Posts Tagged ‘evolutionary psychology’

David Buss defends evolved sex differences (exclusive!)

October 15, 2010

This week Scientific American ran an article of mine, “Student Surveys Contradict Claims of Evolved Sex Differences.” Here’s the gist:

For more than three decades evolutionary psychologists have advanced a simple theory of human sexuality: because men invest less reproductive effort in sperm than women do in eggs, men’s and women’s brains have been shaped differently by evolution. As a result, men are eager for sex whereas women are relatively choosy. But a steady stream of recent evidence suggests this paradigm could be in need of a makeover.

A highly cited 1993 paper on evolved sex differences (linked to below) served as the story’s jumping off point and foil. Evolutionary psychologist David Buss of the University of Texas at Austin, a co-author of that paper, kindly responded to a query of mine while I was writing the story, laying out his objections to the evidence I cited in the article. I knew I wasn’t going to have room to do justice to his views, so I asked him if I could post his comments to this blog. He did me one better: he wrote a direct response to my article, which I’m reprinting below in its entirety. Read the rest of this entry »


Why I don’t buy – or maybe just don’t care – that xenophobia is an evolutionary adaptation

August 26, 2010

Via @ericmjohnson comes this little essay by evolutionary biologist and philosopher of science Massimo Pigliucci of City University of New York, who recounts a lunchtime tête-à-tête between himself, a couple of colleagues and some undergraduates on the subject of racism:

At issue was the question of why it seems to be next to inevitable that regardless of race or ethnicity, a good number of our fellow human beings display a certain degree of xenophobia. I ventured to suggest that part of the answer is probably to be found in our evolutionary past. For most of our history, ‘outsiders’, especially if they looked or behaved differently from our in-group, were far more likely to be a threat to our survival and possessions than interested in cultural exchanges for reciprocal edification. In other words, xenophobia possibly arose as an advantageous instinct that aided our survival.

This, predictably, was not well received by my less scientifically-inclined colleagues Read the rest of this entry »

The beauty of multiple baby daddies

August 16, 2010

God bless for this little factoid, from a story on the long, troubled history of marriage:

In some South American tribes, a pregnant woman could take lovers, all of whom were considered responsible for her child. According to “Cultures of Multiple Fathers: The Theory and Practice of Partible Paternity in Lowland South America” (University of Florida Press, 2002), 80 percent of children with multiple “fathers” survived to adulthood, compared with 64 percent of kids with just one dad.

The practice of partible paternity – i.e., multiple baby daddies – dovetails nicely with some points raised by the group sex theory of hunter-gatherers, which I blogged about earlier. A Google search turned up the introduction to the volume mentioned above, from which I here excerpt the juicy bits. Read the rest of this entry »

God bless the New York Times Magazine

April 12, 2009

… for making my Easter a sweet one – and giving me things to blog about. This time it’s a fascinating look at the denizens of, a web site that connects prospective “sugar daddies” with lollipop-loving young women everywhere who need extra cash until they finish college or whatever.

Though one-quarter of the site’s sugar daddies (including married ones) are looking for male “babies” and 1 percent of the site’s members are “sugar mommies,” they still tend to fall into traditional roles, where the one who is paid supplies sex, admiration, comfort and the kind of status conferred by any other expensive consumer good. The “baby” is the one who regulates her appearance, schedule, behavior and emotions to make the payer feel special.

You should read the whole thing – it’s like Gossip Girl fan fiction. I’d like to say I found it gross but not really. The spectrum of relationships described is pretty wide, from one step above john vs. call girl to platonic benefactor plays pen pal with benefactress.

The narrative focuses on the sexualized father-daugher interactions, where high achieving men are looking to play the provider role, even paying for the young women to visit their boyfriends – did somebody say “double dose of dis pimpin’“? – while the young women get financial support and life coaching, plus some swell, faux incestual boinking.

Here’s a sweet quote from a sugar baby:

“When these sugar-daddy relationships go the way I think they should go, the lines are pretty blurry between that and a typical boyfriend-girlfriend relationship,” she said. “And when they go the way I don’t think they should go, the lines are blurry between that and sex work.”

She quit la dolce vita after she felt a guy had coerced her into letting him go skins, of course.

Now who could have ever come up with such a thing?? Ah, you don’t say:

BRANDON WEY GOT THE IDEA for the site from his own dissatisfying love life as an M.I.T. student and then as a well-off but awkward tech executive.

He wasn’t the only high-functioning Aspie trolling for tainted love:

[Sam the sugar daddy] started college when most kids his age were still in middle school. […] [He] runs these relationships with an explicit business plan, a set budget, measurable goals and quarterly reviews. From the outset, the contract has an end date. It’s a brilliant, if contrived, way to protect his pride. The contract specifies that the romance and sex are to end by the preset date, so there’s no break up, no rejection, no bruised ego. She’s not dumping him; the gig’s just over.

Reading this piece, I could see the wheels turning in the mind of the pop evolutionary psychologist. I’ll save that for later. From a cultural evolution pov, here’s my take:

1. I’m not sure we have the vocabulary in our culture to acknowledge the spectrum of relationship people enter into. That’s why the article keeps using the “with benefits” construction.

That link btw = Survey Finds ‘Friends with Benefits’ Common, which tells us this:

Two-thirds of participants said they had been in a “friends with benefits” relationship, and 36 percent said they currently were in one. The main advantage of such a relationship was “no commitment” (reported by 59.7 percent of participants), which was followed closely by “have sex” (55.6 percent).

More than half of those who had sex with a friend said they had engaged in all forms of sex; 22.7 percent said they had intercourse only, while 8 percent said they did everything but have intercourse.

2. There’s a lot of fucked up fathers and daughters out there. Then again, as long as we have the construct “fathers and daughters,” we’ll have men and women failing in those roles and seeking other outlets to establish equivalent connections.

3. Assuming women take over more and more of the Gawkersphere and men like me shrug it off, will we ever see this pattern reverse itself – i.e., will sugar mommas ever become the norm? Mm, I hope so. Sign me up and pimp me out.