How to Make Love Like a Caveman
What was prehistoric human sex like? Most of us conjure "the hackneyed image of the caveman, dragging a dazed woman by her hair with one hand, a club in the other." Psychologist Christopher Ryan says this image is mistaken in every detail.
What's the Big Idea?
If asked to imagine what prehistoric human sex was like, according to psychologist Christopher Ryan, most of us would conjure "the hackneyed image of the caveman, dragging a dazed woman by her hair with one hand, a club in the other..." Ryan says this image is mistaken in every detail. A much more likely picture of how it went down in prehistoric times was this: a caveman would quietly sit in the corner and watch another caveman have sex with a woman, patiently waiting his turn.
Apparently, prehistoric women were extraordinarily promiscuous, and like our primate ancestors, women are hard-wired to behave like chimps in the bedroom. In his book, Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origin of Modern Sexuality, Ryan offers a biological explanation for why we find monogamy so difficult today. A male is interested in sex with one woman up until the point of orgasm, at which point he will immediately lose interest, fall asleep, or perhaps wonder off to find more action.
In other words, human males are in important ways sexually incompatible with human females, who are capable of multiple orgasms. So what is the evolutionary advantage of this? Take monogamy out of the equation, and the evolutionary logic becomes more evident. A woman can have multiple sexual partners. This may increase her chances of reproducing, and she needs to try it a lot to be successful. Compared to other animals, humans have an incredibly low rate of conception, based on the number of sexual acts we partake in. And so it is well that sex is so much fun for humans, because if that were not the case, we wouldn't have made it this far.
So just what does it mean to make love like a caveman? It means have a lot of sex, partaking in, as Ryan describes it, the "seven million years of primate promiscuity" that our ancestors so heartily embraced as a species. That's a lot of sex.
Watch Christopher Ryan explain the evolution of human sexuality here:
What's the Significance?
According to Ryan, if we took an honest look at our dysfunctional sexual lives today, this is what we would find: we are all victims of a well-intentioned inquisition. American society has responded to this crisis by inventing a 'marital-industrial complex' of couples therapy, "pharmaceutical hard-ons," sex advice columnists, and "creepy father-daughter purity cults.” Viagra breaks sales records every year. Pornography worldwide is a $100 billion business. Ryan says we spend all of this money to compensate for a fundamental disconnect we have with our nature.
For instance, why is monogamy so difficult? According to Ryan, we are biologically programmed against it. It was not until the advent of agriculture that man developed a notion of private property, and had reason to feel jealous of a promiscuous mate. Culture invented monogamy, and with it marriage, cheating, and a sense of shame that surrounds our sexual selves. Ryan is anything but a home-wrecker. His book offers no prescriptions for curing our disconnect with nature. What he does recommend, however, is that we lose this sense of shame we have when we feel or act certain ways that contradict our culture, but which are in perfect harmony with our sexual nature.
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Is this proof of a dramatic shift?
- Map details dramatic shift from CNN to Fox News over 10-year period
- Does it show the triumph of "fake news" — or, rather, its defeat?
- A closer look at the map's legend allows for more complex analyses
Dramatic and misleading
Image: Reddit / SICResearch
The situation today: CNN pushed back to the edges of the country.
Over the course of no more than a decade, America has radically switched favorites when it comes to cable news networks. As this sequence of maps showing TMAs (Television Market Areas) suggests, CNN is out, Fox News is in.
The maps are certainly dramatic, but also a bit misleading. They nevertheless provide some insight into the state of journalism and the public's attitudes toward the press in the US.
Let's zoom in:
- It's 2008, on the eve of the Obama Era. CNN (blue) dominates the cable news landscape across America. Fox News (red) is an upstart (°1996) with a few regional bastions in the South.
- By 2010, Fox News has broken out of its southern heartland, colonizing markets in the Midwest and the Northwest — and even northern Maine and southern Alaska.
- Two years later, Fox News has lost those two outliers, but has filled up in the middle: it now boasts two large, contiguous blocks in the southeast and northwest, almost touching.
- In 2014, Fox News seems past its prime. The northwestern block has shrunk, the southeastern one has fragmented.
- Energised by Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, Fox News is back with a vengeance. Not only have Maine and Alaska gone from entirely blue to entirely red, so has most of the rest of the U.S. Fox News has plugged the Nebraska Gap: it's no longer possible to walk from coast to coast across CNN territory.
- By 2018, the fortunes from a decade earlier have almost reversed. Fox News rules the roost. CNN clings on to the Pacific Coast, New Mexico, Minnesota and parts of the Northeast — plus a smattering of metropolitan areas in the South and Midwest.
Image source: Reddit / SICResearch
This sequence of maps, showing America turning from blue to red, elicited strong reactions on the Reddit forum where it was published last week. For some, the takeover by Fox News illustrates the demise of all that's good and fair about news journalism. Among the comments?
- "The end is near."
- "The idiocracy grows."
- "(It's) like a spreading disease."
- "One of the more frightening maps I've seen."
- "LOL that's what happens when you're fake news!"
- "CNN went down the toilet on quality."
- "A Minecraft YouTuber could beat CNN's numbers."
- "CNN has become more like a high-school production of a news show."
Not a few find fault with both channels, even if not always to the same degree:
- "That anybody considers either of those networks good news sources is troubling."
- "Both leave you understanding less rather than more."
- "This is what happens when you spout bullsh-- for two years straight. People find an alternative — even if it's just different bullsh--."
- "CNN is sh-- but it's nowhere close to the outright bullsh-- and baseless propaganda Fox News spews."
"Old people learning to Google"
Image: Google Trends
CNN vs. Fox News search terms (200!-2018)
But what do the maps actually show? Created by SICResearch, they do show a huge evolution, but not of both cable news networks' audience size (i.e. Nielsen ratings). The dramatic shift is one in Google search trends. In other words, it shows how often people type in "CNN" or "Fox News" when surfing the web. And that does not necessarily reflect the relative popularity of both networks. As some commenters suggest:
- "I can't remember the last time that I've searched for a news channel on Google. Is it really that difficult for people to type 'cnn.com'?"
- "More than anything else, these maps show smart phone proliferation (among older people) more than anything else."
- "This is a map of how old people and rural areas have learned to use Google in the last decade."
- "This is basically a map of people who don't understand how the internet works, and it's no surprise that it leans conservative."
A visual image as strong as this map sequence looks designed to elicit a vehement response — and its lack of context offers viewers little new information to challenge their preconceptions. Like the news itself, cartography pretends to be objective, but always has an agenda of its own, even if just by the selection of its topics.
The trick is not to despair of maps (or news) but to get a good sense of the parameters that are in play. And, as is often the case (with both maps and news), what's left out is at least as significant as what's actually shown.
One important point: while Fox News is the sole major purveyor of news and opinion with a conservative/right-wing slant, CNN has more competition in the center/left part of the spectrum, notably from MSNBC.
Another: the average age of cable news viewers — whether they watch CNN or Fox News — is in the mid-60s. As a result of a shift in generational habits, TV viewing is down across the board. Younger people are more comfortable with a "cafeteria" approach to their news menu, selecting alternative and online sources for their information.
It should also be noted, however, that Fox News, according to Harvard's Nieman Lab, dominates Facebook when it comes to engagement among news outlets.
CNN, Fox and MSNBC
Image: Google Trends
CNN vs. Fox (without the 'News'; may include searches for actual foxes). See MSNBC (in yellow) for comparison
For the record, here are the Nielsen ratings for average daily viewer total for the three main cable news networks, for 2018 (compared to 2017):
- Fox News: 1,425,000 (-5%)
- MSNBC: 994,000 (+12%)
- CNN: 706,000 (-9%)
And according to this recent overview, the top 50 of the most popular websites in the U.S. includes cnn.com in 28th place, and foxnews.com in... 27th place.The top 5, in descending order, consists of google.com, youtube.com, facebook.com, amazon.com and yahoo.com — the latter being the highest-placed website in the News and Media category.
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