The Promiscuity Issue

I despise the word “promiscuous” – especially when it comes with a gender bias (a trend which unfortunately has become alarmingly frequent these days). Sleep around with more men than what society deems acceptable, and immediately you’re branded. And it’s not only the label that’s disturbing…it’s also the various implications that it brings along. Call a girl a slut, and your mind immediately conjures up an image of a girl who smokes, drinks, wears tiny clothes – and of course, has “loose morals”.

However, it is completely acceptable for men to have multiple partners and come and go as they wish (yes, yes, the pun was intended). After all, they are men…promiscuity is in their nature. But reverse the roles and we have a massive lexicon to describe sexually promiscuous women: sluts, whores, ho-bags, tramps, skanks – take your pick!

Women are supposed to be picky. They’re supposed to have standards. Men, on the other hand, need to ‘sow their oats’. And it’s just not regular people who keep perpetuating these stereotypes. For years, evolutionary biology has been brandishing the women-are-tuned-to-be-sexually-passive flag and has been making sexist claims like, “It’s in our genes…our evolutionary history.” After all, it’s been substantiated by science right? Well, here’s where you’re wrong (mostly).

Now, all these years, we’ve been hearing claims about how scientists/evolutionary biologists have carried out extensive studies in order to understand traits/mating rituals of males and females across various species. The concept I’m particularly interested in, is the one postulated by A. J. Bateman (The Bateman pinciple). According to Discovery Magazine:

The Bateman principle, as it is known, assumes that males sire more offspring if they mate with more females, while females stick with a single mate because they are limited in how many young they can produce regardless of their hanky-panky. Geneticist A. J. Bateman seemingly proved it in a 1948 study of fruit fly mating, which has been regularly cited ever since.

Over three decades, results of his findings have been extrapolated to human behaviour and virtually ingrained in our socio-cultural DNA. Remember the book Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps? There was a whole chapter explaining why men “can’t help themselves” and how they are so easily influenced by all things sex. The entire book was a total WTF experience for me.

But here’s the good news: Barbara J. King recently introduced findings by scientists who have challenged and managed to dispel the ‘Promiscuous Males And Choosy Females’ theory. The article may be found here and the abstract of the original paper here. We finally have hard, scientific data. Men do not necessarily have to be promiscuous and women chaste.

Does this mean all is right with the world? I don’t think so. It takes more than just a peer-reviewed paper to dispel perceptions associated with gender – and sex. But the paper has managed to shed ample light on the existing double standards. And at least that’s a start, no?

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