Oliver James: A little of what you fancy

Sexual desire is a dreadful basis on which to pick someone to have children with. The fact that you want to go to bed with them has virtually no bearing on whether you will form a good team in the fiendishly taxing matter of trying to care for kiddies.

Men are largely influenced by the shapeliness of the bodies and prettiness of faces of women - as I have pointed out here before, roughly speaking, the more like Anna Kournikova the better. Personality attributes come far behind nubility and youth, or the cosmetic semblance thereof.

This is a cruel trick of nature. The fact that a person looks like Ms K does not (a) mean she'll be any good at looking after kids or (b) that you'll still wish to be with her when she begins to look like her mother.

By contrast, women are more concerned with mental attributes - such as whether a man is funny - and with his social and economic status. How else could one explain the youth of Woody Allen's or Michael Winner's sexual partners?

This is, if anything, even crueller. Very funny or very successful men are also very liable to be absolute pigs as fathers - never at home, prone to playing away and office-politics-obsessed, manipulative emotional pygmies.

Again and again, talented, able women when young are highly competitive with other women and proudly land a hard-driving spouse, a trophy husband. Hoping for equality and getting none, having realised their successful man is never going to be much use in any departments other than hunting, gathering and golf, their second partnership is with a much lower status but much nicer man. Happiness follows.

Equally common is the male executive who married for looks, but eventually ends up spending his dotage with his much dowdier, long-term personal assistant, a woman who shares his fascination with business. Had he known at 25 what he knows at 50, he would never have dreamt of tying the knot with his first wife. Both groups' vision is distorted by desire when picking their mates. But evolutionists have totally failed to explain why we have developed in this grossly unsatisfactory fashion.

They claim that men go for nubility, because it's a marker for fertility, and that women go for power and status, because it means the kids will get fed. In fact, whatever it's based on, desire as the foundation of a reproductive relationship is inevitably going to lead to a lot of unhappy partnerships.

If evolution is so important, how come this useless method of pairing us off has not been naturally selected out of our genes? It's just one of hundreds of human traits which presumably have a genetic basis (because they are species-wide), but do not seem to adaptively increase the survival of the fittest at all (eg homosexuality, stupidity).

It's time to admit the limits of what Darwin can explain and discourage both sexes from regarding desire as the main criterion for becoming mummies and daddies.

· Next week: the playful solution to parenting

Thanks to guardian.co.uk who have provided this article. View the original here.


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