Peacock Theory of Mate Attraction and Decline of Culture

Among modern urbanites it is becoming fashionable to look like a hippie. More and more men now get themselves tattoos and piercings. Long hair for men is also increasingly becoming acceptable. Not to forget various accessories that urban hippie men now wear which in earlier times were only seen on women.

Need I spell out that fundamentally it is all about sex appeal? Maneuvers for mate attraction. It is what Neil Strauss in his book The Game describes as Peacock Theory. An excerpt from the book goes as follows:

Peacock theory is the idea that in order to attract the most desirable female of the species, it’s necessary to stand out in a flashy and colorful way. For humans, he told us, the equivalent of the fanned peacock tail is a shiny shirt, a garish hat, and jewelry that lights up in the dark—basically, everything I’d dismissed my whole life as cheesy.

As the world gradually transforms into an unregulated sexual marketplace, I postulate that we will see more and more men taking cues from our primal animal nature to attract women.

While women use makeup, flashy clothes, hairstyles that make them distinct, piercing and ornaments etc. to stand out and attract men, culture has taught that the way for a man to deserve a woman is to be socially productive and responsible.

Unlike the state of nature the civilization demanded of a man to form a family and provide for the woman and children for better part of his life. Civilization also expected a man to contribute to the growth of society by participating in production processes. This a man could do only if he was productive and possessed socially desirable qualities. A man who proved himself worthy in this way would be accorded high status by the society. And through social conditioning and mechanisms culture made sure that such high status men top the positions for most desirable marriage candidates.

Women on the other hand have been free of the responsibility of providing for a family, much less contribute majorly to the larger entity that is society. Culture put no pressure on women to prove themselves worthy by being socially productive in the same way it pressurized men to do.

Therefore, in order to win women men had to earn high status in the eyes of the society. In order to win men women mostly just have to look attractive for which they use various attention capturing maneuvers.

While beauty-enhancing makeup, nose and ear piercing and wearing rings through them, tattoos (in Indian tradition it is known as mehndi for women), long hair and creative hairdos with them,.. is considered adding grace to woman’s appearance, the same maneuvers when applied by men have been considered indecent and cheesy by culture. A man using those maneuvers is agreeably described by the term hippie, which explains how little the mainstream society valued them. Even today most traditional societies would be scrupulous to accord high respect to a man who wears an earring, has tattooed his arms and other visible body parts, has long hair etc. And these societies have a point.

Sex is a fundamental goal of our life. If culture has to develop it has to do so by strategically exploiting man’s sex drive. By forming mechanisms wherein men get women, and thereby sex, only if they prove their worth by being socially productive, culture ensures its continuation and growth. In the state of nature a man could attract women by killing mighty animals and other men, thereby establishing himself as alpha male – and it works even today as far as attracting women is concerned. (Evolutionary biology has plethora of evidence that women are sexually attracted to bad-boys and psychopaths.) But letting men get sex by such displays of strength is not conducive to development of the civilization. Hence, culture would form mechanisms to ensure that such men got no sex, by putting the men into prison and making outcasts of them.

Likewise, culture discarded many a way of men that worked for attracting women in the state of nature, and retained only those (like accumulation of wealth) which would help the culture grow. So much so that the most worthy man in the civilized culture is such that he would have hardly attracted any woman in the state of nature (a beta male). And a man who would have attracted most women in the state of nature is such that he would stand on the lowest rung in the civilized culture (a sociopath). This is because of disconnect between the goals of rationality and the biological goals of the species.

Culture is a product of human rationality, whereas in the larger picture human beings are organisms with biological goals. The goals of culture I would call human goals, and the biological goals are nature’s or evolutionary goals. Nature’s primary goal is propagation of genes and expansion of gene pool by reproduction. Survival of the fittest is the law, and nature has no regard for human well-being or prosperity. Those are the goals of rationality, the human goals. Hence the disconnect between the two types of goals that direct human organism. It is man’s fight with nature.

To attract mates by appealing to biology is to take cues of animal nature. It works for we are animals. When women attract men by using aforementioned maneuvers they are appealing to men’s biology, not rationality. (That is why we say it is irrational to get influenced by women’s outer beauty, and all the talks of “inner beauty”.) In the same way when a man attracts women by being a hippie he is appealing to women’s biology, and it works. Except that if men got women, thereby sex, that way then why would they employ their rational faculty to achieve high status by being socially productive? What will happen to culture then? Because society and culture are products of rationality and their growth is dependent on its members being driven by rationality instead of mere biological cues.

Culture, mostly through religions, formed mechanisms whereby men employing their rational faculty in ways that helped the culture grow were promised women. This was enforced mostly by religious teachings of virtue (which is also a product of rationality) and conditioning of women and society at large, so that they would value virtuous and socially productive men and view the likes of hippies as unworthy of having a woman.

This, however, is changing rapidly. With erosion of religious teachings and traditional values from modern societies, culture seems to be going downhill. A culture that allows its women to get attracted and won by men employing animalistic maneuvers and fails to reward virtuous men in the sexual marketplace, faces grim prospects survival. It would likely spiral into the state of nature from where it evolved.

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