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Following is my response to Dennis Mangan’s post on a previous comment of mine to another post of his (tracking?) where I raised objections to the putatively transformative power of game. Unfortunately, I’m more than a fortnight too late and the thread is dead, but as many readers were involved in it at Mangan’s, it’s worth reproducing here. Also, it helps clarify my line of reasoning. Brackets are additions I made after proofing.

Man, I have to get back to following the RSS feeder, but as of late I’ve gotten so far behind that I devote an open evening to catching up on a month’s worth of output from my favorite bloggers. Being several weeks late to the discussion is the frustrating consequence.


TGGP’s response does not require further iteration, but it might be clarifying nonetheless.

Unless the purpose of an analysis is to find out the behavior of 54 year old married men in 1998, that a sample only contains eight married men aged 54 in 1998 is immaterial. If it were otherwise, Gallup and Rasmussen would have to obtain sample sizes at every age (and where to draw the line? By year? By month? By week?) sufficiently large enough to reach a margin of error +/- 3% for each specific age category. But when Gallup reports on President Obama’s approval rating, it is presenting the sentiments of a much broader swath of the population (adults 18 and over, likely voters, etc). [Your line of criticism is only relevant if Gallup is claiming that approval for Obama has dropped significantly since his inauguration among those aged 26 years and four months.]

To someone immersed in the quantitative side of the Steveosphere, this is intuitively obvious. I do not mean to be condescending, but you really should stop trying to float such a silly argument against the validity of the GSS.


The pattern is the same for men. The fewer the number of sexual partners he has had, the more fecund he tends to be, so long, of course, as he has at least one (in Roissy’s terminology, alphas aren’t in the evolutionary septic tank, omegas are. But betas are faring best of all).

Re: humans being progressively selected for monogamy, Thursday nails it:

The 80% of women reproduce while only 40% of men do stat is only accurate over the entire history of humans. It’s not what is happening today or what has happened over the past few centuries.

The majority of males who have historically not procreated have also had very little, if any, sex. Polygyny was something our ancestors saw first hand much more than we do today. We might be sliding backwards–hell, we seem to be on so many other fronts, after all–but it is the general hysteria surrounding such putatively seismic shifts that I find tiresome. [According to data from the GSS, currently among those aged 50 and over–essentially having written the final chapter in their procreative stories–89% of women and 86% of men have at least one child. The vast majority of men are passing their genes on to offspring, something many paleolithic men were not fortunate enough to experience.]

The shift toward greater levels of monogamy–and more egalitarian sexual access for men–presumably started to kick into high gear with settled agriculture. The resulting selection pressures probably shouldn’t be separated from the larger 10,000 Year Explosion phenomenon. [As female choice has increasingly come to dominate human sexual relations–again something far removed from chimps, where the lowliest male socially outranks the highest-status female–so has more inclusive monogamy (serial, not necessarily lifelong) increasingly come to gain ground at the expense of winner-take-all polygamy.]

Also, I do not argue that Roissy or the game narrative are fundamentally incorrect, just overblown. And it’s not Roissy’s fault. His expectations for the benefits greater self-assuredness bring strike me as accurate based on my own personal experience–on the 1-10 scale, it’ll allow most guys to reach about a point higher than they were previously able to, depending on where they’re starting from.

Generally, n/a is not “on my side”. When he does drop by, it’s to kick my ass for some wrongly held working presumption I’m holding at the time. He’s worth paying attention to.

[GSS variables used: CHILDS, YEAR(2000-2008), AGE(50-89), SEX(1)(2)]

(Republished from The Audacious Epigone by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Blogosphere, Game, Gender, GSS, Sex 
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  1. bgc says: • Website

    Regarding evolutionary history – my increasing impression is that for humans, differential reproductive success in the past was more a matter of death rates than birth rates.

    I began to realize this after reading Greg Clark's Farewell to Alms, and have found it confirmed elsewhere.

    Reproductive success is roughly the same as number of offspring surviving to adult life. It seems likely that low status men and women had, on average, no surviving children for much of human history – they will have had children, but none survived to reproduce (and of those that manage to reproduce, their children were likely to fail).

    For at least some periods of human history, approximately all the surviving children were offspring of relatively high status men – in Clark's data on the Middle Ages it was the middle class (not upper class) men who were populating the future England.

    BTW being a high status man in Clark's terms has nothing to do with game – it is a matter of intelligence and hard work – the ability to be a good provider: otherwise the offspring would die. And – probably – higher intelligence in women enabled them to have a higher chance of raising kids to adulthood.

    SO, the take home point is that probably for most of world history (and likely for recent agricultural societies) death rates were more important than birth rates, and survival of offspring more important than sexiness.

    What I infer from this, is that humans are not necessarily well adapted to current situations, and there may not be any adaptive reason for current behaviour.

    I also would like to bring in the point that a lot of modern day sexual decisions are made under the influence of alcohol, which also wipes-out adaptive behaviour (humans evolved to make adaptive decisions when sober, not when delirious). Perhaps this is yet another explanation why the most reproductively successful US population are Mormons, who don't use alcohol.

  2. I'm one of the guys who generally defends "Game" although I don't really preach it from the rooftops, but the number you gave concerning, what, 86% of males leaving behind at least one child was vexing. I did not realize it was so high. That number sort of takes the sting out of the 'womb scarcity myth' and the supposed dysgenic effects wrought by losing beta provider genes. If anything, having 86% of males breeding, instead of the top 40 or 50 or 60% or whatever might entail dysgenesis itself.

    Anecdotally, I have a 3rd cousin who should in no way leave behind offspring–he is a pathetic, overweight, mentally ill, chronically depressed schlub, yet he has a child, but of course the mother left a long time ago and they were never married. With guys like this having children, is it really a good thing?

  3. I also would like to bring in the point that a lot of modern day sexual decisions are made under the influence of alcohol, which also wipes-out adaptive behaviour (humans evolved to make adaptive decisions when sober, not when delirious).

    Does it wipe out adaptive behaviour?

    My comment is here:

  4. I do think that Mangan has a point in that while betas reproduce at higher rates, that doesn't refute the idea that a few alphas are currently having a wildly disproportionate percent of the sex.

  5. I've been musing about changes in mortality here.

    Mind Hacks noted an interesting effect of alcohol here. I think for people other than hunter-gatherers that really can't handle liquor, we've got some adaptations to deal with it.

  6. the idea that a few alphas are currently having a wildly disproportionate percent of the sex

    That may be so, but does it really matter? Having a huge number of sex partners doesn't automatically confer happiness. If anything, it may do the opposite.


  7. bgc says: • Website

    @Thursday and TGGP – the adaptations to deal with alcohol, in cultures that have been exposed to it over many generations, are mainly a matter of not binge-drinking oneself to death (because the people who tended to do that didn't leave behind many descendents, and the 'binge susceptibility genes' were thereby greatly reduced in frequency).

    The adaptations to alcohol are surely _very_ unlikely to include evolution of the ability of women to make good mating decisions when in a state of significant intoxication.

    Anyway, clearly there are no such adaptations, because drunk women _obviously_ don't make good mating decisions!

    My point is that it seems that getting drunk on an evening out and picking up men is now part of standard behaviour for more women than before (including attractive young women would could easily afford to be choosy), and this factor is likely to have a significant influence on their choice of sexual partners (and indeed the likelhood of whether or not they have sex).

    Women who are stone cold sober are much less likely to behave promiscuously – due to a powerful evolutionary legacy which makes women the 'choosy sex' (ref the classic work of Robert Trivers on parental invenstment).

    It seems modern women don't so uniformly behave in such a choosy manner as evolutionary theory would predict (and these short term mating choices may also be made on different grounds from a sober woman's long term mating choices). If so this would, I suggest, partly be due to being their so often being intoxicated.

    Of course getting intoxicated is itself a matter of choice.

    SO – modern women are often choosing to get intoxicated SO THAT they will therefore be more likely to have sex, and make short termist choices when they do.

    The thing that needs understanding is why women would want to do such a foolish thing!

  8. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Game is like working out. Not everyone will benefit from it equally. Not everyone even has the willpower to begin. But it is real and useful.

    As for n/a, he is the kind of person who thinks being an asshole is a good argument. I have yet to see him write something insightful. At his best he will repost a paper that he barely understands. Reminds of none so much as MX Rienzi, the swarthy lab tech.

  9. Your evidence that the mating game hasn't changed recently is numbers from people born 50+ years ago?

  10. bgc:

    "The adaptations to alcohol are surely _very_ unlikely to include evolution of the ability of women to make good mating decisions when in a state of significant intoxication.

    Anyway, clearly there are no such adaptations, because drunk women _obviously_ don't make good mating decisions!"

    Women when drunk may make different mate choices but they're not random choices (which would be maladaptive). Here's what I've been able to dig up with a cursory search through google scholar:

    Drunk women are less able to detect asymmetry. Ok, so basically let's simplify that to "are less able to discern good looking from less good looking". What's left that women really care about? What other trait is right up there in short term mating decisions? Yep, dominance. Since women are still women and have to pick from among multiple suitors, a drunk chick will weight dominance more highly than otherwise. Ie, drunk chicks will be even less likely to mate with beta provider types, who, at best, have looks and stability to offer. By drinking she's trying to make sure she doesn't go home with a provider.

  11. A lot of white people don't seem to be able to mate at all without alcohol. Men aren't able to approach and women aren't able to let go of their inhibitions. Choosiness in women isn't any good if you don't mate at all, so alcohol use may have been adaptive in getting otherwise conservative people to mate.

  12. I am a teetotaler, and I don't want a dominant alpha as a short term partner. I want one as a permanent partner. I am a strange creature it seems.

  13. bgc says: • Website

    @Steve Johnson: "Drunk women are less able to detect asymmetry. … to discern good looking from less good looking". What's left that women really care about? … Yep, dominance."

    This is likely in the sense that a drunk woman will only be likely to have sex with a man who approaches her and 'asks' for sex; but she is in no position whatsoever to establish whether this man is truly dominant wrt other men (ie. high in status in a field valued by women and where there is real competition).

    So drunk sex is very likely to be a maladaptive choice for women by real life 'sober' criteria – as seems obvious.

    'Game' helps diffident men to get more sex by encouraging them to take advantage of drunk women.

    Is there any wonder that people with a solid moral sense find Game utterly obnoxious?

  14. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Drunk women are less able to detect asymmetry. Ok, so basically let's simplify that to "are less able to discern good looking from less good looking".

    Alcohol more often works in the other direction. There's nothing like "beer goggles" to make unattractive women look desirable.


  15. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    womens' perceived peer pressure can even get women to make themselves ugly (e.g. the recent fashion for tatoos and eyebrow/ lip/ tongue piercing – which are objectively ugly to men by ineradicable evolved citeria)

    Unfortunately, the Hideous Pedophilic Bald Eagle is immensely desirable to both men and women, which is why it's become all but universal among women 🙁


  16. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Sounds like alcohol may be beneficial from an evolutionary stanpoint after all, as it lets ugly people settle for one another, and every once in a while, thanks to beer googles, a person who far outranks the other on the attractiveness scale, might be willing to slide down the scale quite a bit. Perhaps alcohol is actually good for the beta, letting poor white women bear their touch, when normally they would flee.

  17. No one has mentioned cuckoldry yet. Obviously this is difficult to estimate with any accuracy, but I think we can safely assume that it is betas that are being cuckolded. So the number for men is most likely overstated, widening the gap between the sexes.

  18. TGGP,

    Mortality and fitness are nearly as close to being antonyms as they are to being synonyms in the contemporary first world.


    Without any attempt to control for marital status, wealth, intelligence, happiness, etc, I took a peak at the GSS item on general happiness by number of female partners since 18 among men aged 25-40 (2000-2008 only for relevance). The higher the score, the happier the guys.

    0 women — 1.80
    1 woman — 1.70
    2-5 women — 1.74
    6-10 women — 1.84
    11-20 women — 1.80
    21+ women — 1.87

    One SD is .62, so each group reports pretty similar levels of happiness. Being with more women is very modestly associated with higher self-reported happiness, but there is no confidence as to causation from this quick check.


    No, I've looked at procreation and fecundity among men and women of all ages and races/ethnicities from the turn of the century onward. The fewer the partners (as long as there is at least one), the higher the fertility. Also, I've looked at the number of partners young women have had over time and found that the story has pretty much been steady as she goes, although the 2008 data show a pretty substantial spike which might have been noise or may be the first signs of a real sea change.


    How quixotic to want to anchor the unachorable. You're what, 27? You're a time bomb, baby. If you want his genes, better let him get you pregnant, even if he doesn't stick around.


    Very thought provoking discussion regarding alcohol's influence on sexual behavior. Thanks for it.


    Great data-driven post at Roissy's. Nice to see that from time to time. I plan on a complementary post in reponse.

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