Marriage and Exceptionalism

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By: Dr. Joe Malone, Author of Battle of the Sexes: Raising Sexual IQ

Marriage has played a crucial role throughout human history and continues to do so to this very day. Let me explain. It comes down to very practical and physiological reasons. Despite the camouflaging effects of our culture’s overabundance of energy rich foods, most of our ancestors had to struggle daily to attain their basic caloric needs. In his excellent book The Story of the Human Body, Daniel Lieberman lays out the situation. 

The constant search for food through a hunting and gathering lifestyle was the life story of our distant ancestors. This was especially true for those who were female young adults. Physiologically, they needed an adequate amount of food for their own bodily needs, for conceiving and carrying a baby to birth, and for around three years of breastfeeding. Your typical 110-pound woman would need about 1800 calories per day just for her own needs. When pregnant or breastfeeding, she would have needed an extra 500 calories per day. This situation would have constituted her lifestyle for most of her adult life. 

Our ancestors’ biggest task was obtaining their daily food in a daunting environment. It required at least four miles of walking per day and much laborious gathering to find and most likely dig out the foods that were buried underground in the form of tubers. Other dining possibilities were nuts that came in hard shells. There were also berries and roots that were often accompanied by toxins. The physical effort required to obtain such resources was strenuous. Many times they would have to move large boulders and then have to dig industriously in order to get plants. This could take up to 20 minutes for each food item to be obtained. Then they had to be pounded or cooked in order to soften the indigestible fiber.

This scenario presented a great challenge, especially to reproductive-age females. A typical ancient female ancestor of ours would have probably conceived at about 18 years old and had her first baby at 19 years old. She would begin to need an extra 500 calories per day. As the pregnancy went on, she would have become less able to gather an adequate amount of food while still needing the extra calories. Then three years later, she would have become pregnant with her second child. After giving birth, she would be encumbered in her gathering by a toddler, as well as the demands of breastfeeding. This childbirth and child-rearing process would have repeated itself and continued until she reached menopause. For each of her older children who had been weaned but were not yet able to forage for themselves, she would have needed about 1,000 to 2,000 additional calories per day.

It is obvious that many of our ancestral grandmothers and their children must have gone hungry and been at the point of starvation much of the time. It appears that about this same time meat, which is a rich source of calories, fat, zinc and iron, became a part of the human menu. Males, because they were not encumbered by toddlers and did not have to breastfeed, became the hunters while females gathered plants. This division of labor was a key factor in human success and exceptionalism.

Males and females began to pair-bond during this time period which eventually led to what we know as marriage. Husbands began to invest heavily in their wives and offspring by providing them with food. Based on current hunter-gatherer tribes, it is estimated that a man could acquire between 3,000 and 6,000 calories a day – more than enough food to supply his own needs and provision for his family. Fathers, in turn, frequently depended on plants their mates gathered, especially when they came home from a long hunt, hungry and devoid of game.

This crucial sexually-cooperative relationship made possible the explosive growth of the human brain. It far surpassed other mammals by becoming five times larger proportionally as other mammals. Large brains are too expensive in terms of energy usage for most species and it would have been impossible for Homo sapiens without a nutritional surplus from this sexually empathetic relationship that eventually made all of the great human advances possible.

It should also be noted that during this time period sexual dimorphism (size difference) between the sexes began to shrink. This would indicate a shift away from human’s more ancient mating system of polygyny. Romance between a man and a woman became a pivotal part of our history. It helped us not only to survive, but also to thrive.

Women and men have depended on each other for thousands and thousands of years and the sexual empathy and romance of marriage have been a catalyst since the dawn of humanity!  

Edited By: Ariel Hobbs

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