Female Choice — Evolutionary sexuality patterns and how they shaped our civilisation

Numerous crises rattle the world — capitalism is questioned like never before, minorities stand up and speak for their rights in fierce determination, nature is crippled by an economy that knows only expansion, only growth. And women are facing more male violence than ever. The latter seems to be only one of several more or less unrelated problems, but I’m here to show you that the relationship between men and women is the key to all of civilization’s tremors. In February of 2021, my book “Female Choice — On the rise and fall of the male civilization” (“Female Choice — Vom Anfang und Ende der männlichen Zivilisation”) was released in Germany. It received a lot of attention, and I was repeatedly asked for an English version, which doesn’t yet exist, so I’ll try to summarize my theories here. (Please be patient with me as my English is a little rusty.)

I’m a biologist, and even though I’m not working in science anymore, I spent a significant amount of my life trying to understand the complex interactions between species and individuals. Evolution is my key interest because most of these interactions are explainable through natural and sexual selection. Evolution’s only goal is to produce individuals with high chances of survival and reproduction. Thus, all living creatures’ existence (with some exceptions in humans, obviously) follows two main priorities: self-preservation (i.e. surviving predators, finding food and water etc.) and procreation (mating with a partner with whom offspring is likely to survive to adulthood).

Let’s talk about sex — female choice and male competition

Since the relationship between the two heterosexual genders is strongly influenced by sexuality, we have to start there to understand how our civilization and its current crises are linked to it. However, before we go there, let me say something about gender diversity. Even though I will talk mainly about the binary concept of male/female, so-called cis-men and -women, I know that there’s more to gender than just a uterus or testicles. Not only is our understanding of gender shaped by cultural influences, but several biological (i.e. physical) factors lead to what we see as typical male/female. For example, chromosomes, prenatal testosterone, and post-natal hormone levels have a massive impact on our sexual identity and orientation. So please keep in mind that the lack of diverse genders in this text does not mean that I deny their existence; I simply focus on evolutionary sexual behaviour that depends on just two complementary genders.

Let’s begin with sexuality in its raw, animalistic, evolutionary form. Yes, now comes the juicy part with the bees and the birds. Sexual reproduction throughout the entire animal kingdom shows some very persistent patterns with only a few exceptions.

  • One gender gets pregnant and one gender impregnates. Typically, the gender that gets pregnant is the female.

Getting impregnated and having only a few precious eggs means that procreation is way more expensive and risky for females. Until egg deposition or birth, the offspring lives on its mother’s physical resources. Besides, giving birth and nursing young puts the mother at high risk of complications and predation. When mating, much more is at stake for females than for males. If he wastes his sperm on an unsuitable (i.e. inexperienced) female, who cannot raise offspring, he loses an ejaculation, nothing more. In theory, he can try it again with a more competent female a few hours later. A female who wastes her egg cell(s) to an unsuitable male loses one reproductive cycle and gives birth to young people who will likely die before they get to procreate themselves. The higher risk in females leads to entirely different mating behaviours in the two genders. Sloppily spoken, the male has to hook up with as many females as possible, while the female has to fob off as many males as possible. Females are choosy; males are indiscriminate. Imaginative biologists call this opposed mating behaviour “sexual conflict”.

The sexual conflict appears in several features, but the main characteristic of the conflict is the difference in male and female sex drive. In most species, female interest in sexual activity is restricted to the so-called estrus’s short fertile period. So no ovulation, no sex, female sexuality is mainly reproductive. The male, however, is interested in sexual encounters almost all the time. The time frame in which the females are fertile and ready to mate is so short that males live in a permanent stand-by mode. The risk to miss that short time frame would be immense if the males were sex poopers, too. So males offer their cheaply produced sperm to every female who might be interested.

The fact that males of most species are persistently trying to make sexual contact with females and females almost always reject these attempts is no fallacy of the reproduction system — it is the system.

Needless to say that the competition for sexual encounters is on the male side. They have to convince the choosy females that their genetic material will produce viable offspring. This fundamental principle of sexual reproduction is called female choice (FC). The kind of performance males have to deliver differs from species to species. Singing and dancing are very popular among females, but also fighting and wrestling with competitors. The females typically watch the spectacle from a distance and choose their mate. The male has the trouble, and the female enjoys the show. Sometimes, FC is not visible at first sight. For example, a male lion, who takes over a pride of females and their young, seems to force himself upon them, but in fact, he has the work of winning over his predecessor to gain the right to mate with the lionesses.
Species where several adult males live together have a strict male hierarchy that controls the individual’s access to mating. But more often than not, a group has only one dominant male who guards one or more females and their offspring. As a result, male youngsters that enter puberty will be driven away by him or their mothers. The male autocrat is a principle deeply rooted in evolution. As is aggressive assertiveness — every male is fighting for their own, no male is willing to risk his chance to mate by cooperating with other males — egotism is an evolutionary formula of success.

The ugly consequences of an opposed sexuality

Everything about FC sounds like a bad joke, but what really makes it difficult to swallow is the uneven access to sex/reproduction for males. As a rule of thumb, 80% of the females are interested in only 20% of the males: the beautiful ones, the strong ones, the intelligent, healthy, and skilful ones — the so-called alpha males (since the term is pretty contaminated by certain ideological groups, I’ll call them premium or high-quality males or men from now on). This leads to a majority of males who don’t find a partner. Sometimes they’re just too young, and ageing will favour them in the future, but some are so unattractive for females that they die without offspring.

These underprivileged males are a significant challenge for every species because they tend to take out their frustration on others. Sexual violence occurs throughout the animal kingdom as well as non-sexual violence. These males roam aggressively, bullying young, harassing females, violating carcasses. Yes, they’re definitely not a part of a population you’d want to mess with. If that’s your kind of kink, you can search the internet and will find tons of vids of males who force their sexual pressure even onto other species: chimpanzees on frogs, sea elephants on penguins, otters (yes, the cute ones) on seal babies, macaques on sika deer. However, the evolutionary goal to produce viable offspring limits male violence towards sexually mature females because violence would increase the risk to injure the female — and thus, reduce the chance to produce viable offspring. Even though mating aggression occurs, it’s not as common as in humans.

Throughout the animal kingdom, males have developed different alternative mating strategies to increase their chance to mate at least once in their lifetime. The variety of alternatives is too broad to list them all here, but the main thing is this: in many species, non-premium males find ways to bring females to mate with them, so that not only the typical premium males procreate, but also a portion of the lesser attractive ones.

Most of the physical features accompanying FC are clearly present in humans: limited egg cells, limited fertility, risky pregnancy, and delivery. But most uncomfortable are the other features: the differences in sex drive between the genders, the differences in choosing mates, and — maybe most important — the uneven access to sex partners for males. Numerous studies worldwide indicate that women do indeed have a lower sexual appetite and are more restrictive in choosing with whom to have sex. In addition, scientists have discovered that modern humanity has twice as many female than male ancestors, meaning that more women than men reproduced.

All these findings allow the assumption that our sexuality roughly follows the rules of FC — at least in a pre-cultural state. The sociological discourse tends to explain most human patterns with solely cultural causes, e.g. the immense suppression of female sexuality. While I absolutely agree that man-made sex morals shame, inhibit, and intimidate female sexuality — sometimes to a degree where it leaves nothing but a functional stump of a once strong and vivid instinct — I want to add a complementing explanation why these cultural oppressions emerged in the first place to overcome these oppressions. Bear with me; we’ll get there. So the next step would be to find out why we’re not living like our mammal colleagues, with women in total control of their bodies and their sexual desires.

From FC nomads to monogamous farmers — money makes the world all-male

Before humans lived in settled agricultural communities, they roamed the earth as hunters and gatherers. They followed large animal herds, which provided them with food and work materials. Even though there was a division of labour, both genders lived egalitarian because both contributed to the group’s survival in their own way. Women gathered a significant amount of vegetarian food for the group, while men hunted for meat. Judging from the few hunter/gatherer tribes still existing today, FC was probably in full effect with women or their mothers arranging relationships. The men most desirable were skilled and successful hunters. Women gave birth every three to four years (in mammals, ovulation typically pauses until the end of lactation/breastfeeding) and chose a new partner after that time. When the children were old enough, the whole group took care of them. The reason why the early male nomads didn’t oppress women in the same way later settled cultures did was the lack of: a) personal property and b) private households.

Depending on the local climate, social life took place under the blue sky, with the preparation of food, tools etc., being a social activity. Except for a few personal items — an occasional flute or necklace here and there — there was no male property. Food, water, and all other resources necessary for survival belonged to everyone in the group. Living in temporary dwellings with much together time means there’s no privacy as the western world would define it. Individuals owned no private homes, let alone men. Now one must know that private homes owned by men are the pre-condition for excessive violence against women because, in his four walls, there’s no social corrective. What kept frustrated men further in check was the extremely energy-consuming fight for mere survival, the roaming, and the hunting expeditions. To put it simply: men had to work so hard not to starve or freeze to death that they couldn’t spend much time reflecting upon their sexual frustration.

All of that changed when people mastered agriculture. The so-called neolithic revolution started about 10.000 BC in the south-eastern Mediterranian, but it took at least 2–3000 years to live in permanent settlements and be able to produce enough food all year round. That seems like a long time, but on evolution’s scale, it was fast as lightning. Only the smartest men could deal with the fast-changing environment, which led to a grim selection by women. A genetic study showed that the ugly 80:20 ratio of FC shifted to a gruesome 95:5 when the farmer culture arrived in Europe. The early settlers had to deal with a new way of living and a significant number of frustrated men. And human males, men, tend to react to frustration just like most other species: aggressively. They become violent towards other men and more often towards women, children, and minorities that they see as inferior. The social conflicts caused by unpartnered men posed a threat to settled communities. They needed solutions to appease these men and to distribute women more evenly.

Property was the game-changer. The strong We of the nomadic group became an even stronger I. Men claimed the fields, the houses, the cattle, and the patriarch was born. Since all these resources were needed to raise a child, children were assigned to their father’s household. Basically, the male household was treated like a territory held by one man. And since in mammals, a child can’t survive without its mother, the women followed them into the isolation of the private household. Now that the community no longer assisted a woman with her children, her world narrowed to being a mother. Her workload increased dramatically, and the range of her possible activities decreased. But that wasn’t enough to establish the men’s reign over women. Still, the women chose the wealthiest man with the biggest property because only he could provide enough food for the offspring. So the biological premium male, a strong, healthy, fit, naturally selected, and intelligent individual was replaced by a cultural premium man, who just owns stuff he inherited from his father because, of course, heritage is patrilinear.

Men had to make sure that women were distributed evenly among men to appease the enormous amount of frustrated men. But whenever a woman chooses freely, she will probably select a premium man based on her evolutionary mating instincts. So the only way to re-distribute women was as brutal as effective: men took women’s free choice. They came up with the institution of marriage. This formal construct gives authorities access to people’s sexuality and a man access to a woman. This frame allows to alter lawfully and even punish natural sexual behaviour of both genders. Legal texts as old as 4400 years show how authorities formed — or should I say mal-formed — natural sexual instincts and desires, most of them favouring either the husband or the high-status men at the top of the settlement who had a massive interest in maximizing their wealth and power.

Since the man was the head of the family, he could decide what to do with his daughters — and that’s precisely what he did. The solution to getting rid of the problematic 95:5 mating ratio was child marriage. Girls as young as twelve to fourteen were married to a much older man her father chose. Dowry and bride price were linked to the status of both the groom and the bride’s family and thus, ensured that fathers could only marry their daughters to grooms of the same status. That erased the problem that everyone wanted only to marry the wealthy, high-status men. Thus, generation by generation, more and more men gained access to women, even the less desirable men — until the mating ratio was almost 1:1. Marriage helped to distribute women evenly, but now they had to be prevented from leaving their husbands. Remember that the evolutionary birthing rhythm of three to four years leads to women even losing sexual interest in a self-chosen partner. That probably applied even more so to a man they didn’t choose themselves.

Owning a house, land, and cattle was nice and all, but to make absolutely sure that their women couldn’t leave just like that, men needed a magic ingredient that gave them so much power that no woman would ever dream of leaving them. That magic ingredient was money. Yes, you read right — money. Nowadays, we treat money just like a mammoth in a different form. In the old days, the man provided for his family by going hunting, and nowadays, he goes to his office and brings back a paycheck. But that is wrong. Money is an artificial resource; it gives goods artificial worth, it establishes artificial hierarchies with artificial premium men at the top. And it was absolutely essential to not only survive in the new settlements but also to become a worthy member of society. Those who couldn’t earn money ended up outside that society. And now comes the big bang, the war-deciding step that put women worldwide in the chains they would need millennia to slowly get rid of. Men invented money, a resource crucial to surviving in the new world order of settled farms and ban women from earning and possessing that resource. That is so evil genius that it makes every James Bond villain look like a harmless kindergarten boy.

Sex is obligatory in a marriage, and rape is considered a crime against a woman’s husband or father, not against her. The legal texts of the ancient world provided many reasons to decrease a man’s guilt when raping a woman. Was she a slave or a free woman? Was she already promised to a man? Was she still a virgin? Was she alone when the crime happened or were there people around? These questions decided whether a rapist was guilty or not. But in all cases, the right to demand punishment was restricted to the victim’s father/husband, not her. Rape culture was part of the male civilization right from the start because the male legislation showed sympathy for a man under sexual pressure. No wonder: the men who made the laws knew what it’s like to feel that pressure.

Men were obliged to provide for legal children, i.e. children that were born inside a marriage. This obligation is the primary source of the myth that the life-long marriage is a deal that benefits the women, too. But bear in mind that the woman didn’t choose her husband and that she was forced into 100% dependence by men. The discrimination between legitimate and illegitimate offspring — in itself a deeply androcentric concept — brought up a sinister threat for the women. Getting pregnant was no longer a naturalness but an event judged by a society founded on male interests. Only a traditional marriage would make sex safe; getting pregnant without a paying husband would lead to poverty, dishonour, and a life at the bottom of the societal order. Women began to fear their own sexuality, which includes getting pregnant, and started to look for ways to end an illegitimate pregnancy.

Now, the woman was endlessly tied to the man her father chose. She had nothing and was nothing. Women stood under the custody of men, first their fathers, then their husbands. She was helpless in the world men created, and the fear of misery kept her in her place. Since she couldn’t prevent getting pregnant after sex, she had no measures at hand to change her fate as an anonymous mother hidden in her husbands home. Now men could put all sorts of pressure onto women, knowing that they would obey. And that’s what they did: they began to demand beauty from women and thus, even increasing the female self-hate, self-fear, self-distance. Women learned that they have to work on themselves to be worthy of marriage. The biological female choice that ensured the evolutionary success of a species became a cultural “male choice“ that simply made cosmetic alterations to women without any evolutionary benefit.

The modern world

That’s it. That’s the civilization made by men based on their male interests, reducing women to give birth to (legitimate, male) offspring, provide sexual relief for their husbands, and live their life humbly and gratefully in the dependency men created for them. One could even call the whole civilization an alternative mating strategy since its main goal is to overcome the nasty female choice and give undesirable men a chance to reproduce. This system, the male civilization, was efficient as hell. It started in the south-eastern Mediterranian and moved westwards like a bushfire (bushfire, of course, still means thousands of years). Migration, trading, and military expansion brought it to ancient Greece and Rome, the two empires that became the most influential forces of the ancient world. They are the blueprint of western democracies and serve as fundaments of western philosophy, science, religion, and art. Every generation of men slightly refined the system, adding, for example, monotheistic religion. But the basic principle — the oppression of female choice — was never touched. Women in ancient Rome lived the same disenfranchised life (with some minor improvements) as, for example, Babylonian women roughly 3000 years earlier. Monotheistic religions, foremost Christianity and Islam, provided extra to keep women from protesting their treatment.

The basic principles of this male civilization endure millennia. The fundament and the structures are so efficient that it’s almost impossible for women to change anything about it. Beauty standards for women worldwide still apply to this very day, some of them even dangerous for the woman’s health and well-being. Women still have less property/money than men. Women still have fewer possibilities to actively influence the world because they have less access to education. “Illegitimate“ children still lead to many hardships for single mothers. In Germany, almost 50% of single moms are dependant on state welfare because fathers can’t or don’t want to pay for their children. Rape culture is as vivid as it has always been. Rape victims have to face society’s suspicion that they provoked the attack or even wanted it. Male rapists hardly ever get punished as strict as the law would allow.

Even though occasionally a woman stands out of the crowd, becomes influential, and is noted by male history, the vast majority of women sink into the ocean of nameless mothers. Only in the late 18th century, feminism started to emerge. But without the ability to safely prevent or abort unwanted pregnancies, women’s possibilities were very limited. Another 250 years would pass before that changed. Hormonal contraception, the pill, eventually gave women control over their uteruses. For the first time in history, women can decide whether and when to have a baby. They win years of their life to spend on their own interests, find out who they are, and experience themselves as individuals not bound to their biological ability to give birth. For the first time in history, women are humans, not vessels for male sperm. As soon as they discover the overwhelming power that gives them, they stand up to grimly fight for their share in designing the world. This first generation of women freed from automatic motherhood sees the opportunity and seizes it. They’re the true Amazones of this story.

But what are the consequences of the invention of the pill for the male society? If oppression of female sexuality was the pre-condition to build such a thriving and fast-expanding civilization, one would assume that ending this oppression leads to major problems. And it does.

In the western world, where the liberation process for women is well advanced compared to other countries, women’s dating behaviour shows that they are slowly regaining their female choice instincts. Statistics on divorces show that in most cases the woman ends a relationship and that she does so shortly after the natural birthing cycle of three to four years with a peak in divorces after six years. Since our society and sex morals highly promote the life-long, sexually loyal relationship, most couples stick together when sexual problems occur, explaining the difference between the birthing rhythm and the actual divorce. Numerous studies on long-term relationships show that it’s almost always the woman who loses sexual interest in her partner while the man continues to desire his female partner. Furthermore, tons of data taken from online dating platforms paint the same picture: women are choosy, men are indiscriminate. While most men would date any woman who is willing, most women are only looking for the special men (note the word “most“, this doesn’t mean that all men and women act this way). Moreover, countries with highly developed women rights indicate that more and more men remain childless. Norway, for example, is a very feministic country, where women are paid fairly, and public childcare is good, so women don’t end up in economic dependency as much as in other countries. If there’s a place on earth where we can observe a return of female choice, it’s there. And indeed: over the last 30 years, the number of childless men has increased significantly, from 14 to a whopping 23%, while childlessness in women hardly changed (from 10 to 12%). When women return to their natural, biological, evolutionary sexual instincts, a growing portion of men remains without partners and children.

And that is precisely the point where we can make a huge leap to the civilization crises I mentioned at the beginning. Most progressive movements are supported by women and diverse genders, while conservative parties receive much applause from men. That’s no coincidence — it’s because these progressive movements settle a score with the male civilization. They’re rightfully accusing the civilization of oppressing and exploiting women, minorities, and underprivileged people, for destroying the planet in an endless pursuit to increase rich men’s wealth and power. They’re rightfully pointing their fingers at the fact that this world is created by and for men and thus, favours typical male physical and psychological characteristics while devaluing all others. And men feel offended by that. They feel like they’re treated unjustly.

Even though many men suffer under a ruthless capitalistic hierarchy, too, they refuse to admit that this system sucks big time. And so they’re opposing progressive movements. Instead, they vote for autocratic leaders and thus, significantly contribute to the rising of right to far-right politics. They cultivate misogyny because feminism messed up what worked for thousands of years from their point of view. That it only worked for men, and only through coercing women to have sex with men they would have never chosen as free women doesn’t matter. Many men feel that feminism is a threat to their lives. They unify in misogynistic groups, the so-called manosphere, and cover the world with blunt hatred against women. And they don’t stop at voting — parts of the manosphere are willing and ready to use violence. Killing sprees aimed mainly at women are on the rise. The incel ideology is fiercely determined to stuff female freedom, mainly sexual freedom, back into the goddam box the pill has opened. Sexually frustrated men, who see themselves as victims of feminism, are slowly becoming the same threat to modern societies as they were when humans began to live in permanent settlements.

But what now?

My book received much criticism for being biologistic or even fascist. That’s because the public discourse about human societies is strongly influenced by socio-cultural sciences, which treat human needs, behaviour, physics as a result of culture. Bio-sciences were expelled from that discourse long ago because of the terrible crimes committed in their names. When you say “biological “in a room full of sociologists and philosophers, they’ll immediately think about the Nazi ideology of superior races and inferior life. But that ideology is not what my book is about. It’s about how our evolutionary heritage shaped our way even after we developed into the highly intelligent species we are today. Our ability to control our behaviour doesn’t mean that we’re pure mind creatures; we didn’t jump out of the bush as reasonable humans. We’ve come a long, long way that was shaped by instincts. Culture means that we have learned to not only act based on these instincts, but it doesn’t mean that the instincts disappeared. Our evolutionary past left impulses and physical processes that affect our decisions every day. They affected the early settlers in their decisions to exclude women from possession, voting, and working rights. They influenced the legislation of hundreds of generations of men in their own favour. They affected the sex morals that shamed and often punished women who freely lived their desire.

So my wish for the future is to open the public discourse for bio-sciences — not for an ideology-burdened scientific approach of the Nazis, but for one that shows facts neutrally and unbiased. These facts will open possibilities, not limit them. Because only if we acknowledge our physical limitations, only if we accept ourselves as a species formed by millions of years of evolution can we create a better society.

Sexuality is one of the most potent natural instincts, and the involuntary waiver of sexual satisfaction and relief has a dangerous effect on many men. We as a society have to deal with these men who haven’t chosen their fate. We have to accept that sex is a healthy and natural need and that the wish for it doesn’t make any person a needy, primitive Neanderthal. There are already many men in the world who will probably never (or extremely rarely) find a partner and have a regular sex life. And according to the findings in countries like Norway, this number will rise very fast. To prevent the severe danger that lies in these groups of men, we have to offer them sympathy and appreciation. Because becoming a hate-driven, or even violent incel often is the last step of a long development. Many of these men spent a life in loneliness and depression before turning against women and society. Instead of keeping the fairytale of every Jack finding his Jill alive, we need to prepare them for the reality of female sexual instincts from when they are kids. We have to offer them alternative ways of satisfaction that don’t include coercion. Love dolls and robots are already a blooming industry, and artificial intelligence will further enhance it.

I know. A doll is not a woman; a doll doesn’t satisfy the need for closeness, tenderness, touches. But we have only two options.
Either we give women their sexual freedom back — then we have to deal with a growing number of men who don’t get chosen.
Or we keep monogamy, our money-centred views, religion, the whole goddam male value system, alive — but then the oppression of women’s freedom will continue.

I would’ve always said that I was free to express my sexuality all of my life, but writing my book helped me to see the many situations in which I restricted myself and bowed before the society-driven sex morals of a life-long, sexually true relationship. I don’t want to go there anymore, and I don’t want any woman to have to go there because of the financial and status benefits of marriage. I don’t want to support the hierarchical male system that makes very few the winners and leaves all others struggling. So to me, the option is clear. And to you?

Sexpositive feminist, biologist, religion critic, evolution fanatic. I think in Gaussian bell curves. Author of "Female Choice", Tropen Verlag 2021.