Essays and Theories

Evolutionary Psychology And Natural Rejection:
Thoughts on Rejection in the Mating Process

William A. Spriggs
June, 1995

From my second story condo, I have, what I would consider, a perfect perch for viewing the activities that occur around our complex's swimming pool. In the Summer months, it is a swirl of activities; of families, couples, and singles enjoying the sun and cool relief of the water. There once was a beautiful young lady who loved to use the pool. I remember the first time I saw her, lying in the warm Colorado summer sun. Somehow she seemed to capture my eyes and my imagination like no other before her. Maybe it was because my wife was out of town and I missed the closeness of her companionship; maybe, it was the full moon. Maybe, sighting her from a distance, caused my genes to cascade hormones through my body, turning emotions off and on.

Her skin, when applied with oil, shone with a perfect golden hue as the oil mixed with her sweat. Her face, as I remember it, was the finest example of angelic beauty a man could create from a distance. Her hair was long and sun bleached blonde; it sometimes laid beside her in a river of golden threads or she hung it over the lounge chair's edge like a soft waterfall. Her breasts were ample and firm; her nipples, even from a distance, seemed to be large and hard when she emerged into the chill air from the pool. Her long, well defined, muscular legs moved her across the pool area in a deliberate show of assets, as if she knew she was being judged by all present, and those of us she knew to be looking from afar. The curves of her hips and firm buttocks brought forth images in my mind of erotic nights and audible calls of passion; highlighted creamy flesh emerged from a fantasy of near tan lines and the smell of coconut.

Then she took off her prosthesis.

As she made a minor adjustment to the device, a left forearm, I was swept with a feeling of remorse. The healthy, innocent, erotic images that had grown in my mind in the darkened room suddenly vanished. The brain chemistry that represented guilt flooded my brain in an instant. My brain had quickly visited those areas of my stored morality memories, which when mixed would create the instant flood of emotions in which I now found myself. How could I have been so cruel to have let my passions overtake my compassionate heart? How insensitive could I be? If only I had known! Man, what a freaking jerk I was! I have seen her occasionally around the complex since that day, but when I have seen her again, the knowledge of the missing limb seems to haunt an area in the back of my mind. I cannot see her the same way that I did the first time. Why not?

I began to ask myself a series of logical evolutionary questions that I viewed from the perspective of transformed Darwinism: evolutionary psychology. Why was I having these nagging doubts about this young woman? She, in our highly technological world, would obviously be able to perform almost any physical task necessary. Why did the sudden realization of her missing forearm create a negative response in my male mind? I mean, was there some deep, pre-wired information about the physical requirements of a primal mate? Was there a specific area in my brain storing information concerning and comparing skin, hair, head, teeth, arms, legs, breasts, and buttocks? Was there an area for woman as well as for men? And, if so, where is it located? I believe that there is such an area for men and a separate one for women, but at this time I am not ready to elaborate.

Getting back to our aquatic pool mate, I instantly made a snap rejection judgment about the physical capabilities of this potential life mate. In a heartbeat I went from almost naturally selecting her, to naturally rejecting her as a mate. Instantly, to the deeply stored knowledge in my brain, she was no longer the woman who caught my eye and boar my genes into the next generation. She was no longer worthy of my possession. She was no longer the woman who would be envied by all the other young males and lift my status in the clan. In my ancestral mind, she became incapable of carrying children on her right hip. She was transformed into a female who could no longer carry heavy wood for the campfire; she could not gather fruits and nuts to store away for the winter months; nor, judged by my ancient mind, was she adequate to maintain the household hearth. By bearing children she could not properly care for, she instantly became more of a burden than an asset. Suddenly, she became a less desirable female, one to be left to drift to the outer edges of the herd. Her best avenue for survival would be perhaps to find a family that would be willing to help to provide for her in exchange for helping raise another female's children. Another possibility would be to become part of a harem. This choice would amount to exchanging sex for protection. Her last alternative would be to find a male of lower status. His strength would perhaps be minimal due to an injury or birth defect. In any case, they both most likely would be forced to the outer edges of the herd. No one has said that our early female ancestors' life was easy. Feminists today tell us that little has changed.

Now let's suppose for a moment that we have selected someone that we would like as a mate. Once our eyes and minds are captured by someone we find attractive, and we begin to make outward movement towards this individual as a potential mating partner, something happens. When we "naturally select" or focus attraction, we "naturally reject" all other candidates. When you make a "natural selection," you set several events into motion. Your actions effect yourself, the person you have selected, and the people you have "rejected." Now this is very important here -- when our ancestors made their selection, their natural habitat was the small social herd grouping. When a selection was made, the whole herd knew who was mating with whom. And in our earlier stages of development, they most likely mated in full view of the herd. Since every one knew whom was selected, they also knew who was not selected. It may not seem that you have rejected anyone, because your sex hormones have begun to activate, and you are too busy focusing on the events that are about to occur. But this essay is about the rejection part of the mating process. What happens when beautiful people reject our advances or fail to flirt back and we become "rejected?" Simply put, it hurts emotionally. And the crux of this essay, is to ask, why?

When one is rejected in the mating selection process one feels a sense of loss, of not being able to obtain the goal of our innate mating objectives. We become saddened because we will not be allowed to feel the comfort associated with being close to a loved one. The chemical "balance" of being wanted and needed by a potential mate is very desirable. The linking of one's soul to another gives us a anchor in uncertain times. It gives justification and motivation to provide and care for one's mate and one's children. It is our passage to the next world. It is our claim to perpetuity. In the mating process, our innate feelings drive us to find that someone, because the locating of a mate is a milestone in our lives. We search for a mate because it help's to bring stability to our lives. From this stability, we then begin to focus our attention to building those events that enhance our lives and the lives of our future children. Most of us don't stay sad for long when we are rejected. The process of being rejected by a potential mate means not only negative feelings and a blow to our self-image, but the frustration of having to make the search all over again. It means going on another diet or exercise program; joining a social group to meet new possibilities; going to new places and doing new things. I theorize that, in terms of evolutionary psychology, our depression at rejection is caused by the unconscious realization that we have slipped one step closer to being pushed out of the circle that forms a core social grouping among primates-- one small step away from feeling secure--to one step closer to death and extinction.

Let me lead you into the next point. Conventional wisdom, or group thought, has brought us today to believe in Darwin's natural selection. We all seem to be in agreement that a young, "beautiful" or "handsome" person is a sign of a "healthy" person, capable of long life and "good" genes. We equate smooth skin as free of disease; good muscularity as strength and "fitness." Any sporting ability such as grace in movement and skill are counted as pluses in the genetic competitive race. Nothing is overlooked in our pre-wired brains when it comes time for us to find a mate. Now think of this: the mating dance only occurs when our bodies are ready for it to occur. Hormones are the time-released capsules of genetic code. Circumstances of our genes and environment make it early for some, and later for others. Mexican-American and African-American teenage females seem to reach puberty sooner than their Caucasian cousins in the general population. My theory is that because of these cultural environments, Mexican-American and African American mothers may inadvertently be "forcing" (by hints or actual words) the young females in their house to leave in order to increase resources their households. The other factors may include the social group activities of their clan or barrio/ghetto histories. In these cases, I believe that environmental forces are advancing the arrival of puberty. There is so much more to learn. Also on the subject of fertility timing, see Chisholm,"Death, Hope and Sex: Life History Theory and the Development of Reproductive Strategies," Current Anthropology-34"1-46, and Geronimus,"What Teen Mothers Know," Human Nature-Vol. 7, No. 4, 96.

Since I opened this essay with a tale of male erotica to keep you awake through a boring essay, I did want to end with equal time for my female readers. However, I find that the imagery and stored information just isn't there. The attempts that I did make at creating such a scenario, seemed, well -- phony. Studies just released have confirmed what woman have known for some time: that 50 years of sexual fantasy studies have been totally blind to the yearnings of woman. Not just sexual fantasies, but any body part, be it the heart, lungs, or any other vital organs. Let's face it, in the past male medical researchers have pushed studies of female bodies to the category of "unimportant." Hopefully, now that the argument has been laid on the table, things will change for the better.

In either case, as I close this essay, I want to remind all of you Cindy Crawford and Brad Pitt types (of course, please fill in your fantasy mate), to occasionally take a homely person home with you. You will make the planet a happier place. It is your duty!

As an excellent study done on the biological basis of sex and love, please read Dr Helen E. Fisher's work in the journal Human Nature: An Interdisciplinary Biosocial Perspective, Vol 9, No 1, 1998 pg. 23.  The title of the study is: "Lust, Attraction & Attachement in Mammalian Reproduction. (that includes the person who is reading this!)  Dr. Fisher is a research associate in the Anthropology department at Rutgers University.
Origin: June 1995
Updated: May, 1998

Former Title: Natural Refection and Evolutionary Psychology.

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