SEX AND SEXUALITY,
an article by Roger Fritz
THE SEXUALITY OF BIRDS
When birds migrate to summer nesting grounds, male birds are the first to arrive, and when they get there they compete for territories. Males have a pecking order, based on who can beat the crap out of who, and those higher in the pecking order sieze and hold the better territories. Then the females arrive, and each chooses a mate, based largely on the quality of his territory. Males don't do the choosing. Each female tries to get the highest status mate she can. When she finds a mate, they build a nest together, and then both of them go out and have sex with everyone else they can. The females have sex with any males who are higher in status than their mates. Generally, 20 to 35% of the eggs in a nest are fathered by extracurricular males.
Males have sex with females who are lower in status than they are, not because they're fussy but because higher status females generally refuse them. Males prefer sex with higher status females, but that's rare. If a female does have sex with a male who's lower in status than her, it's sometimes because there's a higher-status male around that she's trying to attract. Or perhaps the male has qualities she'd like in some of her children.
One implication of this dynamic is that females at the top and males at the bottom have few sexual partners available. Another is that there's a pressure that drives males down in status and females up in status. If you follow a male's male descendents, you'll see that they go down in status over time. Whereas a female's female descendents go up in status through the generations. Carried to the absurd extreme, we have a society in which all the females are high class and mateless, and all the males are low class and mateless. Birds don't carry things this far, because there are other natural dynamics that prevent it. Humans, however, are masters of the absurd. Part of the reason birth rates go down in developing societies is that men and women are separating in class, and more and more people can't find mates.
THE SEXUALITY OF PEOPLE
Research has shown that humans are similar to birds. Women begin working their way up the ladder of successful men from the time they start dating in high school. They marry the highest status man they can get. Finding the right mate is important, because equitable relationships are more satisfying than unbalanced ones,
even for the person who is receiving more than they're giving. The relationships that work are the ones where the man and woman have aspirations and attitudes in common. A woman who can't find a mate appropriate to her status will often find a boyfriend who is lower than her but willing to work hard to elevate himself up to her level, a "fixer-upper."
Once a woman's found a mate, she and her husband have all the affairs they can get away with. In a puritanical society such as America, that may mean very few. In a matriarchal tribe, it meant any and all of the men were available to a woman, without bad vibing from her partner being allowed. And 8,000,000 years of human history was matriarchal until the invention of agriculture 11,000 years ago.
One study showed that women in pubs and bars show more square inches of bare skin when they're fertile. Another found that women are more likely to be unfaithful when they're fertile. Another found that women retain 3 times as much sperm from lovers as from their husbands. Another found that women have sex with their husbands when they're not fertile, and with their lovers when they are. Another found that women are significantly more likely to use contraception with their main partners than with their lovers. This isn't deliberate. Women aren't even aware they're doing it. It's biological and unconscious.
The result is all this is that a significant number of men are bringing up children who aren't theirs. A study among affluent Swiss found 1%. A study among working-class Brits found from 20 to 30%. A study in Detroit in the late '70s found 5 to 15%, with higher rates in lower socioeconomic classes. In April, 2001 there was a story in the news about a couple who was going through a divorce, and the father found out through genetic testing that three of the four children he'd had with his wife weren't his. The court has said he has to continue child support anyway. Part of male jealousy relates to not wanting to raise another man's kids.
Studies have shown that women aren't attracted to poor men when it comes to choosing a mate, and they aren't attracted to poor men when it comes to casual sex either. Low status men and high status women have few natural sex partners. Julia Roberts once said, "Nobody ever asks me out. Ever. Almost never. Almost absolutely never. Look, if you read the paper, you figure I'm booked till, like, 2004. Like, why would you even ask me? I've got so many balls in the air, I can hardly stand up." What she's not mentioning is that high status women are free to do something about it in a way that low status men are not. Jackie Collins, commenting on Julia Robert's tumultuous love life, said, "She's sort of like a female George Clooney... a playgirl" (Oregonian, 10-2-01, p. A2).
Of course, what we're talking about here is perceived status rather than absolute status. And determining status is very tricky because it's comparing apples and oranges. Women's status comes primarily from physical beauty. Men's comes primarily from earning potential. (There's an old saying that a woman will forgive a man for being broke, but she won't forgive him for lacking ambition.) One thing this means is that a man and woman can disagree about who has more status. What happens if a woman thinks she's higher status, and the man thinks he has more status? Confusion.
I had a girlfriend once who dumped me, but we remained friends. Then she moved to NY, and she wanted to have lunch before she left. I was bowled over to discover that all she wanted to do at lunch was scold me. She was quite angry, and what she was angry about was that I hadn't pursued her "with energy and creativity." I treated her as an equal, but she saw herself as having more status than me, and was insulted.
Beauty, by the way, is average. You can use a computer to combine two photos of faces into a single face, and then you can add in more faces. By the time you get to 15 or 20 faces, it's become quite beautiful. The farther people are from average, the less beautiful they are. Beauty is also powerful. Researchers put a woman in an airport struggling to get her suitcase up a stairway. A plain woman took an average of 78 seconds to receive an offer of help. A beautiful woman took an average of 6 seconds. And once a man had offered, he'd carry that suitcase anywhere. Men will do absurd things to be near a beautiful woman. An old Candid Camera TV show had Dolly Parton on it, before she was famous but not before she was beautiful. She claimed she had a sprained ankle, and asked strange men on the street to carry her across the it. They'd literally carry her anywhere.
One way that people are different from birds is that women have concealed ovulation. It's thought that this came about because it allows a woman to be sexual all the time, and how else are you going to control a bunch of stone age males and protect the children. And if a male's had sex with a female, those children might be his. When we lived out on the African grasslands a few million years ago, this was more important than it is now. Now a great accumulation of law and ethics and tradition prohibits killing your wife's children from her previous marriages, but that's the natural behavior of many other primates, as well as some other species such as lions.
A little history might be a good idea here. The human race is more than 8 million years old. Until the domestication of fire 2,000,000 years ago, we were largely matriarchal. Women controlled access to sex, and men put up with it because it meant having sex with all the women in the clan. We were non-monogamous, and there was far less violence. Women tamed fire and invented cooking, and then they invented agriculture around 11,000 years ago, during the time the ice age was ending. Then there was extra food. Men started staying home from the hunt, and they took over. And invented civilization.
Monogamy and marriage were invented by men, basically as institutionalized jealousy. Once matriarchy ended and communal sex ended and the raising of children stopped being a community affair, it emerged that men have a curious aversion to raising another man's child. Marriage began as ownership of women and formalized jealousy, and became what it is today.
People like sex. 70% of the chatrooms on the internet are sexually oriented. 90% of the movies made in America are pornographic. The only stronger drive in men is thirst. That is to say, men will give up food for sex, no matter how hungry they are. Another way to put it is that men will endure more pain to get sex than they will to get food.
Libido begins early. Babies masturbate in the womb. But it's amped up enormously when adolescence begins. It then increases quickly for men and peaks at the age of 18, and then the line of the graph slants slowly down for the rest of a man's life. At 55 a man has about a third of the sex-drive he had at 18.
A woman's libido increases slowly till the age of 30 or so, and then after that it increases even more slowly for the rest of her life. The lines for men and women cross at age 55. That is to say: the average 55 year old man and woman have the same strength sex-drive. After 55, women want sex more than men do.
Women will never know what it's like to want sex the way young men do. An 85 year old woman might have half the sex drive an 18 year old man does. One of the things this suggests is that old women and young men are natural partners. The same goes for old men and young women.
Women's libido increases with fertility, whereas men's stays pretty much the same all the time. The longer women go without sex, the less it bothers them. Desire dies down. The longer men go without sex, the more it bothers them, unless they're distracted by threats to survival, in which case libido turns off. Where men's libido is shut down by threats to survival, women's is shut down by threats to security.
FERTILITY AND SPERM COMPETITION
If a woman comes more than a minute before a man, she retains 30% of his sperm. If she comes from one minute before he comes to anytime after him, she retains 70%. If a woman masturbates, the orgasm draws acid from the vagina up into her uterus, and next time she makes love with a man the sperm are killed. Women unconsciously use orgasm and masturbation as birth control, or more exactly, to select who they get pregnant by.
Male ejaculate contains 200 to 400 million sperm, usually. If a man thinks a woman might have had sex with another man since last time they made love, the number goes up to 700 million. Men have three types of sperm: one that impregnates the egg (few in number), one that tangles together to obstruct other mens' sperm (many in number), and one that actually hunts down and kills other mens' sperm (medium in number). They wouldn't need the last two types if monogamy actually worked. Men ejaculate sooner when they sense a risk of sperm competition, as well as more forcefully, and the orgasms are felt more intensely. That's part of why men like to have affairs. The higher a woman's status is than a man's, the more likely he is to come too soon.
Men have testicles halfway in size between gorillas (who have the smallest testicles of any primates) and chimpanzees (who have the largest). A gorilla is the ruler of his harem, and there are no other males around to provide sperm competition, so he doesn't need big balls, and he only has one type of sperm. Chimpanzees have sex indiscriminantly, so there's lots of sperm competition, and males need to produce as many sperm as possible. Men have medium sized balls because humans have more sperm competition than gorillas and less than chimpanzees. Human mating isn't indiscriminant, but it's been a long way from monogamous.
Sperm live for five days in a woman. If a woman has sex with another man within that time, that's called "double mating" by researchers. The more fertile a woman is, the higher the proportion of double matings she does. 47% of women (in a study in England) have done it at least once in their lives. 1 in 125 matings is double. Mathematically, this is enough to account for sperm competition.
A woman is more likely to doublemate if she has sex more than 7 times a week (1 in 75), if her main partner uses the withdrawal method (1 in 59) or if she has genital irritation or disease (1 in 66). She's less likely to doublemate if she uses the pill (1 in 188) or if her main partner uses condoms regularly (1 in 161).
Men and women have had parallel evolutions, and they have parallel cultures. Women fall in love more frequently but not as quickly as men. Men are more romantic than women, more interested in marriage, think fidelity is more important than good sex or money or having kids (that is to say: they're jealous), take longer to get over a breakup, and admit loneliness less but suffer from it more than women. All of this is contrary (you'll notice) to the prevailing myths in American culture.
For the last 8 million years, men were hunters and tenders of the traplines, while women minded the camp and took care of the young and the old. The result is that men and women have very different value systems. Men had to develop hunter values because anything else on a hunting trip gets you killed. The first great lesson that's learned by living out in nature is the buddy system: if you're alone and you have an accident, you're dead. So men developed values like cooperation, loyalty, dependability, mutual aid, keeping one's word, and teamwork. These values weren't so much chosen as evolved. Men who couldn't adopt these values didn't live to contribute to the gene pool. This doesn't mean that men aren't competitive. But when the hunt starts, the competition stops.
If you're a straight man or a gay woman, you have to deal with the nature of women. Women have spent the last 8,000,000 years tending the campsite and gathering supplies that were within walking distance. Unfortunately, hunter values don't work particularly well in camp. Cooperation, for example, is very different among women. If six women wake up one morning, they'll have six different ideas of what's important to get done that day. And some of them will probably be right, so it's better for the camp if they don't cooperate in the male fashion: all working together doing one task. A woman's idea of cooperation has more to do with using her superior communication skills to talk some of the others into going along with her idea. But women don't work together as a single organism the way men do, and alliances are totally ad hoc. Alliances and agendas shift like water among women, and since that feels natural they wouldn't have it any other way.
Of course, this is made trickier in modern times because a third of the people in America are androgynous. But the fundamental principles still apply.
The result of the last 8 million years is that men and women are very different sexually. One obvious difference is that men take sex personally in a way that women don't. Women have evolved to have sex with whoever makes it home from the hunt, without getting too attached to any one man, because he might be the one who doesn't come home next time, and to have sex with the young strangers going by every spring on walkabout. What women like best is having sex with a lot of men, some familiar and some strangers. Monogamy and marriage and fidelity are inventions men came up with after women invented agriculture 11,000 years ago, and are basically expressions of jealousy. A women friend once told she'd have a lot more sex with men if they didn't keep falling in love with her. Women don't care nearly as much about companionship as men do, nor do they suffer from loneliness after a breakup nearly as much as men do. Men are built to attach to women, but women aren't built to attach to men. They attach to children.
My Uncle Conley explained it to me when I was 12. "The pattern in our family," he said," is that a man and woman fall in love, and things are wonderful. The man feels loved, and he's the center of attention. Then the first kid is born, and the woman's love and attention switch to the child. The man feels abandoned and lost. So, he figures, well, the kids aren't going to be around forever, so he'll just wait till the last kid leaves home. He figures that the love and sweetness will come back to him, but instead when the last kid is gone the woman's attention goes to the grandkids, and he still isn't loved. At that point, the men seem to generally either become alcoholics or have affairs and get a divorce, some form of major life explosion." Uncle Conley himself became an alcoholic and died of cancer, a disease that relates emotionally to unexpressed resentment.
When a man's in a sexual relationship with a woman he would do well to remember that, no matter how much she loves him, this isn't a personal relationship for her in the way it is for him. This whole relationship thing is a male invention that women are forced to live in. It's not natural to them, and they don't actually like it. In New Guinea the tribal women yearn for how it used to be. They speak longingly of how at a festival 50 men would go into the jungle with a woman and have sex with her, one after another. Those were the good old days.
In one sense women take sex more personally than men do. They don't want to be used for sex. They want to be appreciated for their minds and personalities and hearts as well as their sexuality. In that sense men take sex less personally than women do. Men generally will have sex with pretty much anybody who invites them.
But once they're into a sexual relationship, it flips. Women in general take sexual relationships far less personally than men do. For a woman, there's not a direct connection between loving a man and not kicking him out. A woman's affection for a man isn't the biggest a factor while she's assessing whether he's more trouble than he's worth. Men will bond so strongly to a woman that they'll sacrifice themselves for her, whereas women generally reserve that for children. A question Ann Landers often recommends to women to ask themselves is, "Am I better off with him or without him?" The CDC says 33% of marriages dissolve in 10 years, and another 10% end in the next 5 years.
Women conceal a lot of their culture from men. Most men, for example, don't know that women curse a lot more than men do, because women don't do it in front of men. And women use slang for sex that most men never hear: "lay down," "tango," "bend over," "get down," "do it," "booty call." Most men would be shocked if they could hear how women talk about sex when there are no men around. It's pretty pragmatic.
Due to parallel evolution, from the male point of view most women are mentally ill. They're obsessed with security, to the exclusion of things like sex and affection and play, if necessary. Women in general would often prefer to be with an abusive man who gives them security rather than a loving man who doesn't.
Conversely, from the female point of view, most men are mentally ill. They have no understanding of the single most basic fact of life, which is that the security of the nest and children is valued above all. Men are reckless and careless and need domesticating. Men don't think there's any security in life. They have reason to think this, since they were the guys who had to go out and kill the mammoths, but this attitude doesn't work at camp. A longing for security doesn't make a successful hunter. But for the women back home in the cave, security is what every day life revolves around.
The number one male fantasy in America is making love with two women. A common female fantasy is being raped, oddly enough. The number one female fantasy is what Erica Jong calls "the zipless fuck," spontaneous sex with a stranger. For women it's easier to be frank and open in a sexual encounter with a stranger than someone she knows. The opposite is true for men.
The average American couple spends 4 minutes a day talking. They have sex 7 times a month at "10 minutes a tumble." The average American man has sex with 5 to 10 partners in his lifetime. (Oregonian, 2-15-96) An average American couple in their mid-20's has sex 3 to 4 times a week. In their late-20's, it's 2 to 3 times a week. In their 30's and 40's, it's 1 to 2 times a week. And after 45, it's once a week. People have sex 6 times more often when they're on vacation.
"A famous study found that nearly half the women surveyed said they relied more on their dogs or cats for affection than on their husbands" (Oregonian, 3-27-01, p. A2). 46% of American women say a good night's sleep is better than sex (1996 Harlequin Romance report). 53% say sex is "fabulous." Russian women have sex the most often, and experiment the most with sex toys and three-way sex. Czech women enjoy sex the most. Spanish women come the most often (39% come every time.) Australian women are the most likely to have sex on the first date. American women wait an average of 11 dates before sex. American men wait an average of 4. Men in Rio de Janeiro are the most sexually active in the world.
41% of American men masturbate once or more per day.
One night stands are out of style, due to AIDS, primarily.
Most "open" marriages end in divorce. 15% of relationships end because both people want to stop. The other 85% are mostly ended by the woman. Scientists find that men rarely end relationships unilaterally, whatever the appearances might be. What most quickly destroys a relationship for a man is his partner having sex with another man. What most quickly destroys relationships for a woman is her partner spending money on another woman.
60% of rekindled old relationships work out.
90% of impotence is physical, usually due to injury to groin blood vessels. The use of impotence drugs by young men (which is who mostly uses them) is extremely dangerous.
Men are twice as likely as women to cheat, even though they're the ones who invented the whole concept of fidelity. Half the men in America and a third of the women have affairs