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Sex at Dawn: The Evolutionary Origins of Human Sexuality

Discussion in 'Sexuality' started by Sunstone, Jun 27, 2010.

  1. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    Sex at Dawn is a new book that discusses the evolutionary origins of human sexuality. Here's a link to an interview with one of the authors.

    What do you make of the authors' central thesis that humans did not evolve to live in lifelong monogamous relationships?

    What do you make of the authors' various other claims, as raised in the interview?

    What sort of sexual relationships do you think humans evolved to live in? Why?
     
    #1 Sunstone, Jun 27, 2010
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2010
  2. Rainbow Mage

    Rainbow Mage Lib Democrat/Agnostic/Epicurean-ish/Buddhist-ish

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    Well if the author is right, I'm an exception to the rule. I've always been faithful to my partner and prefer a monagamous relationship
     
  3. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    Please be careful to distinguish between a lifelong monogamous relationship and serial monogamy. Mating with one person -- and only one person -- for life is quite rare. But mating with one person -- and only one person -- for a period of time before going on to the next monogamous relationship is serial monogamy and it's much more common. In fact, some anthropologists say it's the most common of all human mating strategies.
     
  4. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    *shameless bump*
     
  5. sandandfoam

    sandandfoam Veteran Member

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    I think you just said everything necessary about human sexuality :D
     
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  6. Storm

    Storm ThrUU the Looking Glass

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    That was interesting, thanks.

    Well, we didn't evolve to fly, either.

    While the authors raise several good points (and I'm going to look for the book at the library), I don't think human sexuality is so simple or uniform that we can point at one relationship model and say "this is right." I don't care whether "right" is based on evolutionary trends or millennia-old purity laws.

    Also, and they did touch on this, evolution doesn't stop. When we made the transition from hunter-gatherers to an agricultural society, we evolved into the new pattern. I'm not well-versed enough in evolutionary theory to even speculate on whether that's "enough," but I can't imagine it's not a factor.

    I touched on this above, but I don't think there's a one-size-fits-all answer to that. Different people are happy in different models. Nanda seems quite happy and fulfilled in her polyamorous arrangement. I couldn't make one work, and I've reached a point where I accept and celebrate that aspect of my sexuality.

    On a related note, I think Western problems with marriage have more to do with unrealistic expectations than evolutionary imperatives. We expect our mates to be the pinnacle of, well... everything: best friend, amazing lover, most trusted confidante. It's too much.

    That's not to say that "wild oat" instincts don't play a role. I just think that they come into play when we're already dissatisfied. Perhaps shaking off our society's monogamy taboo would help some people.

    For myself, all this does nothing to assuage my longing for a lifelong mate. And so long as I'm realistic, I think I'm the right kind of person to make it work.
     
  7. cynic2005

    cynic2005 Member

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    Oversimplification. IMO, there are other possible evolutionary explanations than simply "it goes against our nature."

    I had developed my own theory. Attraction and romance are pursuance mechanisms that allow cohesion to occur.
    Romance and attraction are necessary in environments with constant life threatening danger and threats of separation (hence romantic novels are based on a theme where two people are constantly being separated by external forces). Various cultures in the past recognized that you could prolong attraction by making meetings between husband and wife forbidden, which is what they did.

    When you take away the old environment in which these mechanisms flourished and introduce a new environment that causes these mechanisms to become dormant, than ya, you are going to get polygamous behavior because the mechanism that is needed for cohesion to occur cannot function, since the environment supporting such a mechanism is no longer there.

    In the end, attraction and romance are pursuance mechanisms. In order for the pursuance mechanism to fire, there must be something to pursue. that is in fact a cue for the pursuance mechanism to fire. Attraction and romance are cue dependent. While our previous environment provided natural cues, our current environment is completely absent of such cues. We have to make our own.

    Polygamous behavior again occurs because the threat of separation and various pursuance cues exist with a new potential partner, which again subside when the relationship involves long term cohabitation. If anything, safe and predictable long-term cohabitation is against our nature. Danger, the threat that you might not see each other again, that you might lose each other, competitors, predators, all acted as cues which ignited and kept the flame burning continuously. I say this because IMO, logically polygamy becomes counter intuitive when you have helpless and dependent offspring as humans do. Polygamy makes more sense when offspring can mature and be produced quickly. In humans, there is a great investment in producing only one offspring at a time, which is helpless and dependent for a long period of time. Monogamy in such a circumstance, makes more sense when it comes to survivability. You want long lasting cohesion. Hence jealousy is also a mechanism, ensuring monogamy. We keep a watchful eye on our partners, making sure there is neither emotional or sexual infidelity.

    If our ancestors had something like a divorce rate in the past (of course there was no divorce since institutionalized marriage did not yet exist, but let us assume), and it was as high as it was now, the chances of survival for the offspring would have been significantly low, IMO. Low enough to question whether or not the theory that we are essentially polygamous really holds.
     
    #7 cynic2005, Aug 20, 2010
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2010
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