In Part I of this three-part blog, I argued that Chris Rock’s routines are funny because they’re true because they evoke evolved psychology (a thesis fully fleshed-out in Kuhle, 2012). I sought to persuade the reader of this by reviewing evolutionary psychological theory and evidence that underpin nine of Rock’s routines on opposite-sex friendships, mate preferences, and mate attraction tactics.
In this second installment, I’ll discuss Professor Rock’s theoretically sound, empirically supported, and downright hilarious riffs on sexual conflict, parenting, and infidelity. As before, the reader is warned that I include unedited clips and transcriptions of Rock’s bits that are NSFW, and that my discussion of them does not excuse or justify the behaviors Rock hilariously depicts.
Conflict Between Romantic Partners
Post-courtship, men and women often come into conflict over the occurrence and timing of sex (Buss, 2003). Such conflict is common during the early stages of a relationship because the mating strategy pursued by one sex often interferes with the strategy employed by the other sex (Buss, 1989). For example, as a means of gaining sexual access to a variety of partners, men pursuing a short-term mating strategy look to expedite sexual intercourse after meeting a desired woman (Buss & Schmitt, 1993). Rock discusses a particularly blunt method of minimizing the amount of time elapsed before seeking sex from a sought after partner:
Every man in here that’s with a woman he hasn’t fucked yet is all thinking the same thing: When do I whip it out? Do I just shove her hand down there when we start kissing good night and watch her move it like she got cerebral palsy or some shit? Do I put it on a tray like a appetizer? Sprinkle some parsley around it: “Bon appétit!” . . . And then once you whip it out, there’s always a chance that the woman goes, “Could you put that back?” . . . That never happens to women. Women never whip out a titty and hear, “Hey, put that titty back! If I’d known you was whipping out titties, I wouldn’t even have come upstairs. Put the titty back. Are we gonna watch this movie or what?” (Rock, 2008, 1:04:46 –1:06:14).
Although both men and women pursue both short-term and long-term mating, the former looms larger in men’s than in women’s mating repertoire (Buss, 2003, 2012). Due to sexual asymmetries in obligatory parental investment, the ancestral reproductive benefits of short-term mating were greater and the costs lesser for men compared to women (Symons, 1979; Trivers, 1972). The existence of dual mating strategies often leaves modern men struggling over which type of relationship to pursue:
Every man’s got a choice to make . . . .And you know what the choice is: commitment or new pussy. That is the question: commitment or new pussy. Ya know, commitment will give you a headache every now and then; new pussy always clears your mind (Rock, 1996, 49:00 –50:30).
Rock notes that even after adopting a long-term strategy, many men are still reluctant to foreclose short-term mating opportunities by committing to one partner:
Women always ready to settle down. Shit, a woman go on four good dates, she like, “Why are we bullshitting? What are you waiting for?” Men, never ready to settle down. Men don’t settle down. We surrender. “All right I’ll marry your ass. All right, all right, damn, okay, just tell me the day before, I’ll be there” (Rock, 1996, 47:41– 48:10).
After committing to a partner, humans confront a host of new adaptive problems including the suite of challenges surrounding parenthood. Although parents and children typically share 50% of their genes in common, they also differ genetically by 50 percent. This genetic discrepancy provides fertile ground for parents and children to butt heads, particularly in the mating realm (Salmon, 2007; Trivers, 1974). For example, daughters who attempt to gain benefits from short-term mating (e.g., resources) may come into conflict with parents who are concerned with the reputational damage such behavior can have on the family and their daughter’s value as a long-term mate. According to the daughter guarding hypothesis, parents possess psychological adaptations to defend their daughter’s sexual reputation, preserve her mate value, and protect her from sexual victimization (Perilloux, Fleischman, & Buss, 2008). Evidence in support of this hypothesis indicates that parents are more likely to control their daughters’ than their sons’ mating decisions, mate choice, and sexual behavior. Parents also report greater upset over their daughters’ than their sons’ sexual activity (Perilloux et al., 2008). Rock provided biographical evidence in support of this hypothesis four years before it was formally advanced:
Sometimes I’m walking with my daughter, I’m talking to my daughter, I’m looking at her, I’m pushing her stroller, and sometimes I pick her up and I just stare at her and I realize my only job in life . . . is to keep her off the pole. Keep my baby off the pole! I mean they don’t grade fathers, but if your daughter’s a stripper, you fucked up. Yeah. You went mighty wrong there, baby. You thought you had a household? No, you got a ho camp (Rock, 2004, 2:40–4:03).
A second suite of adaptive problems men and women face after committing to a partner is preserving that commitment. Given the direct reproductive benefits that short-term mating afforded ancestral men, modern men often find it hard to “keep their eyes narrowly focused on their partners and away from the multitude of potential partners on the periphery” (Friedman, 2002, p. 5). In a prescient example of life imitating art, back in 1996 Rock joked that men often need to seek professional treatment to stay faithful. Such therapy is now commonplace, as illustrated by Jesse James, David Duchovny, and Tiger Woods:
But fellas, when you decide to commit, you got to commit. You got to commit. Can’t cheat. Wanna cheat. Can’t cheat. Dying to cheat. Can’t cheat. Can’t wait to cheat. Can’t cheat! Shit, sometimes gotta go to rehab not to cheat! (Rock, 1996, 50:41–51:02).
To deter their mates from cheating, some women insist that their husbands publicly display their commitment in the form of wedding bands. Paradoxically, however, publicly proclaiming one’s commitment to someone can make committing to that person quite challenging. This can be seen among nonhuman animals that exhibit mate choice copying behavior: being sexually attracted to someone with whom others are mating (Dugatkin, 2000). In essence, being in a relationship serves as a sexual imprimatur that one is worthy of pursuing a mateship with. An analogous form of mate choice copying may occur in humans as well: Women find a man more desirable when he is surrounded by women than when he is alone or with other men (Hill & Buss, 2008). Women’s apparent mate choice copying inclinations can test a man’s commitment:
It’s hard not to cheat. You know why it’s hard not to cheat? ‘Cause women like men that are in relationships. Guys know what I’m talking about. When you were single no one was thinking about your ugly ass . . . . Now everybody wanna fuck you . . . . Now your phone ringing off the hook. Crazy, freaky sex talk, like, “Hey whatcha doing? Ya know me and my girlfriends are having a dick sucking contest, and we thought you’d be a good judge.” You never got that call when you were single. Now you get it every Tuesday (Rock, 1996, 51:10 –51:50).
Empirical research and newspaper headlines indicate that high mate-value men find commitment a particularly challenging endeavor. Relative to their lower-mate-value counterparts, high mate-value men tend to “have sexual intercourse at an earlier age, a greater number of sex partners since puberty, a greater number of partners during the past year, sexual intercourse a greater number of times, and no need to be attached before having sex” (Buss, 2012, p. 199). Moreover, men high in social dominance are more likely to be unfaithful than men low in social dominance and women high on social dominance (Egan & Angus, 2004). Recent experimental evidence indicates that power motivates heightened perceptions and expectations of sexual interest from others (Kunstman & Maner, 2011). When paired with a position of power, a committed man’s potent desire for sexual variety (Buss & Schmitt, 1993; Schmitt et al., 2003) can be toxic to his work and family life. In merely the last five years in the United States alone, the following powerful men have risked their political careers and marriages by committing infidelity: former Governors Eliot Spitzer (Democrat-NY) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (Republican-CA); current Governor Mark Sanford (R-SC); former Senators John Ensign (R-NV) and John Edwards (D-NC); current Senator David Vitter (R-LA); former Representatives Mark Souder (R-IN), Anthony Weiner (D-NY), Chris Lee, (R-NY), Eric Massa, (D-NY), Chip Pickering, (R-MS), Vito Fossella, (R-NY), Tim Mahoney, (D-FL), Mark Foley (R-FL), and Don Sherwood (R-PA).
Although these politicians differ in their party affiliations, position of power held, and nature of infidelity committed, they are united on one telling dimension: sex. All 15 are men. One is hard-pressed to identify a single powerful woman over the same period who risked her power, profession, prestige, and long-term partner for a short-term affair. In a tour de force satirization of the sexual politics surrounding President Bill Clinton’s infidelity scandal, Rock riffs on desirable men’s struggles with commitment:
A man is basically as faithful as his options. That’s how faithful a man is, no more, no less. You see all these fat Republican guys going: “I would never do such a thing. This is a travesty.” I’m like, “Nobody’s trying to blow you.“ Ain’t no 20-year-old girls trying to blow Orrin Hatch. Ain’t nobody trying to give Newt Gingrich some. I don’t give a fuck, you ain’t never gonna hear Newt Gingrich go: “Man, I wish these hoes would backup off me. I wish they would just back the fuck up off me” (Rock, 1999: 16:45–19:27).
(Rock wrote this before public knowledge of Newt’s infidelities prompted his “pledge to uphold the institution of marriage through personal fidelity to my [third] spouse and respect for the marital bonds of [heterosexual] others.”)
As this blog is running long, I’ll stop here. Part III will resume discussing Professor Rock’s evolutionarily-informed riffs on infidelity and its frequent sequela, relational dissolution. Until then, try to avoid cheating on and divorcing any cancer-stricken wives, à la John Edwards and Newt "Family Values" Ginghrich.
Sources: Portions of this blog were drawn directly from Kuhle, 2012.
Buss, D. M. (1989). Conflict between the sexes: Strategic interference and the evocation of anger and upset. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56, 735-747.
Buss, D. M. (2003). The evolution of desire: Strategies of human mating (Revised edition). New York: Basic Books.
Buss, D. M. (2012). Evolutionary psychology: The new science of the mind (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.
Buss, D. M., & Schmitt, D. P. (1993). Sexual strategies theory: An evolutionary perspective on human mating. Psychological Review, 100, 204-232.
Dugatkin, L. A. (2000). The imitation factor: Evolution beyond the gene. New York: Free Press.
Egan, V., & Angus, S. (2004). Is social dominance a sex-specific strategy for infidelity?Personality and Individual Differences, 36, 575-586.
Friedman, B. (2002). Cues to commitment (Doctoral dissertation, University of Texas, Austin). Retrieved from http://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/bitstream/handle/2152/582/friedmanb026.pdf?sequence=2
Hill, S. E., & Buss, D. M. (2008). The mere presence of opposite-sex others on judgments of sexual and romantic desirability: Opposite effects for men and women. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34, 635-647.
Kuhle, B. X. (2012). It’s funny because it’s true (because it evokes our evolved psychology). Review of General Psychology, 16.
Kuntsman, J. W., & Maner, J. K. (2011). Sexual overperception: Power, mating motives, and biases in social judgment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 100, 282–294.
Perilloux, C., Fleischman, D. S., & Buss, D. M. (2008). The daughter-guarding hypothesis: Parental influence on, and emotional reactions to, offspring’s mating behavior. Evolutionary Psychology, 6, 217-233.
Rock, C. (Executive Producer). (1996). Chris Rock: Bring the Pain [DVD]. DreamWorks Records Home Video.
Rock, C. (Executive Producer). (1999). Chris Rock: Bigger & Blacker [DVD]. HBO.
Rock, C. (Executive Producer). (2004). Chris Rock: Never Scared [DVD]. HBO.
Rock, C. (Executive Producer). (2008). Chris Rock: Kill the Messenger - London, New York, Johannesburg [DVD]. HBO.
Salmon, C. A. (2007). Parent-offspring conflict. In C. A. Salmon & T. K. Shackelford (Eds.), Family relationships: An evolutionary perspective (pp. 145-161). New York: Oxford University Press.
Schmitt, D. P., and 118 members of the International Sexuality Description Project. (2003). Universal sex differences in the desire for sexual variety: Tests from 52 nations, 6 continents, and 13 islands. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 85-104.
Symons, D. (1979). The evolution of human sexuality. New York: Oxford.
Trivers, R. L. (1972). Parental investment and sexual selection. In B. Campbell (Ed.), Sexual selection and the descent of man: 1871 - 1971 (pp. 136-179). Chicago: Aldine.
Trivers, R. L. (1974). Parent offspring conflict. American Zoologist, 14, 249-264.
Copyright © 2012 Barry X. Kuhle. All rights reserved.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of Psychology Today and the University of Scranton, or my friends, family, probation officer, gut bacteria, darkest thoughts, and personal mohel.