Last week Hollywood stars made global headlines with a protest against men who make unwanted approaches to women. And of course we share their outrage, particularly when the male is in a senior position and can influence the fortunes of others.
Yet it seems to me that allegations of sexual misbehaviour do not require the same levels of evidence needed for other allegations. While we outwardly maintain the principle that someone is innocent until proved guilty, inwardly we suspect that the allegation is true. I wonder if that tendency comes from our awareness of our own hidden sexual vulnerabilities.
Let’s dig a little deeper. Watch any television programme on the life of an animal species. It invariably shows that all the events tend to support reproduction. That’s no surprise because evolution, and therefore the survival of a species, is the major factor in the life cycle. Is it so for human beings?
We are far more complex, and much of the human purpose is concerned with other, and more edifying, values. Yet reproduction and its surrounding circumstances, which we may pretend to hide under the table, still play a huge part. If it didn’t, the human race would have died out millennia ago.
Let’s look at evolution’s plan. It is not hard to identify. First, it provides the male as a necessary trigger. This requires an ability to recognise women who have at least an average capacity for child bearing. So features such as good breasts, ideal hip-to-waist proportions and symmetry attract. Ideally he should subconsciously recognise the signals, such as dilation of the pupils, from a woman who is going through her monthly stage of fertility. He is not required to note any of these consciously; it is enough to be attracted unconsciously. As far as evolution is concerned, the wider he spreads his seed the better.
The woman is complementary. Evolution requires a healthy-looking man to impregnate her, and its main task is to produce one who will be able to provide for her and her children at least for several years. She looks for capability and potential stability. And she wants to see in him the characteristics that will enable her children to have successful lives. In terms of sexual competition, she is offhand or even brusque to men who do not match up. Her negative or positive attitude to partners is more marked at ovulation. And she is skilled enough to give the interrogatively glad eye to qualifying suitors without compromising her external modesty.
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