Re: Symons: "Evolution of Human Sexuality"

From: Katherine Lyne (
Date: Thu Nov 20 1997 - 12:40:56 GMT

This is my account of the second half of the Symons book "The Evolution
of Human Sexuality". It will be basically what I said on Tuesday. Hope
it makes sense.

Chapter 6 Sexual choice

Basic idea of chapter is that men are less choosy than women becuase
they have little to lose, and patentially a lot to gain, by copulating
with as many women as possible. Selection has favoured those men who
can be aroused the most easily and so can copulate quickly. This is
illustrated in several ways in human sexuality:

Sexual arousal

Men are aroused more easily than women. Only male pornography exists.
In literature descriptions of womens bodies are detailed for male
stimulation. Symons claims that men like pornography because "it shows
physical gratification without commitment or encumbering
relationships". No, or very little female pornography because there is
no need for them to become aroused very easily becuase the possible
energy, time investment in the results of copulation are huge.Men only
need to use the energy to copulate.

Sexual attractivness

The fact that people are attracted to different people shows the
variety in reproductive value. However there is a mean attractiveness
value. Most men will find most women attractive but this is not true
true the other way round for the reasons outlined above. Health is an
important attractiveness value - a clear complexion and cleanliness.
This is particularly true for men where as women are more likely to
find status and wealth attractive. Men are attracted to women within a
certain age range - roughly those that are able to reproduce. However
the younger a woman is, the more of her potential reproductivity can be
used by a man. So men are attracted to women who are have just become
receptive ie just after menarche because they will be able to "use" her
maximum reproductivity. There is also less likelyhood that another male
will have impregnated her.

Chapter 7 The desire for sexual variety

Males will enhance reproductive success if they have children by as
many women as possible. He has an unlimited children potential whereas
a woman is limited to around 5. So adultary is advantageous for men but
Symons claims that it is not for a woman becuase she may be harmed by
her husband. (?) Although she may use sex to gain fitter sperm to sire
her children, trade sex for meat, or find a new husband, Symons claims
that most female adultary is an adaptation in response to male
Unfaithfulness. (???) Men get bored with one woman - the Coolidge
effect states that men will reduce copulation with one woman but will
be able to copualte with many if each one is new. This has been shown
with rats.

Sexual Jelousy

Men are more concerned about female adultery than vice versa because
they can never be sure that the child she is carrying is theirs.
Polygamy can be advantageous becuase of help with child care etc but
Polyandry (many husbands) is rare becuase of male sexual jealousy.
Selection has favoured male adultery. Symons suggests jealousy may be
innate in men but learned in women as a response. (:??????)

Chapter 8 - copulation as a female service

It is only men who court, woo, propostition and give gifts for sex and
only men rape. Men stand to gain by copulating with any available
woman. Sex is something that women have that men want.

Sexual pleasure

Men generally are thought to have more sexual pleasure than women. The
more pleasure a woman has, the weaker her bargining position.

Sexual capacity

This does not make any difference in sexual economics as women have
less drive but the capacity for multiple orgasms. Men have more drive
but less stamina.

Visual arousal

Men are aroused by pictures and sights of women - as discussed before.
Men have greater stimulation by this kind of thing and so it gives
women greater leaverage.


Men find this hard but women don't. This is why only men use

Desire for variety

Because men constantly desire variety, women are seen as a commodity
that is in short supply.

Sexual transaction

Most men are attracted to most women but this is not true the other way
round. Women become more attracted to commitment and gifts.


Although the motivations for Rape are highly complex it supports the
view that copulation is something that women have that men want.

Chapter 9 Hormones and Homosexuals

Symons gives evidence that the male pattern of sexuality is attributed
to exposure to high levels of androgens. Women who have been exposed to
these hormones display a male pattern of sexual behaviour - high
autonomous sex drive, erotic dreams, visual stimulation, clitoral
hypersensitivity. When treated to lower the levels of androgens a more
female pattern of sexual behaviour resulted.

The behaviour of male and female homosexuals reinforces the patterns of
different sexual behaviours in the two sexes. Male homosexuals have
lots of pornography and there is an emphasis on the importance of
looking young and attractive. Random pairings are very common, with the
existance of in male homosexual bars. One man can have many different
partners in one night, all strangers. Symons claims that there are very
few long-term male homosexual relationships. Lesbians however do not
engage in random pairings as frequently and long term relationships are
more likely. This illustrates the differences between male and female
sexual behaviour.

"Among men sex sometimes results in intimacy, in women intimacy
sometimes results in sex."

Chapter 10 - Conclusions

Wide ranging pattern of human sexual behaviour, some of which is innate
and some learnt. Male and female sexual drives are very different but
each is very important.

"Men and women differ in their sexual natures because, throughout the
immensely long hunting and gathering phase of human evolution, the
sexual desires and dispositions that were adaptive for either sex were,
for the other, tickets to oblivion"

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