Without any doubt man is the most sexually obsessed species on the planet. We really didn’t need the recent internet exposure of the 37 million Ashley Madison customers looking for extra-marital affairs to be reminded of this. What’s much more interesting is why this should be so.
We’re the only species presently living a great longer — and thus for our marriages expected to last for a great deal longer — than ever happened naturally while we were evolving. We’re now living something like three to four times longer than we and our immediate predecessors ever did on the African savannah where we spent all our evolutionary time — in which our behavioural genes were shaped — since we left the rain forests.
Whereas sexual partnerships up until about 10,000 years ago when we were hunter-gatherers used to last for, say, 15 to 20 years at the most until warfare or accidents or predators finished us off, our marriages are now supposed to last for 50 years at least until we die.
But although our genes are gradually shaping us towards being monogamous — and it is good to hear of those rare 50 year-old marriages — we certainly haven’t reached there yet. Polygamous marriages are usually against the law in most Western nations but by no means everywhere in the world. And even in the Western world many very rich men or politically powerful men have several wives — or long term mistresses — either successively or simultaneously. They’re never prosecuted or even disapproved of much by most people.
Sexual infideltiy in marriage is unsymmetrical because males are far more obsessed with sex than females and get the itch far more frequently. In the case of females, sex is not just a hormonal urge tout court but intimately connected with their desire to have children and, importantly — and the basic reason for sexual partnerships — for the raising of children.
Ashley Madison haven’t told us what the male-female ratio is of those who register with them for sexual opportunities. My guess is that, of the 37 million, at least 30 million of them are males — which means, I suppose that most of these men will be sexually unrequited unless the women who register with Ashley Madison are working overtime in their leisure hours. The males will be doubly angry now that hackers have exposed their names to the world.
My own rough guess is based on several scientific polls carried out anonymously in the advanced countries in recent years which suggests that 75% of men will have several sexual affairs on any opportunity any day of the month during their married life — remaining happily married — while only about 25% of married women will have erred. And they will have done so on far fewer days of the month — namely their fertile days. This suggests, in theory anyway, men are 30 times more wayward than women!
Well . . what can one say about all this? Ashley Madison’s website will no doubt sink without trace, but it will resurface under another name I expect. And, in any case, there are several, if not many, more similar websites. Man’s nature — that is, women’s also — won’t change despite all the protestations of women’s liberationists or the hypocrisies of those politicians and religious leaders who seek to moralise about it. Pure monogamy will be thousands of years away yet.
Some 30 years ago, Edwina Currie, probably one of the most brilliant prime ministers this country never had — quite as smart as Margaret Thatcher — got it in the neck very badly from some unctuous newspaper editors (all males in those days, of course) when she once told a Woman’s Institute gathering that if any of them had husbands who frequently went abroad on business then they’d be best advised to go along with them for the trip.