Take a look at any society in the world and you will see a trend among genders: when it comes to relationships, women are more likely to be the “picky ones,” whereas men are the ones that must impress. In human culture, the need to impress can go both ways but there is actually a biological root to the way our dating culture is designed.
In the majority of sexually reproducing animal species, the female invests more energy to produce offspring than males do. This is energy going to produce eggs, carrying young in the womb, and/or rearing the young after they’ve been introduced to the world. In the case of producing eggs, females have a limited supply of eggs. The average human female will release about 480 eggs in her lifetime, one per month. For some mammalian species, offspring are dependent on their mothers for years; having children is an expensive investment for a female.
Males, on the other hand, do not invest as much into the conception of offspring. In the mammalian kingdom, male parental care is relatively rare. Their prime investment comes from the deposit of sperm. The average human male will produce 66 million sperm per mL of ejaculate. Sperm is relatively cheap in terms of energy cost of production.
So… where does that leave us?
The fact of life is that every individual is biological driven to survive and reproduce. That is the most prime instinct in living beings: to pass on their genes to the next generation. As such, mating with an individual with good genes (genes that encode resistance to disease, strength, etc.) gives oneself the best odds of having healthy offspring to carry on one’s genes.
Females have more to lose during mating than males do; for females to maximize their reproductive success, they must choose the best mate with the best genes.
Males don’t invest as much in the production of offspring; for males to maximize their reproductive success, they should mate with as many females as they can.
This raises some questions: if human males don’t invest as much in to offspring and are biologically driven to mate with as many females as possible, why does monogamy exist?
The answer is because of the reproductive advantages of parental care. Monogamy exists in a number of species, such as birds and fish. Dating is a result of the evolution of parental care in humans; if a male helps the female rear its young, the male benefits by having a guarantee that its genes are being passed on as healthy offspring. The female benefits by not having to invest as much energy into rearing offspring alone. Since parental care in mammals was traditionally a female role, the male will aid the female by providing food and protection for both its young and its mate. This is where the notion of men being the bread-winners has a biological root.
What does all this biology mumbo-jumbo say about how our societies should run? Well, nothing. This is because we have something that contradicts biological ‘roles’: culture. Humans are unique in nature for having a drive to live beyond the scope of survival and reproduction. We have come to desire much more than our animalian relatives: knowledge. Any dolphin can desire pleasure or happiness, but only humans crave knowledge. I feel that this is what truly sets human apart from the rest of the animal kingdom.