If last night’s discussion at Lolita Bar about women who’ve sold their eggs did nothing else, it should have served to remind the audience that eggs (and thus, on a subconscious level, women) are rare and valuable compared to sperm, which flows cheaply and plentifully. No one would pay me $10,000 for sperm (not that I’d want my offspring wandering around even if I didn’t have to raise them, though I suppose that’d be a slight improvement, by my standards, over having to interact with children).
As sociobiology popularizer Robert Wright explains in The Moral Animal, one of evolutionary psychology’s most valuable insights into everyday life is its account of some of the differences between male and female attitudes toward sex, particularly the “double standards” so often blamed on patriarchal culture. Put simply, females can only make reproductive use of about one egg every nine months and therefore have an incentive to be choosy, while males can in principle make reproductive use of sperm multiple times in a single day and therefore have an incentive to desire multiple partners.
Not surprisingly, women tend — tend, I say — to be more squeamish and men more eager about sex. Women tend to seek long-term commitments (and good father-material), while men are said to fear long-term commitments. Culture alters these tendencies, as do vast variations in individual psychology, but the general pattern is confirmed by countless surveys as well as most people’s everyday experience — and sociobiologists note that the pattern holds for the males and females of virtually all species as well, not just humans. Exceptions to the rule — such as seahorses — tend to be ones in which biology has radically reversed other male/female roles as well (male seahorses carry the fertilized eggs around, so making baby seahorses becomes as time-consuming for them as for a human female).
Needless to say, wild animals are neither radical ideologues nor traditionalists, so the existence of this pattern tends to undermine the nurture-over-nature, it’s-all-a-social-construct views on which feminism is largely built (if I understand what “feminism” means, which countless commenters on a prior entry have assured me I do not).
Furthermore, it may explain why both traditional chivalry and feminism (despite their purported opposition to each other) have such an easy time of convincing humans that women are precious and most men are scum, unworthies, and expendable spearcarriers. Male strength and the larger number of male than female geniuses (so say the stats) may sometimes be able to foster patriarchy, but our instincts nonetheless incline toward matriarchy.
That’s also why the aliens in shows like X-Files — the reportedly alien-free movie sequel to which premieres Friday — are always plotting to steal and impregnate our women in order to genetically conquer the world. Would any of us instinctively worry if they were just filching sperm, I ask you?