Alternative Approaches to the Study of Sexual Behavior

By Donn Byrne; Kathryn Kelley | Go to book overview

2
Unique Features of Human Sexuality in the Context of Evolution

Gordon G. Gallup Jr.
State University of New York at Albany

There have been a number of recent attempts to characterize the role of evolution in human sexuality (e.g., Daly & Wilson, 1983; Symons, 1979). The purpose of this chapter, however, is to examine some distinctive features of human sexual behavior and anatomy from the standpoint of adaptive considerations related to the evolutionary history of our species.


EVOLUTION

Evolution is of interest for more than just historical reasons. It is an ongoing process in which we are each involved, wittingly or not. The part we play in evolution is largely predicated on our sexual behavior. None of us would be here if it were not for sex. If at any point in the past our ancestors had stopped having sex the human race would have disappeared.

Rather than being represented by "the survival of the fittest," evolution is based on the perpetuation of the most viable reproductive configurations of genes. As most people conceive of it, survival of the fittest is a tautology or what amounts to an instance of circular reasoning. Consider why one species survived while members of another went extinct. As traditionally conceived, the answer would be that the survivors were more fit. But how do you know they were more fit? Because they survived! All of which is tantamount to saying that they survived because they survived, and the concept of fitness is superfluous.

Psychology is replete with tautologies. Why does the rat press the bar in a Skinner box? Because it has been reinforced to do so. But how do you know it has been reinforced? Because it is pressing the bar! Thus, in an analogous way, it

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