||May 15, 2008
Female mate choice plays a powerful role in evolution. From fruit flies to humans, the way females choose mates influences how males look and how they behave.
Barnes & Noble.com
Sexual Strategies explores the complexities of the mating game from fruit flies to humans and explains why females are in charge. By determining which males mate and father offspring, females play a directive role in evolution. Fascinating examples reveal the biology underlying courtship, deception, love, and sexual conflict.
Love may be the ultimate ruse in the reproductive game, the grandest trick of all for ensuring that humans produce babies. We say that love makes the world go round, that we can't live without it, that it is the essential ingredient in male-female relationships, that life would be colorless and deficient without it. But all of this is poetry. In the context of evolutionary biology, the key question about love is whether it evolved as an adaptive psychological state.
Biologically, the end point of passionate love seems to be pregnancy, as many an unprepared couple have discovered. Of course, love isn't a prerequisite for copulation or pregnancy. Most of the world's children are born within arranged marriages, not within love matches. The notion that love and marriage "go together like a horse and carriage" is not universal. Throughout history, love has gone together with adultery, not marriage.
This Can't Be Love, I Feel This Evolutionary Spell
...The animal nature of human love and sexuality is the subject of Helen E. Fisher's "Anatomy of Love" and Mary Batten's "Sexual Strategies." The two books have much in common: both take a comparative look at mating as practiced by a broad spectrum of species and human cultures past and present; both are admirably researched and painstakingly footnoted; and both are written by women who take an unapologetically female perspective on their subject. They are fun and sometimes even delightful to read, offering an abundance of fascinating facts new even to somebody well versed in the minutiae of animal courtship behavior.
In "Sexual Strategies," for example, we learn that the male praying mantis, famous for his willingness to endure decapitation by the female during mating, in fact becomes a better lover when he loses his head. "The center of copulatory control in male insects is located in the ganglia of the abdomen, and the brain's role is primarily inhibitory," Ms. Batten writes. Thus decapitation is liberation. "Freed from inhibition, his headless body bends in intense copulatory movements.
(This is an excerpt from a very long review of the 1992 edition by Natalie Angier, The New York Times, November 29, 1992.)
The Passive Female Is Just Another Fantasy
...How many of us remember high school biology classes, ones in which we observed the results of Luther Burbank's sweet pea genetics, dissected fetal pigs and charted the generations of fruit flies? And how many of us came away with the sense that it is the male of any species that drives the engines of reproduction, that females are merely passive participants in the mating game?
In her book, "Sexual Strategies: How Females Choose Their Mates," Los Angeles science journalist Mary Batten demolishes that notion.
(Excerpted from long article by Robin Abcarian, Los Angeles Times.)
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