Mating behaviors and gender specific roles appear to have
emerged in animals early in the course of evolution. Human behavior seems to be
an eclectic mix of mating behaviors common in all mammals. We can empathize with
the distraught male dog, longing for contact with the bitch in heat down the
street. Birds provide colorful examples of mating behaviors; nest building, pair
bonding and child rearing that are touchingly similar to our own efforts. Human
mating rituals are everywhere apparent. You do not need an evolutionary
psychologist to tell you what's going on in general terms, but real and deep
insight into the human condition requires understanding our animal heritage.
The natural play of attraction and sexual bonding is really
intended for teenagers. On the
pristine path, puberty initiates sexual activity, babies are born to teenage
mothers and the whole community participates in childcare. Currently, teenage
pregnancies are considered to be undesirable and young women may use
contraception to delay pregnancy one or two decades.
With the prolongation of life, and extended reproductive
potential, sexual attraction and mating behaviors operate for many more years
than was originally intended.
An idealized story of sex and gender in my community is
that girls and boys are distinct sexes who are attracted to each other, fall in
love, marry, have children, sacrifice personal and selfish desires in favor of
the success of the family and live happily ever after. Teenagers are nurtured in
a highly structured subculture and most avoid the vices of hanging out in
non-productive groups and are not routinely waylaid by alcoholism, drug
addiction, pregnancy, infection or crime. In the best case, teenagers date and
form relationships, graduate from high school and go on to jobs or advanced
education. A well-structured and enabling community steers adolescents into
relationships suitable for long-term commitment and family. Local newspapers
feature engagement and marriage announcements with pictures of young smiling
couples on their wedding day. Sometimes, the heterosexual marriage story comes
true, more or less. Each component of this ideal story is a complex of
interacting determinants and the results are variable. Each component of the
story identifies only an average or middle group in any larger population and
the rest of the population expresses different possibilities that range from
mild deviation, to gender and role reversals, to illness, addiction and
occasional tragic outcomes. In other parts of the world, gender differences are
emphasized, exaggerated and fixed in traditions and laws that tend to give males
more power and females an inferior socioeconomic status. Marriages are often
arranged and the fidelity of married couples is enforced by strict laws.
Punishments for infidelity range from social ostracism to death.
Parties, Clubs, Sexual Frenzy
Humans gather to celebrate with music, dance and drugs. The
celebration often involve displays of sexuality and attempts to meet a sexually
receptive partner. Dance is rhythmic body movements that express emotion,
display sexuality and enhance group cohesion. Birds and animals dance, often in
courtship rituals, sometimes in ritualized aggressive-defensive displays. In the
20th century couple dancing emerged in many styles. Broadways shows and
Hollywood movies featured dance music and some dancer couples became famous such
as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Popular tunes in the 1950's (Motown) became
the new dance music intended for young audiences. Rock and Roll emerged as
frantic dance music. Disco emerged with radio and recorded music. DJ's appeared
in dance halls, spinning their disc collections into collages of danceable
tunes. Discos became commercial dance, nightclubs, singles meeting places.
Discos and bars merged into the new nightclubs where noise, alcohol and
cigarette smoke dominated and often prevented the meeting place opportunities
that patrons sought. By the 1980's electronic dance music proliferated in
several styles – techno, trance, house, jungle, and electro dance are examples.
Raves featured trance dancing with the addition of ecstasy and other drugs.
After many years living outside of urban centers, I returned to Vancouver
and explored a variety of discotheques. The essentials were a dance floor, beer
and liquor, drugs, big speakers and loud sound. Often A DJ presided over the
deafening festivities. The electronic music that became popular was also heard
in the aerobics classes in fitness centers. By the late 1970s many major US
cities had thriving disco club scenes which were centered around discothèques,
nightclubs, and private loft parties where DJs would play disco hits through
powerful PA systems for the dancers. Some of the most prestigious clubs had
elaborate lighting systems that throbbed to the beat of the music. The notion of
romantic, skillful couples dancing was lost in the noise, confusion and
intoxication of late 20th century dance venues.
- The book, I and Thou, focuses on intimate relationships. Innate tendencies are hard at
work when people meet, become lovers and end with arguments and fighting. The
same tendencies determine how family members interact and explain why so many
families are “dysfunctional.” When lovers form an enduring pair bond, they often
become parents and everything changes. Humans seek bonding with others and are
distressed when they become isolated. Humans bond to each other in several ways.
The most enduring bonds are kin-related, based on closely shared genes. The
deepest bonding occurs when mother and infant are together continuously from
birth and mother breast-feeds the infant. Bonds among family members are the
most enduring. Bonds to friends, lovers and spouses are the next most
significant. Bonds to colleagues, neighbors and even strangers that are admired
from a distance are next. Friendships are often temporary bonds, based on the
need to affiliate with others for protection, social status, feeding, sex and
I and Thou eBook
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The author is
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