Saturday, October 14, 2006

Sperm Wars

I've been doing a lot of browsing at Amazon lately in order to beef up my "Books to Buy" list. One that I put on my list recently was entitled "Sperm Wars: Infidelity, Sexual Conflict, and Other Bedroom Battles" by Robin Baker.

The title immediately drew my interest, but the book description clinched it. Baker explores some recently discovered facts about sex that completely debunk some age-old biological assumptions.

Hogamus, higamus
Men are polygamous
Higamus, hogamus
Women, monogamous

It turns out that this old bit of folk wisdom isn't quite so true or wise after all. What is true is that ten percent of children are not fathered by their legal "fathers"; less than one percent of a man’s sperm is capable of fertilization (the rest is there to fight off all other men’s sperm); vaginal mucus encourages some sperm but blocks others; and a woman is far more likely to conceive through a casual fling than through sex with her regular partner.

In other words, nature itself expects people to be nonmonogamous, at least biologically, and has adapted reproductive strategies to this fact. Society may take a dim view of
infidelity, group sex, partner-swapping, and the like, but these practices nevertheless may enhance an individual's reproductive success compared with long-term monogamy.


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