Sexual behavior, reproductive strategies and evolutionary psychology

The discussion topic "Prostitution" (introduced by E.Nigma) has led to a lot of back and forth about sexual behavior, especially, sexual behavior of men vs. women and double standards as applied to said behavior. So since I've always been interested in how evolutionary theory can (or can't) help us understand human sexual behavior  I thought I'd start a new discussion topic that jumped off from the "Prostitution" tangent.  So, these are my questions:

 

How does (or doesn't) evolutionary psychology inform our understanding of human sexual behavior?

 

Given that humans can divorce sex from reproduction (can/do other animals?), has that changed human sexual behavior or are we still tied to behaviors that reflect the sex = reproduction imperative?

 

How do human male reproductive strategies differ from human female reproductive strategies?  Do they really differ or do they only differ in degree, given that females can only "mother" so many offspring vs. the number of offspring a male can "father" over a lifetime?

 

How does the reproduction imperative influence the view that female sexuality is to be repressed?  Is it the fear on the part of the male that he might end up investing in offspring not his own? 

 

Tags: evolution, reproduction, sexuality

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I don't know enough to answer most of your questions.  But I think that the rules, social conventions, and laws of modern society and culture have a big inhibiting effect on human behavior and suppress aggression, promiscuity, and other natural tendencies, and this adds a major complicating factor..

Thanks for the link and the ref to Massimo Pigliucci - I've read his blog from time to time, I will check out his book.

 

Yes, I do think the evo pysch has been used by some to justify "men behaving badly"  and that always bugged me because, first, no and, second, women also engage in sexual behavior - good, bad or indifferent.  And evo psych from the little I know of it seems to ignore women as sexual beings and treat us as passive sperm receptacles!!  And, perhaps, evo psych could gain more credibility if it recognized that women, too, can have/seek/desire multiple sexual partners.   If they want to use evolutionary theory to explain sexual behavior they can't just say, well, men are primed to be promiscuous and so it is "natural" for them to practice infidelity and then ignore the reality, ignore the evidence that women too practice infidelity.  I would be interested in a theory that could place promiscuity by both sexes in the context of evolutionary theory.  Focussing on male promiscuity seems to miss the boat.

So, sounds like evo bio is the much better place to explore this issue than evo psych.   I have a vague recollection of a book I read by Natalie Angier that had something to say on this subject.  Does that ring a bell?
In which I answer my own question:  the book I was thinking of was Woman: A Natural Geography.  It was published in 1999

In Natalie Angier's chapter on evo psych that I talked about, she goes into a lot about the nuances of human sexual behavior that you mention.  I read this book many years ago when it first came out and I think that that chapter was probably what was in the back of my mind when I put up this discussion.  Very interesting.

 

I laughed when you  mentioned dogs' humping behavior.  My dog (a neutered male) has never humped a leg or another dog, however, he has humped a stuffed toy "Snuffaluffagus" [sp?] and ottomans!!  This is the first dog I ever had in my life so imagine my surprise at this behavior...imagine my surprise when someone who I think know much more about dogs told me it wasn't normal!!

 


I just re-read the chapter on evo psych in Natalie Angier's "Woman:  An Intimate Geography."  It is, IMO, an excellent, complete and funny debunking of evo psych.   Here is a sample:

 But evolutionary psychology as it has been disseminated across mainstream consciousness is a cranky and despotic Cyclops, its single eye glaring through an overwhelmingly masculinist lens.  I say masculinist rather than male because the view of male behavior promulgated by hardcare evolutionary psychologoist is as narrow and inflexible as their view of womanhood is.

In my view the evo-psycho rendering of human nature has been granted far more homage than it deserves, perhaps because it endorses our old prejudices and conforms to our mental Dewey decimal system. 

[after listing cardinal premises of evo psych]:  In sum, higgamus, hoggamus, Pygamalionus, Playboy magazine, eternitas. Amen.  [which is reference to this little evo psych ditty from which she gets her chapter title]: 

Hoggamus, higgamus;  Men Are Polygamous; Higgamus, hoggamus; Women monogamous 

 

Chapter 18.  “Of Hoggamus and Hogwash:  Putting Evolution ary Psychology on the Couch"
Absolutely!  I couldn't find my hard copy (probably went to the library years ago!) but as soon as I remembered the title I downloaded it to my Kindle.  I highly recommend it. 
Thanks - didn't get to the nyt until later today and so didn't bother reading beyond the headline.  The nyt science reporting is sometimes good but, really, sometimes not so good at all....

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