Exactly how unfaithful were prehistoric women???

Okay so I’m not too good on my time periods. But from a lot of what I’ve read about and watched (Docu’s) on TV, ancient women were sluts.

I remember reading an amateur level psychology textbook that “explained” the “male” urge to spread our (I speak on behalf of my penile-affiliated brothers) seeds all over the place - in short, to “get out and chase those sexy mama’s”. Males were (as it described) instinctively promiscous - increasing the chances that thier genes would spread into the next generation and beyond.

Women, for different reasons, were instinctively monogomous. They wanted to nest, in order to provide for thier young and ensure that thier genes were safeguarded. Hence the “happy homemaker” kebbable.

But another textbook (and several non-related TV programmes) say that this male-promiscous/female-monogomous model is wrong. Apparently, in order to ensure that they could obtain the best sample of genes possible, women slept around. Possibly a hell of a lot. Remember, paternity is difficult to know (without DNA information - and ancient man wasn’t really as adept at exploiting this as he is today). Maternity, on the other hand, well… we all know who the mother is. A potential father wouldn’t risk killing the unborn child in case it was his - but he never really knew. So the mothers got off the hook (or so the story goes).

So anyone wanna take a guess at how often it happened? Obviously we are not talking about the kind of structured-family system that is in place today (husband;wife;mother;father etc.). So how often was it a case that paternity was concealed by a woman in ancient times?

So for example:

Ancient Kathy is sleeping with two men - Kevin and Kulio. Officially (because Kevin is a higher order chieftain and has more resources), she says that it is Kevin’s. But realistically, it is more likely to be Kulio’s. However, Kevin does not know of Kathy and Kulio’s many trysts under the midnight moon.

How often did this happen?

And (the real backburner question), what implications (biological, sociological etc.) does this have for modern man and woman? For example, does it change the way we view or percieve our relationships?

To illustrate this last point, something I remember from the Docu popped in my head (it was also dismissively discussed in American Scientist). It goes that male jeolousy is far more physical (i.e. male show a greater response to an imagined sexual infidelity) whereas for women it is more emotional (women show a greater response to emotional infidelity - her man becoming very close friends with a female collegue at work, for example). This is because whereas the man is attempting to keep other males away from his female vis-a-vis copulative opportunities, a woman doesn’t want her male to invest in any other female’s children. A woman’s priority is her own children.

I’ve been called a simian before, so I guess I’ll venture to increpidate. Lemme put it to you this way: Baboons? Bonobos? Bedbugs? All were nuns compared to the “always-in-season” female human.

Whereas the male urge is to plant as much seed as he possibly can, the female’s urge to care for her much longer-term investment would require a more diversified source of resources (read, many males who think she’s pretty good soil–even if it means they have to leave her a couple bananas).

Marriage is so unnatural–but clearly a male-engineered tool to keep his womenfolk receptive only to his own seed. :smiley:

But this is not what I’ve been reading. It’s not for resources that a woman divulges her lusty appetite, but for want of ever better genes. So if Male A has more resources, but Male B the better genetic predisposition, Sexy Female sleeps with both but ensures she carries B’s children whilst milking A for his resources.

Maybe marriage ain’t that bad for wimmins either.

Of course it’s impossible to tell because we don’t have any pre-historic journals nor do we have the court records from pre-historic paternity cases. With these sorts of questions the only reliable answers we can get is to look at what we presume to be primitive human societies. There is no compelling reason to assume that the first human hunter gatherers would have adopted a different social system to recent hunter gatherers. And far from being terribly promiscuous women and men in these societies are strongly monogamous albeit often in a serial manner. Marital infidelity is considered to be a serous crime and usually results in death for the women involved.

What you need to remember is that for hunter gatherers life is a struggle for at least part of the year or once every several years, which is what limits population. While the life may be good much of the time there will inevitably come droughts or harsh winters in which people will die. During those times pregnant women and young children become more dependant on having males prepared to care for them. While it’s probably correct to suggest that women in all situations have a vested interest in cheating women in HG societies have a vested interest in not cheating because cheating will probably mean death for either them or their children. A man in a time of stress may be prepared to go the extra mile to provide food for a woman pregnant with his child or for a child he believes is his, but if there is even a question mark over the paternity of the child there is much less incentive for him to risk his own life to keep the mother or child alive.

In other Kathy was taking on hell of a risk if she slept around. If she were caught she could be killed. If she wasn’t caught but tribal gossip got back to Kevin that she was being promiscuous she risked her own life and that of all her children when the next bad season came because Kevin would either abandon her and the children or else simply not put in the effort needed to support them.

The other biological factor that needs to be taken into account is the problem of inbreeding. Remember that for most of our history we have lived as small familial tribes of 10 or fewer individuals. Elaborate rituals existed in all HG societies that dictated who could marry whom. That such rituals became universal suggests a strong evolutionary memetic effect. Women who falsify paternity greatly increase the risk of inbreeding because they defeat these cultural safety systems. Kathy may be able to safely commit adultery with Kulio because she is unrelated to Kulio but she can then never reveal that Kulio is the father even when their child has reached puberty. Kulio also has children, and if Kathy and Kulio can safely breed then the tribal tradition will allow for their children to marry. Because prehistoric tribes were so small there is very, very good chance that Kathy’s illegitimate daughter from Kulio will marry Kulios legitimate son: her own half-brother. Marriage is never an option for women in HG societies and although they may be able to choose form the mates available the odds are that there will only be one mate avialable. Often women had no choice of mate. Biologically Kathy has destroyed the biological advantage she risked so much for by getting Kulio’s superior genes by inbreeding those genes with their own half-brother. It’s the prehistoric version of “Shame & Scandal in the Family” but without the ability to tell the kid ’that that girl is you sister and your momma don’t know.’

We don’t really know how common infidelity and falsified paternity is in modern society. Some research has suggested as high as 10%, but that research is very dubious. Even if we accept 10% in this society where realistically there is absolutely no risk of death for cheating mothers that puts an upper bound on prehistoric adultery. For women who would be killed if caught, risked death if even suspected and then had to be party to incest even if they got away with it the incidence would presumably be much lower.

And as you can see the returns are also far lower than the somewhat simplistic model proposed would suggest. It isn’t just a case that women can obtain better genes by cheating. That is true but they risk losing all their previous offspring and their own life if they cheat and the genes aren’t going to be any more successful if the ultimate outcome is incest in the next generation. That changes the situation biologically for both men and women. It’s not just men that have a genetic interest in keeping other males away from their women. Women have an interest in keeping males confined to socially recognised unions to prevent accidental; incest amongst their own children. That means that female jealousy. A woman’s interest is not just her own children it’s also in knowing all the other children are who have been fathered by the same man. And for the same reasons infidelity is not the evolutionary ‘free lunch’ it is often believed to be for men. While it costs a man nothing to be promiscuous this generation it costs him next generation when the legitimate children he invested in are incestuously coupled with their own half-siblings.

WAG but I suspect that falsified paternity amongst prehistoric women was less than 1%.

If you’re out gathering berries and come across a group of men and one in particular takes your fancy (extra hairy? super sized forehead?), and you’re feeling horny, what’s to stop you?
Although this does make me stop and think - the average life expectancy must have been 20ish, I’m at my horniest ever and in my thirties - maybe women weren’t as horny back then?

The problem with that implistic hypothesis inigo is that it relies on the fact that men will only invest in women when they want sex so the best way for a woman to get food is to have sex a lot. Of course that is not true and men invest most of their effort in women in the interests of keeping them happy and presumably faithful and sexually willing. Males also invest in the women vicaripusly via their children. Men provide for wives and kids is basically what it comes down to. Protstitution is a means for a woman to prevent herslf from starvation herself but it has always been a notoriously ineffective way to riase children.
What you say also implies that somehow the two bananas a woman protitutes hereself for are sfiicient comepensation for 9 months prgenancy and 14 years of motherhood. That’s frankly ridiculous. Prostitution is a very poor compensation for maternity. Your scenario relies on a situation as in himpanzees where males contribute nothing to the upbring of the offspring so a ocntribution of 2 bananas is a net gain. That ceased to be the case for the human lineage a million years ago once our large brains and upright posture required underdevleoped slow-growing infants.

Bieng beaten to death? Forcing incest upon your children?

Average life expectancy has nothing to do with it. There are countries today where the average life expectancy is around 30 years and populations with alife expe ctancy of 25. Don’t confuse average life expectancy with genetic lifespan. Life expactancies for most of human history were skewed downards by massive infant mortality.

Is there any actual evidence that this was the reaction to infidelity?
Yeah, I understand life expectance, my point was if women get horny in their 30s now, what was the equivalent time if any, for pre-historic women?

As I’ve already said, we have no direct evidence of anything much about prehistoric humans. That’s why they are called pre-historic. All we can do is look at recent HG societies and make the asumption that they are representative of prehistoric HGs. Tha’s a reasonable assumption. There’s no particular reason to assume that Australian Aborigines or Admananese have changed their culture much in the last 40, 000 years. Wihtin those cultures female promiscuity at least is met with capital punishment or is able to be met with capital punishment.

We can’t know due to a dearth of prheostoric Cosmipolitan back issues. It may well be that women are more sexually recpetive in their thirties now simply because they aren’t having children in their teens. Or maybe that’s the way it’;s always been. It’s not as though teenage women don’t enjoy sex now and wait until their thirties to start.

Horny pre-teens?

Sounds like “horny proteins”…

I know there’s a joke in there somewhere

Blake by memetic did you mean mimetic? If not please elaborate, I am not familiar with the word and cannot make it out.

No, I meant memetic. (http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/MEMEEVOL.html )

In a nutshell there is a theory that humans are capable of evolving culturally as well as biologically. Just as the gene is the fundamental unit of biological evolution so the meme is the fundamental unit of cultural evolution.

People develop cultural ideas (memes) just as we evolve novel genes. And as with genes these memes can either aid or hinder our reproductive success. Those that hinder success are doomed to die out and those that aid success will proliferate, just like genes. And just like genes memes can be transmitted into other populations and spread and they compete one against the other when such spread occurs, just as with genes.

The practical upshot of memetic theory is that any belief that is widespread or ancient is an indication that such a belief has a survival benefit just as is the case for genes.
In this case there exists in all human societies a meme that forbids incest. Someone at some stage someone somewhere developed that idea and implemented it for his tribe. As a result his tribe prospered and spread and the idea was adopted by other tribes. Those tribes that didn’t incorporate such a meme died out because of the deleterious effects of inbreeding.

Yes, I realise there is no way of knowing, I was being facetious. I’m not so sure that we can make these assumptions based on Australian Aborigines or Admananese cultures.

Not much we can do then. As I said we can’t answer the question an other way. That’s all the evidence we have and all the evidence points to one conclusion. Nothing is ever provable but if all the evidence points to a conclusion then that is the only logical position to take. You may doubt it but you should doubt everything.

Got a cite for that?