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September 2007 

Why So Many Sex Partners?

Conservatives, Liberals, and Their Sex Partners


Number of Sex Partners by Gender
(Red=Females, Blue=Males)

It is a commonly held belief that males, on average, have more sex-partners than females. Numerous studies have demonstrated wide variances in the average number of sex partners by gender, with males out-distancing their female counterparts by up to 10 or more partners.

There is a slight problem with all this: it is mathematically impossible. Given the fact that there are an equal number of males and females, the average number of different heterosexual partners for males must be equal to that of females.

A simple example: an island with two females and two males, both engaging in exclusively heterosexual sex. If both males have heterosexual sex with two different partners, then both females are having heterosexual sex with two different partners.

This equality holds for any number of males and females, as long as their respective numbers are equal. However, imbalances in the numbers of males and females and homosexual sex certainly subvert this equivalence. But with regards to heterosexual sex partners, excluding sex partners that have died, the world-wide average for males should be very close to the average for females--but not exactly equal due to the imbalance in the numbers of males and females.

Why do so many studies report a substantial advantage for males?

Unfortunately, these studies suffer from the same problem that plagues all sexual research--the sexual uncertainty principle. Just like the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, where the accurate determination of the position and momentum of a particle is impossible due to the simple fact that it is being measured--people, on average, do not honestly portray their sexual behavior when they know they are being measured. Worse yet, they often maintain these inaccurate views even to themselves.

The sexual uncertainty principle is on display in all studies involving the number of sex partners, monogamy, infidelity, masturbation, homosexuality, and sexual fantasies, and for good reason--people often avoid sexual contact with others based on how they evaluate their sexual behavior. Not hiding inappropriate sexual behavior can hurt one's access to sex.

This is a major problem with infidelity studies, particularly among females. It is no surprise that the variance in the reported percentages of female infidelity is higher than male infidelity. Female reproductive value is harmed more by infidelity, due to their higher reproductive investment--therefore they are less reliable in accurately reporting this statistic.

Average Number of Sex Partners by Gender

Our results from our most recent survey indicate that males and females are very close in their average number of sex partners. The average number of partners, unadjusted for age, is 14.3 for females and 15.5 for males. These numbers are very close, but still show a slight advantage for males. Note that these numbers are not adjusted for age or homosexual encounters.

This was a good result, as the mathematics impels these numbers to converge, after adjusting out the homosexual encounters. But how are they distributed? Are most females likely to have sex with just a few partners, with a small percentage of promiscuous females driving up the average? What is the frequency of males and females having had no partners, one partner, two partners, or one hundred partners?

If you look at the graph on top, the male and female distributions are very similar. Initially we thought that a small percentage of promiscuous females kept the female average close to the male average. However, as the above graph reveals, males and females are mirroring each other's behavior quite well. The numbers of males having sex with no partners and more than 100 partners exceeds females.

But we are not too excited by either our average or distribution percentages, as we have also been hit with the sexual uncertainty principle. Despite the fact that this was a completely anonymous internet survey, with a very low "observer" presence, people were still steering their answers towards socially acceptable sexual practices.

Further, our sampling process did not include adequate proportions of Conservatives. We had 1,576 respondents to our survey, 421 females and 1,155 males, and it seems that Conservative females will not voluntarily take a sex survey--especially if they are religious. Therefore, our statistics reflect a strongly Liberal political and religious bias. Sex researchers must be very careful to account for this natural sample bias in their studies of volunteers.

Based on our sketchy information on Conservative females, we found that they have fewer sex partners than Liberal females. We also have reason to believe, based on certain inconsistencies in response patterns to certain questions, that religious Conservatives are more likely to steer their responses towards acceptable sexual practices.

Why So Many Sex Partners?

In one week, humans might spend as much time in non-reproductive sex than they ever will in a whole lifetime of reproductive sex. Reproductive sex, that is, sex that directly leads to fertilization, is a rare event among humans.

So why do we allocate so many resources towards sexual behavior? Why the expensive houses, expensive cars, expensive jewelry, expensive wines, and expensive restaurants? Humans would be dramatically more efficient if they reduced the burden of sex to only those times that actually fertilize an ovum.

In other words, we only need to have sex a handful of times to replace ourselves, and we don't need to spend so much effort in grooming and advertising our reproductive fitness by acquiring and displaying luxury items to the opposite sex.

Obviously, human sexuality has a deeper significance than just reproduction. Sex has become heavily enmeshed with human social and economic behavior in general.

Lower Reproductive Rates and Multiple Sex Partners

The fact that Conservatives and Liberals vary in their number of sex partners will probably surprise no one. Even though our Conservative female sample is small (N=31) compared to our Liberal female sample (N=250), the results are still consistent with the more genetically restrictive approach to reproduction that Conservative females have displayed in our other surveys. The male averages by political cohort vary less than the female averages, as seen in the graph below.


Average Number of Sex Partners by Political-Gender Cohorts
(L=Liberal, LB=Libertarian, M=Moderate, C=Conservative)

The Liberals of both genders reported the highest number of different sex partners, followed by the Libertarians in both genders. While there is a sharp drop off on the female side by the Moderates and the Conservatives, the male pattern shows less variation.

What does this all mean? Liberals both desire and have fewer children than Conservatives, and sex has a lower reproductive significance. This lower reproductive value of sex certainly frees them from the burden of maintaining steady relationships that support child rearing.

This theory gains credence from the fact that Moderate females also have fewer sex partners, and have more children than Liberals. Libertarians also fit this theory well, as both their numbers of sex partners and reproductive rates resemble Liberals more than Conservatives.

We will discuss our results in light of the current neurological picture of sexuality later in this series, but for now, let's take a look at one cognitive trait that may give us some more insight into the propensity to have sex with many people.

Extroversion, Introversion, and Sex Partners

In our survey, one of the highest correlations with numbers of sexual partners was extroversion, in both males and females. We asked the 1,576 respondents to rate their level of introversion-extroversion on a 10 point scale, with 1 being the most introverted score, and 10 being the most extroverted.

In the graph below, these ratings are grouped into five levels of introversion-extroversion. Introversion was assigned a score of 1-3, Some Introversion was assigned a score of 4-5, Some Extroversion was assigned a score of 6-7, Extroversion was assigned a score of 8-9, and Very Extroverted was assigned a score of 10.


Average Number of Sex Partners by Level of Introversion-Extroversion and Gender
(F=Female, M=Male)

As seen above, the correlation between extroversion and number of sex partners is a very strong one. We must be cautious with this result, as it is heavily laden with Liberals. But the implications of a relationship between extroversion and sexual partners are many--neurologically, socially, and evolutionarily.

The neurological correlates of the extroverted brain involve the anterior cingulate, posterior thalamus and parietal lobe, the temporal lobes, the right insula, and the left amygdala--areas of the brain handling real-time sensory analysis.

Note that the prefrontal cortex is less activated in extroverts. The extrovert's brain is right on top of whatever situation is at hand, and not letting the slow-acting prefrontal cortex get in its way. The "self-talk" portion of Broca's area is also less active in the extrovert's brain.

The introverted brain is more involved in matching current sensory data to retrieved memory engrams. Prefrontal cortical regions involved in memory retrieval and planning are more active in the introverts, along with the anterior thalamus and anterior insula, also involved in memory retrieval. In contrast to the extroverts, the "self-talk" portion of Broca's area is more activated in introverts.

The introvert is adapting more neural resources involved in behavioral modification than the extrovert, giving the introverts their distinctly "inhibited" personality and their general "slowness" in responding to social cues. This has spilled over into their mating strategies and sexual selection.

The sexual behavior of the extrovert stands quite apart from the introvert. Extroverts report higher stimulation by sexual novelty, that is, sexual behavior outside social norms. We must again caution on the high percentage of Liberals in our survey, so until we get higher numbers of extroverted Conservative females, we won't be able to say that extroverted sexual behavior is unequivocally different from introverted. But it is certainly looking that way.

But is this just because the extroverts are more likely to reveal their true sexuality than the introverts? This is probable, but we have just started our journey into the deep recesses of human sexuality as it relates to politics and religion. With the sexual uncertainty principle standing in our way, this journey will not be an easy one.

To be continued...

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Conservatives, Liberals, and Sexual Selection

Sexual selection was originally proposed by Charles Darwin to explain some of the adaptive features that seem to have no evolutionary value. The peacock tail is the most commonly noted trait, as it draws both predators and peahens in its evolutionary standoff between reproduction and survival.

Humans also have a number of traits that may be representative of sexual selection in action: art, music, and humor have all be theorized to be the result of sexual selection. Since these traits are highly correlated with other more practical survival traits, they appear to have a large evolutionary value after all.

Sexual selection in humans has been subordinated to natural selection, as the traits that we look for in mates are the ones that improve reproduction. Reproductive strategies vary quite a bit in the human population, which reduces reproductive competition and responds more quickly to environmental challenges.

And as would be expected, the traits that Conservatives and Liberals look for in other mates vary quite a bit. We asked the 1,576 respondents to our Sex Survey to pick one of the four following traits that was most important to them in selecting a mate: Intelligence, Looks, Personality, and Wealth. The results are in the table below.

Gender
Affiliation
Personality
Intelligence
Looks
Wealth
Female
Liberal
60.4%
35.6%
3.6%
0.4%
Female
Libertarian
53.3%
43.3%
3.3%
0.0%
Female
Moderate
78.9%
14.1%
5.6%
1.4%
Female
Conservative
70.0%
16.7%
6.7%
6.7%
Male
Liberal
57.3%
29.0%
13.6%
0.2%
Male
Libertarian
52.8%
31.3%
15.3%
0.7%
Male
Moderate
68.8%
15.2%
15.9%
0.0%
Male
Conservative
63.9%
14.5%
20.8%
0.8%
What is more important in selecting a mate?

Among the females, both the Libertarians and Liberals are more likely to be looking for intelligence than Moderate or Conservative females, while the Moderate and Conservative females are looking more for personality, looks, and wealth. We must note that the sample sizes for both the Conservative and Libertarian females are low (N=31, N=30), and not very reliable.

The males reflected their female counterparts quite well, as again, both the Libertarian and Liberal males were more likely to be looking for intelligence than the Moderate or Conservative males. The Moderate and Conservative males were looking more for personality and looks.

On average, females were shifted more towards personality and intelligence than males, who were shifted towards looks. It is interesting to note that the more reproductive one is, the more likely they are to choose personality and looks as their most important trait in a mate.

This is seen in the Conservatives and Moderates of both genders. These two political cohorts are more reproductive than either the Liberals or Libertarians.

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Charles Brack and Xi Zhang, September 2007

Email: Brack@neuropolitics.org
           Zhang@neuropolitics.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ethnoliberalism

Liberals That Can Out-Reproduce White Conservatives


Percentage of California Population, ages 17 and under, in 2005

The more that males exert dominance over females, the greater the total offspring produced. Males, on average, desire more children than females, and if they are able to dominate their social groups--birth rates increase proportionately.

The greater female investment in reproduction has led them down a slightly different evolutionary pathway than their male counterparts. Females are more likely than males to select for offspring quality as opposed to quantity.

If social groups balance out the average dominance levels of the two genders, birth rates start to decline, as do the percentage of males that reproduce. A male-dominated society is a reproductive one, while gender equality eliminates male genes at a faster pace.

What is this evolutionary game of reproduction that males and females are playing? This is seen in the interesting relationship between warfare and rape. Warfare and rape are almost uniquely male behaviors, and curiously symbiotic. Even in modern warfare, the incidence of rape by soldiers is at its highest after battles in which the local males have been killed or chased away--an indicator of a strong link between male violence and reproductive advantage.

While males tend toward violence in the elimination of undesirable genes and the acquisition of reproductive advantage, females have a longer and less deadly strategy. They can simply let less desirable genes die off without reproducing with them. Females optimize sexual selection and reproductive output during times of peace. Warfare compromises female sexual selection and improves male sexual selection, at least for the males that are victorious.

Not surprisingly, females are more likely to oppose warfare across every political affiliation. Females are also more likely to support abortion, which provides them a substantial advantage in sexual selection. Shoplifting and infanticide are the only two crimes that females commit at an equal or higher rate than males.

But humans in modern day nation-states play a much safer game of reproductive advantage--one played out within the confines of a modern economy. Economics is now the primary yardstick for male reproductive fitness. For males, and to a lesser extent females, the reproductive advantages of wealth are substantial, and warfare, once a mainstay for male reproductive advantage, has been subordinated to the demands of economic production.

Do People Try to Out-Reproduce Each Other?

Females that work or live together have long been known to synchronize their menstrual cycles, and it appears that mutual exposure to each other's pheromones drives this phenomenon. The reproductive synchronicity of females is found in numerous species, and for good reason, as it addresses a variety of problems associated with giving birth, such as predation and seasonal variations in food and water availability.

The coordinated and often competitive reproductive behavior of so many gregarious species raises a number of questions. Do humans also engage in reproductive competition? Do they consciously or unconsciously attempt to obtain reproductive advantage against others? Do they also form into ethnic or religious groups for the sake of reproductive advantage?

The answer to all these questions is yes. Not only do people consciously and unconsciously compete reproductively, but ethnic and religious groups also engage in organized reproductive competition--the most infamous being the German racial subsidy programs of the 1930s and 40s.

As would be expected, the current list of governmental subsidies for fertility are predominately Caucasian, and include France, Italy, Spain, Poland, Russia, Israel, and Sweden. However, subsidies have not been very successful in stimulating Caucasian fertility. Saudi Arabia, a country that needed no help with reproduction, has nonetheless sponsored an aggressive subsidy campaign to increase reproductive rates, and maintains some of the highest birth rates in the world.

Are the Hispanics Trying to Out-Reproduce the Caucasians?

But at the individual level, reproductive competition has a distinctly local flavor. Reproductive competition is more likely to occur among siblings than any other relationship. The odd mixture of sibling reproductive competition and sibling altruism has some very good evolutionary reasons.

Across virtually all human societies, reproduction is supported by the extended family, including grandparents, parents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles. Getting the jump on reproduction among siblings is a distinct advantage, especially when resources are scarce.

The Hispanic version of reproduction is much less organized around competition than the Caucasian version, at least ethnically. Because of the high percentage of Hispanic Catholics, reproductive competition at the group level is organized religiously, via a long history of institutionalized Catholic reproductive stimulants.

But higher Hispanic birth rates are only partially the result of reproductive competition at the religious group level. Like the Asians, the Hispanic version of inclusive fitness and altruism towards close kin is more expansive than the Caucasian version, which is less likely to focus altruistic behaviors based on kinship ties (see the Population Biology of California).

Are the Hispanics More Altruistic Towards Close Kin?

Based on some limited evidence we've gathered, the Hispanic model of inclusive fitness seems to fall in between the Asian and Caucasian models--at least for females. That is, their altruism is more likely to be focused towards close kin than the Caucasian model, but less so than the Asian model.

In one of our earlier surveys, we found that Asian females were highest in their self-rating of parental closeness, while the Caucasian females ranked last. The Hispanic females fell in between these two races. Among males, the patterns by race were more ambiguous, and showed no distinct advantage for any race. Males, on average, report lower rates of parental closeness than females. This is to be expected, due to the greater female burden of reproduction.

Reproductive competition is much more likely to be organized within one's own private world of inclusive fitness and altruism than across racial or religious lines. Ironically, people are more likely to reproductively compete within the same group of individuals that they perform altruistic behaviors for, and this seems to be for a very good evolutionary reason, as reproduction is supported within that same group of individuals.

Where are all the Illegal Aliens Coming From?

The reproductive model of the illegal immigrants is primarily a rural one, owing to the economic displacement of large numbers of Mexican peasant farmers by large agribusiness. While NAFTA provided numerous benefits for large agribusiness and industry in Mexico, it devastated peasant agriculture and the very large segment of highly reproductive farmers it supported.

Rural populations are more reproductive than urban ones, and the illegal immigrants were from one of the most reproductive sectors in Mexico. To make matters worse for the United States, the female illegal immigrants were typically in their early reproductive years. Further, the illegal immigrants experience a "bump" in their income in America, as they were often making a paltry $4 per day in Mexico. Immigrant reproduction was stimulated even with the substandard American wages.

The Hispanic immigrants would fill five primary segments in the Californian and Texan economies: rural farm workers, urban factory workers, suburban domestic workers, construction workers, and unskilled service workers. Thus, Hispanic illegal immigration filled the low-wage niches of the Californian and Texan economies, competing primarily with low-wage Caucasians and Blacks, and permeated communities of every size: urban, rural, and suburban.

Immigration and Inclusive Fitness

As we discussed in last month's edition, the extended family structure and higher inclusive fitness model of the Asians allowed them to reproduce effectively in high population densities, while the space-hungry model of Caucasian reproduction, centered around the nuclear family, was disrupted. Populations that can maintain reproduction in high population densities will displace populations that cannot.

At the end of the Mexican War in 1848, the numbers of Mexicans living in what is now the American Southwest were isolated to a few pockets of colonists, as the Spanish-speaking population numbered only about 10,000. Immigration didn't start drawing significant numbers until the railroad construction of the 1870s. Revolution in Mexico in the first quarter of the 20th century drove emigration from the west-central Mexican states and into the southern United States.

Today, these same Mexican states are driving a disproportionate share of the emigration, indicating the development of immigration networks centered on extended families. This is evidence that higher inclusive fitness towards kin drives higher rates of immigration, both legal and illegal.

Ethnoliberalism and Communism

One of the more disturbing trends for the Conservatives are the voting patterns of the Asian-Americans. Many Conservatives believed that once second-generation Asians became economically vested, they would join the ranks of conservatism.

Because of the strong influence of both genetics and environment on political behavior, this has not happened. In fact, the Asian-American voting patterns have been accelerating their support for liberal candidates, at least in the last four U.S. presidential elections.

As we discussed last month, the Chinese seem to be maintaining the highest inclusive fitness model of all the races, that is, they are more likely to suppress their own genetic presence in the next generation in favor of their close kin. How does this translate into political behavior?

This self-suppression of individual fitness has found its way into their social behavior on a greater scale. The enigmatic Chinese, still clinging to many of the ideals of communism while fully engaged in capitalistic behavior, actually make perfect sense when viewed from the perspective of evolutionary psychology.

Self-suppression of individual fitness is indeed the breeding ground of "communism", that is, behaviors that focus altruism on others. Anyone living in a family structure is effectively practicing communism, as resources are pooled and distributed based on need among the family members. As genetic distance grows, these communistic behaviors break down.

If communistic behaviors towards close kin are to be channeled by a nation-state, they usually take the form of a stable and "paternal" leadership, that is, leadership that takes the appearance of a family patriarch. This explains the tendency for communistic regimes to be personified on a particular individual, such as Fidel Castro or Kim Jong-il of North Korea. These communistic states are also notable by transfers of power to other family members. It appears that rapid non-family leadership transfers tend to make these communistic states unstable.

Hispanic Liberalism

But what about the Hispanics? What are their political and religious tendencies? We do not get a lot of Hispanics to respond to our surveys, so our data is not very reliable. But there are some very good sources of Hispanic voting trends, most notable being the Pew Hispanic Center.

Some estimates place the ratio of Hispanic Democrats between two and three times that of Hispanic Republicans. There also appears to be a trend towards increasing Democratic support among the Hispanics, which is similar to the Asian trend.

But Hispanic liberalism is not exactly the same as Caucasian liberalism. Let's ignore the Hispanic Conservatives and Moderates for the moment, and focus strictly on the Liberals. Based on our limited data, the Hispanic Liberals are more inclined towards religiosity and spirituality than the Caucasian Liberals.

This makes them socially more conservative on such things as gay marriage, however, it must be noted that gay marriage is not as big an issue among the religious Hispanics as it is with the religious Caucasians. The enhanced religiosity of these Hispanic Liberals also correlates with higher reproductive rates.

The Hispanic Liberals are also more inclined to believe that the world is in a struggle between good and evil, another indicator of higher religiosity. Based on our data, the Hispanic Liberals are more negative about the War in Iraq than the Caucasian Liberals, if that is possible.

This was also noted by Pew, however Pew did not break out its data by Conservative and Liberal segments of the Hispanic population. Compared to the Caucasian Liberals, the Hispanic Liberals are more likely to be against intervention in Iran, more likely to be against gun ownership, and more likely to support job quotas.

But overall, there are more similarities between Hispanic and Caucasian Liberalism than differences, and for the most part, they mirror each other's attitudes quite well.

The Slow Ascent of the Hispanic Electorate

While the white Conservatives in America were well on their way to a thorough reproductive trouncing of the white Liberals, they were torn between the economic benefits of cheap Hispanic labor and the socio-political impact of a large immigrant underclass. In a sense, the whites in the United States were engaging in a political budget deficit--sacrificing future political power for cheap labor today.

The American Hispanics have yet to exert their full influence on the political system. Although the Hispanics accounted for about half of the population growth in America from 2002 to 2006, they only accounted for 20% of the growth in new eligible voters. During the same time, the whites contributed to 24% of the population growth, but 47% of the eligible new voters.

The diminished electoral impact of Hispanic population growth is due in part to the immigrant nature of this growth, as about one-third are non-citizens. The Hispanic population is younger, on average, than the Caucasians, which further delays the electoral impact of their growth. The median age of the American Hispanics is about 25.8 years, almost 10 years younger than the American Whites.

Educational levels are lower among the Hispanics, which further reduces their electoral impact. As second and third generation Hispanic immigrants make their way through the American educational system, their electoral influence will increase proportionately.

In about 15 years, the Hispanic population of California is projected to exceed the Caucasian population. In about 20 years, the Hispanic population of Texas will exceed its Caucasian population. California and Texas contain 89 of the 270 electoral votes necessary to elect a president.

California has already fallen under the Hispanic and Asian electoral influence, who have jumped in to assist the large numbers of Caucasian Liberals in the northern part of the state. From 1968 through 1988, a predominately Caucasian California had given its electoral votes to Republican presidential candidates. But from 1992 on, California had voted for Democratic presidential candidates, and is now solidified as a "blue" state in national elections.

Texas has fewer Caucasian Liberals, and if Texas is to become solidified as a "blue" state, as unbelievable as that now sounds, it will likely occur after 2030. But will the Hispanics still be predominately liberal in 2030?

This brings us to the interesting relationship between skin color and serotonin. As we have mentioned before, the serotonergic system seems to exert a greater influence on Liberal behavior and cognitive styles than Conservative, which are more influenced by the dopaminergic system.

Serotonin facilitates affiliative social behavior in high population densities, an attribute more likely to be found in Liberals. But serotonin also increases levels of alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone, which darkens the skin. Asians and Hispanics maintain higher population densities, on average, than Caucasians. Currently, the last vestiges of communism are being maintained by the Asians and Hispanics.

The political influence of darker skin is highly speculative, and while the high levels of Caucasian Liberalism in the sunlight-deprived regions of the world cast doubt on this relationship--this paradox actually can be resolved by the diminished influence of the dopaminergic system on these sunlight-deprived Caucasians.

Will Asians and Hispanics be eternally more liberal than the Caucasians in the sun-drenched regions of the world? If this is true, then the long-term future of the United States, beginning sometime after 2030, will be a more liberal one. This would be a surprising turn of events for an America in a full sprint towards conservatism in the last few decades of the 20th century.

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