  5. buttercup

    Wow. You can’t even tell if the magazine is Cosmo or Psych Today if you cover the name.

  6. fannie

    “Ovulating women sparkle”

    Which confirms my theory. Edward Cullen is living a randy double life as vampire by day and an ovulating lesbian by night.

  7. XtinaS

    “With her tight clothes, alluring scent, and seductive waist-hip ratio, a woman in estrus is sending out a signal not unlike the chimp or the cat in heat.”

    You know, I’ve never actually gotten nauseated by reading something online before.

  8. Patriarchy Salyer

    That is an awesome post Jill. Thank you! I used to love PT when there was actually some helpful insight in it. But this issue is just complete crap from cover to cover. It’s not even well-researched crap that even attempts to be objective.

    I wrote them a letter concerning the articles in that issue. They never got back to me. I’m not surprised considering how long it was. Guess I can strike PT off my list of magazines to buy.

  9. clairedammit

    Treefinger, awesome.

    Also? A Cosmo cover would have been less sexist, as they would not have cut off the top of her head.

  10. ruby

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/01/world/europe/01iht-letter.html?_r=2

    This got me blaming so hard.

  11. Lizrd

    My Thursdays aren’t complete without (what people consider to be) a legitimate magazine comparing all fertile women to a “cat in heat.”

  12. Vibrating_Liz

    Brava, Treefinger!

  13. ambivalent academic

    It may warm the Blamer’s heart to know that with respect to nematodes, and I cannot speak for all of them, only those which have been extensively studied in the laboratory, the female nematodes WIN!!

    The nematode C. elegans, perhaps the most widely-studied nematode on the planet, and love of developmental biologists the world over, is comprised of two sexes: hermaphrodite (95.5% of the wild population) and males (the 0.5%). That’s right, the vast majority of C. elegans (isn’t that a lovely moniker?) are self-contained and self-sufficient. They can go about their nematodic business (including reproduction) without any interference from males, which they are unlikely to find anyway. If they are so inclined, they can mate with other hermaphroditic nematodes to swap genetic information (or they can do so with males, but again, they are unlikely to encounter many of them).

    It is safe to say that even if they had well-developed brains, nematodes would have no use for evo psych or Psychology today.

  14. cermet

    My heart hurts… Pop evo psych gives the actual field such a bad name. (You know, the field spearheaded by women that’s shown over and over again how rape is not genetically selected for and homosexuality is.) Articles like these attracts the attention of all the wrong people. I don’t know how many undergrad dudez I’ve seen that take psych classes thinking it will raise their already awe inspiring alpha male status. It would be more nauseating if I didn’t so enjoy their contorted look of pain after each test they fail.

  15. M Groesbeck

    “Enpornulated” is a great word for a horrid phenomenon.

    Of course, for the phallocratic and enpornulated mainstream of the evo-psych crowd, it’ not just that the “hypothesis that modern human social behaviors are actually species-preserving adaptations” — it’s that modern Western white patriarchal social behaviors are universally hard-wired “adaptations”. Sure, cultures outside the white segment of the U.S. middle class exist — but only for the sake of illustrating evo-psych “conclusions” by way of stereotype. There is some debate within that part of the field, of course — over whether the conservative white middle-class model of the U.S. in the 1950s or the contemporary conservative white phallocratic porn fantasy world is the “real” normative human model.

  16. Cheryl

    As a decidedly non-sparkly ovulating lesbian currently trying to get pregnant with help from non-pseudo science, I have to say that I’ve never felt less sexy. I’m nostalgic for the days when my behavior wasn’t dependent on my cycle, even if, according to the pseudo-scientists, it actually was.

  17. panickedcat

    for further blaming, read also in the same issue:

    http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201010/the-truth-about-beauty

    But only if you can read the following points without vomiting…

    1. It is truly unfair for women to expect men to like them or look at them unless they “put five or ten extra minutes into prettying up just to hang around the house,” etc. Men can’t help it.

    2. Men care about women’s looks and women do not really care that much about men’s looks and that’s natural and good. (further, no mention of women caring about women’s looks,or men about men’s). Men can make up for being short/ugly/non-symmetrical by having a barge of bucks. Woe to the woman who tries this method, for she shall be sexless and doomed.

    3. Trying to be pretty is like trying to be smart. It’s admirable to read books and study to improve your chances of interpersonal or professional success. Ditto for putting on lipstick.

    …otherwise, read it next to your toilet.

  18. Livid Lili

    This is the best post I’ve ever read in my entire life. Thanks Twisty, great stuff.

  19. Blind Horse

    When I ovulate I get so sparkly I even fart glitter.

  20. Comrade PhysioProf

    I found my copy of Psychology Today in the checkout lane at Whole Foods.

    I bet you wish you just picked up Us to find out about A-Rod’s latest girlfriend.

  21. sigh really?

    Here’s a much better article than this…. thing

    http://www.blaghag.com/2010/12/feminists-selective-science-phobia.html

  22. AlienNumber

    Jen McCreight is a collaborator and also an idiot (who will go down in history as the insipid “creator” of boobquake. Although let’s give her some credit: I won’t be surprised when one day she runs on a Republican platform, as Sarah Palin’s “brainier” counterpart. Vomit.)

    Jill, on a completely irrelevant note, since you love pop culture: have you seen Inside Job? Also, have you read this response from Women Against Rape– http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/dec/08/wikileaks-rape-allegations-freedom-of-speech. Better wastes of time than ev.psych.

  23. Treefinger

    Check out the comments in the blaghag post. Jill, you’ve been ostracized by the sifaiwu social circle for this unreasonable twaddle! I hope you’re happy.

  24. AlienNumber

    Is anybody else amused at blaghag’s notion of creative writing? Just pull as many quotes as you can and semi-coherently narrate in between.

    (I stopped reading at her second sentence, so this is more of a photo-criticism. Tell me I was wrong).

  25. Cory Albrecht

    Hey AlienNumber – you got anything other than ad hominem attacks?

    If you stopped reading Jenn McCreight’s post on Blaghag.com by the second sentence, how then do you know that it’s only semi-coherent narration? You couldn’t possibly have made up your mind before hand instead of reading her *entire* post and actually intelligently commenting on the criticisms she raised, eh?

    Of course not, because that would be just like “the patriarchy” – bigotted acceptance of stereotypes that fit your prejudices with a healthy dose of arrogant “father knows best” attitude.

    Why don’t you head over to her blag, real the *whole* post and then *intelligently* join in the conversation? Jenn’s a nice person – I got to meet her in Vegas this past summer – and she’s more than willing to change her opinions on something if somebody points out new evidence or mistakes in her reasoning. Assuming, of course, they can do it with out insults.

    Can you?

  26. Laughingrat

    What’s kinda comical is how they’re all complaining over there about Jill’s hatred of science, when what Jill hates, clearly, is bad science–pseudoscience. If they’re such science hardasses, surely they should be cheering instead, but no, they’re not really about science at all; they’re about preserving some the steaming-hot mess that is unearned privilege.

  27. Notorious Ph.D.

    “With her tight clothes, alluring scent, and seductive waist-hip ratio, a woman in estrus is sending out a signal…”

    You know, even though it’s more seductive, I simply hate how my waist-hip ratio perceptibly changes when I’m ovulating. I have to keep an entire separate wardrobe for these three days.

  28. Dr. Snarky

    @ Notorious Ph.D.: Of *course* you do. In addition to accounting for your waist-hip-ratio fluctuations, you need an ample supply of tight clothes for those three days. Two birds with one stone!

  29. Xandy

    Twisty, You have to love the range of the comments on the blaghag article.
    You’ve got two commenters calling you hysterical.
    There’s a misogynist dude who, despite his misogyny, should get a break because he’s “*trying*, even willing to learn”. How nice of him.
    Best of all, there’s the wonderful male feminist (he’s male you know!) who believes in equality.

    I think the clueless award goes to the commenter who observes:
    “Since culture can change faster than DNA, I suspect that we have encoded behavior to counteract genetic predispositions that are harmful in modern society.”

    There are no thoughts about what that modern society is (patriarchy) and the obvious implications of that, though.

    But of course, all you talk about is strawmen and ad hominems.

    Gosh Twisty, why so paranoid? Can’t you just give these researchers the benefit of the doubt? They’re trying, even willing to learn!

  30. Miss Andrist

    Re: Cosmo being less sexist by not cutting off her head

    Agree. And there would be a byline up at the top about how you can get her fabulous fall hair in 15 seconds or less. That’s how I tell a Cosmo from a Maxim: hair articles.

    ^_^

  31. April

    Women need to start commenting about what shows fertility in a man.

  32. yttik

    Good article, Twisty.

    Ovulation is such a non event for the vast majority of women, that we actually have to employ several tools if we wish to know when it is happening, such as taking your temp every day and logging your cycle on a calender for several months. If we really did leak sparkles during ovulation, none of this detective work would be necessary. Rhythm methods of birth control would be foolproof and easy. You could just look in the mirror for signs of stripper glitter and know that you are ovulating.

  33. Aunti Disestablishmentarian

    Evo Psych: We put the Junk in Junk Science.

  34. TGGP

    Most evolutionary theorists today don’t talk about “good of the species” stuff. Behaviors which cause a particular gene to spread often do so even at the expense of others in the species. There are some claims to species-level selection, sometimes used as an argument for why we’re not all aesexual/hermaphrodites (i.e why we have self-incompatibility, but that’s not what the researchers here are discussing.

  35. sargassosea

    Unscheduled dismounts bite to be sure, but this Blamer is grateful that this post is a result thereof.

    Also, I had no idea that good ‘ol Jen is an Evolutionary Psychologist. Boob-quake begins to *make sense* given this information.

  36. Bitch, Esq.

    Patriarchy’s definition of a fickle woman: One who won’t have sex with you, even though she knows you exist, but does (or you think *might*) have sex with someone else.

    I haven’t read the article (which may be the problem) but I’m confused how the pheromones and the waist-to-hip ratio (I know MINE fluctuates between a Barbie-esque beauty-compliant ratio when I’m ovulating and *utter flab* the rest of the time) make a woman fickle? After all, aren’t my pheromones and all that operating on people other than me, since I’m the female in estrus emitting them? This is all very confusing.

    But, it’s obvious what the real problem here is – none of those lap dancers would sleep with the researchers. O Woman, what a fickle, fickle beast is she.

  37. Mary Tracy9

    ““With her tight clothes, alluring scent, and seductive waist-hip ratio, a woman in estrus is sending out a signal”

    Oh my! Ovulation makes your clothes shrink! Also, how does “estrus” change your “waist-hip ratio” into a more “seductive” one? Does it make your waist shrink if you have big hips? Or does it make your hips grow if your waist is small to begin with? I’m confused!

    “I get so sparkly I even fart glitter.”

    LOL!!! So THAT’s what it was! I was wondering why this kept on happening to me over and over again.

  38. kiuku

    “a woman in estrus”

    Only in Psychology Today does casual fraternity conversation masquerade as qualified academia, though I imagine it might find a place in the Economist.

  39. kiuku

    Meanwhile I’m curious how I missed out on all this, for taking a hot bath hardly qualifies as estrusing; doesn’t even approximate it. How I missed out on Estrusing could be Psychology Todays greatest work yet.

  40. Hattie

    The British are even worse than Americans about all this essentialist crap. The New Scientist and The Economist offend constantly in this regard.
    Has anyone ever thought that Psychology Today was a serious magazine? Since never, in my opinion.

  41. nails

    I am really tempted to print tee shirts with monkey butts on them. I mean, guys will basically be slaves to me when I wear it, right? None of this half assed resembling-a-monkey-butt business for me!

  42. nails

    Nigel read the whole article, and they apparently just ASKED the strippers if they were ovulating. ???? I’ve known when I was ovulating maybe a handful of times in my long menstruation career. The really low tech way to detect ovulation is to take a basal temperature every day, and look for a day when the temperature dropped a degree or two. There are other explanations for the temperature drop of course, so it isn’t the best way, but the study dudes didn’t even do THAT. Strippers make their living off of anticipating the wants of the pornsick, I am sure that the high earners could have been swayed to say “yeah I’m ovulating” by the researchers manner while asking.

  43. Eleanore

    Cripes, Evolutionary Psychology makes me ashamed to be a part of the psychology department. There’s a great book called “Alas, Poor Darwin” that has some articles about just why it is such a ridiculous subject.

    That blaghag post was incredibly frustrating, the fact that she uses an example of a need to ingest certain food types as justification for using evolution to explain incredibly complex social behaviours is bad enough. Then she comes out with this beaut:

    “She goes on and on about how women can’t possibly have any sort of innate behaviors, or as she calls it, a “primal urge to exude pornulated dudefantasy.” Really, and we’re supposed to take you seriously?”

    Um, are we supposed to take your frankly bizarre implied assertion that any human social behaviour can ever be classified as innate seriously?

    Oh and then goes on to inform us that when they said ‘fickle’ they actually meant ‘invests more in childrearing than males’. Of course! That has so much to do with the perceived attractiveness of ovulating women!

    Gah, I have to go now. ANGRY.

  44. yttik

    “Strippers make their living off of anticipating the wants of the pornsick..”

    The thought of strippers sabotaging the Science Dudes by telling them what they want to hear makes me smirk. No doubt some of them were thinking, dude, I’m wearing two tampons and plagued by cramps so bad I can hardly feel my aching feet, but if you’ve got some weird obsession with ovulating women and red monkey butts, we’ll go there.

  45. CrowOwn's Voice

    Thank-you Jill for another top-notch incisive essay critiquing the most recent emergence of evolutionary psychology’s swamp sludge.
    Science journalist Natalie Angier has been also been wittily skewering these type of preposterous, patriarchy-embedded, “evolutionary” theories for years. Her 02/1999 New York Times article, “Men, Women,Sex, and Darwin” found at http://www.natalieangier.com/pdf/men_women_darwin.pdf is an excerpt from her terrific chapter “Of Hoggamus and Hogwash: Putting Evolutionary Psychology on the Couch” in her 1999 book, Woman: An Intimate Geography. Another pungent critique of hers on the same topic can be found in the 2003 book Sisterhood is Forever, edited by Robin Morgan.

  46. imherefromtheinternet

    Did anyone bother to read the actual paper, rather than a crappy magazine article about it. I’m guessing not even the author…

    FWIW: http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=3&ved=0CCIQFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.unm.edu%2F%7Egfmiller%2Fcycle_effects_on_tips.pdf&rct=j&q=tipping%20strippers%20ovulation&ei=FGYBTZ_mCJH2tgPX8uXBAg&usg=AFQjCNGCQXWoj2bWjTnIgxJPunf_7zN-RA&sig2=vJx1EJCsU3NtmKn8gcwT9w&cad=rja

  47. MaryK

    My stripper friends seem to make more money mid-cycle vs. when they’re menstruating, if only because a lot of them don’t want to work or don’t work as hard while riding the crimson tide, some for reasons you outline above, yttik.

    It causes me no end of amusement that many studies purport that the reason for this (making less money while menstruating) is because the d00ds are picking up on “subtle cues.”

  48. Mortisha

    Apparently there is an excuse for a one night stand gene as well.

    http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0014162

    “Correlation does not imply causation” is such a basic tenet of science

    The stupid, it burns.

  49. Xandy

    The strippers remained anonymous and after the first two briefings they recorded their responses online. They were supposed to do it for 60 days (the average was around 16, a range of 9-29) and they were supposed to report each day whether they stopped or started their period that day and how many tips they made. There’s a lot of scientific rigor, but it’s all just tragically informed by the premise that all socially enforced displays of femininity and masculinity are rooted in genetics. As I was reading the study I made a list of especially awful passages and particularly idiotic lapses in logic. There were a lot.

  50. AlienNumber

    Dear Cory, lone (does this make you feel heroic?) defender of McCreight:

    Luckily, McCreight’s blag post was actually large chunks of Jill’s essay, interrupted by semi-coherent narrative… blah blag something about how women are innately baby-making machines and Jill is paranoid and hysterical (at the same time. You go, girl!). So actually it appears that, inadvertently, I had read most of the Boobquake Lady’s essay just by reading Jill’s, which, together with the two run-ons of her own semi-coherent commentary, meant I had read most, if not all, of the blag post. My bad.

    As for insults, you are right: I have not yet had the displeasure of meeting her in person so as to observe empirically if she is indeed the idiot she appears to be from her writings. A nice idiot you say? Even more reason to keep distance.

    Which reminds me of this theory I have: McCreight is still upset Jill so brilliantly showed the futile – from a feminist perspective – ways of the Boobquake and is now seeking revenge. Under the guise of “nicely” encouraging “intelligent” “dialogue” she is putting links of her blog on this blog so she can get Jill and some other feminists enraged and nauseated (reading about anything “innately feminine” will do that to ya’). Also, she’s doing this to get her own blog roll up in the hopes that Good Morning, America will invite her on air again to bloviate. Almost brilliant, but let’s be honest: if you just wanted to read Jill’s essay, without the chunks on semi-coherent narrative, you are better off staying here.

  51. AlienNumber

    …chunks *OF.

    (grammatical incident cause by … ovulating, what else)

  52. MM

    I am unsurprised at seeing this kind of bullshit coming from Psychology Today. After all, they’re the ones who came up with this lot of misogynistic, racist, anti-feminist tripe that I read a few years ago and still makes me fume:
    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-scientific-fundamentalist/200809/barbie-manufactured-mattel-designed-evolution-i

  53. TGGP

    It occurs to me that strippers are in the business of making money by displaying an overtly sexual image to men, so in evaluating the degree to which women can hide cues of ovulation (presumably among the last things a working stripper wants to do) we would have to also examine how men react to ovulating non-strippers. Jill’s “ovulating lesbians” might actually make very good test subjects since they would presumably be among the least likely to be trying to send such signals to men (though of course the whole point would be to compare them to the non-ovulating variety).

  54. Jill

    Assuredly, no woman on the planet is unaware of how men react to ovulating non-strippers. The research you propose would only reveal the obvious.

    TGGP
    December 11, 2010 at 3:18 am

    [...] we would have to also examine how men react to ovulating non-strippers.

  55. yttik

    I read the original paper linked to above. It is as bad, if not worse, then the article in the pop-psych mag. I also read McCreight’s blog, which is enough to make you despair for the future of womankind. Come on girl, use that big evolved brain of yours and apply some reason to this piece of pseudo-science!

    McCreight also uses the old tired theme, “you give feminism a bad name.” I would really like to set up a type of Nobel Prize for those people on the internet who manage to accomplish this, because when it happens it is some of the most refreshing and truthful writing out there. We could call it the, “You Broke Feminism Award.” What that really means is that you’ve just ripped another layer off the patriarchal onion and everyone’s eyes are burning.

  56. MaryK

    I also have serious problems with their sample size. Total N was 18; 11 were “normally cycling” and 7 were taking contraceptives. This seems very low, especially for a behavioural study. I would like to see some error bars on Figure 1, too. How did they deal with a dancer’s days off?. And, I’m not exactly happy with the way they “binned” the data for figure 2. Did y’all notice that they dropped days where “naturally cycling” dancers tips were low?

    It’s all too easy to tell a story from the dancer’s perspective to explain the fluctuations in Figure 1. It would go something like this: “After a week of menstruating heavily and feeling poorly, I realized I needed to go to work again to make money. I busted ass for a good week, but then my feet were exhausted and I was tired of dudes groping me night after night. So, I took a few days off. I worked hard for another week, but then started feeling a little bloated from PMS.”

    Correlation is not causation. And, dropping data points because they’re inconvenient is intellectually dishonest.

  57. tinfoil hattie

    I can’t really care about evolutionary psychology and how terrible it is, because I’m just too danged excited that during “estrus,” I switch from a dumpy, fat, frightening no-waist-to-huge-stomach/hip ratio to a svelte, seductive waist-to-hip ratio! Woo-hoo! I’m headin’ to the strip club to see if I can find me a JOB during my estrus!

  58. Satchel

    yttik thus:

    We could call it the, “You Broke Feminism Award.”

    HAHAHAHA, brilliant. Can I be on the search committee?

  59. Princess Rot

    “With her tight clothes, alluring scent, and seductive waist-hip ratio, a woman in estrus is sending out a signal…”

    It amuses me how our supposedly hard-wired evolutionary traits change according to whatever type of female clothing or body parts are currently in fashion. I wonder if this type of article had been published during the Renaissance, would it have waxed lyrical about the etrus-ing woman’s waist circumference and the allure of her many-layered dress which leaves everything to the imagination?

  60. kiuku

    sorry honey I’m not in Estrus right now.

  61. Rabid

    By the way, the story about the sugary food does not have more evidence than this study about human estrus–just in case anyone around here thought it was a mostly accepted evo-psychological claim.

  62. Betsy

    How come ev psych always supports western modern beauty cultural practices and preferences, such as push-up bras and barbie feet, but never those stacks of neck rings they used to wear in New Guinea, or blue body paint a la pictoise?

  63. yttik

    “..the story about the sugary food..”

    Yes, I don’t buy the argument about sugar cravings being a result of evolution, either. The theory claims that we developed a taste for sugar because it is found in high calorie foods which were necessary for survival. However, in nature, the things that are sweet are not high calorie at all. Nobody packs on pounds eating berries or apples.

    People who have raised children have observed that a sweet tooth must be trained into existence. Kids are actually taught to like sugar, they aren’t born that way. Breast milk is relatively sweet, but after that, babies really prefer bland foods. Even kids who get older and have been exposed to sugar will eventually start to find it to be gross. They stop wanting to eat frosting on cakes, they get picky about candy, no longer really wanting the sweetness, but rather desiring candy that turns your tongue purple or pops in your mouth. Sugar is psychological, cultural, and gives your body a small high followed by a crash. Craving sugar is not a survival skill by any means.

    When people came to America they discovered that the people already here used a lot of honey and sweet things to preserve and flavor food. By contrast pioneers tended to use salt. People who lived with Native Americans tell stories about how strange it was to get used to the sweetness in their new diets. It doesn’t taste right if you haven’t grown up with it.

  64. TGGP

    Jill, the question is whether men can detect ovulation. The fact that they detect it in strippers who make more money when ovulating is not sufficient to generalize toward women broadly. I may be misreading your comment, but I assumed your point that men are known for acting a certain way toward women (an accurate stereotype). The point of the study would be to compare their reactions to ovulating vs non-ovulating women.

    For those who can’t get enough ovulation studies, one showing that it predicts intending to vote for Obama seems calculated to get maximum attention.

  65. Frumious B

    “With her tight clothes, alluring scent, and seductive waist-hip ratio, a woman in estrus is sending out a signal not unlike the chimp or the cat in heat.”

    Oh, for the love of Pete, human females do not have estrus cycles. Human females have menstrual cycles.

    As long as Twisty has called our attention to Psy Today, there is ample material for blaming:

    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/rethinking-men/201010/why-some-people-have-issues-men-misandry

    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cultural-animal/201012/the-reality-the-male-sex-drive

    And plenty of others which can found with very little effort.

  66. Frumious B

    PS, now and then Psy Today publishes something worth reading, too:

    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/view-the-dugout/201004/the-persecution-excellence

  67. tinfoil hattie

    New Ev-Psych talk show hosts: Estrus & Menses. (very scientific)

  68. Jeff the friendly neighborhood microbiologist

    I have a quibble.

    1. This: “…research on, for example, the fickleness of female flatworms” is easy to find.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bateman%27s_principle

    That’s technically an arthropod, not a flatworm, but you get the point. That females of most animal species tend to be the choosy sex, while males compete for consent to mate with her, is a good rule of thumb. There are exceptions, but this behavior is displayed widely throughout the animal kingdom–including in birds, reptiles, and indeed arthropods.

    For example, male wolf spiders must “dance” to impress the female wolf spider before she will allow them to mate with her. IF they do not dance well enough, the female will simply eat the male.

    One of the more obvious examples of this type of behavior is birds. In most bird species it is the male which has bright, colorful displays (rooster) or extravagant plumage (peacocks). This is for the sole purpose of impressing a female and winning her consent. It is theorized that if the male can survive predation with attention-grabbing colors and bulky, extravagant plumage, it proves that the male has good genes.

    The cost of reproduction is so high that some species actually fight over it. Snails are all hermaphroditic, and they try to impale one another with their penises–the “loser” is impregnated and must bear the heavier cost of procreation.

  69. kiuku

    I don’t get it. It’s -casual- fraternity conversation. The method of going to a strip club where women are paid by men to act in an expected way toward men, does not even approach scientific. How does it get dignified as academia. Psychology Today is the worst. It’s so antagonistic to women. There’s usually a typified white beautiful depressed or bipolar woman on the cover. This is a new low, especially coupled with the bikini shot cover with the head removed from her body.

  70. Jill

    Jeff, your “quibble” is a museum-quality specimen of mansplaining. Making it null and void. Furthermore, you actually cite a Wikipedia article on a fruitfly study from 1948 to refute my remark about flatworms? An article which for some reason concludes with a quaint line from Darwin wherein he adjudges female mammals to be “coy”? Pah! Furthermore, “choosy” is not the connotative equivalent of “fickle.” My point is that the sheer volume of animal species precludes the existence of comprehensive data supporting the moron hypothesis that “females of most species” are “fickle.” One might as easily state that the males of most species are rapist thugs.

  71. nails

    WTF jeff, “rule of thumb” my ass. Diversity is the rule, not the exception. I’ve read a breakdown of the diversity of mating rituals among PRIMATES, and it covered a lot of ground. The groups had very little in common. Quit making shit up.

  72. Kali

    That females of most animal species tend to be the choosy sex, while males compete for consent to mate with her, is a good rule of thumb.

    Yeah, females are the choosy sex. Which is why they have to starve themselves, contort themselves almost to death to fit Y2K complaint beauty standards, perform all kinds of soul-crushing and mind-mushing femininity rituals in order to attract men. I wish what you claimed was true. Then we would have a world full of fat, happy women in sweatpants. Anorexia, make-up and high heels would be non-existent.

  73. Strigophilia

    Jeff, dude, not only is your quibble pointless mansplaining, it’s not even *right*.

    Your statement about bird behavior is nutso. Birds have a wide repertoire of reproductive behaviors, which vary dramatically between species. Or are you really going to suggest that a red-tailed hawk, in which the plumage is identical and females are 30% larger than the males, is the same as a swan, where plumage is identical but the males are a bit bigger, is the same as a peacock, is the same as a house sparrow? Hint: they’re not. Different strategies, different behaviors, and these stupid sweeping statements about “females being the choosy sex” reveal a lot more about the bias of the utterer than they do any underlying biological truth.

    Next time you want to condescend to your audience, don’t do it with actual wildlife biologists in the group.

  74. Jenn

    For what it’s worth, females _do_ tend to be the choosier sex in most animal species that have been studied so far. This is a well-established tenet of evolutionary biology (not “evolutionary psychology”) that has both theoretical and empirical support.

    The important part of the above sentence is “tend to be”. The fact that you can come up with examples where it isn’t the case does not negate it – there are plenty of counterexamples and there’s obviously a lot of noise around the general pattern, but it is in fact a well-established general pattern. The fact that some people misunderstand or misrepresent it by claiming that females are _always_ the choosier sex does not negate it. And the fact that some people take a pattern based on studies of animals with much simpler and much more genetically controlled behavior and try to apply it to humans in order to make idiotic, self-serving, and assholish statements about how we’re “fickle” or what our “inherent” sex roles should be does not negate it.

  75. speedbudget

    I’m just guessing here (but I am probably right) that Jeff just got shot down when he asked a lady out for a date. Everything in his post is usually a precursor to some good ol’ complainfest about how that chick just wouldn’t go out with me, so it MUST BE TRUE that female animals are the choosiest. That’s only true when you’re buying peanut butter.

  76. Nepenthe

    Long in internet time have I stayed silent, but I can bear it no longer. Nematodes are not “flatworms”. They are “roundworms”. Platyhelminths are on the opposite side of the animal world from nematodes. The former are relatively simple, have no true gut, and include my favorites, the tapeworms.* The latter are closer to arthropods and have such exciting features as a waterproof cuticle that they use instead of a skeleton, obscenely high rates of evolution (damn their eyespots) and, best of all, the anus. Nematodes are lovely, they are everywhere, and we have absolutely no idea how many of them there might be because wormy organisms are only considered worthwhile to study if they infect humans or the animals we enslave. For that I blame the patriarchy.

    *takes off invertebrate zoologist hat (it has worms on it) and puts baby blamer hat back on*

    * Recent evidence indicates that the Pick-Up Artist, formerly considered a type of primate, is actually a flatworm. The lack of a complete gut explains why everything that comes out of their mouths is complete and utter shit.

  77. TGGP

    “One might as easily state that the males of most species are rapist thugs.”
    Are you suggesting that is not in fact the case? Did you know that duck genitalia is corkscrew shaped due to the pervasiveness of rape? And that male orangutans come into two different “morphs”, with the smaller one specialized in chasing and raping females?

  78. nails

    TGGP- the behavior of various isms in mating is too diverse to characterize in any meaningful way, either as rape or as 1950′s sitcom style couplings. Its a fact of biology, even within humanity- there are many many different ways for people to interact and mate and experience sexuality. There are whole groups of people who only feel sexual attraction to automobiles (yeah, really). I know about forced sex in some species, but I also know about others that are mostly hemaphrodites or who have a shitload of masturbation and lesbianism (like bonobos), and even groups of humans where a 3rd gender isn’t a big deal and is actually a statistically stable part of the population (being non eurocentric is pretty spiffy sometimes!).

    Also- wtf is the point of feminism if men are just inherently rapists? Wouldn’t separatism make a lot more sense in such a context? Why try to create a society free of male oppression if it is simply written into their genetic code? We would have to then build a society without males, to achieve such a goal, and that goal (freeing women from male oppression) was the whole idea behind feminism from what I understand. It should be a movement to escape men period if such a thing were true of their nature. I hate what culture does to all of us, the kind of monstrosity it inspires in men while they grow up and the kind of tolerance of monstrosity it inspires in women.

  79. Nepenthe

    Nails, how is the argument in your second paragraph distinct from the argument that veg*nism is a pointless exercise if humans are inherently omnivorous? Even if–and it’s a big and extraordinarily unlikely if–male humans are somehow “genetically programmed” to rape, having a biological impulse to do something does not imply that one is destined to carry it out.

  80. yttik

    “females of most animal species tend to be the choosy sex-”

    I bring bad news. Contrary to popular belief, the majority of human females have not chosen the best and brightest that the species has to offer.

  81. Comrade Svilova

    I’m with Nails that men are not all programmed to be rapists, but with Nepenthe on the idea that *even were that true* that would not give any male rapist a free pass.

  82. MaryK

    Speaking of flatworms, I gotta show the love for planarians. Their little “crossed eyes” are adorable. I believe theirs is a cuter representation of Truth and Beauty than that weird scolex hook thing on tapeworms.

  83. Jill

    “a world full of fat, happy women in sweatpants.”

    Amen to that, sister. I’ve worn nothing but sweatpants for the past 8 days and my happiness quotient is off da hook.

  84. Jill

    Spinster HQ appreciates Nepenthe’s correction re: nematodes. I get “flat” and “round” mixed up all the time. This is why my pancakes always come out as 6″ thick triangles.

  85. Kali

    Nails, how is the argument in your second paragraph distinct from the argument that veg*nism is a pointless exercise if humans are inherently omnivorous?

    If half were species were inherently cannibals, I’d be arguing for separatism rather than reform.

  86. Kali

    The important part of the above sentence is “tend to be”. The fact that you can come up with examples where it isn’t the case does not negate it – there are plenty of counterexamples and there’s obviously a lot of noise around the general pattern, but it is in fact a well-established general pattern.

    OK, I get it now. When females are choosy, it is a part of a pattern. When males are choosy, it is noise around the general pattern.

  87. sargassosea

    All men may not be “programmed” to be rapists, but they sure as hell are socialized to consider it and if they feel like they wouldn’t be able to *get away with it* then to, at least, coerce a person’s *consent* at some point in their lives. So what’s the actual difference?

    Since the INTENT is there then it’s only the CRIME that’s missing.

  88. joy

    Seconding sargassosea:

    “All men may not be “programmed” to be rapists, but they sure as hell are socialized to consider it and if they feel like they wouldn’t be able to *get away with it* then to, at least, coerce a person’s *consent* at some point in their lives. So what’s the actual difference?”

    Cause doesn’t matter if the effect is the same.

    Also, nails, you’re overlooking the elephant, er, separatists and separatist activists, actually present in the room.

  89. Jenn

    I’m not sure if that was meant to be snarky, but essentially yes, since there are many more examples over a broad taxonomic range of females being the choosier sex. The counterexamples are obviously important for understanding what other factors may be involved, and in some cases they make sense in light of the theory that the sex with the higher investment in reproduction should be choosier. But they do go against the general pattern. (But like I implied earlier, any attempt to use this general pattern to make sweeping statements about humans is bad science at best, and usually a lot uglier than just that.)

  90. Jenn

    (That was in response to Kali’s 1:52 PM post.)

  91. AlienNumber

    Jenn, can you explain (mansplain?) to us (me?) why “we consider that women have a higher investment in reproduction then men” when obviously
    a) men also want to reproduce (equally as much I’d say, if not more than women: seeing their inane and evil demands that the offspring – preferably male, just like them – carry THEIR last name)
    b) the human population is about 50% female, 50 % male (Unfortunately. We could definitely do with way fewer of the rapist half of the species)
    c) every day I see different hetero couples in which the male half of the couple is 10 times more hideous (and definitely dumber) than the female half. Does this not completely contradict this hypothesis that women are choosier? Hell, it contradicts the hypothesis that women are choosy.

    Eagerly awaiting explanations.

    p.s. I vote lesbianism. Where does that put me on the choosier scale? The Choosiest? The Darwin Award?

  92. Jenn

    AlienNumber, I’m not sure how I could have been much more clear on my position in my previous posts, but apparently “idiotic, self-serving, and assholish” and “bad science at best, and usually a lot uglier than just that” are too ambiguous for your tastes. So I’ll try the time-honored internet practice of all-caps and hope that gets through to you: THIS GENERAL PATTERN CANNOT BE APPLIED TO OUR SPECIES WITH ANYTHING REMOTELY RESEMBLING ACCEPTABLE SCIENTIFIC RIGOR. The conversation had broadened to choosiness among animal species more broadly, and my comments were a part of that conversation. The research I was referring to was largely done on animals with far simpler and more genetically controlled behavior patterns than humans; extrapolation to our extremely complex, extremely socially contingent condition is completely untestable, irresponsible, and absurd. So I don’t need to explain/mansplain any of your delightfully insightful observations, because I never denied them or said anything that would suggest they aren’t true – everyone here knows they are, but they have nothing to do with what I was talking about.

    My statement about one sex in animal species usually having a greater investment in reproduction isn’t at all complicated or controversial – one sex (GENERALLY, WITH EXCEPTIONS) just shoots its wad with very little energy requirement and can do so almost as often as it can get away with; the other sex (GENERALLY, WITH EXCEPTIONS) must put far more time and energy into larva/embryo/juvenile development, and as a result has fewer opportunities for reproduction and more riding on each one. Can you guess which sex has more of an investment, why they might be choosier, and which one is the female in most cases?

    By the way, classy touch in implying that I must be a doodly dood with your mansplain comment. Believe it or not, not every woman shares your profound ignorance of biology (as it applies to MOST NON-HUMAN ANIMALS, just in case you want to play that bullshit game again).

  93. Dr. Grumpus

    I’m a long time reader, but I’m fairly sure this is my first time posting (I don’t remember exactly: I may have posted once before some time ago).

    Having read Blag Hag and Blame tonight, and also being one of those that teaches and does research in evo-psych, this is my take:

    Twisty is spot on about the way Psychology Today presented the research. As a psychologist, I have a lot of problems with the magazine: I hate the racism, sexism, classism that pervades it, as well as the complete dumbing down of science that is reported in it. Add to that the poor research in the discipline (for example, a nearby university has a particularly notorious evolutionary psychologist who has some notions about Jews that I find both ill-conceived and offensive). However, I don’t think that’s unique to evo-psych: Bad research exists on all disciplines.

    But I draw a distinction between the science and how folks use the science. It pisses me off that those who draw upon evo-psych to make their points (and I’m not taking about those who critique it, but are using it) often not only fail to be cautious in making whatever (often oppressive) conclusions unwarranted by the actual conclusions of the original work, but also neglect (deliberately?) to mention that, at best, we are taking about possible evolutionary traits only explaining a small portion of total human behavior (about 10%).

    From an academic perspective that is interesting, but it leaves 90% of our behavior to be accounted for by other factors, including racial, religious, gender, and queer oppression. In other words, a vastly larger portion of what is going on around us is the result of folks in power seeking actively or passively to maintain their privileged status.

    On a completely separate note, I wanted to give Twisty some long overdue thanks: It was several years ago on this site that I first was exposed to the notion of women being in a default legal state of sexual consent. Soon after, I incorporated that into a couple of my college courses (where we discuss sexism/racism aka male/white privilege). It opens some eyes.

  94. yttik

    Words like “choosy” and “fickle” really have no place in science at all, since those are opinion words subject to personal definition and don’t mark an accurate measurement anybody can agree on.

  95. sargassosea

    “…one sex (GENERALLY, WITH EXCEPTIONS) just shoots its wad with very little energy requirement and can do so almost as often as it can get away with;”

    Well that right there sounds very much like you are anthropomorphizing our wild life friends which would be antithetic to your precious scientific rigor. Human male rapists “get away with it” (generally, with exceptions). Is there some kind of Peacock Code of Reproductive Conduct that causes the ’cock to consider the consequences should he NOT get away with shooting “its wad”?

    Jenn, this is an example of why so many of us (feminists) point and laugh at this evo-psych foolishness; y’all want it both ways – to create an entire ’discipline’ to naturalize/justify your rape/porn culture yet deny your involvement in propagating it. Which is masculine behavior generally, with exceptions. The exceptions? The women who collaborate in pushing heteronormativity (males are powerful yet incontinent and females are shrewd future mothers) as the ’natural’ world order against their own best interests.

    By the by, my other favorite evo-psch pusher is very much excited about new ‘research’ which is being conducted on, yes, rectal stimulation: “Sounds all fun and games, but actually this study is an important one.”, says he. You know, you SHOULD love anal because it’s natural and if you don’t, there’s something WRONG with YOU, lady.

  96. Jill

    You mean choosy mothers don’t really choose Jif?

    Words like “choosy” and “fickle” really have no place in science at all [...]

  97. TGGP

    Some feminists are separatists. I linked to one such a while back.

  98. Jill

    [...] every day I see different hetero couples in which the male half of the couple is 10 times more hideous (and definitely dumber) than the female half. Does this not completely contradict this hypothesis that women are choosier? Hell, it contradicts the hypothesis that women are choosy.

    A couple of things:

    1. Just a little reminder from the Comments Guidelines Department: As satisfying as it is to cite one’s daily personal observations of hetero couples who don’t match up on Patriarchy2K Beauty Continuum, such “evidence” is purely anecdotal and therefore it can’t contradict any hypothesis on this blog, however badly you want it to. Also, “hideous”? Remember ladies, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, is only skin deep, and may only be meaningfully manifested from within!

    2. However. It is the contention of the Savage Death Island Death Council that, under the current world order, human women have no agency. This applies to sexual agency as well as any other kind of agency. “Programming,” in the shape of lifelong discrimination, indoctrination with patriarchy-friendly beliefs, and forced identification with the sex class, all preclude the ability of women to well and truly express choosiness in any biologically relevant way.

  99. Jenn

    sargassosea, perhaps you consider it anthropomorphizing, and perhaps like yttik you don’t approve of the word “choosy,” but there are many direct experimental studies in a range of species showing that individuals of one sex, usually the one with greater investment in reproduction, base their decision on whether to mate with an individual of the opposite sex on various visual, auditory, olfactory, or behavioural traits. In other words, they *choose* based on those traits. This is not evolutionary psychology as it is generally (and correctly) derided – a pseudoscience making up just-so stories about human behavior that could not possibly be tested. These are actual honest-to-god controlled experiments in organisms whose behavior is simple and hard-wired enough that such things are possible. Some may consider that to still fall under the purview of evolutionary psychology, but that term is more commonly (and to my mind correctly) limited to “studies” of the evolutionary basis of human behavior specifically.

    I do appreciate the classy “us” (feminists) vs. “y’all” (evolutionary psychologists, and in your deluded thinking I’m apparently a member of the latter group but not the former, when the reverse is actually true) framing of your comment. But as it turns out I’m not trying to have anything “both ways,” because despite your statements about rape culture, heteronormativity, and men pushing for anal sex, I AM NOT MAKING ANY CLAIMS ABOUT THE EVOLUTIONARY BASIS OR ADAPTIVE VALUE OF ANY HUMAN BEHAVIORS, OR ANY CLAIMS ABOUT WHAT IS “NATURAL” FOR HUMANS. I figured the all-caps statement in my previous comment would get that point across, but apparently not even that got through to you. Maybe this time it will, although I have my doubts.

  100. yttik

    Agreed Jill, women have very little agency, sexual or otherwise, under patriarchy.

    It’s also difficult to embrace this idea that there is a shrewd genetic and biological intelligence going on that drives reproduction in any species. Reproduction appears to be more accidental than anything else. Human teens for example, tend to be seeking something pleasurable, rather then intending to reproduce. Humans for all their intelligence, are often quite surprised when reproduction does occur.

  101. Jenn

    “It’s also difficult to embrace this idea that there is a shrewd genetic and biological intelligence going on that drives reproduction in any species.”

    I would question referring to it as genetic or biological “intelligence,” but there are quantitative genetic studies that demonstrate fairly clearly that mate choice in response to one trait or another can be genetically based – if an individual has a certain variant at the relevant gene(s) they’re more likely to respond a certain way to said trait. All-caps caveat – CANNOT AND SHOULD NOT BE EXTRAPOLATED TO HUMANS.

  102. Nepenthe

    Jenn, your caveat seems overly simplistic (and I understand that that might be due to the audience). It would be ridiculous to say that, while every other species ever investigated shows some sort of innate preferences in mate selection, humans are somehow special and do not have any of these characters. What it is possible to say is that it’s extremely difficult to distinguish which aspects of human behavior are biologically influenced because of the interference of culture. We can be pretty sure that the peahen’s preference for males with more “eyes” on their tails is innate and not cultural; peahens don’t watch peaporn starring peacocks with overly be-eyed tails. Humans on the other hand have a great deal of interference from culture.

    And, of course, no data would ever support any sort of naturalistic fallacy. Humans may have biologically based preferences, but are not obligated to follow them. I think that doing really good human behavior science, though difficult, is critical to feminism. Understanding how humans function allows us to determine what strategies for patriarchy-smashing are likely to actually work. Activism that fits well within some theoretical framework, but is antithetical to how humans (or target classes of humans) really work will ultimately fail.

  103. Jenn

    Nepenthe, I didn’t say anything about humans not having any innate preferences. I think it’s pretty much a sure thing that we do, although I don’t pretend to know what they are or how to determine them. I was simply pointing out that it’s not possible to rigorously extrapolate from other animal studies to humans, for the reasons you mention and more. We’re far more behaviorally complex and social-context dependent than probably any other animal, and it’s pretty much impossible to do any sort of well-controlled study in this area because of that. The upshot to all my comments is that the general, taxonomically broad pattern of increased female choosiness is real; but its relevance to human behavior is unknown and probably unknowable, and anyone who claims otherwise is guilty of bad science or worse.

  104. sargassosea

    Jenn -

    It occurs to me that I have made the assumption that you are the woman to whom I refer as “Boobquake Jenn” (hag is a word I‘d rather not use) and that I may be horribly mistaken. My apologies to be sure if you are some other Jenn and not the feminist supporter of the “baby field” called evolutionary psychology.

    Either way, while I fully understand the difference between -biology and -psychology, I am seeing quite a lot of the -psychology framing showing up in the -biology sphere which in turn nourishes the “baby”, and this concerns me. Because we know that the -psychs are taking -bios work and inserting their (male) agenda into it and calling New Science. And that’s bad for women.

  105. yttik

    The confusion is understandable, Jenn. You say these studies cannot and should not be extrapolated to humans and yet evo-psych attempts to do exactly that, to validate their research with claims like, “Now it turns out that what looks like fickleness is actually deeply adaptive and is shared with the females of most animal species.” See, it’s “biologically normal” to be fickle.

    It is also confusing, are females fickle or choosy? Fickle would presume females have no reproductive standards at all, while choosy would imply they’re very selective. Both of those words carry so much human bias and baggage, they should not be part of a scientific discussion at all. In humans, one is choosy if she turns you down, but fickle if she says yes to your best friend. The female’s choice or biology is not even viewed as part of the equation. This same bias often carries over to many of our animal studies, so we are left to read articles that are so humanly male- centric, that they make one laugh and question how much science was actually able to come through with all the leg humping going on.

  106. Kali

    but there are many direct experimental studies in a range of species showing that individuals of one sex, usually the one with greater investment in reproduction, base their decision on whether to mate with an individual of the opposite sex on various visual, auditory, olfactory, or behavioural traits.

    Oh, you mean all those direct experimental studies where the evo psychos eagerly sought out and categorized each instance of female choice as a part of a pattern, and ignored or dumped each instance of male choice as noise? Seriously, the number or range of studies does not say anything about the objectivity or truth of the conclusions that biased, sexist humans draw from them, especially when you are looking at something as open to interpretation as mate choice.

  107. Jenn

    sargassosea, I’m not that Jenn – I just quickly glanced at that blaghag post and didn’t even recognize the name thing. So thanks for your apology, and I’d also like to apologize to you for the obnoxious tone of my post. I’m an evolutionary biologist who used to do some animal behavioral work, and the evolutionary psychology stuff sometimes gets my hackles up to a pretty silly degree.

    yttik, yes evo-psych attempts to do exactly that, which is a glaring flaw in the field of evo-psych. Even assuming no ulterior motives, it’s unbelievably sloppy “science.” I generally agree with you about the terms fickle vs. choosy here – fickle implies capricious or arbitrary, while the female choosiness biologists talk about involves females specifically selecting males for traits that theoretically reflect health, fitness, “good genes,” etc. (presumably not consciously selecting in most cases where behavior is more hard-wired of course, but certainly not “fickle”). I don’t think “choosy” has anywhere near the baggage that “fickle” does, but maybe that’s because I’m so used to it from when I was more up on that literature (“fickle” does come up but far less often in my experience, and often in a context of suggesting that an apparently “fickle” pattern actually has some potential fitness benefit). I’m also not sure what you mean by “The female’s choice or biology is not even viewed as part of the equation.” When talking about “female choosiness,” it seems that female choice is explicitly a part of the equation (again, as it relates to most non-human animal studies; any attempt to seriously connect that to human behavior is probably crap).

    And with that, I think I’m going back into lurking mode.

  108. Kali

    The female’s choice or biology is not even viewed as part of the equation.

    Yes, that is very true. Female choice is viewed in terms of what men want female choice to be, not in terms of actual female choice. It is interesting that the entire Psychology Today article is actually about female traits and male choice (tight clothes, waist-to-hip ratios, alluring scent), but it is labeled as female choice.

  109. Kali

    while the female choosiness biologists talk about involves females specifically selecting males for traits that theoretically reflect health, fitness, “good genes,” etc.

    From the evolutionary fitness perspective (i.e. maximum survival & propagation rate of offspring), it makes no sense at all that male health, fitness, “good genes” etc. would be a bigger factor than female health, fitness, “good genes” etc. In fact, the opposite makes more sense.

  110. sargassosea

    Jenn -

    But my assumption wasn’t that far off in the sense that you, like the other Jen, are an evolutionary biologist? And that’s what bothers me – your arguments sound very much like what she would say. (And I am not trying to accuse you lying about your identity or anything by saying so.)

    Again, I don’t like the way that -bios are sounding so much like -psychs these days. It makes it hard to tell the difference.

  111. AlienNumber

    True, I don’t have a lot of background in science, unfortunately, but I do have a brain who doesn’t understand one thing about the way evolution is explained.

    The assumption is that the individuals want to reproduce — and want to be successful at it. The male half focuses on quantity and dumbly shoots sperm whenever it gets the opportunity. The female half, because it spends more of its energy on this reproduction business, instead focuses on quality.
    Doesn’t this strike anyone as a really strange deal? It doesn’t completely work for males and it doesn’t completely work for females, in fact it describes us as almost two different species with almost opposing wants (even though apparently we all want to reproduce and we are the same species). Wouldn’t it make more sense to have males and females work together for quality and quantity instead of against each other? I thought nature was supposed to make sense.

    (apologies if this is really rudimentary, but I guess that’s where I am when it comes to understanding sexual selection).

    As for this, it sounds like the old active male/passive female paradigm that Anne Fausto-Sterling did so much to try to dispel: “My statement about one sex in animal species usually having a greater investment in reproduction isn’t at all complicated or controversial – one sex (GENERALLY, WITH EXCEPTIONS) just shoots its wad with very little energy requirement and can do so almost as often as it can get away with; the other sex (GENERALLY, WITH EXCEPTIONS) must put far more time and energy into larva/embryo/juvenile development, and as a result has fewer opportunities for reproduction and more riding on each one. Can you guess which sex has more of an investment, why they might be choosier, and which one is the female in most cases?”

  112. Nepenthe

    Jenn, some of my response to you was frustration at human exceptionalism that you weren’t exhibiting and I should apologize for that. I guess the tl;dr version is that, while the specific findings regarding reproductive behavior in non-human species cannot be extrapolated to humans, what can almost certainly be extrapolated to humans is the existence of some sort of innate or biologically based reproductive behaviors and preferences.

    AlienNumber, one of the most important concepts to grasp when understanding evolution is that it is not directed and outcomes are not optimized. (I have the appendectomy scars to attest to the lack of optimization!) Although scientists and science writers often use this metaphor, organism don’t evolve on purpose; peacocks did not say to themselves, having these tails on our males is a great idea, lets make them large enough that we can barely fly. It sounds obvious when said like that, but I think it’s a fairly common misconception. Regarding the specifics of your comment, while cooperative reproduction might be more efficient, it’s fairly rare. Cooperative polyandry, a system where multiple males rear clutches with a single female, has arisen in a few bird species, generally in environments where it would be very difficult for a single bird or a single pair to feed both themselves and their offspring. It’s one of those exceptions that proves the rule.

    And in a lot of ways the evolution of specifically male and specifically female characteristics is one of antagonism. The traits that increase the reproductive success of a male might decrease the reproductive success of a female, even the females that the male mates with, and vice versa. For example, many beetle species have these horrific penises with spines and protuberances and what not. They serve the double role of scraping out the sperm of any rivals and injuring the female beetle enough that she may be unable to mate again. If a male beetle has a damaging enough penis, he will kill the females he mates with; but if it just keeps her from mating again but does not kill her, it ensures that all her offspring will be his as well. Good for the males, bad for the females.

    Similarly, (and I address this paragraph to Kali as well), that which increases a female’s reproductive success might decrease a male’s reproductive success. One of the theories behind the origin of sexual selection is that the extra energy males put into their sexual displays indicates that they are strong enough to be able to do that sort of extravagance and survive. A peacock with a poor immune system, or a cardiovascular problem, or some other genetic defect will not be able to grow an ostentatious tail. A peacock with a novel trait that, say, boosts its ability to fight off nematode parasites might be able to expend even more energy growing a stupid tail. So a peahen can look at the number of eyes on the peacock’s tail and use it as a proxy for its health, which is dependent to its genetic traits. The peahen is expending a great deal of resources in reproduction: creating the eggs, incubating them, etc. If she can choose a mate that has genes that correlate to health, that energy is more likely to pay off in healthy offspring that survive to reproduce themselves. This is good for her. The peacock, on the other hand, is more likely to get himself eaten by a jackal that caught onto his tail.

    In species where female choice is a large factor in reproductive behavior, the female is really the active party, as much as there is an active party. The patriarchy can’t accept female action though, and has to frame sexual selection as males being active. There can’t be any dynamic interplay between the sexes if one sex is always cast in a passive, so we miss all this awesome stuff about coevolution of sexual characters. Patriarchy leads to bad science.

    And none of this has much to do with evo-psych, because evo-psych isn’t science, at least not the bits that deal with humans. I apologize; there was talk about science and I just can’t help myself.

  113. Kali

    The assumption is that the individuals want to reproduce — and want to be successful at it. The male half focuses on quantity and dumbly shoots sperm whenever it gets the opportunity. The female half, because it spends more of its energy on this reproduction business, instead focuses on quality. Doesn’t this strike anyone as a really strange deal?

    I think this argument about who invests how much in the offspring is a red herring, used to divert attention from the illogic of the broader argument about male promiscuity and female choosiness. What matters is how many offspring you have and how many survive to go on to reproduce themselves. How much you invest in the process is irrelevant if you are reaching the same point. And males and females of any one species are reaching the same point if they each constitute half the population of their species, and the offspring have one female and one male parent.

  114. Kali

    To add something to the above – some people argue that humans have a slight tendency towards male promiscuity and female choosiness as evidenced by the slightly higher percentage of females as compared to males in the population. What they conveniently ignore is that those “extra” females are coming from the post-menopausal demographic. Oops.

  115. AlienNumber

    To add to Kali’s last point: there are more male babies born than female babies (overall, in the population, and even with taking into account the “voluntary” killing of female fetuses*), but quite a few of these male babies die by the age of 5 and then the proportion of f to m is about 1:1 until females make up the majority in middle and old age (link, from the Center of Disease Control website: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/05facts/moreboys.htm).

    So my point was: guess then who the weaker sex is. No, actually: what is the evolutionary meaning of that?

    *sad how this almost makes me sound like I’m anti-abortion.

  116. Strigophilia

    Jenn, I’ve heard a lot of people say that in most species females are choosy, males are unselective. It just seems like that is usually immediately followed by “For example, in the lesser grouse, males have an elaborate courtship display involving XYZ etc.” The statement isn’t followed up by an actual calculation where you could say that “females are choosier” in 30% of birds and 75% of mammals and 22.4% of insects. This makes me question the value of the assertion, you know?

    This is beyond the basic problem of interpretation that plagues animal behavior studies anyway; it’s difficult at the best of times not to map our perceptions and values onto something whose brain we can’t understand. One marker for the amazing crappitude of evo psych is that they pretend that problem doesn’t exist.

  117. NomNomNom

    If one starts with an assumption that males in general and human men in specific possess a desire to pass along their genes, why then are not men concerned principally with impregnating their mothers followed by their grannies, sisters, half sisters & cousins so as not to dilute their personal genebucket?
    By this reckoning, Granny ought to look far more appealing than some stranger of unknown qualities down the street, with the caveat that maybe the stranger is ovulating that day and granny is not. But in general.
    This would have an even better genetic payout over time, because the offspring of one’s relations would be even closer genetically and offspring by them still closer.
    Evopsych also posits that relatives are biologically wired to cooperate, so this would also increase the odds of caregivers for one’s offspring. Yet I don’t see a big push for this.

  118. Nepenthe

    @Kali

    Again, it’s important to understand that selection does not act on the level of the group, it acts on the level of the individual. Male and female organisms do not, in general, end up “at the same point” when it comes to reproduction. Due to the mechanics of sexual reproduction, different strategies are more successful for male and female organisms.

    Female organisms (and female is actually defined by gamete size – females, by definition, invest more energy in reproduction) have an inherent limit on the number of offspring they can produce; a flower has only a certain number of ovaries, a bird only lays so many eggs per clutch, etc. An individual female increases her reproductive success – the number of offspring that survive and reproduce – by increasing the percentage of her limited number of offspring that survive. Another strategy is to limit the resources spent per offspring and play a numbers game: see fish or invertebrates which lay hundreds of thousands of relatively poorly developed eggs.

    A male organism has an essentially unlimited number of potential offspring, because the cost of producing offspring is so low. A single male flower, if its pollen is somehow better equipped at fertilization, could, in theory have the offspring of every female flower in the area. A male fish could fertilize the eggs of several female fish, etc. Males also have the option of expending extra resources to increase survival rates, but in general if they simply maximize the number of offspring they have some will survive.

  119. Nepenthe

    @ AlienNumber

    Testosterone generally weakens the immune system, which is one reason male children are less likely to survive.

    Male mammals are also more likely to have genetic diseases due to how sex is determined in mammals. We have two sex chromosomes, X and Y; females are XX and males are XY. Because every cell, generally, has two copies of each gene, in many cases a person can have one copy of a defective gene and one copy of a good gene. In this case, often only the good gene will work, and the person will be fine. Since males are XY, if they have a defective gene on their X chromosome, they don’t have another copy of that same gene, so the defective gene will be expressed. The X chromosome is particularly large, so a lot of genes are on it; having defects in these genes is often fatal.

  120. Nepenthe

    @NomNomNom

    One must remember two basic concepts when thinking about inbreeding. First is the point of sexual reproduction. Sex is a difficult, energy-intensive process that greatly decreases the number of offspring an individual can have. Asexual reproduction produces copies of ones self, so why don’t asexual organisms out compete sexual ones? Why sex in the first place? There are a bunch of theories, but they all have to do with gene recombination. Organisms that reproduce sexually might reproduce slower and have fewer of their genes in the race, if you will, but their offspring are more varied. Thus, if the environment changes, there’s a much greater chance that a sexual organism will have surviving offspring than an asexual organism.

    This, of course, doesn’t preclude inbreeding. But inbreeding concentrates genes. Sounds great, but it’s a bad reproductive strategy. Organisms almost always carry defective genes, as I explained to AlienNumber. A relative of an individual is more likely to carry the same defective genes, so if they reproduce together, their offspring is more likely to carry two copies of the defective gene* and either die or have a very difficult time reproducing. The more often inbreeding occurs, the more concentrated genes become and the more often genetic diseases occur in offspring. In the short term, organisms that inbreed might have more of their genes in the next generation, but in the long term their offspring will die out. So there is a pretty strong negative selection pressure against inbreeding – the trait of desiring one’s relatives is very likely to decrease in the population. In a lot of organisms, other factors balance out this pressure, like difficulty of finding unrelated mates. But it animals that can move around, there is usually some sort of mechanism by which relatives don’t mate.

    *This is a little different in organisms which don’t carry two copies of each gene, but animals do.

  121. NomNomNom

    “…So there is a pretty strong negative selection pressure against inbreeding – the trait of desiring one’s relatives is very likely to decrease in the population. In a lot of organisms, other factors balance out this pressure, like difficulty of finding unrelated mates. But it animals that can move around, there is usually some sort of mechanism by which relatives don’t mate.”
    Yes, of course: my post was sarcasm, sorry. My unclear point was that there is a limit to the theory that a desire to pass on ones genes can be credible, else even negative results like crappy offspring or lawsuits for rape would not be deterrents, yet they usually are. Resultingly, if men can control themselves, and there’s plenty of evidence they can, then evopsych is meaningless

  122. chicago dyke

    whew! way late to this party, but dayum. what fun.

    so i tried to leave this comment over at BlagHag, but my browser is “too old” and the commenting system won’t accept me anymore. i’ll try to leave it here.

    bio degree. focus on human biology, lots of lab experience. but i just couldn’t get down with ev-bio-psych theory in my day, long ago. far too many obvious contradictions. the simplest of which would be: there is no other species with minds like humans. ours may not be better, nor even “more evolved,” but the life of birds, flatworms and even bonobos tells me little about what life is like, as a human being, and vice versa. they could never logically overcome that, to my mind. i also share similarities with trees and insects. i don’t look to them to understand the mindset of say, your average dude.

    and then there is the lit from the e/b/p crowd. let’s just say it’s not free of uncomfortable contradictions and clear associations with, um, let’s call it “metaphysics.” indeed, the dueling dudes who make up the “great” writers in e/b/p spent a lot of ink critiquing each other for exactly that. i was tutored by one, back in the day, and all he could do was make snide jokes about another who had a competing theory… about insects and how we can better understand humans by studying their mating rituals.

    but really, the book i thought of when i read Jen’s post was one written by a female philosopher, one with no background whatsoever in science or psychology. she was a “pure” philosopher and an important member of a minor Continental school of philosophy. it was about how humans often describe immoral or oppressive behavior as “animal.” when in truth, most “animals” treat each other better and more cooperatively than humans do or have done. like, by a long shot. ethics, utilitarianism, blah blah philosophy blah, but it was an interesting point that always stuck with me. humans are so willing to consign everything they like to the “good” parts in which we are related to animals. and bad to bad. she was pretty fucking convincing and had a nice biblio backing her up.

    anyway, e/b/p is much the same in my mind. it’s not really disputed that a lot of people who claim to speak for the field have ideological or political motivations, or that the media that reports the findings of “good” scientists in the field frequently do a completely botched job, and utterly misrepresent the actual, limited scientific conclusions. and if the above is correct, and the N in this study is under 20? well, i had to take advanced stats twice, but that number isn’t really in the realm of the “scientifically significant,” as all real science types here will agree with me. (it’s late and i’m to bed soon so i can’t read the whole study itself just now, if i’m wrong i’ll take that back)

    anyway, the field is evolving. i think it will have merit… someday. but right now, it’s on the order of Victorian gynecology. which is to say: there are good people trying to do real science that is interdisciplinary and will someday be important and make a useful contribution to science and its understanding of living beings, including flatworms and humans. but a great deal of what is published, feted, discussed and reported is just bunk, crap that is used for purely rhetorical reasons by ignorant second source types, looking for a thrill or attention. one can say this about the early history of almost any science: psych, physics, chemistry, anthro… it’s almost part of the definition of a new science that it gets abused in popular understanding for polemical purposes, because it is so new, unknown and/or misunderstood.

    i don’t think Jen is a bad person, and there’s a long conversation to be had about what it means to be “a scientific researcher and woman in the american university system.” heh. i like to think i know a bit about that. but i’m willing to give her some time to figure that out on her own, and perhaps with some attention from Blamer types at communities like this one. mostly, Jill’s argument appeals to me, because even though i’m many years out of the science business, i remember what it was like to be in it, and the crap i was told was “pure science” by dude researchers that has since been overturned or disproved or exposed as little more than pornulation in a white coat. yes, my comment is totally anecdotal and personal and lacks rigor. but also: yes, my right to say so, like a lot of sloppy researchers i was told to respect and memorize, is hard fought and in part based on my experience “in the field.” if dudes can do it, so can i.

  123. Kali

    Again, it’s important to understand that selection does not act on the level of the group, it acts on the level of the individual. Male and female organisms do not, in general, end up “at the same point” when it comes to reproduction. Due to the mechanics of sexual reproduction, different strategies are more successful for male and female organisms.

    You are contradicting yourself. You say (correctly) that selection works on the level of the individual. Then you seamlessly slide into talking about all males as one amorphous mass represented by Casanova A and all females as another amorphous mass represented by Virgin B. You need to look at a *random* male and a *random* female and their reproductive outcomes (which, as I have stated above, are the same in a population with an equal split of females and males of reproductive age), not be picking and choosing theoretical individuals for theoretical possibilities that rarely, if ever, actualize. In other words, your average male will have a lot more success in having kids in a scenario where both males and females are equally promiscuous, rather than in a scenario with promiscuous males and choosy females. So who is more representative of the male reproductive strategy? The average male or Casanova A?

  124. Nepenthe

    @Kali

    But no one cares about the average individual, evolutionarily speaking, because the average individual isn’t particularly successful. If the average male has, say, 100,000 offspring and 1% survive to adulthood and Casanova* has 101,000 offspring with the same survival rate, over time Casanova’s descendants will be the majority of the population, assuming that whatever made Casanova reproductively successful is heritable. Then the whole population is a bunch of little Casanovas and his reproductive strategy will be the reproductive strategy of Casanova. Perhaps overall the average male would be doing better in a system where both sexes were equally promiscuous, but evolution doesn’t optimize for the success of the average individual.

    Yes, trivially the average number of offspring per male is the same as the average offspring per female, but that says nothing about reproductive strategy. The many many peacocks that were eaten by leopards because of their tails or didn’t have as many eyes as their competitors and didn’t reproduce at all were not using a different strategy than their more successful counterparts.

    *Name taken from your post. I’m not sure why you decided to project these human tropes onto non-human animals; presumably because you believe I am thinking in terms of them? I don’t consider a flower with extra sticky pollen a Casanova, nor do I consider a rat who mates with several males but chooses the sperm** of a specific male to fertilize her eggs a virgin.

    **They can do that! Is that not awesome!? I love rats.

  125. Kali

    If the average male has, say, 100,000 offspring and 1% survive to adulthood and Casanova* has 101,000 offspring with the same survival rate, over time Casanova’s descendants will be the majority of the population, assuming that whatever made Casanova reproductively successful is heritable. Then the whole population is a bunch of little Casanovas and his reproductive strategy will be the reproductive strategy of Casanova.

    Not if there are a 1000 average males for each Casanova. The logic of the one Casanova dominating the reproductive tree only applies if you are considering a society of one male and lots of females, or one female and lots of males, or a significant gender imbalance in population numbers. It doesn’t apply when there are mostly equal numbers of males and females, and one has to factor in the choices of other males and females in the population. If you look at the humans of today and for most of history except in pockets of patriarchal excess, the vast majority of offspring are born to essentially monogamous or serially monogamous couples.

  126. AlienNumber

    In the meantime, doofooses at Harvard study apes “playing” with sticks to “prove” that human females are hard-wired to play with dolls.

    http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2010/12/female-chimps-treat-sticks-as-dolls/

    Except, at the end, they think that maybe the female apes learned the behavior from somebody/something.

  127. mearl

    I just read that very article in the library and I damn near puked. I especially love the porny beastiality implied in the photomontage accompanying the article. Thank you, Jill, for making me laugh about it.

  128. mearl

    Whoops, spelled “bestiality” wrong. The spelling police just showed up at the edge of my keyboard with their pillowcases full of dictionaries.

  129. Nepenthe

    Kali, it’s just basic math applied to population genetics. Advantageous traits that increase reproductive success become more common over time. I think the confusion is that you are talking about a population in equilibrium, while I am talking about why different reproductive strategies arise in the first place. In an equilibrium state, the average male might use the promiscuity strategy (after all, that is his genetic heritage in this hypothetical species), but does not have an advantage over his conspecifics because they are all using the same strategy. (If he were to not use the strategy, he would have a distinct disadvantage and would not be represented well in the next generation.) You could substitute any other reproductive strategy in this example just as easily, female choice, cooperative polyandry, etc.

    And as I’ve already laid as caveats, just because the promiscuity strategy is an effective one suggested by male physiology (i.e. small, motile gametes) does not imply that it will occur in any given species, like humans. And nematode sex is not a political act. Imputing value judgments like “fickle” or “masculine” onto it or anthropomorphizing the participants to fit patriarchal expectations is and, like all political science, is bad science.

  130. Kali

    Kali, it’s just basic math applied to population genetics.

    That is exactly where evo psychos fail and I am using basic math to explain why. Try this exercise: Pick a day, any day. Take all the children born on that day. For each child, note down the number of sexual partners the female parent has had. Do the same for the male parent. Note that the average for males and females is going to be the same (assuming that everyone is telling the truth) if there are equal numbers of males and females in the population. The distributions may (or may not) be different but that is a different storyline from “males are more promiscuous”.

    Or, one could argue that males are more promiscuous because lots of males are havings lots of sex with each other, but that is not the evo pyscho story.

    Advantageous traits that increase reproductive success become more common over time.

    Sure, and I’m trying to explain, mathematically, why the evo psycho story of differential promiscuity for males and females fails in populations with equal percentages of males and females of reproductive age.

  131. Nepenthe

    Kali, that the average number of partners (assuming an organism that copulates) is the same for males and females does not say anything about reproductive strategies. The distribution is the story that we’re talking about. A species where some males mates with many females, but most do not mate at all, for whatever reason, is still a species where males use the promiscuity strategy. (In organisms that copulate, male promiscuity is generally paired with female choice; females choose to mate with specific males.) Individuals do not have to be dead to have a limited share of the reproductive pool; so the gross data on population doesn’t say much about who is reproducing. By your logic, the simple mathematical facts of averages imply that all organisms, regardless of behavior, use the same reproductive strategy, which is patently false.

  132. Kali

    By your logic, the simple mathematical facts of averages imply that all organisms, regardless of behavior, use the same reproductive strategy, which is patently false.

    By my logic, differential reproductive strategies cannot be imputed to groups of individuals, if those groups of individuals have the same outcome on average. However, you can talk about the differences in the reproductive strategy of individuals. It is not valid, mathematically, to talk about promiscuous males and choosy females if males and females have the same number of sexual partners on average. However, it is valid to talk about male A or female B being promiscuous, if they have more sexual partners than average.

    A species where some males mates with many females, but most do not mate at all, for whatever reason, is still a species where males use the promiscuity strategy.

    No, it is a species with a greater variability in promiscuity among males than females. Once you get that, you don’t need that vague “for whatever reason”.

  133. wiggles

    One day women – or “females,” if the PT article that day is more typically dehumanizing – are inherently monogamous and the next day they’re inherently fickle. It sure is hard to keep up.

  134. Elizabeth

    Humans don’t go into estrus. Just thought I’d point that out. Now I have to add Psychology Today to the list of sources my students can’t use.

  135. joy

    Also, separatists aren’t “lovable eccentrics” (or raving fucking loonies, as the linked article above suggests).

    Nor are they “reverse sexists” or “segregationists.”

    Seriously, a feminist comparing other feminists to the apartheid? Pull the other one, it’s got bells on (and is more creative).

    Again, if half the population were cannibals — whether they were socially encouraged to be or biologically compelled to be — would it not be common sense to avoid them?

    Or at least let them figure out the problem for themselves?

    Reformist feminism looks more and more like “what about teh menz?!”/”not MY Nigel!” feminism as time goes on.

  136. Zoe

    This will make me unpopular, but I want to stand up for evolutionary psychology. It is indisputable that our psychological makeup is largely the product of evolution. Why wouldn’t selection act on our brain, as it does every other body part? The trouble is that research in evolutionary psych is particularly vulnerable to being poorly carried out, because the subject matter is politically charged, and because a lot of it is pure, untestable speculation carried out by douchebags. However, I have faith that it can be done right. For example, there is some gene that you can knock out of a female rat which will cause her to have zero interest in nurturing her offspring. That’s right, a single gene. Another example: scientists increased a receptor for vasopressin (don’t quote me on the details) in the brains of male voles, with the result that they became monogamous partners and stopped chasing after other females. I do believe that men are hardwired to be assholes in large part, and this is one reason I’m delighted to be a woman, in spite of the patriarchy. Feminists often hate essentialist claims like “men are hardwired to rape” because they think this either gives men a pass, or means that things will never ever change. In contrast, I am delighted whenever it looks like there is a biological reason for some crap. Guess why? Because that means that at some point we can change it–using technology. I am advocating radical technological interference with the human brain.

  137. theoreticalgrrrl

    I’m with evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne on the subject of evo psych:

    “In science’s pecking order, evolutionary biology lurks somewhere near the bottom, far closer to phrenology than to physics. For evolutionary biology is a historical science, laden with history’s inevitable imponderables. We evolutionary biologists cannot generate a Cretaceous Park to observe exactly what killed the dinosaurs; and, unlike “harder” scientists, we usually cannot resolve issues with a simple experiment, such as adding tube A to tube B and noting the color of the mixture.

    “The latest deadweight dragging us closer to phrenology is “evolutionary psychology,” or the science formerly known as sociobiology, which studies the evolutionary roots of human behavior. There is nothing inherently wrong with this enterprise, and it has proposed some intriguing theories, particularly about the evolution of language. The problem is that evolutionary psychology suffers from the scientific equivalent of megalomania. Most of its adherents are convinced that virtually every human action or feeling, including depression, homosexuality, religion, and consciousness, was put directly into our brains by natural selection. In this view, evolution becomes the key–the only key–that can unlock our humanity.

    “Unfortunately, evolutionary psychologists routinely confuse theory and speculation. Unlike bones, behavior does not fossilize, and understanding its evolution often involves concocting stories that sound plausible but are hard to test. Depression, for example, is seen as a trait favored by natural selection to enable us to solve our problems by withdrawing, reflecting, and hence enhancing our future reproduction. Plausible? Maybe. Scientifically testable? Absolutely not. If evolutionary biology is a soft science, then evolutionary psychology is its flabby underbelly.”

    “But the public can be forgiven for thinking that evolutionary biology is equivalent to evolutionary psychology. Books by Daniel Dennett, E.O. Wilson, and Steven Pinker have sold briskly, and evolutionary psychology dominates the media coverage of the science of evolution. (It has figured also in the media’s treatment of politics, as when the lustful activity of Bill Clinton was explained–or explained away–by various evolutionary psychologists as the behavior of an “alpha male.”) In view of the scientific shakiness of much of the work, its popularity must rest partly on some desire for a comprehensive “scientific” explanation of human behavior. Evolutionary psychology satisfies the post-ideological hunger for a totalistic explanation of human life, for a theory of inevitability that will remove many of the ambiguities and the uncertainties of emotional and moral life. Freud is no longer the preferred behavioral paradigm. Now Darwin is ascendant. Blame your genes, not your mother.”

    For the rest of Coyne’s article in The New Republic, 04.03.00, “Of Vice and Men: The Fairy Tales of Evolutionary Psychology” see: http://www.uic.edu/labs/igic/papers/Coyne_2000.pdf

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