Forgetting to Use Birth Control: Unwanted Pregnancies Support Evolutionary Psychology Theory

By Eisenman, Russell | Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, March 2003 | Go to article overview

Forgetting to Use Birth Control: Unwanted Pregnancies Support Evolutionary Psychology Theory


Eisenman, Russell, Journal of Evolutionary Psychology


An important area for study is ovulation (Atwood, James, Keil, Roberts, & Hartmann, P.E. 1991; Biel-Casals, 1968; Chearskul & Visutakul, 1994; Freundl, Bremme, Frank-Hermann, Baur, Godehardt, & Sottong, 1996), including female sexual desire, which appears to be highest during ovulation (Alcock, 1989; Stanislaw & Rice, 1988). As I got interested in this area, I started looking at introductory psychology textbooks to see what they say about ovulation, since it plays such an important part in female sexuality. However, I found that most of the ones I examined do not even mention ovulation. If it is covered at all, it is just briefly mentioned as part of how conception occurs. But, ovulation may have powerful effects on female sexual behavior. For example, in the present study, there is evidence that women often "forgot" to use birth control during ovulation. I believe this is an unconscious motivation to get pregnant, and thus continue the human race, and to send her genes into future generations. Much of what occurs in human sexuality seems to be unconscious (Eisenman, 2001). But, this is not widely accepted, perhaps because there has been such a moving away from Freud, who is most associated with the concept of the unconscious. Of course, to accept that unconscious things occur, one does not have to buy into Freud or psychoanalysis, but simply believe that things happen without awareness.

The unconscious would seem to be behind the theory of evolutionary psychology, in which people do things for the purpose of spreading their genes into future generations. They may not realize why they do it, but research in cultures around the world show that sexual and other behavior seems to follow the patterns described by evolutionary psychologists, such as Buss, who shows, for example, sex differences in what men and women want (Buss, 1999). Men should want to impregnate as many women as possible, as this would be the best way to spread their genes into future generations. Since women get pregnant, this strategy would not work for them, so they tend to desire men who have money, power and status, and will invest in them and their children. Men tend to desire youth, beauty, and health in their female sexual partners, according to evolutionary psychology. As I said, these findings hold up in different cultures across the world. But, there is also the unconscious aspect, since man's desire to spread his genes is shown in his desire for many female partners, but not necessarily in actually impregnating many women. In fact, a man may use birth control to try to prevent pregnancy.

Grammer found that the closer women in bars were to ovulation, the skimpier the clothing they wore (Grammer, 1996). This would fit again with an explanation about unconscious desire to become pregnant and spread genes to future generations. It is of interest to note that the skimpy dress is a sexual signal sent to men, that indicates the woman's receptiveness to sexual intercourse. She may not even realize she is sending this signal, so, again, it is an unconscious signal. I think the concept of the unconscious is important, but many in evolutionary psychology and other fields avoid it, perhaps because of Freud's usage in his psychoanalytic theory, which they reject. However, if one does not like the word "unconscious" one could use "unaware" or some other term, which indicates that the person does not know why they do something.

Human females can be receptive to sexual intercourse at all phases of their menstrual cycle, but desire increases at ovulation (Alcock, 1989; Stanislaw & Rice, 1988). Further, when women have sexual affairs with someone other than the husband or boyfriend, the affair often occurs during ovulation, the woman and her partner typically use no birth control, and the partner chosen by the woman has some quality that the husband/boyfriend lacks (Baker & Bellis, 1993; Bellis & Baker, 1990). …

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Forgetting to Use Birth Control: Unwanted Pregnancies Support Evolutionary Psychology Theory
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