Yesterday I detailed why one particular article, by one particular Neil McArthur, misrepresented a 'scientific' study on whether women prefer men with beards or not, and interpreted the results of said study, without any real evidence, in accordance with the Rational Model of human sexuality.
Today, I want to assume that he was right.
McArthur argues, correctly or not, that the Rational Model is the best explanation we currently have for human sexuality. The Atavist Daily disagrees. We believe that human sexuality is better characterized as a community-building bonding device, rather than as a selfish-gene zero-sum game.
But, we're more than aware of the fact that we're not perfect. What if we're wrong? Let's consider how McArthur plays the logic out from the Rational Model's perspective.
McArthur writes, “Gay men such as the US sex columnist Dan Savage have always found straight society’s obsession with sexual exclusivity somewhat bizarre, considering that people of every orientation experience it as a difficult struggle. And here evolutionary science might genuinely have something to say. If jealousy is truly hard-wired, as sexual strategy theorists claim, then experiments with non-monogamy and what Savage calls ‘monogamishness’ are perhaps doomed to fail. But if jealousy is instead the product of a contingent set of historical circumstances, it might be that our norms need to change.”
He implies that we don’t know which is the case yet, so we should just keep listening to the sexual strategies theorists while they make more noise. But let's think about that conclusion for a second.
First of all, earlier in the article, he has admitted that sexual jealousy is not universal, that to some cultures it’s a foreign concept. The Mosuo is a Chinese culture referenced both in the article and in Sex at Dawn where, according to McArthur, “monogamy is frowned upon, everyone is free to have as much casual sex as he or she wants, and jealousy is apparently unheard of.” Note that the ‘apparently’ he’s inserted makes it sound like he doesn’t really believe that jealousy could be absent. Likewise, one could point to Savage’s ‘monogamist’ homosexual culture or swingers, who by some estimates number 15 million in the United States alone, as cultures where sexual jealousy is not dominant.
Second, sexual jealousy might be a natural response to a certain environment - the modern environment, based as it is on insecurity, individualism, and scarcity.
And lastly, let’s consider McArthur’s logic. If jealousy is truly hard wired, he says, then experiments with non-monogamy are doomed to fail. But if the desire to cheat is also hard wired, then we could equally claim that any experiments with monogamy are ‘doomed to fail’ in the same way. If jealousy and the desire to cheat are both hard-wired, then any consistent culture has to reign in one of those two reactions. Either it would encourage us not to be jealous (like the modern environment does with all other types of jealousy) or else it has to encourage us not to sleep around. Why should we assume that efforts to restrain one type of human behavior (sleeping around) are possible, but efforts to restrain another (jealousy) are impossible?
Maybe, one could argue, they’re both impossible. By this logic, experiments in monogamy are just as doomed to fail as experiments in non-monogamy, and we’re left with the cold hypocrisy of greedy, selfish-gene-driven individuals operating under the Rational Model - we’ll all just have to pretend to be monogamous while either privately suffering or seeking our own on the side. So, we can be cynical and stop trying to create a better sexual culture. We’re all doomed to misery, one way or the other.
Or, we can pay more attention to the second option McArthur suggests: jealousy, though it might seem universal, is a product of certain circumstances. We don’t need more sexual strategies scientists telling us what they find, because their theories and their research subjects are all bound up in the modern paradigm. We need to consider the paradigm itself.
On Beards and Bad Science, Pt. 2
by Jackson Lay
August 13, 2014
What if the Rational Model is right, and we're all just out for blood (and lots of surviving offspring)?
Under the Rational Model, monogamy is no more 'rational' than polyamory.