Before I state my argument, let it be known that I do not in fact believe that we are ultimately programmed by genetics. I'm just starting to get a little pissed off at what is supposedly "common" socioevolutionary knowledge: and I'm sick of guy friends using it to defend themselves. So, I'm taking it out on you guys.
When it comes to the "wandering eye," colloquial sociobiology has held that this is hardcoded into our genes. "Men are biologically programmed to spread their seed, while women are programmed to be the caregivers" is the usual way of phrasing it. This has been used as both excuse and justification for male reluctance to commit or male infidelity (when women stray, it's usually extrapolated that they are "searching for a more stable mate..." the so-called "sperm wars," where the vagina creates a more favorable climate for sperm coming from a source that spent more time with the woman, would seem to agree with this.)
Human newborns are, outside of the marsupial world, the most helpless and care-intensive offspring in the natural world. Each baby represents a massive time and energy investment on behalf of the mother, an investment which is huge compared to most other animals. Human babies are usually only bred one at a time, take longer to gestate, are far more helpless at birth and for a longer time period afterward, even when adjusted for life expectancy. They require more constant supervision, more attention and involvement to raise, and require more defense from the elements.
With this in mind, it does not make evolutionary sense that male genes that compel a "screw and run" behaviour would proliferate.
If we take one half of the equation is true... that women are biologically programmed to seek the most stable mate... it also follows that given the massive time investment and lengthy incapacitation of the mother due to gestation and child-rearing, it would follow that the only genes that would survive would be the ones that would encourage more committed and stable mates, as well as ones that only fathered a manageable amount of children with known mates, perhaps a single or a pair (as opposed to increasing amounts of children with as many mates as opportunity allows). This, evolutionary logic would suggest that more faithful and committed male mates would produce the greater number of surviving offspring, eventually erasing the biological tendency to "spread the seed" that is found in other animals, while males who fathered large numbers of offspring with many varied mates would likely fail to ensure the survival of their offspring, thus leading to the death of the genes.
Note that in other animal classes where the young require intense raising with lengthy period of female removal from the survival mechanisms... birds... 90% of bird species display life-mating. Gibbons, as well, which are part of the primate class closest related to humans, also life-mate, creating a family unit that will stay together until the young are grown. Wolves are also monogamous, and this has been explained by the fact that male wolves need to teach their young how to hunt.
So why does society seem to believe that there is a genetic or evolutionary excuse for what is more likely socialized behaviour?
What this social adherence to what is essentially a evolutionary illogic does is to provide an excuse for male behaviour, while compelling submission on behalf of the female. Men, it implies, are somehow unable to prevent their desire to make as many babies as possible with as many different mates. Meanwhile, women should somehow shut up and learn to accept their role as the docile caregivers and responsibility-takers for male promiscuity.
So a better question then. Is there any truth in the sociobiological assertion that men are hardcoded to be promiscuous? If so, how does it make ultimate evolutionary sense? If it is not believed to be true, what forces in society arose to be more forgiving of male promiscuity than female?
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