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Archive for the ‘human mate selection’ Category

Marriage Is Bad For Your Health

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Marriage modestly increases longevity for some men, but may decrease longevity and other common measures of well-being for women and for most men:

From an interview in The Atlantic with Howard S. Friedman, author of The Longevity Project:

One of our longevity myths is “Get married, and you will live longer.” The data tell a different story.

Marriage was health-promoting primarily for men who were well-suited to marriage and had a good marriage. For the rest, there were all kinds of complications.

For example, women who got divorced often thrived. Even women who were widowed often did exceptionally well. It often seemed as if women who got rid of their troublesome husbands stayed healthy—most women, it seemed, can rely on their friends and other social ties. Men who got and stayed divorced, on the other hand, were at really high risk for premature mortality. It would have been better had they not married at all. [Emphasis mine.]

Consequences like these should be kept in mind when we consider policies that promote marriage as an alleged correlate of good outcomes.

Written by Sister Y

March 14, 2011 at 6:57 pm

Imaginary Status and the Tendency to Externalize

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[A] remarkable fraction of female journalistic output, at least the most heartfelt stuff, consists of demands for society to change so that that particular female journalist would be considered hotter looking.

—Steve Sailer, in “Female Journalism

Humans all want high status, but we can’t all have it. Some portion of our happiness, likely large, is determined by status; therefore some people are structurally guaranteed to be unhappy. While non-status transactions may make everyone better off, status transactions must make someone worse off. Status, I argue, is zero-sum (at best).

Salem of Why I Am Not… argues that status need not be a zero-sum game. For one thing, status is “obscure” – it’s hard to measure, and we tend to overrate ourselves, resulting, presumably, in extra utility for everyone. However, even if we overrate ourselves, a large number of people still correctly rate themselves as being of low status, and suffer as a consequence. We are biased about status, but far from blind.

For another, says Salem, there are multiple statuses, not just one – multiple, overlapping groups among whom to achieve and display status, and multiple domains within which to achieve and display status. To some degree, these groups and domains even compete for status – which shows us that there is some kind of “background” status that exists outside of the group or domain within which status is sought. Status exists only in the minds of other humans, and in our own models of those minds. It is not merely context-dependent, but attempts to broaden itself over all contexts.

What I find to be the most fascinating objection to the “status is zero-sum” claim is that there may be imaginary status – i.e., status may be measured against others who aren’t really in the game, and can’t perceive their own relatively low status – non-playing characters in computer games, animals, those outside of and unaware of the existence of a given status domain, etc. As Salem puts it, “This also gives a different perspective on animal welfare. Perhaps little boys picking the wings off flies aren’t so bad after all.” As Chip Smith puts it, “If trivial inequalities that nevertheless satisfy discrete human desires for status welfare can be distinguished from consequential inequalities that satisfy the same end, then maybe there is a net benefit in the former. I’m sure market forces promote both.”

Imagine an unattractive female journalist. She has a few choices available to her:

  • Be sad about her low status in the mating domain (zero-sum)
  • Focus on her high status in other domains (scholarship, etc.) and forget about the mating domain (potentially not zero-sum)
  • Change relevant mating groups so that she may gain high status in the mating domain within some group, even if it’s not the wider group (potentially not zero-sum)

Indeed, she might, to some extent, engage in all three. However, there is a fourth option that is almost universally pursued by those of low status:

  • Try to persuade her group that she is more attractive, OR that the forms of status she possesses are more “real” or “important” than the forms of status she does not possess.

That is, humans desire high status, and attempt to externalize their conceptions of status. What it means to compete for status is not just that the agent must perceive himself as having high status, but that others must perceive the agent as having high status.

Imaginary status (“subjective” status) may be a substitute for others-perceived status (“objective” status) in the same way that pornography is a substitute for sex – an inferior substitute. We still try to get the real thing.

Written by Sister Y

February 22, 2011 at 10:35 pm

How Babies Destroy Your Fuckability: Male Edition

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Having children makes people less happy.

But more specifically, having a child reduces both a man’s expected frequency of intercourse and quality of his sexual partners. This is true both for a monogamously married man and for a man who does not have an exclusive sexual relationship with the mother of his child. Choosing to reproduce virtually guarantees a worse sex life for a man than he would have had if he had remained childless.

In our society, it is a little disingenuous to speak of a man “choosing” to have a baby. As I have previously discussed, men have zero reproductive rights in our legal system, beyond choosing to avoid sex altogether or to have a vasectomy. However, although the final say is not theirs, men often participate in the decision to procreate. I wish to present an argument from self-interest why men should use what little reproductive power they have to avoid reproducing.

You and Your Baby Mama

The fact that having a child destroys one’s sex life in the context of a marriage is a cultural axiom. In this case, it appears that stand-up comics are, in fact, in touch with empirical reality.

Having a child has disastrous consequences for married couples’ sex lives. 60% of females report decreased frequency of sexual intercourse six months after the birth of her first child than before pregnancy.[1] How much less frequent is intercourse? Half. Frequency of sex eight months after the birth of the first child is about half the (already pretty dismal) pre-pregnancy sexual frequency levels, as reported by both men and women.[2] Eight months after birth, 64% of women and 47% of men reported having sex five times or less per month, compared to (“only”) 29% of women and 15% of men pre-pregnancy. Id. Both men and women were much more likely to rate their sex lives as “not very good” or “poor” compared to pre-pregnancy. Id.

Is the decrease in sexual frequency a byproduct of fatigue? Not really. Levels of fatigue do not significantly predict frequency of intercourse after four months postpartum.[3] Being a great dad who changes diapers will not necessarily get you more sex. Breastfeeding massively reduces sexual frequency[3] – but it’s hardly responsible to avoid breastfeeding in order to have more sex.

Human Mate Selection: Effects of Reproduction

In all the research that has been done on mate selection in humans, two themes[4] recur:

  1. Men care mostly about physical beauty.
  2. Women care most about wealth and earning capacity.

Nature is perverse; having a child, while certainly a fitness-promoting act, comes with serious fitness consequences, most saliently:

  1. A woman’s physical appearance is damaged greatly by pregnancy.
  2. A man’s financial prospects are damaged greatly by having social responsibility for a child.

The most obvious effect of pregnancy on women is postpartum obesity. A Brazilian study found that 35% of each kilogram of weight gained during pregnancy was retained nine months postpartum – even after adjustment for age, pre-pregnancy BMI, body fat at baseline, and years since first parturition.[5] But even women who maintain their weight are affected; every year, thousands of women are rendered clinically unfuckable by pregnancy. Stretch marks, loose skin, horrific changes in body shape, varicose veins, scarring, vaginal muscle weakness, and the incredibly common pelvic floor disorder are all consequences of normal pregnancy.

These are certainly reasons for a woman to avoid pregnancy – but, realistically, a man considering bringing children into a monogamous partnership should be aware of these factors as well. Can you really promise to be faithful – forever! – to a woman who will suddenly become much less attractive, and most likely never really recover? Even if you’re married to Cindy Crawford, pregnancy will take its toll.

Impact on Standard of Living

Most people, of course, do not remain in monogamous partnerships for their entire lives – even those who have promised to do so, and brought children into the world based on that promise. How will your sex life be as a single dad?

First of all, you will have less money. A LOT less money. Methods used to calculate child support vary by state, but expect to pay one quarter to one third of your income – much more if you have sired more than one child. A California man who makes $3000 per month, whose former wife is not employed, will pay $559 for one child – $895 for two children – per month. (Join the fun – calculate your expected child support award in California!)

Not only is your actual earning capacity reduced, but the existence of your child advertises to your potential sex partner that you are less able to provide for her and her hypothetical future children.

It’s not just money, either. Your time and attention are valuable resources, and they are permanently affected by having a child. The above child support calculation assumes a visitation schedule where the visiting parent has the child 20% of the time. In practice, that means half your weekends, and then some. The fact that you have less time, money, and attention makes you a much less attractive potential sex partner to a woman – if you even have time to date.

All this is intended to appeal to self-interest. But being realistic about one’s future prospects helps one make responsible decisions about the future – and that’s not selfish at all. Fewer babies means more sex – and that’s good for everyone.

Your unborn children won’t thank you – but they would if they could.

1. Kumar, R., H.A. Brant, and K.M. Robson. Child-bearing and maternal sexuality; a prospective study of 119 primiparae. J. Psychosom. Res. 1981; 25(5): 373-383.

2. Dixon, M., N. Booth, and R. Powell. Sex and relationships following childbirth: a first report from general practice of 131 couples. British J. General Practice 2000; 50:223-224.

3. De Judicibus, M.A. and M.P. McCabe. Psychological factors and the sexuality of pregnant and postpartum women – Statistical Data Included. Journal of Sex Research, May 2002.

4. See, e.g., Fisman, R., S.S. Iyengar, E. Kamenica, and I. Simonson. Gender differences in mate selection: Evidence from a speed-dating experiment. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, May 2006.

5. Gilberto Kac, Maria H.D.A. Benício, Gustavo Velásquez-Meléndez, Joaquim G. Valente, and Cláudio J. Struchiner. Gestational Weight Gain and Prepregnancy Weight Influence Postpartum Weight Retention in a Cohort of Brazilian Women. J. Nutr. 134:661-666, March 2004.

Written by Sister Y

July 2, 2010 at 8:57 pm