Why do I do this to myself? I intended to update this post with today’s date and a new comment, but the very idea of quantifying “mating” is so bonkers that I just had to do a new post, which involves consideration of what I have learned since this was originally posted.
Behav Ecol (2004) 15 (5): 748-756. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/arh073
Mating games: the evolution of human mating transaction
Okay, I have to say it: Have these “modern thinkers” ever had SEX?
What we have is the same conceptual problem that occurs over and over! That is, the projection of modern social systems onto ancient evolutionary processes.
What is being presented in this “game theory” approach is a mathematical analysis of socially-constructed models for “controlling” reproduction within Western (and other) cultures:
MARRIAGE as a social contract is a recent practice!
Sex is ancient and still dominates reproduction. This bizarre “social mating game” by its very existence, PROVES the overwhelming power of sex as the “real” evolutionary strategy. Quantifying “mating” is just another attempt to “prescribe and control” sexual reproduction within socially-contrived boundaries.
What human history clearly demonstrates is that social control over “sex as a tool of evolution” is a temporary and often-defied constraint, which must be enforced by rules, laws, contracts, family interference and threats of punishment – even death! Gee whiz! Homo sapiens had sex with with Neanderthals and who knows how many other “cousins”?
To the contrary: Nature tricks individuals into reproducing at every opportunity that presents itself, using whatever physical enticement is available. There is a reason that sex is an obsession for males AND females. DUH?
The blah, blah, blah continues…
In our integrated models, an individual’s optimal mating strategy at a given moment is derived via game theoretic models that incorporate the following variables: (1) the total value of the focal male (the sum of his resource holdings and phenotypic quality), (2) total value of the focal female (the sum of her resource holdings and phenotypic quality), (3) the distribution of values of each sex’s competition, (4) the distribution of values in the pool of alternative mates, and on (5) any environmental inputs such as the ease with which new mates are found, the ease with which males can generate resources to provide to females, or the relative importance of phenotypic quality and resources for offspring success in a given environment. In each of our models, males exert control over their desirability to females by regulating the amount of resources offered to potential mates both as a function of their own attractiveness and the overall mate value of the female. Because male resource offerings to females clearly affect female mating decisions and are necessarily under the control of those males, both male and female fitness are necessarily intertwined in mating transactions. In other words, the best strategy for one depends on the action simultaneously taken by, hence the best option for, the other, and a formal game-theoretic analysis is required to reveal the ESSs (here equivalent to the Nash equilibria) for both sexes.
The following theory is, to our knowledge, the first set of mathematical models developed for a comprehensive understanding of the evolution of human mating strategies. Moreover, although in its first stage of development, the models parsimoniously unify our understanding of previously disconnected empirical data on human mating and generate a rich set of testable predictions. Indeed, the models also may be tested in any species in which males transfer resources to females so as to secure fertilizations with those females.
What actually happens in social reality: