Charlie Chaplin, best known for his character, the naïve and lovable Little Tramp, had fondness for teenage girls and young women. One of his numerous affairs backfired when Joan Barry announced to the press that Chaplin is the father of her unborn child. By that time Chaplin had moved on and was engaged with someone else. Interestingly, the FBI, not Barry, pursued this case of paternity suit because of his Communist sympathies that didn’t go down too well with the agency. But after the child (Blood group Type B) was born and comparison of blood type was made with Chaplin’s (Type O) and Barry’s (Type A) it was proved beyond all doubt that Chaplin wasn’t the father. We went on to father many. In fact at 73, he is amongst the oldest new dad.
This interesting piece of anecdote brings us to a question often asked by scientists, anthropologists and psychologists – which is the more promiscuous sex? That males are naturally promiscuous while females are coy is a widely held view. Consequently, female sexuality is defined by coyness, chastity and discrimination whereas male sexuality is defined by cockiness, spunk, and indiscrimination. In fact, certain human behaviors such as rape, marital infidelity and some forms of domestic abuse have been portrayed as adaptive traits this “genetic difference”.
One of earliest explanations offered to support this goes as following. Because males produce millions of “cheap” sperms, they can mate with many different females but since females produce very few “expensive” eggs they can be selective about mating with only the “best”.
Several surveys, some very recent ones too, indicate that on an average men have more partners compared to women. Which is an anomaly of sorts. A contemporary author puts the anomaly in a rather blunt manner.
“Men report having bonked on average two to four times as many women as women do men. Since they’re bonking each other here, someone’s telling lies”
Perhaps in a “free society” where restrictions on sexual behaviours are removed and cultural taboos don’t weigh on women, their response will more likely be closer to that of men. In fact, the view that women are coy and men promiscuous hadn’t hold stead before Victorian ages. In ancient Greece, the story of Tiresias told that women are the more lustful sex than men. In later eras, for example in the Middle Ages and in the Renaissance, women were regarded at least as promiscuous as men and, indeed, often as more promiscuous. In fact, in most historical periods and in most parts of the world that was the case.
Promiscuity doesn’t seem to be a bad or a negative thing at all. If Chaplin was promiscuous, so was Barry, isn’t it? After all, both men and women had their day under the Sun at some point in time.
Bringing emotional intimacy back into the relationship
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