Returned to original title, for the good reasons given here

There was a recent post in Discussion which at time of this writing held staggering 454 commentaries, which inclined me to write an evolutionary psychology and social endocrinology derived post on courtship, and Mating Intelligence, to share some readings on recent discussions and evidence coming from those areas. I've been meaning to do this for a while, and a much longer version could have been written, with more specific case studies and citations and an academic outlook, yet I find this abridged personal version more adequate for Lesswrong. In no area more disclaimers are desirable than when speaking about evolutionary drives for mating. It touches emotions, gender issues, morality, societal standards, and it speaks of topics that make people shy, embarrassed, angry and happy on a weekly basis, so I'll begin with a few paragraphs of disclaimers.

I'll try to avoid saying anything that I can remember having read in a Pick Up Artist book, and focus on using less known mating biases to help straight women and men find what they look for in different contexts. This post won't work well for same-gender seduction. If you object irrevocably to evolutionary psychology, just so stories, etc... I suggest you refrain from commenting, and also reading, why bother?

Words of caution on reading people (me included) talking about evolutionary psychology, specially when applied to current people: Suspicious about whether there is good evidence for it? Read this first, then if you want Eliezer on the evolutionary-cognitive difference, and this if your feminist taste buds activate negatively. If you never heard of Evolutionary Psychology (which includes 8 different bodies of data to draw from), check also an Introduction with Dawkins and Buss.

When I say "A guy does D when G happens" please read: "There are statistically significant, or theoretically significant reasons from social endocrinology, or social and evolutionary psychology to believe that under circumstances broadly similar to G, human males, on average, will be inclined towards behaving in manners broadly similar to the D way. Also, most tests are made with western human males, tests are less than 40 years old,  subject to publication bias, and sometimes done by people who don't understand math well enough to do their statistics homework, they have not been replicated several times, and they are less homogenous than physics, because psychology is more complex than physics."

If you couldn't care less for theory, and just want the advice, go to the Advice Session.


Thusfar in Evolutionary Psychology it seems that our genes come equipped with two designs that become activated through environmental cues to think about mating.

Short-term mating

Long-term mating

Knowing this is becoming mainstream. The state of the art term is Mating Intelligence, and it has these two canonical modes that can be activated, depending on factors as diverse as being informed that X is leaving town in two days, and detecting X's level of testosterone, accounting for his height and status, and calculating whether his genes are worth more or less than his future company. If you choose to read the linked books, then you'll delve in this much deeper than I have, so stop reading this, and write a post of your own afterwards.

I'll list some main misconceptions, then suggest how to use either the misconceptions, or the theory mentioned while explaining them to optimize for whatever you want from the opposite gender individuals at a particular moment.

Misconception 1: Guys do Short-term, Girls do Long-term, unless they don't have this option.

This is false. Guys are very frequently pair bonded, most times even before women are, both have oxytocin levels going up after sex, and both have high levels of oxytocin during relationships. Girls only have less frequent causal intercourse because it is hard to find males worthy of the 2 year raising a baby period, or in the case in which they are pair-bonded already, because of the risk of the cuckolded "father" leaving, fighting her, or recognizing the baby ain't his. Obviously, no one's brain has managed to completely catch up with condoms and open relationships yet.

Misconception 2: Women go for the bad guys (if I remember my American Pie's correctly, also called jocks in US) and good guys, nerds, and conventionals are left last. 

'Bad guys' is a popular name for high testosterone, risk taking, little routine individuals. And indeed when a woman's short-term mating intelligence program is activated, which happens particularly when she is ovulating and young (even when she's close married/relationshiped) she does exhibit a preference for such types. When optimizing for long-term partners, the reverse is true.

Misconception 3: Guys just go for looks, Girls just go for status. 

Toned down reality: Guys in short-term mating mode go for looks, Girls in long-term mating mode care substantially for the difference between lower than average status and average status, then marginal utility decreases and more status is defeated by other desirable traits.

Women in short-term mode do not optimize for status, they'll take a bus-boy who shows through size, melanin, symmetry and chin that he survived local pathogens despite his high testoterone, she's after resistant genes, not resources. Men in long term mode still optimize for looks, but not that much, kindness and emotional stability take over when marginal returns for more beauty start subsiziding.

Misconception 4: When genders optimize for Status, Status=Money.

Unlike all known primate and cetacean species, Humans daily deal with being high, low, and medium status in different hierarchical situations. This should be as obvious as not to be worth mentioning, but sadly there are strong media incentives, and for some reason I don't understand well strong reasons within English and American culture to pretend that women go for status, status=money, therefore women go for money, and men should make more money. It may be a selection effect, the societies that financially took over the world believed that being financially powerful was the best way to get laid, or marry. It may just be that marketing these things together (using sexy women to sell cars) created a long-term pavlovian association. Fact is that it unfortunately happened, and people believe it, despite it being false. Women who begin believing it sometimes force themselves into doing it even more. 

Status has no universal measure. If you met someone in Basketball team, status will be how good that person is plus their game attitude. If in a class at university, maybe it will be how well spoken the person is in the relevant topic. Status can be how much food the person usually shares with groups, or how much they can ask for others without being very apologetic. It can be how many women sleep with a man, or how many he can afford to reject. It can be how many purses a woman has, or how she can show thrift and a sense of belonging to a community that identifies as anti-consumerist. Some minds assign status based on location of birth, race, hair color etc...   (In my city, Japanese women, all the 400.000, are commonly assumed to be high status). Finally, men do optimize for the trait people think as status, explained below, in long-term mates. 

Even in the case where status plays the largest role, women when activating long-term reasoning, status is only one factor out of four multiplicants that are important for the same reason, and detected, in a prospective male mate:  

Kindness*Dependability*(Ambition-Age)*Status = How many resources a man is expected to share with you and your hypothetical kids.

And this does not even begin to account for any physical trait, nor intelligence, humour, energy levels etc... If you take one thing out of this text, take this: Make your beliefs about what status is pay rent. Test if status is what people think it is, or something that only roughly correlates with that. Sophisticate your status modules, they may have been corrupted.

Misconception 5: Once you learn what your mind is doing when it selects mates, you should make it get better at that.

Let's begin by reaffirming the obvious: We live in a world that has nothing to do with savannahs where our minds spent a long time. We can access thousands, if not millions of people, during a lifetime. We have condoms and contraceptives. We live in an era of abundance compared to any other time in history, and in societies so large, that the moral norms constraining what "everyone will know" do not apply anymore.

So the last thing you want to do is to make your mind really sharp and accurate when judging a potential mate through its natural algorithms. What you want to do, to the extent that it is possible, is to override your algorithms with something that is better, and better is one of these two things:

1) Increasing your likelihood of mating with the individual (or class of individuals) you want to mate with in a matched time-horizon (long if you want long, for instance).

2) Enlarging the scope of individuals you want to mate with to include more people you actually do, will or can get to know. 



To give better advice, I'll first mention general advice anyone can use, and then specific advice for the four quadrants. For those who will say this is the Dark Arts, I say it would be if we lived in a Savannah without condoms, heating, medicine, houses or internets. Now it looks to me more like causing one-self, and one's beloved, to be more epistemically rational.


General Advice

Women, be confident: If you are a woman, be more confident, way more confident, when approaching a guy, don't be aggressive, just safe, you mind is tuned with who knows how many trigger devices that may make you afraid of a no, of being thought of as slutty, of losing face, and of the guy not raising your kids. Discount for all that, twice. Don't do it if everyone really will know, or if you actually want kids from that guy.

Use your best horizon features: If you have a trait that the other gender optimizes for more in short-term, lure them by acting short-term, even if later you'll attempt to raise their oxytocin to the long-term point. If you have goods and ills on both time horizons, switch back and forth until you grasp what they want. 

Discount for population size: There are two ways of doing that, one is to reason to yourself "I may not be as attractive as Natalie Portman or Brad Pitt, but our minds are tuned to trying to get the best few achievable mates out of a group of 100-1000, not of hundreds of millions, so I do stand a very good chance" The other is nearly opposite: "I may think that I should only marry a prince, or sleep with Iron Man, but in fact my world is much smaller than this, and my mind will be totally okay to mate with Adam, that cool guy."

Be hedonistic: For men and women alike, the main way evolution got us into intercourse was by making it fun. The reasons it got us out are related to unlikelihood of leaving great-grandchildren, energy waste, disease, and lowered status. Of those, only a subset of lowered status is still significant in a world full of condoms. Other than women when aiming at long-term only, everyone is completely under-calibrated for sex, since we substantially reduced the risks without reducing the hedonic benefits nearly as much.

Use fetishes and peculiarities: There are things each particular person is attracted to more than everyone else (for me that's freckles, red/orange/blue/purple hair, upper back, and short women). Use that in your favour, less competition, as simple as that.

Go places: There are better and worse places to find mates. Short-terming males (a temporary condition in which any male may find himself, not a kind of male) abound in dancing clubs, military facilities and sports areas, not to mention OkCupid. Long-terming females (same) abound on courses and classes of yoga, dancing, cooking, languages, etc...  Long-terming males usually have more of a routine, so are more frequent on saturdays and fridays than on a tuesday late evening, they'll be more frequent wherever no one naturally would go to find a one night stand, or in groups that are preselected for strong emotions (low thresholds for falling in love) Short-terming females may exist in dancing clubs, bars and other related areas, but are very high value due to comparative scarcity when in these areas, someone looking for them is better off in groups with a small majority of women, where social tension and hierarchies don't scale up in either gender.


Specific Advice

Note: The advice is about things you should do in addition to what you naturally tend to do in those situations, you already have the algorithms, and should just improve calibration, unless when explicited, the suggestion is not to substitute what you naturally tend to do, or this would be a book all by itself explaining 4 kinds of human courtship.

For Long-terming Men: Stop freaking out about financial status. Find a place where you are among the great ones in something, specially kindness, dependability, physical constitution, and symmetry which guys think of less frequently than Successful startups or Tennis worldchampions. If you are hot, use short-term, women are particularly more prone to switching from short to long-term. Get a dog, show you are able and willing to take care of something unspeakably cute and adorable. Be ambitious in your projects, show passion. While ambitious and passionate, also make sure she realizes (truly) that you notice things about her no one else does, find out her values, talk about shared ones, and be non aggressively curious about all of them.  Show her kindness in small gestures that need not cost a lot, such as time consuming hand-made presents. Test OkCupid and see if it works for you. Memorize details about her personality, assure her you can be loving specifically to her. Postpone sex a little bit. May sound hard, but is a reliable indicator that you won't change her for the next that quickly. Rationally override any emotion you may have regarding her sexual behavior, show you are not agressive and jealous, thus making her "(be) (a)lieve unconsciously" that you will not kill her in an assault of hatred when she sleeps with hypothetical another man whose child will never exist and get some years of schooling from you. If you think you can tell the wheat from the chaff, separate the PUA stuff that works for long-term, if not, read softer confidence/influence/seduction material. Use oxytocin inducing media (TV series and romantic movies). Rest assured, there are more women looking for long-term men than the opposite, aid the odds by going places. Show sympathy, kindness (to others as well) and dependability whenever you can.

For Long-terming Women: If you've been convinced by financial status gospel, stop freaking out about it. If you just account for the 4 factors in the equation above, you'll be way ahead of everyone within the gospel trance, then there are still all the other things you look for in a guy, which by themselves are very important. Sure, a classic indicator is how much other women in your social group like him, and, good as it is, it is defined in terms of competition, try to discount this one, after all, it is partially just made of a conformity bias, a bad bias to have when looking for a long-term mate. Be very nice and kind, and almost silly near the guy. The kinds of guys who are Long-terming most of the time are those who won't approach you that frequently. Also, older guys obviously have less chaos on in their minds and lives, so are more likely to want to settle down for a few years. Postpone sex in proportion to how much you suspect the guy is Short-terming. The importance of this cannot be overstated. By postponing sex (and sex alone) you make sure Short-termers still have a good reason to be around you until suddenly there is a hormonal overload and they fall in love with you (not that romantic, but mildly accurate), love's trigger is activated by many factors, when they sum above a threshold. The most malleable of these factors is time investment, give a guy mixed short long signals, and you'll increase likelihood of surpassing the threshold. Also, give known guys a second chance, many times your algorithms friendzoned (sorry for the term) them for reasons as silly as "he didn't touch me the first time we met, and I didn't feel his smell, because the table was wide" or "That day I was in Short-term mode and this other guy had more easily detectable attractive features, leaving John on the omega mental slot". Forget romantic comedies and princess tales where your role is passive. A man's love is actively conquered by a woman, you are the one who will fight dragons - frequently RPG dragons - for the guy in the beggining, not the opposite, the opposite comes later as a prize. 


For Short-terming Guys: Read Pick Up Artist books, actually do the exercises, as in don't find excuses for why you can't, do them. Don't do anything that disgusts you morally, which may be nearly all of it, but do all the rest. Other than that?... Some few things, very few indeed, were left out of those books. Optimize more than anything for your fetishes and specific desires to avoid competition. Use mildly tense situations which can be confounded with arousal (narrow bridges get you more dates than wide bridges). Woman's attractiveness peaks at approximately 1,73cm 5 feet 8 inches, shorter women are more likely to have had less home stability and developmental stability when young, which triggers more frequent short-terming, looking for testosterone indicators (square chin, prominent forehead, and specially having a ring-finger longer than index-finger) also helps, and it is fun because you can claim to read hands and actually make good predictions out of it.

For Short-terming Girls: I'll start with easy stuff, and escalate quickly to extremely high probability even in tough cases, such as he's not on the mood, tired, really shy, or (you think) not excited. Quite likely the main obstacle is inside your mind, not your clothes, either fear of rejection, or fear of reputational cost or something else. Be confident. Few guys will reject a subtle, feminine, discrete and firm sex "offer" (notice how language itself puts it). Look at him, smile, touch him while you speak, look intensely at his mouth while slowly approaching, make sure to try do this where he is unlikely to be paying some reputational cost (not on his aunt's marriage). If feeling clumsy, mention you do. When short-terming, men really do optimize for looks, so decrease light levels, and avoid available-female company, like asking him out to check a bookstore, or to see a movie. Sit near him while touching him, cut the conversation at some point, kiss him (remember to do that where neither of you may get embarrassed with anyone else). Before, talk about sexuality naturally and imagetically, say how it is important to you to be embraced, desired, enticed, penetrated, transformed inside, and arise re-energized the next day to go back to your life. If you are sure he is short-terming, make yourself scarce by mentioning time constraints. Carry condoms and pick them up while making up if he is still hesitant whether you want sex or not. But be cozy and reassure him "It's okay" if it feels like he nervous. If you are confortable with that, use the web, there are tons of Short-terming guys, and if you feel embarassed to meet a man who would reject you, you are safeguarded by being filtered beforehand through your pictures and description or by the bang with friends app. On the web, be upfront about your intentions, and assure them you are not a scam/bot/adv. When almost there, if he is not excited, it is not because you are not attractive to him, don't be passive, slowly touch and rub his genital, quite likely he's just nervous and you are disputing against his sympathetic system, when you and the parasympathetic win, he'll be excited and relaxed, and the party is on. If you live in a large urban area, go to swing places alone or with acquaintances, not friends - nowhere else there will be that many guys willing to have sex right there, right now, and the necessary infrastructure for it, in a safe environment with security guards, other high-class women etc... to make sure you are not getting into trouble - In short, guarantee situations in which neither him nor you pay reputational costs, be active yet reassuring, lower light levels, avoid competition and make sure there is infrastructure for the act.


The saying goes that you can't achieve happiness by trying to be happy (thought you can if you optimize for happiness, i.e. by reading positive psychology and acting on it). To some extent, it is also true that a lot of what goes on during courtship does not take place while actively and consciously focusing on courtship. It is one thing to keep those misconceptions and advices in mind, and a whole different thing to be obsessed about them and use them as cognitive canonical maxims for behaving, the point of writing this is to help, if it stops being helpful, stop using it.


Edit: Scrambled sources:

Buss Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology 2004

Pinker - Family Values and Love chapters on How The Mind Works

Mating Intelligence, the one from 2007 and the 2011 ones, many authors (including Helen Fisher) both linked above.

Robert Trivers theory of parental investment, conflict etc... - 197x

Lots of conversations with dozens to a hundred friends about their current sex lives.

PUA - Mistery Method - Rules of The Game - The Layguide (assumption: the older ones had less economic incentive to create vocabulary and new complexity out of the blue, therefore are more accurate and less Bullshitty)

Helen Fisher (presentations, vidoes, some articles)

Lots of conversations with a friend who read lots of evopsych and would spend the pomodoro intervals explaining the article he just read to me.

Personal experience.

The Eternal Child, Clive Broomhall

The Mind in the Cave - forgot author

MIT The Cognitive Neurosciences III (2004)

Primate sexuality (1999)

This video is also great, Why do Women Have Sex?

Edit: This was originally posted to main and downgraded to Discussion by Eliezer claiming that it didn't have many upvotes. It did have lots of downvotes (37%), as I'd expect from any controversial topic, but also had more than 50 upvotes at the time. I submit a proposal that controversial topics should not be downgraded, and that total number of votes be a relevant factor, not only difference between ups and downs, to avoid death spirals, and conformity bias. If policy changes, notice this DOES NOT benefit me in any way, since I don't plan on writing for about a semester, and this text will be long gone.

It is hard to unscramble it all to give specific citations, but that is a list of stuff I've read that deals with related issues that come to mind.

New Comment
149 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 6:50 PM
Some comments are truncated due to high volume. (⌘F to expand all)Change truncation settings

Downvoted for the following reasons:

  1. "The rationalist's guide to rationally using "rational" in rational post titles": People like to place the word "rational" in front of a title to cloak the fact that it isn't actually relevant to Less Wrong's topic.

  2. Posts that do this are usually guilty of inexcusable other-optimizing, and this is no exception. I shouldn't have to point out the insane hubris of sitting down and writing that, "everyone is completely under-calibrated for sex."

  3. Did you know there was a long drama about PUA stuff a couple years ago on Less Wrong? I see no reason to restart that pointless drama, especially since these topics are so far out of the comparative advantage of this den of autism.

especially since these topics are so far out of the comparative advantage of this den of autism.

My model is more about diminishing marginal returns on skill development rather than comparative advantage. You can get a lot more stuff done by being able to maintain eye contact than by being better than 99.5% (as opposed to 99%) of people on solving math problems.

Unless you're in the New England area (not all of it, but a substantive portion) where initiating eye contact is considered aggressive and creepy, particularly from a man.
The idea that the New England area has radically different ruels about eye contact seems surprising to me. Could you elaborate how you got that knowledge? If it's just personal experience, maybe the way you established eye contact was flawed?

New England guy here. I was surprised when I read OrphanWilde's comment yesterday; I went out last night and observed. These are the rules most of us follow:

  1. Someone trying to initiate eye contact wants to talk to you -- even just "hey, how are ya" or a gesture of acknowledgement like when you pass them on the street. But the eye contact is always a prelude.
  2. If you don't want to interact, look in their general direction, but not into their eyes. If you do catch their eye, either look away fast or give 'em a nod or make your eyes wide or something.
  3. You get one freebie look when you walk into a room or get on the bus, or when someone pulls up next to you in their car, that sort of thing. Gotta know who's there.

It feels kind of evasive, I guess, but I don't believe that in other parts of the world the rules are much different than this. Especially other cities, obeying the meta-rule of "your acknowledgement of a stranger is inversely proportional to the number of other people around."

I don't see any connection to aggression, creepiness, or man/woman.

Some examples:

  • I'm at the store trying to find something. Someone walks up beside me to get something. I ignore t
... (read more)
This matches my experience in several large cities in several different countries, so this is probably a default, not anything peculiar to Boston. And in rural areas people tend to react to eye contact more, regardless of location. Even hikers on a trail do.
This sounds like an exactly correct description of the phenomenon (although when you dismiss the connection to aggression and creepiness, consider the ramifications of somebody -not following these rules-, and even apparently flaunting them, on other people). It does not describe most other cities in the US, although I suddenly realize that anybody who follows these rules would never notice they weren't being followed. (Some variant on acknowledgment inverse proportionality to number of people rules are followed, but nowhere else in the nation do people treat eye contact in the transactional manner you seem to here).
Hmm, that's an interesting observation. I've hear people from elsewhere say that something about New Englanders makes us seem "cold" and I wonder if this is the cause.

It's far more than eye contact. I'm a New Englander who moved to Virginia, I get totally creeped out by people with whom I'm trying to conduct activity of a purely transactional nature (e.g. a real estate agent showing a property) who act with a degree of familiarity that is only considered socially acceptable among actual social relations in New England. They probably think they're being friendly and I'm oddly cold in response; I think they come off sounding like con artists and need to back the f-ck off,

As another New Englander who moved away, I have a reaction very similar to Prismattic. I also think of eye contact as aggressive, (and avoid making eye contact for that reason -- I expect to come across as creepy) but until five minutes ago I thought that was my personal brain damage, and had never considered that it might be a local-culture thing. I'm not sure if it's correct, but it's an interesting idea.

I heard about a study once that found lower rates of autism diagnosis in England than in most other places, and postulated that it was because English culture considers eccentricity more normal. (I can't vouch for this being true, since I never saw the actual paper, but it would be interesting if it was.) I wonder if New England would show the same pattern.

My methodology doesn't seem to cause me any issues anywhere else in the country. Lived in southeast, midwest, Texas (which is a region all its own), northwest, and then New England. If my methodology is flawed for the New England area, this is itself suggestive that they have radically different rules. I didn't notice it in Boston or Rhode Island; it did seem to come up in Connecticut, western Massachusetts, and to some extent New York. New Haven was probably the worst city about it, although it depended pretty heavily on where you were; it wasn't quite as bad around Yale University.
You might behave differently when you are in New England. Berlin has in general the reputation for being quite rude. Friends I know who visited Berlin for an event where they felt really good, said that people in Berlin are quite nice. Because they felt good, they smiled more and people were more friendly to them.
I probably should have generalized to social skills in general (like, for example, maintaining eye contact as appropriate). Thanks.

I see no reason to restart that pointless drama, especially since these topics are so far out of the comparative advantage of this den of autism.

And we're off to the level of 4chan. In addition to the casual ableism in this phrase, it also invokes some of the most annoying name-calling currently found on the internet. Ew.

I wasn't name-calling, Less Wrong's connection to the autism-spectrum is well understood. Speaking of name-calling, saying "Ew" is downright juvenile. Was this intentional irony? If you want to respond to me in the future, please try to express yourself with reasoned argument, not whining one-liners.

Okay, so then I guess that was a different kind of ableism from you. Instead of using the word "Autism" as a mere insult along the lines of "nerd"/"neckbeard"/whatever, as seen in the less civil places of the internet, you basically first made a neutral assertion (LW membership correlated with autism spectrum).

But then you sneaked in the implicit assertion that 1) autistic people should be discouraged from discussing sexual and romantic relationships because of their extraordinary ineptitude, etc at such things - and that 2) they're silly and deluded if they even aspire to collectively learning about such - and, importantly, that 3) "normal" people know better than those weirdoes what's best for them.

Now replace autistic people with some widely accepted subject of minorities' rights/"social justice" movements (like blacks in postwar America), and you'll see how the framework of marginalization is very similar even though its coordinates and scale are different. "Ain't got nothing against them negroes, we take good care of 'em, they just need to mind their manners, don't get all uppity and don't listen to them Commie troublem... (read more)

I challenge you to find an example of someone saying "this den of X" where X does not have a negative connotation.

Challenge accepted. Elapsed time: 5 seconds.

I present to you the fourth hit in Google for "this den of ": "This Den of Grizzlies Players Doesn’t Bluff"

They were three words that were perfect for summing up Zach Randolph. Three words that were perfect for describing the Memphis Grizzlies seven games into this NBA season...Former Grizzly Shane Battier had the task of trying to guard Randolph. “I’m a suburban cowboy, didn’t grow up on a farm,” Battier said. “But the closest analogy I can think of is trying to wrestle with a steer. Zach is a strong dude.” That was evident again at OKC as Randolph notched his seventh double-double in as many games (20 points and 11 rebounds before he and Perkins were ejected for their verbal sparring); the Grizzlies won their sixth straight to improve to 6-1 on the season...The morning after the Grizzlies had defeated the Thunder, they even worked their way into the conversation on ESPN’s “First Take” with Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless. Smith called the Grizz “rough and rugged.” He also said, “They don’t try to be pretty. They know who

... (read more)
Imagine a frequent commenter on a liberal forum referring to his online hangout as "this den of commies." It was intended to be ironic exaggeration and self-deprecation (I've been on LW since the beginning).
I believe your intention, just as I believe it was not possible to divine this intention from the original post.
I bet most people did get it, but it is understandable that some did not. Mea culpa.
1) Agreed, I'm truly sorry, title changed. 2) I do sincerely believe that evolution made us have sex by making it, and the process leading to it fun. I do believe that humans have intentionally attempted to reduce the risks of having sex. We have in particular invented several kinds of contraceptives, condoms, spermicides, and vaccination with the conscious, deliberate intent of making sex less dangerous. I do believe that, so to say, evolution succeded, and sex is a lot of fun. For everyone. All research in positive psychology indicates that intercourse either tops, or rivals only conversation with friends in amount of experiential happiness. (Gilbert2007, Layard 2004, Lyubuomirsky 2008, Seligman201x). I have no reason, and I mean, no reason which I have ever seen, anywhere, or ever heard, from anyone, reliable or not, to think that we are not under-calibrated for how much fun sex is now, given its reduced level of danger. I would be sad, it is true, if new information came up saying so, and would require lots of evidence. But as far as my mind can reach, I do, sincerely and wholeheartedly believe that the vast majority of humans, regardless of age and gender, would lead better and more pleasureful lives if they had sex more often, with less guilt, with less fear. 3) Removed PUA off from the title. PUA is only related to short-terming males. I find it abusive and asymmetric that the other three quadrants don't get that much attention, and wanted to say things to the three states that are not short-terming males. I saw the controversy, and thought that a less narrow view of mating could help controversies like that not to happen again. EDIT: *I do understand the patterns of downvoting and upvoting in all comments and the original post uptill now, all of it. How it was upvoted in the beggining, how slowly the comment that begins with the word "downvoted" rose to the top, thus starting the snowball which as I predicted below in another comment will cause trouble to

I do believe that humans have intentionally attempted to reduce the risks of having sex. We have in particular invented several kinds of contraceptives, condoms, spermicides, and vaccination with the conscious, deliberate intent of making sex less dangerous.

I understood all of that, you were quite clear about this in your post. You think that the danger of sex is biological and that this has been vanquished by vaccines, condoms, etc. In reality, most of the power of sex to harm is social, emotional, and psychological. You are feigning expertise, without even considering the emotional, psychological, and social ramifications. It is pretty common to see this kind of shallow, hyper-atomistic (not considering ramifications upon society), reasoning on Less Wrong.

I do, sincerely and wholeheartedly believe that the vast majority of humans, regardless of age and gender, would lead better and more pleasureful lives if they had sex more often, with less guilt, with less fear.

There is substantial evidence that sexually promiscuous people (distinct from people who have frequent sex) are less happy. It is also a fact that married people have more sex (and more varied sex) than demographi... (read more)


promiscuity actually decreases happiness.

You have not shown this. Perhaps less happy people tend to engage in more promiscuous sex as a way of compensating for their lower happiness. Perhaps there is a common cause of both factors, e.g. excitement seekers might have more promiscuous sex, and also have lower happiness set points due to the same neuro/psych factors that cause them to be excitement seekers.

Fair enough, although the overall point still stands. He is arguing in favor of promiscuity, something associated with lower happiness.

Students who go to my office hours are generally at slightly below average grades in their class. If someone said that encouraging students to go to office hours was arguing in favor of something associated with lower grades, how would you respond?

If someone proposed that encouraging students to go to office hours was leading to lower grades, I'd try to run a semester with little to no office hours notification/encouragement to see if it held up. In this specific example, it's not inconceivable that the lack of office hours would make students more determined to focus during class and seek out other avenues that may prove more useful. I doubt it, but it's in the realm of reasonable possibility.
I felt like I was trying to help people get what they want, improving instrumental rationality. Long-terming frequently ends up in marriage, monogamous marriage even. More sex doesn't mean more partners (except when changing from 0 to 1, which is an important transition), and I don't understand why you think it does. I personally think that being in a long-term relationship is a very good move for a human who wants to achieve higher levels of happiness. I have been in 4 over the last eight years, and will celebrate 3 years of the current one this Wednesday! :) I'm very glad about both of my longer relationships thus far (both 3 year long). I most wanted to help Long-terming women and Long-terming men achieve their purposes, whom through the mild levels of autism, or high levels of influence of the PUA community, may have been mistakenly suffering about their prospects and endeavours. I don't think that qualifies as promoting promiscuity. (note: I also do not object to promoting promiscuity)
Careful, this is a good way to get people addicted to superstimuli.
Yeah, good point. I'm feeling addicted to reading and replying to this post now, which obviously is decreasing the signal to noise ratio of the post itself and my and other's early comments. For the sake of my future self, and my addictive self, I'll refrain from any further commentaries. (Please if you, reading this, downvoted the one comment which I said eluded me, still explain why, I'm baffled). I'll catch up with my Masters now. This semester of experimenting writing on Lesswrong was great. Thanks to everyone who read this :)
I think what diegocaleiro is saying is that these social and emotional factors are adaptations that evolved due to the biological dangers. Now that the biological dangers are mostly gone, the adaptations are unnecessary and even harmful. So inasfar as we can consciously influence the social and psychological factors, we would benefit from changing them to promote more sex.
I think that the insofar is probably not, in fact, very far. The psychological mechanisms built up around sex predate the human species, they're not going to change so easily. Plus, if increasing promiscuity doesn't make psychologically modern humans happier, why focus on changing the psychology of modern humans to like being more promiscuous? Aren't we privileging the question with respect to sex here? Why not spend that time and effort focusing on making people enjoy cheaper, more sustainably produced foods? How about changing our standards of humor so it's easier to satisfy people with cheesy sitcoms? Is making people more adapted to promiscuity the most helpful psychological alteration we could be making?
Well, other humans societies are known to be more relaxed and permissive about sex than the modern Western world. And that's without effective contraception. So we clearly can improve somewhat. No. But down that road lies the argument of "invest all your effort in the single most efficient charity to the exclusion of everything else". Most people don't actually do this, so it makes sense to talk about other things too. The suggestion here is that making people more adapted to promiscuity the most helpful alteration we could be making with regard to promiscuity. Maybe one of the most helpful alterations with regard to sex in general.
Really, since most of the societies I can think of are a lot more restrictive.
Most are, but some (few?) are more permissive. I can't remember the right examples, though; I could find them if you're not aware of any examples.
Does it make them happier? How do we know this actually constitutes an improvement? ETA: We would have evolved different psychological mechanisms around sex if the biological and ecological conditions around it had been different millions of years ago, but those psychological mechanisms are adaptations for our genetic continuation, not our happiness. Just because we've got safer, lower consequence access to sex than in our ancestral environment, does not necessarily mean we'd be happier if we adapted to use that access to a fuller extent. We don't want to go down the road of "invest your money in the Society for Prevention of Rare Diseases in Cute Puppies" either. Lots of people do that, but that doesn't make it sensible.
By listening to the people who tried it?
Possible selection bias.
There's a big difference between becoming polyamorous and simply increasing promiscuity. The people who wrote those are in stable relationships with people they're happy with. Neither was in such a relationship prior to polyhacking.
People have claimed that religion is part of human nature, too, and yet nowadays a very large fraction of the population in Europe and Japan is non-religious. How sure are you that the chain can still hold you? BTW, the regular LWers who wrote about switching to polyamory don't seem to regret that.
A large fraction of the population in Europe and Japan may not be members of organized religion, but (from personal experience in Europe, secondhand in Japan,) they still engage in plenty of tribal and faith-based reasoning. This is something I do think can be changed, but with very great difficulty. Similarly the mechanisms around sex, but those are probably a great deal older, and likely even more entrenched. You can see my other comment re: polyhacking. On an added note, I find it doubtful that the entire population would find it effective. Some people are dramatically more afflicted by sexual jealousy than others. Similarly, some people have reported a measure of success with bi-hacking, but when I tried it it simply didn't work.
I know that most educated people believe that, but I've never seen a good argument for it. At any rate I am almost sure that there are microbes causing significant amounts of death and disability (especially disability because it is a lot easier for our civilization to ignore or deny a cause of disability than to ignore a cause of deaths) that almost no one recognizes as pathogenic. And I tend to believe that for some significant fraction of these "insufficiently recognized" pathogens the more sexual partners you have, and the more likely you'll get it. (There are dozens of viral and bacterial infections -- including near a dozen at least in the herpes family -- that remain in the body and are more common in more promiscuous populations.) In other words, there seems to be a strong selection bias whereby people tend to look only at the pathogens that are recognized as pathogens by, e.g., doctors. It might be however that these biological dangers from less-recognized sexually-transmitted pathogens are concentrated in people who are old or already sick. Any professional biologists or medical researchers wish to chime in?
I'm not a medical professional either, but... Except in the specific cases of microbes that target the immune response, wouldn't you expect to see things like an elevated white blood cell count in patients suffering from a pathogen, even if the specific pathogen was not well recognized or understood? In other words, you would see the symptom in a blood test even if you didn't know exactly how to look for the pathogen.
If the pathogen reproduces slowly (the pathogen that causes TB might be one such) or has some way of hiding from the immune system or is one of those viruses (e.g., the herpes family) that get into cells and tend to remain dormant for long intervals, then they can be very hard to detect and will certainly not show up in a WBC. I saw news reports earlier this year about evidence that some cases of obesity are caused by gut microbes not previously regarded by, e.g., doctors and society as being pathogenic.
The biggest biological danger of casual sex was (to women) unwanted pregnancy. It's now almost gone thanks to modern contraception. STDs certainly exist, but they too have become rarer. Syphilis used to cause a lot of mortality and disability, and was mostly (not entirely) defeated by antibiotics. And with modern health care and social safety nets, if you do get sick, your outlook is much better than even a century ago.
So are the adaptations that make sex as pleasurable as it is.
Yes, but our goals are not the goals of evolution. I want to keep sex pleasurable; I don't want to keep it emotionally and socially complicated and discouraged.
Thanks Dan, you made the Evolutionary Heuristic Point very clear in this and other comments!
See my more detailed discussion here.
Replied there.
In what sense is sex under-calibrated? From the point of view of evolution enjoying condomed sex at all is a flaw. If you're reply to this is something along the lines of "screw the blind idiot god, I enjoy sex and I'm not care that it's not adaptive" you are left with the question of why you identify with the preference for sex but not with all the associated guilt, value of chastity, etc.? If your reply is that you get more pleasure this way, why not cut out the middleman and go directly to wire heading?
This is why the noncentral fallacy really deserves the title of the Worst Argument In The World. If [abortion], why not [murdering retarded people]? If [taxation], why not [slavery]? (Also, "YOUR/YOU'RE"! What the hell's up with that, I don't understand how native English speakers can confuse those at all, never mind so frequently.)
I tend to assume that it's a typo when I see someone confuse them, unless that person makes lots of other similar errors.
This is not the noncentral fallacy. This is me pointing out that the hypothetical argument I'm responding to proves too much. Basically the problem with arguments of the form doing X gives pleasure therefore we should do more X, is that the same argument applies to wireheading. If you have no better reply than wireheading seems ewe and X doesn't, keep in mind that your intuitions about what is ewe change depending on what you do.
In most present-day accents of English they're homophones, and it's not uncommon for people to accidentally mixing homophones up when typing quickly in a language they hear on a daily base. (When I went to Ireland, the frequency at which I made such brain farts in English increased by an order of magnitude within a few weeks.) OTOH, personally most of the times I realize that I've accidentally typed the wrong word within seconds of typing it, and much of the rest of the time I catch it while proof-reading myself.
There are possibilities other than “we should maximize our inclusive genetic fitness” and “we should maximize our hedonic pleasure”. Thou art godshatter.
I know, I was objecting to diegocaleiro providing no argument for his position beyond a somewhat confused combination of these two.
By your reasoning, it would follow that we should keep all our preferences just as they are and never change them. But actually we have many reasons to want to change (other) preferences that we consider valid. For example, we want to reduce violence and war. We want to reduce overeating in the presence of food superstimulus. We want to be attracted to and happy with average human partners in the presence of media-sponsored super-beautiful models. We want to reduce religiosity (although this is more controversial among humans). We want to reduce akrasia, which derives in part from time-discounting of preferences. We want to eliminate various biases. All these things are places where we want to go against our evolutionary preferences. At the very least we support one preference over another. And similarly, I support and wish to increase the preference for sex over the preference for modesty, chastity, and sexual guilt and shame.
I explained what I consider wrong about this in my comment dated 06 May 2013 at 07:22:44PM. The short version is: 1. You consider humanity to be "under-calibrated for sex" for woefully inadequate reasons. You recommend more sex, (including promiscuous sex with near-strangers) without establishing that sex itself leads to sustained happiness, as opposed to being in a stable, long-term relationship (people in such relationships also have more sex.) To make this clear, in the diagram below, the left is my position, the right is your position. My position does a better job of explaining the correlation between sex and happiness, while also explaining why people why promiscuous people are not enjoying the happiness of people in stable relationships. 1. You fail to consider the social, emotional, and psychological reasons why people are hesitant to engage in promiscuous sex. Desrtopa does an good job of explaining a part of this.
Ok. I see your point, big and clear now. I still disagree. Or better, I think we may have been agreeing on reality and disagreeing on words all along. Here is my schematic of my opinion (sorry I don't have time for drawings) Me: Evolution --> Good stuff about sex, such as sex being experientially good while it is happening. Evolution --> Bad things about sex. Humans ----- destroy----> many of bad things about sex made by evolution. There. Since humans don't destroy the good things (except for part of the sensorial pleasure in case of condoms), then my claim which is about calibration is true. We are calibrated to have sex, say, on X% of occasions. This calibration was good for the purposes of its days. Now we have changed the environment and we are Under calibrated. That is, if the quasi-reasons for the original calibration were kept (including all the social and emotional reasons you mention), we would have sex on more than X% of occasions. This is valid for monogamous sex, for polygamous sex, etc... We are, I insist, under calibrated for it, just like we are under calibrated for fearing driving automobiles, and over-calibrated for fearing snakes. And for the same reasons. The system that made the original calibration did not catch up. Another distiction worth mentioning, coming from the Seligman literature on positive psychology is that there are three kinds of happiness. Experiential happiness (or joy). Meaningful life (related to the memory-self, in kahneman's term), and Flow (made famous by Csikszentmihalyi). In your drawing, the happiness on the right is Joy and Flow. The happiness on the middle bottom is the memory-self meaningful one. And I'm steel-manning you strongly here, but I'll say that the "happy" on the top is also "meaningful" to avoid saying that the HappyX causes Happiness. We may have distinct usages for the word "fun". You seem to use it to refer to the Meaningful Life, and I used it almost strictly to refer to Joy. As far as I recall,
You haven't shown that sex causes (not just correlates with) any kind of happiness. You are just speculating wildly. Even the weaker version of your claim "sex is fun," is only sometimes true--sometimes sex is awkward, uncomfortable, frustrating, painful, unsatisfying, etc. So you're acting like sex is ontologically fun, when of course it isn't. Crucially, you fail to take into account the fact that the same inhibitions that keep people from having more sex are likely keeping them from having bad sex. You also write from an entirely atomistic point of view, not even addressing the way our sex behaviors affect society. This is also a sign of the hubris I mentioned. Allow me to reframe your argument, to illustrate how silly it is: 1. Eating is fun, and people who have more to eat are happier. 2. Evolution gave us some inhibitions about eating. 3. We now have antacids, painkillers, and liposuction to mitigate the harms of overeating. 4. Therefore we don't eat enough: we would have more fun if we ate even more.
to a large extent this is completely true. We have cooking, preserving, and nutrition information that keeps food from killing us with disease, indigestion, and allergies. Plenty of people DO eat more food, because we have different built-in hangups about food. Plenty of people get OVER evolutionary disincentives to greater enjoy more varieties of food than they ever would've in the natural environment. Spiciness, bitterness, every acquired taste is something people train themselves to enjoy in order to get more fun out of eating because we've turned those things from danger signs into pleasant spandrels. Your food argument is actually a perfect support for Diego's argument as long as you don't leave out dozens of crucial facts.
People are more promiscuous than we were before birth-control pills/vaccines. Diego claims to know that we are still under-calibrated. There is just no reason to believe this.
Please, stop claiming I'm saying people should be promiscuous. It hurts my primatology reader eyes to read it. Promiscuous is a name given to species that only have sex without pair-bonding (such as bonobos) Whereas increasing sex could be done in soo many other ways. 1) More sex with only one partner 2) More partners spread across time 3)More partners spread across space 4) More partners in the same bed at the same time 5) Fewer partners and more sex with each. I'm tired of this discussion. Look, there are many claims, no reason to agree with all of them if you don't want. Sex is a pleasurable act most times. Evolution made it so by putting nerves in the sex parts that, for instance, cause orgasm. Most people enjoy having sex. Sex was more dangerous in the year 334 than it is today in 2013. Sex was more dangerous year -100 000 than it is today. Our minds were shaped more intensely for it's sex related cognition between 2 million years ago, and two hundred years ago, than during the last 200 years. If you call how much we like sex due to that process "calibration", you can say that our calibration is more precise for the pre-medicine, pre-condom era, than for today. Were the same pressures and forces acting back then, we would have more, lots more sex than we do now. For a rough, rough approximation, you can keep the fertility rates stable (number of children per woman), but allowing people to use contraceptives. They'd have to have much more sex for the same amount of babies. The thing for which sex was designed (babies) currently happens much less because of sex. So more sex is a way to "correct" for it. This if you wanted to play evolution's baby-making game. But no sane being does. What you want is to have a good life. So you could mean a life with more flow experience. Well, then, have more sex. A life with more meaningful experience. Have more deep relationships (which may include more or less sex). Or a life with more sensorial pleasure (joy).
"Promiscuous" is not a jargon term invented by primatologists, it means "Having many sexual relationships, esp. transient ones." This is very precisely what you recommend in your post. You shouldn't insist that people not use words in the way they are commonly used, just because you are used to seeing them in some other context. Your reading comprehension has failed you yet again. I've never argued against having more sex. I've just pointed out that the promiscuous transient sexual relationships with multiple partners you recommend don't actually make people happier (I cited research that points this out in my older posts.) Married people actually have more sex, and they are empirically much happier than the promiscuous singles you encourage people to emulate.
I didn't say that was the meaning, I just said it hurts my ears, and asked you for a favour. I didn't recommend what you said I did, as you know. You can't be serious that those are the things you choose to respond to, and the rest you choose to ignore. Strawmanning at its worst. You are not (being in this discussion) intellectually honest. I'm out.
You never responded substantively to any of my points, instead just reasserting your speculations as though they were fact. There is no reason for me to keep reiterating the substantive arguments I made, which you never rebutted. Instead, you just kept reasserting your speculative claims as though they were fact. I assume this is because you can't actually find any evidence to support your assertions (unlike me, I actually did the research and cited it in my earlier comment.)
He did cite a source and mention where to look for more in his comment.
None of his sources show that increasing promiscuous sex (or even increasing frequency of sex at all) increases happiness.
False dichotomy -- there might be arrows from “relationship” to “sex”, from “relationship” to “happiness” and from “sex” to “happiness” -- and some of those might even be double-headed. (If there was no arrow from “sex” to “happiness”, you could take 100 random couples, tell 50 of them at random to not have sex for six months, and those won't be any less happy than the other 50. I'm not sure that's what would happen.)
That diagram is to illustrate the difference between my explanation of the research showing a positive correlation between sex and happiness and Diego's. I'm obviously not claiming these are the only possible relationships between sex and happiness. I'm not sure if you're being deliberately obtuse or just not paying much attention. This experiment is totally irrelevant to the disagreement between Diego and myself. Diego is claiming that making yourself have more sex--including sex you would otherwise be reluctant to have--will make you happier. He says he knows this because of some conjecture based on an ev-psych just-so story. Your experiment tests whether forcing people not to have sex they already do want to have will make them less happy. Do you not understand the difference?
If having epsilon much less sex would make us less happy, then having epsilon much more sex would make us happier, unless we are at exactly the local optimum, which sounds unlikely a priori.
Human preference doesn't consider gains and losses symmetrically. We are dramatically more sensitive to losses than to gains.
By some popular metrics, sex acts are discrete (if not always discreet), not continuous: you can't have epsilon more sex acts; you can have one more sex act.
1. It seems pretty plausible that we might be somewhere near the local optimum, or more precisely that most couples are somewhere near their optimum. (I see no reason to think that different couples' optima are in the same place, or that everyone's on the same side of their optimum.) 2. You're now talking about epsilons, whereas your thought experiment involved getting couples to not have any sex at all for six months. That's a pretty big epsilon. [EDITED to add, for clarity: If instead you asked these couples to skip sex on 10% of candidate occasions in the next six months, or to try to have 10% more than they'd otherwise have had, I don't think it's at all obvious what to expect in either case.] 3. So far as I can see, no one is claiming that there is no causal relationship between sex and happiness; only that the observed correlation between sex and happiness may be largely the result of a different combination of causal relationships. In particular, it seems somewhat plausible that the following might all be true. (a) Any given person, in any given relationship situation, has a rough optimum level of sexual activity. The same goes for any particular couple. (b) Deviating far from that level tends to make people less happy. (c) Being in a stable, well-functioning romantic relationship generally tends to make people happier, to increase their optimum amount of sex, and to make them have more sex. (d) People and couples tend to adjust to roughly their optimum amount of sex. If these are true, then there will be a correlation between sex and happiness because of (b), but for any given person or couple to increase the amount of sex they have might be counterproductive because of (d). And if these are true, then your thought experiment will have the outcome you predict. (Note: Everything about "couples" in this paragraph should be taken also to cover larger groups of people who have sex with one another.)
Asr is right, but it actually goes so much further than this.... You have also entirely failed to account for opportunity cost. You aren't just adding some epsilon of sex, you're subtracting from some other area of life to have more time for sex. And these are just the abstract, theoretical problems with your suggestion. The real-world practical problems of adding more sex are enormous... There are serious bottlenecks to sex. Both partners have to be in the mood or the act has potentially serious negative utility. Synchronizing desire takes a lot of time and effort. (It takes much more than a minute of romance time to yield a minute of sex.)
He was involved with it the last time it reared its ugly head, so presumably he does. I lol'd.
Original title was "Using Evolution for Marriage and Sex - Beyond PUA and Creepiness"
But this post does say ‘use your System 2 even in a situation where most people rely on their System 1 alone and you'd be tempted to do the same’, so it wasn't just an empty applause light in this case. Huh. The advice in the post sounded fairly non-specific to me; most of the readers will probably find at least some of it that applies to them. EDIT: the following is based on a misunderstanding of what knb meant, and maybe I should stop making several points in the same comment, even though it'd clutter Recent Comments, so that I can retract each of them individually. Comparative advantage doesn't apply to things you can't trade; if I am good at (say) physics but mediocre at mating and you're mediocre at physics but good at mating, there's no way I can give you one unit of physics in exchange of one unit of mating. IOW, what ThrustVectoring said.
I obviously am not saying you can trade "mating." However, you can get relationship advice from other sources. I'm surprised that you don't understand the distinction. Less Wrong folks tend to be good at writing and thinking about some things, like Newcomb's problem, epistemic rationality, and decision theories, and not terribly good at giving advice in other areas. Less Wrong is, if anything, a bit on the left side of the bell curve of social intelligence. It doesn't make sense for Less Wrong to try to specialize in relationship advice any more than it makes sense for us to start writing posts about auto repair or body building. There are other places for those topics. Less Wrong isn't the only place to try to talk about these things, and we aren't the best people to advise or seek advice from on many topics.
I had misunderstood you. Never mind.

This entire post needs citations. It is especially important to have evidence when one is dealing with a controversial subject where our emotions can influence more strongly what we think is true. Simply referencing a few ev psych primers doesn't cut it. You mention Buss for example, but don't actually point to much of the studies that Buss has done, e.g. here(pdf), wich is very different from a popular video.

There are a lot of people on the internet who tell just so-stories without empirical backing about human mating.

If you want to convince people that a certain believe is a misconception, provide citation to the studies that showed that your point is true. If you don't cite studies for your points it's hard for a reader to know whether you are just expressing flawed internet evolutionary psychology or whether your claims are in line with the claims that scientists who study evolutionary psychology make.

Agreed. Downvoted original post because of lack of sources.
Edited. Oh, when editing I forgot Sperm Wars, The Emotion Machine (2007) The Company of Strangers (2005)

In science you cite studies that support your points. This allows the reader to verify the points you are making and also examine the evidence.

As I reader I care whether your point is backed up by a study with 20 WEIRD people or whether the evidence for a point is more robust. Citing books doesn't really help. Especially pop-science books like Sperm Wars.

My other comments address this issue. Specially this.

Yay! More random "rational" heterosexual mating advice supposedly based on science!

I approve of this post, everything in it seems pretty reasonable (my current OH did about 80% of the long-terming male list), though I do wish you could've added a list of citations; this is quite a lot of content to just pull out of the hat.

Buss Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology 2004 Pinker - Family Values and Love chapters on How The Mind Works Mating Intelligence, the one from 2007 and the 2011 ones, many authors (including Helen Fisher) both linked above. Robert Trivers theory of parental investment, conflict etc... - 197x Lots of conversations with dozens to a hundred friends about their current sex lives. PUA - Mistery Method - Rules of The Game - The Layguide (assumption: the older ones had less economic incentive to create vocabulary and new complexity out of the blue, therefore are more accurate and less Bullshitty) Helen Fisher (presentations, vidoes, some articles) Lots of conversations with a friend who read lots of evopsych and would spend the pomodoro intervals explaining the article he just read to me. Personal experience. The Eternal Child, Clive Broomhall The Mind in the Cave - forgot author MIT The Cognitive Neurosciences III (2004) Primate sexuality (1999) This video is also great, Why do Women Have Sex? It is hard to unscrable it all to give specific citations, but that is a list of stuff I've read that deals with related issues that come to mind.

Thank you. This is appreciated. I know it's hard work, but from our point of view we can't take your word that you're not just making most of it up off the top of your head. (Also a lot of people like to independently assess the reliability of sources.)

Yes, I know, what I don't like is just that people think it is the author's burden ( [1]on a blog, [2]when giving advice, [3]with good intentions, [4]knowing from the beggining that the topic will make him massively downvoted) to cite every single instance, as if this was a Masters or PHD thesis. This is sufficiently dis-encouraging that it makes it simply not worth it. After your request, I did the easy thing, saying "From memory, I read this, interacted with these people etc... and after that much enquiry, having read the sequences etc... here is what I have to say" I would not do the complicated thing, which is to transform the entire post, which has no intention to be academic, into an academic writing. You can't be academic when you want to suggest what to do, that is not what science informs you about. It informs you about how people evaluate each other. Then one can concoct suggestions of how to behave when you want to be evaluated as an X. So yes, I do agree with you that the author should give some reason for the reader to believe he is saying things that relate to reality. I disagree that for every topic there is enough incentive for the author to make it extremely accurate and precise, since I think I'd be snipped and shot writing about these things in this tone even if I did everything right. From my perspective, this is what the conscious experience of deciding to write this looks like: "People in Lesswrong self-describe as mildly autistic. Great, I may help with that a little. People in Lesswrong, like all people, have some prejudices, that are not compatible with thousands of pages, and thousands of conversations and interactions I had over the years with people. Let me use these facts to make a final text to Main before I start writing my Masters Thesis, and go to Berkeley to later on go to Oxford. Then I think: I'll be paying about 50 karma points for this post, maybe 10 extra people will dislike me, but I may help about a few dozens to have a mor
Is this really want went trough your mind or is it a rationalization? I can't understand. LW is obviously important to you. You know this is a touchy topic. Why not provide sources (who's burden is it if not the author's?) and turn this into an amazing post? If you have sources for everything that you claim this is an amazing work. If not, it's worse than useless: it imprints wrong thoughts that will hang around for a while. I don't understand.
It is an after the fact reconctruction, as I mentioned. There is no "what went through my mind", there is only us, making sense of ourselves. I didn't provide sources for specific things because these are not easily accessible in my mind, I'm not a computer, with folders separating everything and eidetic memory. They are the product of a mix of information from those papers, books, etc... that later on I cited, with a lot of experience talking about sex with people. And please don't ignore the most important reason: Suppose you want to give advice to a friend who just say a woman and felt interested at a bar. You say: "Go to her, try to talk to her, see if you really like her, and at some point try to kiss her" This is very, very simple advice. You would not be able to pull off citations for it, even though it is obviously true that 1) Approaching 2)Talking 3)Seeing if you like her and 4) At some point trying to kiss her... will help your friend. Advice and citations don't go together as neatly as would be desirable. Suggestions, even when based on rocket science, include some element (value? desire? intention?) that doesn't fit the dry writing style of academic papers. Some like to call this the fact/value differentiation, debate etc... Which is why the PUA community has more knowledge about human courtship than most ethologists (even according to the ethologists), they test things differently, with some intention, by trying specific things, not just trying to take a picture of reality and reverse-engineering the minds of all who belong in the picture with Omega level intelligence and Oracle AI level of knowledge.

Suppose you want to give advice to a friend who just say a woman and felt interested at a bar. You say: "Go to her, try to talk to her, see if you really like her, and at some point try to kiss her"

Nobody blames you for giving such advice. There nothing wrong with giving advice based on your own empirical experience. It's however a problem if you try to paint advice that you are giving based on your own experiences as the scientific knowledge of evolutionary psychologists.

If you claim that your claim is backed up by science then you should reference the science in a way that allows the readers to check whether you are representing it fairly. Especially on evolutionary psychology there are many people who try to convince others that their personal beliefs are backed up by science when that isn't the case.

If you are declaring the authority to speak in the name of science than you are subject to certain responsibilites that you aren't subject to when you are giving advice without speaking in that name.

I want to say that I feel with you. The topic is important, you put a lot of work into it, and yet the reactions are discouraging. The problem is that you chose a sensitive topic. Which means that the costs are higher and the rewards are lower. Similar to "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence", but the psychological / sociological variant of the proverb would be "controversial claims require unrealistically perfect evidence". It's not that you wrote a bad article; you just chose a strategically wrong topic to write about. I consider the article very good and very useful. But putting in into "Main" would signal higher group acceptance than it really has. More precisely, it would signal that the group has a high confidence in its correctness, which in fact it does not. (Note: I am not saying that the articles is incorrect. Only that the group does not overwhelmingly believe in its correctness.)

Moving to Discussion (not much upvoted).

Most of the negative comments, and therefore I guess most of the downvotes, were about the title (which he has since changed) or the lack of citations (which he has since added). OTOH, I agree with maia that it needs a copy-editing.
It was more upvoted than your concomitant post yesterday. As of now this post has 50 upvotes, against 19 upvotes in yours. The topic is highly controversial, therefore it has a lot more votes altogether, upwards or downwards. To only let in Main topics that are uncontroversial is a highly radical move IMHO. It is also mildly authoritarian. I say this despite my profound happiness with your sniper policy back in the SL4 days in 2004-2005. Editing before the comment below goes under:

I think your quality of proofreading, organization, and sources cited (even with the changes you made) is not high enough for this post to be in Main. It reads like a first draft, not a polished post.

I also don't think specific advice about how to rub a man's penis belongs on LessWrong.

I don't know. There are less wrong and more wrong ways of doing it...

Humor aside, no, probably not, in and of itself. But I think the idea that sex is subject to rational consideration is itself valuable. So there is an implicit value there, outside what is actually written.

I upvoted the post for this reason. I've found myself searching for relationship-related stuff on LessWrong several times, and was never able to find much. (In particular, I'd really like to see some advice on maintaining relationships, and predicting which ones will succeed.)
This may help you:
The Pascal's Muggle article is not even remotely comparable to your post.
Yes it is. It is better. It is also longer. It is about a more mathy topic. It is posted nearer to the present. It is less upvoted, it is less controversial, it is more approved. It is not by the same author. It is more similar to a Hofstadter book. It is less similar to the book "Primate Sexuality 1999". Just because something is better, or more important, doesn't make it not comparable in any dimension. The only reason for me to mention Yudkowsky's post is because both his, and the other post (also very important on programmer career and donations) were posted less than 45 minutes after mine, making mine go down (by chance) a lot on the website scroll. Even then, my post had way more votes at that moment, and more upvotes, I just wanted to see if his true rejection was his alleged rejection, or if he would circumvent it by not saying anything (which he did), or saying that now there was this other reason for the same conclusion. And that is not in any way because I want to challenge Eliezer or something. For all I know, Eliezer has the highest probability of being among the three most counterfactually important people alive (Contenders being Hanson, Bostrom, Gates, Thiel, James Martin, Musk and Myrvold). I've once even gave a presentation with deliberate intent of being less good than someone else's, just so that Eliezer would appreciate and interact with the other person (they still work together/aligned to this day) because I knew how important his attention was. If you go to Mr Ifey story (Idealized Fiction of Eliezer Yudkowky) in this post, you'll see that besides phisically threatening me or my dears with a blade, there is nearly nothing Eliezer could ever do that would make me not like him. People have trouble with his arrogance, which was by far what I most enjoyed back at SL4 in 2004.

When I say "A guy does D when G happens" please read: "There are statistically significant, or theoretically significant reasons from social endocrinology, or social and evolutionary psychology to believe that under circumstances broadly similar to G, human males, on average, will be inclined towards behaving in manners broadly similar to the D way. Also, most tests are made with western human males, tests are less than 40 years old, subject to publication bias, and sometimes done by people who don't understand math well enough to do their

... (read more)
Quite often proponents of evoluationary psychology give advice that doesn't make sense if you don't think that the findings of evoluationary psychology generalize to a large percentage of the human population and only say something about averages. If you want to use information to guide your actions it's important to have a grasp on the likilhood that you can generalize from a certain evoluationary psychology claim to a situation in your daily life. The proponent of evoluationary psychology usually thinks that you can generalize the finding of evoluationary psychology to daily life in a way that increases your understanding of those situations.
It may be possible to glean individually-useful information from evolutionary psychology, with a pile of statistical uncertainty. I'm not sure, and not aware of that much in the way of rigorous investigation in applications of applied psychology. It becomes a problem when both speaker and audience don't have a grasp on the statistics, and it degrades into a horrible pile of confirmation bias and echo chambers and tribal fealty. I expect lesswrong to handle this better than most places, though what I've seen so far is...less than perfect.

For Short-terming Girls: I'll start with easy stuff, and escalate quickly to extremely high probability even in tough cases, such as he's not on the mood, tired, really shy, or (you think) not excited.

I'm not sure whether you are modeling the goal of a girl who wants short-term sex correctly. The girl not only wants to have sex with the guy but also wants that the guy is excited while having sex with her.

Even in the anonymous internet few woman report to use that strategy successfully. Woman probably profit from copying successful strategies from other woman and not from following a strategy that a man considers reasonable.

My claim is that frequently I've heard women think a guy does not want to have sex with them because, in spite of kissing, making up, going with her to a comfortable place, and removing his clothes, he does not get an erection as expected. But this is not how the nervous system does its sex stuff. Not excited and Nervous produce the same outside non-erect view, and girls tend to feel they are not excited, instead of conceding that his sympathetic system is activated, and he'll have a snowball effect (The following is based on hearsay, NOT on papers, evidence, etc...) "God, I'm nervous, now I'm not excited, now I wish I was excited, so let's get excited. Oh no, I'm even more nervous, there is no way I can get an erection with this high heartbeat now unless I masturbate, or she does, but that would be weird. What do I do?" and the girl is thinking "Why isn't he excited? Ten minutes ago we had clothes on and he was excited, now I removed my clothes and he is not excited, it must be because I'm not exciting, oh man, I feel embarrassed for not being exciting (then she enters a mild paralysis mode, letting the body stay still)". I think both genders would benefit from women knowing that by being clumsy, touching a guy even when he is not having an erection (due to nervousness because he is superexcited) they can erase the snowball effect, and get back to party mode. Sure if a guy really is not excited, he would not have gone all the way through the naked in bed stage to begin with.
How do you know that touching the guys penis is the best course of action for the woman in that circumstance? If the guy is nervous the girl could also say: "No, need to be nervous. You look awesome." The girl could spend 10-20 minutes relaxing the guy before moving on to sex. To know what constitutes a good strategy you would need to ask a woman who actually tried multiple approaches to handle the situation.
Here are the initial letters of names of women I specifically talked to about this M, T, F, V, G, G, J, C, I, D, T, A, L, C, E. About other things a girl can do. I mentioned reassurance 3 times, even exemplifying with "It's okay". The reason why I mentioned touching specifically is because many women, specially when young, are not sure when or if they should touch a guy, and by and large all women with whom I ever spoke (2 exceptions come to mind) said they do not touch a guy's genitals unless he is excited (hard) already. I'm sure other things that do the same - Deactivate the sympathetic, while activating the parasympathetic - could also have the same effect. A hot bathtub comes to mind, but is not handy or quick enough. Stopping for a while and focusing attention in anything else that isn't making him nervous also works, but it is not that quick either. Both can be done, should be done, if they are available options at the time. Touching is kind of "forcing" the system, but the system (both guys and girls) kind of likes to be touched under sexual circumstances. I had no intention of saying "be a pervert" because touching people's parts is part of everyone's lives, though sometimes not that openly spoken about.

If you have a trait that the other gender optimizes for more in short-term, lure them by acting short-term, even if later you'll attempt to raise their oxytocin to the long-term point.

I don't like that idea. It doesn't seem right to try to get someone in a long-term relationship when they were just looking for a short-term relationship. It seems no better than trying to get into a short-term relationship with someone who wants a long-term one.

I suspect that many people are open to both.
You are right Daniel, best would be to do what you suggest, which I stated in the post. Sometimes as CronoDAS said, there is openness to bending though.
I agree, generally. Generally speaking, if you have good traits, you are better off showing them[1]; but you should keep your preferred "mode" in the foreground. This exploits the fact that the line dividing "short term" from "long term" relationships is often fuzzy, while avoiding a number of problems. [1] An important exception: males should not show some purported 'long-term traits' when they are trying to optimize in the short-term. But this only applies to a few debatable things that are more like attitudes than genuinely 'good traits' persay.

If you object irrevocably to evolutionary psychology, just so stories, etc... I suggest you refrain from commenting, and also reading, why bother?

There is a difference between evolutionary psychology (which is a science) and just so stories, like your post.

Downvoted for groundless speculations, other-optimizing and meta-whining about votes and the Main/Discussion move.


Possibly unrelated, but this blog post about PUA made a few different things click for me: (That blog in general is pretty great)

Clarisse Thorn's "Confessions of a pickup artist chaser" is also quite a good introduction.

Read Pick Up Artist books, actually do the exercises, as in don't find excuses for why you can't, do them.

That is unsatisfactory, to say the least. Assuming one can find a PUA book that actually does contain exercises and not just a plethora of fictional evidence based theories, that is not marketing material or a simple scam, one is still hard pressed to find two books that agrees on some aspects of the courtship dance...

If anyone knows of any such good book, as a short-terming male I'm very open to openly try and review it.

Two books don't need to agree on the aspects of the countship dance. A good exercise provides for deliberate practice. A good exercise might not get you woman while you are actually doing the exercise but allow you to develop character traits that make you a more valuable partner and thus more likely to get woman in the future.
I've seen that's usually the case that books with opposing theories reccommends opposing practices, so how am I supposed to discriminate in advance between good and bad exercises? Or am I misreading you and you're suggesting that there are no bad exercises?
It's good to be flexible in your own behavior. There nothing wrong with doing exercising that are opposing practices. You can practice one day being very direct and the next day being very indirect. There no conflict with learning both. If you want to identify a good exercise I would look at the following characteristics: 1) First do no harm. If you analyse the exercise, do you believe that you have enough awareness of reading the girl with whom you are interacting with to know that you aren't doing harm. A minor awkward situation might be okay, but you don't want to create serious negative externalities for other people. When doing that calculation you should consider that some girl might have been raped in the past and an action like slapping their butt might bring up the trauma. 2) Does the exercise feel like deliberate practice? Do you meet your own emotional barriers? A exercise might be too easy for one person and impossible to do for another. Seek exercises that provide you with a challenge but that aren't too hard. 3) There's a big difference between doing something and doing nothing. Even a suboptimal exercise is much better than devouring more theory.
This 'one' has had not particular difficulty finding PUA resources that agree on a significant proportion of the courtship dance. As such one questions to what extent your 'hard pressing' is sincere. The basic premises are pretty darn similar from one PUA resource to another.
Well, right now I am sincerely baffled. I've been reading/listening contradictory advice on basically anything, e.g. direct vs indirect approach, usefulness of story-telling, the importance of physical aspects, of dressing, where to meet women, what qualities a man should possess, etc. For any "do X, Y doesn't work" someone says, there's someone else explicitely stating "X doesn't work, do Y". If someone's interested, I could post specific examples. Maybe I'm overexposed to minority views. Care to elaborate which those premises are?

If you live in a large urban area, go to swing places alone or with acquaintances, not friends

Why do you recommend against going with friends? I've found it's an ideal way to get started.

If I can throw in an additional recommendation - try a few places. Different swing places have different vibes, and you might not find the one you like right away. I think the biggest thing stopping most people is that they have an image of a swing place that they don't care for, and they don't know that there's a wide variety.

Going with friends will get you out there but prevent you (at least somewhat) from meeting and talking with strangers.
Ah, that's a good point. Perhaps just go with friends the first time? The first step is generally the hardest, it's nice to have friends there to guide you. It was how I was introduced to it, and we've helped a few other people the same way.

I'm not quite sure what to make of this post as a whole. I find myself appreciative of the general point, and a lot of it seems to register with me, but I also agree that more precise sourcing would be desirable for such a controversial and empirically open-ended subject.

But the main reason why I wanted to comment is that Bang With Friends seems like such an obvious and obviously value-adding concept that I was surprised I'd never heard of anything like it before. If I were in the position of looking for additional sexual partners right now (and if the pri... (read more)

A lot of developers have tried to make this app. I first noticed a version in 2007, back when Facebook had just started with apps. Edit:* Holy shit, apparently it's worth $30 million.
Did you read the last sentence of the linked article?

Downvoted simply because I think we have way too many posts on this subject (ignoring any particular merits of this one). We can't afford to keep having posts discussing creepiness here.

This hardly taught me anything entirely new, but it did remind me of stuff I hadn't explicitly thought about in ages. Also, it's reassuring to see that someone else independently reached the same conclusions as me. Upvoted. On the other hand:

The current (as of this writing, “Using Evolution for Marriage or Sex”) title sounds confusing to me: ‘“Using evolution”? 'The hell d'ya mean?’ I can't think of a perfect one, but what about “Optimizing for short- and/or long-term mating using SCIENCE!!!”?

I had to go in advanced Steelmanning Mode to interpret your lan... (read more)

subtle, feminine, discrete and firm

Probably you meant discreet, but if not, consider using "distinct" to avoid confusion.


I think looking at marriage and sex as a population level phenomenon for individual relationship strategy is a shoddy relationship strategy.

I upvoted this post simply because I appreciate the OP having the courage to touch on a taboo topic.

Also I love this paragraph:

When I say "A guy does D when G happens" please read: "There are statistically significant, or theoretically significant reasons from social endocrinology, or social and evolutionary psychology to believe that under circumstances broadly similar to G, human males, on average, will be inclined towards behaving in manners broadly similar to the D way. Also, most tests are made with western human males, tests are less

... (read more)

I used to be afraid of initiating kisses. Then I read stories about kisses, particular 'unexpected ones', since my fear is off rejection. Now, I feel more ready. If you have similar issues here here and here are the stories I read. Moreover apparently first kiss on a first date, even in public is an exected norm

My goal before this Friday is to steal 5 kisses from different girls. wait no nevermind

Might try these though:

I went on a date with this guy, and he went in for a hug, but when we both pulled away we ended up nose-to-nose and suddenly ended up in

... (read more)