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Jordan PeterPan of course offers a stock solution: "enforced monogamy", which is exactly what it sounds like. But if it was so natural, it wouldn't have to be "enforced", now would it?

We can argue whether it is natural or not until we are blue in the face. But there are three kinds of monogamy: strict, lifelong, and universal. Pick at most two out of three. Because that's all that Mother Nature will allow, to say nothing of the iron laws of supply and demand.

Ultimately, like just about everything else, (non)monogamy falls on a spectrum, with most people being somewhere in the middle. Shoehorning everyone into a binary is counterproductive.

Perhaps our bonobo cousins had the right idea all along? Live and let live, love and let love. That's what I say.

(Mic drop)

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"Reactionary Feminism" is an oxymoron. Yes there are tradeoffs to literally everything in life, granted. But to follow their specious nostrums would simply trap women in the same 7000+ year patriarchal quagmire they have spent the past 200 or so years trying to get out of.

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To put it bluntly: Evo-psych is mostly bullshit. The vast majority of its tenets are merely a hangover from 7000 or so years of patriarchy, and/or capitalism.

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Am I the only one deeply uncomfortable with the picture of evolutionary psychology and female sexual behaviour that is painted by all these perspectives? And classifications of men and women as low and high status?

Women do not naturally only seek out men with high status and resources. We are not gorillas. That is an androcentric and modern worldview based on the perspective of a capitalist and patriarchal society in which women were stripped of power and resources and hence made dependent on men, resulting in women wanting (=needing) resourceful men. The male interpretation of the Alpha Male is also such a phenomenon - men of the highest status among other men, not necessarily among society as a whole and thus the most desirable to women. Evolutionarily, women were attracted, indeed, to only a smaller number of all men, probably between 10-30%. The rest would simply have no partners. But these 10-30% were not all of the highest status and resources to live with monogamously. They were from all walks of life, some were tough, some were leaders, others had great social skills, some were poets, some were just charming, and some just shared quirky traits or weltschmerz. Proof of this can be found in the fact that all those men exist today, and women drove human evolution and selected men, not vice versa. It is, again, patriarchy that has convinced us that men are picky about which women they procreate with, making women think they need to do better and be better. This is type of competition actually inherent in men, not women, projected onto women and portrayed as female behaviour when in fact it is not.

"Liberal women use sex to get a foot in the door with high status men" really gives me stomach cramps. Women use sex because they want to sleep with attractive men, and then also bond with them because they might be pregnant, there is nothing to pathologize there. Women do not have an evolutionary button to want to marry for life, most likely they are designed to bond for a few years and then move on to another man to spread their genes better. Something reactionary feminism is sadly entirely ignoring.

At least these ideas are highly debated within evolutionary biology and it's very important to communicate how WE DON'T ACTUALLY KNOW. What we do know, for sure, is that our world is androcentric for historic reasons and so androcentrism lays the foundation for most of our interpretations and our science; to the point where we barely hold data of women collected through and interpreted by non androcentric perspectives. This is something we'll be busy disentangling for the next century. We don't actually know anything about women until then, except for our gut instinct perhaps, which is what I love about reactionary feminism.

Thank you for the great article and I am so happy someone is putting these perspectives next to each other to contrast, compare, and offer a possible synthesis. I am excited too for these perspectives enriching our discourse and interpretations. What is missing still, in my view, is that evolutionary theory of female choice outlined above. I am going to start writing about it so that hopefully this can enter the discourse and enrich/complicated it further. I am a confused and saddened that reactionary feminism doesn't actually offer much in terms of female sexuality.

By the way, as a European I am really surprised by all these accounts saying people are too picky nowadays. I have never seen this in my actual life. Not in myself and not in my social circle and anywhere around. I see women in bad relationships they don't leave because they love deeply, staying with someone who has not much to offer and so no family is started, and they remain anyway. Or women simply being with any guy that destiny happened to throw at them and making their peace with it.

This got way too long.

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BINGO. "Evo-psych" is mostly bullshit, and really a result of capitalism and a hangover from patriarchy.

And Europeans seem have much healthier views of sexuality compared with the USA, or even Canada.

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May 31·edited May 31Author

>>Proof of this can be found in the fact that all those men exist today, and women drove human evolution and selected men, not vice versa.

Seen from the perspective of anthropology, I think the idea that women drove evolution is highly dubious. In most human societies, women have not freely chosen their partners. There has always been some female choice. If nothing else, cheating with a willing woman is much easier. But I think it is very much of an exaggeration to claim that "Males are basically a breeding experiment run by females", as evolutionary psychologist Irven DeVore did. The opposite, women are an experiment run by men, is much more plausible.

>>"Liberal women use sex to get a foot in the door with high status men" really gives me stomach cramps.Women use sex because they want to sleep with attractive men, and then also bond with them because they might be pregnant, there is nothing to pathologize there. Women do not have an evolutionary button to want to marry for life, most likely they are designed to bond for a few years and then move on to another man to spread their genes better. Something reactionary feminism is sadly entirely ignoring.

Even if women do have sex with high status men to get a foot in the door, that is nothing pathological. And you are right that women are not optimally designed for life-long marriage. On a sexual level, they are clearly not. Women, just as men, struggle with conflicting impulses that lead to different goals. For average individuals of both sexes, lifelong marriage both brings some benefits and requires some sacrifices.

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Tove, I want to say that I feel a bit uncomfortable that I jumped at you somewhat yesterday. If it came across that way, I really didn't mean to. Something in the comments made me angry and it may have been better to just think about it for longer and then blog about it myself instead of leaving a wall of text in the comments, which truly isn't the most fruitful place for intellectual exchange. Sorry about that. I absolutely adore your blog and thoughts.

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The question of human female evolution is indeed a big one. Before I gave up and started blogging, I was actually writing on a book under the name Shaped by Oppression.

In other words, I share your concerns about female evolutionary history, although I came to another conclusion: That even if we human females who live now and are the result of millions of years of gender oppression, we don't need to allow that to let us down. We can face life with pride and confidence even if we happen to be the result of some less pleasant evolutionary processes.

I wrote some deeper stuff about my (maybe unfortunate) conclusions on female evolutionary history here

https://open.substack.com/pub/woodfromeden/p/the-origins-of-patriarchy?r=rd1ej&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web

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That sounds great, I'd love to read it, and will look into tomorrow. Thanks for your lovely reply. Indeed, many things are 'natural' yet that does not mean we need to continue doing them. I just want to say that I shared very sad and pessimistic views on our history until I read Female Choice by a German biologist Meike Stoverock last year and that really shook everything up for me. Looking forward to reading your piece, thank you for sharing.

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Thanks for your reply. It terrifies me that women would believe we are an experiment run by men, to me that shows how deeply misogynist this world is and has objectified women and make them commodities for male sexuality and ownership, that this view persist. All these things happened in the last 10,000 years due to agriculture and thats when men started writing laws to exclude women from rights, and hence marriage became a necessity. In the 500.000 years before that, it was different, and what I understand from evolutionary biology is that our DNA indicates how 100% of women progressed with roughly 10-30% of men. That sounds like female choice to me.

Besides that, yes, marriage requires big sacrifices for both. I am undecided on this, I just wanted to throw in some thoughts I haven't felt represented in the debate. I honestly I have no answer either.

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No. Social sexual norms were created to ensure the continuance of said society. The idea that men met in a smoky backroom to exclude women from rights while twirling their villainous mustaches is outright stupid. The modern idea of "rights" is, in iteself, an innovation, and one that likley won't last.

Women were best suited for child-rearing and domestic tasks, the men for hard labor and war. Like she was saying regarding tradeoffs, the tradeoff for women was they would gain security, but would lose some autonomy. The male would gain headship, but would have a much more violent existence.

> In the 500.000 years before that, it was different, and what I understand from evolutionary biology is that our DNA indicates how 100% of women progressed with roughly 10-30% of men. That sounds like female choice to me.

I can guarantee you the idea of "consent" did not exist for those 10-30 percent of men.

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Hi Alan, I realize now the topic may be a bit too big for a comment section, and I admit I started it. I think we could come to many agreements when talking a bit more lengthy and face to face. I know I was also firm in my comments yesterday, but I do appreciate not calling each other stupid.

I am not saying there was a conspiracy. There's a theory I found to make sense that we had quite wild female choice going on for around a million years and more, and that it was agriculture that changed it. The first laws that we can find do specifically exclude women from owning land (i.e. actual patriarchy). People were paired off through marriage (one man per woman) and there's DNA evidence that suggests it was different before that time. It's a theory better explained in length. And classical roles for women are being questioned today, e.g. we are finding women did hunt large animals too etc.

I didn't understand the consent part.

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"Men and women are natural enemies."

_

This is terrifyingly wrong.

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Indeed, it is terrifyingly wrong, and implies that gender relations must be a zero-sum game. "Cross-purposes" may be a better term, but even that is not the same as "natural enemies."

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'Two facets of the same purpose', more like.

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Indeed, even better.

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author

Yes, that is a bit too strongly expressed. Men and women are both companions that need and assist each other and enemies that use and exploit each other.

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Indeed, only under patriarchy are men and women "natural" enemies, which is really not natural at all. It's like how under capitalism, capital and labor are "natural" enemies. But life doesn't have to be a zero-sum game at all.

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I think I would agree… and I would say the goal should not be to maximize happiness but to promote social order and the creation of worthy children.

https://jmpolemic.substack.com/

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"Social order" and "worthy" children, by whose standards exactly?

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May 29·edited May 29

One thing these graphs don't get Is the more selective people in both genders can't find each other with church dead. While the sexual novelty people find it easy via tinder etc.

Also both genders are have a split between the strategies, there is an underestimated number of extremely sexually novel women, and an underestimated number of extremely selective men. I'd actually say the hybrid people are rare. And most people are using one or the other. Indeed selective men don't want women half-ing the sexually novel strat. And selective women want a man to be committed.

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Some common sense.

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Apr 25·edited Apr 25

Taken literally, the diverging mating strategies chart, together with high economic inequality, lead inevitably to polygyny as a dominant relationship pattern.

Arguably we already have a great deal of African-style polygyny, with women each supporting herself and raising her children in her own dwelling, with the government in the role of the polygynous husband, protecting the women from the violent attentions of other men.

This seems bound to increase, because as you say at the start, the sexes don't get along very well.

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The economic inequality (via late-stage capitalism) is itself the real driving force, plus a hangover from patriarchy.

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Jun 13·edited Jun 13

Male inequality is part of the problem. If all men's incomes were roughly equal, women would have one less reason to delay choosing a partner, and men would have to adopt alternative strategies to attract women to a greater extent than they do now - implicit or actual violence against other men to show their dominance, or being entertaining, and so on.

But this is only the case because evaluating a man's ability to provide and likelihood of providing for a woman's future children are part of her mate choice.

DECREASING income inequality between women and men is part of the background of what I had in mind.

Women are now able to be single mothers, with the government's protection, and so some of them choose that path. Now, "no mate" is a feasible choice of mate for many women. (So is "a mate but no children".)

Meanwhile, inequality of incomes (and social prestige generally) amongst men is increasing, so the women who might still want a man increasingly delay partnering in hopes of attracting a high income/prestigious man. Urbanisation and the internet exacerbate this by exposing women to many more men on a daily basis than they would have encountered a hundred years ago.

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Yes. There certainly are such tendencies. But judging from birth rates, most of all the trend seems to be sexlessness or contraception rather than an increase in polygynous households. Women might be hypergamous, but they have also learned to resent that modern form of polygyny.

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And the hypergamy is not really natural, but rather a result of capitalism and a hangover from 7000+ years of patriarchy.

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Those things are true. Although I think the resentment was likely there all along. It's just that in regions with a weak state, polygyny is not as bad as the alternatives for women.

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I like what you say and think I see some truth in it. It is certainly part of the mix. I'd add a few other factors. Both sexes are less interested in having kids. This makes long-term relationships less appealing. Without the glue of parental responsibility, small differences become magnified even if they don't get bigger. (do childless couples divorce more frequently? Surely they marry less and unmarried couples separate more.) Second, divorce is much easier. This can't help but lead to more divorces. I'm not sure where it fits but it seems worth noting that people change jobs more too. Maybe that speaks to a broader societal change or maybe it leads people to make other changes too. IDK but it seems there might be something there.

Getting back to what you say, here are my thoughts:

To say someone is not happy in marriage doesn't really tell us much. I'd argue most of those people are unhappy regardless of their marital status. Whatever they blame on the marriage probably doesn't all originate there.

It is worth noting that most people who marry never divorce. The question remains as to why the others divorce. Maybe it's just a probability thing - some people aren't going to find the "right" person the first, second or third time.; I believe the abusive and incompatible is a very small minority.; Cheating is a bigger issue but is that the cause or just something that results when a partner is unhappy?; I'd argue most people end relationships hoping for an improvement that never comes, or if it does comes, that has little or nothing to do with who they are or aren't in a relationship with.

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As for wanting to have fewer kids, perhaps Gaia is trying to tell us something. Hint hint, we are grossly overpopulated and in ecological overshoot. In any case, the "problem" is basically self-correcting, within a couple generations.

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It is true that many problem in nature are self-correcting. I don't believe that has anything whatsoever to do with what is happening here, regardless of what the population "should" be.

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Someone once described marrying without the intention of having children to me as being "like handcuffing an empty briefcase to your wrist". Which I thought was funny because it's true. Except that virtually every intentionally childless married couple I know is MUCH more happy with their marriage than the couples with children. Those are the people always extolling the virtues of their spouses, and still romantic and googly-eyed about them after decades. While if you go on mom forums, the women are always endlessly complaining about their husbands.

I think the reason why is not because a non-procreative marriage is better (many would say it's obviously not, and totally pointless). It's because, as you point out "it makes long-term relationships less appealing." People who don't want to have kids generally have no motivation to get married and aren't seeking it out. Which ironically, makes their marriages much happier when they DO happen. Because they only get married purely because they happened to find someone who was just that awesome and perfectly suited to them that they decided to marry them even if they weren't otherwise looking to get married. They liked the briefcase so much on its own that they were willing to handcuff it to themselves empty, rather than needing it to be full of cash, so to speak.

This is generally applicable to all forms of people who are not really wanting or looking to get married - whether because they're rich and secure, or just generally content and satisfied people in general, or whatever the reason is. "You'll meet someone when you're not looking" is SORT OF true. But not because of some magic or something. It's because people who legitimately aren't looking to get married are people who are super happy with and psyched about their life single. And the only reason that someone like that would ever get married is if they happened to meet someone who just really is very, very obviously and singularly right for them, such that it made giving up their already happy life worth it. So of course those people end up happier when married. But that means sadly that it's likely to be the people who want the most to get married (just in general, not to a specific person), who will end up in least happy marriages, since the bar to clear is much lower for them.

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Find some 50, 60, 70 or preferably even older couples married together since childbearing years how they feel about having kids or not.

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I know plenty. My aunt and uncle for one, married since the 70s. They're happy and love (AND like) each other more than any other couple I can think of. All my other aunt/uncle couples with kids have settled into companionable barely noticing each other's existence or thinly veiled contempt...their sentiments all run towards their kids. But that's not surprising, that's what they invested their lives in. They extol their kids, the childless ones still have huge smiles all the time and extol each other. Most people think the thing they spent their life investing their time energy and attention into is pretty important.

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Sorry to hear you have so many unhappy relatives. I don't mean these to imply you are wrong but here's some other views.

No doubt you are mostly correct when the offspring are still minors but even that isn't universally true. I wouldn't interpret this as some countries are good, others bad but instead recognize that everyone's circumstances are different.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-happiness-doctor/201709/does-having-children-make-us-happy

What I got from this one was that whether one was happy with kids or not was having the number of kids that one wanted to have. That certainly makes some sense but knowing that when raising kids versus years later is rather difficult.

https://ifstudies.org/blog/does-having-children-make-people-happier-in-the-long-run

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From a high level, aren't we just pointing to "affluence" here? Affluence, having affordances, is mostly *defined* by the ability to be more choosy and to bid for better quality things. I don't see why romantic partners would be an exception.

We're more affluent than in the past, and we're pickier about romantic partners than in the past. The graphs are naturally separating because of greater affordances and affluence.

A direct corollary: we're pickier about *kids* than in the past too. Kids are a capstone thing now too, and nobody wants to have them unless they're financially secure and in a good career and relationship, and so on.

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Except more affluent people in today's society are far more likely to marry and have long-lasting relationships.

If we go back sometime before 1960, poor people were far more likely to form long lasting relationships. Blacks, almost all poor, were more likely to marry and stay married than whites. I don't see affluence being a significant cause.

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You are right, people should become pickier with affluence.

What I would like to know, but don't know, is to what degree this pickiness pays off. For example, if people choose their life partner at around 30, their choice might on average be better than if they choose around 20. But how much better? Good enough to make up for the loneliness people will experience in their 20s? I think the reactionary-versus-common-sense debate is too little about this myriad of trade-offs.

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An interesting essay. But like almost all discussions of sexual mating between the sexes it frames things in terms of crudely sterotypical INTER-SEXUAL relations....'Men' want this whereas 'Women' want that.....and so fails to take much account of the huge INTRA-SEXUAL differences in how the 'mating game' is experienced. The reality for pretty women and confident successful men is hugely different from that of physically less comely women and 'beta' men (most men in fact) and so these 'Men' / 'Women' stereotypes greatly distort the picture. I explored this difference between what I have called the the more and the less desired in this essay: https://grahamcunningham.substack.com/p/the-less-desired

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It's a good question. The following graph age tranches "first divorce rate" in x per 1000, and there's very little difference between 18-29 and 30-44. Roughly 19 vs 17 per 1k, so not much difference at all:

https://imgur.com/ibgpe5W

So going by age alone, there's very little lift in relationship quality as measured by divorce rates. BUT, if people are spending their time before marrying going from HS to a Bachelors, or even better, a Masters, there is a pretty big difference. Roughly 15/16 divorces per 1k for HS degree holders to 8-10 per 1k for Bachelor / Masters degree holders:

https://imgur.com/A6UipV4

And I'd bet the folk doing that (getting undergrad and / or masters degrees in their twenties) aren't all that lonely - most people famously have the strongest and broadest friend groups of their life in college, and many people date pretty widely in college too.

So I guess the lesson is, spend your twenties getting degrees and hanging out with friends and dating?

Also, the lift we see from "HS degree holder" at 15-16 / 1k to bachelor holder at 10 / 1k argues that their age tranches were horribly chosen - I would bet there's significant differences in 18-20 year old divorce rates and 27-29 divorce rates.

Source for graphs: https://www.bgsu.edu/ncfmr/resources/data/family-profiles/westrick-payne-first-divorce-rate-2021-fp-23-18.html

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The evolutionary perspective is certainly interesting way to look at this, especially in today's light. Most studies I have seen on marriage claim that married people are happier than single, have better health, and have more sex than single people. The studies have been replicated. I've seen marriages succeed and marriages fail. Those success stories do what you have said on a more individual basis, shifting patterns of living against what the natural evolved man wants.

In my experience, 26 years of marriage and watching my parents and grandparents, all who have and had many years of marriage are indeed happy. This happiness is not from living in the "natural" way but comes from giving, serving, sharing, sacrificing, and selflessness.

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Married people should be happy, because the proportion of people who marry is steadily declining. It is only those who really want to be married who get married and stay married.

If you go to Arctotherium's Review of J. D. Unwin's "Sex and Culture", and scroll down 'til you see the four charts starting with "Marriage Rate in the United States from 1990 to 2018", you will see the change and its startling rate.

Things really are different now. Parents' and especially grandparents' lived experience is not current reality.

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Update: I found the source for that chart. It's by Allen Downey, a well-known professor of statistics. It's in a blog post and paper of his. The blog post is on his blog "Probably Overthinking It" and is titled "Millennials are not getting married".

Downey states he was planning to update it when new statistics came out in '22, but I haven't found that update.

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All of this is very true. But modern times have added even more complications. One is that truly traditionally, marriage was about family, extended family. In English, this shows up if you use the words traditionally: the bride and groom *are married*, it is something that is done to them, by their families, for the benefit of their families. Whether they would have chosen each other is irrelevant.

This also shows up in one of Bocaccio's tales. Three (upper-class) young women are unhappy with the fiances their families have chosen and head out in a boat -- with their lovers.

But one result is that people expect a lot more from their marriages, which makes it easier to be disappointed. I've noted down

> "Even in the very recent past, couples had a high tolerance for discord, and accepted compromises and a low-grade discontent. But now a low-grade fever has set in and marriages are succumbing because only a perfect relationship will do. No one wants to settle or accommodate - everyone wants *more*." -- Erica Abeel, "I'll call you tomorrow, and other lies between men and women", 1981

Barbara Ehrenreich said similar things: https://content.time.com/time/subscriber/article/0,33009,979229,00.html

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I think this is an overly simplistic view of mating strategies.

High value, high status men might seem like the ones with a low commitment / sexual novelty strategy, but they are also very selective when it comes to what partner are they are eventually going to commit to. I have experienced it myself - I was not a high status man, but learning pickup skills put me in a high value man mindset. I was very selective, eventually met an exceptional woman and we are happily married now. One of the things that makes me feel happy in this relationship is how I didn't have to settle for anything, I married just the person I wanted. But I also know that my previous experiences with women have made me aware of what I really wanted and allowed me to choose wisely.

What makes high status men highly selective is their realistic perspective of having casual relationships, which is better than a mediocre committed relationship but worse than an amazing relationship with an exceptional woman.

Walt Bismarck has an interesting description of how apparently this happens on the female side as well (see here: https://newaltright.substack.com/p/stop-being-mean-to-slutty-women) - he writes about how liberal, promiscuous women use that strategy to get their foot in the door with high value men and then, once in a committed relationship, turn into tradwives.

To sum up, novelty seeking / low commitment and selectiveness go hand in hand - if you're selective, you got to have a large enough pool of available mates to select from.

Also, these strategies work on individual level, but would probably not scale on the society. On social level, the main concern in developed countries is fertility, and we should fix the system to allow for more people entering committed relationships and having children together, even if this makes the society less happy on average. Otherwise the Western society and culture will perish in a few generations.

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>>I think this is an overly simplistic view of mating strategies.

It is extremely simplistic. It languished among my drafts for months before I got the idea that simplistic posts can be interesting too.

>>he writes about how liberal, promiscuous women use that strategy to get their foot in the door with high value men and then, once in a committed relationship, turn into tradwives.

As far as I can see, he is right. At least he could be right. He kind of turned Rob Henderson’s idea about luxury beliefs around and defends the elite's right to their luxury beliefs. It is interesting and I can't say it is inaccurate. In any case, I definitely believe that women have casual sex in order to get a foot in the door. That is one reason why there is such a strong conflict of interest between women who prefer to have casual sex and women who want payment every time: There are perfectly rational people on both sides.

>>On social level, the main concern in developed countries is fertility, and we should fix the system to allow for more people entering committed relationships and having children together, even if this makes the society less happy on average.

Yes. It is sad that some of the great social inventions that have been made in high-tech societies might not be sustainable over time.

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After years I am leaning more and more towards the idea of leaving this complicated human relationship mess behind. And dream of electric companions and perfectly matched LLMs

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This is an AI apocalypse that policymakers should be worrying about.

Instead, what is getting all the attention is the idea that AI will take everyone's jobs; huge swathes of people will be made redundant in the paid economy. This fear betrays a lack of detailed understanding of what most people do, and the manifold technical issues.

But it seems possible that a sufficiently advanced LLM boyfriend could meet a woman's emotional and companionship needs better than any man she is likely to meet. And the same for men, mutatis mutandis.

If LLM boyfriends/girlfriends are affordable, it seems likely to cause human extinction, or at least another evolutionary bottleneck.

A better outcome would arise from making the LLMs into combination coaches (life skills, academic and exercise), mentors, social skill teachers, and therapists. (Parents?) But there is no money in that in the short term.

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I'll read this later. Though my experience of marriage is that when I feel we are working to a common end, each in our own distinctive way, then I am happy. When we are not, I am unhappy. Thinking about my wife, it seems she would say the same thing.

In the past, this "common end" was most likely simply survival. Couples actual level of happiness probably was inversely dependant on their level of desperation. Nowadays, when living is easy, its harder to find a "common end", which may be why many couples find it hard to be happy 'together'.

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>>Nowadays, when living is easy, its harder to find a "common end", which may be why many couples find it hard to be happy 'together'.

That is very plausible. Actually, the most normal couple I have ever known got divorced a while ago. Right before the divorce, the wife (who was the one who initiated the divorce), urged me to continue having children. She said "don't stop being busy, because when you do, you start thinking and then you find a lot of faults".

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My wife is very aware of my many faults and points them out to me when she is grumpy with me. The rest of the time she is very forgiving.

A couple of observations from our marriage: the 'common end' works best when it is 'external'. Like a country at war, it is easier 'to row together' when there is an existential threat from outside the marriage, like needing to overcome a lack of money, or maybe in your case, building a house that is accepted by the Local Authority. Having a common internal goal, say maximising happiness or some such, is harder. At least it has been for us.

I presume your friend was still fertile when she divorced. In which case, I expect she was feeling she no longer felt any need to rely on her husband for (emotional/material) support, which makes finding fault quite easy.

It is my observation, in my dotage, that many women divorce shortly after or during menopause. I suspect because their POView on the world changes as their hormones change. For men divorcing at that stage, it's more around sexual frustration. I've known a few men later regret casting off the 'shackles' of their wife's sexuality.

As a last remark on marriage. I went into it with the presumption that it was a life long endeavour and that meant taking the good with the bad. That is, once the path was entered into there would be no turning back. I didn't actually think much about that, just that it seemed a fair exchange for sex. That said, I did put significant effort into 'evaluating' my future wife. This was decades ago. About 5 years ago I came across Greg Clark's work on assortative mating. That is exactly what we did.

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> That is exactly what we did.

Same. After only two terrible prior relationships I had learned to become extremely skeptical about the prospects of marriage to most women. My strategy was to try to match values more that most other things, since that's what was missing before; having the same values turned out to be the key.

It's too bad the values of young men and women are coming even further apart than they were twenty years ago: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/other/how-men-and-women-are-dividing-on-politics/ar-BB1lLipK

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Yes, I had a couple of more or less successful relationships before I married. I think I learned from both of them. The 2nd, in particular, I would have liked to marry but I couldn't accept her 2nd wave feminist framing of reality. As things have turned out, I think she was mislead by polemists.

I've seen mentions of increased political polarity between the genders in the USA. Maybe it's real, though in most 'popular' (non-rigorous) polls the questions asked tend to highly influence the answers given.

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You're more conservative than I am; from my standpoint 2nd wave feminism seems quite reasonable compared to what feminism is today. (Then again where feminism ended up makes me suspicious of what 2nd wave was doing, and the fact that the 2nd wave descended into bickering regarding sex work suggests it was always mostly spearheaded by the kind of people who were just not very patient.)

But the main difference between the sexes has always been idealism/realism, or tough/tender-mindedness, or whatever you'd prefer to call it ( https://thingstoread.substack.com/p/what-they-didnt-tell-you-about-political ) ; the main reason for a large sex disparity today is because the left is leaning very hard on woke issues, which are idealistic, and thus appeal disproportionately to the ladies. Left to their own devices, men would have ensured that leftism remained forever at the vanguard of euthanasia, abortion, psychedelics, workers' rights, and facial hair: https://tinyurl.com/3sjze466

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"a large sex disparity today is because the left is leaning very hard on woke issues, which are idealistic, and thus appeal disproportionately to the ladies."

I looked over (it's quite long) your linked post. It doesn't identify gender as being significant in any of the factors discussed. I searched on 'idealistic' and see that you identify a factor occurring on an axis between idealistic and realistic, which seems reasonable. However, I can't really see this as mapping on to a gendered axis. Have you data showing this is the case?

I can conceive of a gendered axis I'll call "nurture vs resource acquisition" ie the women that are alive today come from a line of mothers who have successfully nurtured babies through to adulthood. Whereas the men come from a line of fathers who have successfully acquired resources sufficient to ensure their children survive to reproduce as adults. ie I think the different incentives men and women feel have been strong enough to create some (evolved) inherent differences in behaviour. I don't think the incentives would encourage much or any difference in degree of idealism through realism ie men and women are likely equally idealistic-realistic.

An underlying gendered (actually sex) axis would act on the the idealistic-realistic factor to favour the gendered expression of different kinds of idealistic behaviours, or at the other extreme, of realistic behaviours. ie realistic women have something of a common set of realistic behaviours that differ somewhat from the realistic behaviours of realistic men etc.

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I’ve seen Robin Hanson referencing the difference between cornerstone and capstone marriage a lot recently. Bazza seems to have embraced a cornerstone marriage, as have our blog hosts, as have my wife and I. It seems like a better framing and a better model. It also probably seems riskier to the elites pursuing capstone lives. I think they are both right about the risk and wrong about the consequences, but I don’t know if there is any way to persuade them short of direct experience which will of course exact a dear price.

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You are right in that I think belief in a capstone marriage is deluded, at best.

However, life is more complicated than dichotomies like cornerstone and capstone, or left and right for that matter. These are more tools for thinking about something rather than descriptive models. My wife and I married at 35 though we were far from established in the world. Some would describe us as locally elite.

Its hard for me to say how much our marriage reflects our personalities and how much it reflects our social circumstances. At times life has been stressful which has been hard on our relationship but also life has been easy which has been good for our relationship.

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I agree that life is complicated. The number of different configurations of marriage relationships that could be labeled is large indeed. Rather than thinking of cornerstone/capstone as "answers," I would advance them as orientations, and even in this regard, cornerstone comes out ahead, since, staying with the metaphor, when you lay the cornerstone, you really have no idea what the final structure will look like, and even if many parts of the building are eventually demolished or redone, the cornerstone can remain an integral part. The capstone on the other hand, well, you pretty much have to have the whole house completed before you place it & if you don't like how it looks at that point, you're probably going to start the demolition from the top down.

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Late (capstone) marriage works if the entire society is arranged around it and supports it. Indeed, late marriage was basically a foundational cultural attribute of the West when it was in its most expansionist phase:

https://www.taylorfrancis.com/chapters/edit/10.4324/9781315127019-7/european-marriage-patterns-perspective-hajnal

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/ehr.12651

Early marriage probably works better with greater cultural flexibility surrounding issues like prostitution and infidelity, since people who marry younger have a fertility advantage (both in terms of faster reproduction and higher total fertility) but tend to be less well suited to one another. Many ancient societies even had sacred prostitutes; it's easy to see how that kind of thing could help people make the best of otherwise difficult marriages, particularly in the absence of socially sanctioned divorce. ("Honey? Are you awake?" "Oh stop it, go see if they're awake at Aphrodite's temple, you filthy goat")

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