Zach and I have finally completed our move and I will hopefully be able to update at least semi-regularly again.
I’ve been noticing a lot of articles in the news lately which report on the “surprising” result that human men and women are about equally choosy when picking a mate (in this article, for example). The articles claim that the result is surprising because of a long-standing belief that women are choosier because they invest more energy into reproduction (larger gametes, gestation, etc.) then men.
Because reproductive investment is low in men, they could potentially produce hundreds of offspring at little cost to themselves. This high potential for reproductive success means that men should mate with lots of females to maximize their fitness. On the other hand, females are only capable of producing a fixed number of offspring during their lifetime and mating is often costly, so females should only mate with a few, carefully choosen males. The main point here is that males have a greater reproductive potential than females.
That’s all well and good, but it completely ignores the fact that, in monogamous systems, a male will only end up with as many offsprings as his female partner is capable of producing. Males should therefore be choosy because they want to find a female that will produce as many healthy offspring as possible and females should still be choosy for the same reasons as before.
Of course, few if any species are completely monogamous. Genetic studies have revealed that many of the bird species we’ve written songs and poems about because we consider them to be shining examples of monogamy are actually fooling around behind each other’s backs fairly often. So we shouldn’t be surprised when we find that females are willing to sneak around with males of a higher quality than their social partner and males should be willing to sneak around when they get the chance too. But the point still remains that both sexes in mainly monogamous systems they should be as choosy as possible about the social partner with which they’ll be producing the bulk of their offspring.
Most human cultures are monogamous (to some degree) and so it doesn’t seem to me that we ought to be too surprised to find that males and females are equally choosy about their partners. The studies examining human mating behavior are certainly interesting, but (despite their claims) they aren’t producing results that are particularly surprising.