Day 993: Sexual Selection In Darwinian Theory, Or Why You Can’t Get Laid

originally published September 19, 2014

Herbert Spencer was the 19th century philosopher, scientist and all-around smart cookie who coined the phrase “Survival of the Fittest” after having read Charles Darwin’s On The Origin Of Species. While some may argue each and every tenet of evolutionary theory (much to the exhaustion of everyone who actually knows a little something about science), we have come to realize that Spencer was only half-right in determining which genes get promoted into the next generation. It’s also a matter of Survival of the Sexiest.

Sexual selection extends beyond the boast-worthy ability to fend off predators, gather food and shoot zombies with a crossbow. Mate selection based on these factors certainly occurs, but the truth grabs many more hairs between its gnarled knuckles. So much of who we are plays into our subconscious exigency to be sexually selected.

So if you’re finding your Saturday nights have of late been more occupied by binge marathons of Murder, She Wrote than sweaty, carnal bodyslapping, perhaps you should turn to science to understand why. With a few tiny modifications to your being, you might just find yourself crotch-deep in sexual social butterflydom.

You need to word good. Humans – at least most humans – possess a far greater vocabulary than that which is needed for basic communication. It’s true – most of us know words like ‘dungarees’, ‘mellifluous’ and ‘woebegone’, but how often do we really need to use them? Evolutionary scientists suspect we throw down this excess of verbiage in an effort to show off our intelligence to potential mates. This has been tested; we tend to spew a more flowery and profound lexicon when we’re in a romantic mindset. Then again, some of us do it just to make a living.

You need to laugh more. Laughter is also sewn into the tapestry of sexual selection, and could also be seen as a sign of intelligence that your potential mate might find attractive. Laughing shows that you aren’t threatened by your surroundings (predators and natural dangers and such), so you’re having a chuckle. If you have any doubt as to the biological oomph behind one’s tendency to let loose with the ha-has, check out the story of the ‘Giggle Twins’ as told by researcher Robert Provine. These were two ladies who were separated at birth, both raised by somewhat dour parents, yet reunited 43 years later, both claiming to be the most laugh-happy people they knew. It’s all in the genes.

You need to be more creative. Creativity is an easy link to evolution. The proto-human who could outwit his or her rivals, snare the saber-toothed meat-beast, and concoct a device to keep the slobbering predators out of the cave was more likely to attract a mate. Some experts argue that the next rung on the human evolution stepladder is going to derive from our collective creativity, since we now work together as a society to design and build our new toys (no one human can build an iPhone from scratch). But it’s the colorful cogs of one’s internal machine that bumps our evolutionary groove into motion. Members of the opposite sex (or same sex, whichever you fancy) can pick up on that.

You need to be more artsy. Music, dance, acting, painting, sculpting, design, writing (especially writing, says the writer) are all droplets in the same stream whose source lies in intelligence and creativity. Those who display a proficiency in one or more of these disciplines has a better shot at winning the sexual jackpot and passing their genetic playbook to the next generation. This should be a given: start a band, get more sex.

Check your body hair situation. It should be no surprise that Charles Darwin, pictured above, favored the beard as an indicator of sexual selection. He felt that back in pre-wheel olden times, men had a greater selective power. He points to the evidence of women’s relative hairlessness; clearly men back then selected mates with as little hair as possible. That some men are considerably more hairless than women today is simply a runoff effect, as our cavemen’s hairy genes melded with those of cavewomen with less and less hair.

Somewhere in there lies Darwin’s assertion that a swarthy beard and plenty o’ man-hair makes a dude more worthy of being sexually selected. Go figure.

Look for a mate with a different size. Sure, picking a mate with the physical build to tear a predator (or prey) limb from limb is always an evolutionary checkmark. But it was also beneficial to seek a partner whose physical size is different from yours, whatever that may be. This enables a couple to fully exploit various food resources without competing with one another. Non-competitive foodstuff exploitation is always a great date idea.

Avoid having a long face. Apparently there is an evolutionary trend for men to have short upper faces. This might be because women want men who look masculine, but not aggressive. I’m not certain how this information will help anyone.

Show off your stuff. This is the most obvious. Full, rounded female breasts are a sign of fertility, despite the fact that they are filled with fatty tissue most of the time, and despite the fact that all other primate females are flat-chested when they aren’t in milk-giving mode. And yes, there is an argument that women crave humungo wangs for the benefit of swift sperm delivery. This is actually quite false; sperm competition favors large testicles and a small wand with which to deliver their contents, much like the equipment found on the male chimpanzee.

A large penis is actually more of a natural selection trait than one of sexual selection. A bigger dong means a greater ability to get all up in a woman’s bidness and displace any other male’s sperm from the premises. It is believed that human penis size has tended to evolve toward being larger, even in our post-cave, civilized existence, out of nothing more than female preference.

Then there’s the matter of the bone.

Try not to have an actual bone in your penis. Evolutionary biology is wild stuff. Other primates tend to possess a baculum, better known as a penis bone – even our next-door neighbors, the chimps, have ‘em. One thought as to why humans lost this bone is because of our mating habits; we tend to stick with our females in order to ensure the paternity of her children and the continuation of our genetic code, which allows for more frequent and shorter romps in the sack. Other primates don’t encounter members of the opposite sex as often, so the bone exists to ensure their “package” is delivered to its destination.

Richard Dawkins, who was a strong voice in evolutionary science before he became the poster-child for atheism, feels that we lost our schlong-bones in order to advertise our good health to potential mates. Since our ability to stiffen is based solely on blood-flow hydraulics, a limp noodle is a potential sign of poor health.

I should note that a 5-year-old boy received surgery in the early 1960’s for the removal of his baculum. He also possessed other physical abnormalities, like a cleft scrotum, the details of which I will not be researching because I just don’t want to know.

In the end, sexual selection is open to a deluge of interpretation and criticism. Some believe our evolutionary propensity for music and dance is merely an offshoot of our natural selection technique for scaring off predators, or that our creativity all stems from finding inventive ways to find and capture food. I’m siding with Darwin and Dawkins on this one. But let’s face it, if you’re really struggling to get some action, forget about evolutionary beacons and just make yourself a ton of money. And for the love of god, shower every once in a while. Natural pheromone musk is so last epoch.

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