Did you know that men have evolved to have slightly louder voices than women? Well, it’s true. As a general rule, men will speak at a higher volume than women do, and will tend to dominate more conversations. This is because, in our evolutionary past, it was necessary for men to put in most of the hard work to find mates. Alongside the usual: standing around looking rugged, they also used their mating megaphones (a primitive feature which eventually evolved into the mouth) to shout for female attention. ‘Ugg!’, or what have you – I don’t know, I don’t speak neanderthal, but it was basically a primitive version of ‘hey darling, I am ready to impregnate you in order to further the species! Check out my spaff-packets and make your choice!’ The rest, as they say, is history.
Now, before you start writing me angry letters about how actually neanderthal men communicated by dropping a dead mammoth at the feet of their lover, please understand that I made all of the above up. I mean, obviously.
The initial fact may or may not be true, I don’t know. It sounds maybe a bit plausible, doesn’t it? That men have evolved louder voices? I’ve not checked it, of course, that would take ages. But what I have done is constructed a vaguely plausible story as to why people might have evolved that way, then carefully ignored any facts or examples that might not fit.
Do I win £5?
Crappy evolutionary dating theories
Believe it or not, I get sent quite a few emails from people who have found The Answer when it comes to dating – ‘how to be an alpha male by killing the metaphorical 21st century mammoth’ or what have you. Normally I delete and ignore.
Yesterday’s captured my imagination, though, because it was funnier than the others.
The theory is called ‘Nymphs and Satyrs’ and is based on the idea that there are essentially ‘masculine’ qualities and ‘feminine’ qualities and we are all a combination of some of these things, and the people you will likely match with (for breeding) will be of a complementary type. There are four types because reasons, and those four types are:
- Female (nymph)
- Female (muse)
- Male (satyr) and
- Male (centaur)
It’s sneakily designed to appeal to one of my best fantasies: to be fucked by a man who is also a horse.
Unfortunately, it’s also fully bullshit. Which is a shame, because I quite fancied being a ‘Hot Dancing Nymph’ (as the author of the website said I probably was). What’s a ‘hot dancing nymph’, I hear you cry? I have looked and I can tell you it means I am romantically intense, and that my ‘creative centre of gravity’ is ‘dancing’ which means that next time I am throwing drunk shapes you are not allowed to laugh.
The Nymphs and Satyrs theory is based on some cobbled-together evolutionary theory muddied by some fairly basic cosmology. Once you’ve got your ‘type’ sorted then it will tell you what you’re best suited to, via a combination of Barnum statements and wild generalisations. For example, my ‘hot dancing nymph’ type is described as:
“typically disorganized, messy, and habitually late. They’re terrible with money. Their weight tends to fluctuate, and they’re prone to emotional outbursts. Men often refer to this type of woman as “crazy.”
“When seen in an N&S light, however, the Hot Dancing Nymph’s behavior makes sense. She channels a lot of Feminine energy, and the Feminine is about flow. So, she eschews organization because it impedes flow. In her house, items flow into available space. Her time and money flow freely, without regimentation. Also, she channels so much Feminine energy that its flow can easily become chaotic, which gets expressed as crying, yelling, melting down, etc.”
Most of that’s quite specific, but there are plenty of broad things thrown in to other descriptions which could easily apply to anyone. The feminine ‘warm painting nymph’, for example, ‘feels things deeply’ and also has a figure that ‘will vary from gamine to plump.’
If you’ve heard all the gendered stuff above and wondered ‘is this Complex Theory Of Love only applicable to straight cis couples?’ then you are not alone. I wondered the same thing, and asked the author, to which he replied:
“My gay friends asked me the same thing, but I didn’t feel qualified to comment on LGBT people.”
I’ve paraphrased because I offered him the chance to do a right of reply/direct quote and he declined. When I pushed him, and said that the theory seemed to actively erase/ignore LGBT people, he said:
“It’s about breeding pairs. But also I have mentioned gay people, and they can also be described by one of the 17 erotic types too.”
So he is simultaneously not qualified to offer thoughts on LGBT people, and also offering some thoughts on LGBT people. This, combined with a delightfully reductive view of sex and gender (feminine energy is ‘relationship-oriented’ and ‘flowing’ while masculine energy is ‘independent’ and ‘structured’) naturally raised all of my hackles.
I sent him a link to a neat overview of why the whole ‘male brain versus female brain’ thing isn’t as simple as sexists like to think. He then asked me to disprove his arguments one by one in order for him to take my criticism seriously. I don’t want to do this, because if I did it for every bullshit science thing that lands in my inbox, I would be here until December dissecting Viagra claims. But if you would like to have a look at them, here are a couple of his links (via donotlink).
I should probably stop now because it’s unfair of me to pick too much on him when there are plenty of other people peddling similarly awful ideas on how to be the best at dating and relationships – if it were just one person I wouldn’t bother writing about it, but there is a LOT of this stuff out there.
Is any given dating theory bullshit?
Maybe it would be nice to have a neat scientific system which told us exactly how to live life in order to achieve the greatest success. A set of ‘Rules’ we could follow, for instance, or a ‘Game’ we could play where the outcome was guaranteed as long as you follow the steps correctly. Getting laid is hard, being in love is hard. Deciding whether you want to do those things, and if so how and with whom – it’s all REALLY REALLY HARD.
But, as with science, so with relationships: just because something’s hard doesn’t mean you get to make up a system based on What You Reckon and then tell everyone that’s how it works. Even great evolutionary biologists will scratch their heads if you ask them (which I have, many times, probably to their annoyance) if there’s any truth in evolutionary theories of dating: most likely their answer will be “it’s far more complicated than that.” Because, while evolution naturally has a place in how we behave, human interaction is far more complex than ‘Ugg make baby.’
- Why did this person do X or Y, while another person did Z?
- What gives this person a higher sex drive than that person, in this specific scenario?
- Why are some people monogamous and others polyamorous?
- Why are we all so DIFFERENT OH GOD CAN’T WE ALL JUST BE THE SAME HEADSMASH?
These are all interesting questions, and it’s likely that – when applied to individuals – the answer will involve a far more interesting story than just ‘well she’s a Hot Nymph and he’s a Horseman and naturally their chemistry means that they were destined to end up building IKEA furniture together,’ because alongside evolutionary drivers we also have society and culture and individual features and all that stuff. Like the brilliant parodies Dean Burnett writes in the Guardian, in which he gives men and women ‘scientific tips’ on how to attract a mate, most of these dating theories rely on taking one piece of information (or a single isolated study), and applying it willy-nilly regardless of other factors.
Bottom line – dating ‘theories’ like this one are similar (in substance as well as method of argument) to those of almost any pseudoscience. They sound plausible, and they tell a fun story, but the truth is far more complicated, and a hell of a lot more interesting. While it might seem nice if we had all the answers, I think the individual challenge is actually a pretty good thing: after all if I’m going to fuck a centaur, I want to feel like I’ve really worked for it.