The evolution of monogamy in response to partner scarcity: don’t marry

If you bother reading TRP you should also be reading evolutionary biology. Nature has an article, “The evolution of monogamy in response to partner scarcity,” that postulates “fitness payoffs to monogamy and the maintenance of a single partner can be greater when partners are rare. Thus, partner availability is increasingly recognized as a key variable structuring mating behavior.”

Previous papers have speculated that child investment caused humans to become more monogamous. This paper has an alternate theory, however, with important implications for modern dating life. The authors say:

we show that when partners are abundant, multiple mating, and not pairbonded, males generally see the greatest fitness returns to their strategy. On the other hand, when males are abundant and partners are rare, males that pairbond generally do best.

In most of today’s world, however, partners are abundant, not scarce. People’s behavior changes in response to scarcity. So we should see more multiple-partner sex, which is indeed what we are seeing. We should see less male investment in any individual woman, which we may or may not be seeing. The authors write:

Accordingly, in humans, we contend that the transition from males mating multiply to providing paternal care possibly passed through an intermediate step of male mate guarding in response to partner rarity. This interpretation is consistent with recent phylogenetic analyses of primate social organization, indicating that bonded relationships (i.e., pair-living) derived from an earlier state of multi-male/multi-female groups61,62. Pairbond formation through mate guarding provides a mechanism to ensure paternity certainty and a possible avenue to open up paternal care to selection. Once pairbond duration lengthens, the reproductive interests of males and females may become aligned.

We do see why marriage today is not a good idea. Potential partners are everywhere and the growth of online dating has only made this more true. At the same time, while the authors don’t discuss this, it is likely that ancestral humans had powerful means of dissuading defectors from monogamy via violence—and both men and women could be punished that way.

In contrast, you cannot viably punish mating defection via violence in the modern U.S.; if you do you will likely go to jail, or worse. I’m not arguing that this is fair, I am arguing that it is true. Today there are no sanctions that enforce monogamy for women.

Now look at contemporary marriage from a woman’s point of view: if she cheats and gets caught, she can still walk away with half the property that’s jointly owned; the kids themselves; and she’ll likely get a large share of the man’s income for the next two decades in the form of “child” support. In other words, modern marriage rules reward her for cheating and reward her for divorcing. That is worth keeping in mind for anyone who thinks marriage is a reasonable outcome.

In today’s world males likely see higher returns by seeking multiple women rather than one, and women will often interpret heavy investment as a sign of weakness rather than strength.

As a man you are only as good as your options. If you make sure you are living in a world of abundance (as happens in cities and liberal arts colleges) you will have a very different experience than if you are living in a world of scarcity (as happens in rural areas and technical colleges). Optimal mating strategies change based on your environment. We have collectively created an environment that encourages promiscuity and discourages male investment in women.

I really enjoy this promiscuous as I am not interested in monogamy, but those of you who still believe that monogamy is a viable route in the contemporary U.S., Canada, and Europe should know what you are up against.

Don’t get married. If you do, you have only yourself to blame when the system screws you horribly.

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Author: The Red Quest

How can we live and be in society?

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