Last week saw the publication of the latest paper by Dr. Steven W. Gangestad and Dr. Martie Hasselton titled Human Estrus: Implications for Relationship Science. Anyone who’s read the Rational Male for more than a year is probably familiar with my citing Dr. Hasselton in various posts (her catalog of research has been part of my sidebar links since I began RM), but both she and Dr. Gangstad are among the foremost notable researchers in the areas of human sexuality and applied evolutionary psychology. For this week’s post I’ll be riffing on what this paper proposes with regard to a condition of estrus in women.
In the introduction section of The Rational Male I relate a story of how in my Red Pill formative years I came to be a connector of dots so to speak. While I was studying behavioral psychology and personality studies a great many issues jumped out at me with regards to how many of the principle of behavioral psychology could be (and were already being) applied to intersexual relations. For instance, the basic concepts of intermittent reinforcement and behavioral modification seemed to me an obvious and learned practice of women in achieving some behavioral effect on men by periodically rewarding (reinforcing) them with sex ‘intermittently’. Operant conditioning and establishing operations also dovetailed seamlessly into the Red Pill concepts and awareness I’d been developing for several years prior to finishing my degree.
Since then the ideas I formed have naturally become more complex than these simple foundations, but what I only learned by error was how thoroughly disconnected both students and my teachers were with what I saw as obvious connections. I met obstinate resistance to flat denial when I wrote papers or gave a dissertation about the interplay between the foundations of behaviorism and interpersonal relationships. It was one thing to propose that men would use various aspects to their own advantage, but it was offensive to suggest that women would commonly use behavioral modification techniques to achieve their Hypergamous ends.
This peer resistance was especially adamant when I would suggest that women had a subconscious pre-knowledge (based on collective female experience) of these techniques. I never thought I had brass balls for broaching uncomfortable considerations like this – I honestly, and probably naively, assumed that what I was proposing had already been considered by academia long before I’d come to it.
I was actually introduced to the work of Dr. Hasselton during this time, and along with Dr. Warren Farrell, she’s gone on to become one of my go-to sources in respect to the connection between contemporary behavioral ‘dots’ with theories of practical evolved function in intersexual dynamics. I owe much of what I propose on Rational Male to this interplay, and while I doubt Hasselton would agree with all of what I or the manosphere propose, I have to credit her and her colleague’s work for providing me many of the dots I connect.
I understand that there are still evo-psych skeptics in the manosphere, but I find that much of what passes for their piecemeal “skepticism” is generally rooted in a desire to stubbornly cling to comforting Blue Pill idealisms. That said, I’d never ask any reader to take what I propose here on faith, but personally I’ve found that the questions proposed by evo-psych reflect many of the observations I had in my college days.
For the social theater of the Feminine Imperative, one of the more galling developments in psychological studies to come out of the past fifteen years has been the rise of evolutionary psychology. The natural pivot for the Imperative in dealing with evo-psych has been to write off any concept unflattering to the feminine as being speculative or proving a biased positive (by “misogynistic” researchers of course), while gladly endorsing and cherry-picking any and all evo-psych premises that reinforce the feminine or confirm a positive feminine-primacy.
Up until the past two years or so, there was a staunch resistance to the concept of Hypergamy (know as sexual pluralism in evo-psych) and the dual natures of women’s sexual strategy. Before then the idea of Alpha Fucks / Beta Bucks was dismissed as biased, sociologically based and any biological implications or incentives for Hypergamy were downplayed as inconclusive by a feminine-centric media.
However the recent embrace of Open Hypergamy and “Sandbergism” of the last two years has set this narrative on its head, and the empowered women who found the idea of their own sexual pluralism so distasteful are now openly endorsing, if not proudly relishing, their roles in a new empowerment of Hypergamous duplicity.
For those of you that aren’t aware, women now are often out earning men and more of them receive college degrees than men. As of now there aren’t really any programs to help guys out. Assuming this trend continues what do you think will happen to dating? I think that attractive women, will have their pick regardless.
However, for a lot of women, trying to lock down a guy in college will be more of a big deal. I don’t think hook up culture will disappear, but will definitely decrease.
With the exception with my current boyfriend, I have always earned more than any guy I have dated. It has never been an issue. I just don’t have to think about their financials, my attraction is based on their looks and personality. I am guessing the future will be more of that.
I thought this TRP subred was an interesting contrast to the Estrus theory proposed in the Gangstad-Hasselton paper (comments were good too). Yes, the woman is more than a bit gender-egotistical, and yes her triumphalism about the state of women in college and their earning is built on a foundation of sand, but lets strip this away for a moment. The greater importance to her in relating this, and every woman embracing open Hypergamy, is the prospect of better optimizing the dual nature of her sexual strategy.
In many a prior post I’ve detailed the rationales women will apply to their sexual pluralism and the social conventions they rely upon to keep men ignorant of them until such a time (or not) that they can best consolidate on that dualism. Where before that strategy was one of subtle manipulation and pretty lies to keep Betas-In-Waiting ready to be providers after the Alpha Fucks decline at 30, the strategy now is one of such utter ego-confidence in feminine social primacy that women gleefully declare “I’m not just gonna have my cake and eat it too, I’m getting mine with sprinkles and chocolate syrup” with regard to Alpha Fucks and Beta Bucks.
The Estrus Connection
For all of the ubiquitous handwringing the manosphere imparts to the social implications of today’s Open Hypergamy, it’s important to consider the biological underpinnings that motivate this self-interested conceit.
In the vast majority of mammalian species, females experience classic estrus or heat: a discrete period of sexual receptivity – welcoming male advances – and proceptivity – actively seeking sex – confined to a few days just prior to ovulation, the fertile window. Only at this time, after all, do females require sex to conceive offspring. The primate order is exceptional. Although prosimians (e.g., lemurs, tarsiers) exhibit classic estrus, the vast majority of simian primates (monkeys and apes) are sexually active for at least several days outside of the fertile period . Humans are an extreme case: Women may be sexually receptive or proceptive any time of the cycle, as well as other nonconceptive periods (e.g., pregnancy).
Do Women Retain a Functionally Distinct Fertile Phase?
Graded sexuality. Women’s sexual activity is not confined to an estrous period. But are women’s sexual interests truly constant across the cycle? Many female primates (e.g., rhesus macaques and marmosets) are often receptive to sexual advances by males outside of the fertile phase, but they initiate sex less .
In fact, women’s sexual interests do appear to change across the cycle. Women exhibit greater genital arousal in response to erotica and sexually condition to stimuli more readily during the follicular phase [5-8].
A recent study identified hormonal correlates of these changes by tracking 43 women over time and performing salivary hormone assays . Women’s sexual desire was greater during the fertile window, and was positively related to estradiol levels (which peak just before ovulation), but negatively related to progesterone levels (which rise markedly during the luteal phase).
Changes in the male features that evoke sexual interest. Since the late 1990s, some researchers have argued that what changes most notably across the cycle is not sexual desire per se but, rather, the extent to which women’s sexual interests are evoked by particular male features – specifically, male behavioral and physical features associated with dominance, assertiveness, and developmental robustness. Over 50 studies have examined changes across the cycle in women’s attraction to these male features.
The importance of behavioral features? Whereas preference shifts of major interest early on concerned male physical features (e.g., facial masculinity; scent), several recent studies have focused on women’s reactions to men’s behavior and dispositions. Previous research had found that women find male confidence, even a degree of arrogance, more sexually appealing during the fertile phase [e.g., 15-16]. Recent studies replicate and extend that work, finding not only that fertile-phase women are more sexually attracted to “sexy cad” or behaviorally masculine men (relative to “good dad” or less masculine men), but also that, during the fertile phase, women are more likely to flirt or engage with such men [17,18]. Females of a variety of species, including primates , prefer dominant or high ranking males during the fertile phase of their cycles. These males may pass genetic benefits to offspring, as well as, potentially, offer material benefits (e.g., protect offspring). Women’s fertile-phase sexual attraction to behavioral dominance appears to have deep evolutionary roots.
Much of what’s explored here I laid out in Game terms in Your Friend Menstruation over two years ago, but the implications of the behaviors prompted by women’s menstrual cycle and biochemistry strongly imply an estrus-like predictability. This estrous state is a foundational keystone, not just to developing Game, but a keystone to understanding the dynamics behind Hypergamy, women’s dualistic sexual strategy, Alpha Fucks / Beta Bucks, and can even be extrapolated into the drive for ensuring feminine social dominance in both overt and covert contexts.
When women embrace a social order founded upon a feminine state of openly revealed Hypergamy they confirm and expose the reality of this estrous state.
Whereas before, in a social order based on concealed Hypergamy, this state could be dismissed as a social construct (and a masculine biased one at that), or one that had only marginal influence to reasoning women with a “higher” human potential. No longer – the confirmation of a true estrus in women via open Hypergamy literally confirms virtually every elementary principle Game has asserted for the past 13 years.
Within the dual sexuality framework, fertile-phase sexuality and non-fertile-phase sexuality possess potentially overlapping but also distinct functions [22,23]. In a number of primate species, extended sexuality – female receptivity and proceptivity at times other than the fertile phase – appears to function to confuse paternity by allowing non-dominant males sexual access [e.g., 24]. These males cannot rule out their own paternity, which might reduce their likelihood of harming a female’s offspring. In humans, by contrast, extended sexuality may function to induce primary pair-bond partners to invest in women and offspring [e.g., 22].
I found this part particularly interesting when you contrast this dynamic with the social resistance that standardized paternity testing has been met with. In a feminine-primary social order based on open Hypergamy, the Feminine Imperative can’t afford not to legislate a mandated cuckoldry. If Beta provider males will not comply with the insurance of a woman’s long-term security (as a result of being made aware of his place in Open Hypergamy) then he must be forced to comply either legally, socially or both. The old order exchange of resources for sexual access and a reasonable assurance of his paternity is replaced by a socialized form of cuckoldry.
Some studies have found that women’s sexual interests in men other than partners are strikingly rare during the luteal phase, relative to the fertile phase [25,26]. Other research has found moderating effects; for example, women who perceive their partners to lack sex appeal experience increased attraction to men other than partners, less satisfaction, and a more critical attitude toward partners, but only when fertile [27,28]. Fertile-phase women in one study were more assertive and focused on their own, as opposed to their partner’s, needs, especially when attracted to men other than partners during that phase .
Most research on cycle shifts has been inspired by theory concerning women’s distinctive sexual interests during the fertile phase. One study explicitly sought to understand factors influencing women’s sexual interests during the luteal phase, finding that, at that time, but not during the fertile phase, women initiated sex more with primary partners when they were invested in their relationship more than were male partners . This pattern is consistent with the proposal that extended sexuality functions, in part, to encourage interest from valued male partners. Others have proposed that women’s estrus phase has been modified by pair-bonding.
Initiating sex or being receptive to a primary partner’s sexual interest during the luteal phase (the Beta swing of the cycle) follows when we consider that a woman being sexual during this phase poses the least potential of becoming pregnant while simultaneously (rewarding) reinforcing that primary partner’s continued investment in the pairing with sex (intermittent reinforcement). This is a very important dynamic because it mirrors a larger theme in women’s socio-sexual pluralism – it’s Alpha Fucks/Beta Bucks on a biological scale.
Compare this intra-relationship predisposition for Beta sex and contrast it with the larger dynamic of open Hypergamy Alpha Fucks during a woman’s prime fertility window in her peak SMV years, and her post Epiphany Phase necessity to retain a comforting (but decidedly less sexually exciting) Beta provider.
Women’s sexual strategy on a social scale, mirrors her instinctual, estrous sexual strategy on an individual scale.
Cues of Fertility Status
Females across diverse species undergo physical and behavioral changes during estrus that males find attractive: changes in body scents in carnivores, rodents, and some primates; changes in appearance, such as sexual swellings, in baboons and chimpanzees; changes in solicitous behavior in rodents and many primates [2,31] Because women lack obvious cyclic changes, it was widely assumed that cycle shifts in attractiveness were eliminated in humans, perhaps with the evolution of
pair bonding .
In 1975, a pioneering study documented increased attractiveness of women’s vaginal odors midcycle . A quarter century later, research revealing other detectable fertile-phase changes began to accumulate, including increased attractiveness of women’s upper torso odors, increased vocal pitch and attractiveness, and changes in women’s style of dress and solicitous behaviors . Meta-analysis of this literature confirms that changes across the cycle in women’s attractiveness are
often subtle, but robust (K. Gildersleeve, PhD dissertation, UCLA, 2014).
A notable recent study demonstrated that hormones implicated in attractiveness shifts in non-humans also predict attractiveness shifts in humans . Photos, audio clips, and salivary estrogen and progesterone were collected from 202 women at two cycle points. Men rated women’s facial and vocal attractiveness highest when women’s progesterone levels were low and estrogen levels high (characteristic of the follicular phase, and especially the fertile window).
Emerging evidence suggests that these changes affect interactions between males and females. During the fertile window, women report increased jealous behavior by male partners [25,29,36]. A possible mediator of such changes – testosterone – is higher in men after they smell tshirts collected from women on high- than on low-fertility days of the cycle [37; cf. 38]. A recent study examined related phenomena in established relationships by bringing couples into the lab for a close interaction task (e.g., slow dancing) . Following the interaction, male partners viewed images of men who were attractive and described as competitive or unattractive and noncompetitive. Only men in the competitive condition showed increases in testosterone from baseline – and only when tested during their partner’s fertile phase.
What remains less clear is how we can understand shifts in attractiveness from a theoretical perspective. It is unlikely that women evolved to signal their fertility within the cycle to men [22,34]. In fact, the opposite may have occurred – active selection on women to conceal cues of ovulation, which could help to explain weak shifts in attractiveness relative to many species. Concealment might have promoted extended sexuality with its attendant benefits from investing males, or
facilitated women’s extra-pair mating. Possibly, the subtle physical changes that occur are merely “leaky cues” that persist because fully concealing them suppresses hormone levels in ways that compromise fertility. Behavioral shifts, by contrast, may be tied to increases in women’s sexual interests or motivation to compete with other women for desirable mates [e.g., 40].
Usually after first-time readers have a chance to digest the material I propose in Your Friend Menstruation the first frustration they have is figuring out just how they can ever reliably detect when a woman is in this estrous state. On an instinctual level, most men are already sensitive to these socio-sexual cues, but this presumptuousness of sexual availability is rigorously conditioned out of men by social influence. In other words, most guys are Beta-taught to be ashamed of presuming a woman might be down to fuck as the result of picking up on visual, vocal or body posture cues.
Beyond this perceptiveness, there are also pheromonal triggers as well as behavioral cues during estrus that prompt a mate guarding response in men.
I would however propose that the evolved concealment of an estrus-like state and all of the attendant behaviors that coincide with it are a behavioral mechanic with the purpose of filtering for men with a dominant Alpha capacity to “Just Get It” that a woman is in estrus and thus qualify for her sexual access either proceptively or receptively. Women’s concealed estrus is an evolved aspect of filtering for Alpha Fucks.
In addition, this concealment also aids in determining Beta Bucks for the men she needs (needed) to exchange her sexual access for. A guy who “doesn’t get it” is still useful (or used to be) precisely because he doesn’t understand the dynamics of her cyclic and dualistic sexual strategy. Her seemingly erratic and self-controlled sexual availability becomes the Beta Bucks interest’s intermittent reinforcement for the desired behavior of his parental investment in children that are only indeterminately of his genetic heritage.
Evidence of this intermittent reinforcement can also be observed in what Athol Kay from Married Man Sex Life has described as wives “drip feeding” sex to their husbands. The confines of a committed monogamy in no way preclude the psycho-sexual influences of estrus. Thus placating a less ‘sexy’, but parentally invested man with the reinforcer of infrequent (but not entirely absent) sex becomes a necessity to facilitate the prospect of a future sexual experience with an Alpha while ensuring the security of her Beta.
In closing here I think the importance of how this estrous state influences women on both an individual and social level can’t be stressed enough in contrast to the social embrace of open Hypergamy. The Hypergamy genie is not only out of the bottle, but women are, perhaps against their own interests, embracing the genie with gusto.
Just today Vox posted a quick hit article about how men are discovering that pornography is now preferable to relating with the average woman. In an era of open Hypergamy I don’t believe this is a rationalized preference so much as it’s simply a pragmatic one. Men are rapidly awakening to a Red Pill awareness, even without a formal Red Pill education, and seeing the rewards (the intermittent reinforcement) simply aren’t worth the investment with women who blithely express their expectations of them to assume the role they would have them play in their sexual strategies.