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By Luc Loranhe (2005)
All behavior and beliefs of self-conscious humans can be explained in reference to two biological principles:
1. each person behaves in a manner that is advantageous either to his genes or his self-conscious mind
2. humans have a great capability to adapt to changing situations
Though this point is seldom stressed, we have to be aware of a conflict between the interests of each person’s genes and each person’s self-conscious mind.
From the perspective of a person’s genes, all is advantageous that aides in the procreation of these genes (in plain terms: what achieves the best procreative success). However, the interests of the self-conscious mind may be different.
Our genes have primed us to sacrifice ourselves for our offspring. We therefore have been equipped, since long before we became self-conscious, with the emotions of both, sexual desire and parental love.
The self-conscious mind, however, can well conclude that the self-sacrifice would be in the benefit of the offspring, but not in the benefit of the person sacrificing himself.
Would you save your only three children if it meant your own death? Assume that your sacrifice would definitely save them. Assume furthermore that your own destruction would be certain.
You do not have to answer the question. It only serves the purpose to illustrate that the interests of the genes and the interests of the self-conscious mind must not always be identical.
I would define a gentle death, and before that, a life of optimal sexual satisfaction, as interests of the self-conscious mind. The interests of the genes are not that sophisticated: they simply are procreation, at any cost and suffering for the person who transports these genes.
Now, if only procreation is used as the measure of success, the agenda of the genes works much better than the one of the self-conscious mind, disregarding the suffering it causes.
The interest in the absence of suffering is much stronger for the self-conscious mind than it is for the genes.
A person’s genes and a person’s self-conscious mind can dictate vastly different behavioral patters, and the conflict between the two typically is more pronounced in women than it is in men.
A man’s self-conscious mind desires optimal sexual satisfaction, which needs a considerable variety of sexual partners. Incidentally, optimizing his sexual satisfaction by changing sexual partners also potentially is in the interest of his genes. Men theoretically can sire a child every day, or more than once a day.
For a woman, pursuing optimal sexual satisfaction with a considerable variety of sexual partners would potentially run against the interest of her genes. The best setting for a woman’s genes through tens of thousands of years has been to be careful in choosing a sexual partner and having sexual contact only with a man who would then be a committed father.
From women, more than from men, genes would also demand a higher willingness to sacrifice herself for the benefit of her children, not just in situations when there is acute danger, but in everyday situations. After all, children, especially small children, need constant attention and care.
Thus, it is quite natural that in all historical and pre-historical societies that were not based on communal childcare, those genes procreated best which primed women to display the following characteristics:
1. the ability to control sexual desires in favor of partner committed to their offspring
2. a general willingness to sacrifice personal freedom in favor of increased chances of offspring survival
I am not aware of historic societies in which communal childcare was practiced for the purpose of freeing women from parenting responsibilities. If they existed, they were obviously not very successful in competing with societies in which parents, mainly mothers, took care of children.
For this reason, it is no surprise that any empirical study of “what women want” in societies around the world arrives at the conclusion that women are much more inclined towards monogamy than are men. This inclination towards monogamy is a definite result, quite possibly even genetically expressed, of the social circumstances under which humans procreated (only caring mothers who could keep their polygamous inclinations at bay could achieve a good offspring survival).
It does not mean that in previous societies, just as in current societies, there would not have been a large number of women who would have had a strong inclination towards enjoying sexual contact with a large number of men for the purpose of optimal sexual satisfaction. It’s just that their behavior wasn’t preserved well from generation to generation, as children from such mothers didn’t survive as easily as did those who would forgo sexual satisfaction for the benefit of their children.
Humans have a great capability to adapt to changing situations, both genetically and behaviorally. Genetic adaptations for which there is a compelling reason can happen over just a few generations. Behavioral adaptations can happen in a society over just a few years.
But that women are genetically primed to control their desire for optimal sexual satisfaction doesn’t mean that their sexual desires would have been reduced. This would not even be in the interest of her genes. The interest of her genes would be that as soon as there is no child to sacrifice her sexual desire for, the sexual desire will be there in full force, and not necessarily be directed towards just one man.
For the self-conscious mind, an ideology of optimal sexual satisfaction, followed by a gentle death, makes as much sense for women as it does for men. The ideology for women would not have to be limited sexual satisfaction, followed by a gentle death.
To allow female behavioral adaptations that will result in a higher degree of sexual satisfaction for both females and males, a number of measures would have to be implemented within societies. These include:
1. No stigmatization of women who have sexual contact without being married.
2. The dissociation of sexual conduct and childbearing. Any birth control measure for any person from any age.
3. The minimization of the financial burden on women who have children. Either fathers are compelled to provide financial security, or the state provides support.
4. No stigmatization of sexual relationships of people of different age. Especially sexual relationships of women with much younger men ought not to be discriminated against.
5. A much increased acceptability of the fact that older partners in sexual relationships provide economic support to younger partners.
This is not a complete list of policies that should be implemented to reduce the pressure of society on women to conform to the monogamous role model of just limited sexual satisfaction (which anyway is just an adaptation to unfavorable social conditions).
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Copyright Luc Loranhe