Sunday, December 01, 2013

Sharing is caring?

++Addition++Heartiste quite recently. He points to a different interpretation of the data in a relatively quite obscure location like this one and does so purely as an FYI to his readership. That's an admirable demonstration of what I can't characterize as anything other than consistent intellectual integrity on his part.

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Heartiste from a few years ago:
The verdict is in: Women want men to cheat on them. Oh sure, they don’t *consciously* want their men to cheat, but unbeknownst to all but the most self aware women, their ginas tingle uncontrollably for men who can — and do — score some poon on the side.
In the vast majority (though likely not all, female sexual variation being what it is) of cases, there's no question that the first part of the assertion--that women tend to be attracted to men who other women are attracted to--is indisputable. Women want you to be capable of cheating. Then again, men want the women they are banging--at least the ones who arouse them more than their own pillows do--to be able to cheat, too, but if they've signed up for the relationship thing, virtually none of them actually want the women to go through with it (if you're not a regular reader here, yes, I'm quite aware that men and women are anatomically, biologically, psychologically, politically, sexually, emotionally, cognitively, etc etc different from one another).

What about the latter part, though? Do they actually want you to dip your pen in another woman's ink? It's difficult to make sense of why, from an evolutionary perspective, females would want their mates to sire offspring with (and presumably provide resources to) other women. The hindbrain isn't going to make distinctions between copulation and procreation when it comes to their men getting with other women, so this is not a straw man argument, it's the logical extension of what Heartiste claims.

The following table shows the percentages of men who were (still) married at the time of their participation in the survey by whether or not they had ever cheated on their spouses and the percentages of men who were divorced or separated when given the survey by whether or not they had ever cheated on their spouses while they were married. For contemporary relevance and racial confounding, all responses are from 2000 onward and only non-Hispanic whites are included, respectively. The relevant questions are posed in such a way that those who have never married are necessarily excluded (N = 3,218):

White menStill MarriedSep/Divorced
Cheaters16.037.2
Faithful84.062.8

Men from failed marriages are more than twice as likely to have cheated before those marriages officially came apart than are men from marriages that are still in tact.

No, this does not obviously constitute a refutation of Heartiste's assertion. The limitations of a broad based survey like the GSS preclude digging as deeply as would be required for us to take a shot at evaluating that.

For one, we don't have data on who initiated the divorces and separations--how frequently do the men who are cheating leave the marriage because they're ready to trade in the old ride for a new model or simply go back to leasing altogether? How frequently do the women who find out about the cheating break off the marriage as a consequence? We also lack data on if the women who have been cheated on--whether the men who did the cheating are still married or since separated or divorced--were aware of the cheating when it took place, subsequently became aware of it, or remained in the dark up to the point when the responses were given. Finally, we don't know if the married men who have cheated on a spouse were, at the time they partook in the survey, still married to the women they cheated on or if they'd divorced and then remarried someone new (though knowledge on that front would probably just accentuate the relationship between cheating and divorce rather than attenuating or inverting it).

GSS variables used: EVSTRAY(1-2), MARITAL(1)(3-4), RACECEN1(1), YEAR(2000-2012), SEX(1)

4 comments:

JayMan said...

My own suspicion is that yes, you are correct, both men and women are attracted to mate value, and hence capable of cheating. But I can't see why either sex would want their partner to actually do through with it.

That said, unfortunately, self-reported sexual behavior needs to be considered highly suspect (indeed, we have some evidence that suggests that this it is rather unreliable). So this may be more a sample of honesty than actual behavior.

Audacious Epigone said...

Jayman,

Is there reason to presume that a systematic difference in honesty response rates exists in this case, though? We're only considering the responses of white men here.

Anonymous said...

Heartiste is determined to prove a particular point and so is usually wrong but in his quest he does turn up interesting data.

If you work in a decent-sized company and have an affair with one woman there then it's an affair. If you sleep with a second then they'll all flirt with you. If it's three they'll queue up to be the 4th *but* it is not the same when they have *children* with someone.

That's where Heartiste always goes wrong: sex for entertainment and sex for reproduction are different. Sex for entertainment mostly follows the set of ape sub-routines that go back to the jungle while sex for reproduction follows a different and later set that evolved outside the jungle.

Anonymous said...

Where men don't have to support kids, women will evolve not to want cheating, because more offspring indicates less resources, in terms of time and money, by men to look after their kids (whether this is less resources to look after a primary family or a secondary family, the selective effect on women is the same).

Where men do have to support kids, women may evolve to want cheating, because there is no cost to them in terms of paternal support and men who have a real signal of attractiveness to women will generally be seen as more attractive. Although the downside of this is that jealous men may gang together to wipe out your kids, to be all like "down with this sort of thing".

Heartiste's predictions have some plausibility if you assume that

a) human males are not generally adapted to be very choosy (rather than promiscuous) because they have to undertake significant provisioning effort to actually successfully breed and find someone to breed with

b) groups of human "betas" with even rudimentary organisation aren't going to kill / outcompete "alphas" (freezing them out in the process) pretty much 9 times out of 10.

But both of these are not really true at all for Homo Sapiens Sapiens.