Friday, August 10, 2007

Hijacking a Ride?

A new study seeks to shed some light on why women pick men who breed but don't stick around (Hat Tip: Jules Crittenden):

Yet, how to explain women choosing those unsuitable, macho, alpha types? Many do.

Ovulating women have an increase in masculine preference, Dr. Boothroyd says, as do women who are already in a committed long-term relationship, "the idea being that they're already in a relationship, so they're not looking for a long-term partner."

Women with high self-esteem also choose more masculine partners, which may be because "they've got more in the bank to negotiate."

But they're not choosing them for their immunocompetence, Dr. Boothroyd says. Instead, they're attracted for reasons more directly related to the man's alpha-male status. Their genes might not technically be better, but since they belong to a socially dominant male, women perceive the men as having other desirable attributes.

So the next step is to take a harder look at what those genetic benefits might be. The "sexy-son" hypothesis, which dates back to the 1920s, is one possibility, Dr. Boothroyd says.

The premise: If a male is reproductively successful, it's advantageous to mate with him because he should produce sons who are also reproductively successful. "Sexy sons actually give their mothers more grandchildren," she says. These women are making a trade-off so their genes "can hijack a ride along with his and spread through the population."

I guess that explains why serial sperm donors are so successful with women.


Blogger Peregrine John said...

This looks like fodder for those who like to cluck in disapproval, but the fact is that the entire subject is enormously useful in both understanding and interacting with people.

The usefulness is so politically incorrect, however, and in so many ways, that the discussion here should be very interesting. I'm pre-caffeinated at the moment so I'll refrain beyond saying, "Yup, that is insanely, overtly, gigantically true," and pondering how I can put in my oar later without getting myself clobbered.

10:11 AM, August 10, 2007  
Blogger BobH said...

I wonder how many men (including lawyers) read stuff like this and also know about the American legal environment surrounding paternity fraud, then get married anyway, mostly because they are confident (i.e., arrogant) enough to believe that they can accurately predict some woman's future behavior.

There are two classic male defenses to this type of behavior: (1) being a deadbeat dad, meaning don't invest in the offspring and (2) engaging in guarding behavior, to prevent her from having sex with other males. The first strategy occurs in 97% of mammalian species and 75% of bird species. It generally gets men branded as "immature jerks". The second strategy has been observed in bird species and commonly goes by the name of "male violence against females".

Mention all this stuff to women, and many, perhaps a majority, of them will blame it all on men, as if it's men's fault for being stupid enough to trust women.

Gee, where are Chan and Mary when you need them?

12:27 PM, August 10, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I don't know, I pretty much blame myself for choosing poorly. My ex is pretty lame, but I picked him; no point in blaming an apple tree for not making oranges.

12:36 PM, August 10, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kids are the new cash cows. Rent went up? Have another!

The government takes care of them most of the day (WIC) teaches them how and what to think, and the mom teaches them how to hate men.

Any data will be skewed because the government only works 9 to 5 Monday through Friday. The wayward man is up and gone by 6 or 7, comes home at 9 that night. How's the government supposed to know what's truly happening?

12:36 PM, August 10, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Robert Ardrey was an anthropologist and writer who had a long-term interest in the subject of mating and survival behavior in the animal world, and what we humans have inherited in that regard from our remote ancestors. I highly recommend reading:

"African Genesis"
"The Territorial Imperative"
"The Hunting Hypothesis"

to gain a greater perspective on this topic.

2:29 PM, August 10, 2007  
Blogger David Foster said...

"immunocompetence...since testosterone places extra strain on the immune system, when a woman encountered a very masculine-looking man she would perceive that he must have a strong immune system in order to have survived." Even if immunocompetnce is really a major factor in mate selection, this seems like dubious reasoning. Any male children would likely inheret the high testosterone, placing extra strain on *their* immune systems and negating any benefits achieved by inheriting the strong immune systems. For this hypothesis to make sense, it seems like the heritability of hormone levels would have to be much less than the heritabiity of immune system characteristics.

2:38 PM, August 10, 2007  
Blogger Art Deco said...

Rudyard Kipling used to produce material like the study quoted.

1. He was a better stylist;

2. There was little pretense that the purpose was aught but to entertain.

5:25 PM, August 10, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dames. Nothin but trouble.

5:30 PM, August 10, 2007  
Blogger Serket said...

Is this saying that masculine men are more likely to be serial breeders? Because that type of sexual behavior seems really immature.

6:06 PM, August 10, 2007  
Blogger El Duderino said...

Often times serial donors are not very selective. It's the rare alpha male who is fortunate enough to run around knocking up Vassar alumnae with trust funds, Miss Worlds and hot women forensic psychiatrists.
They are knocking up the sort of woman you might see on Jerry Springer, low hanging fruit to be sure but still fruitful. I can only imagine that these women welcome the attentions of anyone, including men who will stiff them and then stiff them.

8:34 PM, August 10, 2007  
Blogger Adrian said...

Actually, I find the sexy son hypothesis interesting and amusing -- not because it is silly, but because of just how insightful it is. You think their genes aren't "really" more fit? Why? Because they aren't a snooty upper middle class person like us? They show a lot of behaviors we disapprove of, so now they aren't as fit as us weenie, whipped husbands, eh? On the contrary, natural selection doesn't give two sh1t3s about our little social tea party or what we personally value.

It just goes to show how out of touch with reality society really is -- any society. It's every bit as real as the Matrix. In fact, a whole lot of what Agent Smith says about the Matrix applies perfectly well to society and social memes. (I suppose that is part of the existentialist philosophical point of the movie to a large extent.)

People aren't supposed to live. People are supposed to die. They are supposed to reproduce and then die. All these empires, monuments to dictators, advancements in art or science are not really much different than scratches on a prison wall counting the days to freedom....

8:57 PM, August 10, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

Well Adrian, I have to say I agree with you. Except for the tone of your very last sentence -- presuming I read the tone correctly. And the second paragraph I didn't get, but then I didn't much pay attention to the Matrix, so perhaps that's why.

I have always found the obsession with death most people have to be pretty friggin' hilarious. It's not like anyone gets a bye on the ride. And, that ride might very well be rather interesting.

To paraphrase Asimov, I'm completely comfortable that at some point (in the now nearer future) that my consciousness will twinkle briefly and fade from existence. And?

11:30 PM, August 10, 2007  
Blogger Flash Gordon said...

If it's true that behavior is developed through evolution, much the same as the size of one's nose, and that evolution is very slow, then we are evolved to live in a world that no longer exists. Our behavior would make more sense 100,000 years ago than it does now.

But this seems to lead to confusion. In that distant time a pregnant female could not live alone and survive. She certainly could not care for a human infant, born helpless, without help. So choosing a mate who would not stick around would not have been a good survival strategy.

And sneaking out on her steady man to mate with some squared-jawed big-nosed guy for a wham-bam-thank you-maam adventure would have been extremely risky. If discovered, she would at best lose the help of her steady mate. More likely she would be murdered (no homicide detectives to worry about in those days).

So none of this makes sense to me. Except maybe things are as I have always suspected. Women are nuts.

11:47 AM, August 11, 2007  
Blogger Bruce Hayden said...

I think that some above, and maybe even the reviewer, are missing the point that the women are picking the dominant Alpha male when they are ovulating and in a committed relationship.

The Alpha male has the best breeding potential, and as noted, the most chances at grandchildren.

But why? I would suggest that the human woman's typical female preference for picking the best genetics in her sperm donor is tempered with the reality that we are primarily monogamous and those Alpha males can typically only support one mate (if any).

Having a male involved in the parenting and providing for the kids is of primary concern, and thus, monogamy, and the reality that most women end up picking the less Alpha male looking males for mates. What they are looking for is the best male they can find who will stay loyal and do his job.

But female mammals do prefer the Alpha males for fathering their children. Mating with the best males results in more grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc., which is what breeding is about in the first place.

The problem is always how to reconcile these two drives, for a father and for the best genes. The answer is by marrying the father and cheating with the male with the best genes.

It used to be easier to get away with. Very often, everyone in a community would be somewhat closely related genetically, so the women would have a decently good chance at passing of the kids from the cheater as those from their husbands.

But, not only are we living in a much more diverse society, where gross differences between the husband and the sperm donor would show up in the kids, but we now have genetic testing.

On the other hand, we have welfare and a legal system that seems to say that a father is better than the right father, and the husband is legally presumed to be the actual father of kids. The result sometimes is that courts sometimes force males known as not being the genetic father of kids to pay for them, for the "good of the children".

Yes, I am a bit cynical here. A rational system would look at the long term effects of this, and determine that it society should not reward behavior that ultimately undermines societal norms, in this case, rewarding wives cheating on their husbands.

Back off my soapbox. In this interpretation, it is easy to see why women are more likely to cheat when ovulating and when married. Sex during most of a woman's cycle is there for binding a male to her. Note that human females are fairly unique in their continual receptivity and interest in sex. But at the time of ovulation, the purpose of sex changes to that of procreation. And thus, no surprise that she will prefer the Alpha male over the long term mate. (And this finding isn't new). The woman with the long term mate is presumably secure enough that her sex doesn't have to be devoted to keeping that mate around. And, thus, she too can look to the Alpha males for sex.

11:50 AM, August 11, 2007  
Blogger Bruce Hayden said...

And sneaking out on her steady man to mate with some squared-jawed big-nosed guy for a wham-bam-thank you-maam adventure would have been extremely risky. If discovered, she would at best lose the help of her steady mate. More likely she would be murdered (no homicide detectives to worry about in those days).

But note that her big worry is/was getting caught in the act, since she likely lived in a small community genetically where she could fairly easily pass off the offspring of the Alpha males as those of her husban.

11:52 AM, August 11, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Breeding is about survival. Any behavior which increases the chances ot that will eventually win out in the evolutionary lottery. Monogamy is a more modern, refined concept. It did not enhance survival, group behavior did.

There is reason to believe alpha males in small groups might have attempted to mate with all the females, because this would be their best strategy and they could enforce it. That, after all, is what being an alpha male is all about. And women would be predisposed, by culture and genetics, to favor this behavior in order to reproduce future alpha males in their bloodline. At a biological level, nothing has changed.

9:20 AM, August 12, 2007  
Blogger Peregrine John said...

Still no Chan or Mary. What gives?

11:38 AM, August 13, 2007  
Blogger Helen said...

Peregrine John,

And this is a problem for you?

1:05 PM, August 13, 2007  
Blogger Kirk Parker said...


I guess this means that Peregrine John has a taste for bizarre theatrics and boring, predictable ad hominem. Who knew? :-)

5:03 PM, August 13, 2007  
Blogger Peregrine John said...

Heh, heh, heh. :^D Nooo, I'm not actually pining for them! Not nearly enough of a masochist for that.

It's just sort of odd for them to not put in their oar on this particular topic - or, as bobh might have been suggesting, the truth is so blatant here that their usual positions look even more ludicrous than normal! Then again, kirk, their posts are foregone conclusions, so perhaps they didn't bother repeating what they've told us before...


10:40 AM, August 14, 2007  
Blogger kentuckyliz said...

High mileage Alpha males are gross and probably medically dangerous from an epidemiological point of view.

Mmm, low mileage Beta males...far more attractive and probably not packing HIV or HepC.

3:13 PM, August 16, 2007  
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