So, a few days ago, a new research paper on The Evolution of Ejaculation Strategies was tossed off, wiped clean and mailed to American Naturalist for publication in September. The paper has some very interesting observations to make about the ejaculatory habits of certain species of animals, specifically the domestic fowl and the Arctic charr (pictured below).
In a nutshell, when the more attractive males of each species mate, they do so often, and they apportion fewer sperm to each partner in order ‘to maximise their chances of producing offspring across a range of sexual partners’. Conversely, mating much less frequently, the less attractive males may choose to allocate more sperm to each union, thus increasing their chances of becoming a daddy.
And that, so far, is about as far as they’ve got. Sam Tazzyman is one of the authors of the paper and a member of CoMPLEX, which, standing as it does for the Centre for Mathematics and Physics in the Life Sciences and Experimental Biology, is one of the worst acronyms in the history of science. Tazzyman hopes to give over further study to trying to discover whether this in any way affects female behaviour. Deep down he knows it probably doesn’t, but a man’s got to make a living.
The problem with this study – if you’re an editor of a tabloid, for example – is that it has absolutely no application to human society. Tazzyman is quite clear about this: ‘How this work applies to humans and other primates is not yet known.’ But then again, if you are the editor of a tabloid, you’re also professionally obliged to never let the facts stand in the way of a story.
Aah, a textbook example of how to turn a fairly dull scientific finding into a slightly prurient human interest story. The article begins, ‘Uglier men with fewer notches on their belts are likely to be more productive between the sheets, it is claimed.’ Yes, claimed by you, you ignorant hack!
The main problems with this giant leap from charr and fowl to modern man are as follows:
1) Sperm Allocation. Obviously, I can’t speak for the Arctic charr, but I can say with some degree of confidence that the controlled apportioning of semen is not something at which we human beings excel. Or am I assuming too much about my fellow man? Damn, maybe it’s just me that’s lacking in that department. Maybe other men are very well aware of how many sperm they loose with each eruption and maybe they apportion accordingly. ‘Ten million for the tissue, ten million for Tanya’s mimsy, forty million for her mouth.’ Nah. That’s ridiculous. I’m going to go out on a limb and state categorically that mankind has not developed an ejaculation strategy. Let’s face it, most men haven’t even worked out a decent strategy for getting up in the morning. Eh, girls?
2) Socks Appeal. Closely connected to the above is masturbation. I know some animals do it – other primates, elephants and even the occasional dolphin, but the Arctic charr does not. And neither does the humble cock. It’s something to do with them not having a neocortex apparently, the wanky part of the brain which is unique to mammals.
However, if journalists insist on tugging the implications of this study to snapping point and we are forced to assume that less attractive men have deeper wells of serviceable semen at their disposal, then masturbation must rear its ugly head. I, for example, have not had sexual intercourse in over six months, but I’m prepared to wager that in that period, I’ve produced and disseminated twice as much procreative milk as – let’s say – Zac Efron.
The fact that his is shared out amongst his thousand-strong teenage harem and mine merely graces a pair of old socks is irrelevant. The point is, just because you’re not attractive doesn’t mean you’re carrying quality baby batter. I reject this assumption. My sperm’s been like gruel dregs ever since I got broadband.
3) The Pertaining Sexual Culture. Although the domestic fowl mates with many different males, leaving the paternity of her offspring to the conquering swagger of the most dominant sperm, human females tend to go about procreation in a slightly more discerning way. Except of course in certain parts of Newcastle.
4) Self-Respect. Women, the article assumes, can become so desperate to get pregnant that they may be prepared to put aside all other considerations – looks, personality, intelligence, sense of humour, suitability as a parent, shoes – and whore their mimsy to the nearest gargoyle, just on the off-chance he shares the ejaculation strategy of the Arctic charr. It also seems to assume that any ugly man would be more than happy just to lay back and be milked by these semen-hungry harridans. But this is not the case. At least, not necessarily. If a woman wants to sleep with me, for example – and I’m sure I speak for any ugly man worth his salt – it is a fairly immutable prerequisite that I have at least to like her a little. You know? There has to be some feeling. And if she doesn’t like me, not in the least, and really, genuinely only wants me for my sperm, then – unless she’s Audrey Tautou – it’s just not going happen. The reason being that I – like most ugly men – do have a modicum of self-respect – and it may be merely a modicum but that’s actually enough for me to value myself slightly higher than an uncomely specimen jar. Probably.
The bottom line though, and I'm sure about this: women do not choose the men they want to impregnate them based on the fertility or otherwise of their sperm.
Do they? Sweet Jesus, what if I’m wrong about all this? I’m no scientist after all, and Wikipedia will never make it so.
Sod it, nothing ventured, nothing gained. I think it’s time to post my first classified ad:
‘Ugly man with litres of non-lethargic sperm, 31, WLTM baby-craving, raving lunatic with own teeth or passable falsies. GSOH very much a bonus.’
That ought to do it. But I probably won't mention the vasectomy.