Sunday, September 14, 2008

Battle of the Sexes

I just read the chapter called Battle of the Sexes in Richard Dawkin's book Selfish Gene and again I feel that I have come to some realizations about human beings.

There exists a battle of the sexes among different species in nature and it occurs during mating season. A male may have to put in quite a bit of effort to court a female so that she may choose him and a female may want to shop wisely for a strong and committed male so that the investment in the offspring is proportionately shared. In the wild among lower order organisms it is common for the female to invest more of her energy and time into her offspring since she bears them. The males normally choose the option of leaving the female so that he can reproduce with other females and create even more offspring. These males invest very little time into preparing and caring for their offspring. It is easy for them considering that they are capable of producing such small sex cells, sperm, in such large numbers. Their investment per child is very small. However, the sex cells of females or eggs are much smaller in number and much larger for the purpose of providing food to her growing fetus(es). It is very clear to see why there is a battle of the sexes among many different species including human beings.

Since the onset of settlement of human beings 10,000 years ago, humans developed a pair relationship between a male and female in order to care and protect their young. The males worked as the hunters and the females as gatherers in a cooperative manner. This was important because children were more likely to live longer if they were cared for by both parents. In addition, by staying with the female a male could know with certainty that the children that he is investing so much in are in fact his. Although a monogamous relationship would mean less offspring for the male, it would also mean that he could keep track of his offspring and teach them to care properly for their children, a strategy that would help his grandchildren survive.

In today's modern society a monogamous marriage is very common and democratic laws protect this type of relationship between a man and woman when children are concerned. Even when an unmarried man and woman have a child similar laws will still apply. It is the responsibility of the parents to care and protect their own children until a certain age for their well-being according to the governing laws. If the proper care is not met, family laws dictate how the children will be cared for. Children can suffer emotionally from problems in their parents' marriage so in many divorce cases custody of the children is shared between the parents even when the parents have gone their separate ways. There are other cases in which if one parent leaves the family and all of his/her responsibility on the other parent, family laws will dictate that he/she must contribute financially to the children. In this way, the rights and freedoms of the children are seriously considered by the government no matter who the parents are. A simple monogamous relationship no longer protects the children like it did in the wild. Instead, it is the governing democratic laws that take over the responsibility of enforcing security of the children when a monogamous marriage breaks down.

Why then do individuals enter into monogamous marriages under the law and have children when they are unsure about undertaking such a responsibility? One reason may be that they have already invested time and effort into committing to a relationship that they are ready to have children. Most couples will enter into a legal marriage contract before they have children in order to solidify their commitment to each other to stay together and have children. Another reason may be that the families of the couple hold religious values that pressure the couple to wed before they live together and have sex. The couple then may have an unplanned child which they must take responsibility for even though they were not ready. This in particular is a common reason why people get married and why they get divorced. Marriage for religious reasons is extreme and unnatural and is not in the best interest of the man or woman.

Today, divorce is very common among couples with children. Although there are pros and cons about divorce, it is not in the best interest of the couple or their children. Democratic laws are such that upon divorce the man and woman split their finances in half, unless a prenuptual agreement was signed, and custody is awarded to either both parents or one parent depending on their financial and emotional situation. In addition, both parents are entitled to support their children financially based on their flow of income. The advantage is that the couple and the children are not subjected to emotional instability within one household. Further, the mother and father can be free to mate with other people and produce more children thereby creating a new family unit. But, the disadvantages are that a parent will be financially responsible even though the children are not living with them and the family unit will be divided causing long-term emotional instability especially for the children.

Such a governing system is necessary for the well-being of individuals in a society but it is clear that men and women do not understand the reasoning of the monogamous relationship. Human beings developed this type of relationship in order for their to be a shared responsibility to care for their children. However, today it has become a bond that is fragile and that can easily break down due to financial and emotional instability even when children are involved. Although there are a number of factors that can effect a marriage such as both parents working, infidelity, debt, sickness, conflicting belief systems, etc. the children's best interest is not always considered. A monogamous relationship should be a strength in a couple's lives. It should be a desired route to take for the purpose of security, love, growth, and family. But, it does not have to be a means of fulfilling a religious tradition or family dream. A battle is not necessary if both sexes can share a mutual commitment towards each other.

No comments:

Post a Comment