One of the oldest hunter-gatherer societies still in existence, the !Kung, provides enlightening views on ancestral human sexual selection.
Mankind has spent 99% of his existence living the life of a hunter gatherer, therefore, by getting a glimpse into the thought processes of Nisa [main subject of this book] we simultaneously shed light on who we were at the beginning of time and how little we’ve changed despite this brief appearance of the modern conveniences of civilization.
The often repeated theorem by evolutionary biologists that we could not have possibly populated this planet by starting off as faithful monagamous pair bonds is brought into clear view by Nisa’s revelations. The sexual strategies employed by our highly social ancestors were the result of hundreds of thousands of years of refinement via sexual selection. The prevalence of bawdy sexual behavior and a prevailing hookup culture on many college campuses attests to the fact that despite our western conveniences, our westernized religions, and our PC indocrination, we have changed vey little if any since our emergence 100,000 years ago.
We see these two relationship phases arise within the hunter-gatherer society:
In psychoanalytic literature, a Madonna–whore complex is the inability to maintain sexual arousal within a committed, loving relationship. First identified by Sigmund Freud, this psychological complex is said to develop in men who see women as either saintly Madonnas or debased prostitutes. Men with this complex desire a sexual partner who has been degraded (the whore) while they cannot desire the respected partner (the Madonna). Freud wrote: “Where such men love they have no desire and where they desire they cannot love.” Clinical psychologist Uwe Hartmann, writing in 2009, stated that the complex “is still highly prevalent in today’s patients”.
The view of women as either Madonnas or whores limits women’s sexual expression, offering two mutually exclusive ways to construct a sexual identity. The duality implies that women must assume subservient roles, either as madonnas to be protected or as whores to be punished by men.
The original experiments with rats applied the following protocol: A male rat was placed into an enclosed large box with four or five female rats in heat. He immediately began to mate with all the female rats again and again until eventually, he became exhausted. The females continued nudging and licking him, yet he did not respond. When a novel female was introduced into the box, he became alert and began to mate once again with the new female. This phenomenon is not limited to common rats. The Coolidge effect is attributed to an increase in dopamine levels and the subsequent effect upon an animal’s limbic system.
Human males experience a post-ejaculatory refractory period after sex. They are temporarily incapable of engaging in sex with the same female after ejaculation and require time to recover full sexual function. In popular reference, the Coolidge effect is the well-documented phenomenon that the post-ejaculatory refractory period is reduced or eliminated if a novel female becomes available. This effect is cited by evolutionary biologists as one reason why males are more likely to desire sex with a greater number and variety of partners than females, though of course sometimes human females are known to copulate with multiple and novel partners as well.
While the Coolidge effect is usually seen demonstrated by males—that is, males displaying renewed excitement with a novel female—Lester and Gorzalka developed a model to determine whether or not the Coolidge effect also occurs in females. Their experiment, which used hamsters instead of rats, found that it does occur to a lesser degrees in females.
The fact these hunter-gatherer humans so effectivly articulate these relationship phases indicates this may just be an almost inescapable side effect of long-term relationships, no matter what social norms dictate.