Another reason to feel like a failure: Scientists say that women are easy to get into bed

The New York Times on January 12, 2013 published an article “Darwin was Wrong about Dating”. It says that the evolutionary biologists were wrong when they said that men were interested in spreading their genes by having casual sex whereas women were more interested in a stable relationship with a companion who will help rear their cihldren:

“Lately, however, a new cohort of scientists have been challenging the very existence of the gender differences in sexual behavior that Darwinians have spent the past 40 years trying to explain and justify on evolutionary grounds.”

If you’re a man and have had any difficulty in getting women to agree to sleep with you, reading this article would be a good way to feel worse about yourself. According to the eggheads with clipboards, it is not that women typically say “no”; they just happen to say “no” most of the time to you.

[On a more serious note, the article fails to consider changes in the incentive structure for women who have children without the continued voluntary assistance of the father. First of all, the social stigma of raising a fatherless child has been mostly removed. At lower paternal income levels, a variety of forms of government assistance will provide the single mother with roughly $45,000 per year in tax-free benefits, depending on the state (see this chart). That is more than the average American worker’s take-home pay. At higher paternal income levels, court-ordered child support payments may provide the non-working single mother with a substantially higher (tax-free) income than working at an average wage. Whereas an unplanned pregnancy would have at one time been a significant “cost” of a night of casual sex, both in terms of social stigma and financially, today in American society a pregnancy that results from casual sex may be a net benefit. After the obvious benefit that children are wonderful companions and a lot of fun (almost all the time anyway), the most notable part of this benefit is the cash component, yielding more than $1 million tax-free prior to the child reaching adulthood. There are a lot of things that Homo sapiens did not evolve to do while roaming the savanna of the East African Rift that today, for $1 million, you can get a Homo sapiens to do. So potentially there is no contradiction between the Darwinists and the scientists quoted in the New York Times article.]

10 thoughts on “Another reason to feel like a failure: Scientists say that women are easy to get into bed

  1. I suggest you go talk to Dr. E. O Wilson. He should be in your campus.
    He would straighten out What Women want according to this theory?

    Lets summarize it for you.
    Evolution has designed women to be
    attracted only to Alpha Males. They tell
    them apart by their pheromones. their features,
    their ability to think fast. You know people like Quarterbacks and Lawyers.
    Women are only attracted to geeks and nerds when their bodies
    emit similar amount of pheromones in their 40s.
    Now you think that 40 year olds are fooling women. no.
    Evolution allows benefits women who are with 40 years old because
    then they can be with another man when the 40 year old dies leaving
    all his property.
    Incidentally Rape is feature of Evolution precisely because
    Women are attracted to only Alpha Males thus forcing Beta Males
    to get with women above their league.

    Isn’t Evolution grand. Now you know. Knowing is 2% of the battle.

  2. Thanks for the pointer to the article, it was an interesting read.

    But what’s with the tripe at the end? Having a child is never a “lifestyle choice”. I don’t think anyone would go through 9 months of pregnancy, the sleepless nights in the first year, the exhausting years of chasing a toddler… etc.etc. just to be able to file a paternity suit.

    Perhaps instead you could have considered the ready availability of condoms, the contraceptive pill, the morning after pill and ready access to abortion as a more important influence on women’s attitude to casual sex then the possibility of getting a few $ in child support.

  3. Martin: The USDA estimates the cost, including housing, of rearing a child through age 18 to be approximately $250,000 (see ; note that this figure includes a fair amount of babysitting ). So an unintended pregnancy that results either in welfare payments or child support should yield an after-tax cash profit of at least $750,000. A mother who did not enjoy taking care of an infant or toddler could park the child in day care for between $12,000 and $20,000 per year. After five years, as noted by Homer and Marge Simpson on the first day of school in , children become “the government’s problem” during the daytime (Cambridge, Massachusetts spends over $26,000 per year per student for the babysitting service that they call “K-12”). If the mother did not wish to be disturbed at night by an infant, she could hire an au pair for $18,000 per year to live in the house and work the night shift. Day care and au pair expenses should not add up to more than about $100,000 extra and thus the net cash profit is still at least $650,000.

    Is a $650,000 after-tax gain sufficient to motivate a change in behavior? This is equivalent to earning about $1.2 million before taxes, an amount that would require roughly 28 years of work by the average American ( says that average wages for a private nonfarm worker were $819 per week or roughly $42,500 per year).

  4. Philg:

    (1) IMO, a lot of articles written under rubric of evolutionary biology/psychology are pseudo-scientific. The claims are not falsifiable.

    (2). I don’t necessarily think people think rationally when they make decisions about whom to go to bed with, or why woman decide to have and raise children solo. I’m skeptical that government incentives have very little to do with the matter. At the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum, I imagine it’s a mixture of poor choices and bad circumstances.

    Not long ago, a close relative of mine went through a divorce. I knew when he met his future wife that it had a small chance of lasting. I asked him after the divorce was over, “Why did you marry her in the first place?” He responded, “Because I was letting the little man do my thinking for me.” In other words, rational thought did not play much of a role in his decision to marry this person.

    (3). I think your “First of all, the social stigma of raising a fatherless child has been mostly removed…” is very pertinent. I would like to think it accounts for most of the explanation.

  5. The numbers in the AEI article, are, unsurprisingly in light of their political agenda, massaged to show the very best-case scenario for someone who totally wishes to game the system. It ignores time limits, it ignores stigma, it ignores bureaucracy, it ignores lack of information, mental illness, vulnerability, lack of self-respect, lack of education. It’s not reality.

    Some actual figures:

    * Two fifths of single mother families are “food insecure,” one seventh use food pantries, one fifth have no health insurance, one third spend more than half their income on housing. Three quarters of homeless families are single mother families.
    * Two fifths of single mother families are poor, triple the poverty rate for the rest of the population. Single-mother families are nearly five times as likely to be poor than married-couple families.

    * Though 2/5 of single mothers are poor, only 1/10 receive TANF.


    * Only 22% of low-income single mothers receive housing benefits.

    I don’t see most single mothers getting pregnant so that they can live it up like the “lucky ducky” poor people the WSJ / AEI / libertarian / freerepublic point of view wants to depict.

    Ordinary people are not emotionless game-playing benefits-maximizing automatons. I mean, maybe some rich investors and traders on Wall Street are — perhaps this colors the worldview of this crowd. They imagine everyone else thinks just like them.

  6. Phil,

    You are (unfortunately for society) dead on in your observation that the social stigma is, for intents and purposes, gone re having a child out of wedlock. We recently hired a twenty year-old female with a new baby and no husband and there was not even a hint if regret, embarrassment, feeling shamed, etc. I’d have been ready to crawl under a rock in her circumstances but as my HR director remarked, the girl almost acted as if it was a badge of honor. !
    I asked her if being a one-parent family would put too much strain on her ability to perform her job and she replied that her boyfriend would help out with the baby “when needed”, as if the child were a dog or cat.

    Incredible times.

  7. AA: Those are some pretty grim statistics that you cite. On the other hand, the folks that I know in Cambridge, Massachusetts who are officially “poor” would be a little out of place in the picture that the statistics paint. First of all, it is precisely by being officially “poor” that they obtain a free apartment (market rent $3000-4000 in the mixed-income development with which I am most familiar), free health care in the world’s most expensive, if not always the world’s most effective system, free food, etc. (It kind of raises a Zen koan question: If you have no cash but the government gives you everything that you need for a good material life, are you poor?) Second, given that a lot of these folks seem to have iPhones and automobiles, things that are not paid for by the poverty relief industry, necessarily they have some income, e.g., from a job that pays in cash, that is not reflected in official statistics.

    [Separately, you say that the AEI site is biased somehow but then link to Wouldn’t a government agency have a lot more bias than a non-profit such as AEI? Has there ever been a bureaucracy that did not yearn for a larger budget and a bigger staff? What better way to obtain more funding than to point out that they have a lot more needy folks to serve? I wouldn’t expect to visit the U.S. Army’s web site and learn that big land wars and tanks are obsolete.]

  8. So the question is: what does it mean to be poor in America? If you’ve got housing and food and health care, is that really poor?

    First, as I pointed out above, only 10% of single mothers receive TANF, and only 22% housing assistance — despite there being 40% poverty among them. So clearly a large chunk of these single mothers are not receiving governmental assistance, or are receiving very limited amounts of it, despite being quite poor.

    Second, it’s true that *if* you receive these benefits, you are not going to die of starvation or pneumonia. To be poor in the US is not, thankfully, like it is to be poor in a third world country.

    But there are a lot of other things that poverty means. A middle-class person might think nothing of going and buying a suit for a job interview — not so for a poor person. Ditto for transportation, internet access, books, educational aid for their kids: in other words, all the things that might expand the mind, that might lift them into a different, better world, are hard to access.

    And though this may not be as true for the minority of mixed-income residential developments (Cambridge is probably one of the most generous communities in the nation), the poor are usually usually housed with the other poor. That means they’re in an environment of often higher crime, of higher mental illness, of lower education, of all kinds of detrimental things. Their kids are often in school districts where their teachers have little faith that they can climb out of poverty and where their peers are often socialized into pernicious cultures from an early age. Security, hope, and room for growth are much harder to come by in these environments. I really doubt it is the comfortable, worry-free paradise it may seem from afar.

    While there are undoubtedly some people who work under the table and abuse the system, there are, I suspect, many more people who are not getting enough or the right kinds of assistance. Probably the people who need it most: immigrants who don’t speak English very well, the mentally ill, people who suffer from various serious disabilities, etc.

    As far as bias, AEI is a small, tightly-focused organization which hires very smart people whose whole skill set consists in painting skillfully crafted pictures that serve a certain ideological viewpoint. AEI has a lot of money with which to do this. And these thinkers benefit personally when their names get associated with a particularly striking piece and they gain status, speaking gigs, jobs at Fox News and in the Republican Party.

    Whereas HHS does not have the money or the status or the purpose of buying the very best left-wing pro-housing propagandists. No doubt there’s some bias, but if you’re someone compiling a report, you’re not there to build your reputation and demonstrate your ideological credentials. You’re probably some statistician or report writer peon who doesn’t think in terms of winning a war of ideas. And at least nominally your department is subject to Congressional inquiry, auditors, and other checks on its level of bias. Finally, while many in these bureaucracies may be motivated by personal gain, that does not always or directly coincide with benefits to their institutions.

  9. I don’t think the incentive structure has changed that much.

    Let’s say you assume the $1.2 million income “incentive” number as accurate for the 120,801 individuals receiving child care subsidies in PA.

    The average wall street salary was $362,950 in 2011, and there were 168,700 jobs in the NYC financial sector. There are 2,800 companies traded on the NYSE, and average CEO salary was $9.6 million for public companies, while average VP salaries are somewhere in the hundreds of thousands of dollars range. Assuming half of these individuals are male, that is still plenty of rich men to go around. If you are trying to attract a rich man it would make much more sense to wait to have a child until you were suitably pair bonded.

    Marrying and staying married, or at least staying married long enough to obtain spousal support and half the stuff, should therefore be a powerful motivator, and would lead to much more than the @$1.2 million you would receive in PA welfare benefits. To maximize your income you would need to stay married, as if you divorce you probably only get about half.

    Therefore, the incentives provided by the glaring income inequality in our society point toward similar motivations as have always existed for women to seek out affluent/financially successful males, versus having children while single.

    Of course, this comment and the original post are completely reductive, absurd, and hopefully not reflective of things serious people actually consider valid.

  10. Mike: It would not be necessary to marry that $362,950/year man for a woman to receive a share of that income as child support. At least in Massachusetts, if the two were together for just one night that would be sufficient to generate 23 years of child support payments… which gets back to the original topic of researchers trying to determine a typical woman’s attitude toward a one-night encounter and whether that attitude is affected by evolution (“Darwin”).

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