The Augustus John Strategy And Its Complement

One of the problems with the popular debate over evolutionary psychology appears to be that some journalists are stuck in 1980 models of the science. We hear an awful lot about the Trivers theory that the greater female parental investment means greater female choosiness, implying a hardwired female fidelity, and nothing at all about the corollaries of the Hdry findings, namely that the leading cause of death in forest chimpanzees is adult-on-infant violence by the males of their father’s troop. Killing other males’ young is the male chimp’s rational reproductive strategy, as it eliminates individuals who will compete for resources with his own descendants.

Humans have added their own twist to that common imperative, in that most child sex abuse – which can hardly be good for the child’s future reproductive success – seems to be committed by stepfathers rather than biological fathers. Wicked stepmothers use other methods to nobble the reproductive prospects of their charges; though because these methods are not always fatal, they are not always observed. The female forest chimpanzee counter-strategy is to leave the troop shortly before giving birth and avoid dangerous male groups for several years thereafter. Such a strategy, while not exactly common, is not entirely unknown among humans.

Whereas forest-chimp mating is hierarchical, bonobos or pygmy chimpanzees are the ideal hippie commune. Everyone has sex with everyone else, all the time, as social lubrication. The males consequently have no idea whose child is whose and so have no alternative but to treat all youngsters as equally valuable. In humans we may call this the Augustus John strategy: the Welsh artist claimed that he gave a pat on the head to every child he met, in case it was his. It is not recorded that he did anything of greater value for these putative children, but it is easy to understand why the merest suspicion that a child is yours might induce you to bestow some resources on the mother, and certainly to refrain from harming it or her in any way.

Seen from the female side, of course, the Augustus John strategy dictates a woman’s maintaining a network of several lovers, all of whom have a stake in her well-being, because they think her children might be theirs too. If they really are theirs – one each – so much the better. Such a system, which by the way is the dominant mating pattern in the Cape Verde Islands, may offer more intense resource acquisition than marriage to a single man.

It is also worth noting that the human biochemical programming for erotic obsession lasts about eighteen months to two years. That seems more or less right for a female strategy of collecting a full house from several protective males.

Posted on October 11, 2012 at 19:03 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: WHAT WOMEN WANT, The Cult Of St. Joseph

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