The Sexual Ambition of Genghis Khan

What percentage of your ancestors were men?  I’ll give you a hint, it’s not 50%.  According to Roy Baumeister, author of Is There Anything Good About Men?, it has been confirmed via genetic evidence that today’s human population is descended from roughly twice as many women as men.  Baumeister has called this the “single most under-appreciated fact about gender.”  You may be wondering: how can this be?

Not all men bring value to the sexual marketplace, but nearly all females do.  To drive this point home, imagine life on two different islands.  The first island has 999 men and one woman and the second island has 999 women and one man.  Which island civilization could create more offspring and provide the species with a better chance of survival?  It becomes obvious that the services of most men aren’t needed, but nearly all females add reproductive value.

While it’s certainly true that it takes a man and a woman to reproduce, one sexually ambitious man can father thousands upon thousands of children in a lifetime, while an individual woman is lucky to have a dozen children in a lifetime.  Since most females get to reproduce they seem to be more egalitarian (and less violent) by nature.

Here’s another interesting fact: roughly 16 million men alive in Central Asia today are the direct descendants of Genghis Khan (confirmed by their possession of his unique Y chromosome).  Whatever else may be said about Genghis Khan, one cannot deny that the man had sexual ambition.

In their book, The 10,000 Year Explosion, anthropologists Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending tell us what Genghis Khan’s definition of “supreme joy” was: “to cut my enemies to pieces, drive them before me, seize their possessions, witness the tears of those dear to them, and embrace their wives and daughters!”  Apparently, he and his sons seemed to find that last part of the definition especially joyful.  According to Cochran and Harpending, “He and his sons and his son’s sons — the Golden Family — ruled over much of Asia for several hundred years, tending to the harem throughout.  In so doing, they made the greatest of all genetic impacts.”

These two facts I’ve laid out are obviously very important to consider when analyzing the motivational differences between men and women in the modern world.  So what does this tell us about our men today?  Well, disheartening as we may find it, today’s men are disproportionately descended from the likes of Khan.  The men who lacked this type of sexual ambition (and the ability to compete) often failed to reproduce at all.  Their “bad” genes, then, ended up in an evolutionary cul-de-sac.

Most of us rightfully find Khan’s behavior odious.  However, Khan (and his ilk) can explain why nice guys finish last in evolutionary terms.


2 Comments on “The Sexual Ambition of Genghis Khan”

  1. […] motivated to have a large quantity of mates, then women are focused on quality of mates.  As Genghis Khan demonstrated, a single man can father thousands of kids in one lifetime, but a woman cannot. She gets far fewer […]

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