THE EVOLUTION OF DESIRE BOOK REVIEW – STRATEGIES OF HUMAN MATING
I recently read the evolutionary psychology book called “The Evolution of Desire” by prominent psychologist David Buss. And in this article, I will share the things I noted down from the book, as well my overall opinion on it.
My instant impression was that the book title explains the point of the book perfectly. It is about exactly that: how our sexual desires and preferences have been shaped by evolution over time. But not in a boring way. It’s written with many statistics and modern-day studies.
It covers the evolutionary context that made up the sexual landscape of our ancestors. Then it quickly goes into what men and women want in a very concise manner, as well as our different strategies for attraction. It continues to break down the nature of relationship maintenance and termination (breaking up).
Here are notes/ facts I took from each chapter:
Chapter 1 – Origins of mating
- We are the direct descendants of the ancestors who made the best choices. Sexual landscape of today’s world is a result of the sexual choices of our ancestors: the sexual choices that increased the survival of our ancestors is what has defined our sexual preferences today. For example, women who chose a man lacking in the numerous traits (such as honesty, strength and intelligence) that women desire today would be more likely to die.
- Despite long term mating strategies which are commonly accepted, animals at time also pursue short term strategies for certain purposes
- The truth is that most mammals are not monogamous.
- Therefore, humans’ primary mating strategy is on a scale between monogamy and polyngyny: The population/ratio of females to male will influence sexual choice. And as one sex makes certain decisions, the other must adapt to and vice versa. When one moves, the other does too in synchronicity. For example, when there is a surplus of females, the sexual landscape becomes polygynous. But when there is a surplus of males, it becomes monogamous with more marriage commitment.
Chapter 2 – What women want
- The context of life from an evolutionary perspective was: a woman who got with a man who had certain qualities was either more or less likely to raise a kid alone (e.g impulsive vs reliable)
- Investment from men and women varies greatly in child-rearing, and this is shared across 5,000 mammals and 250+ primates
- Even the sexual revolution and equality campaign has not influenced the things that women look for. The preferences of status, education, dominance, and age even remain in non-capitalist societies for women. For example, in a Kenyan society where women control the resources, they still prefer a man with more resources. Also, women always prefer a man with more money, even if she earns $100,000+ herself.
- When women want casual sex/to collect good genes, traits that are good for long-term mating are thrown out (kindness, resources etc). But long term mating preferences are so strong that women will marry a man who ticks the boxes (stability, wealth etc.) without being in love with him
Chapter 3 – What men want
- Men seek out fertility in women, so generally go for youth and beauty. Beauty is an indicator of fertility and youth.
- Even homosexual men prefer physical attractiveness more than women. Homosexual men show this preference for genetic indicators more than straight AND homosexual women
- Breaks down the rate of homo and bisexuality in humans. Women are more likely to flow into between homo and heterosexuality. Men are more likely to be one or the other.
- Despite the thought that men set beauty standards, this is not exactly true. Men do not create standards, they respond to it. Modern day marketing and technology stimulates our perception of attractiveness, and manipulates men to get them to react to it.
- Men have a higher drive for casual sex and variety serves to allow men to reproduce with little responsibility.
- Fatherless kids are more likely to have sex early , pursue casual sex and not commit in their relationships.
- The ‘Coolidge effect’: Men go for novelty and variety. Thus they pursue more affairs/ prostitution/ sexual opportunities /fantasies/ multiple partners.
- The most monogamous bird species still has a 25% divorce rate due to infidelity
- For men, marriage served as a form of mate guarding/preventing cuckoldry. This is why men are more jealous over sexual affairs as opposed to emotional affairs
Chapter 4 – Attracting
- Each gender is aware of what the other wants, which is why they will dangle the prospect of their desire in front of a potential partner in order to gain access or control
- Women control casual sex opportunities, men control relationsip access
- Men feign commitment. Women feign sexual interest
- Women compete with their beauty. However, men showing off their looks may be a turn-off (seen as cocky)
Chapter 5 – Staying together
- Men are jealous of sex affairs. Women are more upset at emotional affairs, opposed to the sexual aspect of the affair. This is because men fear raising another man’s kid, and women fear loss of commitment.
- Men and women are in conflict in marriage due to their natural differences: emotional expression vs emotional consumption. Men complain about their wives draining their energy. Women complain about men not being emotionally expressive enough.
- Older women report less about harassment than younger, attractive counterparts, showing they are less desired due to their age.
- Stranger rape is less common than date rape
Chapter 6 – Breaking up
- 50% of children are not raised in homes of both parents (single/step).
- Where women earn more than men, divorce is higher (twice as likely)
- After four years of marriage, complaints and dissatisfaction spike at a high rate.
- Mens affairs are motivated by variety, being more likely to cheat whilst happy with their wife. Women’s affairs are motivated by emotional goals and to transition into a new relationship as they are not as happy in their marriage.
- Provides solid facts and observations that indicate the clear differences between each of their gender’s sexual preferences and behaviours
- The book uses statistics that guides you along the facts and offers the context of these landscapes
- The author also attempts to describe the potential reasons/ explanations behind the statistics
- There is not only a focus on humans/homo sapiens, but a parallel between the repertoire of our behaviours and the strategies of other species in the animal, mammal and primal kingdom.
- Despite the differences through the results of the different experiments, questionnaires and observations, the interpretations that the author makes have an aura of uncertainty about what he believes to be the facts/explanation behind the research.
Overall, a very good book and one I recommend.