Powering up the female libido, evolutionary style
I’m totally pro-right-to-choose, etcetera. But, as a biologist, I think that Mike Huckabee is unwittingly supporting evolution when he says that women can’t control their libidos.
Getting sperm to fertilize eggs is what is going on in this world — evolutionarily speaking. A libido plus a uterus, equals finding some male (could be any male) to impregnate said uterus, or the chain is broken.
This is called evolution, and the most successful reproducers shall win. When females have no control, then the reproductive pattern tilts toward rape. Which means that what those guys are supporting in evolutionary terms is the rape tendencies of human males.
As a biologist who has taught evolution, I must point out that evolution predicts that the more control over her own reproduction a female has, the stronger her libido will evolve to be — because she must initiate. (This pattern has reached a pinnacle in hyenas, where the female cannot be impregnated against her will, and the females have become larger, more aggressive, and dominant over males.)
Conversely, the less control over her reproduction, the more likely it is that a female without interest will reproduce. A female reproducing without interest, or even with negative interest, is how it is in many species. (And let’s not get started on bedbugs, who have evolved a rape style of reproduction that no longer even bothers to use the female’s reproductive tract.)
Thus, curiously, what Huckabee is against is the implementation of an algorithm (female control over reproduction) that, over generations of time, results in increased female libido — which he believes victimizes women by forcing them to reproduce.
Control over carrying the pregnancy to term will result also in decreasing accidental reproduction, and hence it should result in females choosing better mates to raise the children. Except! There is a curious twist in all this.
That twist is that in other species, female choosiness leads to polygamy, or else simply hit-and-run flashy males — if the environment can support it. (This is the case with many birds — peacocks for instance, or lyre-birds in Papua New Guinea.)
The evolutionary driver for pair-bond mating is difficulty raising children to maturity. And what we see is that the more fecund the environment, the less likely it is that males will pair-bond with females to raise the kids. As one moves from the tropics to the temperate climes, one finds animals more likely to pair bond. In Australia, the echnida uses both patterns. Southern (e.g. temperate) echnidas pair bond. Northern (e.g. tropical) echidnas do not.
We see this in humans. Those who live in the tropics need less participation from males to raise the kids — and we see more polygamy there. In fact, the current world record holder for number of wives lives in the tropical belt of Africa, and he is a verrah flashy guy.
As we go into temperate regions, we see pair-bonding more or less for life (with sauce on the side). And in the high Himalayas, where life is extremely harsh, we see something unique — a fair amount of polyandry. It makes sense in a place where it takes more than one strong man to ensure the kids will make it to adulthood.
The modern world is making all places in the world more “fecund” in the sense that a female alone is more able to raise children by herself. (Welfare and food stamps are a significant part of that. Without employment or AFDC, human females must find a sugar-daddy.) If that ease of raising children alone increases, females will have less and less reason to keep males around for anything besides mating dances, which should have interesting effects — effects that I have to wonder if these old Republican guys like Huckabee are dimly perceiving.
There is another curiosity here about humans, though. Our sexual pattern is unique. It is, in fact, bizarre among mammals that female humans are virtually always ready to mate. It is even more bizarre that human females are virtually always attractive to human males to mate with.
I will grant that frumping out can cut into that ‘virtually always attractive to human males,’ and once mated, many human females appear enjoy frumping tremendously. But frumping merely hides their continued attractiveness. It does not change this truly strange feature of human females. It is very odd that human males are hard-pressed to tell the difference between a fertile and infertile female. We write learned papers on evidence for possible unconscious signaling, perhaps through pheromones. But that just underlines how hard it is.
This indicates (at minimum) that in our deep past we had, shall we say, an “interesting evolutionary period.” What exactly drove the development of our always-on female sexual attractiveness pattern is a rock upon which many an evolutionary biologist has broken his (or her) teeth. It isn’t just “always-on” from the female side, it’s “always-on” from the male side too.
There is a theory put forward in “Scars of Evolution” by Elaine Morgan that this was driven by a period during which we lost our pheromones by being forced to live in the water, which meant that the only males (perhaps even one) that reproduced were essentially psychotically aggressive sex-fiends. It’s one of the ideas that I think holds some water. (Her theory is anathema to the evo-devo establishment. Imagine that.)
Bottom line though — it’s interesting that in humans, the female libido is unusually strong for a mammal, and is so most of the time. As Germaine Greer observed, girl children require a great deal of supervision to get the desired result.
How did we get here? It indicates that some different history happened for us in the deep past. At the very least, there was a period during which female human ancestors established control over reproduction to some degree.
One of my more speculative thoughts is based on Morgan’s ideas of how water may have driven evolution. Those sexually aggressive males would tend to be dangerous, and that could have driven the development of language in females: In order to help and protect each other, and to outwit the insane males. That would tilt, over evolutionary time scales, toward females establishing a kind of dominance by guile and intelligence. Unfortunately for them, it would be nearly impossible to evolve smart females without also smartening up the males.
Which, circles back to Huckabee, who is doing his best to oppose the evolutionary strengthening of the female libido. But that must inevitably favor its evolutionary opposite.
At least I think so.
Brian Hanley has publications on terrorism through West Point and a range of papers in biosciences, economics, and policy. He obtained his PhD in microbiology with honors from UC Davis, has a bachelors degree in computer science, is a multiple entrepreneur and guest lectured for years to the MBA program at Santa Clara University.
He has a recent book on radiation: