What’s Love Got to Do with It?
1. In the beginning of her book, Meredith Small makes the
following statement: “Sexuality surrounds us, but it is not necessarily part of
us in an easy way” (4). She is intimating that sex and sexual behavior is to a
large degree embedded within our cultural values and way of thinking,
expecting, and acting. But she also suggests throughout her book that sometimes
our cultural values and our biology are in conflict. How so?
Meredith Small begins her book by
commenting that red light districts not only illustrates the desire for sex but
also speaks of the life we lead as humans. Red districts, Small mentioned,
“mimic the place of sex in our culture” in that sex, for humans, is not only
part of our biology, but a massive part of our culture (3). In our culture, sex
is a disconnected feature of our lives. Because of this, there arises a
disconnect between our biology and cultural values. An example of this
disconnect is adultery.
In Western society, monogamy is the
norm. Men and women marry one person each and are expected to spend the rest of
their natural lives with the same person. However, 33% of men and 23% of women
report having extramarital affairs (21). This disconnect is because, according
to Small, humans are not naturally monogamous. According to evolutionary
biology, humans are not made for monogamy. Monogamy is a social construct
imposed on people to make them stay together (20-22).
2. According to Small, what is the relationship between mating
and marriage? Thinking about marriage from a universal vantage point – what
does it accomplish? Is love always involved? How different is it around the
world? Is falling in love part of marriage everywhere? Are human beings
naturally monogamous or is this a cultural ideal?
As Small mentions in her book, the relationship between mating and
marriage is more practical than it is romantic. From the biological and
evolutionary point of view, love does not need to be involved in a marriage
since people mated to pass on their genes. As Small mentions, “marriage is a
human universal;” however, monogamy is not (12). The sexual practice of
monogamy is rare in the animal world and only evolved for one main reason: the
need for help caring for infants. Marriage and by extension, monogamy,
developed to ensure the paternity of the child (14-15). According to Small, the
nuclear family that we have today has its roots in human sexuality. The nuclear
family evolved through an economic transaction rather than love or lust; males
would offer their care and protection for the young infant if females were able
to provide them with regular sex (15).
For humans, the marriage system does
not necessarily equate the mating system because humans are not sexually
monogamous. Humans participate in serial monogamy – they have one partner at a
time but more than one partners over their lifetime. Marriage, although a human
universal, does not necessarily mean sexual exclusivity (31). Humans, according
to Small, seek variation. This desire for “newness” explains why at least 33%
of men and 23% of women report at least one case of extramarital affairs (21).
Evolutionary biology has proven that humans are not naturally geared for
monogamy. The monogamous mating system is an imposed cultural invention to make
people stay together for life ( 22).
3. Briefly describe four competing theories about the origins
and development of homosexuality. What exactly are the differences between gay
and heterosexual men? How would you respond to the following statement; “Being
gay is a lifestyle choice”?
In our culture, homosexuality is
defined by the sexual acts that occur with someone of the same sex. What people
fail to understand is that just like marriage and heterosexuality,
homosexuality is a human universal. It is a lifestyle choice just as much as
heterosexuality is a lifestyle choice. Homosexual men have sex just like
heterosexual men; it involves the same concept. Before the sexual revolution
and the gay liberation, homosexuality was perceived to be the result of a
twisted childhood (167). From that belief evolved many more theories about the
origin and the development of homosexuality.
The first theory for the origin of
homosexuality was established on the fear of women. This approach was founded
on Freud’s oedipal conflict. A hostile and overbearing mother restricts the
behavior and emotional health of her male son while a distant father just
observes. The overbearing mother and the cold father results in the boy
developing rage and repulsion towards women and as a result, becomes drawn to
men (167). This theory hypothesizes then that homosexuality is a pathological
rather than a biological product (168). This method is based on the faulty
assumption that people can physically and psychologically choose what turns
them on and who they fall in love with (169).
The second theory was based on
genetics. This approach involved a study of monozygotic twins who share the
same genes. The study determined that when one twin is gay, the co-twin is
twice as likely to be gay than if the twin had only shared the fetal environment.
This study discovered that since genes play a role in determining sexual
orientation, homosexuality might be moderately heritable (175). However, this
theory failed to consider the fact that the twins shared the same environment
and that in the same study, nearly 50% of the twins were not homosexuals (174).
This discovery suggests that other factors other than genes guide sexual
The third theory looked at hormones.
During fetal development, the brain acts as the “director of character development”
(176). According to a study, there exist critical periods when the male fetus
becomes “awash in hormones” that “masculinizes” the brain. According to this
theory, if something goes awry during these critical periods, the brain might
end up incomplete, and this might result in a homosexual child since the fetal
brain was not fully “masculinized” (176-177). This study, however, was based on
rats. Human sexuality cannot be manipulated as effortlessly as a rat’s since
our sexually includes a whole array of emotions and does not always include the
The fourth theory was based on
wiring. If we are put in a group of people and told to separate the males from
the females, we could quickly do so based on physical characteristics. Some
scientists push that variance even further by stating that the difference
between the sexes is wired in the brain (181). According to researchers at
UCLA, understanding specific clusters of cells in the hypothalamus (INAH 1-4)
could indicate the origin of homosexuality. According to neurophysiologist
Simon LeVay, the assorted sizes of the groups INAH 1-4 in the brain suggest
sexual orientation (181). The literature on this study is confusing and
contradictory, and therefore, cannot be utilized to find the origins of homosexuality.
4. According to Small, what are the main differences between
what men and women seem to be interested in when it comes to sexual relations
and sexual behavior. What might account for this from both a nature-nurture,
According to Small, the main
differences between what men and women want when it comes to sexual relations
revolve around the presence of emotions and the construct of social norms and
social experience. Men seem to have more sex partners, more affairs and more
orgasms than women (120). According to our evolutionary biology, males “should”
mate with as many available females because of their low sperm count and the
selection pressure to compete against other men. On the contrary, the same
literature states that women should be more selective about their mates because
of their low egg count (120-121). Men also establish their sexual variety
earlier than women. They usually start their sexual relations earlier and have
more partners. All of this seems to suggest that men enjoy sex more than women;
however, that may not be the case.
Although women express the need for
emotional connection as part of sex and are more hesitant towards one-night
stands, this does not mean that the difference between their sexualities is
naturally different. Instead, the differences rely on the what society teaches
women (122). A study on sexual desire discovered that although women believe
that love is a critical component of sex, 50% of them reported having sex
without any emotional connection while 81% claim that they “needed sex” (124).
In our society, women are trained to be wary of strangers and told not to
accompany them home; this makes one-night stands a bit difficult for women,
regardless of their desire. Also, society behaves more leniently towards
sexually promiscuous males, but it punishes women for the same action.
5. On the third page of Small’s book, she dedicates the book to
Tim. She says: “For Tim, Because Love Has Something to Do with It.” How is it
that Small makes this dedication? Is not most of her book about the biology of
male and female sexual differences – and the evolutionary bases of reproduction
and mate choice? How would you explain this?
What, then, does love have to do
with the sexual differences and the evolutionary bases of human reproduction?
Nothing and everything. As Small states, “no one has to love their partner to
have sex” (208). Many babies come into the world from unplanned, one-night
stands between two strangers who do not love or even know each other. Love is
not a necessary part of the sexual act. However, sex can be an essential part
of love. When couples love each other, they often have sex to share an intimate
part of themselves. Through sex, they not only share themselves, but they also share
trust and enter an orbit of emotional security that helps them prosper.
Small, Meredith F. What’s
Love Got to Do with It?: The Evolution of Human Mating. New York:
Anchor /Doubleday, 1996. Print.