Sloppy Sciene to Reinforce 1950s Gender Rules

Jezebel points to news coverage of “research” printed in the Journal of Theoretical Biology that uses game theory to suggest that if women deny sex early on in dating/relationships, they will be more likely to attain a commitment from a ‘good’ (“reliable”) male, as they are more likely to wait.

Professor Robert Seymour, from University College London (UCL), who created the model, said (…) “A male’s willingness to court for a long time is a signal that he is likely to be a good male. (…) A male is assumed to always want to mate with a female, but a good male is more willing to pay the cost of a long courtship in order to claim the prize of mating.”

“The female’s strategy is a compromise – a trade-off between on the one hand the greater risk of mating with a bad male if she mates too quickly, and on the other hand the time cost of delay. ”

His most telling comment: She cannot eliminate this risk completely unless she decides never to mate.
(quoted from the Telegraph).

Naturally, this study trips up logically where it makes a few broad, gender-based assumptions:
a) all men (‘good’ or ‘bad’) want only sex (‘good’ = willing to wait, ‘bad’= not)
b) all women (who aren’t divided at all) want commitment over sex
c) only women use the courtship period to ‘gather information’ about their ‘mate’
d) all men aren’t interested in commitment

It’s frustrating that this kind of “research” is even getting funding. With a premise so heavily flawed, how can one hope to gain any valid information? If one is really interested in finding out the evolutionary basis for long courtship periods and monogamy, surely one should start out by looking at what the advantages are for the parties and communities involved, and then draw conclusions, rather than the other way around.

In this case, the conclusions were, sloppily, drawn first, and based entirely on the assumption that all men want the same thing, all women want the same thing, no men and women want the same thing, and relationships are a kind of competition where each gender attempts to get the most of what they want while surrendering the least of what the other person wants.

Needless to say, this also completely ignores the 10% or so of the population that aren’t heterosexual, and the portion that remains single.


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