Sex in San Diego: What Charles Darwin can teach us about knocking boots

by on February 10, 2012 · 2 comments

in Culture, Health, San Diego, Sex in San Diego

by Dirk Ebers

George ClintonIn the 1982 rhythm-and-blues classic Atomic Dog, George Clinton croons a question for the ages: “Why must I feel like that — why must I chase the cat?”

Clinton is talking about the longing for sex, of course. And you can probably relate to his lyrics, whether you’re a man or a woman, straight or gay, Ocean Beach or Point Loma. After all, sex seems to be on the human mind a lot. But why?

In Atomic Dog, George Clinton has a simple answer: “Nothin’ but the dog in me.” And researchers in an intriguing branch of psychology believe Clinton is exactly right.

Evolutionary psychology is the study of how the human mind’s processes might be products of evolution. In other words, the field asks if there might be survival benefits to weird little kinks of human nature, such as the tendency for men in cultures around the world to — all else being equal — prefer big boobs.

woman in bikini near Ocean Beach pierEvolutionary psychology is kind of like Charles Darwin meets Sigmund Freud. And just as Darwin and Freud had lots to say about sex, so does evolutionary psychology.

When it comes to why we think about sex a lot, evolutionary psychology says the key is that — on some level, whether we know it or not — each of us is driven by a strong desire to perpetuate our genes. Much of our behavior seeks to maximize the chances that we will produce healthy offspring.

Of course, having sex is a key part of producing healthy offspring. And that’s why we have sex on the brain. That’s why the dog must chase the cat.

dog chasing cat up treeBut importantly, sex has different repercussions for men than for women. A woman must go at least nine months between conceptions, while a man can conceive with one woman on Monday, with another on Tuesday, and so on. Also, women can’t conceive for as many years as men can.

So for women, the best chance for healthy offspring lies in finding a high-quality mate, as conception with an undesirable man can consume valuable reproductive time. But for men, the different timetables mean a strategy of having as much sex with as many women as possible might yield the most healthy offspring.

This mismatch between men and women causes all sorts of conflicts. We’ll get to a famous example of one of those conflicts in a moment.

First, here’s an explanation of the typical man’s preference for big boobs, adapted from Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters, a great introduction to evolutionary psychology available for free from the San Diego Library:
1. As women age, gravity has more impact on the appearance of big boobs than small boobs
2. Therefore big boobs are a more useful visual measure of the woman’s age
3. Therefore big boobs are a more useful visual measure of the woman’s reproductive propensity
4. Therefore men attracted to big boobs make more informed reproductive decisions
5. Therefore men attracted to big boobs have more offspring than men attracted to small boobs
6. Therefore the tendency to be attracted to big boobs becomes more prevalent over time

So remember all that when you’re cheering at the Ms. Emerson contest during next year’s Over The Line tourney here in San Diego.

Bill Clinton and Hillary ClintonBut back to that eternal conflict between men’s strategies and women’s strategies, which reared its pesky head in the life of a different Clinton, the one whose mama named him William Jefferson.

Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky could be interpreted as a tragedy rooted in evolutionary psychology.

Why would Clinton, after fighting so hard to be president, risk the potential drama of an affair? Why would Lewinsky consent? From an evolutionary psychology view, the answers are simple.

Bill Clinton and Monica LewinskyClinton was powerfully attracted to the reproductive propensity suggested by Lewinsky’s attributes, including perhaps most importantly her age. Lewinsky was powerfully attracted to the reproductive propensity suggested by Clinton’s achievements and/or the long-term resources that sex with him had the potential to provide. Toss in a little privacy and a blue dress, and the rest was history’s gift to late-1990s Republicans.

But despite the strong pull of the chemistry between him and Ms. Lewinsky, shouldn’t Clinton have known better? Why would he risk — oh, I don’t know — a scandal that could diminish his effectiveness as President of the United States?!

Evolutionary psychology suggests that — whether or not he is conscious of it — a chief reason why a man like Clinton wants to become president in the first place is because he expects it will enable him to have sex with more women.

So from an evolutionary psychology perspective, Bill Clinton wasn’t risking the presidency by having sex with Monica Lewinsky. To the contrary, he was reaping the fruits of his labors. He was enjoying what he had been working so hard for all along.

Bow wow wow.

Bill Clinton with glasses

Sex in San Diego, a column appearing every Friday here at The OB Rag, explores topics related to sex in America’s Finest City. To encourage openness while still respecting privacy, some authors will use pseudonyms.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

judi Curry February 10, 2012 at 12:10 pm

Love your “big boob” theory, so… what explanation do you give for a man – or woman – that have sex on their minds continually and are unable to produce? Must be that one is a bigger boob than the other?


Dirk Ebers February 10, 2012 at 1:15 pm

That is a great question, Judi.

It could be that a person’s mind doesn’t necessarily “realize” that the person’s body is not capable of reproducing. For example, vasectomies do not seem to cause a drop-off in sexual desire in men, suggesting the surgery does not impact the drive to reproduce. A similar principle could apply to pre-menopausal women who cannot conceive. (As for post-menopausal women, research suggests that on average, they are less interested in sex than pre-menopausal women, which seems consistent with ideas in evolutionary psychology).

Also keep in mind that some people may become obsessed with sex for reasons other than the “normal” reasons discussed in this article. For example, many therapists believe a sense of shame picked up in childhood is the usual cause of sex addiction, which is when an obsession with sex becomes a problem in a person’s life.


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