An introduction to the Atavist's general approach to sexuality, in question and answer format. Mostly SFW?
Agreed. Everyone likes sex. And that’s kind of the point.
So we should all have more of it?
Yes. Humans evolved as one of the most hyper-sexual species seen on earth. Sex serves more than just a procreative purpose for us - it binds us together in communal relations. And while the Romantic Model and the Rational Model of human sexuality posit that we’ve always limited our amorous encounters to sexually-exclusive pair bonds, there is a lot of evidence that we evolved in social circumstances where we had several, if not many, sexual relationships - to bond intimately not just with a single person, but with our entire community. This explains why we all respond positively to sexual variety, girls and boys alike, as has been demonstrated in numerous studies. There’s even a name for it: the Coolidge Effect.
Like the President?
Yes. There’s an apocryphal story about President Coolidge and his wife visiting a farm. According to the ethologist Frank Beach:
“[There is] an old joke about Calvin Coolidge when he was President … The President and Mrs. Coolidge were being shown [separately] around an experimental government farm. When [Mrs. Coolidge] came to the chicken yard she noticed that a rooster was mating very frequently. She asked the attendant how often that happened and was told, "Dozens of times each day." Mrs. Coolidge said, "Tell that to the President when he comes by." Upon being told, the President asked, "Same hen every time?" The reply was, "Oh, no, Mr. President, a different hen every time." President: "Tell that to Mrs. Coolidge."
(Source: Dewsbury, Donald A. (2000) "Frank A. Beach, Master Teacher," Portraits of Pioneers in Psychology, Volume 4, p269-281)
That’s funny. But it's not real evidence…
True enough. But there’s plenty of evidence on record. For the curious, the book 'Sex at Dawn' by Christopher Ryan and Cecilda Jetha is an incredible resource on this topic, as well as a lot of the ideas behind Atavism in general. Anthropological records have shown, time and again, many varieties of sexual openness in primitive tribes. It’s generally accepted that hunter-gatherers were ‘fiercely’ egalitarian, and shared most everything, including sexual access. Why would they be so generous with food, help, and mutual support, but simultaneously be possessive and jealous of sexual behavior?
If you want to get a little icky, there’s plenty of evidence in the human body as well. For example, male testicles are bigger than you would expect them to be if we had evolved to be monogamous…
Ugh, I just ate lunch. Let’s change the subject - you just mentioned the Romantic Model and the Rational Model - what are those?
The Romantic Model of sexuality and affection is all around us in the media. It’s the traditional love story - boy meets girl, they’re soul-mates, no one could ever love someone else as much as they love each other, nothing can keep them apart, and they’re together forever, loving and completing each other perfectly.
That’s what I want!
Sounds nice, doesn’t it? It’s supposed to- it’s a fantasy and a lie.
Not completely, though. Romantic love is a real feeling, and it can be sustained for a lifetime. The fantasy is that it’s perfect. And the lie is that it can only be felt for one person at a time. How easily do we accept that a parent can love all of their children equally, if in different ways? Why is that sort of love only applicable to children?
Okay. That sounds reasonable, but then again maybe I just haven’t met my soulmate yet. What about the Rational Model?
The Rational Model thinks that your mother is a whore.
Take that back!
Okay, they don’t say that out loud. But the Rational Model of sexuality says that men and women seek out sex partners based on their own selfish genetic interests. Men seek out attractive, young women as status symbols and because they show high fertility, so as to best bear them many, many children, and then will seek out other action on the side, so as to spread their cheap sperm around and father as many children as possible. Women, on the other hand, seek to tie down wealthy men who will be best able to provide for them and their children, and then seek out extra sex with high-testosterone alpha males on the side, especially when they’re fertile, in order to provide their children with the best genes.
Well, that’s kind of depressing. But it would seem to explain a lot of human behavior…
True. And that’s why a lot of very smart people, especially in the field of evolutionary psychology, hold it out as fact about human nature. But just like people who look at modern humans in a capitalist environment and conclude that humans are naturally selfish, these smart people mistake a common human response to an unnatural human environment for universal human nature. In a society where women are condemned for their sexual behavior, it’s not surprising that a lot of women are ‘coy’ or ‘reticent’ about giving it up. In an individualistic society, where your partner could leave you at any time, it’s not surprising that women, who bear the lion’s share of the long term consequences, would seek out men who seem most able to support them and least likely to leave. But if we can change our society, we can create a world where we don’t have to fight against our innate sexiness.
Sounds nice, but the pursuit of sexual variety still seems selfish and irresponsible to me.
In some circumstances, it is. If you’re a bachelor, only trying to trick girls into one-night-stands and making promises you have no intention of keeping, then yes, you’re being selfish, leveraging other people’s natural responses to you for your own benefit. And, if you’re in a ‘traditional’ marriage and have promised your spouse that you will both be monogamous, but you’re devoting time and money to seeking out other partners on the side, then yes, you’re acting selfishly. But, if you and your partner both want each other to be happy, and understand that seeking sexual variety isn’t meant as an insult to each other, but a natural desire, then the seeking of sexual variety is not selfish.
And seeking sexual variety is only irresponsible because of the large-scale, impersonal society that we live in. In our world, extramarital sex can lead to unintended children, and women and/or society at large can be left holding the bag. But consider the outcome of open sexual relationships in a tribe. If everyone in a tribe takes open sexual relationships as a given, the potentially irresponsible results of non-monogamy in our society will not arise: any children produced will be cared for by the tribe, and the concept of a broken family would be nonsensical.
But some people have fully satisfying monogamous relationships, don’t they?
Apparently, if not actually. The question is, what does one sacrifice in order to live in a satisfying monogamous relationship? The most obvious sacrifice is sexual variety, but monogamy brings with it a host of other negative effects. We get complacent, exercising less and caring less about our appearance; we lose the drive and desire to meet new people and engage in novel conversation; we take our partners for granted, resent their taking away our freedom, and value them less than they really mean to us.
While it’s possible to envision a new social paradigm that maintains monogamous relations while attempting to combat the negative side effects of monogamy, it would seem to require a lot of stretching and shaping human nature.
And that’s what Atavism is against. Atavism supports the shaping of institutions to fit human nature, not vice versa. If our nature makes us happy in a certain type of non-monogamous relationship structure, that is what we should try to support through the institutions that we develop. Plus, in addition to making humans happier with less effort than a tortured regime that enforces monogamy and controls against some of its negative effects, the tribe gains immeasurably from interior sexual openness.
There would be little, if any, sexual jealousy, which is a common source of conflict in all modern groups. People would feel more sexually satisfied and less insecure about their sexual attractiveness and, therefore, their personal self-worth: self-esteem would stabilize. Sex can be used to enforce relationships, end conflicts, relieve stress, and a thousand other uses.
How do I know you’re not just trying to get in my pants?
You don’t, and that’s one of the unfortunate results of the breakdown of community - a breakdown in trust. You have no reason to trust me, because you don’t know me. Trust has to be earned, and that takes time in any community. It’s important to note that even if we had the perfect social philosophy, and the perfect rules for a society, a community will not instantaneously develop. It will take years to develop.
So, if you agree in large part with Atavistic ideas but find this view of sexuality icky or just some sort of adolescent male fantasy, please keep reading, and just take everything we say about sex with a grain of salt (I'd make an off-color joke about a salt-lick here, but that probably wouldn't help). Sex is an incredibly personal and emotional topic for all of us, and we all need to recognize that and treat others' views of sexuality with generosity and good will. Monogamous Federations would be a huge step up from the chaos of individualistic modernity and are probably the best environment for many of us. But polyamorous Federations represent Atavism taken to its logical conclusion, and we're not going to shy away from the idea of them, at least in theory.
In our endeavor to create good communities that work in modern times, we need to recognize that they won’t come easy. It may not even be possible to create great communities in our own lifetimes, born as we were into a toxic stew of capitalism and individualism that warps our psyches and souls. But we can start down the road. We can create better communal environments for our descendants, and they can continue our work.
But eventually, we’ll all trust each other and just be able to bang everyone we know?
No. While Atavism supports polyamorous sex, it does not support casual promiscuity. It’s not about trying to pick up strangers in a bar - it’s about strengthening relationships and communal ties. That being said, we should not judge people who may have promiscuous pasts. We should see promiscuous activity as a strategy for coping with the modern world - where there are no strong communal ties, people will naturally seek out love and affection.
Isn’t there anyone I can judge by their sexual behavior?
Maybe ‘pickup artists’. They’ve transformed the seeking of affection into a zero-sum game, and they seem to be a little too egotistical about it.
Thank god. Judging other people’s sexual behavior is an easy way to feel superior to them!