December 6, 2012

Hover handing as a signal of rising monogamy

We live in a culture plagued by hover handing, where a guy is too nervous to touch a girl with his hand in a situation where it's not only permissible but required by basic manners. So although it comes off as rude and makes him look awkward, he just lets his hand float somewhere near the girl's body. This site has some of the more famous examples, while this one is updated with depressing frequency.

Last year I reviewed evidence from pictures of real life that the young people of the mid-20th century also appeared to be flagrant hover-handers. I hardly found any such pictures of young people from the '60s through the '80s. My basic conclusion was that these changes over time reflect how sociable vs. cocooning people are -- outgoing people are more comfortable being touchy-feely with one another.

But after looking more into the phenomenon, I've noticed that there seem to be two different contexts where it occurs, one with slight and one with major offenses. That variation ought to give us more clues about what's driving the behavior.

The first situation is where a guy has met up with some way-out-of-his-league chick who he will never see again, let alone get the chance to touch again. Often he's an autistic nerd at some comic book or video game convention who has paid to have his picture taken with a famous actress, or who decides to snap a picture with some of the hired guns ("booth babes") paid to make the convention look less slovenly and ugly.

In these cases, the guy tends to commit only minor hover hand. I guess he feels like he paid whatever it costs for the actress picture, or when would he ever see the booth babe again -- there'd be no way for him to feel embarrassed by her later, or for her to spread gossip about him to anyone in his social circle. Granted most of these pussies aren't going to fully contact her, but short of that they're going to go for the gold. Look through a lot of the pictures at the two sites linked above, and you'll see. Here are some examples:


The hand is as close as it can get without touching, including the fingers that curve in a cup-like way to stay pretty close to the surface.

Unlike these fly-by-night situations, where he could suffer no consequences, the second situation involves a guy -- usually not even a nerd, but someone from all walks of life -- and a girl who he's connected to in some kind of long-term or lasting relationship. It could be boyfriend/girlfriend, close friends, prom dates, clubbing buddies, or any combination. The setting is some kind of highly sociable event like a house party, school dance, beach, bar, or nightclub. They're having their picture taken to capture their feelings for each other.

Oddly, these cases show the severest degree of hover-handing -- and only by the guy. Often the girl is leaning toward or into the guy's chest, perhaps pressing her head against his, and non-awkwardly touching him with her open hands. She's always smiling and gives no loud signals of feeling uncomfortable touching him or being touched by him. Yet when he's with girls he knows, today's young male stiffens his arm even farther away from the girl next to him. Again, look through those sites to see for yourself. Here are a few examples:


Now the hand is much farther away, nowhere close to the surface, and the fingers may even be partly balled up so that even if his hand did accidentally graze her body, only the outside of his hand would do so, not the sensitive inner surface.

Why is hover-handing so much worse when they're socially closer? He must be more concerned about how his level of hands-on-ness could affect his reputation in the future. That's something that the nerd paying for a picture with Summer Glau doesn't have to worry about. The guy in the second situation doesn't want to become known in his social circle as an octopus who paws every girl he stands next to. And what better way is there to signal how unlikely you are to get touchy-feely than by refusing to clasp the shoulder even of your close friend or girlfriend? By comparison, all other girls would stand less of a chance still of being touched by you.

The dating and mating lives of young people have become much more monogamous over the past 20 years (see the Youth Risk Behavior Survey). A young guy trying to pursue a promiscuous strategy these days is not going to get too far, at least compared to where he could've gotten in the '60s, '70s, or '80s. And young guys themselves pick up on that in real life after awhile. When they try to place their hands on the girl who's wiggling her butt around in their crotch at a dance, and she either removes his hands or simply bolts off back to her friends, they eventually learn that the ubiquitous attention-whoring of their female peers does not actually lead to sex.

So now that girls insist a lot more strongly on monogamous commitment than before, they're going to want to see some honest signals. One easy way for a signal to be honest is for it to be costly. And it's harder to imagine a more costly behavior than a young guy restraining himself when he could be touching the bare skin of some babe who's already pressing herself against his body. Like, how could she expect him to cheat on her if he's not even comfortable touching a girl he's already gained the trust of and may be dating?

I don't think it's a conscious, Machiavellian deception by the guys either. They appear genuinely awkward touching girls they know, not like they're just faking it for the moment, and then they'll turn around next week and cheat on her with several different girls. Rather than guys consciously altering their true preferences, it looks like girls are just choosing a different kind of guy, someone who deep down gets uncomfortable laying his hands on a girl's body. That would certainly fit with all the other lines of evidence that females are starting to choose the doormat, good-provider, doofus dad type for their long-term relationships.

This signal does not seem vulnerable to being faked either, like if some promiscuous guy just forced himself into a hover handing gesture to gain the girl's trust, and then love her and leave her. After all, it takes more than one instance of hover-handing to convince the girl that you're a low-libido beta-male. It's just one more hoop the guy will jump through as part of the ever longer, blue-balling courtship process of the 21st century. A truly promiscuous guy is going to figure that all of that isn't worth the trouble, and try to get a different set of girls in some other way.

And of course this idea explains why hover-handing was so common in the mid-century: aside from being a less sociable culture, it was also one where females insisted on males being meek, monogamous providers. Not like what the Flaming Youth had experienced during the Roaring Twenties.

There are other types of societies where men go to great lengths to not touch women, like the tropical gardening (horticulturalist) groups where men hang out only with each other, and seclude women and their polluting sexuality, except once in awhile when the business needs to get done. However, in those places the men are incredibly violent, boastful, and gaudy in appearance. Highland New Guinea, for example. They are cad rather than dad societies. The guys above, though, are peaceful, meek, and drab. So ours doesn't seem to be a case of the Fear of Women phenomenon.

A falling-crime period almost by definition is one that feminizes men. In earlier stages of pacification, maybe that was a good thing (or not), bringing men from incredibly violent extremes back toward the center. But at least since the 19th century, our falling-crime periods, having already made their largest advances, are taking us from a moderate level of masculinity toward outright feminization -- the Victorian era, the mid-century, and the Millennial era.

An upward tick in the crime rate back to where it was in the '60s, '70s, or '80s would keep us very far from savagery, but move us back far enough to let men enjoy a basic level of guy-like behavior. Now they're so warped that they feel paralyzed just to touch their own girlfriend.

20 comments:

  1. Anonymous1:55 PM

    I dunno. Sounds plausible, but some of those dudes in the second row of pics look pretty alpha. They could just be keeping their distance from the girls in their social group to advertise to other girls that they are available.

    As for refraining from touching to attract women to see you as potential boyfriend material, it's well-known among womanizers that physical escalation is practically a must to get a girl into bed sooner rather than later, or even at all. A woman generally makes up her mind about the boyfriend-worthiness of a man after she has already become attracted to him, or has dated him for a bit.

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  2. "They could just be keeping their distance from the girls in their social group to advertise to other girls that they are available."

    There are less awkward ways of doing that than stiffening you arm about one foot away from a girl's body, though. It makes you look uncomfortable with girls in general, not that you happen to be unattached at the moment.

    If you browse through those two sites, you'll see plenty of obviously dorky guys doing the exact same thing with their prom dates. It's something that everyone does, not just the more athletic or popular-looking guys.

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  3. Anonymous6:29 PM

    "I dunno. Sounds plausible, but some of those dudes in the second row of pics look pretty alpha. They could just be keeping their distance from the girls in their social group to advertise to other girls that they are available."

    Alpha is not a real concept. Humans choose mates based on physical beauty.

    That being said, I strongly doubt that men are trying to signal they are available through the hover hand. If the only people looking at the picture are part of the social group, wouldn't they know that such-and-such are sleeping together?

    "it's well-known among womanizers that physical escalation is practically a must to get a girl into bed sooner rather than later"

    No shit. Men in general like to touch women. If young men are touching women less, then its because the women are rejecting such behavior.

    I don't think Millenials are more monogamous. In fact, I see the opposite - they are less likely to formally date or be in a formal relationship. What sex does occur is of the "non-boyfriend" variety.

    In general, monogamous relationships arise out of social circles. Two people designate themselves as going out precisely to let others in the group know to stop trying to sleep with them.

    Since there are less social groups in general nowadays, there'd be a *decrease* in any kind of formal relationships.

    -Curtis

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  4. Anonymous6:43 PM

    "That would certainly fit with all the other lines of evidence that females are starting to choose the doormat, good-provider, doofus dad type for their long-term relationships."

    I don't think a woman's preferences for a man changes at all throughout her life. Much of the research claiming about how women sometimes want "provider" men is flawed.

    If a woman is attracted to a man, she'll let him touch her. If not, she'll force hover hand.

    That being said, I think I have an answer to the phenomenon of hover hand. Its caused by conformity the "everybody gets a trophy" ethos that's popular nowadays.

    Millenials hate asserting themselves in the face of the majority. Its all about doing what the majority wants you too, not making waves. So Millenial girls will have their picture taken by some guy who gives them the jeebies, just because they don't want to make waves by excluding someone from the group.

    Whereas, during rising-crime times, women were more assertive and confident. They didn't feel pressured to associate with or have their pics taken with some guy they didn't like.

    Now, as to why this happens even in long-term relationships, well I don't think it happens so much between genuine boyfriends and girlfriends, unless the girl is exploiting the guy for money or whatever else.

    -Curtis






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  5. Anonymous6:50 PM

    Actually, I think you made a post about how Millenial girls have trouble dealing with unwanted advances, because they lack social experience and assertiveness.

    I think the same thing is at play here. Girls get forced into social interactions with guys they don't like, guy goes for a hand grab, body tenses, so he does the hoverhand. Over time, men would get conditioned to do the hover hand even with women who might be more receptive.

    -Curtis

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  6. Rifleman10:12 AM

    6:29 PM, Anonymous said...

    Alpha is not a real concept. Humans choose mates based on physical beauty.


    Right, which is why unattractive people never date, have sex, get married or reproduce.

    Which is why now only beautiful people exist because ugly people have been bred out of existence.

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  7. Anonymous1:58 PM

    Right, which is why unattractive people never date, have sex, get married or reproduce.

    Which is why now only beautiful people exist because ugly people have been bred out of existence.


    What are you even trying to say?

    Unattractive people reproduce with other unattractive people and mutations occur constantly. These explain the persistence of ugliness.

    Unattractive people do not exist because attractive people are picking them as mates due to their "personality" (which the null hypothesis would be that they do not have any better of. and which the general connection of good mental traits with low mutation load and physical attractiveness with low mutation load, would suggest they ugly people have worse personalities).

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  8. I am not seeing a rise in monogamy. I am seeing monogamy fall like a stone.

    What I see is a fall in male status, which may also explain the falling sperm count.

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  9. Anonymous12:18 AM

    "What I see is a fall in male status, which may also explain the falling sperm count."

    I doubt it. You're confusing sperm count with testosterone, which is controlled somewhat by rises and falls in status. Testosterone is not linked to sperm count. Handsomeness, however, is.


    " I am seeing monogamy fall like a stone."

    Depends on what you mean. I believe that people are less likely to be in any type of formal relationship(the blog author disagrees with this): for instance, boyfried-and-girlfriend, less likely to get married, etc. But, as Agnostic has documented, they have far less promiscuous sex also. Worst of both worlds...

    -Curtis

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  10. Anonymous12:26 AM

    "What I see is a fall in male status, which may also explain the falling sperm count."

    Actually, I may be wrong about what I just said. Still, even if men are decreasing in testosterone, I think it has more to do with natural selection than it does decreases in status, i.e. low-testosterone men are having more kids.

    -Curtis

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  11. Anonymous2:53 AM

    There are other types of societies where men go to great lengths to not touch women

    I don't know if this helps, but Arab and South Asian societies seem the societies where male-female contact is most taboo. Does this generally extend to the steppe (i.e. check out some ethnographies of the surviving steppe folk)?

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  12. Anonymous3:54 AM

    Increasing monogamy? totally wrong. The humans are essentially polygamous but we are rapidly shedding traditions that emerged with the Agricultural Revolution and returning to patterns mating that evolved on the grasslands of Africa millions of years ago. Monogamous society, culture and morals were created to regulate our instincts to make sure the best strategy for the group work in the long run. Take a look at the old concepts: people were virgins at marriage, and women spent their 20s tending to 3 or more children, these beliefs are vanishing. Instead, hooking up (the new term for a one-night stand) is becoming commonplace. Female promiscuity carried the huge risk of pregnancy, and the resultant poverty and low social status. It was virtually impossible for any women to have several sexual partners in her lifetime without being a prostitute. At the present most woman marrying over 30 after having had 10 or more prior sexual relationships.

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  13. Anonymous11:54 PM

    "Instead, hooking up (the new term for a one-night stand) is becoming commonplace"

    In fact, American women report on average 4 sexual partners. This has been decreasing since the early '90s.

    Don't let the media fool you. Sex in the media is not an accurate depction of real life. Japan, for instance, has an almost pornographic popular media(for instance, there are vending machines for schoolgirl panties). Yet something like half of all college-aged Japanese report themselves as virgins.

    Second, don't let "attention-whoring" fool you. Girls post provocative pics of themselves on facebook all the time, wear very revealing clothes, etc. Most of these girls don't have many sexual partners.

    Third, don't let PUA tell you that feminism has created a giant fuckfest. PUA came into creation precisely because so many young men today are sheltered and don't understand what the social scene is really like. In fact, the falling-crime 1950s had very PUA-like fads, for instance using the power of hypnotism to seduce women.

    the depiction of Millenials as being sex-crazed is totally created by the media. Millenials are tame and prudish.

    -Curtis





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  14. Anonymous12:07 AM

    ""The humans are essentially polygamous"

    You are right about this, but polygamous is not the same thing as promiscuous. In fact, polygamous societies are less promiscuous. Women attach to an attractive or wealthy man right off the bat and stay with him unless he is killed or displaced by a younger rival.

    For instance, look at Saudi Arabia, a polygamous society. Women have to cover their bodies with heavy clothing and aren't allowed to be alone with a strange man let alone go to parties and "hook up".

    You also see this in animal species. Lions are polygamous and the females only have 1-2 male partners over the course of their lives. Same with gorillas(male gorillas actually have very small testicles, since they don't need a high sperm count to destroy the sperm of rivals').

    All that being said, I think what is really going on is that, as the society becomes less promiscuous, it may also be becoming more polygamous. Women are having less sexual partners, but they may be more likely to attach to a man involved with other women. This may also explain the breakdown in formal courtship, such as going on dates and designating someone as your boyfriend or girlfriend.

    Then again, accounts from rising-crime times indicate they were just as polygamous. For instance, one of my old professors talks about how his roommate was once sleeping with a girl and her own roommate at the same time. They met at a mud-wrestling party which apparently was something college kids did back then. The idea was that if a guy managed to catch a girl and hold her without her slipping away, they had sex. (why don't the "wild" Millenials have any mud-wrestling parties?)

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  15. macgyver8:21 AM

    Above anonymous,

    Early sociobiological models of human sexual strategy predicted that women should grab the best quality man they could attract and then bend heaven and earth to keep him faithful, because if he screwed around some of his effort would be likely to be directed towards providing for children by other women. In these theories, female abstinence before marriage and fidelity during it was modeled as a trade offered men to keep them faithful in turn; an easy trade, because nobody had noticed any evolutionary incentives for women to cheat on the contract.

    Human society forced monogamous marriage made sure all or most of men had wives, thus unlocking productive output out of men who in pre-modern times would have had no incentive to be productive. Women, in turn, received a provider, a protector, and higher social status than unmarried women, who often were trapped in poverty. Evolutionary psychologists propose that a conditional human tendency for promiscuity is inherited from hunter-gatherer ancestors. Female promiscuity is advantageous in that it allows females to choose fathers for their children who have better genes than their mate, to ensure better care for their offspring, have more children, and as a form of fertility insurance. The clear evidence of women's promiscuity throughout evolutionary history is in the male testicles size and shape of penis. Human beings fall somewhere in the middle of the male competition/female promiscuity spectrum. The testicles of human males are considerably larger than those of gorillas, but smaller and less productive than those of chimpanzees. This would suggest that there is some degree of competition among males for access to females, but not nearly as much as in chimpanzee societies. It also suggests that human females are promiscuous but far less prone to profligate mating than their chimpanzee counterparts.

    And indeed, this does seem to be the broad finding in studies of human societies; while males generally attempt to maximize their reproductive impact by attempting to mate with as many females as possible, females generally prefer monogamy, largely committing adultery with only one extracurricular attractive man whose genetic fitness is higher than that of her mate.

    By the other hand you confuse sequential or serial polygamy with simultaneous polygamy. Simultaneous polygamy is to mating or to marry to more than one partner at the same time. Today women change mates periodically. This female pattern may be referred to as serial or sequential polyandry, the focus is on mate-switching behaviour. The pure monogamous mating is when a woman had one and only husband at their entire lifetime.


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  16. macgyver8:34 AM


    Before young women got married early on (at their peak of beauty, nubile and nulliparous), and society punishes adultery and divorce, they pair up with their one and only mate for their whole lifetime. Number of sexual partners and long-term mates of woman has increased within her lifetime, because has increased widely her unmarried lifetime. Before they married virgins at the age of 20. Religious institutions and broader societal forces were pressures to keep a woman committed to her marriage, and the notion of leaving simply out of boredom was out of the question.

    Currently millennials girls engage in casual sex, dating a lot of guys cuz they delay their marriage age. And according to statistics, the age at which women marry for the first time has been steadily climbing. In fact, women´s average age at first marriage in USA is 27 and for these women, divorcing in the first couple of years has become a common pattern now. And the number of women getting married for the first time in their late 30s and 40s has almost doubled in the past decade. Of course Women marrying after having 5 or more sexual partners and long-term boyfriends, compared to just 0-1 previously. This makes it harder for the woman to form a pair bond with a future husband.

    Some married couples agree to have brief sexual encounters when they travel separately; others sustain long-term adulterous relationships with the approval of a spouse. Even our concept of divorce is shifting. Divorce used to be considered a sign of failure; today it is often deemed the first step toward true happiness.

    Our divorce rate has increased 600 per cent since the Civil War. Its trend is still upward. Two marriages in five now end in divorce. (No one knows how many persons, unable to afford the luxury of divorce, simply "take up" with another mate.) Ten years hence, it is estimated, one marriage in two will conclude in the courts. Who says women are monogamous?

    I am not arguing that we are genetic more o less monogamous than our ancestors; I am simply looking certain facts in the face. Consider the widespread knowledge of contraception which enables women to escape the biological consequences of their sexual acts. Who shall say how our grandmothers might have behaved if these factors had been present?

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  17. Anonymous10:28 PM



    "Human beings fall somewhere in the middle of the male competition/female promiscuity spectrum. The testicles of human males are considerably larger than those of gorillas, but smaller and less productive than those of chimpanzees. This would suggest that there is some degree of competition among males for access to females, but not nearly as much as in chimpanzee societies. It also suggests that human females are promiscuous but far less prone to profligate mating than their chimpanzee counterparts."

    Its actually much closer to gorillas than chimpanzees, meaning that human women are basically sexually loyal and not promiscuous. The reason its not quite the size of gorillas probably has more to do with women's husbands getting killed all the time than it does being promiscuous.

    I agree with most of what you say about how traditional marriages are breaking down.

    I disagree with the "provider" theory. Women were forced into that role. That's what the scientists don't understand. After agriculture was invented, men forced a monogamous system on women. Women then devised mechanisms to cuckold their oppressors and still get the best genes. They don't pursue "provider" men as a strategy, they are forced to marry such men - by being denied access to resources - and then come up with strategies to cheat on them.

    These scientists are biased because they are "providers". its easier for them to paint women as manipulative exploiters, rather than the reality, which is that the so-called "providers"/technocrats have been forcing women into marriage. Feminists are right about that - there was an oppressive patriarchy, which created sexual repression through the control of resources.

    -Curtis

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  18. Anonymous10:45 PM

    the promiscuity of the New Wave and other periods in modern history is not caused by women having a promiscuous nature. Human women don't systematically sleep with all the men in their community, as chimpanzee females do.

    Rather, modern promiscuity is probably the result of greater choices and mobility. Women get with a guy, but then, meeting lots of different men on a regular basis, ditch him for an even better guy, but then find an even better guy then that. etc.

    Women all want the best man that they can get. It may take awhile until some of them find that person, so in the meantime some end up wracking up a high number of partners. However, if a woman could just sleep with the best man right off the bat, she would stay with that guy for the rest of her life.

    Women are not compulsively promiscuous, as chimpanzees are, however much men might want to pretend otherwise. Women will avoid promiscuous behavior if at all possible, but some end up being promiscuous because it takes them a longer time before they encounter the guy they want.

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  19. Anonymous11:01 PM

    And hopefully my last Aspergy post on this shit:

    That being said, the next "rising-crime" period, when it starts in 2020, will be somewhat different than the New Wave.

    Technology has changed things. Mostly airforce technology and the drones. We don't need to field mass armies anymore, therefore, we do not need a large native male population anymore. Over the next 10 years, there will be even more intense technological changes, since that happens during falling-crime.

    I don't think we will see the same feel-good promiscuity as there was in the New Wave. This seems to ahve been imposed by men on women. I agree with Agnostic that promiscuity was used by men to create social cohesion with each other. Problem is, if we don't need men to serve in the army anymore, it doesn't matter if the mass of men have social cohesion. They are getting hung out to dry.

    Women are never comfortable with promiscuity, though they can end up being promiscuous for the reasons I explained earlier. So if they don't have to be promiscuous, and they don't have to anymore, they won't be. What you'll get is what women really want - a polygamous society, where several women attach to an extremely attractive man and stay with him.

    What will happen is a polygamous system formed around attractive men, with a substantial part of the male population being eliminated, possibly through suicide.

    I think there will be a much higher rise in suicides than a rise in crime - crime only pays when it can get you women, but this is no longer the case. Women are less responsive to money and "providers", and will be even more so in the future. And odd as it sounds, criminals are essentially pursuing the "provider" strategy, by trying to get money.

    the culture will still become outgoing and fun again. But only for some...



    -Curtis

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  20. macgyver4:49 AM

    Curtis,

    Most evolutionary psychologists see people as flexible mating strategists, who are adapted to employ promiscuous strategies under some conditions, and more committed strategies under other conditions. The adaptiveness of any one strategy versus another can depend on a variety of environmental variables (e.g., the importance of male parental investment in that environment) and on the characteristics of the people involved (e.g., the potential mate's genetic qualities). How such a transition from promiscuity to pair-bonding could be achieved is puzzling. The transition can happen if one accounts for male phenotipic heterogeneity, assortative pair formation, and evolution of female choice and faithfulness. This process is started when beta males begin using an alternative strategy of female provisioning. At the end, except for the top-ranked men, males invest exclusively in provisioning females who have evolved very high fidelity to their mates.

    The hominids wanted to keep females with choice sexually satisfied. Ancestral females would have experienced a sexual freedom denied in Western cultures today and it has been suggested that our ancestors went through a period of matriarchy and enhanced female choice. Patriarchy ( lack of openly displayed female choice), is correlated with the problem is sexual inequality because women are hypergamous, preferring the very best men. So banning polygamy was part of a larger coherent strategy to reduce male sexual inequality, to resist natural female hypergamy.

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