Sunday, September 9, 2012

Biology: everybody cheats, right?

This is a bit of a rambling thought.  I apologize in advance . . .

One thing I have been pondering lately is the notion that men's attraction to PUA-style "fake it til you make it" alpha maleness is not all that dissimilar from women's propensity to put on make-up.

The hinge of this notion is that all human beings are trying to infer the underlying genetic code their sexual partner will impart to their offspring.  Conversely, they're also trying to mask the faults of their own genetic code.

An interesting example is the penchant men have for wearing heavy cologne (because, let's face it, some people are just too fucking stoopid to figure out the difference between eau de toilette and eau de cologne).  Women complain profusely about this behavior.  Men lay cologne on too thick.  It's a fairly accepted fact.

The evolutionary basis of this conflict is that women use a man's scent to check his healthiness.  Like all evolution-driven behavior, it leads to an arms race.  Women sniff then men mask their smell.  And an entire industry thrives for another generation arming the two genders.

Likewise, men use a woman's complexion to do the exact same thing.  And men LOOOOVE to extol the virtues of how pretty women look au natural.  In fact, men like it when women unilaterally disarm.

Same evolutionary arms race.  Men look at skin clarity.  Women buy concealer.  Rinse and repeat for as many generations as it takes to achieve infinite perfectability through technology.

The thing is, the vast majority of genetic traits men examine in a potential mate are outward, physical traits.  Breast size.  Skin clarity.  Hair luster and length.  Etc.  Stereotype as needed.  So, the counter-programming that women engage in is fairly straight-forward.  Make-up, conditioner, plastic surgery, etc.

On the flip side, a lot of the genetic traits women seek are not so obvious.  Aggression is a hard thing to measure at first glance.  Yes, there are some physical traits that tip it.  But, on balance, women need to test-drive a guy's personality a bit before they can start to infer underlying genetic factors in his behavior.  And there are vast differences between healthy aggression -- which may lead to wealth and sexy kids for several generations -- and unhealthy aggression -- which may lead lead to a murder-suicide.  Tweaking the display of apparent healthy aggression centers around what PUAs are apt to call a man's "alphaness" (although there is a broader homosocial issue there, too).

Much as a disciplined woman can manage a beauty routine that undermines the evolutionary arms race, so to can a disciplined man manage a behavioral routine that undermines the test-drive of his personality.  Therein lies a lot of the basis for the "fake it til you make it" approach that PUAs favor.

The funny thing is, though, disciplined behavior is, itself, a good evolutionary barometer.  This is the case of experiments that show early childhood ability to delay gratification -- the marshmallow experiment -- tracks quite well with adult educational attainment and economic success.  So . . . how much are you really beating the system?  And how much are you conforming to the system and just following the path of least resistance within it?

Again, this is kind of a rambling post.  I don't know that any of this has any deep meaning.  I just think it's worth tossing out there.

1 comment:

  1. So... to tie it all together...

    Beating the system as in "getting better fucks than one would deserve without technological help" is besides the point because technological help is part of the system/environment, and you end up with something like Schrodinger's when it comes to stratification of randomly born assets.

    I think that's the point you were coasting to a year and eight months ago? Apologies for a kind of a rambling conclusion