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May 2011

“Monogamy is a Struggle” Interview with Christoper Ryan


Should we have sex on the


Digital Lust


Sex at Dawn


Hundred Years of Lust


Book Reviews



Remarkable Research


Interview with Christopher Ryan

e first date?

Credits Editor-in-Chief Anouk Vleugels Executive Editor Mark Fonseca Rendeiro Editorial Bendert Katier, Elke Weesjes Design Michelle Halcomb Advertisement Send an e-mail to advertising Questions and suggestions Send an e-mail to redactie Address Warmoesstraat 149, 1012 JC Amsterdam Website



Dominique We don’t know whether he did it. What we do know, however, is that Dominique Strauss-Kahn doesn’t take marital fidelity particularly seriously. When the former president of the IMF was reviled by the American press this month, the French immediately stepped in to defend him. “The Americans were being prudish Puritans,” they said. “Maybe, but at least we are not a bunch of adulterous perverts,” the Americans responded. Soon all eyes were on the French. Did they really all have extramarital affairs? And if so, is it just a French thing, or are other countries experiencing a moral decline as well? The answer to both questions is: no. No, not every Frenchman is cheating on his wife. And no, it’s not just a French thing. In fact, adults in France and in the U.S. are remarkably alike in their sexual behaviour, according to a recent sex survey. Monogamy proved to be the rule in both countries, with more than 90 percent of men and women who live together in couples reporting only one sexual partner in the last year. The fact that we struggle with monogamy doesn’t make us French. Or sick. On the contrary; it makes us human, according to research psychologist Christopher Ryan. Read the interview with this author on page 8.

Anouk Vleugels, Editor-in-Chief



Back in the day when computers were as big as houses and you still had to turn a rotary on your telephone to place a call, finding a way to satisfy your sexual needs wasn’t easy. Sure you could go out and buy a Playboy or visit the obscure 18+ section of the video rental – if you were old enough. But for those who preferred an actual partner during sex, roaming bars –or the local Red Light District- was the only option. Getting off required some effort, which was a big part of the fun. Nowadays, however, sex is just one mouse click away.

However, if you are looking for a relationship that is a bit more mutual; watching porn just doesn’t cut it. Internet dating on the other hand, which is socially accepted these days, is still a booming business. In Britain for example, 15 million people are single, and almost five million of them are shopping for love online. According to Tech Crunch, the so-called leader in the online dating space,, made about $90 million last year and operates in 60 countries in 25 languages. The dating site, which uses a proprietary matching technology, was able to suggest more than 700 million matches since it was While searching the web for a quick fix, you first launched last September. Of course this will probably encounter one of the most love doesn’t come free: only by paying a fee profitable online businesses available: porn are you able to contact your ‘match.’ sites. Revenue is usually generated by selling advertising, which enables porn sites to Successful as these dating sites may be, you make their content freely available. Accord- still need to turn on your computer in oring to, the highest-ranking porn der to fulfill your longing for a partner- who site today,, has more hits than might not even be who she (or he) says she The site hosts over 700.000 porn is. Fortunately, the latest development in digvideos in 60 different categories ranging ital dating enables you to know who you’re from ‘vintage’ to ‘facial,’ and from ‘big butts’ dealing with right on the spot. The gay datto ‘gonzo.’ The site’s visitors (mostly males ing mobile application Grindr uses GPS techbetween the age of 18-24) are able to imme- nology to instantly locate willing men in your diately watch free movies, just like the ones area. Gay men can trade their stats, show off on YouTube. Open any adult site and you will a photo, or send each other an instant messtumble upon an actual wall of porn: hun- sage. More importantly, Grindr enables them dreds of rectangular stills, with titles like ‘qui- to share their location on a map in order to et corner’(not as quiet as you would expect), meet up right away. Because the gay version ‘sweet and sexy’, and ‘quickie in the men’s proved to be such a success, the company room.’ Having so much content to choose is now developing an app for heterosexuals from, searching for the right porn might be and lesbians as well. And since the global more exhausting than actually watching it. mobile dating market is expected to more than double over the next few years, reach6

ing $1.2 billion dollar by 2013, it isn’t such a bad idea. In the year 2011, we are heading in a new direction. Instead of getting off by either going through profiles online, or by hooking up with someone in the real world, new technology merges both of these experiences into one better, more efficient one. An experience that is not only beneficial to the user, but also stimulates a multi-million-dollar business. The ancient cliché ‘sex sells’ still holds true, even in a digital area where immediate gratification is up for grabs.

By Bendert Katier


T strugg

Research psychologist Christopher Ryan, PH.D., is refreshingly clear when it comes to monogamy, lust and marriage. In their recently published book ‘Sex At Dawn’, Ryan and his co-author Cacilda Jetha, take us on a fascinating journey through space and time to show the diverse nature of human sexuality and examine why modern humans struggle with monogamy.


The fact that monogamy is a gle doesn’t mean we’re sick; it means we’re human” ‘Asked to imagine prehistoric human sex, most of us conjure the hackneyed image of the caveman dragging a dazed woman by her hair with one hand, a club in the other.’ Ryan and Jetha contest this image of prehistoric sexuality. They argue that prehistoric foraging societies in which human beings evolved were small-scaled, highly egalitarian groups who shared almost everything, including sex. Most adults, men and women, had several sexual relationships at any given time. Prehistoric humans were promiscuous, yet formed meaningful bonds with their sexual partners. Sharing was mandatory and life was not characterised by property or sexual possessiveness. All of this changed with the advent of agriculture. Private property replaced communal ownership and consequently paternity became a crucial concern. Women were the biggest losers in this new society. They went from occupying a central and respected role to becoming another possession for a man to earn and defend. Although we constructed a radically different society from our hunter-gatherer ancestors, we can’t deny our promiscuous past. According to the authors, it is this past which manifests itself in our current struggles over lust, monogamy and family.


What, in your opinion, has your research added to the existing literature on sex and monogamy? “We wanted to tell a different story of human sexuality and our sexual evolution. Almost all the stories being told by mainstream scientists, politicians, religious authorities and so on begin with the assumption that long-term sexual monogamy comes naturally to our species (or at least the female, in some iterations). So any straying from this ‘natural’ behaviour is a sign of pathology: something’s wrong with you, your partner, or your relationship. But our understanding of the data generates a very different narrative: long-term sexual monogamy is hard for many of us precisely because it’s not natural for our species. In fact, everything in our evolved nature leads us to seek erotic novelty, so the fact that monogamy is a struggle doesn’t mean we’re sick; it means we’re human. I think this is a very different place to begin the conversation, whether we’re speaking with our children, our therapist, or our partner(s).”

before meeting Cacilda (when I was working on my doctoral thesis on human sexual behaviour in prehistory), but I decided the book should be co-authored because she’d enriched the final product so much with her unique perspective as a woman of Indian background born and raised in Africa, who’d studied medicine in Portugal, done research for the W.H.O., etc. She brought so much knowledge and nuance to what I was writing that it would have been unfair and inaccurate to call her anything less than “co-author.” In addition to all those qualities, Cacilda has no problem telling me when a joke isn’t funny or a sentence doesn’t work.” Sex at Dawn’s basic message is that human beings are not, nor have ever been wired for monogamy. What are the most important factors which affect the success-rate of a monogamous union? “Several factors conspire to make longterm sexual monogamy difficult for people. As a species, we’ve evolved to be sexually responsive to novelty. From a genetic point of view, the lure of new partners (known to scientists as the Coolidge effect) combined with less responsiveness to the familiar (the Westermarck effect) motivated our ancestors to risk leaving their small hunter/gatherer societies to join other groups, thus avoiding incest and bringing crucial genetic vigor to future generations. Another problem is that most people in the West marry because they’re ‘in love,’which is a temporary, blissfully delusional state we should enjoy, but not expect to last forever. As the German poet,

“Most people in the West marry because they’re ‘in love,’ which is a temporary, blissfully delusional state we should enjoy, but not expect to last forever” Speaking of partners, you wrote ‘Sex at Dawn’ together with your wife who is a practicing psychiatrist. Was there any specific reason besides the fact you have the same disciplinary background, to team up with your wife?’ “Most of the book is based on research I’d done 10

Goethe put it, “Love is an ideal thing, marriage Your book has been a huge success; why a real thing. A confusion of the real with the do you think it became a bestseller?’ ideal never goes unpunished.” “Two words: Dan Savage [writer of the internationally syndicated relationship and sex advice column Savage Love]. He’s by far the Your book, which is a wide-ranging most read authority on sex and relationships investigation into prehistoric origins of in the U.S. Dan was our first—and most modern sexuality, has a powerful message passionate—supporter. When he demanded for women in particular. You refute that that all his millions of readers go out and buy a men and women always have been and copy, a lot of them did. That gave us a huge jolt always will be locked in erotic conflict. So of momentum.” we come from the same planet after all? “Divide and conquer is the oldest trick in the book, and dividing men and women is probably How about the book’s academic merit? Your its oldest application. The so-called “War of original approach and frank discussion of sex, the Sexes” is a dangerous distraction from the libido and fidelity must have been the biggest real enemies targeting all of us. What we need contributors to the book’s bestselling status. to do is stand together against those who try “Of course, if the book didn’t speak to people, to convince us that God hates us for natural interest would have quickly died out. We’re curiosity, refusing gay couples the dignity and very gratified that people don’t just like the legal protections of marriage, and legislating book, they get excited by it and tell all their morality which they themselves don’t follow.” friends. We’ve received many emails from people thanking us for saving their marriages, for helping them feel “normal” instead of In ‘Sex at Dawn’, you describe early hunter- ashamed of their sexual feelings, for showing gatherer women as sexually bold, independent how female libido is an important part of and thrill seeking. The suggestion that women human sexuality…. Clearly, many people were may have historically been just as open to sex ready to receive the message we tried to send as men, is one that many women find hard in Sex at Dawn.” to believe. What accounts for this skepticism? “It is hard for us to imagine how women would behave if they weren’t backed into a corner Currently ‘Sex at Dawn’ is being translated by being economically dependent on men. into Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Finnish, They carry several millennia worth of sexual Polish, Russian, Spanish and Ukrainian. Read repression on their backs. The effect of several more at millennia of humiliations, witch burnings, beatings, female genital cutting and stoning shouldn’t be underestimated in this context. That kind of campaign can really put a kink into someone’s sexual adventurousness! Women in societies that don’t cast them into the street as whores if they happen to get pregnant while single or humiliate teenage girls as “sluts” for texting a topless photo to a boyfriend seem to have much less trouble believing their female ancestors enjoyed active sex lives.” By Elke Weesjes 11



















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Should we have sex

Imagine: you’re on the perfect first date with so all the right things, and shares your taste in musi wine, the waiter kindly tells you that the restaur you like to come home with me?� From a scientific

Evolutionary Biology



x on the first date?

omeone. He or she is exceptionally beautiful, says ic. After the two of you finish the second bottle of rant is closing. Your date smiles and says: “would point of view; what is the correct answer?




Evolutionary Biology Surprise, surprise : men are more likely than women to engage in short-term mating - casual sex. And we have evolutionary biology to blame for that. Although both sexes claim to enjoy sex ‘with no strings attached’, only she was at risk of becoming pregnant afterwards. As a result, men and women have adapted different mating strategies. It’s basic economics, really. The decision to engage in casual sex depends on the costs it entails. For men, the costs are low. Worst case scenario, they catch a sexually transmitted disease. For women however, there is much more at stake. One fling can ruin her reputation, and if she becomes pregnant, sentence her to a lifetime of motherhood. As a result of these differences, men and women apply different sexual strategies. Hi. Would you have sex with me? The idea that men and women apply different strategies to mating, is supported by a number of scientific studies. In one experiment, when men were asked how many sex partners they would ideally like, they reported that they would like 18 in their lifetime. Women on the other hand said to be satisfied with 4,5 partners. Another well-known behavioural study, which was first conducted in 1989, had a similar outcome. During the experiment, both male and female researchers approached total strangers on a college


campus, and said “Hi, I’ve been noticing you around campus, and I find you very attractive.” Then they asked one of three questions: Would you go out on a date with me? Would you go back to my apartment with me? Would you have sex with me? The experimenters recorded the percentage who agreed to each request. Of the women approached by the male experimenters, 50% agreed to go out on a date with him; 6% agreed to go back to his apartment; and 0% agreed to have sex. Of the men approached by the female experimenters, 50% agreed to go out on a date, similar to the women’s responses. However, 69% agreed to go back to her apartment. And 75% agreed to have sex with her. On the back burner Both studies lead to a similar assumption: men have more sex partners than women do. But isn’t this mathematically impossible? Every time a man has sex with a woman whom he has not previously had sex with, a woman is simultaneously having sex with a

man who she has never had sex with. The logical answer would be that women, although they might not prefer it over finding a long-term partner, engage in short-term sexual relationships as well. According to evolutionary psychologist David Buss, women adapted this strategy so they could get men of high status, dominance, and genetic quality. However, there’s one benefit that is even more important: mate insurance. “Ancestral women who failed

to have mate insurance, a backup replacement in the event that something happened to her regular partner, would have suffered greatly compared to women who cultivated potential replacements,” Buss says. “Modern women have inherited the desires of their ancestral mothers for replacement mates. In the words of one woman in our study, “Men are like soup — you always want to have one on the back burner.”


Psychology So short-term mating can improve the quality of your offspring, but will it also improve your chances of finding your bride- or groom-to-be? From the field of psychology the answer is clear: if you’re looking for a long-term thing, you’d better keep your pants on.

Professor Anne Campbell looked at whether women have adapted to casual sex by examining their feelings following a one-night stand. Did they enjoy the experience, or did they only feel regret afterwards? To test this, a total of 1743 men and women who had had a one-night stand were asked to rate both their positive and negative feelings the following morning, in an internet survey. Not surprisingly, most of the men reported they felt “sexually satisfied and content.” They were more likely than women to secretly want their friends to hear about the onenight stand, and “felt successful because their partner was desirable to others.” For the women, on the other hand, the morning after wasn’t as fun as they probably had hoped. Almost half of the female participants regretted the hook-up, stating that it “made them feel used,” and “that it wasn’t sexually satisfying.”

tive- are not designed for short-term relationships, thereby dismissing the claim evolutionary biologist have made. “Recently, biologists have suggested that females could benefit from mating with many men - it would increase the genetic diversity of their children, and, if a high quality man would not stay with them forever, they might at least get his excellent genes for their child. But if that were the case, why then do women not enjoy casual sex as much as men do?” It’s an interesting question. According to another study published in the Journal of Family Psychology, however, it’s not just the women who should refrain from having first date-sex. Researchers found that couples who had sex the earliest — such as after the first date or within the first month of dating — had the worst relationship outcomes.

Hurray for chastity Not designed for casual sex Research psychologist Dean Busby and his According to Dr. Campbell, the study shows colleagues examined 2,035 heterosexual that women –from an evolutionary perspec- participants, who had an average age of 36.


All of them were in their first marriages. The subjects were asked when they first had sexual relations with their current spouse; how well they could express empathy and understanding toward their partners; how satisfied they were with their sex life and how often they thought their relationship was in trouble. To make sure religion would not affect the outcome of the study, the researchers controlled for the influence of religious involvement in their analysis. As it turned out, those who waited reported to have a more stable relationship and a better sex life. “Curiously, almost 40 percent of couples are essentially sexual within the first or second time they go out, but we suspect that if you asked these same couples at this early stage of their relationship – ‘Do you trust this person to watch your pet for a weekend many could not answer this in the affirmative’ – meaning they are more comfortable letting people into their bodies than they are with them watching their cat,” Busby says.


Mathematics Although mathematicians and psychologists do not often agree, they offer the same advice when it comes to sex: don’t give it up on the first date. According to a numerical model they developed, the good guys were willing to date for a longer time before having sex, while the rotten apples were reluctant to stick around.

The model is based on the idea that a woman will get a positive payoff from mating only if the man is a ‘‘good’’ male, with respect to his genetic quality, or ability or intention to provide paternal care. If she decides to sleep with a ‘‘bad’’ male, she will get a negative payoff from mating with him. In addition, a ‘‘good’’ male is willing to court for longer than a ‘‘bad’’ male; in this way the duration of a male’s courtship signals his type, and acts as a costly handicap. Die a virgin “Long courtship is a price paid for increasing the chance that mating, if it occurs, will be a harmonious match which benefits both sexes,” says professor Robert Seymour, leading author of the study. His colleague, Dr Peter Sozou, explains: “The strategic problem a female faces is how to screen out bad males, and this is where long courtship comes into play. A male is assumed to always want to mate with a female, but a good male is more willing to pay the cost of a long courtship to claim the prize of mating. So the female’s strategy is a compromise, a trade-off.” What the equations do not reveal is how long men should be kept waiting, in light of the fact that not even good guys will necessarily wait forever. Deciding on the length of courtship is thus a matter of judgement - which isn’t much help for women of a certain age. Also, a woman cannot eliminate the risk completely unless she decides


never to mate. Apparently, there’s only one way to avoid the chances of picking a dud guy altogether: die a virgin. So, back to your perfect first date. He or she is still waiting for your answer. “Are you coming with?” In the end, it all depends on what you’re looking for. If you just want to have

some fun, don’t hesitate, go. If you’re aiming for a long-term thing, however, kindly decline and go home. Alone. You’ll thank yourself later.


Book & Review Wicked Bugs: The Louse That Conquered Napoleon’s Army & Other Diabolical Insects

Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming Naomi Oreskes and Erick M. Conway

Amy Stewart

About 55 % of women and 18 % of men living in Western societies suffer from Arachnophobia: fear of spiders. They should all read this book. Because once you get acquainted with the Arizona bark scorpion, which causes you to feel unbearable pain for 72 hours straight-, and the Peruvian caterpillar ; deadly if you don’t have the anti-venom that must be administered within 24 hours, you realise that spiders are quite friendly.


Smoking leads to lung cancer. Ozone depletion is the result of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Reagan’s Strategic Defence Initiative was an insane project. To most of us, these statements seem to make sense. Once upon a time, however, they did not. According to this book: we have a small group of evil scientists to blame for this.

In this book, writer Amy Stewart investigates around 100 different species of insects, that infest, infect, and generally wreak havoc on human affairs. Like the typhus-carrying body lice that tortured Napoleon’s soldiers, who suffered in freezing temperatures with little food or shelter, as they marched across Russia in the winter of 1812, Or the scorpions which Arab warriors bombard the Romans with back in 198 A.D. Or the larvae of the tropical botfly, which feeds on human flesh. But not to worry, as Stewart explains, “These wounds rarely become infected, thanks to an antibacterial secretion from the larvae itself.”

Merchants of Doubt describes seven scientific issues that called for decisive government regulation but didn’t get it, because a few scientists sprinkled doubt-dust in the offices of regulators, politicians and journalists. This does not mean a new group of dissidents in each case, but the same few scientists; over and over again. The author, science historian Naomi Oreskes, explains: “[During a conference on the history of meteorology], we noticed that some of the people who were challenging the scientific evidence of global warming had previously questioned the evidence of stratospheric ozone depletion and the harms of tobacco. Then we found evidence connecting them to the tobacco industry, and we knew we had a story.”



Out of Character: Surprising Truths About the Liar,Cheat, Sinner (And Saint) Lurking in All of Us David Desteno and Piercarlo Valdesolo

Why was it that no one, including those who knew him best, suspected that Tiger Woods had several mistresses? Why did former New York Governor Elliot Spitzer, who made a career crusading against prostitution, get caught with a call girl? The answer is simple, according to the authors of Out of Character: because humans always act in self-interest. So what about moral values? Authors DeSteno and Valdesolo, both psychologists, use the metaphor of the ant and the grasshopper to describe two contradictory aspects of human behavior which are triggered by different neurological systems in the brain. While the ant is always looking to the future, the grasshopper, on the other hand, sees no point in doing so. Instead, it spends its time singing, playing, and enjoying itself. “Most people view character as something that is formed in childhood, the classic motif that you have the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the another, and you learn to listen to one or another. Once you’ve chosen which side you’re going to listen to, your character is set and that’s how you’re going to be for most of your life. What we argue is that it’s a much more dynamic process.” GET IT HERE

In the Google Works, Shapes

Plex: How Thinks, and Our Lives

Steven Levy

If Google were a person, this is probably what its autobiography would look like. Writer Steven Lev gained unprecedented access to the web giant, and offers an inside look at how founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin run the company. Most of the information in this book has been obtained directly from Google’s employees, including the notoriously secretive founding duo. Sergey Brin and Larry Page started Google literally in a garage. Their idea: developing an efficient search engine, and making money off it by selling keywords. Levy describes Google as a place for the “unspeakably brainy”, a kind of “geek never-never land” - just the right kind of environment to maximize innovation. The book reviews both the invincible strengths and the human flaws about this teenaged company, which has emerged as the single most disruptive force to change and empower the way we look at the world.


R emarkable e s e a r c h 34





A new vaccine contains genes stitched into the cytomegalovirus (CMV), a genetically modified and almost harmless version of SIV; the ‘monkey version’ of HIV. The modified virus produces antibodies, which protects the monkeys from getting infected with SIV.

Do you h up? Try t every onc

During an experiment, 24 macaques were vaccinated with the modified virus. One year later, 12 of them were still protected from SIV. According to leading researcher Louis Picker, these results can be very useful in the process of developing a vaccine against HIV. The vaccine also works over a longer period of time, because it stimulates the production of the central memory T cells. Upon a real infection, these white blood cells expand and mount an attack. Currently, Picker’s team is not ready to move the vaccine into human studies because of safety concerns about . The virus causes no harm in healthy people, but it can hurt a fetus, leading to vision and hearing loss as well as mental retardation, and can even cause blindness in immune-deficient children and adults who have diseases like HIV. Picker and his colleagues are now trying to make a weakened CMV that cannot cause disease under any circumstances. “We’re fairly far along on it,” he says. “But we’re going to have to prove that it’s safe and still protective.”

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According to new research, Neanderthals became extinct about 10,000 years earlier than was previously presumed. This means that modern humans and Neanderthals probably didn’t mingle much.

n scientists from the University of studied almost 1400 telephone cons, held by 100 male and female teles. During the calls, telemarkets atto persuade people to participate in one survey. The researchers analysed king rate, the tone of voice and the of times the telemarketers inserted uses.

ults showed that interviewers who oderately fast, at a rate of about 3.5 er second, were much more successtting people to agree than either interwho spoke very quickly or very slowly. too fast was perceived as ‘artificial’ hy’, while speaking too slowly signals edness. More surprisingly, ‘flat’ voicd to be more trustworthy than anioices. “We assumed that interviewers nded animated and lively, with a lot of in the pitch of their voices, would be ccessful,” said Benki, leading author, act we found only a marginal effect of in pitch by interviewers on success could be that variation in pitch could ul for some interviewers but for othmuch pitch variation sounds artificial, le are trying too hard. So it backfires people off.”

Thanks to a new and improved method of carbon dating, researchers discovered that the ‘youngest’ Neanderthal bones ever found, are actually 39,000 years old. Modern humans started migrating from the Near East to Europe 44,000 years ago, so the overlap is not as extensive as most archaeologists believed it to be. “There was a degree of contemporaneity, but it may not have been very long,” said Thomas Higham, who supervised the study. However, this does not answer the question why 2,5 % of the human genome is derived from Neanderthals. Higham believes that humans and Neanderthals did not interbreed 40,000 years ago, but rather 100,000 years ago when the two species met in the Near East. Empirical evidence for this theory, however, has not yet been found. Modern humans and Neanderthals occupied the same sites in what is now Israel, but it is not clear that the populations overlapped.



United Academics Magazine May 2011