Mar 26, 2023
Mar 26, 2023
In the beginning there was binary fission and bacteria had potential immortality. Somewhere along, the repeated binary fission led to some loss of DNA and the only way to reconstitute the not optimum DNA, was to receive an infusion of the vital stuff from a potential donor by sex between two bacteria. It was purely recreational and or altruistic for the donor and lifesaving and essential for the recipient.
Eukaryotes arose by engulfing of an organism by another and the engulfed organism became an organelle like the mitochondrion or chloroplast and both learnt to live symbiotically. As more complex and multicellular organisms evolved, sex became a way to reduce mistakes in copying and a way to compete with parasites by compensating for their rapid evolution with astronomical permutations and combinations that crossing over and sex allowed. Prior to this there was sex, but no gender. In the later Eukaryotes, the organelles of one gamete were destroyed and this was a form of dominance by the female gender whose organelles survived the fusion, while those of the male gamete were destined for destruction. Probably this led to the evolution of male gametes which jettisoned the excess baggage of organelles and thus attained a greater degree of success in fertilization of the female gamete by being able to swim faster in an ambient medium because of less baggage. Once this tendency by the male gamete of being smaller and more agile had begun, it was carried to an extreme like the peacock's tail or the antlers of the extinct Irish elk. This led to much greater maternal investment than paternal and rearing almost entirely by the mother, till the progeny reached independence or adulthood. It is noteworthy that in many mammals where female sexual behavior is not monogamous, the male often kills the young ones sired by another male to eliminate suckling and bring the female back into ovulation and estrus, so he can mate with her and make her bear his progeny. In rats, a pregnant female accosted by a new suitor aborts or desorbs the fetuses it is bearing, to conserve protein and be ready to bear again. The varied strategies and behaviors are discussed in detail in Sarah Blaffer Hrdy's excellent book titled "Mother Nature". Even humans manifest a variant of this behavior in the increased frequency of step-parental abuse of children.
The problem of the human infant is unique. Full brain development for it to be born totally independent would prolong the gestation period markedly and make the head so large that cephalo-pelvic disproportion (not uncommon even with a 280 day pregnancy) would doom the mother and child to certain disability or death. This necessitates the child to be born helpless, forces long and large maternal as well as paternal investment. All pregnant mothers or those caring for young children would have been handicapped in the savannah environment where humans evolved, and would need protection and nourishment from the efforts of others, mainly the fathers. This led to the evolution of permanent sexual receptivity and hidden ovulation, thus holding a lot of promises and uncertainties for the male consorts. The males evolved not only to be protective but also possessive and jealous, as they did not wish to be cuckolded or fooled into considerable paternal investment in a progeny, not carrying their genes. This paternal investment, not commonly seen in most other animals( birds excepted and they are more monogamous as well), and the larger size of the human male led to the monopolizing and forcible physical and social guarding of women and the right to sexual access to them. History is replete with stories of harems, chastity belts and crimes of passion. These practices are often consented to, conceded by, and campaigned for by acquiescing women, who defend their subjugation, e.g. Women for Islam. Ironically, the biological constraint of evolution has made women prisoners because of their pelvic size. The tolerance and permissiveness of premarital sex has been established in Western societies for sometime, and developed countries elsewhere somewhat later, and is now spreading to the less developed countries more recently. This was without eliminating the fear, stigma and economic deprivation of an unwanted pregnancy. It took Margaret Sanger to permit access to oral contraceptives to women and Japan still has restrictions on the pill. Ireland still bans abortion and the US had to be dragged kicking and screaming, to allow abortion and the morning after pill, RU-486. Promiscuity still has a price of sexually transmitted diseases including the incurably fatal and devastating AIDS, and the only solace that Islamic states, which tyrannically hyper-regulate female sexuality in all its forms and appearances have is a low incidence of this dreaded plague. Look at the consequences in Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Afghanistan. Has the pill liberated or merely paroled the prisoners of the pelvis? It has certainly leveled the playing field and placed women on an equal footing with men or atleast the libidos of both, especially after Pfizer announced the coming marketing of the female version of Viagra. I have tried to lay out the picture of sex, gender and womanhood, teleologically, biologically, socially and historically and it is for each individual to decide this thorny issue, but women should have the greater say.
More by : Gaurang Bhatt, MD