Men and Their Numbers Strategy - Equality Versus Hierarchy

Sex, Power, and Partisanship: How Evolutionary Science Makes Sense of Our Political Divide - Hector A. Garcia 2019

Men and Their Numbers Strategy
Equality Versus Hierarchy

Sex-based reproductive strategy differences are based in part on differences in potential reproductive output. Like the male chimpanzees, and males of many other species, men can exponentially increase their genetic fitness (i.e., their number of offspring) by mating with as many women as possible. This is not the only available strategy—some men will pair bond with their wives, devote virtually all their time, energy, and resources to rearing their offspring, and swear off sex with other women. Other men are terminal philanderers. Innumerable men lie somewhere in between. But the algorithmic advantage to male genes coding for a preference for sexual numbers is without question, whereas the reverse is largely not true for women. For this reason, men generally tend to prefer a variety of casual sexual partners. Women, on the other hand, generally tend to prefer stable, committed relationships with partners willing and able to contribute resources to childrearing, which requires extended provisioning.

Parental investment also drives these differences. Biologically, men invest about a teaspoon of semen and theoretically can walk away after that. But women spend nine months in pregnancy, endure risky childbirths, and generally continue to provide the majority of parental caregiving across the globe. Further, sperm is cheap and produced by the millions, whereas ova are scarce, released only during the period from adolescence to menopause (about five hundred total across a woman's life span). This scarcity drives female selectivity, as does the need for quality, committed mates who can provide resources.

Evolutionary psychologist David Buss has conducted surveys among tens of thousands of people, drawn from across cultures, religions, race, socioeconomic status, and every continent on the globe, and found repeatedly that men prefer casual sex and more sexual partners more than women (endorsing a quantity strategy), and that women prefer resource investment about twice as much as men (reflecting a quality strategy).23 In one study, Buss found that out of sixty-seven potentially desirable traits in the partner of a casual affair, men had lower standards than women on forty-one of them. Buss writes that men “require lower levels of such assets as charm, athleticism, education, generosity, honesty, independence, kindness, intellectuality, loyalty, sense of humor, sociability, wealth, responsibility, spontaneity, cooperativeness, and emotional stability.”

When asked about undesirable traits, men had fewer problems with “mental abuse, violence, bisexuality, dislike by others, excessive drinking, ignorance, lack of education, possessiveness, promiscuity, selfishness, lack of humor, and lack of sensuality.” In fact, men rated only four characteristics as less desirable than did women: “low sex drive, physical unattractiveness, need for commitment, and hairiness,” all of which speak to potential problems in fertility, or, as in the case of the need for commitment, an impediment to the quantity strategy.24

Other researchers have set up scenarios where attractive confederates approach the opposite sex and promptly offer casual sex. Seventy-five percent of men accepted the offer, compared with none of the women.25 Research has also found that men fantasize more than women about group sex,26 and that men are four times more likely than women to fantasize about having sex with over one thousand different partners throughout their lives.27 Men, on the whole, appear hardwired to prefer a shotgun-blast approach to reproduction.

The problem with all this male readiness, however, is that in any given population, there are fewer sexually receptive females than there are males. The sex ratio, the number of men to women, is roughly one to one worldwide (slightly favoring men). But the operational sex ratio (OSR), or the number of reproductively viable males competing to reproduce as compared to the number of reproductively viable competing females, tends to skew much higher on the male end. There are a variety of reasons for this difference, including men's longer span of reproductive viability and the fact that many women are already reproductively committed (e.g., pregnant or nursing) at any given time. Add the fact that, when possible, powerful men will engage in polygyny and the reproductive future for low-ranking men looks increasingly bleak. For men, these factors create scarcity and the risk of total reproductive failure. Like chimpanzees, and males of many species, men will use violence as a strategy to secure scarce resources, including access to mates.