Science makes mind-blowing sex: How Darwin made your sex life hotter

In terms of evolution, sex is the bottom line. No sex, no reproduction; no future genes, no evolution. Period.

Normally any species that has food, space, health, and peace tends to have lots and lots of sex, and the population expands accordingly, often quite fast. Antibiotic- resistant bacteria spread, lilies take over ponds, and rabbits overwhelm. Its normal and natural, in times of plenty, to have a lot of Boogie Nights. Beating the odds of natural selection requires that your specific gene code survive, thrive, and spread. So the notion that significant numbers of successful subgroups of a powerful and dominant species may choose not to have kids at all is truly unusual. . . .

There are some very weird customs and habits out there in the animal world, but even within the context of really unusual behaviors, such as mating plugs that glue a squirrels vagina closed, Indian stick insects that copulate for ten weeks straight, a honeybees exploding testicles, fig wasps that decapitate their lovers, no species, except humans, systematically practices birth control, abstinence, or childlessness when surrounded by abundance. That is truly unusual and kinky.

Widespread birth control, which allows us to decide when we have children, and how many, seriously bends Darwins rules of evolution toward our wishes. So too does domestication/ urbanization. Not that youd want to really chat about this with your kids, or parents for that matter, but think back to when you were sixteen. Perhaps you might have had just a little curiosity about, interest in, and, dare we say it, obsession with sex? Likely you indulged some of that curiosity, desire, and the occasional fantasy? Contrast this with todays Japanese teenage sex habits.

According to the Japan Family Planning Association, 59 percent of women aged sixteen to nineteen have no interest in sex. Perhaps far more shocking is that reportedly 36 percent of teen guys, those growing packets of acne and testosterone, have no interest in sex either. This is not a new phenomenon; in part, its why the Japanese population is collapsing at such a rapid rate. The demographics are already so unbalanced that each month the police arrest more elderly shoplifters than teenage ones. By 2060, the Japanese population will likely be one- third of what it is today. (And speaking of strange imbalances, within the Japanese porn industry there are more than 10,000 female actresses and fewer than 100 males, leading one overworked male star to argue that his kind are now rarer than Bengal tigers.)

Its not just Japan. Globally, there are fewer kids born, and to increasingly older parents. In many countries, next generations grow ever smaller. In the United States in the 1970s, one out of 10 U. S. women was childless. Now its two in 10. Only one in 100 women in 1970 had her first child after age thirty- five; today, eight in 100 do. This trend quickly cascades upward, generating ever-larger gaps between generations; in 1990, about 90 percent of women ages sixty to sixty- four had at least one grandkid. Today, fewer than 75 percent in this age range are grandmothers; soon it will be less than 50 percent. By 2025, Germany will likely have twice as many folks over 60 as under 10 years of age.

Prior to the mid-twentieth century, humans attempted to protect and pass on their genes in some most creative ways. They implemented grand societal plans, attempting to codify rules and norms for all. They individually carried out various experiments in dark bedrooms and closets. Many wished for long- term, stable love, but they also experimented, officially and unofficially, with arrangements between men and women, men and men, women and women, lovers, mistresses, friends with benefits, communes, grandfathering, coops, male violence, coercion, polygamy, matriarchy . . . As Bernard Chapais comments in the journal Evolutionary Anthropology, The human mating system is extremely flexible. Indeed, it is. The sheer variety and breadth of options is breathtaking. Only 17 percent of human cultures are supposedly strictly monogamous (one partner for life, period). All other societies allow some within their borders to operate under very different, overlapping, sometimes quite contradictory laws, beliefs, and morals. But there have always been kids, lots and lots of kids, running around. Thats how we got to 7 billion souls on Earth today.

Sometimes populations decline because humans impose wars, privation, and extreme oppression on other humans. Russia is no stranger to depopulation. It occurred from 1917 to 1923 as the empire became the Peoples Paradise. At least a further 2 percent of the entire countrys population was lost just from 1933 to 1934 as Stalin collectivized agriculture. World War II and its aftermath killed off a further 13 million. The irony is that the greatest driver of Russian depopulation hasnt been death and despair. Its been relative democracy and peace. No period of Russian depopulation has been as long and lasting as that which began with the dissolution of the USSR in 1992. In the final sixteen years of the Communist era, births in Russia exceeded deaths in Russia by 11. 4 million. But in the first sixteen years after glasnost and perestroika, deaths exceeded births by 12. 4 million.

Meanwhile, China, even as it reformed its economy and acquired wealth, enforced a one- child- per- couple law, resulting in an inverted population pyramid: eight great- grandparents relying for retirement on four grandparents who depend on two parents who had one child. But 8:4:2:1 is not a normal- looking population structure, and neither is it a structure that bodes well for future evolution. While initially one child per couple was a rational policy that cut down on explosive population growth and allowed decades of increasing productivity as the population rapidly matured, by 2012 these policies started to harm the labor force. For the first time, the absolute number of workers aged 15 to 60 declined 0.6 percent. And it will continue to do so, year after year, for the foreseeable future.

China recently slightly loosened its regulations if both parents had themselves been only children, they could have two kids. But this change may be too little too late; young couples feel it is normal to be an only child and fear the coming burden of caring for aging parents. So China is beginning to follow the patterns of South Korea and Japan; in these countries its not legal restrictions on childbearing but rather expensive real estate, brutal education policies, lack of child- support networks, a desire for more personal freedom, and changing social norms that are rapidly shrinking overall populations. There may be a monetary or political logic to these choices as well, but this trend is not a natural Darwinian pattern. Its unnatural selection that as nations get richer, more comfortable, more relatively open, less violent, and better at educating women (female literacy is a good predictor of birth rate), they also choose a massive decline in their current population.

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Science makes mind-blowing sex: How Darwin made your sex life hotter

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