IMP Blog

“My database does not encompass the dynamics of human pair bonding.” - The Governator from T3.

I was perusing the Egyptian Book of the Dead the other day when I suddenly began to wonder why we humans became so darn picky about our sexual partners.  Think about it.  As if you could stop.

As far as I know, we’re the only species that seems to care very much with whom we mate.  Of course I’m talking about females here, because we guys pretty much still don’t care, but let’s not muddy the issue.  The real question is why do any of us care?  I mean it’s not like it matters very much.


human_pairbond01[inset pos=right]What keeps you from mounting-up in the elevator with the hot blonde... from accounts receivable just to kill a few minutes?  Seems silly not to.[/inset]Animals, of course, don’t care in the slightest.  Pretty much the only requirement for mating is that one of the two stands still long enough to let the other one get busy.  Then it’s off to forage for food or water and hopefully avoid being eaten by something larger that’s hungry.

Is it something to do with birthrights or inheritance?  Is that why we care who mates with whom, because of that big pot-o-gold on everyone’s coffin?  Seems like a lot to give up for an aging house or two and dad’s decimated IRA.  I think I’d have voted for the anonymous intercourse.

If it’s not a social construct, then is it biological?  Why in the course of our evolution as a species did we stop doing it whenever we felt like it with whomever we felt like doing it with in order to make a nice big gene pool?  Gorillas just stop, stoop and go at it: they hardly have any notions of shame or indecency.  Why did we evolve one?  What keeps you from mounting-up in the elevator with the hot blonde (male or female as you prefer) from accounts receivable just to kill a few minutes?  Seems silly not to.

human_pairbond02How does caring about whom you’re mating with give us a survival advantage?  Because we get to know someone via courtship, nature thinks we’ll make better choices and produce better kids?  Well look around, that’s clearly not it.  The divorce rate seems to suggest we do little better than chance in picking mates and thanks to Colombine, we all know children are hardly more defect free.  Seems biology doesn’t really care, this is a social order type of thing.

Not even the Great and Powerful Wikipedia has a good bead on this head scratcher.  It does, however, have a really long article on the “evolution of monogamy,” which is sort-of close to what I’m wondering, but at 6+ pages I was far too lazy to actually finish reading it.   I did glean a few interesting tidbits, though:

  • nobody really knows why we don’t hunker-down and mount-up whenever,
  • scientists would really like to know, since that would mean getting laid more often and they’re scientists,
  • promiscuous, indiscriminate wocka-wocka is part of an actual, non-pornographic field of study called “mating systems,” which sounds like it might be a late-night infomercial scam,
  • polygamous species tend to produce bigger males, who get to kick sand into the faces of wimps on the beach and take their girl, if 70s comic books taught me anything, and
  • like AC/DC says, we’ve got big balls… since we’re part polygamous and part monogamous.  And here I thought Angus was just being a jerk.

human_pairbond03I suppose if I bothered to Google this enough, I’d stumble across some discredited theories and a few loons pretending to understand this phenomenon, but I think I’ll leave it to my imagination and embrace my role as photo-editor of this rag.  If I were a betting man, I’d bet that it all has to do with social order and the need to funnel our sexual energies into more productive endeavors, like working for The Man so he can buy another mansion and not have to work himself.  Then again, since the birth rates of many Western cultures are on the decline, maybe a culturally defined partner selection process with sexual monogamy is the way for a species to de-select itself from the great chain of life, presumably after we destroy the ozone layer. 

Now that’s a thought… what’s my Wikipedia login again?

 

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