“Getting a tactical nuke on Call of Duty is the best feeling in life. Much better than having sex.
The above joke is predicated on the popular stereotype of the adult, male virgin: obese, nerdy, still living at home with his mother. A loser. Puerile. Spurned by society because of his lack of sexual success, he’s left to live vicariously through porn and video games.
Contrast this with the braying alpha male, almost universally revered as a “player,” proficient at “Game”. Yet, if a female were to revel similarly in the volume of her sexual exploits, she would be branded a “slut.”
Ah, but there’s a reason for this.
“A key that can open many locks is called a master key, but a lock that can be opened by many keys is a shitty lock.”
So goes the now-popular aphorism. Such difference in sexual mores may perhaps have evolutionary explanations.
As modern humans were evolving during the Pleistocene era (from about 2.5 million years – 12,000 years ago), a sexual encounter between a man and a woman would have resulted in pregnancy for the latter. Women, compared to men, were more highly invested in sex. The potential costs were higher. Have sex, and you may spend nine months in gestation, followed by risky childbirth, then resource-consuming lactation and child-rearing. The evolving man did not make such a large parental investment.
Basic economics dictates that the more highly investing party will be more selective about sharing their valuable resources. But when we mention resources, we are not talking about money here. We are talking about uteruses and mammary glands.
This is the crux of biologist Richard Triver’s theory of parental investment. Women, the more invested sex, will be more selective when it comes to deciding with whom to sleep. Conversely, men, the less invested sex, will have to compete more fiercely for sexual access to women.
With this dynamic in play, is it any wonder that society has developed to praise the man who has beat off the competition to sleep with several women? Is it any wonder society denigrates the man who has lost this competition; being left only to beat off himself?
Similarly, is it right to call the woman who is less ‘selective’ about her ‘investment’ a ‘whore’?
Contraception and birth control render this evolutionary appeal to parental investment obsolete. Even without contraception, sex doesn’t always lead to childbirth and parenting.
So, why do we reduce people’s value to the number of people with whom they have slept?
“I like him, but he’s never had a girlfriend before. Isn’t that a bit weird?”
“Yeah, I kinda like her, but she’s known to be the village bicycle.”
Such castigation of men for lack of success in the dating world is surely equivalent to the castigation of women for being ‘sluts?’
The constant equation of worth in life with the amount of sexual partners you’ve had is silly. If a man is an adult virgin (defined as someone who is over 25 years old, yet has not had penetrative sex), then who cares? It doesn’t make him any less of a man, or any worse as a potential partner.
Mathematician Isaac Newton, scientist Nikola Tesla and philosopher Soren Kierkegaard all died virgins, yet their impact on the world far exceeds that of any playboy, pick-up artist, or pornstar.
1 Trivers, R.L. (1972). Parental investment and sexual selection. In B. Campbell (Ed.), Sexual selection and the descent of man, 1871-1971 (pp. 136–179). Chicago, IL: Aldine.