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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

My genes made me do it!

This post is going to be about a common sexual myth but maybe it should be about intelligence, the intelligence needed to get through a modern day. This morning I wanted to scream, "Bring back the horse and buggy era!" This is the third time I have written and posted this piece. The third! I have just got to learn to think "back-up." Even better, I should simply learn to think.
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Whenever I hear someone blame their actions on their genes, I cringe. I have an especially strong reaction when I hear someone, but often a woman, supposedly resorting to science in excusing the actions of a cheating man. "Men are natural Don Juans, " these people say. "It's in their genes." Nature intended men to be lovers, to go forth and multiply.

I cringe, but I cringe silently. I have no comeback. I think these people are way off base but they are espousing an evolutionary position taught even in high schools. The discussion adds levity to science classes struggling to hold student interest.

Then I read Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice To All Creation. The good doctor, actually Olivia Judson, an evolutionary biologist who writes for many well known publications, goes to great lengths to show how this is a law of nature that isn't. To be blunt, this notion is nonsense.

Judson tell us, "The man who first lent scientific respectability to this notion was named A.J. Bateman. In 1948, he published a paper . . . in which he claimed to have proved that males have evolved to make love and females to make babies."

Bateman "proclaimed with a flourish, males (including humans) are natural philanderers while females (again including humans) are naturally chaste."

Judson says Bateman's position when it came to sex was that "males produce lots of tiny, cheap sperm whereas females produce a few large, expensive eggs . . . one man could easily fertilize all the eggs of many females." Men who have many women are just following a genetic imperative.

Bateman's principal, as it is known, has been all the rage for decades. Feminists invoke it, scientists expound on it, and many a silver tongued Lothario has sought shelter in its core belief: men are cads, women are saints. It is just the way of the world.

Unfortunately, according to Judson, "Bateman's principal has a fundamental flaw: it's wrong. In most species, girls are more strumpet than saint. Rather than mating once, they'll mate with several fellows, and often with far, far more than necessary just to fertilize their eggs."

Take a deep breath, guys, it gets worse. When my wife read the first post, she had daggers in her eyes when she glanced from the computer monitor to me: "Woman are not, are not . . . I'm not even going to dignify this with a response. Harrumph!"

Never "harrumph" me. It sends me googling, researching. And this is where this whole discussions takes a nasty turn.

I discovered the following: In Stuttgart, Germany, a man hired his neighbour to get his wife pregnant.

It seems a 29-year-old husband and his former beauty queen wife wanted a child badly, but the husband was told by a doctor that he was sterile. So, he hired his neighbour to impregnate the queen. Since the neighbour was already married and the father of two children, plus looked very much like our cuckold-husband-to-be, the plan seemed good. The neighbourhood stud was paid $2,500 for the job and for three evenings a week for the next six months, he tried desperately, a total of 72 different times, to deliver on his promise.

However, when the young wife failed to get pregnant after six months, the husband was not understanding and insisted that his neighbour have a medical examination, which he did. The doctor's announcement was that the neighbour was also sterile. This news shocked everyone except the neighbour's wife, who was forced to confess that the stud was not the real father of their two children.

At last report, the husband is suing for breach of contract in an effort to get his money back. (From the post 10 Most Bizarre Paternity Stories.)

Funny? Yes. Uncommon? Not as uncommon as you might think. It is a frequent enough occurrence that it even has a couple of names: The children's rights movement calls it "child identity fraud", while the father's rights movement calls it "paternity fraud".

Beginning in the 1980s, the development of sophisticated genetic techniques enabled biologists to investigate paternity and what they discovered was something astonishing, something no one had predicted - namely that, from stick insects to chimpanzees, females are hardly ever faithful.

I'm going to give the last word on paternity fraud to Heather Draper who wrote in the Journal of Medical Ethics: "Paternity testing might be an effective test of genetic relatedness and infidelity, but it is an ineffective test of fatherhood." Scissors cut paper, paper wraps stone, and compassion, love, humanity trumps genes.

So men, take the advice of Dr. Tatiana (Olivia Judson) and don't be a lazy partner, give your woman a hand with the child care, be a loving supporter, give of yourself.

If you want to get into the lady's genes, maybe you should take your cue from the black vultures which apparently have a strong social convention supporting monogamy. These birds insist that sex be conducted in the privacy of the nest and they won't tolerate lewd behaviour in public. Who'd have thought?
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For an interesting read, check out Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice To All Creation by Olivia Judson. It is bawdy, ribald and extremely funny --- and educational to boot.

Addendum: I'm a bit of a romantic, maybe it's genetic, but I must be fair and mention that Judson on page 164 addresses the question of monogamy in humans. "Do individual humans, just like individual crickets and fruit flies, differ in their genetic predisposition toward monogamy?"

"Perhaps it will turn out," she continues, "that men with large testicles (anticipating a high risk of sperm competition) are prone to seducing other men's wives and have difficulty forming lasting bonds whereas men with small testicles (anticipating a low risk of sperm competition) are prone to sexual fidelity . . . But for now, this is all conjecture . . . "

Lastly, an aside to my wife, "Which ever way this goes, honey, I'm one of those fellows whose genetics indicate that I came into the world anticipating a low risk of competition. You can relax."

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