Sunday 31 January 2016

Because human sexual selection is parental - individual sexual preferences (charming, good-looking, sexy and fun) may be compensatory

Since it seems that parental choice is dominant in choosing marriage partners in nearly all societies organised on traditional lines:

This suggests that sexual selection operates substantially via parental choice. In other words, sexually selected traits would be expected to have evolved to appeal to parent-in-law primarily - rather than to the prospective sexual partner.

This model seems to account for many of the major trait differences between men and women - and accounts for the poor choices of marriage partner made by so many modern individuals: unaided individual people often make bad partner choices because humans are not 'designed' (by natural selection) to choose their own marriage partners.

(i.e. People make bad choices because they lack the instincts to make good ones.) 

Indeed, the model may also explain the nature of the bad choices typically made.

Parental choice would be expected to give most weight to 'sensible' criteria such as a man's economic prospects, a woman's youth and health, family background and so forth; but would tend relatively to neglect individual, personal qualities such as being charming, good-looking, sexy and fun-to-be-with.

Parental choice alone would often lead to dull spouses. 

In a system of parental choice - where all individual choices of spouse operate withing a 'field' of pre-approved candidates; it might therefore be expected that the individual woman and man would tend to focus on exactly these compensatory aspects. In other words, individual choice would tend to pick the most charming, good-looking, sexy and fun of the possible, parentally-chosen, candidates.

This would work pretty well, with the parents choosing potential spouses of solid, grand-children-rearing quality; and the individual husband and wife being able to pick the one who is most enjoyable to be with.

But take away the framework of parental choice, as we have in the modern West, and leave choice purely to individuals and you get... well, exactly the kind of sexual choices which people make in the modern West; where they go for the most charming, good-looking, sexy and fun-to-be-with of available people, regardless of who is a sensible, solid choice of child-rearing partner. 


Rich said...


You should watch "Meet the Patels". I think it is on netflix now. Very funny and confirms all of the above.

Anonymous said...

Do you have young children? If you do, you will likely find that you will be resisted if you attempt to select potential partners for them. This society's influence, which insists on 'luuurv' (sexual attraction) as the primary motive for marriage, will undoubtedly shout loudly, drowning out your sensible suggestions. Children are surrounded by bad ideas that permeate their thinking and take hold of their lives. All parents can do is quietly and persistently, and with love, present alternative and better ways to be.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Anon (please use a pseudonym) - Indeed. I am explaining why people make bad partner choices left to themselves; and how this could be (substantially, not completely) fixed.

But this is not going to happen in The West (except within particular minority religious groups) unless or until we have a mass religious revival - and then it will follow as a natural consequence of any traditionally-moral religion.

(Such a revival would not have to be Christian for this to happen, although of course I very much hope it would be.)

Anonymous said...

In a traditional religious society, the parental choice route is a wise one if the parents are wise. Where they are not, I suspect the children might suffer dreadfully. Forced marriages occur in some cultures, and the results can lead to unhappiness of the acutest kind. Sometimes brides run away, and when caught, are killed by their families for bringing dishonour. Sometimes in-laws or husbands kill brides where they feel they have been cheated in relation to dowry. In these cultures, arranged marriage is not simply two people coming together as one, but a woman leaving one family and joining another family. Where the new family is kind and loving, the bride is revered for herself. When the family is motivated by pecuniary considerations, or the husband dislikes a bride chosen for him, the fate of the bride is likely to be unpleasant. Acid in the face and bride burning happen to this day in India and Pakistan.

I don't say that parental influence and choice should not form part of choosing a marriage partner, only that as a system it can be as disastrous as the western model.

I think that within a 'parent/child choose partner together' model, the good society would need to frame law to severely punish forced marriage, bride killing, etc. The model would also need to be very public in its contractual nature, and in its ritual. The bride and groom would need to be seen to be happy and consenting. The aim would be contentment in the marriage. This aim would be would be best served by requiring elders of the faith to counsel the couple separately and together. An appeal by either bride or groom to a priest figure/leader at any time could lead to the forbidding of the marriage. These safeguards need not be unpleasant or feel threatening in any way. They would be an acknowledged part of the ritual and the law combined. Happy couples would sail through them. The ill-matched and/or unhappy would be discovered.

I think such a system has potential to make more people much happier than they currently are, and reduce the divorce rate.


Bruce Charlton said...

@seeker - Take a look at the links.

There is no doubt that the present Western society is less cruel than previous societies - but the range is large. The family used to be the economic unitm and sanctions were harsh (one way or another) in a world of insufficient resources.

Current happiness/ gratification/ doing what one currently wants to do is one thing - and cannot be quantified (which is not to excuse cruelty); but I don't think there has ever been a society with anything like such a grossly maladaptive sexual culture as the present. Most obviously, Western Man is going extinct - the population is not even replacing itself.

The official and mass media culture deliberately trivializes weakens, subverts, inverts, mocks, rides roughshod over marriage and parental responsibility - this has been increasing for decades.

But there is no point in preparing a detailed plan of what kind of system would be ideal - any effective system regulatory of marriage derives from, arises from, the religious system of the society (plus material constraints, obviously) - and at present there seems very little chance that the religion of the future will be Christian: so a harsh and punitive system looks most probable, and it could be upon us very soon, since there is nobody among the leadership class who is going to even attempt to stop it.