I’m not an evolutionary biologist, or an anthropologist, however I am willing to play either role on TV should the opportunity become available. What I am is a philosopher, which originally meant lover of knowledge or wisdom. I’ve been studying evolutionary biology and I’m willing to put some thoughts on paper about human behavior and how it makes perfect sense from an evolutionary biological standpoint.
Men and women behave very differently in relationships with each other. They both behave differently in relationships with others of the same sex. When it comes to pursuit of an intimate or sexual relationship, men tend to be promiscuous, willing to hit on multiple women in the hopes of getting lucky with one or more. Women are constantly hit on by men and must turn away the large majority of them. This is the dance we do as part of the mating ritual. What does this have to do with evolution?
Sexual selection is a key component of evolution. Females have the high biological costs associated with sex. While men produce millions of sperm and spread them around with little to no biological expense, women will carry the one fertilized egg for nine months and grow a person in their womb. This is an expensive biological proposition. So women will be choosy about whose genetic material they’re willing to take on to produce their offspring. They want the best possible genetics they can get, and will turn away the advances of males until they find the best one, the one that will give them the best chance for good genetic reproduction.
The male peacock is a great example of sexual selection in nature for us to see. The female is a rather ordinary looking bird, while the male is ordained with a huge tail of brilliant colored feathers. Why is that? These males are competing for the available females and are doing their damnedest to impress them. The males will strut around, pimping their big, bright tail feathers in the hopes that at least one lady will find them attractive enough for sex. The females are looking for the best, brightest, healthiest looking male to reproduce with.
There is a limit to how big and bright these males will get because at some point, they’re so much more attractive to predators that the trade off isn’t worth it. You may get lucky with longer, brighter feathers, but you also may get eaten. It’s a delicate balance.
Male Silver Back Gorillas are awesome beasts. They will typically lead a group of gorillas that contain multiple females. He mates with them all. Other males may try to move in and this is when you’ll see the classic posturing by the two competing males: pumped up chest, bared teeth and intimidating stance. Females may wander off toward a stronger, more dominant looking male, again looking for the best genetic partner to mate with. Fights between male Silver Backs are brutal displays of power and raging testosterone.
So if you think about it, humans are just doing what nature commands us to do to sustain life and continue the process of evolution. The fittest individuals win the battle for limited resources, live long enough to reproduce and pass on their strong genetic traits. Females use sexual selection to ensure the fittest pass on their genes by selecting the best possible mate. Men will pursue multiple women because they know they may not be successful every time, and the biological costs of spreading their seed around is relatively low. Women will have to ward off these pursuing men until they find the one that is worth the high biological expense of carrying the fertilized egg. Men want to keep their women for themselves and fight off other men who are trying to mate with them. Women may see one of these other men as a better genetic specimen though, and may want to mate with them.
It’s all perfectly natural and completely understandable. So ladies, don’t be so surprised when your man puffs up his chest and bares his teeth if you’ve been talking to another man. Men, don’t be so surprised other men are trying to mate with your woman. You’d probably mate with their woman too, if she’d have you!