Commentary: Why Are There Gay Women? Isn't it Obvious?

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | Science writers these days seem to be trying to overcome their image as dry, boring fact-production machines, by slanting their findings in a more sensational way, and drawing -- shall we say -- more "Jerry Springeresque" conclusions.

Take the latest offering from Live Science that poses that age old question, "Why are some women gay?" In fact, according to the author, science has determined that women have greater "erotic plasticity" overall, meaning that it seems to be easier for women to "switch teams" as it were.

Yet, science comes up empty on the question of why this happens. Surely since gay women are less likely to have children (or to "get themselves knocked up" as author Natalie Wolchover so eloquently puts it), there can be no reproductive advantage to genetic homosexuality.

Or can there? Take the case of bees. Out of the hundreds of bees in a hive, only a few reproduce: the queen and a hand full of suitors who mate with her once and then die. The queen then spends the rest of her life producing offspring from the sperm absorbed by her body during that one mad day of copulation. Most bees are drones, incapable of reproduction, yet this reproductive strategy works well for them. You see, queen bees have the genetic capacity to produce more drones. It isn't necessary for the drones to reproduce themselves (i.e. heterosexual humans likely carry recessive genes for homosexuality).

How might this translate to the human race? Consider the classic story of the rich uncle who died and left his fortune to his poor nieces and nephews. Do you think inheriting all that money gave them a reproductive advantage? You bet it did. In some societies, maiden aunts benefit their siblings by helping to raise their children. It's one of the strategies that make larger families possible.

Now to the issue of "erotic plasticity." Throughout history, men have traditionally engaged in more dangerous activities -- war, hunting, cutting down trees, etc. -- while women kept closer to home. A certain number of men died in these pursuits, leaving the women to raise their children alone.

As with any job, raising children is easier with a partner to help you. If half the men in a tribe are killed in war, the remaining women would have a better chance of surviving if they paired up. It's as simple as that.

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