romantic settling, monogamy, polyamory, culture, genetics, memetics, and long, interweaving chains of demand characteristics and selection bias (dating correspondence)

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[So normally I try for meeting someone after like a couple brief messages. These long chains of long messages are very rare for me. But sometimes they happen. :-D]


[On Settling]

Yeah… I know one person can’t be my everything. But I go back and forth regarding how much to hold out for how much, if that makes sense? Like, at what point of e.g. sexual and intellectual compatibility do I settle and then go elsewhere for the rest? Multiply “sexual” and “intellectual” by about 500 other things. And I don’t mean settle in a negative sense. I’m still talking mutuality, respect, intimacy, affection, and unique, idiosyncratic, deep attachment between two unique, idiosyncratic human beings. Maybe it’s more like I haven’t found the variables and behaviors and contexts within and around self and other that trigger that emotionally deep, lasting, logistically acceptable attachment that one might feel right down to their bones. Multiple threads of interweaving limerence and attachment across different time courses. I have felt these things in fickle, oft fleeting ways. In addition to my usual thinking, feeling, and reading really hard, I keep playing with my behaviors, my beliefs, meeting people that evoke different things in me in different ways, I spend time with them, see how it feels, see what happens… I communicate as much as I possibly can, strive for mutuality. Minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years… I keep reading all that back against myself, self as sounding board—how does that feel, what does that mean, what might happen next, what might I want?

And I find that the different experiences I have with different people at different points, the things I get and give and don’t get and give, in each novel situation, sort of lead me in this lazy drift back and forth between “monogamy” and “polyamory,” each time more nuanced, more personal, more idiosyncratic, more contingent, more elaborated…

The meanings of those words change, what those things mean, to me, change. This is gratifying and challenging because, there’s this translation step between two people, like, “Ok, we’re sort of using all these same words, but we might mean different things by these different things in different times and different places for different purposes…”


[On social/environmental vs biological/physiological]

I’m curious about your thoughts on the social/environmental influences on sexuality. After your last message I thought about the proximate causes of gender, orientation, and presentation.

One piece of evidence I have are anecdotes about gay boys and trans girls. One might think that if dolls and trucks were purely socialization then gay boys and trans girls would play with trucks as children. But, anecdotally, gay boys and trans girls go for dolls, princesses, and clothes, regardless of the trucks and dinosaurs and guns that get pushed on them.

(This is my impression; I hold it loosely in case someone throws some systematic research study at me.) In any, I hold the above as evidence that genetics and prenatal endocrinology have a proximate influence at least as strong as culture, at least in this limited case. There’s also stuff like how birth order influences the likelihood of boys being gay. And I think there’s a bunch of studies, using phenotype as indicator of prenatal testosterone exposure, to all sorts of other boy/girl spectrum traits.

All that said, I haven’t dug deep into the quality of all that research. If I were really going to put a stake in the ground, like if I really had skin in the game, I would want to see meta-analyses to see how much girl brains, boy brains, girl hormones, boy hormones, girl behavior, boy behavior, prenatal this, prenatal that, testosterone this, testosterone that, how all those individual pieces actually held upon their own, once you start kicking the tires of the long, interweaving chains of demand characteristics and selection bias that lead to seemingly case-closed (ha!), convenient, tidy, cutesy, just-so narratives.


On the other side of the fence, you’ve got the social/culture stuff. I’m thinking of a few examples off the top of my head. Ummm, cultures of machismo are one example. Dudes being dudely, god forbid they show any weakness, and maybe individual men and women experience quiet desperation and wish things were different. Or they can’t find words, can’t articulate it to themselves, and they internalize the culture, and hate themselves, and police themselves, try to shape themselves into something more like what they think peers and culture are asking for.

And then you’ve got the human rights movement. And then you’ve got examples like female genital mutilation evaporating with a dash of physical safety and a dollop of education. Or, you sidestep the ideal of honor (killings) by redefining honor so it no longer involves killing. (That honor thing is a great example of culturally reshaping what’s probably an evolutionary impulse.)

So it does seem like culture is malleable and can dramatically influence the expression of nature and prenatal/childhood nurture.


Anyway, I think it’s fairly uncontroversial that a person’s internal milieu and embedding culture both evolve via simultaneous transmission across a spectrum from genetic to memetic. Culture drives mate choices and technology. Mate choices and technology drive genetics. Repeat for thousands of years.

I guess I personally experience emotional intensity around this because, yeah, I do feel like culture wants to shape and deny my felt expression of internal milieu and behavior. And of course my reflection upon my felt expression of internal milieu and behavior is partially shaped by the culture and my access to, Google books, Tumblr… And around and around it goes. Fuck quiet desperation. I’ve had it soooooooooooooooooooooo easy compared to like as much as 15% of the population, and I’ve been miserable enough.


[ Re:


Genderbread person! I’ve seen this before but I didn’t look as closely as I could have. I usually think in terms of three or four knobs (gender, orientation, presentation, and maybe romance). But, omg, there’s TEN knobs, here! This is great. 😀


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2 thoughts on “romantic settling, monogamy, polyamory, culture, genetics, memetics, and long, interweaving chains of demand characteristics and selection bias (dating correspondence)

  1. How and at what stage of meeting someone is it appropriate/effective/kind/experience-optimizing/ethical to bring up the idea of polyamory? When you meet someone through a dating site it’s easy to put (a summary of) your views up front, but sometimes I meet romantic/sexual/deep-friendship prospects irl.

    And I don’t see being poly as a core part of my identity (plus I’m new to it and I haven’t quite figured out the narrative), so it won’t come up naturally, since topics seems to be driven by availability. Also I don’t want to be that person who always talks about poly. (“How do you know if someone is poly? They’ll tell you.”)

    This is complicated by unclear expectations/assumptions (“do they like me?”) and the dance of relationship negotiation. It might be hard to talk about poly without mutual knowledge of likes, e.g. (Though maybe more mutual knowledge in this realm leads to better results, not sure.)

    What’s your approach to all of this?

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