I am not sure I am quite this nice. But as the author seems to have been at least partly on both sides of the Covid debate - too worried about masks early on, then incurring wrath later for wanting schools to reopen sooner - I am willing to stand down at least a bit. Let's Declare a Pandemic Amnesty. I think it is important that public officials be held to high standards of honesty. That did not always happen. Yet some mistakes were indeed honest, and made in uncertainty. So first, keep the attention on those who had official responsibilities, and if no formal consequences are possible, at least let there be clear statements that some of us will remember.
For most of the rest of us, we were yanked to and fro by our tribal loyalties and our priors. As suggested in the article, it is fair to remember that if we were right, we may just have been lucky on that one, not wise. In every generation there are those who proclaim that the Second Coming is imminent, and always for reasons that are inadequate if not downright bad. Yet one group will prove to be correct, just by dumb luck. I doubt they will be given special credit in heaven for that. I think most Americans at this point are content to just drop it and get on with life. Uh, so long as those bastards don't...
It pays to remember that the worst offenders are the least likely to admit it, and waiting for that is going to be a recipe for personal unhappiness. OJ never admitted he killed two people, the Japanese still won't apologise to the south Koreans or the Chinese for WWII behavior, and communists never seem to apologise for anything. Decades too later, Pete Seeger wrote a song that sorta kinda called Joseph Stalin to task for being, er, wrong, and admitting that some people died about that, and then, with real conviction, was angry at him for letting all the good communists down. Which one can be infuriated about, or be glad that Americans do, eventually, cop to something, unlike everyone else in the world.
So one step further than just not bringing it up. Even among the people who were dead wrong, including those who were a little insulting about it, most were just plodding along and guessing without thinking too hard. Those who covered for Wuhan Virology and the CCP for whatever reason, do what we can to move them out of public life for good. For those who swallowed the lie that a deadly virus could not possibly have come from the nearby lab that dealt in deadly viruses, because bats in a market, blame for the journalists whose job it was to see through these things. For those who believed them, less blame. Noting for future reference that they don't do their homework and are unwilling to buck the tide is fair.
I got a couple of things right that only a minority of others did at the time - probably mostly lucky. The things I got wrong were probably on me, willing to take the word of tribesmen rather than put in the effort myself.
BTW, Ed Driscoll's piece only confirms what I believe. Thank you, sir. You could almost be a plant. He cherry picks things he is upset about and blames everyone who disagrees with him as if they all must believe exactly all those terrible things. He is the intended audience for the piece, and he can't understand it. Let him stand in debate rather than merely insult if he knows so much.
If you ever take a History of the English Language course, you will encounter this quote early on. William Jones, a British judge serving in Bengal in the 1700s, noticed features of Sanskrit that showed similarity of both vocabulary and structure to Greek and Latin, and thus eventually the European languages. He was not the first, as similarities had been noticed occasionally as much as two centuries earlier, including noticing that the Roma (gypsy) language(s) had similarities to Sanskrit. But Jones was a linguist, was more precise in his observations, and got the word out there that there simply must be an underlying connection. This was possible because all educated men took Greek and Latin, and there was enough of a British presence in India that there was a presence of Indian languages in England.
What he was noticing was the Indo-European language family and what he was predicting could be discovered was Proto-Indo-European. It is not an overstatement to say that modern historiacal linguistics dates from this observation.
I listened to the soundtrack last week and then again yesterday, getting all weepy both times. I had liked Don Quixote, then the Broadway soundtrack in the 60s, but the music took on extra force when it was used as background and illustration points when we went to Marriage Encounter around 1980. They used the idea of Quixote's vision of Dulcinea remaking her to not only express the grace that a husband and wife should grant to each other, but to illustrate the grace that God extends to each of us (which was absolutely in Cervantes' intent).
"You spoke to me, and everything was different...and you looked at me, and you called me by another name."
I often wear people out with the introductory material before I even start writing about something. Hopefully not this time.
Going back and editing the very long discussions about Tinder, polygamy, mating strategies and current mating practices I rather winced at how difficult much of my writing is to read. I write paragraphs well. I don't string them together all that well.
Years ago a commenter here thought she was complimenting me by noting that every sentence is worth stopping and thinking about. When you read that about an author, it usually means they have taken on too many topics at once and have not contained that well. In my case that is paragraphs, not sentences, but there is truth to it. I have toyed with the idea of marking each paragraph or small group of paragraphs (I can make it up to about three before I have to divert to the side and provide some context or additional thought to pursue) as bullet points. I write in bullet points with numerous asides, which results in a squirrel-like behavior of darting here and there, making my points as a sort of mosaic rather than a linear progression.
I deeply admire writers and speakers who can gather many thoughts under control and discard those that will distract, arranging the remainder into a coherent argument. I can only approximate. All of you who remain do well to hang with me here. But it does give a key to how to read me. Every paragraph might indeed be worth stopping what you are doing and contemplating. If you just keep plowing forward you may just get overloaded with partial ideas and not have a coherent takeaway.
Pivot. The underlying cause of this is neurological for me. I do not sustain attention well. When it gets very bad, I crave activities that are interesting enough to hold my attention but calm enough to provide some relaxation. Over the years, things like baseball statistics, messing around with BASIC for fun, or these days, Zach Lowe podcasts while walking or driving hit that balance point. Much better than previous choices of adrenaline rushes when I was young. But mostly, I want this constant feed of new information in order to pour it back out again and something about my brain itself gets bored and stops taking it in and I have to switch to thinking about it myself.
Tyler Cowen reads a book until he feels he has enough to carry on better by himself than the author will do, and drops the book wherever he is. I could never do that, but I get it. There was a Kurt Vonnegut short story character (vaguely remembered) who was force by the government to carry more and more weight to equalise his physical superiority to others, and had his thinking interrupted by shocks with increasing frequency in order to equalise his superior intellect. Those forced him to be faster, stronger, better.
If only. I'd love to claim that is what happened to me, making me ever ready to tackle a new topic and pick it up instantly at high levels. It seems rather like the opposite, that I carry the interrupting shocks with me, thinking (and writing) in this darting-everywhere fashion. Thank you all for hanging in there with this. I do get that this squirrel-like behavior does sort of work. Nuts do get collected. We make it through the winter. But whether you try to absorb every bullet point and put some thought into it or just dance along until one catches your fancy and you think about that, you are right either way.
So, it's already coming in. I think I had assumed that polygamy was not much accepted yet but might become so, and played out the thought experiment of what might happen. Apparently I should have checked what is already happening on the ground. One of my sons mentioned a reference to Sister Wives being a large factor, and I don't doubt that (even though I am only guessing from the title what that is - a TV series about the lives of women in polygamous families?), but I think such seeds can only grow in prepared soil. Tinder is not prepared soil, it is fertilizer. The prepared soil is the change that has taken place since 1965 in pair-bonding that is not permanent or committed. It looks like the change is happening already. (Underlying article.) 2010 seems to be a break point, so TV can't be the only driver.
Update: I have had private communications that 2010 is the year for Sister Wives, and also the first year that approval for gay marriage went above 50%. Is this general cultural change, or restricted to the idea of "we don't care who marries whom?"
Update II: Please see the comment about Sister Wives by Kansas Scout below. I was going to reply to zir* there, but thought it worth bringing all the way to the top. This fits with what I see as very typical cult behavior, which so often (somehow!) seems to involve the male cult leader sleeping with lots of women. Because God said so, somewhere. New revelation. It does seem to attract females who seem almost stereotypically culturally conservative (the politics are usually completely screwy and unpredictable), down to their fashion choices and their need to be told what to do. Let me point out for the 100th time that I know know many these socially conservative women and I'm not seeing a lot of "obedience to husbands" in that happening. Like, they decide everything in those families, and their husbands are fine with that because being left alone is a positive. My wife reads my blog most of the time and I don't think I will say more, except to...no, I don't think I will say more. I have known some families out on this obedience fringe, and they do gravitate to religious groups that push that. I have always felt if they didn't have this group of Baptists, they would find that group of Mormons, or whatever. Just my impression, but I'm betting I know more of them than those who usually pontificate about this. And Portlandia illustrates nicely how this isn't just those hated evangelicals. I wish I had remembered this uncued.
The soft polygamists have sown the wind. They will blame other factors, because that is what human nature does. We step away from Western Civilisation, even at a personal level, at peril to us all.
Crespi has assembled evidence that excess dominance of paternal alleles
may increase the risk of autism, while excess unopposed activity of
maternal alleles may increase the risk of schizophrenia. This hypothesis
predicts that babies born a bit heavier than average will have an
increased risk of autism, and those born a bit lighter than average will
have an increased risk of schizophrenia. Remarkably, a study of
millions of people in Denmark confirmed the prediction.
Simon Baron-Cohen's theory that autism is a sort of "extremely male" brain is mentioned but not discussed much. As I had been thinking about him last week but forgotten him, it was good to get the reminder.
More recently, he has been amassing evidence that invention is linked to autism.
Reading The Overlong AVI Posts. An introduction to reading these long series I get going on every once in a while. This won't be necessary for some of you who are long-time readers who have already made your adjustments.
This is the complete set, in reading order instead of blog order, and I will do the same underneath. I had a lot of fun with this, even though it has owned me for over a week. All should know going in that a lot of this is about the biological reality of both male and female strategies, how we follow them much more than we admit - even when we swear we are doing the opposite - and how they are playing out over the last couple of centuries. It is more focused on the last sixty years, and only after all that is packed in do I look at how dating apps are changing things.
This is mostly the previous content, but I think it is clearer and some of it is new. Your previous comments are under the Links post or the Answers post.
Ah, a clickbait headline. I don't create many. And even though I am going to go on at excessive length with many links and digressions - and will break this in to multiple parts - that's pretty much the takeaway right there. You can all probably stroke your chins and do the work yourself after that.
I found that even a problem that does not affect me directly has allowed me to rethink some older material. I will even be adding to my Arts & Humanities Tribe thoughts here.*
There will be continuing pressure from Muslims and Africans to allow polygamy. I have no clue whether that has any hope of succeeding, though I suspect the trend will be to some sort of carve-out. But the intuitive belief of my generation that it would be impossible because we think it is universally disapproved of may be deeply mistaken. Not everyone, not even everyone who has children gets married anymore. On the Tinder dating scene which is a large part of the overall, 10% of the males get 60% of the likes, and a small group sleeps with 100 women a year, which has traditionally (like, forever) only been possible by physical or financial force. We might suspect that the growth of serial monogamy and increase in expectation of sex when meeting online - what I loosely call the polygamies - might soften the opposition to Old World polygamy.
Does it matter when we are not talking about marriage? I think it still does count as a polygamy discussion. In fact, the unmarried come to dominate the discussion.
Let me have a go at definitions, even though the categories do bleed into each other. The series of posts will include first a discussion of the demographic changes that led to NW European culture and thus to American colonial culture - in specific the changes in nuptiality leading to wide-ranging changes in other aspects such as economy, violence, women's status, religious changes...pretty much everything, really, so no surprise that mating behavior is a major part. There will be a lot of discussion about male and female reproductive strategies, how they are playing out in this era, and how that might look under increasing polygamy-like customs. This will include a discussion of market vale in mating, which sounds callous or even demeaning, but I think is absolutely necessary when discussing the genetic contribution to our behavior. Peer pressure will get its own post.
BTW, I have one son of the five still on the dating apps, and of course I root for him and bristle at unfairnness. I know other young men and women in the same spot and their frustrations. Another son found a wife on a dating app, though he was very glad when he finally got to delete all his apps because they had decided they were the ones for each other. I will use Tinder as a proxy for all the dating apps because it is the largest and most notorious.
Formal polygamy is rare even surreptitiously in America
owing to our European heritage. It is common throughout the rest of the world.
Yet even then it is not what popular imagination tells us, with visions of
powerful chieftains with many wives, Kings David and Solomon with hundreds of
wives and concubines, etc. I have had several patients and worked with staff
from sub-Saharan Africa over the years who had wives back in Africa
they could not bring here because you can only bring one by American
policy.They would send money back to
the other. Sometimes the relationship pattern does travel here, but it is kept
on the down low because of our laws. Even when it is a member of Congress https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilhan_Omar
you have to pretend it’s not there. It does not involve batches of ten wives.Two is usual. That is also the pattern historically,
except for the few most powerful males. Biblical kings had hundreds, other
patriarchs had one or two.
Hypergamy - when a woman leaves one husband for a higher-status/higher resourced one. I have two up-close views of this one. Frankly, my mother and my sister both did this in a pretty pure sense, age difference 48-36, resource difference over previous attachment large. Going forward I will use the example of 50 y/o male, 35 y/o female even though I know 35-25 is more common. I think the former better captures issues about raising rather than having children, and career success versus career potential (for both). I fully grant that milder versions are more common, and that resentful males might exaggerate the departure of a girlfriend, of no formal commitment and/or a woman whom they also have mistreated, which is not the same thing as a mere opportunistic upgrade. During the shopping and courtship phases, men also upgrade for a host of reasons. I imagine there is a particular sting for men when it is resources, yes. But that seems to be an even tradeoff. I am not going to side with the PUA/Game crew over the feminists that often. But the latter's insistence that this is just a resentful myth is not going to fly with me. There is a continuum, but the reality is absolutely there. Also, I know women who ended up happier trading down in terms of resources, though it usually was not welcomed at the outset. But those women, and the men who also engage in attempts at such monetary/status upgrades are far less common.
Mistresses – I had forgotten all about mistresses in the whole discussion. It seems like an old-fashioned thing to even mention at this point they are so out of our culture. Yet perhaps not so. To be a mistress was always to have only the power of influence, never the power of authority, and now women have power of their own in income, connections, security. Yet...okay, this one is going to upset people, including ones I like...Never mind. When the power is more equalised, when the (probably) younger attractive woman who is replacing the wife actually holds more status cards than the husband, we would no longer use the word mistress, no. Even trophy wife is not much used anymore, I don't think. (Though how would I know?) But I won't back down from this entirely. Modern acquisition of second spouses has some similarities, at least. Whether one is sharing living quarters may influence what we call things. A little more later.
Serial Monogamy - A very common, perhaps even the most-common pattern now. This is a series of marriages and living-together relationships, some involving marriage and some not, which involves the pooling of resources, helping the other raise children, and emotional support even when the other is draining from the common emotional fund. I need look no farther than my siblings, nieces and nephews, high school and college friends for varieties on this theme. The point drives home sharpest in Catholic and Evangelical understandings, where the doctrine is not so much that divorce is wrong, but that it does not really happen at all. The law of a country does not remove the spiritual fact that the marriage still exists. Secular people, and now even most protestant and Orthodox groups dismiss this as simply silly, a refusal of some odd old religious people, mostly male, they say, though this is untrue, to accept the obvious reality of the situation. It is so common in our culture, and the people burdened by this doctrine often so nice and blameless-seeming that we simply reject it. Yet I suspect it is we moderns who are in error here, bending our truth to meet our preferences. I can name five friends without hesitating who regard their first marriage as something of a mistake, a practice run, not really, really Real. That is a big change.
Of note. It might be a first marriage for one and a third for the other, clouding the definition more. Yet I think anyone participating gets the title. Discussed later.
Multiple sexual partnerships, sometimes overlapping rather than strictly consecutive. No further definition needed, but that is part of the polygamy discussion, even if no one involved is getting married. When marriage was sacrosanct, a few stolen episodes of sex over two years was considered an Affair, not a relationship. But as the lines dissolved around marriage and people insisted "it's just a piece of paper" a funny thing happened. Those six-month relationships suddenly became a bigger deal in memory.
"Two girls ate too many, three's a crowd, and four you're dead!"
The irony is that because of changes in the culture since then, even though Dandy is old and grey now he might not think he chose wrongly after all, despite the prediction.
*For readers not around a decade ago and more, coming to grips with the change in the Arts & Humanities Tribe I grew up in dominated my thinking in the 1985-2005, and finalising that was a large topic here in the blog's early years. I don't often put much new into it now. That tribe has shown a huge change in sexual behavior in my lifetime.
First, what might be considered the other bookend to monogamy, celibacy and the sort of hyper-monogamous changes in nuptiality that occur primarily inside the Hajnal Line (I believe it is pronounced something like Hoynal, BTW. You have to click this link unless you already know approximately the changes in nuptiality it marks out in Europe.) Michel Houellebecq believes these have had enormous cultural effects over the centuries which are underemphasised because they are going away in ways related to immigration, and thus cannot be said. John Nye of George Mason believes, with reference to Houellebecq, they have had enormous economic effects which have been understudied, and the HBD people (including, wincing, apologetically, rather evasively Steven Pinker in his Angels of Our Better Nature) think these have even changed violence and criminality because they create changes in our genetics.
Well, Nye is deeply respected, though this is the sort of thing that gets him in trouble. Houellebecq is roundly despised in some quarters and I can see why, but I think he has gotten some of this discussion quite right anyway. The Hajnal Line is becoming off-limits in academic discussion, not because it is incorrect but because it might cause people to have some bad thoughts, as you can see from the Wikipedia link. So also with HBD - very controversial, even when the numbers are pretty simple and right there. One would think such beliefs about demographic changes would be welcome - hey, you give more choice to women in who and when they marry and it has GREAT effects on the society, but the idea that heritability changes could be recent and meaningful causes people to go aaiieee! No, not genetics!
So this is a good spot to make very clear what is up about commenting, especial for those of you who are academics or otherwise vulnerable to consequences if anyone discovers that you have made politically unacceptable comments. I prefer that people comment here under their own online identity, but I have had several over the years who would communicate ideas privately to me, and I have then put them up here in my own words, hopefully with some accuracy. If you are now retired I ask that you reconsider that latter practice and see if you can find your way to putting it under your own, even if assumed, name.
Until recently we have viewed polygamy vs monogamy as a binary, for the very good (though incomplete) reason that 2≠1.Yet a type of serial monogamy because of widowhood has long been common. The explosive increase in divorce has more than offset the decrease in premature death from childbirth, accident, and disease, and this quantitative change may be great enough to have a qualitative effect on the society (I would say yes), but we did at least have the language and institutions of step-parenting prior to that. There is a continuum, and the existence of hyper-monogamy, as I have called it, at one end actually reinforced monogamy as a reasonable middle position. The Church, and society in general, could advocate monogamy with great assurance when its priest and nuns were celibate. The delayed marriage of Northern Europe also showed that sexual continence was possible, even in the biologically most difficult years. Cousin marriage, polygamy, and wide age range at first marriage* tend very much to occur together, and all of these are associated with less power in the relationship for females. Anything that increases the power of women tends to erode all three. At least in Northern Europe, the suppression of one seemed to decrease the other two as well.
Both the Eastern and Roman Churches forbade cousin (and niece) marriage, sometimes out to levels hard to enforce because record-keeping was not good enough. This was ignored nearly everywhere, but inside the Hajnal Line(s) it was obeyed, and was continued in the Protestant churches as well. Centered in Holland and eastern England, age at first marriage rose, eventually to 25 for females and 27 for males. Children might still be expected to defer to their parents, and usually did still live with their parents until marriage, but at 25 and 27 they automatically held greater say in who they could marry than they had at 15 and 17. The north may have accepted these more readily because women already had higher status in those regions before the Church even arrived. There was polygamy, but it was less frequent and less extensive. As near as we can tell, marriage was later and the age of the partners closer together. Lastly, this was one of the few regions in history where a few women did not marry at all. We might think of the Puritans who insisted none should live alone as a counter-force in NW Europe. They even forced widowers into neighbor's or children's houses in order to continue their spiritual development, after all. But it is notable that marriage was not required after widowhood, simply entry into a household. Their reasons for this requirement are fascinating. I may have a go at that soon.
As John Nye (linked above) said
I think, to the extent
that what we think of as modern economic growth began in the West and
was a very uniquely Western phenomenon in the modern sense, only later
adapted by Japan and then more recently by many Asian economies, it’s
clear that Christianity played a very big role.
And I think one of the
things that, say, Fukuyama mentions in one of his recent books, and
others have mentioned, is the role the Catholic Church played in
promoting the nuclear family: banning cousin marriage without special
permission, focusing on trying to unify romantic love with formal
marriage, asking for the consent of women in the marriage vows, focusing
on the need for celibacy and the need for monogamy, discouraging
polygamy and the extended family.
All these things were
part and parcel, or at least supported what we think of as the
underlying institutions that nourish capitalism.
Whether or not, say, for example, a more Eastern version of
capitalism would have arisen under China with polygamy, with very soft
pantheistic religions, that’s a separate question. But as we think of the way
in which modern economic development has occurred, it’s also co-evolved with
the rise of the Western state, which is tied to the rise of the way in which
Christianity played out, both as a secular force as well as a spiritual one.
I would add that internal violence goes way down with monogamy as well
Feudalism, which changed loyalty patterns away from clan-only has also been proposed as the reason behind the changes in NW Europe. The technological changes in agriculture that allowed more local surplus and freed up time for specialisation and home production are also given credit. I don't object. I am sure that these days several people have put forth theories that it was changes in climate that drove everything.I am just hammering home a set of reasons that are given short shrift as causes. Forbidding cousin marriage reduces niece marriage and both reduce clan power and likely lead to later marriage. It ends up mattering a lot. Also note that New World societies were largely slave societies, which always develop new rules and workarounds to keep the power of the slaves down. No inheritance for you. But emancipation led to the expectation that the freed slaves would adopt the values of the general culture. In America, this is largely what happened until about sixty years ago. That is a different discussion.
I'm just forcing this video in somewhere because I like it.
Monogamy is difficult for the individual, even if it leads to greater prosperity and satisfaction for the group as a whole. Polygamy is allowed in something like 85% of societies, and we may be more wired for that, by the genetic and anthropological evidence.
“Now this is so difficult and so contrary to our instincts,
that obviously either Christianity is wrong or our sexual instinct, as it now
is, has gone wrong. One or the other. Of course, being a Christian, I think it
is the instinct which has gone wrong” Mere Christianity Book III Chap 5
Most of us resist ascribing our sexual and marital decisions to our peer group, but the evidence is strong. I am using the term "peer group" to mean first the immediate and closest friends, but also the larger impressions we have of "guys like me" and even more especially "what professional (or athletic/artistic/ambitious) women my age" do. We think of peer pressure as something that happens to teenagers, but it is much stronger in adults. This is because adults choose their peers and the influences become mutual. In our own minds we married or declined to marry, married younger or married later, had children or did not have children, divorced or stayed together for reasons about ourselves. I always wanted to have children (or not); I found we were very compatible and decided marrying her was a good idea. If we divorce, it will be for reasons that would be considered acceptable in our set.
So if we are to see an increase in acceptance of polygamy, we should look to the behavior of young women as our predictor more than young men. When we define polygamy broadly this only makes sense. The days when a man could simply take some woman as bride (or slave) are long gone in the west. It is likely women have more overall power than men in this area, not less at this point. Though it is complicated, and wealth, violence, and vulnerability do still factor in - all areas that have traditionally worked against women's power in relationships.
*The power disparity may even have reversed these days in many cases when both are older. It used to be that a woman fifteen years younger was regarded as a bit dependent. A fifteen-year old girl marrying a thirty year old man is a child with no experience or leverage in the world. It used to be that even if she were smarter and more capable than he she would never close the gap, not even after decades. A thirty-five-year-old woman marrying a fifty-year-old-man (I watched this up close) two generations ago could get to a more level playing field. Currently, it is just as likely that she holds the advantage and even has entered the relationship precisely because she has the advantage. I use advantage in the sense of a market advantage, of who can get out and marry equally or better most easily. It is uncomfortable to talk about, yet it is something people are quietly aware of about themselves and their friends, and it drives decisions more than we like to admit. People are usually unaware of this and resent the suggestion, as I have noticed even when other women point this out in admiration, that a friend has the upper hand in the equation.. The narrative of women forever being one-down and having to scramble is very important to some. They are expecting to have to defend against the "dependent" accusations and get the other. My observation as of five years ago when I really lost touch with the choices of professional women is that both can be true, even uncomfortably true. It was uncomfortable to observe those two conversations. Even I who say the obvious out loud dimly suspected this was something I shouldn't say. There will be more about this in the section about intrasexual competition, which is up next.
“That’s one of the nice things about being 95 years
old.Very little peer pressure.” George
Burns. Relatedly, when asked what his doctor thought about his cigar and
alcohol health habits, he said “My doctor’s dead.”
This section on peer pressure
has gotten so involved that it destroys the flow of the narrative about
cultural changes in marriage, even though it is deeply related.I have created a separate post about it which
I encourage you to squeeze in, whether immediately or after you have finished
with the polygamy discussion.I
especially encourage this if you disagree with my premise that we all - which
always causes all of us to look immediately at our own circumstances as a
specific rather than the general premise, getting distracted and irritated
thereby - end up acting a lot like our friends, and the people of our
class/set/profession nationwide. In this region, social workers of all ages,
male and female, gay or straight, tend to marry at far higher rates than the
psychologists they work with, just as a starter example. We often originally
chose them because of perceived similarity of attitudes and then mutually
influenced each other. Yet not too many years down the road an outsider (like
me, who reflexively stands outside and irritates everyone) might conclude it is
more prison than liberation, however elective it was originally. As usual I
include myself, which is how I got here to begin with.
There are subjects you can’t bring up without provoking
people’s defensiveness about their own circumstances.If you say, as a child of divorce, that
divorce has more negative effects on children than parents tend to acknowledge,
including worse grades or more anxiety –
facts that are amply documented for decades – you will be corrected by a mother
who is a friend of yours that you had not wished to offend – that her son has pretty
good grades and is over the initial anxiety and has assured her that he is
doing fine about the divorce now, and is taking it very well eighteen months later,
etc. The message is that you cannot discuss the matter with her.So I know that is what I am up against here,
and I will try to be gentle but basically, I can’t say your choices aren’t what
they were.They are visible.
I also recognize that many choices seem not to fit this,
because of the randomness of life and the idiosyncracies of jobs or spouses.So exceptions are thee, sure.You might be one. Yet I have sat across
tables from people who assured me this did not apply at all, thank you
very much when I could see that it in fact did.
I had a psychiatrist friend half a decade younger than me
who had had two children.This was
unusual for female psychiatrists of that generation and we would remark on such
things. She once said “The next generation of female doctors after me also
tended to have 0-1 child, but I notice that these younger doctors are more
likely to have them.”I suggested it
might be the influence of the Indian female MD’s who had an unusually high proportion.
Perhaps they were an unnoticed influence on their peers.We talked with a few we could trust and for
surprised agreement from them.Many had
come from college cohorts where few of their friends had had children.But it was very comfortable and accepted at
medical school now, and they thought the South Asian influence was part of
it.We further discussed the likelihood
of marriage, children, church attendance, and political affiliation other than
mid-liberal as they varied by specialty.I was surprised that they could even identify differences by school,
which they had somehow picked up while they were applying.
I wondered how much that applied even at the undergraduate
application level.People had some sense
of where “their people” were going to be.But the influences are indeed mutual. You are not only a receiver of culture,
you are a contributor.These guys at
your Polytechnic seem pretty similar at the start, but you find there is a
department that is doing Very Interesting things, or are of your attitude, or
you somehow just fit with and that slowly becomes your major and your
specialty. Your interest in the topic is a real influence, but the culture and
atmosphere are a bigger deal than you tend to admit. Because you also find
yourself having the same number of children, even after losing contact for
years. You will at least seldom choose a life that would excite comment among
them. There will be unusual clusters of people who take high-energy vacations,
or are willing to work in high-risk areas.
You went into the military to learn a skill, but you knew
from the outset that wyou would be surrounded by people comfortable with
military culture.That would mean some
who were quite nonreligious, but a far greater acceptance of serious religious
commitment than you saw at your highschool.
If you join a church you are in a real sense volunteering to
join with people who will influence you.You are accepting that your politics or favorite causes might change at
least a bit. Yet you also know that you will have influence on them as
well.Which is why thirty years later it
is hard to extract yourself from that culture if you are challenged from outside
it. You chose this specifically so that you would not be challenged, that you
would be safe. You didn’t know that at the time, but you have become them, yet
still believing you are free and independent. You aren’t all that much.You have chosen the people who will tend strongly
to tell you that your choices are fine.
Peer pressure is worse for adults, because they have chosen
their peers. Divorce is contagious, even out to the second level. When I was quite young we had only our neighborhood and the
children in assigned activities like scouts or choir as peers. But by
highschool we had groups that we ran with.Girls tended to “3 musketeers” small groupings. We would be thrown
together for the first year at college or in basic training or as “the new guys”
at a job, but that would sort soon.My
wife’s half-dozen closest college friends at competitive William and Mary were
all among the 10% who married earliest. They had continued as suitemates and
hallmates through the rest of college. None had more than two children, but
they had them sooner than most. They had in some real way chosen each other as
freshmen and held together.My friends
showed out similarly – married sooner, some graduate school, also
children.The circles just outside this
group for both of us who we might have as easily connected with ended up on
different trajectories.Of the women who
did not marry, they divided into the 1-2 boyfriend and lost-count boyfriend groups,
which tended to sustain over the decades.They are still in touch.Their
new friends in their new professions are similar.They also act like “female attorneys of my
age,” or “Little League dads” or “dual DC career couples.”
Everyone needs to find more people speaking to them from outside. No, of course you don't have to - you can have whatever life you want and are under no obligation to live at the level of self-questioning I think important. But if you choose that, you should be extra careful not to look down on the others or easily dismiss them. We do have an unfortunate tendency to believe what we are told.
should like balls infinitely better," she replied, "if they were
carried on in a different manner; but there is something insufferably
tedious in the usual process of such a meeting. It would surely be much
more rational if conversation instead of dancing made the order of the
"Much more rational, my dear Caroline, I dare say, but it would not be near so much like a ball." Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice*
A good deal of this section will be based on the Dr. Tania Reynolds podcast mentioned previously. She is quite clear in a subject that attracts a lot of bad journalism.
I don't want to pull the rug on you. I will appear in this section to be saying "No, there is so much variation off the basic strategies of men and women, and the recent differences predate Tinder that we can't blame that technology for any move to polygamy, or any other dramatic change in sexual behavior. Then in the last section I will be saying "Actually, I am making the case that Tinder does matter here."
The first point in evolutionary biology is to pretend that it is your genes that are making all your decisions for you, and you are just making up rationalisations for what they demand. The second point is to realise that it's not pretend.
Our ancestors faced a variety of problem, most of them over and over. Evolutionary psychology studies how genes were selected for to deal with these. As genes + selection = sex, and therefore sexual selection, it is an important subtopic in the field. The main thing the general public gets wrong, because of the journalist's need for punchy first paragraphs and our own desire to simplify complicated material, is that we try to oversimplify it is that "our genes" tell us is only one thing. When a male mating strategy and female mating strategy are discussed in contrast to each other it is usually overlooked that this is a primary, or even only a major strategy. Both women and men have backup strategies, emergency strategies, lazy strategies, and sneaky strategies, not only as a group but as individuals. We all have multiple built-in strategies, though sometimes in wildly different proportions. Not all women on a soccer team, or on a faculty, or at a strip joint, or in a harem are going to be the same. Different strategies are called out, but not all males or females have them in equal proportions.
The controversy comes because at least some people would prefer to believe that the biological mating strategies of the past have very little effect on the present. They believe there are few strong forces, and the remainder is easily overruled. They don't believe this because it is true, but because it should be true, dammit, and if we try hard enough to believe we can fly, we will grow wings faster. Or something. Maybe it's just my reflexive response of looking for opposites, but I swear the people who insist most that this is not so - usually women - are the ones who illustrate it most. Because they are employing another slightly less-used strategy than, I don't know, cheerleaders or whatever, they believe they are not much responding to a biological script at all. There is also the sororal defensiveness that does not like men even mentioning the possibility that women use hypergamy as a strategy. There's a lot of binary thinking around this one. More on this later, but lest you think it rare, both my mother and my only sister used it, so I'm not engaging with outraged insistence that no women do this, or that it's all just resentful male accusation.
Note: There may have been men who sexually preferred much older women in early societies...but we are not their descendants. I exaggerate. Sex has many uses, even if only one primary use, and even the secondaries might confer survival advantages. But that is another evolutionary biology bedrock point. It doesn't matter what we think would have been better or fairer or nicer. We are descended from the people who had descendants.
A fun example of how the installed mating strategies play out: When the young competitive runners go by on the trail I walk on, you can see different social strategies at play after the first half-mile. There will be individual runners and pairs in both sexes, but even three females together will be unusual. If you see a cluster of many coming at you, it will be males. The very occasional top female will strive to remain with one of the top male groups, but beyond that the sexes will stay separate. About half (?) will be talking. This will change with full adults when there are some paired couples running, and in the youngest (5th-6th) groups you will see occasional brother-sister pairs. Think of that as we look at the strategies below.
For both sexes, their allies and their rivals are often the same people. For men, coalition-building is of major importance, while for women, sorting out trust and betrayal is key to offspring survival. Without even getting to alternative strategies, you can see how just those two things alone can have a variety of expressions.
For men, coalitions are not only victory-in-battle-and-take-women strategies, but ganging up on males who are hogging the mating resources, which you can see even in primate behavior. We can see in the genetic record that there are periods of one group of males wiping out rivals and near-complete turnover of y-haplogroups in a generation or two. But after that the competition is internal, and the percentage of males fathering children increases. If you look at the history of small-scale war among elite families everywhere - plus intrigue, plus obsession with external coalition-building such as arranged marriage, one can see that the purely violent strategy for males for reproductive success is temporary. Gehghis Khan and his immediate successors remake the genetics of Asia for a couple of generations, then it is back to wider-range competition again. That one is from the Golden Family doesn't matter as much a hundred years later, as so is every one of your rivals. Your grandsons may need to be more attractive in some way to females. Note that this would not necessarily be hearts and flowers. Flexible strategies are key.
The saying among Marines that you can trust your buddy with your life but not your girlfriend is built on very typical homo sapiens behavior for thousands of years.
Coalition-building also works for whole tribes, as it increases prosperity for all. Tribes that can build bridges and harbors have more surviving descendants. Trade networks mean that more people eat. This is important for paternal caregiving as well. Time spent with children may be time spent away from building walls or roads, and other tribes will have the advantage. This is why even now, when men sometimes take over the role of primary caregiver - I know some and was one for a few years - it is never in the ratio of 100%-0% if the mother is still alive and available. She will still be a 30-40% caregiver. There are still men who are less than 10% caregivers, however, especially if they are effectively securing resources.
We do not see this strategy in other species, except a bit in primates. It is human males who build coalitions. It is a swiss-army knife strategy, which can be brought into play in a variety of situations. Even men who prefer to work alone usually have some method of bringing their work into line with the projects of other males. What we call being self-sufficient or even living off the land is a network of voluntary cooperations of varying duration. Coalitions work in both polygamy and monogamy, though in very different ways. The monogamous societies of Europe and its colonies created a situation in which an enormous percentage of male productivity was intertwined. More men had a stake in overall cooperation rather than sabotaging others in reproductive competition. If the changes we are currently seeing are not strictly polygamy, I don't think we can say that they are quite monogamy, either. And that may not be good for us economically.
"Reproductive success" does not always equal an enviable life. Wildly successful males get replaced with alarming frequency, both as groups and individuals. When there are societies that concentrate access to females among the few there is more internal violence (as we are seeing now in poorer areas, and the angrier incels muttering that they also will be resorting to this). I am reminded of the Dilbert cartoon in which one of the women is complaining angrily at Dilbert and Wally that men hold all the important positions in the company. "Those are other men," Wally points out. Hierarchical systems are more like polygamy. To continue the analogy, it is not necessarily helpful to point out to the men who have no wives how unfair the whole system is to women. (There is an ugly side to why some women will do exactly this, though.)
If women are not killed, they are generally bearing children and passing their genes along - but sometimes the circumstances of that are pretty dire, such as slavery. "Success" is ambiguous.
There are interesting digressions about European nobility and sexual signalling over the last thousand years and the effect of autism on both male and female strategies, but I am steeling myself against them. They are fascinating, but this is even longer and more disjointed than I projected. The variations on the basic themes are worthy of contemplation in themselves, but the larger view is that coalition-building is a modular, multipurpose strategy for males. Men also use it signal to women which other men they think are acceptable by who is in one coalition or another. Highschools breaking into tribes of jocks, nerds, hoods,hardworkers, artsies is not accidental. Perhaps incels would do better to join groups of men to signal their acceptability.
And...females also signal which other females are acceptable, but along different lines. Because so many biological systems have to go just right for both reproduction and childrearing (including merely surviving to raise the child) violence is a far worse strategy for women. Men can be damaged or even partially disabled and still father children. This is much more difficult for females. Eliminating rivals in that way is simply too dangerous most of the time.
Many societies have been patrilocal, so it has been a very common event in the history of women for a young girl to be given or taken into another tribe, where she now lands with no known allies and great uncertainty where she might fit. Learning who to trust among the other women is of enormous importance, far more important than how she is perceived by men in general, and often even more important than how her husband/owner perceives her, because he is likely embedded in a system where he cannot easily leave the tribe, nor otherwise leave her. Women have a better memory for faces, especially female faces. The appearance of winsomeness, docility, and lack of threat may have been developed to please other women more than men, contrary to current belief. Yes pleasing men, or at least one man enough to gain access to resources for your child is important, but it is more an oddity of Western sexual selection than a universal. Women do not live in extended families or sex-segregated villages anywhere near as much now, never mind harems, beginning a few hundred years ago. They are out in the world more, somewhat removed from dependence on the world of women. And dependence on men often had an element of choosing the male that was not given to women in other times and places. Newer rules are an extension of that older change, not something brand new.
Women prize kindness to strangers more than men do, likely because more of them have been strangers, at least in prehistory. Women who are kind to younger women are valorised by them, and this very much persists even though survival is less on the line these days. In my world where young people went away to college I noticed that not only was getting along with a roommate more important to girls, but the good fortune in finding a compatible one often resulted in lifelong friendship. We have lots of these survival programs on disc, waiting to be used as needed. We thought it was all our own judgement and decision, when in fact it is mostly only the variation that is our choice.(And now do mating...)
I don't think this maps exactly on our recent discussion of whether women dress for men of for other women, but I think it is related. We should probably conclude "Usually women. But it depends on the circumstances."
(I think there is also a very interesting parallel with the
discussion we have had about princesses and Barbie and having the handsome
prince take you off to his castle at the end of the story does not make him the
main figure in the drama. It makes him the proper reward for having been a good
princess. There are folktales with the opposite where the daughter of the king
is rather like property disposed upon a worthy male who has saved the kingdom
somehow. But that doesn’t show up in the toy-buying. The hypermasculine toys don’t
have trophy princesses sold as accessories. Barbie has Ken, a bland han dsome figure she can tell what to do. The fairy tales seem to be more
equal opportunity. But the fury at the dolls and the values they supposedly teach is misguided. Barbie does what she wants and also gets a boy toy. Snow White behaves in perfect princess fashion and gets given a perfect princess reward, at least from a little girl's POV. She gets this man-toy who looks nice and speaks only when spoken to.)
Women have superior Theory of Mind, of being able to put themselves in the heads of others, especially female others. This has its limits for all of us, because we are also likely to project that they are Just Like Us when they aren't.
Trust and betrayal for women is more dyadic. As the new girl you need friends, someone who will have your back in particular, for the safety of your child. A woman does not have many ways of betraying the group. But she can betray an individual to the point of endangering the survival of her child. Thus sorting out trust is huge for women. They must trust, and do, sharing confidences and assistance. But they can also cut off a friendship far more readily if someone proves unreliable, and this persists as well. Women are much more likely to unfriend on Facebook, for example. Males require group loyalty, females personal loyalty. Reactions to what are no longer life-threatening threats and betrayals look like overreactions to us now, especially to men, who see them as "hysterical." But those came up for good reason, and if men expect some forgiveness for their "old biological programs" being put into play these days, they should be more tolerant of this in women. Their genes don't know this is a less dangerous world. What Sylvia did or didn't say seems of no importance now, but there was an era in the lives of many of her ancestresses where it was life or death for themselves or their child. We learn this too late, if we learn it at all, in modern male thinking.
Females have less tolerance for interpersonal conflict, which sometimes allows men to win arguments. One more discussion for another day.
So a type of cooperation is the major strategy for both males and females, but both also need strategies of standing out, both in enhancing once own status and undermining the status of others.These are quite different under monogamy and polygamy. In polygamy men's choices are fewer, and the high-risk strategy of violence, sometimes even an all-or-nothing showing off becomes an actually reasonable response, according to what your genes are whispering in your ear. Alternatively, learning to sneak behind the Big Man's back in some way to sleep with women is also a common response. He can't watch everywhere, even with piles of assistants. And he has to pay those assistants with something. Women's lives are worse in polygamous societies, but any individual woman's chances might be improved by alliance with a powerful male. Strong signalling of sexual availability is high-risk, because you could just get used. This is especially so in informal polygamy when recreational sex is more prominent than reproductive sex. Many more women are attractive to men than men to women. (We will see this in the Tinder discussion.)
Distracted again...this is similar to the expectation, mentioned before, and then expanded upon, that young innocent-looking female comedians talk ever more raunchily about sex as their careers go along. The surprise factor makes their comments funny, and we, men and women both, love deflowering them in this way. High-risk strategy that can pay off big in entertainment. It saddens me, because while some are relying on this aren't funny otherwise (Kate Micucci), others seem quite talented (Taylor Tomlinson).
When women can also be the ones taking multiple partners their concern is usually not to find just any partner, but to find one they consider acceptable. This is predates Tinder by several decades. Males losers are obvious. Female "losing" can be more ambiguous, harder to spot, and perhaps hardest to spot in themselves until they decide it is so in retrospect. As we have discussed before about self-deception, their friends will not reliably tell them if they are losing at this game. Their friends have already endorsed similar strategies and have the same indignation at being criticised. The nerve! Whether one has won or lost may not be clear for some time, sometimes only when many things fall apart. At that point it is a sunk cost and might be defended even with some force rather than admit it. More subtly still, her victory (as with male victories in many cases) may have come at the expense of an unfair loss by some other woman/man. How quickly we will say it was their own fault! We won because we were better! And if we changed our morality along the way, ah well. We are older and wiser now.
The disconnect comes because our mating choices are still founded more than we would care to admit on inherited babymaking strategies even when one or both of the partners emphatically does not want a baby, but would like to have sex. Modern technology has not yet pushed us to create new strategies. It has pushed the volume to eleven on the use of some old strategies at the expense of others. I doubted this as a young man, ignoring even the evidence of my own behavior because I preferred that we were moving to something "much more rational." A really good cure for that is to listen to weary psych nurses at the end of a shift, especially on a Friday when others are closing down for the weekend but they know that they, or their people, will still be at the hospital. They discuss things very openly, and the other female staff, from professions that would not ordinarily be so open about what they are attracted to or what bedroom behavior is preferred, find themselves joining in. Males try to turn invisible, and even I don't dare say anything. (Later discussions with female psychologists who had chipped in, at which I expressed, uh, surprise, answered me with wry or even sheepish comments that they were surprised themselves. Sometimes we get caught up in things, you know? Especially when talking with our own sex. I don't know whether to be complimented or insulted that my presence didn't matter.)
Even in this discussion we tend to put ourselves in the heads of the winners and losers of our own sex. They were our ancestors, after all. But men do not as naturally consider the plight of the 15 y/o girl given in bride-exchange to a village a hundred miles away. Women will feel sorry for a specific male who is losing in the current market - a brother, a client, especially a son - but don't tend to feel the woes of a category. They are sometimes even among the most condemning of subgroups like incels, especially if they are a certain type of unattainably attractive woman. It's ugly. Plus, "winning" sometimes comes at a cost as well. Spend some time contemplating these winners and losers from the inside.
Anyway, it took a long time for me to drop my 1970s illusions of growing cultural rationality, but that and other experiences have convinced me that ancient strategies are retained, even unwillingly and while trying to shed them. Best line I hear: "I have to admit, the father of my first child was a panther tattoo on a chest."
Men and women are playing parallel games, but with each other as the prizes, which keeps the interconnection odd.
A long transcript section from Dr. Reynolds: Remember she is talking about intrasexual competition strategies without regard to polygamy. I am making the additional connections myself in subsequent posts.
Yeah,um,so research on Tinder has found that those who use it are distinct in certain ways. So they tend to be more sexually unrestrained. So they're open more open to casual sex, as we might expect, they have lower sexual disgust on average compared to non Tinder users. And so in one sense, I would say like, well, Tinder is great, because it provides the opportunities for those who have the disposition for it, you know, so like, it's nice that for those who are sexually unrestrained, there is, you know, an avenue for them. And there were at least in- there was a Belgian study that found that a quarter of encounters on Tinder led to committed relationships. So for even for those who value commitment, there's still a pathway to it, although of course, there's no guarantee. However, I think that Tinder, so I think that Tinder has its positive outcomes .It also might just, you might see similar patterns that you would in other mating domains. So for example, they found that women tend to prioritize education level when they're selecting their Tinder matches in their- when they're looking for men. And so this is what you see kind of in self report surveys. So it suggests that people are kind of expressing their similar mating preferences that they would otherwise even outside of Tinder. So you might view it as like neutral that it's just a sphere where people can exert their already existing preferences. However I do, I do have concerns about Tinder in in terms of like hypergamy. So this is the idea that women tend to prefer mates of higher social status and wealth. And sot his is going to be kind of a problem anyway seven outside of Tinder. But on Tinder, what that would suggest is that, you know, if there are certain men who are strongly preferred, for whatever reason, maybe it's because they have, you know, wealth, or status, or even high indices of high genetic quality, they're physically attractive. If women are going to prefer a small subset of the population of men, then if we're kind of removing the constraints of social monogamy, what that suggesting is that these few men are going to reap a lot of the benefits and many men might not, which I worry could lead to kind of resentment. And so when people have looked at kind of the so like- Wilson and Daly, for example, have examined kind of this young male syndrome, where especially low status men tend to kind of take this more risky strategy, including like, physical violence and basically like it's a,it's an effort to kind of succeed in intense male male competition. So I worry that in Tinder, we might see kind of the males who are losing resorting to more violence or crime, or that it could contribute to mental illness. And so I worry about that aspect. I also worry about for women, too,I mean, if they're perceiving a high degree of sexual competition, some data suggests that in context of inequality, women will are more inclined to self sexualize. So being that like if there are like ,if there's a large distribution between like the men at the top and the men at the bottom, women might be more inclined to appeal directly to the men at the top and the strategies or ways that men tend to prefer so cues of like sexual availability. And so it might also affect You know women's wellbeing or what strategies they're willing to use. And so I worry, I worry about that aspect as well. And then there's also other data showing that if you perceive your alternatives as very plentiful, it makes you less inclined to commit, which would make sense. If you have all these viable mating opportunities, then there's less of an incentive to kind of lock one down. And so I guess it depends on one's goal if their goal is like, committed relationships, and that could be problematic. Whereas if your goal is to have a more loose society with more liberated sexual norms ,maybe that's not so bad. (Italics mine, and I think the point important.)
*If you want an example of why intelligent women continue to adore Austen even though they would now consider many of the values she expresses to be outdated and regressive, this would be a good example. Notice that she puts this sentiment in the mouth of a female character, with the male defending the dance, which is opposite to the stereotype. Her female characters are "modern enough," even when they are not modern.
This will be the post where I preserve most of the original comments by you. Some will be in the next. But you might choose to put them anywhere in the string.
And now the links, which include some of the referenced statistics. They are a bit sensationalised, yes. I did that on purpose, because there is something creepy about an old man looking too deeply into Tinder research. I got some from Rob Henderson's excellent substack.
And hopefully only one section of discussion after that.
It was pointed out that a few of these links are subscription, so I put in a bit of them to at least give you the idea.
Tinder becomes a relationship for (some) women in itself. "I’ve had so many long-term text-only encounters that for a moment I
wondered if I was a digisexual. I’ve strayed and used Hinge (why don’t I
get any matches?) and Bumble (just because I can message first doesn’t
mean you’ll message back) and Raya, and I once downloaded something called Headero, but
I’ve always come back to Tinder. I’ve had a lot of fun. I’ve run out of
matches on more than one occasion. I’ve never made it to a fifth date,
which means the longest-term relationship I’ve had from Tinder is with
Married Women on Tinder. I'm annoyed with myself for clicking on it. I knew what it was going to say and what its conclusion would be. And now I'm doing that to you. "I
told him (her husband) it wasn’t that they hated him, they just wanted things he
didn’t have to offer — commitment of time, resources, and exclusivity.They
wanted the things I used to want, and I in turn wanted what they had —
freedom, excitement, interesting conversations that didn’t center on
styles of child-rearing or real estate, the experience of moving through
the world not exclusively as a wife or mother but as a sexual being, a
full and complicated and multifaceted person, the experience of being
wooed, wanted, admired, acknowledged, and seen. Perhaps married women
were simply beginning to want what married men have always wanted and
come to expect: more." My comments. 1. Bleah. 2. I do not predict a good future for this marriage. 3. When was it that men could expect this "more" of admiration, wooing, and attention? I'm not finding it in the record. When I have have read (or heard in person) women say things like this...
18 to 25 percent of Tinder users are in a committed relationship. source
aged 23 to 27 are twice as likely to swipe right ("liked") on a man
with a master's degree compared with a bachelor's degree. source
swipe right (“liked”) on 62 percent of the women’s profiles they see;
women swipe right (“liked”) on only 4.5 percent of the men’s profiles
they see. source
of men who use dating apps while in a committed relationship reported
having sex with another person they met on a dating app. All women who
used dating apps while in a committed relationship reported having sex
with another person they met on a dating app. source
30 percent of men who use Tinder are married. source
terms of attractiveness, the bottom 80% of men are competing for the
bottom 22% of women and the top 78% of women are competing for the top
20% of men. source"
I think if
anything, dating apps will undermine this, as they will reveal to women here
what their market value is. Dr. Reynolds's point that people are more likely to commit when they believe they have fewer options holds.
A word or 1000 about “market value,” because it is going to bear on
the rest of the discussion. If you aren't in the world of commitment, you are in the world of market value. Sorry to break it to you. Interestingly, formal polygamy does have aspects of commitment about it, sometimes strong and unbreakable. We tend not to see that, because the market value for women is so depressed in such societies. Yet it is there. In the informal polygamies of modern times there is no commitment. (Which is often the point.) However, the tradeoff for women is that their market value is enhanced, and depending on circumstances, can be higher than men's. If you know, even unconsciously, that your market value is such that you can opt out more easily than the other person, it will affect the demands you make in the relationship.
It just will. It's visible from the outside. And one of Wyman's laws is "Whoever controls a precious resource will eventually become a prick about it." That true in bureaucracies, and it's true about giving away ourselves. We have nicer names for what we are doing, about respecting ourselves or whatever. Those aren't untrue. But we don't like to look at how we are acting about our market value.
son, who describes well in dating app terms still found them very frustrating
in the usual way.He would give out many
swipe rights but receive fewer inreturn. My fifth son is going through this now. He should also do at
least moderately well by basic description, though it’s an uphill climb. But both
are funny, and this is an enormous part of their appeal, and that does not
easily translate to these apps.It comes
off as flat, stupid, artificial, forced – as is a problem with all internet
communication, really. (Boy have I had that hit home in the last month. You
think you are being clever or light, but it comes across as Not Funny, or very
stern.) So with both of them, one of their best attributes was taken away from
them by the medium, like a sports team having a key player declared ineligible.
It’s hard to get across “No, really.I’m
a funny guy.Everyone says so.” For
females they get sort of whiplash of being thought very desirable because so
many men are interested. That is not just a dating app phenomenon, it is
probably general biology. Men find many more women attractive than vice versa. But
the highest-status males (variously defined), those few who are sucking all the oxygen out of the
room, are much less obtainable, and the women feel a pressure to be more sexual
more quickly in order to compete at all. It’s like those checkboxes that HR
departments have in order to simplify hiring.If you won’t have sex fast, there are other fish in the sea and you don’t
even get to make an elevator pitch. This
is on top of the worries about safety in meeting male strangers, which
women are also trying to discern from very limited data.
The college sex ration has had a deleterious effect on women's mental health, however much it favors them academically. They are more insecure about body image, have more sexual encounters they later regret, show more depression and anxiety. It is not only in places like Sarah Lawrence, where women outnumber men 2/1, 3/1, 5/1, but any school with a typical 57-43 ratio. I have wondered why young men do not complain more about the systemic bias against them in college classrooms, but the fact that they have a much easier dating life may be a big part of that. At Vassar 2-3 girlfriends is normal and commitment is not expected. So “market value” is warped. Funnier, safer males are undervalued because on the internet, no one knows if you are a wolf.
More education has long been associated with greater marital stability, but that is no longer so. I was surprised at how much (where is that statistic? Darn) graduate school now actually has a destabilising effect on monogamy. It is no longer a place where couples seek to lock in the gains for their previous stable decisions, but a place of reshuffling the deck and finding new partners. I suspect that the increased percentage of...no it doesn't matter what I suspect. I'll have to think about this a lot first. It looks like it is increasing all of the following polygamies. And just in the nick of time comes some research showing that those who have graduate education are much less likely to think extramarital sex is wrong.
I am thinking of Camille Paglia's comments, and Jordan Peterson's - people who think about the perspective of the losers in these events. When we think of the changes and the problems they have created for many people seeking mates and affection, we tend to see those who have difficulties. People who have pains and obstacles. Those are important enough. But when we move off the strict monogamy level, to easier divorce and sex without marriage and People who would otherwise have been on the market are off, at the margins it means there are real losers, female and male. Those people want you successful ones to know what you have done to them. All those forces long predate dating apps, but the technology has intensified it. With considerable luck, I was one of the winners. I can easily envision scenarios where things went badly wrong (and nearly did). So have a thought of kindness for the many who are caught between forces.
So how does Tinder, which I use as a stand-in for all the dating apps collectively, affect Polygamies in general? And at the end of each discussion, what does that mean for polygamies in the most general sense? It is important because in polygamous societies violence goes up. It looks like corruption goes up. If Houellebecq and Nye are correct it looks like prosperity decreases. If any number of religious and even quite secular groups that look at social pathologies are correct - and they have numbers - the increase of any of these arrangements causes an erosion of the general trust in society, the security of children in society (looking at what is happening to their friends, remember?), the emotional security of either sex but especially women in worrying how replaceable they are. We are fond of saying our choices don't affect others, and there is a great deal of truth in that. But each concrete decision raises or lowers various cultural bars, and collectively they are huge.
These decisions also have a sizable indirect effect because they affect your tribe. Your decision to adhere to or discard the traditional rules may not affect the nation much in any way you can see, but it does affect your circle. It gives or withholds your implied approval or even permission. You may think that a good thing. You may want young men in the military to be influenced by your example. You might see yourself as groundbreaking for the women coming along after you in some decision. That's fine, but then you can't have the excuse that it isn't affecting other people. If I seem to be hitting this point hard the last month, it is because I am increasingly convinced that none of us makes our decisions anywhere near as rationally as we think we do. Our own needs and our social influences push us about as dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly. ("Pay attention when I'm talking to you young man!")
Every man who leaves his wife and finds another - or even if he simply goes out into the market without definite prospects and succeeds two years later, sends a signal to others how much this is possible. Or not. If the Tinder-dominated market makes him look more poisonous, even if it is not initially available information, other men and women both take note. There are still the non-dating-app cues as well. If a few women at a large workplace have unexpected difficulties in finding safe dates, that will be noted. The safety economy is worse now. The calculations of how much money is lost or how long it takes is not lost on your cousins and neighbors. And always the values. Independent women don't have to put up with that...She's not worth it, leave her. All this to say that it is not only your own business. You are free to decide it is of little importance to you. I don't have to pretend it's not true.
And finally. The dating apps now dominate the market so much that people do not even put much energy into other methods now. While your app profiles are broadcast to thousands and that feels not very private, your dating life is also much more contained there. No one at work needs to know. You brother doesn't need to know. You have more privacy in a large way. This is the new public/private contrast of the internet in general. Thus, even a slight effect from the app is likely to have a large overall effect on American mating patterns.
Formal polygamy. Dating apps might undermine this, as I said, as women find out that other women don't live this way and entertain the idea of going against family and ethnic wishes. I am not envisioning a scenario where Tinder helps polygamists.
Hypergamy. This will increase. Even though the technology only reports part of the information and skews the market, it gives market information that women can use. It is likely to increase attempts much more than successes, as using Tinder is a high-risk strategy, and one would have to signal pretty strongly that one stands out somehow. So some failures here also, often not clear until several dates in.
Mistress/Trophy wife - I think this would be a variation of the hypergamy equations
B. Modern version, of a woman with more leverage entering into unmarried long-term sexual relationships with a man. These were nearly unknown fifty years ago, are now becoming common for at least a few years duration at a time. The distinction between this and serial monogamy is hard to suss out. I think dating apps will ultimately increase these greatly, though they would not necessarily do so at first. I think there is an increased market for these and Tinder makes that market more efficient. Feminism has based its evaluation of relationships on relative power rather than commitment and has often done this explicitly. Mutuality is not forever absent, but you can't have two values both in first place. What men are doing seems to be downstream of that, derivative of women's decisions rather than driving their own. As little as I can sense, questions of power are less prominent for them. Status? Convenience? Emotional support? Dunno. If it was a desire to give or nurture they would tend to find someone who commits, I would think. YMMV.
Serial Monogamy. The increase in this long predates the apps. Children moving out of the house, whether to college or apartments were a big part of this. Reliable rather than intermittently effective birth control has been a big part of the change. (Married women who want to just generally reduce the number of children may not be too distressed by the timing of these not being as tight as they would prefer. Couples who feel they cannot in any way afford to have a pregnancy were more affected by 60s birth control.) The reduced importance of closed environments for young people predate the apps, but 1. fewer years each at places of employment, 2. fewer people getting married just after school (HS or college), 3. greater mobility away from stable neighborhoods, and 4. far fewer memberships in organisations that meet regularly (Bowling Alone) or churches reduced the usual dating markets down to going to bars. Has everyone forgotten the cliches about how everyone "hated the bar scene?" The apps consolidated all those bars into your phone. If the Tinder values are approximately what the bar values are, well what did we expect? Reduced belief that religious values have much bearing on the subject of divorce, remarriage, sexual activity, etc took a while to change this, but it is quite complete in some circles now. It is other online info, such as cultural news and group identification that has had more effect. If your aspirational group says this is okay, you'll think it's okay too. I've discussed this a lot lately. Nonetheless, this is a large group of people and apps provide an enormous market efficiency for them. this will increase.
Multiple sexual partnerships as a lifestyle. These will increase most of all, for obvious reasons.
All told, Dating apps will greatly increase the amount of informal polygamy and reward the bar scene type winners even more. This will result in ever-fewer prizes for both sexes - fewer safe, honest men willing to commit to a relationship, and fewer women to even attempt a relationship with for men who do not describe well on apps -----and more risk, as men with have to stand out in other ways which include violence and dangerous behavior, while women have to engage in sex with less information and guarantee. I will stress that this is the average, and all sorts of exceptions will occur. If anyone finds evidence of distinct groups and strategies on apps I would be interested. there may by niches that work and others that are even more hopeless than average.
Razib Khan interviewed Eric Hoel, a neuroscientist at Tufts on a variety of topics, but I thought this would be fun to pass along. Hoel won the book review contest at ACX this year, which would be one of my most-preferred honors to achieve. Likely because I know I never will.
Razib also talks to Hoel about his recent paper, The overfitted brain: dreams evolve to assist generalization, which argues that by “hallucinating out-of-distribution sensory stimulation every night, the brain is able to rescue the generalizability of its perceptual and cognitive abilities and increase task performance.” In plainer English, dreams allow the brain to experiment with novel possibilities outside of the range of experience and let it be more flexible and well-prepared in the face of surprising stimuli.
This is not entirely new, as I have seen things like this before. But it does seem to be more precise and be stronger evidence. I am planning some discussion on this, but sometimes I overpromise.