So males are naturally promiscuous and women are monogamous, right? Recent
studies of evolutionary biology are now challenging this conventional wisdom.
Women from many different species have evolved strategies for passing on
their genes (and getting the best sperm) from multiple male partners.
Below you will find summaries of articles & websites supporting this view, including the latest research on Male and Female Reproductive Strategies, Benefits of Polyandry, Sperm Competition & Choice, Paternity & Protection, Genitals, Copulation, Insemination & Fertilisation etc.
'Promiscuous' is not a very popular search on the internet. This may be due to the rather difficult spelling. Obviously slang such as 'slut' does much better (15,000, ranked top 180).
promiscuity (26), teenage promiscuity (18), promiscuity statistics (13), gays and alcohol, drugs, and promiscuity (10), adolescent promiscuity (8), school behaviour and promiscuity (8)
promiscuous (1,635), promiscuous girl (701), nelly furtado promiscuous (522), promiscuous nelly furtado (259), promiscuous nelly (84), nelly furtado promiscuous girl (79)
We hope you find the following articles & websites interesting, informative
Karene Jade Howie
The evidence from evolution seems overwhelming that women have evolved
a diversity of sexual strategies, all with the aim of getting the 'best'
sperm based upon her position within the tribe.
While this may be a monogamous coupled relationship, as the research below shows, it is clear that there are many other strategies available to a woman as well.
* The shape of the penis causes it to act as sperm pump. The only explanation is to displace other male's sperm - thus it must have been common for the female to have sperm within her vagina from a variety of males.
* It is clear from evolution that the more promiscuous the female of the
species is, the more 'sperm competition' strategies will evolve in the males
(we have a great book on this, 'Dr Tatiana's Sex Advice to all Creation',
by Olivia Judson).
Some species form such sticky / waxy semen that it becomes a plug that prevents other males fertilising the female. In human males there is also some Semen coagulation, and natural spermicide properties (to kill other male's sperm) which suggest the female was promiscuous.
Evolution, Human Reproduction & Fertilization: Semen Displacement as Sperm Competition Strategy
* Related to this, seminal fluid buffers acidity of vagina, creating more
viable conditions for sperm.
Evolution and Group Sex: Successful Sex Strategy to be Last in Line
* There are benefits of multiple sex partners for sharing of diseases (and hormone function)
* By having multiple male partners the woman can confuse paternity (thus
there is less chance of infanticide, males provide more help & food
for raising young).
Sexual Evolution: Recent research challenges notion of Female Monogamy
* Women can have multiple orgasms (unlike men). This suggests that females
evolved to have sex with a series of males in succession (which may partly
explain the 'gang bang' fantasy of males).
Female Masturbation: A Variety of Techniques, Sexual Response & Multiple Orgasms
* Related to the above, children evolved to look more like their mothers (to confuse paternity). The male infanticide instinct is obviously more hostile to other male's children.
* The evolution of pornography. Males have evolved to watch other males having sex with woman, which aroused them in preparation for their turn.
* Similar to above, there is some instinct in males to masturbate in groups (waiting for turn with female).
* The woman's vagina is lubricated only at the beginning of sex. We suspect this is because seminal fluid also acts as a lubricant.
* Other primates are promiscuous. e.g. Bonobo (we need more research on this).
All in all the evidence is conclusive. Females have evolved to be promiscuous as one common strategy in their ancestry. And this diversity of behaviour is also shared by the males, creating a wonderfully rich and complex tapestry of sexual behaviours and strategies.
For generations, biologists had assumed females to be naturally chaste, while males were renowned for their promiscuity. Now, hundreds of studies and a spate of books are challenging that conventional wisdom. Females of many species have evolved strategies for passing on their genes that involve copulating with multiple males - and recognition of that fact is literally changing our view of the birds and the bees.
'Natural selection, it seems, often smiles on strumpets,' says evolutionary biologist Olivia Judson, 'As a rule, loose females have more and healthier children.' ... On the surface, the conventional view made sense. Sperm seemed to come cheap to males, while eggs were expensive to females, which have to invest the time to raise offspring. ... Then came DNA paternity testing. The first and most extensive examples of polyandry were found among avian species, which was quite a shock to scientists because birds had appeared to be paragons of traditional family values.
Biologists have struggled to come up with broad theories for why females benefit from playing the field, but so far the reasons seem to vary widely according to species. A lot of complex theory boils down to this: A gal's got to do what's necessary to ensure the survival of her genes. In some cases, females may get more help around the home. In other cases, females swap sex for food - the more sex, the more food and the healthier their offspring. Promiscuity can also simply be a matter of survival. Male chimpanzees, for example, have been known to kill infants not their own. Frequent sex with several males can confuse paternity and act as insurance against harm to her offspring.
Females of many species have sex with multiple partners. Males, in turn, have adapted ways to ensure that their genes, and not those of competitors, are passed on. Understanding this co-evolution is changing our view of male and female sex roles.
Carol Cruzan Morton, Special to The Chronicle, Monday, February 17, 2003
Evidence that people have been promiscuous for a long time
LOTHARIOS everywhere will be pleased to hear that monogamy does not appear to be a natural human state. That, at least, is the conclusion of a study conducted by Michael Hammer at the University of Arizona in Tucson, and just published in Nature Genetics. By examining the DNA of living people, Dr Hammer and his colleagues have found that far fewer men than women pass their genes on to subsequent generations. ...
The most plausible explanation for this is that a few men in each generation contribute the bulk of the Y-chromosomes to the next. Indeed, the sums suggest that, over the years, half as many men as women have passed on their genes. This news will not surprise biologists. Although a moment's thought shows the old canard that males are actually, on average, more promiscuous than females cannot be true (since every reproductive act involves one of each) biologists have known for a long time that in most species males want to be more promiscuous than females. What holds them back is that females are choosy. And females also tend to be similar in their tastes, which means some males get chosen far more often than others, and therefore have more offspring. Females, by contrast, tend to have about the same number of offspring each.
The Economist, Sep 23rd 2004
This book by David C. Geary attempts to explain human sex differences from
a single theoretical perspective, Darwin's principles of sexual selection.
Rather than study gender roles (cultural constructions), which is the norm of many social scientists, Geary explores evolutionary biology.
Page Title: 'Evolution and Human Promiscuous Behaviour: Male
Female Reproductive Strategies, Sperm, Ova, Competition, Choice, Benefits'.
Want to be Involved? Join us in this research, which provides an excellent opportunity to present to the world the latest knowledge about the thing we all find most interesting - sex! The work will not just benefit humanity, it will profoundly enhance your own sexuality as you learn more about our complex and diverse sexual evolution.
We seek help in finding the latest scientific (evolutionary) research on our biological and cultural sexual evolution and distributing content (overviews / summaries) to relevant pages.
This site is well respected. We are listed as the Top Philosophy Website on the Internet with around 600,000 page views each week. So your contributions will be seen and read, and will be providing humanity with a great source of wisdom about a very important subject (that currently suffers due to cultural / religious myths).
If you would like to be involved (or have comments about this website) please write to us. Many thanks! Karene
Analyse any human emotion, no matter how far it may be removed from the sphere of sex, and you are sure to discover somewhere the primal impulse, to which life owes its perpetuation. ... The primitive stages can always be re-established; the primitive mind is, in the fullest meaning of the word, imperishable. ... Mans most disagreeable habits and idiosyncrasies, his deceit, his cowardice, his lack of reverence, are engendered by his incomplete adjustment to a complicated civilisation. It is the result of the conflict between our instincts and our culture. (Sigmund Freud)
We get a lot of people writing to us asking questions about sex. So we have added an 'Ask a Question' feature to our sexuality pages - to help share questions and answers as a way of helping one another.
Please use Facebook Connect (below) to add your questions / comments - the best questions and answers will be added to the page.
Karene (September, 2012)
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