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The «Bateman Principle» is the idea that males are promiscuous “by nature” because they can have like zillions of offspring with different woman — thereby “winning the genetic lottery”. Despite it being proven to be bollocks even for simple organisms like drosophila, you can still hear such elements proposed seriously — even in the best families.

As you can imagine, such stupidity drives me nuts. Not only because it is extremely moralizing and prejudiced, but also because it is, simply put, wrong. My latest realization regarding it´s wrongness is that, in most complex species, having more children than the species average is a kind of reproductive failure(!).

In complex species reproduction can be roughly said to fall between two opposed extremes: r-strategy and K-strategy. r means you want to have as much offspring as possible and K that you want your offspring to be as successful as possible. Either you maximize quantity or quality, basically. Obviously you would like to maximize both, but in the world out there it seems there is a clear incentive to focus on one of the two.

There’s nothing right or wrong about any of that. That’s not how things are supposed to be, those are just tendencies that have been observed.

Mice have lots of children, elephants just a few. If this is so, current biology tells us, then it must mean that elephants with fewer child were more successful, generation after generation after generation. And doubtlessly, amongst prehistoric elephants there were some that had more offspring, but those guys simply did not do as well. And the same thing in reverse for mice.

So, excepting extreme cases, sexual success is having approximately the same amount of child that everyone in your species has. Generally speaking, any deviation from this, both up and down, is a mistake.

There are variations in this pattern, where most males in a species die without child, and a few supermales have lots. Perhaps not unsurprisingly, those species are not very frequent, mostly comprised of simple organisms like flies, and they must revert the pattern in some generations to avoids inbreeding.

Finally, there is a variation in this pattern amongst humans. Yes, I mean the Khan. It might be the case he raped so much women that a fat proportion of humanity today descends from him (this is far from proven, anyway). But he is noted for being an exception, and besides it would be very stupid to propose that what caused his “success” were biological reasons, as opposed to social and military ones.

The arguments could go on and on. Sexual patterns when discussed with a modicum of objectivity (which amounts to doubting whatever could be said to be “normal” on contemporary western culture) tends to stir much flames and no understanding whatsoever.

But, for what it’s worth, there is a much simpler explanation for why men are said to be promiscuous (as opposed to really being). It’s as follows: Being social animals, whose sexual behaviour is controlled by status, and who can generally appear to have higher status by simulating a sexual life more active than it really is, men should always say they are having some. As for them really being as promiscuous as they purport to… doubtful.


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