Chronicles of Higher Education

“On the Psychology of Sex and Other Retrogressions”

by Greg Sapp


Revolutionary discoveries in brain science provide new insight into the differences between men and women. Evolutionary psychology is the emerging field of theoretical biology that explains everything. It can tell us what we are thinking and why we are thinking it, before we’ve even thought it. That’s because it is not us doing our own thinking; it is our genes. And our genes are only concerned about one thing:  reproducing.


Thus, when we think about sex, we are merely submitting to our genes’ demands that we get busy replicating them. From this simple biological imperative, we’ve developed elaborate social and cultural institutions, including everything from spank-the-naughty-girl Web sites to bikini hot dog saleswomen for men, and from seedy romance novels to drawn, candlelit bubble baths for women, all to compel us to lunge into reproductive behaviors against which we really ought to know better.


From a gene’s perspective, sex is relevant is only because it happens to be the means by which humans procreate. Sexual arousal is just a mind game. If we fertilized eggs by sneezing, for example, we’d live in a nasally obsessed society. We’d be infatuated with nostril size and shape; a woman might have surgery to enhance the firmness of her rhinion; and the sight of a damp, glistening philtrum would drive men absolutely insane with desire. Males would snort black pepper in order to enhance their performance. Hay fever sufferers would be sex symbols.


The fundamental difference between men and women is that they have totally incompatible reproductive strategies.  Men seek to distribute their seeds as broadly as possible, the underlying rationale being that sheer numbers increase the odds of siring a viable offspring somewhere. It is basically broadcast insemination. Women, however, lack such reproductive mobility; thus, they must be selective, not only for superior physical potency and intellectual prowess, but having money surely doesn’t hurt, either.


Genes can only program for behaviors, though — not results. Considered in the light of evolutionary psychology, then, homosexuality among men can be seen as a behavioral adaptation to maximize the range of their sperm among an accessible population, and lesbianism is the product of women just being extremely picky about whom to entrust with their ovaries. What could be more natural?


The only reason that men consent to monogamy is that human babies are born helpless and remain vulnerable for years, and thus it is at least marginally worth their while to stick around long enough to teach the kid essential life skills, like how to lie, fight, cuss, scratch themselves, and belch a perfect “yak.”


Thus, according to the radical theory (mine) called the “Hypothesis of Contrasting Codependent Co-evolution,” men and women are actually two different species — albeit with a powerfully symbiotic relationship.  Call them, homo sapiens and homo sapienettes. 


Taxonomists have based the classification of men and women into the same species by the characteristic that they will mate in nature. Evolutionary psychology raises new questions about this assumption for men. Left by themselves in their natural habitats (ex, their “man caves”), just what they really do when the door is closed is subject to conjecture. Some theorists contend that most men will mate with just about anything in the natural world, if nobody is looking.


This view of the sexes as being separate but codependent is actually quite liberating — which is why most men oppose it with knee-jerk ferocity. Across the ages societies developed patriarchal systems of governance in which men consolidated all means of wealth and power, on the underlying assumption that if they did less, they’d never get laid. The biggest perk to being a king is that you can score any night that you want.


More enlightened attitudes toward gender were slow to gain acceptance. In the 1920s, when he wasn’t writing beloved childrens’ books like Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, E.B. White went slumming with the humorist James Thurber, and the two of them collaborated on a shocking satire entitled “Is Sex Necessary?” Some readers view the book as an apologia for chest-thumping machismo, but to modern readers, it just makes men look feeble and insecure.  Its sub-title, “Why You Feel the Way You Do,” suggests that isn’t their fault; they can’t help it. Evolutionary psychology confirms that observation.


More recently, award-winning political columnist and notorious man-eater Maureen Dowd voiced what many women were wondering with her bestseller, “Are Men Necessary?” In it, she warns of the consequences of “When Sexes Collide,” and it is clear that Dowd believes that crash will leave only one gender standing — ironically, that which sits.


Few honest men would disagree with the common female assertion that “all men are pigs.” Are men literally necessary, then? No. Sperm is necessary — that much may be true — but not so much its meat faucet delivery system, and even less so the hominid with excessive armpit hair to which it attaches.


Why, then, does sex persist? Evolutionary theorist Jared Diamond tackles that subject in his book Why Is Sex Fun? Unlike most of our primate cousins on the evolutionary ladder, human beings manifest a peculiarly conspicuous enjoyment from the act of copulation. So there you have it, the whole reason for contrasting codependent co-evolution is to obtain cheap thrills. It isn’t very evolved. But it sure makes Saturday nights a lot more pleasant.



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