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Sunday, January 15, 2012

The long, slow sexual revolution

PLOS Blogs has a LONG blog series about the LONG SLOW SEXUAL REVOLUTION (with video too)

The long, slow sexual revolution (part 1) with nsfw video
from PLOSblogs

A while back, Bora Zivkovic directed me (well, …all his Facebook followers) to the word, ‘sapiosexuality’: the tendency to become ‘attracted to or aroused by intelligence and its use’ (thanks, Bora!).

Ironically, although the term may be a bit of a joke, the idea that intelligence is a species-specific aphrodisiac has more than a shred of evolutionary plausibility. Moreover, ‘sapiosexuality’ is a crucial point of reference in the contemporary discussion of human sexual selection, especially to break the stranglehold that Victorian social mores and sexist assumptions have on popular understandings of human sexual evolution.

I was reminded of the term ‘sapiosexuality’ after teaching my annual introductory course on human evolution. Student evaluations are in, and over and over again, student comments lead me to think that, in order to change popular understandings of evolution, we need not simply better data, but also better stories. Especially when tired, old tropes are repeatedly trotted out again in a popular discussion of how ‘evolution’ has shaped ‘human nature,’ even when the data is showing the opposite, we should wonder if evidence alone can ever overturn rusted on bad interpretations.

Jason Antrosio makes a similar point about the need for new metaphors in his post, The Tangled Bank: Old metaphors for new evolutionary understandings. I believe Jason is right. Pernicious evolutionary narratives cannot be displaced by facts alone: to replace a story, you need a competing story. Specifically, in this series of columns, I’ll discuss a contender that might displace the man-the-promiscuous-horny-hunter/woman-the-choosy-chaste-gatherer chestnut (if for no other reason, to try to head off too many more Ed Rybicki short ‘comedy’ pieces like ‘Womanspace’).

I believe that a story we might title, ‘the long, slow sexual revolution,’ does a better job of foregrounding the most important salient facts about human sexual selection and evolution. The opportunity I’m taking to discuss this alternative narrative is a documentary series that you can watch most of online where I got to try out this framing, and it seemed to work (as it also worked in my evolution class).

To read more go here!

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