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Which of the sexes wants monogamy? New research suggests that it was actually prehistoric cavemen — not women — who invented fidelity.   Read more

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Are Men Monogamous By Nature?

Evidence shows that early humans, male and female, were sexually promiscuous. But then, scientists say, we changed and as far back as 4 million years ago, we were opting for long term pair-bonding. The question is: why?


New research suggests it may have been men who invented the idea. And they did it to improve their chances with the ladies.  After all, among early groups of humans, a few alpha males regularly subdued all the other guys with their sheer fighting prowess. That let them eliminate sexual rivals and freely mate with all the females they wanted. Lower-ranking males were left with only two choices: continue trying to fight their way to the sexual mountaintop, or invent some way to beat the system.


Recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “Human Origins and the Transition from Promiscuity to Pair-Bonding” was authored by evolutionary biologist and mathematician Sergey Gavrilets, PhD. He has developed a mathematical model to compare various factors that may have driven the transition to monogamy. His number-crunching produced the theory that, at a critical juncture in human development, males devised a clever plan.  They started providing extra food and physical protection to one female exclusively, because it gave them easier mating access. The female’s improved nutrition, says Gavrilets, enhanced her fertility and increased survival for her as well as her offspring. In exchange for this enhanced standard of living, females grew willing to remain sexually faithful.


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And there you have it: monogamy was born. Women came to prefer good providers, even if they weren’t the biggest or strongest. And men started to prefer sexually faithful females because it ensured their claim to her offspring. (After all, if you’re going to work all day to bring home the bacon, you want to be sure it’s eaten by your own progeny.)


Two particularly interesting points emerge from the Gavirlets study. First, his model suggests that somewhere along the way, the male campaign for monogamy became more than a smart idea. It became genetic.  “This model deals with what animal biologists call social instincts and shows that some of these behaviors can be coded in our genes,” Gavirlets says. Even the strictest social standards can do only so much to change our fundamental nature.


The study also offers an explanation for the allure of sexy bad boys. Female faithfulness is not altogether complete, Gavirlets speculates. Speaking in strictly evolutionary terms, a woman’s agreement to sexual exclusivity with a better-providing male is constantly at odds with her biological attraction to alpha males who can provide “stronger” genes.


Bottom line, the study examines various possible reasons why humans made the change from promiscuity to pair-bonding. “What I’ve done,” says Gavrilets, “is shown mathematically that some of these scenarios are more likely than others.”






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