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Should women expect men to cheat on them?
December 21, 2009 11:01 PM   Subscribe

I'm 27 and single. I've never had a serious boyfriend. Just throwing that out there. My brother is 24. Our 1st cousins are visiting for Christmas. One of them is male and 19, the other is female and 16. Tonight we somehow got into a huge discussion about relationships. Basically my brother and cousin (the 19-year-old) were making the following points:

1. Guys NEED to have sex with multiple women (my brother equated it with the desire to pee).

2. Just because a guy has sex with other women outside a relationship or marriage, it doesn't mean he loves his girlfriend (or wife) any less.

3. Men are living against their biological nature in Western Society. The natural order is for men to sleep with as many women as possible to spread his seed, not to stick with just one woman his whole life.

4. Continuing with Point #3, in many non-Western societies, men have multiple wives and those women don't have a problem with it; and are happy living in a harem where they are taken care of. Western women have been programmed to believe that a man will only stay with them.

5. The natural order of women is that women don't care if men sleep with other women. If they do care, then it's because the women have been programmed to think so.

6. Men are made better when they have multiple partners. E.g., they have to stay "oiled" or they become less desirable in general.

7. EVERY man will cheat on his wife or girlfriend at some point. Or if he doesn't, he will want to.

8. It's NOT OK for a woman to sleep with another man because biologically her husband or boyfriend sees her as his property and doesn't want to lose an opportunity to spread his seed (even if he has 30 other women).

9. The emotional connection women have toward men during a relationship (and men toward women) is just a temporary infatuation thing and is designed for men to stick around long enough to protect the woman while she's pregnant. Then the man is free to move on to someone else because a pregnant woman can't give him the sex he needs.

------
Of these points I do agree with the biological aspects -- women are choosier because they can only produce so many offspring; and so men need to be ready at all times so that there are "seeds" around when a woman is ready to have a baby. Nothing new there.

Otherwise I'm not sure how much I agree with many of these points.

What bothered me is the sheer arrogance of the way in which my brother and cousin presented their arguments -- as though everything men want is rational and biological, and what women want is "temporary" or the result of "programming." It's fine for a man to sleep around but not for a woman to do the same? My cousin also said that I will never meet a man that will not cheat on me. Gee, thanks. I pointed out some friends of mine who are happily married, and they just brushed those away saying that those guys are either nerdy "Beta-men" or that they could be cheating, too.

I don't know what to think. Maybe I'm living in a fantasy world. Maybe this is a reality check. There is some element of truth in what they said, but it bothers me nonetheless. I am hoping to meet a guy who is the ying to my yang and we support each other and are faithful to one another. I would not want him to sleep with other women, and I wouldn't sleep with other men. Of course we may find other people attractive, but is it so much to ask for a lifetime commitment to one person? Should I expect him to cheat behind my back? Is that just "the way it is"? My brother, cousins and I couldn't reach a compromise except, "ask nothing, tell nothing."

My brother said he's talked to many men -- professors, pilots, business men, etc., who have all supposedly cheated on their wives. I'm not trying to portray my brother and cousin as bad people. They're not bad people, but they are both a bit arrogant. But at least they're honest (with me, anyway).

I couldn't think of any good counter-arguments during our discussion. I enjoy debate but I'm not good at it when it's sudden and I haven't had a chance to prepare. I understand that my brother is a guy and he has needs, but what about women's needs? Why are women's needs less important? I don't want to be wife #19. Is that so much to ask? Is it unrealistic? When I pursue relationships, should I expect the guy to cheat? Should I bring it up with him before we even start to go steady? What are ways a guy can handle his desire to be with multiple women in a long-term relationship?
posted by starpoint to Human Relations (115 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
 
No. Don't listen to these people. They do not know what the hell they are talking about.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:04 PM on December 21, 2009 [87 favorites]


You're surrounded by morons. Pity their future partners.
posted by iamabot at 11:05 PM on December 21, 2009 [160 favorites]


I don't know what to think. Maybe I'm living in a fantasy world. Maybe this is a reality check.

You're question is kind of all over the place, but let me just basically lay this out for you - they are full of shit.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:07 PM on December 21, 2009 [27 favorites]


Your brother is a douche. You should never expect a guy to cheat, or accept it as ok if he does. Your brother is doubtless going to have a lot of incomprehensible breakups in his future.
posted by jacalata at 11:09 PM on December 21, 2009 [14 favorites]


I'm no relationship pro, but... bullshit. All of it.

I've been in two relationships in my life. One lasted 8 years, one 4 (and counting). I've never cheated. I've never had the desire to cheat.

You're an adult woman. Please don't let the advice of a couple of moronic boys colour your views on men.
posted by klanawa at 11:10 PM on December 21, 2009 [8 favorites]


I guess all these men who have to cheat to keep their wheels greased must be cheating with each other and not other men's property.
posted by Foam Pants at 11:10 PM on December 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is both snarkish and true:

I am way too tired to deconstruct every absurd point they made, but basically, they've derived incorrect conclusions from bad assumptions and a hilariously limited understanding of facts like how polygamous arrangements work. Suffice to say that they are complete idiots about relationships, and basically have constructed a mythology to give themselves free reign to treat their partners unethically without having to feel bad about it.
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:11 PM on December 21, 2009 [51 favorites]


As a man who finds the idea of cheating repulsive (given that relationships are about more than sex), allow me to echo the sentiments above: they're full of it.
posted by sonic meat machine at 11:11 PM on December 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


The teenagers have very immature ideas about relationships. Don't mind them.
The debate you mention is inherently fruitless; there's no objective right or wrong in relationships. Every relationship is the result of a negotiation.
should I expect the guy to cheat?
Find somebody whom you're confident about that he won't cheat since that's what you need apparently. It's a reasonable expectation. And there are plenty of guys who are faithful while in a relationship.
posted by joost de vries at 11:12 PM on December 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


You're surrounded by morons.

seconded
posted by moorooka at 11:15 PM on December 21, 2009


Your cousin has sort of an excuse for that kind of idiocy because he's only 19, has probably never been in love, and he's trying to act worldly around his older cousin (I'm sure he discusses his professors sex lives with them all the time!). Your brother, otoh, is old enough not to be such a dumbass. Guys don't have any more "need" to cheat than women do and ime, both sexes cheat in equal numbers. I would ignore them both.

If they bring it up again, say "yes, I talked to Mom about your theories and she's verrrry interested in them." That should send them scuttling back to the TV room right quick.
posted by fshgrl at 11:16 PM on December 21, 2009 [5 favorites]


3. Men are living against their biological nature in Western Society. The natural order is for men to sleep with as many women as possible to spread his seed, not to stick with just one woman his whole life.

This point is actually widely-contended. The counter argument to this is that because offspring used to die at much higher rates, it would benefit males to stay with one woman to take care of her and her offspring so they have a higher chance of survival, as opposed to abandoning them. The title of the book is eluding me, but I read a much more persuasive and eloquent version of that argument.

Furthermore, even if it is "against men's nature" to stay monogamous, the social climate of human society has vastly changed in the past thousand years; humans have evolved in so many other ways, why would this one be any different? You can't just pick and choose the parts of evolution that you think work in your favor.

Please, please, don't take what these men are saying as absolute truth.
posted by too bad you're not me at 11:19 PM on December 21, 2009 [8 favorites]


When someone takes a radically chauvinist line like that, there's really nothing you can debate with them--they've said so much that's wrong that you've got nowhere to start.

There is some element of truth in what they said

No, there isn't.

There's no scientific basis for what they said--some have tried to make those arguments from evolutionary psychology, but it's purely speculative. What they were really arguing is a set of social conventions (with all the malleability that 'conventions' implies) that gives all the cake to boys and none to the girls. Since they're the boys, it's obvious why they'd like to think that things are that way, but it's mainly juvenile rationalizations that most people grow out of sooner or later. If they can get girls to agree that the boys deserve all the cake, so much the better for your brother and cousin, but you shouldn't be taken in by 100% self-serving arguments about "the way men and women are".

What are ways a guy can handle his desire to be with multiple women in a long-term relationship?

The same way women handle their desires to be with other men: mature people accept that a monogamous relationship is a tradeoff where you sacrifice sleeping around for a much deeper relationship with a single person. That's oversimplifying, but relationships take a degree of work and commitment, and in a good relationship, the payoff is more than worth it. Dealing with temptation means accepting that you're tempted and not acting on it. Contrary to what your brother and cousin say, faithfulness isn't that hard.
posted by fatbird at 11:19 PM on December 21, 2009 [15 favorites]


Reading this again, there is so much about all of these points that is totally uninformed and flat out wrong. (Not that I know everything, but I'm studying sociology and what modern scholarship has to say about the topic of cheating in relationships, dating, and gender relations is so far from any of what your brother and cousin talked about.)
posted by too bad you're not me at 11:22 PM on December 21, 2009


One point you could make to your brother: for every man cheating, there's a woman cheating with him (excluding gay relationships from consideration). Now either there's one woman servicing all those men multiple times (which should be pretty gross from their perspective), or women aren't nearly as naturally faithful as your brother and cousin seem to think.
posted by fatbird at 11:26 PM on December 21, 2009 [9 favorites]


Anthropology student here. These people are wrong for a number of reasons, but the big one is this:

9. The emotional connection women have toward men during a relationship (and men toward women) is just a temporary infatuation thing and is designed for men to stick around long enough to protect the woman while she's pregnant. Then the man is free to move on to someone else because a pregnant woman can't give him the sex he needs.

According to the current thinking, humans are, in fact, designed for pair-bonded relationships. It's the only thing that makes sense for us because our pregnant women/babies are so vulnerable compared to other species. Think of it this way: look at the man who loves and leaves 12 women in the savannah, vs the man who only sleeps with one woman but sticks with her and protects/feeds her while she's incapacitated (minimum three years) and then helps teach the kid how to hunt and stuff. Whose kid is more likely to survive? Well, how do you like the chances of nursing mom vs lion? It's your offspring's long-term viability that's important, not just your sperms' ability to reach an egg.

Even in cultures where men have multiple wives, they are culturally required to provide for them. No money (or whatever), no wives. This serves to spread the wealth around and keep it from being concentrated (more wives, more kids, more descendants to give your cows to). This is all very basic but it pretty much holds true. There is no culture that I know of where they don't have long-term marriage at all.

Also, you may have noticed that women, unlike other females, don't advertise their fertile periods. This is only workable, from a breeding standpoint, in a where you're having sex with someone all the time. Male monkeys can love and leave with the knowledge that they've probably knocked the lady monkey up. People aren't like that, and if the only important thing was impregnation, we would be, most likely.

Also,
8. It's NOT OK for a woman to sleep with another man because biologically her husband or boyfriend sees her as his property and doesn't want to lose an opportunity to spread his seed (even if he has 30 other women).

Heh. It is completely advantageous for woman to cheat on their partners. If it's your kid, you're going to care for it. If it MIGHT be your kid, are you going to throw it to the wolves? This is not to say that women are supposed to cheat- it just severely undercuts their argument.

God that's not even everything, but it's 2:30am and I'm tired.

tl:dr: Current scientific thinking disagrees with those premises, your brother is a horny jerk
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:29 PM on December 21, 2009 [62 favorites]


Just as a data point, I've never had the slightest interest in cheating on my wife in the seven years we've been together, coupled and married.

I mean, yeah, I notice an attractive woman; that's an instinctive response. Do I want to talk to the attractive woman? Attempt to get sex from her? Why? I'd just have to start building a relationship (which is a TON of work), and I already have one of those with a woman whose personality I likely vastly prefer, whom I find attractive, and who will provide me with sex on a regular basis. What on Earth do I need to start all over from square one for?

nthing the "Jerks justify their jerkhood" angle on this. I don't know enough to conclusively deny the biology, but even if they're 100% right on that (Ha!), biology is not destiny.
posted by Scattercat at 11:29 PM on December 21, 2009 [9 favorites]


I don't think monogamy is the default for everyone. I'm not much of a monogamist, myself. But there are a LOT of monogamous men. A LOT.

And there are a lot of men who are cool (or fucking psyched!) about "their" women sleeping with other guys.

Memail me if you want to discuss monogamy more.

These guys were obviously selling you a bunch of bullshit that conveniently reinforces their priviedge and worldview. Sorry you had to hear about that.

"Never ask, never tell"...you don't have to agree with your brother or cousin about jack shit, because you're not in a relationship with you.
posted by kathrineg at 11:30 PM on December 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


The title of the book is eluding me, but I read a much more persuasive and eloquent version of that argument.

Perhaps The Origins of Virtue by Matt Ridley?
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:31 PM on December 21, 2009


Also their super brilliant concept of a "natural" man who likes to spread his seed and procreate is really ignoring the fact that men sleep with men, sometimes exclusively.

I don't know what they're doing with their penises that they're so worried about them falling off or drying up or whatever.
posted by kathrineg at 11:31 PM on December 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's against our "nature" to live in houses and not kill our enemies, but you know somehow the vast, vast majority of us have found a way to rise above our primal nature.

These boys are idiots. Women are men's property? Wow just wow. How did you stop your primal urge to lean over and slap some sense into them?

I've known a lot of people in long term relationships who have never cheated. I know quite a few who in a moment of great stupidity (and generally drunk) cheated. Most were honest with their partners and most got past the cheating eventually. Some didn't. I know of very few people who habitually cheated on a partner or partners, however they are out there.

Men are not pigs and womens are not merely baby makers. People are individuals whose actions and emotions cannot be easily reduced down to a set of rules that puts half of the human race in one category and the other half in another. Really, I know when you are young you think there must be these black and white rules out there to explain the behaviors of the opposite sex, but there aren't. People are complex and unique. Your cousins repeating really worn out stereotypes. Please do not buy into their idiocy.
posted by whoaali at 11:33 PM on December 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


4. Continuing with Point #3, in many non-Western societies, men have multiple wives and those women don't have a problem with it; and are happy living in a harem where they are taken care of. Western women have been programmed to believe that a man will only stay with them.

Rich men. Poor men get zero wives. Obviously, with a nearly 1:1 sex ratio, it's impossible for the average man to have more then one wife at a time. Also, one wife is the norm almost everywhere now.
posted by delmoi at 11:38 PM on December 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


19 and 24? They are both still acting very childish and I'd recommend they grow up if they want any decent relationships. There may be hope for them... I grew up a lot between 21 and 25, more than I did between 18 and 21. But yeah, I'd like to see how many dates they get if they go around throwing those arguments at women. Reminds me of Kenny and his brother, and Elvin in the beginning, from the Cosby Show. Honestly.
posted by IndigoRain at 11:41 PM on December 21, 2009


Also,
8. It's NOT OK for a woman to sleep with another man because biologically her husband or boyfriend sees her as his property and doesn't want to lose an opportunity to spread his seed (even if he has 30 other women).


Oh I missed this. It's a little ironic, because women actually do have a biological imperative to cheat, according to evolutionary psychologists. Their theory is that women want to marry a good provider but then secretly have children with the "bad boy" warrior type so that their kids will be warrior types who sleep with other guy's wives. Now obviously most women are not going to do that, but some do.

So for a man to say "men should sleep with lots of women, due to biology" then they can't turn around and say women should not.
posted by delmoi at 11:44 PM on December 21, 2009 [6 favorites]


While I agree with all of the above, infidelity is not uncommon.

Random search result: "Recent studies reveal that 45-55% of married women and 50-60% of married men engage in extramarital sex at some time or another during their relationship (Atwood & Schwartz, 2002 - Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy)"

Whatever the percentage, and whatever the justification, infidelity is what it is. Real life is complicated, and we are not always rational or moral actors, firmly in control of the levers in our heads.
posted by tad at 11:44 PM on December 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


Full of it. The problem is, the 'it' they're full of is filling up a lot of other heads too. Make sure you let your 16 year old cousin know that her brother and yours are not representative of all males.

In terms of logical arguments:

1. Guys NEED to have sex with multiple women (my brother equated it with the desire to pee).

If this was a 'need' like the need to pee, men would be in serious trouble if they didn't succumb to it. Most men don't have sex with multiple women (while with one partner), and don't suffer any ill effects.

2. Just because a guy has sex with other women outside a relationship or marriage, it doesn't mean he loves his girlfriend (or wife) any less.

Maybe. If the girlfriend or wife, however, wants to have a monogamous relationship, then his having sex with other women means he is ignoring her needs and, therefore, not acting in a loving way.

3. Men are living against their biological nature in Western Society. The natural order is for men to sleep with as many women as possible to spread his seed, not to stick with just one woman his whole life.

Iffy, faux Darwinism stuff there. Besides, we've progressed beyond this idea of 'biological nature'. Does your brother use contraception? Would he sleep with a 14 year old? If this biological nature compels him to spread his seed, then why can he choose not to do so in those scenarios but not others? Does his use of a condom make him feel like he's 'living against his nature'?

4. Continuing with Point #3, in many non-Western societies, men have multiple wives and those women don't have a problem with it; and are happy living in a harem where they are taken care of. Western women have been programmed to believe that a man will only stay with them.

If the women are genuinely happy with it, good for them. Do they have other options though? How does he know they're happy with it? Also, some societies have women with multiple husbands (I know of at least one in Nepal). Why doesn't he think that Western men have been programmed to believe that they need to sleep around? Why is his desire natural, but your desire merely social programming?

5. The natural order of women is that women don't care if men sleep with other women. If they do care, then it's because the women have been programmed to think so.

What natural order? That of a sea lion colony? People have been monogamous for thousands of years - is that really all some masterminded programming? Why must all women feel the same way?

6. Men are made better when they have multiple partners. E.g., they have to stay "oiled" or they become less desirable in general.

Desireable to whom? Should you tell his girlfriend that he sleeps around so she finds him more desirable? Made better how? More smug? This doesn't make any sense at all.

7. EVERY man will cheat on his wife or girlfriend at some point. Or if he doesn't, he will want to.

Generalisation. If he doesn't, but wants to, then he is an adult who made a choice. Of course people will find others attractive, it's our choices that determine whether we are cheating bastards or honourable partners. He's trying to find an excuse for his juvenile behaviour.

8. It's NOT OK for a woman to sleep with another man because biologically her husband or boyfriend sees her as his property and doesn't want to lose an opportunity to spread his seed (even if he has 30 other women).

Again, why the clinging to biology for this issue only? If he's so soncerned about his seed, why isn't he raising a family? Why doesn't he have hundreds of other children with all these other women? If he can choose to not impregnate peope, why can't a woman choose to sleep with others? As for a woman being a man's property... I thought we covered this last century.

9. The emotional connection women have toward men during a relationship (and men toward women) is just a temporary infatuation thing and is designed for men to stick around long enough to protect the woman while she's pregnant. Then the man is free to move on to someone else because a pregnant woman can't give him the sex he needs.

So all the happy couples who stay together and raise families are faking it? Where's his evidence that his own shallow experience of love and relationships is a universal one?

Honestly though, I'm not sure I'd bother. Maybe just ask him if he's alright with you mentioning his views to all his future girlfriends, and if not, why that would be a problem since it's all in 'natural order'.
posted by twirlypen at 11:45 PM on December 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Maybe I'm living in a fantasy world.

Do you mean: a world where the opinions on relationships of 19- and 24 year old males have any relevance?

Yes, complete fantasy.
posted by _dario at 11:46 PM on December 21, 2009 [10 favorites]


Like everyone else says, they're full of shit. The programming thing, among, other things they've said, indicates to me that they're not rational about this, so there's no point in "debating with them. The next time they talk about this, you might as well just roll your eyes and make the "jerk off" hand motion while they talk.

One point you might actually want to counter bother to is this:

4. Continuing with Point #3, in many non-Western societies, men have multiple wives and those women don't have a problem with it; and are happy living in a harem where they are taken care of. Western women have been programmed to believe that a man will only stay with them.

Have them read Under the Banner of Heaven. The Fundamentalist Mormon communities discussed in that book are the idyllic societies your brother and cousin are talking about here. Maybe it'll get them to think whether or not that's what they really want.

Also, should you run into someone these guys are dating, feel free to relate these guys' theories to them. If they can talk the talk, they should walk the walk, so this should be no big deal. A couple of alphas should be able to scare up some extra ladies if they lose one, right?
posted by ignignokt at 11:46 PM on December 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


All of these points are so wrong that my brain has short circuited and I can't explain why without a LOT of yelling. So I would point you towards the more rational folks above, and to believing that (sorry) your brother and cousin are total fucking morons.
posted by grapesaresour at 11:48 PM on December 21, 2009 [5 favorites]


Do not date your brother or your cousin.
posted by salvia at 11:49 PM on December 21, 2009 [29 favorites]


Whoops.

One point you might actually want to counter bother to is this:

Should read:

One point you might actually want to bother to counter is this:
posted by ignignokt at 11:50 PM on December 21, 2009


Your brother and cousins are selfish douchebags. And if I and they were having drinks and they told me this shit with a serious face I'd probably throw a punch at one or both of them for being such raging idiots, for spreading moronic crap, and making the rest of us guys look bad.

(Of course throwing the punch would make me look bad too and I wouldn't be proud, but it would make them think twice. Maybe. Of course I was young and stupid too, but I'm still not cutting them any slack.)
posted by Ookseer at 11:52 PM on December 21, 2009


Why are women's needs less important?

They're not! But some men like to think they are.

It's the boys who have been "programmed" in this case. Their arguments are self-serving, unfounded and disgustingly misogynistic. Yes, (some) men cheat. But it is neither an unalienable right nor a biological imperative.

Be clear and confident about what you want in a relationship, stay true to yourself, and you will find someone who values the same things.

PS: Women cheat too.
posted by Paris Elk at 11:53 PM on December 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


One point you could make to your brother: for every man cheating, there's a woman cheating with him

Well, no; if younger people are less likely to be in committed relationships than older people, and men prefer younger women, then among unfaithful men in committed relationships many are likely to be cheating with unattached younger women.

The better point to make has been suggested above: if from their natural drive for sexual variety — which we should not pretend that many men do not feel — they infer a moral justification for infidelity, then they will have to grant their girlfriends the right to have secret sex with wealthier, more powerful men. The same reductionistic theories of natural morality "prove" both cases.
posted by nicwolff at 12:11 AM on December 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


If they think protecting the pregnancy is all it takes to get their genes out there, then they've led a damned sheltered life.

But yes, they are full of shit.
posted by geek anachronism at 12:12 AM on December 22, 2009


Ask your brother and cousin for citations. Having talked to a bunch of males doesn't count.

I am hoping to meet a guy who is the ying to my yang and we support each other and are faithful to one another. I would not want him to sleep with other women, and I wouldn't sleep with other men. Of course we may find other people attractive, but is it so much to ask for a lifetime commitment to one person?

No, it's not too much to ask. There are plenty of people who want to achieve the yin yang thing that you describe.

Should I expect him to cheat behind my back? Is that just "the way it is"?
No and No.

Why are women's needs less important?
They aren't.

I don't want to be wife #19. Is that so much to ask?
No.

Is it unrealistic?
No.

When I pursue relationships, should I expect the guy to cheat?
No.

Should I bring it up with him before we even start to go steady?
Probably not immediately, because that could be jumping the gun, but if it's something you want to discuss once the two of you know each other a little better, go for it. The same way you would with anything else on your mind.

What are ways a guy can handle his desire to be with multiple women in a long-term relationship?
If a guy wants to be with multiple women in a long term relationship, he can seek an open relationship of some sort.

Would you like specific refutations or support for each numbered point? Overall, they're naive generalizations. 'Having talked to many men, all of whom have cheated' doesn't really amount to anything. Counterexample: I know men who have never cheated on their wives/significant others (who also haven't cheated.)

Here are a couple pieces of info: there are animals that seem to mate for life in the wild. Also, the rates of men and women cheating are about equal. Here's one reference, but there are many others.

Check out the Discovery Channel's "The Science of Sex Appeal." (Videos are on the web.) They address some of these issues in a compact fashion. Also search google scholar or pubmed. But, basically, yes, from an evolutionary biology/psychology perspective, there is somewhat of a biological impetus for men to "spread seed" and for women to gain extra resources (via multiple partners). But there's also a biological impetus for monogamy and pairbonding! The important thing is that all of this is irrelevant in terms of individual relationships; we have higher level reasoning, not to mention emotions. There are people who might never be happy with a single partner, and there are those who will be.
posted by sentient at 12:15 AM on December 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wow. We've got bad evolutionary psychology, appeals to the noble savage, first-class misogyny, some revealing projections - just a whole lot of poor critical thought going on here.

But even with all the rebuttals we're supplying, you do realize that you're never going to be able to sway your brother and cousin, right? Debate can be fun, but it looks as if your opponents care somewhat less for reasoned inquiry than you do. Otherwise they wouldn't be employing terms like "programmed," which is right behind "sheeple" in the vocabulary of those would invalidate disagreement without engaging with it. (Of course you would think that women shouldn't be used like Kleenex! You've been programmed that way!)

Hopefully, your cousin will grow out of it. Hopefully, real affection will knock your brother on his ass one day, and by the time he stands up he'll have realized how shabby all his preconceptions were. In the meantime, just smirk and roll your eyes whenever they start in on the Natural Order again.
posted by Iridic at 12:19 AM on December 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


19 and 24 is awfully young to be an expert on evolutionary psychology, biology and the inner workings of polygamous societies. But then, its just the right age to think you know everything.

Did they happen to mention where they're getting this from? The pseudo-scientific bull, and the use of the term 'beta male' suggests they've been reading too much about the seduction community, or pickup artists.

If they are reading, and quoting, pick up artist literature, its safe to assume that they are losers who should be ignored.
posted by PercyByssheShelley at 12:41 AM on December 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


These people are absolute morons. And sexist too.
posted by gadha at 1:23 AM on December 22, 2009


You need to read books by Helen Fisher, this great biological anthropologist -

I've read Why We Love which goes into all this. It's sooo fascinating.
posted by mjao at 1:26 AM on December 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Both men and women cheat; we know this by DNA studies of paternity.

Romantic love marriage is to some extent a relatively recent, Western cultural invention.

Thus, the idea of a marriage in the West is really the idea of a "love marriage"; when someone from a non-Western culture uses the word "marriage" he or she may not be using it in the Western sense. So to say non-Westerners are satisfied with "harems" (which is a grossly inaccurate representation) is really taking advantage of the elastic meaning of the word "satisfied": I'm satisfied with, e,g., heat pumps compared to living in the woods, but heat pumps still suck compared to radiator heat.

Bottom line: you just had a bull session with a kid just out college and a kid not yet through college. Like most college bull sessions, more heat that light was produced. While it may encourage you to learn more about the issues brought up, it should not be the basis for any life changes.
posted by orthogonality at 1:30 AM on December 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


I've just skimmed over the responses, but I think most people are saying the same as I am thinking.

These kids are immature twats. Don't listen to what they are saying.

This... "Men are living against their biological nature in Western Society. The natural order is for men to sleep with as many women as possible to spread his seed, not to stick with just one woman his whole life."

... may have been true about a thousand years ago. But I like to think we have evolved beyond that... well, at least some of us have. I like to think I am more than an animal that is just here to reproduce.

Don't listen to them. Guys who have a sense of integrity and devotion are out there.
posted by Diag at 1:35 AM on December 22, 2009


The "beta-men" thing raised my hackles. That's pick-up artist talk. Google PUA Game to learn more about this "lifestyle." (I'll sum it up: the way to be a fulfilled man is to have meaningless sex with as many women as possible, through douchey and manipulative techniques that push the edge of consent.)
posted by KathrynT at 1:46 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


... Sure, if they also want to live in caves, wear loincloths and hunt antelope for a living.

I would not date either your brother or your cousin.
posted by Xany at 1:57 AM on December 22, 2009


"Your cousin has sort of an excuse for that kind of idiocy because he's only 19, has probably never been in love"

Yes, this. Once you actually fall in love with someone, your cousin's point of view gets completely blown out the window.
posted by Diag at 2:03 AM on December 22, 2009


1. Guys NEED to have ice cream (my brother equated it with the desire to eat).

2. Just because a guy has ice cream outside a relationship or marriage, it doesn't mean he loves his girlfriend (or wife) any less.

3. Men are living against their biological nature in Western Society. The natural order is for men to have as much ice cream as possible, not to stick with just one flavor his whole life.

4. Continuing with Point #3, in many non-Western societies, men have multiple sources of ice cream and women don't have a problem with it; and are happy living in a harem where their ice cream needs are taken care of. Western women have been programmed to believe that a man will only stay with them for their ice cream.

5. The natural order of women is that women don't care if men have other types of ice cream. If they do care, then it's because the women have been programmed to think so.

6. Men are made better when they have multiple flavors of ice cream. E.g., they have to stay "creamed" or they become less desirable in general.

7. EVERY man will cheat on his wife or girlfriend at some point by having a different flavor of ice cream. Or if he doesn't, he will want to.

8. It's NOT OK for a woman to have a different flavor of ice cream because biologically her husband or boyfriend sees her ice cream as his property and doesn't want to lose an opportunity to taste different flavors of ice cream (even if he has 30 other women).

9. The emotional connection women have toward ice cream during a relationship (and men toward ice cream) is just a temporary infatuation thing and is designed for men to stick around long enough to protect the woman while she's have ice cream. Then the man is free to move on to someone else because a pregnant woman can't give him the ice cream he needs.

---

My point being, just because some half-assed ideas have half-assed grains of truth, it doesn't mean we're bound to a half-assed existence.

Mmm. Once you have some rocky road, baby, you never go back.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:18 AM on December 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Nth-ing the following:

"If they bring it up again, say "yes, I talked to Mom about your theories and she's verrrry interested in them." That should send them scuttling back to the TV room right quick."

"Don't listen to them. Guys who have a sense of integrity and devotion are out there."

"pseudo-scientific bull"

"Bottom line: you just had a bull session with a kid just out college and a kid not yet through college. Like most college bull sessions, more heat that light was produced. While it may encourage you to learn more about the issues brought up, it should not be the basis for any life changes."

Great thread! :D
posted by KMH at 2:42 AM on December 22, 2009


Want some fun? Take every statement and flip it to the negative and it sounds just as ridiculous.
posted by plinth at 3:21 AM on December 22, 2009


Nthing you're surrounded by morons who have no idea what they're talking about, and who are preemptively excusing their own bad behavior.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:29 AM on December 22, 2009


Yes, there are evolutionary reasons for cheating in both sexes. No, people are not behaving unnaturally by being faithful. In fact, mating behavior varies considerably among different species, but most species still posses the genes that once drove different mating behavior too.

I feel the best rebuttal is simply observing that men in primitive societies murder one another all the time, heck western societies had dueling until recently. But no modern society today tolerates murder, well not outside their poorest ghettos anyway.

Nobody considers "naturalness" as an excuse or defense for rape and murder, despite the major role both played in human history. Polygamy was largely eliminated for exactly the same reason as rape and murder, namely the negative effect upon society, well polygamy was even eliminated first.

I think today polygamy as a crime has largely been replaced by child support for several reasons : First, our financial system makes support far more quantifiable, meaning society loses less from families splitting up. Second, the whole notion of romantic love kinda necessitates the occasional change of partner. Third, people often need to escape an abusive relationship, which also damage society.

I can even imagine real polygamy eventually being legalized for people who can pass a psychological exam meant to detect abusive or manipulative tendencies, but I personally hope they don't just let anyone manipulative asshole have multiple spouses.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:21 AM on December 22, 2009


Women may be "programmed" to think a certain way about relationships, but THAT is precisely what humankind's fundamental human nature is all about.

We're programmable.

We can be raised to accept monogamy as the ideal. We can be raised to accept polygyny (one husband, many wives) as the ideal. We can even be raised to accept polyandry (one wife, many husbands) as the ideal. We can be raised to consider marriage to a cousin as repulsive and incestuous. We can be raised to consider marriage to a cousin as the perfect union. We can be raised to live in nomadic bands of less than 25 people. We can be raised to thrive in megalopolises of many millions.

We're programmable.

By their argument, it is also human nature to use our own two feet to locomote everywhere, to rest squatting on our haunches in the interim, and to eat a minimally processed diet of gathered nuts and berries, and whatever animal protein is available. If they're willing to forego such unnatural contrivances as automobiles, chairs, and grocery stores--hell yeah, let 'em cheat.
posted by drlith at 4:41 AM on December 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


Western women have been programmed to believe

See, when men do something, it's biology. When woman do, it's brainwashing.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:47 AM on December 22, 2009 [6 favorites]


I know a guy who is uncomfortable sleeping with women outside of commited relationships. Has he been programmed? Is he defying biology? I doubt it.

Some guys will cheat on you coz theyre assholes. Some will make a mistake. But there are guys out there who would rather chew off their own hand than hurt the woman they love.

I firmly believe there are more differences within the sexes than between then. You cannot generalise about an entire gender's motivations and behavior.
posted by stillnocturnal at 5:23 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I strongly suggest that you continue discussing these theories with them and all future girlfriends they have. I'm completely serious here, as these guys really need to hear the opinions of various other on these theories.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:36 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Needs" are things that you will die without. Water, food, sleep, shelter. I believe these guy's own idea that men "need" to have sex is a product of their own social conditioning.

Might I suggest that the idea of "freedom" is skewed if "freedom" means being free to be enslaved by our subconsious pursuit of dopamine and endorphine rewards of our own urges?

Idiots. What makes us fully Human is that we have the ability to rise above our reptilian brains to do something other than wallow in our base biological urges.
posted by cross_impact at 5:41 AM on December 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yeah, they're pretty ridiculous -- I mean, they are basically suggesting that human rational thinking has absolutely no role to play in relationships, even though it's clearly what separates us from the animal world in every other aspect of our development as a species.

Yes, we all have biological urges. In fact, I would go so far as to say that yes, almost everyone in a relationship on a long enough time scale will be TEMPTED to stray (and that goes for both men and women). The question is do you apply the massive power of your human brain to realise that maybe you shouldn't follow every single biological urge you have?

People in healthy relationships THINK about them, and realise that even on some level they really want to fuck that sexy neighbour , they don't, because they understand that the consequences for their primary relationship will be negative (absent a "open" understanding, yada yada yada).

I mean, sometimes I really need to take a shit, and have an overwhelming urge to do so. Yet does that mean I just drop my trousers wherever I happen to be? No, of course not. I live in a society and follow certain social rules that exist for multiple reasons -- hygeine, predictability, privacy, relationships, etc...

Your friends (or men in general) are no more "unable to not cheat" than they are "unable to not shit on their friend's couch." This is what separates homo sapiens from the rest of the animal kingdom.
posted by modernnomad at 6:01 AM on December 22, 2009


These sound like great conversation points to keep in mind when/if your brother has a girlfriend over.

"So has he cheated on you yet? He says it is inevitable."

"Are you part of the harem?"

"Why are you getting upset? Is it because you have been brainwashed?"

"Brother, did you not explain your beliefs about men and women to your latest piece of property here?"
posted by mikepop at 6:06 AM on December 22, 2009 [45 favorites]


Ask your brother and cousin this:
"You say that for men, the need to have sex is like the need to pee. But if I'm forced to go without peeing for longer than my body wants, eventually, my mind will no longer be able to control my body, and I'll wet my pants, and it won't be my fault. If sex is like this, do you believe that men who go without sex for long periods of time will eventually lose control over their bodies and rape women, and if so, that it won't be their fault?"

If, at that point, your cousin and brother back off of their statement that they "need" sex, you're dealing with normal young boys who don't really understand the world. If, however, they stick with it, you're dealing with boys who are a huge threat to women. I'm not really sure what to do about that, honestly, but I think it's worth knowing who you're dealing with. I'm really hoping that you have the former here.
posted by decathecting at 6:09 AM on December 22, 2009


Ummm... men and women are more than their biological urges. We use higher thought and reasoning to direct/guide our behavior, and are not solely driven by base instincts.

In short... I think your brother and cousin are full of crap and are making excuses for men to behave badly.
posted by MorningPerson at 6:21 AM on December 22, 2009


You can certainly make a reasonably well-supported argument that there's a biological drive to have multiple partners, but you can also make a reasonably well supported argument that there's a biological drive to bash someone's head in with a rock if they steal your food. Basically, biology does not equal destiny.
posted by electroboy at 6:26 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Simple math and some speculation: so if men are into having harems, as many women under their thumb and roof as possible, but the number of men and women in the population is about equal, what happens to all those other men?

Even if it's just two wives, does that mean that half the men have go without unless they're gay- which, as we know, is not a choice people make? So all those other men sit around figuring out how best to off the guys with the harems?
posted by mareli at 6:31 AM on December 22, 2009


Accurate numbers are hard to find (people might lie and say "I'm a big stud!" or lie and say "I'm honest and true!"), but the range of percentages of married people who cheat seems to be between 20% and 35%, over the life of a marriage. (And googling pulls up other claims of much higher figures, up to 70%, but from less convincing sources.)

So people obviously cheat, but it's not something that is predetermined and unavoidable. Honestly, the guys you were talking to sound really, really young to me -- not in years, but in worldview. They sound like guys who have had fairly limited experiences, and who are basing what they say on bad TV, the occasional article in Maxim, and what their buddies say at the bar. All that is cool, but it's a poor predictor of how real people in the real world will live.
posted by Forktine at 6:33 AM on December 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


"One of them is male and 19, the other is female and 16."

It's already been said in different terms by other posters, but discussion regarding the nature of romantic relationships at their ages should probably be taken with a grain of salt.

Also, that whole "biological imperative" thing? Has been called into question time and time again. If they're using "nature" (in that broad, generalized, not-really-based-in-reality-but-rather-an-abstract-construct-of-Darwinian-fantasy way) as a template, it might be worth knowing that the sexual behavior of certain species, where it was previously thought that the male had multiple partners while the female just kind of sat there waiting her turn, are much more complex than originally conceived. The baboon is a great example.

Beyond that I have a hard time taking people like your brother and cousin seriously because they are arguing from an incredibly misogynistic perspective. I, like the above poster, hope that this is largely due to their age and inexperience rather than an internalized set of patriarchal values. I guess only time will tell.
posted by foulowl at 6:34 AM on December 22, 2009


This really sounds like a bunch of male rationalizing, Pick Up Artist bullshit.
Tell them to go out and try this nonsense in the real world for a few months/years and then get back to you and see how that worked out for them.
posted by willmize at 6:37 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nthing the whole "these guys are selfish assholes" thing. If they truly hold these beliefs I feel almost as sorry for them as I do any partners they might have.

> Simple math and some speculation: so if men are into having harems, as many women under their thumb and roof as possible, but the number of men and women in the population is about equal, what happens to all those other men?

Well, if they're fundamentalist Mormons they get cast out of the community so the older guys don't have as much competition.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:40 AM on December 22, 2009


"So, dear brother, are you implying that after all these thousands and thousands of years, your brain has basically remained unevolved? It's fascinating to think that in this day and age you can still relate to our cavemen ancestors, not to mention our furry friends on earth. I bow to thee."
posted by xm at 6:40 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


What a bunch of crap, for all the reasons already presented. Make sure the 16-year-old knows that (a) this is crap, and (b) there are many men who do not feel that way.
posted by grouse at 6:50 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Your brother is 19. Chances are he's never been in love.

Again, your brother is 19. When my college roommate was 19, she decided to come out. For a semester. She's happily married to a dude with a kid on the way. When I was 19, I thought I wanted to study abroad in a politically unstable region. I don't go into bad neighborhoods and fear shifty-looking people wearing vinyl jackets, but at 19, it totally made sense to me to apply to study abroad in a region where there's intense fighting and bloodshed.

Yeah. I was an idiot and totally didn't know how to interpret what I wanted. So, so much for listening to a 19 yr old male's advice.
posted by anniecat at 6:58 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Make sure the 16-year-old knows that (a) this is crap, and (b) there are many men who do not feel that way.

Cannot emphasize what grouse said enough. Please know and let her know that there are many wonderful men out there (as I hope you can tell from the replies above!) who believe cheating on their partners is as hurtful and unacceptable as your thoughts leads you to believe.

When I pursue relationships, should I expect the guy to cheat?
No, no, absolutely no. Mutual fidelity is for many couples the foundation of trust. If it is important to you that your partner is faithful, hold him to that standard.

Your brother and cousin may not be bad people but they are young and completely misguided about relationships between men and women.
posted by kitkatcathy at 7:05 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think you were getting your leg pulled.
posted by cellphone at 7:17 AM on December 22, 2009


No, there really are people who believe this crap. But there are a large number who do not.
posted by grouse at 7:20 AM on December 22, 2009


Wow, so many PC arguments here, it surprises me (NOT).

FWIW, my experience has been that most men feel the way your brother and cousin do. They just can't admit it to women and certain men, for all the reasons demonstrated by the answers given in this thread.

Men and women are different physically, and think differently about a whole range of things, including sex. It should not be a surprise to anyone that maybe, just maybe, we have different biological imperatives too.
posted by eas98 at 7:20 AM on December 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sticking with the scenario for the moment (other people have explained why it's bull)... It's very advantageous for women to cheat. First you find some sucker "beta male" who will stick around and protect/provide. Presumably this man has substandard genes or he'd be in higher demand and wouldn't stay faithful. So to offset that you find the most physically capable idiot and sleep with him. Then convince a that b's child is really his (not hard--look at the statistics). Your child now has fantastic genes and a good upbringing, win for you.
posted by anaelith at 7:28 AM on December 22, 2009


You might want to read The Myth of Monogamy, if you're interested in a more scientific and less bullshit point of view on the subject.
posted by darkshade at 7:30 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Men and women both "need" to have multiple partners in the same amount, however, women are socialized to a) deny that urge much more than men and b) keep it secret that they have it. A lot of people simply go with monogamy because it's what's expected and some are successful at it, while some aren't. Others consciously choose either monogamy or polyamory due to careful self-examination and negotiate their relationships accordingly. (I tend to think the latter group are happier.)

You can also tell your brothers that the chief reason historically for polygamy is that large numbers of men were (and are still in some places) regular slaughtered on battlefields in stupid wars, leaving large numbers of widows and/or women who could not marry appropriately (within their class). It's better to be a second wife than to be destitute. In a few places (tribal areas within Nepal, etc) polyandry is practised for similarly economic reasons: one woman will marry a couple of brothers in order to prevent scarce land from being overly divided.

Point being: there's every kind of sexual arrangement under the sun. No one can really be said to be any more "natural" or "programmed" in than the others. However, your brother and cousin are a) living in contemporary Western society, which (rightly, in my opinion) values equality of men and women and b) trying to establish privileges for men (and themselves! how convenient!) that they would not extend to women. This is sexist and you should laugh at them when their girlfriends cheat on them or dump them for cheating. Tell them that woman "naturally" are inclined to laugh at the misfortune of others and to deny this basic, biological urge is mere "programming".
posted by Kurichina at 8:00 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


+1 vote for "this is idiotic crap." Further, it is clinically, logically, scientifically, conclusively idiotic crap. There is absolutely no basis for any of their points. Not one, not at all. You are far too kind in giving them even the benefit of the doubt.

+1 data point: I am a man who has never cheated, has no desire or plans to cheat, and would absolutely turn down an opportunity to cheat, no matter how tempting. Not to say I'm not attracted to other women. I'm also attracted to my neighbor's Corvette, but I can restrain myself enough to avoid stealing it. If I were nothing but my cravings and urges, I'd eat nothing but Twix bars and Cheez-Its all day. But I don't, regrettably, because my behavior is dictated by a lot more than my urges.

Please ask these boys to cite which biologists are providing their data. They're basing all of their conclusions on presumptions about "nature" which are questionable at best (mostly they're just BS). Beyond this, questions of morals/behavior/relationships/law are not dictated by primal natural urges, or else we would be perfectly justified in tearing out someone's jugular for peeing on a tree that we peed on first.

It is also against our nature to wear deodorant, eat 3 square meals per day, drive automobiles, work 9-5 jobs, and survive beyond early childhood en masse.

In many early human societies, men tended to do the hunting while women stayed home and did the more domestic work. If your brother and cousin are willing to get some friends together to take down a mastodon with their bare hands so that you and your female friends can eat through the winter, then perhaps you could consider bringing back some other values from pre-historic society. However, in our society, we buy our food at the grocery store, we like to cover up our body odor, we vaccinate our babies so they don't die of polio, and we generally consider cheating a pretty dick thing to do.

Read up on: Logical Fallacies: Appeal To Nature. (Although in this case I'd call it "not-even-pseudo-scientific appeal to inaccurate and irrelevant conclusions based on unfounded assumptions about nature, which have no bearing on this issue to begin with.")
posted by Alabaster at 8:11 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


What bothered me is the sheer arrogance of the way in which my brother and cousin presented their arguments -- as though everything men want is rational and biological, and what women want is "temporary" or the result of "programming."

Losers who aren't getting laid say this stuff.

I'm not saying that men don't cheat, etc.,(so do women) but there is not a stone tablet floating around Jupiter declaring all of this to be true.

In otherwords, some people do cheat. When they do, it is for a million different reasons. Most people feel a desire from time to time to have sex with people other than those we are monogamously pair-bonded with, men and women. That doesn't mean we do, and when it does happen there's a million different reasons out there that don't require the application of stupid, unscientific crap like this.

Usually people give out explanations like this because the give a false sense of control over the believer--if they only could get women to believe this, they would never cheat.You could just as easily make an argument that women should hook up with random men after they have the first few kids with their husband to spread their bets around--all without letting the husband know. It still doesn't make it a scientifically true argument.

We are allowed to make any decision on this we want. What little 19-year old boys tell you is immaterial. It is everyone's choice what type of sexual life they choose to lead.

In terms of cheating--its a crapshoot out there. Best to be careful and if you are interested in a monogamous relationship with a man, take your time to learn more about the person before you go forward.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:11 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Minor point but, pregnant women have sex every day of the week. Pregnancy does not render us no longer able to fuck.

Also, it has been my experience that cheaters come in all genders, but the good news is, honest people do too.
posted by serazin at 8:20 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sadly, these people think men are slaves to their biology. A lot of young men seem quite driven by testosterone, but many of them seem to be able to use reason to decide how to live. I prefer men who use reason to the kind of men described above.

Women like sex. Women like variety and like to sleep with strong, masculine men. Many of them also use reason to deal with their biology. I like those women better than women who are slaves to the biology, too.

Humans have evolved to use their brains. I like to encourage that sort of thing.
posted by theora55 at 8:32 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think all of their arguments ignore the most key issue with regards to humanity--what separates us from non-sentient beings--our minds overrule a lot of our biology. These arguments sound like premeditated excuses for allowing those biological urges to take control their thinking selves. Any man that allows that to happen and disrespects you by being with another woman while in a committed relationship with you is not a man worth having. The same goes for ladies that cheat.

I am male, have been cheated on before, and have never cheated on a partner. I've been attracted to women whilst in a committed relationship, had opportunity to cheat, and yet resisted the urge.

Commitment is a state of being we choose and a promise we make to someone we care about. Is love a biological response or is it made something more by the thought that goes into it? Your brother and cousin have a very limited understanding of their own gender and humans in general in my opinion.
posted by Gainesvillain at 8:42 AM on December 22, 2009


Chiming in as another anthropology student.

There's no solid evidence whatsoever for any sort of evolutionary psychology forcing "males to cheat". The problem with such arguments is that they're "Just-so stories". They've got an idea they want to back up so they make the evidence fit, completely failing to account for the complexities of human behavior. Most fail to take culture into account when explaining these behaviors "set by biology". It seems to me that the lesson we've learned in anthropology time and time again is that whenever you've discovered some "human universal" there's a people out there, somewhere in the world, that break the rule.

The only thing that's set in stone is that we, as a species, are incredible adaptation machines. That means, yes, there may be cultures that where polygamous relationships work and are the norm. But there are also cultures where monogamous relationships are the norm too. Neither of which mean that we're biologically meant to be one or the other, only that we've passed these ideas on from one generation to the next. The difference being that you can choose not to follow, to change, or even to believe in an idea. You can't choose to, say, stop your eyes from being whatever color they are. And behaviors, while influenced by biology, are infinitely more complex than the biology itself.
posted by swashedbuckles at 8:44 AM on December 22, 2009 [5 favorites]


Here are things they have wrong: evolutionary psychology; basic biology; sociology; psychology.

Basically, they're just flapping their jaws and bullshit is coming out.

Why would you take their pronouncements on this stuff any more seriously than you'd take their pronouncements on, say, solid-state physics? Or the taxonomy of trees? Or the best way to get stains out of antique linens?

Read some books by people who actually know what the fuck they're talking about.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:54 AM on December 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Essentialist evo psych bullshit.
posted by Sophie1 at 8:55 AM on December 22, 2009


1. Guys NEED to have sex with multiple women (my brother equated it with the desire to pee). - Both sexes have the same amount of sex drive as the other. Women need sexual contact just as much as men do.

2. Just because a guy has sex with other women outside a relationship or marriage, it doesn't mean he loves his girlfriend (or wife) any less.
- Then how come many cheaters divorce their wife for the younger girlfriend?

3. Men are living against their biological nature in Western Society. The natural order is for men to sleep with as many women as possible to spread his seed, not to stick with just one woman his whole life. - There are plenty of wild animals that will mate for life. Also the thing that separates humans from animals is our ability of rational thought. We can control the urge to screw anything that moves.

4. Continuing with Point #3, in many non-Western societies, men have multiple wives and those women don't have a problem with it; and are happy living in a harem where they are taken care of. Western women have been programmed to believe that a man will only stay with them. - Mormons are about the other culture/religion I can think of that allow and encourage men to marry more than one woman.

5. The natural order of women is that women don't care if men sleep with other women. If they do care, then it's because the women have been programmed to think so. - Call bullshit on this one. Seriously have them fact check.

6. Men are made better when they have multiple partners. E.g., they have to stay "oiled" or they become less desirable in general. - If you are in a healthy relationship to begin with (with someone who enjoys sex as much as you do) you don't need to stay "oiled". Only reason for multiple partners is for a threesome but that is and should be an equal amount of enjoyment for both you and your partner... :)

7. EVERY man will cheat on his wife or girlfriend at some point. Or if he doesn't, he will want to. - Not trying to make myself seem like I'm perfect here but I have never cheated on any woman I have ever dated or been with. Now have I had impulses, yes every guy does. This statement is correct. However the big difference from an impulse to actually cheating is huge. I might have an impulse to steal or drive really really fast or eat 12 chilli and cheese dogs but am I going to act on them?

8. It's NOT OK for a woman to sleep with another man because biologically her husband or boyfriend sees her as his property and doesn't want to lose an opportunity to spread his seed (even if he has 30 other women).
- WOW.... just WOW... I, um I'm a dude and even I feel insulted with this one. At this point are you sure they just were not messing with you?

9. The emotional connection women have toward men during a relationship (and men toward women) is just a temporary infatuation thing and is designed for men to stick around long enough to protect the woman while she's pregnant. Then the man is free to move on to someone else because a pregnant woman can't give him the sex he needs. - I'm trying to move on from #9 here. Ok in nature lesser animal that have the intelligence of a rock will do this because they only have instinct. They seriously have the the Brain to Brain stem ratio of 5-1 to 6-1. Brain Stem (docs and people that actually know this help me out) is where your instincts are processed. The Brain controls higher functions. With such a low ratio, it's even a wonder these animals know how to breathe out of their noses. Now if you look at Wolves, their ratio is about 20-1. They are smart animals and the Alpha male mates with the Beta Female and their litter stays together as a family. In fact the whole pack stays together. The father never leaves, he is involved in his offspring's upbringing. Humans on average have a ratio of 50-1. We are almost 2/3 smarter than wolves. This is not even mentioning all of the animals in the wild that mate for life.

In conclusion, I'm sorry but your brother and cousin sound like first rate douche bags. I would pay no attention to them. Gotta love Christmas and the Holiday season!
posted by Mastercheddaar at 8:56 AM on December 22, 2009


I was waiting for the punchline while reading your question....

Your cousins may be this way, but there are many many men who are not like these people.

Also, noone is ever anyones property regardless of gender. That would be known as slavery and is a violation of human rights.

If what you want is a man who sees you as his equal and not just a sex object, and who will be faithful to you, they do exist, you will find one, and you should not settle for anything less. if a date reminds you of your cousins, run far far away.
posted by WeekendJen at 8:57 AM on December 22, 2009


It's with #8 and 9 that this list crosses the line from stupid to misogynistic. The first seven points are at best grossly selective or oversimplified (and mostly just incorrect) readings of evolutionary psych, but the last two could only come from active resentment and anger at real (not theoretical) women.

I bet these are the points that really set off some of the other commenters; they are definitely the ones that I would be most troubled to hear from a family member.
posted by pete_22 at 9:02 AM on December 22, 2009


Pick up artists use this BS reasoning to sell their literature to emotionally and sexually stunted men. It does not hold up in the real world, but it does move product. To hear them repeat it just shows their inexperience in all relationship matters.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 9:05 AM on December 22, 2009


Ah, I remember those conversations. I've hinted at this elsewhere on AskMe, but I swear, there was a weird period in my early 20s when my male peers were espousing this kind of bullshit, and I would get so frustrated. Later, as they matured and I did too, I looked back and saw it more with pity than anything--as a weird kind of bullshit swan song to childish wish fulfillment. I think a lot of guys that age are wildly insecure and secretly Freaked the Fuck Out by the notion of having a real, genuine girlfriend and true intimacy, all that. And being all evo-psych Maximed-out alt.seduction cocky was a facade, a way to keep distance and maintain control over a new and scary part of their adult lives.

I couldn't take this advice myself when I was in the thick of it, but: try not to sweat it. Roll your eyes, maintain your points if you like (really, you should...), and keep the huge possibility of raging male insecurity on their part in mind. It will probably get better.

Now, if you later you're hanging out with 40-year old men who never grow out of it, then watch out...
posted by ifjuly at 9:19 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


"FWIW, my experience has been that most men feel the way your brother and cousin do. They just can't admit it to women and certain men, for all the reasons demonstrated by the answers given in this thread."

Or possibly your friends don't make up a representative sample of all men.

Believe me, there are plenty of us men who think that the OP's brother and cousin are completely full of it.
posted by tdismukes at 9:29 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


They're speaking from ignorance. Don't listen to them. It's ridiculous, pseudoscientific, and counter to reality. Look around you and find some male friends with their heads on straight.
posted by Miko at 9:29 AM on December 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


People who make pseudo-scientific claim to buttress their own desires or to sound smart, well, those are the absolute worst kind of people.

The bad news: It sounds like your brother and cousin are the worst kind of people.

The good news: Being young, your brother may grow out of it. You're his older sister so instead of listening to his bizarre ranting, you should slap him in his face. That might help him grow up.
posted by kensington314 at 9:49 AM on December 22, 2009


Biological FACT: Teenagers are idiots. Additionally, I sincerely hope your relations don't continue down the natural course of being idiots, which is to become bitter, immature middle-aged men who make the scientific discovery that all women are not servile virgin angels but rather all women are filthy cheating whores. See: the story of Scheherazade, where the Sultan discoveres that his entire personal harem is cheating on him with a man-harem of their own, to which he reacts by becoming a serial killer. The happy patriarchal polygamy of your brother's feverish imagination was sustained by the constant threat of brutal violence, let us not forget.

Anyways, for your personal concerns:

"Is that so much to ask? Is it unrealistic?"

Certainly not, the world is full of lovely men who want what you want-- a trusting partnership to take them through life. Decent men with sense realize this means they have to observe the Golden Rule and treat you as they'd like you to treat them. Jackass men will invent a world where their desires are 'needs' and yours don't exist. Jackasses are loud and pushy and hang out with other jackasses, sometimes making it seem like it's a world full of jackasses, but actual jackass levels have been proven by science to be only around 20% of the popluation.

Bottom line: most people, men and women, fancy other people, even when they shouldn't. Most people, men and women (statistics!) don't act on this because they don't want to break their partner's heart.

"When I pursue relationships, should I expect the guy to cheat? Should I bring it up with him before we even start to go steady?"

Yikes, no. Also, do not ask dates if they shoplift, pee in their pants, or throw feces at their boss. These are all biological imperatives but it's not polite to assume people can't control them.

Enjoy the opposite sex, good luck with the partner search, and don't let the jackasses get you down!
posted by Erasmouse at 9:59 AM on December 22, 2009


I do tend to agree with ifjuly that your brother and cousin will likely get over this unbecoming phase. Another thing to keep in mind is that, although I think someone already said this, they might see you as a woman whom they can actually express these atavistic tendencies to without fear of rejection - after all, one can only assume that they aren't trying to date you. I'm not sure I would agree, at ages 19 and 24, that they are incurable douches or would even conduct themselves this way in physical reality.
HOWEVER.... (how's this for a counterpoint to my own theory) Years ago, I was in a horrendous relationship with a guy who thought (and acted) EXACTLY like this. Men can cheat at will and it's "biologically" okay, women are property, baby machines.....blah blah blah.....He is currently in jail serving an 18-year sentence for armed robbery, kidnapping, and failure to comply. This was (I think) the fifth time he had been arrested since age 18. NOT saying that your relatives are in ANY way this sociopathic, but I also think if a guy reaches the age of 24 and still *seriously* thinks in such a self-serving way (let alone acts on it) that may conceivably be a sign that something may go tragically wrong down the road. Often, people's attitudes toward their romantic relationships are a pretty good predictor of how they will behave in other human relationships as well.....such as, I suppose, the relationship between yourself and the clerk at a store who has control over the cash register. Point being, it is important for you, and us all, to make the distinction between a bull session with college-ish age guys (harmless) and the possibility that what's being revealed here is pure, elemental selfishness (not so harmless).
posted by lucky25 at 10:14 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


That's not a conversation - that's a retelling of Chris Rock's comedy shtick that a man is as faithful as his options. I'm not say your brother and cousin are douche bags, but that was some douche baggy spew they were putting out there.

Good luck getting through Christmas with those blowhards.
posted by 26.2 at 10:49 AM on December 22, 2009


24 is more than old enough to know that this is sexist bullshit. I've known much younger males who have healthy attitudes toward women. So I disagree with everyone who says that your brother's idiocy is due to his age.
posted by Lobster Garden at 10:52 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


They aren't idiots or morons. They are members of the "Young, Dumb and Full of Cum" lobby. They draw a majority of their membership from Frats. I know this because I was once a member and was just as full of shit (this was 20 - 30 years ago). And, guess what, I'm betting they know exactly how full of shit they are too.
posted by Carbolic at 11:07 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I started answering these one by one, but they just got dumber as they went. So here's the bottom line:

Yes, some guys cheat on their wives and girlfriends. Yes, there is a biological basis for "spreading seed" and all that. However, we all live in a society where we agree not to do things we want to do (like punch idiots like these guys in the face when we hear them talk) in return for reaping the benefits of the society.

Your brother and cousin essentially carry a worldview that men should be able to do what they want and women should suck it up, and they're spewing a lot of bullshit justifications for it. At the end of the day, I'm not totally surprised to hear a 19-year-old talking this way (although it makes me sad) but a 24-year-old? Dude, you should have outgrown this by the time you hit college. Or are you still wandering around thinking things like "whoa, what if our planets are just cells in a giant person?"
posted by davejay at 11:16 AM on December 22, 2009


On second review, I'm with Lobster Garden. For some reason I was thinking he was like eighteen. Twenty-four is too old to be a sexist wacko. He needs a major intervention in his life somehow.
posted by kensington314 at 11:24 AM on December 22, 2009


Here's an idea:

Triple dog dare your brother and your cousin to walk up to some girl at a party or in a bar and say exactly everything they told you. If they truly believe this, then they won't have any problems doing it (or any problems with the slaps in the face they get from Western women for saying it). Point and laugh. Lather, rinse, repeat if desired.

Either they'll pass out of this type of thinking or they won't. And if they don't, I think they'll find themselves living some very lonely lives.

I think you know that this isn't true, and I think you know it's not worth engaging them in a discussion of this sort. So if they get on this topic again, maybe handle it with disengagement? "Oh, I see." "Interesting." "Huh-uh." "Yeah." "Well, then," and leave it at that.

And if you'd like, I'm sure my husband and many happily married, engaged, or long-term relationship-ed male friends would be happy to speak of their experiences, too. Many of these men ended up with the first person they ever dated because, well, they were in love, as were the women. None of them have cheated (to my knowledge) yet, and what's more --- the complaints from these guys regarding relationships prior to meeting their wives/girlfriends were, "Will I ever find someone to love? Will there ever be someone who can love me?" They didn't want to date around or sleep with random women. Most of my guy friends wanted what most of my girl friends wanted: longterm companionship --- you know, that Sunday kinda love Ella sings about. It sounds like that might be what you're looking for, too, in which case, I'd like to think the person you'd end up with would roll his eyes at your brother and cousin much in the same way many people reading and responding to this thread have done. In fact, it might make for a wonderful laugh after a couple of dates.
posted by zizzle at 11:31 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just to add one more thing. I agree with comments upthread that you should negotiate what you want from a relationship. Obviously don't bring it up right away, but when the discussion of exclusivity comes up, do tell your man what you want and communicate what you want from them in terms of faithfulness. You can have any rules you want, monogamy, open relationship, polygamy, you name it.

But don't cheat or accept cheating. Cheating is not living up to the promises you made and people in open relationships or polygamy situations can cheat by not following the rules agreed to.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:32 AM on December 22, 2009 [5 favorites]


I would like to add that the concept of "Beta-man," which your brother espoused, is in itself riddled with problems.

But if such a concept is in fact real, sounds to me like maybe you want a Beta-man anyway.
posted by kensington314 at 1:15 PM on December 22, 2009


I think that everyone else covered the actual answers pretty well. I just wanted to say that they shouldn't have made it to point number 9. Right after number 8, you and your 16-year-old cousin should have bricked the both of them in the head with a cast iron frying pan.

Yeah, it's cliché, but it would have been really satisfying. Property, my ass! :)
posted by Citrus at 1:19 PM on December 22, 2009


Wow, thanks so much for all the answers!! There are many many good points made here and I wish I could have thought of them last night. I was so disturbed by it last night and it was so late that I just went to sleep afterward. Now I realize that they were full of bullshit. My 16-year-old cousin also said she doesn't believe it. I regret even participating in the conversation at all. I mean, I'm 27 and I'm listening to a 24- and 19-year-old?

I think my brother and cousin's problem is that we haven't had any real role models for a positive relationship. None of our parents are still together (my brother's and my parents divorced shortly after my brother was born and our father wasn't part of our lives); and my cousins' parents divorced in a bad way. Our grandparents don't even have the best marriage in the world. The only good relationship in the family is that of our gay uncle and his partner.

My brother has never had a serious girlfriend. He's slept around, I'm sure, but never any serious long-term relationship. So maybe he's confused and doesn't know how to handle his testosterone-fueled urges. Without any positive male role models, he's turned to this school of thought (it could be the pick up artist thing as several of you mentioned). In fact, I remember accidentally stumbling on an old essay he wrote about how he wanted to be a member of the pick-up community. That was more than 7 years ago, but I'm sure these attitudes have shaped his way of thinking.

My brother does have a girlfriend now (he's seen her for a few months and it's really his first "real" girlfriend). Last night he was talking about how it likely won't be permanent but he's going to see how it goes since the relationship was unplanned. He said he would never tell her any of what he told me last night. She came over to our house for the 1st time and we all met her, and she seems like a really nice girl. He was acting all nice and everything, but all I could think about was, if only she heard the conversation last night. It all seems like a put-on to me.

Of course, he could grow out of this. He's only 24 and hasn't had the same type of male role models that other guys his age have had. And our cousin (the 19-year-old) just does whatever my brother does since he looks up to him. Maybe he'll grow to really like this girl and change his mind. I don't know. Only time will tell.

I do know that neither my brother or cousin would intentionally harm women. They're just young and confused. I am supposed to be the big sister and I have my opinions and views, but sometimes it's hard for me to voice my views during debate because I am not very confident, I often doubt myself and my mind tends to blank out right when I'm trying to think of rebuttals. Something I'm working on continuously. From now on I'm just not going to participate in debates with these people anymore. My brother seemed pretty set in his views anyway, so I doubt he would have considered my opinion anyhow.

Still, it's good to have these rebuttals and I'm going to look into them all so that I am ready incase they bring it up again. I know this post is long winded and meandering in all directions, so I'm going to stop now! Thanks again!!
posted by starpoint at 3:20 PM on December 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Of course kids between the ages of 16 and 24 believe that they deserve more sex than they're getting, and that society is somehow to blame for that fact.

For one thing, they're wrong about biology. The fact, actually, is that biology encourages women to sleep with as many men as possible, too; it's not biology that sticks women in a kitchen and forces them to stay there and wait for men to come to them, and if you actuallly talk to a few women (again, something males 19-24 are not always likely to do) it becomes apparent that women are just as up for it as men, on the whole.

For another thing, the argument they're making is clearly homophobic, as many arguments which appeal to a grade-school conception of "biology" often are. What about the millions of happy men who are in committed, monogamous, long-term relationships with each other? What about the millions of otherwise happy women who are in relationships with each other but who split up because they can't stop sleeping with people outside the relationship?

And all else aside, even if they were right about what biology encourages us to do, your cousins and brother are wrong about one essential thing: biology doesn't determine how we live our lives, at least not in the simple, not-even-scientific way they're claiming it does. If I did what my 'biology' told me to and ate that entire Panettone I have in the kitchen, I would be sick all day tomorrow; that's why biology has provided me with a brain. And if I sleep with as many women as I possibly can, avoiding strictly the use of any kind of birth control in order to maximize the possibility that I might impregnate each one, I would find myself in a mountain of shit that it'd take years to sort out. Thankfully biology has kindly provided me with a brain so that I can take into account the impact of my actions, the ways my actions will make other people feel, the ways my actions will build up or destroy my own future well-being.

Anyone who has the gall to claim that it's natural for men to deceive their partners and sleep with other people behind their backs has never really loved someone and thought about what it would mean to look into that person's eyes and tell them that you'd been unfaithful to them.

Ask them: if you think biology is all-important, do you use protection when you have sex? Why? Isn't the point to impregnate as many women as possible? If not, then they clearly have some priority above and beyond some biological imperative; and that's where the care and compassion that fuels long-term relationships begins.
posted by koeselitz at 3:56 PM on December 22, 2009


There's already over one hundred comments, and I'm posting on this before I've read all of them. But this is such a common, and silly, argument.

If one's biological imperative is to 'spread one's seed' and reproduce and ensure your genes are in the pool, you also have to make sure that kid survives the pregnancy and infancy and childhood. That means taking care of the pregnant woman by dragging caribou back to the cave, or what have you, and that becomes a lot more difficult if you have 30 women in 30 caves, or even 30 women in one cave. Then what happens when they each have a kid?

What I'd really like to see from this thread are more concrete resources like some of the books mentioned earlier, as I'm sure there are plenty of anthropological and sociological studies on just this subject.
posted by lhall at 4:43 PM on December 22, 2009


What I'd really like to see from this thread are more concrete resources like some of the books mentioned earlier, as I'm sure there are plenty of anthropological and sociological studies on just this subject.

OK!

The Origins of Virtue is the single best refutation of evopsych bullshit I've read. Basically, it shows ways in which people are perfectly adapted to be nice to each other.

Our Babies, Ourselves is about the anthropology of childbirth. It's great just because it shows how incredibly communal birth and childrearing are, and indeed must be, for humans.

Mismatch is a discussion of ways in which 'modern' culture can be harmful and counter to our best interests, biologically speaking. It doesn't really directly address the topic at hand, but it's got some good discussions of early humans that nicely torpedo a lot of these dumb arguments.

All are written for people with no previous knowledge of anthropology, and all are actually very engaging reads.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:04 PM on December 22, 2009 [5 favorites]


Try asking them to talk about all of this in front of the girls they are dating and seeing and in love with - the girls may seem to agree on the outside but will happily disagree when they're not around (this may be the case especially if these males are sensitive to arguments from the opposite sex or their ego being hurt, women will pick and choose their battles).
posted by iNfo.Pump at 6:05 PM on December 22, 2009


Yeah I will check out those books linked. Wish I could show them this thread, lol. There's a lot of good points made here!
posted by starpoint at 7:09 PM on December 22, 2009


This isn't about factual debates. All you have to say is that there are a million kinds of relationships. The bottom line is that you get the relationship that you ask for and deep down, believe you deserve. Want to be someone's property? Want to build a monogamous partnership with someone loving and devoted? You can make it happen.
posted by salvia at 11:32 PM on December 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


Even in cultures where men have multiple wives, they are culturally required to provide for them.

Indeed. Hell, consider ancient Jewish rules (whem multiple marriage was still OK) which mandated marriage to your brother's widow (under certain circumstances) to ensure she recieved the support she was due from her husband's family.

As far as nature goes... nature is what we make it. We're tool-using animals, smart monkeys. Our nature is what we make of it. If we decide a society with property rights and monogamous relationships is a good idea, it's natural for us; making arguments from what our ancestors or other great apes do is like arguing beavers shouldn't build dams because other rodents don't.

But hey, if we want to go for more, shall we say, primal versions of human nature - human nature is that if I want something your brother or cousin have, I beat them to a whimpering pulp, take their stuff, and make them a slave. That's the majority of human history right there. Are your brother and cousin still so keen on 'nature'? Still confident they're awesome alpha males?
posted by rodgerd at 1:28 AM on December 23, 2009


On a completely different note:

I have had many arguments with my brothers that wound down strange roads with my brothers talking straight out of their asses trying to goad me. Being my closest relatives, they knew every little thing that could set me off and keep me going for hours: my fears, my dreams, my beliefs. It took a while but I'm on to them now. Perhaps it's because it got less fun to harass me as they got older and arguably more mature.

Your cousin and your brother have to know that you have some insecurities around your lack of relationship experience, or maybe they just assume you do. But it sounds like they got you in quite a state...perhaps more than they intended to.

Anyways, there is a large chance that even if you hit them upside the head with a baseball bat of logic, they might not change their opinion. However, there is a slight chance that if they understand how much their statements have hurt you and caused you to worry, that could help if their serious or if they are just jerking you around. If they are serious, they will see what kind of pain this machismo bullshit causes and perhaps think a little harder about the way they are heading. If they are just leading you on, they might realize that the joke has gone too far.
posted by nursegracer at 3:49 AM on December 23, 2009


What?

No.

There are guys who will say things like this, but they're not the kind of guys you want anything to do with. Think of it like this: the kind of deterministic thinking that they've shown is self-perpetuating, and damaging. When men (and women too, I've met plenty, I'm sure you have too) believe things like this, that the genders "are" a certain way, then people behave as though they are, and it creates resentment on both sides, and people hate each other for it. And why do they hate each other? Because of thinking like this.

The gender wars are something you choose to participate in. Don't make the choice. And dissuade others from making the same choice. Especially your relatives. I mean...ew.
posted by saysthis at 10:35 PM on December 23, 2009


While this thread has some interesting discussion, I will point out that a great many of the responses were ad hominem.
posted by jimfl at 9:10 AM on December 26, 2009


A Natural History Of Love by Diane Ackerman, my favorite, educational book on the topic.
posted by nickyskye at 6:10 PM on December 28, 2009


The arguments here aren't for infidelity. They're for polyamory. In all these points nowhere do they justify lying to and betraying a woman who believes she's in a committed, exclusive relationship. There are polyamorous communities out there, but they're small and fringe for the very reason that most people would prefer a committed, exclusive relationship, which is the best indication that humans as they are today do prefer that lifestyle.


2. Just because a guy has sex with other women outside a relationship or marriage, it doesn't mean he loves his girlfriend (or wife) any less.

If it strongly goes against her wishes and you do it anyway, that's exactly what it means.

Men don't cheat. Awkward teenagers, new to dating, who haven't yet learned right from wrong do.
posted by EtzHadaat at 10:01 AM on February 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


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