Gender differences in sexual behavior. Result of evolution?

Men and women differ in sexual behavior. Men have less difficulty with sexual adventures than women. Furthermore, men are often more competitive than women when trying to ‘catch up’ with a person they are interested in. According to the ‘theory of parental investment’, this is a consequence of the difference between men and women in the investment required to reproduce themselves. Men can reproduce in a few minutes, while for a woman it takes at least nine months

The theory of parental investment

The possible consequences of a sexual escapade in mammals are very different for male and female animals. For all mammals, females are fertilized internally and carry the offspring within them for a certain period of time. Furthermore, most mammals depend on their mother’s milk after birth. Moreover, male mammals produce many times more reproductive cells than female ones, which have to survive with a fixed number. This also applies to people. According to the theory of parental investment, this difference in costs and investment in offspring causes a difference in sex strategies and mate choice between men and women (1).
The woman’s investment, and her limited supply of reproductive cells, has been considered very precious throughout evolution. For this reason it was very important for women to use it sparingly. So the choice of a partner was something they had to think about carefully. If a woman did not do this, she ran the risk of reproducing less successfully or losing her offspring. Throughout evolutionary history, dangers lurked everywhere, and a man’s protection and care of children was crucial.
Because over the course of evolution, men could essentially impregnate a woman in a matter of minutes and then walk away, a brief sexual interaction didn’t have to mean investing a lot of time and effort. Unlike women, they could choose to look elsewhere after this interaction. In fact, it is very likely that it was a successful strategy for men to impregnate as many women as possible, although the offspring a man left to fend for themselves had a lower chance of surviving without his protection.
According to parental investment theory, this difference in considerations that men and women had to make led to different reproductive strategies being used between the sexes.

Evolution theory

According to the theory of evolution, traits that ensure greater success in reproduction and survival of the individual and his or her offspring are strengthened within the species. Because these traits are stored in the genes, and the successful genes are passed on more often than the less successful ones, favorable traits become more deeply rooted in the genetic material. According to the theory of parental investment, this has also been the case with the sex strategies of men and women.
On the one hand, women who were highly selective in choosing a mate (looking closely at the man’s reliability, fidelity, fitness and other important qualities) were more likely to have children who survived long enough to reproduce themselves than women who were less were selective. Their genes were therefore passed on more often within the species. As a result, the high selectivity in women’s choice of partner was increasingly reinforced as a character trait.
On the other hand, it was beneficial for men to get multiple women pregnant. Even if a man had a steady partner with whom he already had offspring, sexual escapades with other women increased the chance of passing on his genes. The tendency to get as many women pregnant as possible will therefore become increasingly deeply rooted in the man’s genes.
Furthermore, women’s conservatism when it came to sex meant that men had to be very competitive to outpace and outdo their rivals. The most competitive males therefore reproduced more often than the less competitive ones, thus maintaining their genes.

An innate tendency is not an excuse to cheat

Many people feel great resistance to these types of theories, because they think it justifies unwanted behavior such as cheating. This is not the case. The presence of a characteristic does not necessarily mean that it must be acted upon. At most it explains the tendency that many men have. It is precisely taking note of this type of information that can make men aware of the cause of their tendencies, and thus ensure that they approach these tendencies rationally and can control them.

Casual sex today

Thanks to modern contraceptives, men and women can now have casual sex without the risk of pregnancy. The underlying sexual psychology of humans, which has evolved over millions of years of evolution, persists despite these modern developments. Men will therefore remain predominantly more competitive and more likely to have sexual adventures than women.

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