Department of It Ain't Necessarily So

Did Men and Women Evolve to Have Different Approaches to Sex? Maybe Not . . .

A number of evolutionary psychologists have claimed men and women have innate, inescapable differences in their approach to sex. It's supposed to be a logical consequence of the two genders' different reproductive strategies.


The theory is, as the old rhyme goes, Higgamous, Hoggamous, woman's monogamous -- because she invests a lot in each successful act of reproduction. But Hoggamous, Higgamous, man is polygamous -- because it costs much less to make a sperm cell than an egg, and men don't have to carry a fetus to term. The psychologist David Buss uses this evolutionary argument to support his claim that in matters sexual, as he put it in a talk I heard years ago, ``men are slime.''

Gillian R. Brown and her colleagues at the University of Saint Andrews recently looked at this evolutionary argument. In a paper published earlier this summer, they say the claim is unsupported by the evidence.

If promiscuity is the soundest evolutionary strategy for human males, they reason, then those who follow that approach should have the most offspring. But when they examined 18 different societies, Brown and her colleagues found that men with multiple partners were not always the most successful at passing their genes on to the next generation.

Rather than a sharp difference in sexual strategies, they found that men and women overlapped a great deal in their mating habits, and both sexes had similar rates of reproductive success (which means that there was not a clear ``male strategy'' or ``female strategy.'')

Claims that human beings are subject to the Higgamous-Hoggamous rule were based on work that lumped those 18 societies together, the authors write.

Because there are a few societies where some men have many wives, that lumping messed up the curve. You don't describe ``the typical male golfer'' by averaging 16 ordinary guys plus Arnold Palmer plus Tiger Woods. Similarly, the ``human male reproductive strategy'' isn't Higgamous everywhere just because it is in a few cultures.

You can still say men are slime, of course. But maybe you shouldn't blame evolution.

'Upstreamism': Your zip code affects your health as much as genetics

Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
  • Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
  • Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
Keep reading Show less

In U.S. first, drug company faces criminal charges for distributing opioids

It marks a major shift in the government's battle against the opioid crisis.

George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • The nation's sixth-largest drug distributor is facing criminal charges related to failing to report suspicious drug orders, among other things.
  • It marks the first time a drug company has faced criminal charges for distributing opioids.
  • Since 1997, nearly 222,000 Americans have died from prescription opioids, partly thanks to unethical doctors who abuse the system.
Keep reading Show less

Following sex, some men have unexpected feelings – study

A new study shows that some men's reaction to sex is not what you'd expect, resulting in a condition previously observed in women.

Credit: Pixabay
Sex & Relationships
  • A new study shows men's feelings after sex can be complex.
  • Some men reportedly get sad and upset.
  • The condition affected 41% of men in the study
Keep reading Show less

Calling out Cersei Lannister: Elizabeth Warren reviews Game of Thrones

The real Game of Thrones might be who best leverages the hit HBO show to shape political narratives.

Photo credit: Mario Tama / Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren argues that Game of Thrones is primarily about women in her review of the wildly popular HBO show.
  • Warren also touches on other parallels between the show and our modern world, such as inequality, political favoritism of the elite, and the dire impact of different leadership styles on the lives of the people.
  • Her review serves as another example of using Game of Thrones as a political analogy and a tool for framing political narratives.
Keep reading Show less