16-23 and 33-39

Repost from the old site.
Those are two figures for the ages at which something peaks in each of the sexes in human beings. Males peak at 16-23 and females peak at 33-39. After the male peak, there is a long slow decline down to some pretty low levels. For females, there is a decline, but not much of one, and the female level remains fairly high even into very old age, and I mean the 80’s.
We are talking sex, sex drive to be precise. Actually, they called it sexual responsiveness, and I am not sure what that means. It’s interesting that we think that elderly women are pretty much asexual beings, when their sex drive, or responsiveness, whatever that is, is only somewhat lower than it was at their peak.
People have whispered about this for some time, and if you have ever dated a ready and willing 35-40 year old woman, I think you know what I mean. They’re like the Eveready Bunny, once you wind them up and get them started, they want to go on all night, 7 AM rush hour be damned.
I am wondering what the evolutionary meaning of all of this is. Men are going to die young, so have the drive peak early, then if the guys dies, so what, maybe the woman can raise the kid on her own?
For the woman, in her prime child-bearing years, you don’t want the drive too high, or she will wander off with every guy who comes along. Later, as her looks decline into her 30’s, the male partner is tempted to wander in search of younger pastures.
Hence the female drive kicks into overdrive to dig the claws and squeeze him tight to home. She needs him around as a provider. Kids are grown and raised pretty much, but she still wants a man? What gives? And why does the female drive stay so high through life even into old age? What’s the advantage? Does an old cave woman have a hard time making it on her own, while an older cave guy can has more of a chance?
Higamous hogamous, women are monogamous. Higamous pigamous, men are polygamous. Neat little saying, but isn’t it more or less true across all cultures, all races and through all times? The woman must be coded to monogamy, for if she runs off with every Cave Man Dreamboat who strolls past the cave, the kids never get raised and they will die.
Males who sowed their oats far and wide impregnated more females than the “one woman man” types. The Lotharios couldn’t raise all those kids, and probably a lot of the kids died, but enough of them survived that his Casanova genes get passed on.
Or maybe many primitive societies like the typical village in New Guinea. One guy, the chief, has lots of wives. A lot of guys are losers in the New Guinea singles game and aren’t getting any at all. The Satyr-in-Chief is coded for promiscuity, and those are the randy genes he is handing down. After a while most of the guys are really horny all the time, even those who are striking out.
A lot of these Chief types are probably pretty sociopathic too, as are the guys who are just running around boffing every cavewoman in sight. Maybe after a while, the clan just gets together and kills the philandering bastard. But he’s already impregnated a number of females.
Hence, sociopathy, which doesn’t seem that adaptive, is passed on genetically and survives even today in the form of gansta rap, corporate executives and reptilian creatures called lawyers.
Much ink has been spilled about how humans are naturally monogamous, mostly by romantic types and women. But I doubt it, and I think this is an exercise in wishful thinking. Women tend towards serial monogamy at the very least. In a tribal situation, keeping the man around may not be so important if food is gathered and eaten communally.
Daddy goes out and hunts and kills animals with the guys, throws the meat in the pot and everyone eats. So he’s not with his baby-momma anymore, so what?
The kid is with Mom and there’s food for both, and that’s all that counts.
As an example of a swinging-style Paleolithics, let us look at the Ache, a tribe in Paraguay that was living in a pre-contact style until 1972 (Hill and Hurtado 1976). By age 30, your average Ache female had been married ten times, usually for about a year or so. A lot of the kids die.
The Ache were often not even really sure who the baby Daddy was. Whichever noble savage the Ache woman had been sleeping with the most in the month prior to her periods stopping was considered to be the Primary Father by the rule of probability.
Other randy tribesman she had slept with in the entire year prior to giving birth, including during pregnancy (!), are called Secondary Fathers. There might be a number of these guys. To the growing kid, all these guys are just known as dear old Dad. The Primary Father is likely to play a greater role in raising the child.
The reason for the two types of fathers is that the Ache, unfortunately, had not completely figured out the laws of impregnation. They were clear that the Primary Father played a necessary and sufficient role, known as “putting it (the baby) in her”. However, the other guys she had sex with, including during pregnancy, were thought to have somehow contributed some of their essence to the fetus. At least they didn’t believe in storks.
The tribe had also codified infanticide. Suppose Mommy had a 3 year old child. Then she has another kid. Well, maybe food is short, so she tells the 3 year old, “Hey look, we only have enough food for you and not enough for your baby brother you are so deathly jealous of. So I’m sure you will happy to know that I am going to take baby brother out tomorrow and kill him.”
Kid grows up knowing Mom killed his brother, but it doesn’t bother him much. It’s just life in the jungle, hey. There are worse threats. Nowadays, mental health professionals are convinced that having your Mom kill your baby brother when you were 3 years old would be a sufficient trauma to cause lasting psychological scars and would require extensive therapy. This is an empirical fact just how now?
Primitive people often have developed an excellent sense of memorizing distant visual objects. Bushmen, with otherwise very low IQ’s (57 IQ)1, are the world’s best at this. Then comes another very low IQ group (65 IQ)2, the Aborigines. Eskimos, with a much higher IQ of 94 – near the world average – have a similar advantage.
Looking at Ache life, we can see why. A major cause of mortality is the very thing Mom warned you about as a boy: not making it home before dark. For the Ache, if you are out in the jungle and you don’t make it back to the village by night, you may just die, as temperatures often plunge very low in the evenings.
Plus, sleeping out in the bush, you stand a good chance of being midnight snack for some jaguar. From which felinophobia may have developed?
The saga of the Ache inform us that the pathologies of the urban Underclass that so horrify middle-class Americans – feral males running around like dogs screwing and impregnating females far and wide and then not bothering to support any of them, women having several kids all by different fathers, and last and most incomprehensibly, mothers who murder their own children – may not be so alien and animalistic after all.
People who do these things are told to, “Quit acting like animals and start acting like humans!”. The terrifying thought being, “acting like humans” may be precisely what the Underclass is doing.
These behaviors may simply be genetically coded leftovers from our tribal past. Those of us who don’t stoop so low are just not giving in to our basest tribal urges. Those who do may be just “acting like normal Homo Sapiens”, discouraging as it seems.
On the streets of Detroit and in the jungles of Paraguay, life can be a short, nasty and brutish affair. In our folly, we look down at the Paleolithics. The cultured metrosexual Western man is merely the rudest tribesman in a mirror, and little less.

Notes

1. Over three separate studies.
2. Over 17 separate studies.

References

Hill, K. and M. Hurtado (1996) Ache Life History: The Ecology and Demography of a Foraging People . Aldine: Hawthorne, NY.
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2 thoughts on “16-23 and 33-39”

  1. This was a good read.
    Have you realised that before modernisation, the more advanced the civilization lesser was the choice given to women to choose their mates and more rigid was the society with extremely strong ‘family values’? ‘Moral values’ were much looser among the primitive tribals than among the civilised living in India or Persia or China or Europe. Besides higher the person was in the hierarchy of the civilisation (nobles, brahmins etc…) the lesser the sexual freedom.
    However now it is exactly the opposite now. It is in advanced first world nations (outside Africa) where there is greater sexual freedom but nations where women have lesser rights are backward and third world (Middle East or Bangladesh for example).

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