Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Somewhat Simple Explanation

Amber links to this very thorough analysis of the preference for younger women by men on online dating sites.

Yet, what is missing from the analysis is a very obvious point -- fertility. Ignoring that female fertility wanes and male fertility, generally speaking, does not in the male preference for younger women seems a gross, if perhaps uncomfortable, oversight.

It is addressed in the comments; however, the topic obviously strikes a nerve:
Just what guys are looking for: a nice fertile woman they can knock up? You must be some of the dippy 20 somethings mentioned above. Especially illogical given that women’s fertility does not actually decrease until long after their supposed attractiveness wanes. This article actually suggests the opposite of what you goofballs are claiming: Men pursue women who are youngest even when women who are just as biologically suitable are available.

I think this commenter glosses over absolute for relative. Sure, women can have children long after the peak of physical attractiveness, especially given modern medicine, but relative fertility does decline. Moreover, the current state of fertility does not really matter all that much. The biological imperatives were formed long in the past when it may have been shorter. Nevertheless, relative fertility does decline.

Okay, cattiness aside, that evolutionary imperative stuff is nonsense. Not only are human beings the least motivated by instinct of any animal, but reproductive research shows that men’s suitability for procreating may be more affected by age than women’s. That is, men continually produce sperm and their ability to produce quality sperm declines with age. Women, by contrast, have all the eggs they will ever have at the time they come to reproductive maturity, all the quality of cells produced at the height of their ability. Since women who have children late in life tend to do so with men of a similar age, the higher incidence of lower quality zygotes is not necessarily attributable to the woman. The huge amount of money going into infertility research should have some nice, unintended side effects.

This is just nutters. First, the sex drive is an evolutionary imperative. Otherwise, we wouldn't be here. Second, men father children into their 70s and 80s. Women don't.

This phenomenon is social and economic, people. The Greeks invented science but they still thought that the woman determined the sex of the child. After thousands of years, some of you still haven’t woken up!

Asserting that it is social and economic is true in part. Asserting that it is entirely social and economic is simply stupid. We are talking about an activity intimately involved in the biological process of reproduction. To assert that there are no biological imperatives involved defies common sense and most people's experience. I mean, the urge to have sex ain't exactly higher order reason. The commenter has, after thousands of years, apparently deluded herself.

Now, I must say, as I mentioned in the previous paragraph, I'm not saying relative declining female fertility with age has sole explanatory power. There are economic issues and social constructions. My point is just that it's the elephant in the room and all the complicated logic and non sequiturs people want to throw at it ain't gonna make it go away.


Anonymous said...

Burns wrote of having travelled the Highlands and seeing women who had borne 20 children of whom but two survived. People who flirt with evobio explanations and assume that a 35 yo who can reasonably hope to have two kids can be a path to reproductive success for a guy - plausible under today's conditions, but for our ancestors not so much. 300 years ago, you have two kids, your line dies out. So the evobio eye should be looking for a plausible ten kids. Thus, a lust for 20 year olds. dave.s.

FLG said...


Good point. I tried to get at that. Biology was determined long before the current economic, social, and medical realities of the present.

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