From the book Linked, numbers of sexual partners don't follow a bell curve but a power law distribution. Swedish and American data.
Female strategy: to mate with one exceptional male and then trick one or
more inferior but reliable males into helping with the resultant
offspring. Ideal siring male is by definition not one of the assisters
since exceptional males are, again, by definition, impregnating multiple
females, since that is the definition of "successful".
This suggests a percolation phenomenon, that is, the pressure from
females on males is to be "loyal" until a male "graduates" to the state
of being "desirable by everyone" in which case total lack of loyalty is
forgiven, even expected.
This can be seen to resemble nodes in a scale-free network. There may be
nodes at all levels, for example the Earvin "Magic" Johnsons with 20,000
sexual encounters (which is apparently not really so exceptional) to others with
only a few hundred or even more commonly (for men) a half-dozen or fewer. A male who is a Don Juan at a
local level may be a minor node as we move toward the "Magic" Johnson
Nonetheless, at every level we expect the same sort of phase transition
from schlub to suave, from boner to debonair. It's the female sexual
strategy that seems to drive this phase transition morphology, if indeed
it exist. I wonder if there's some preëxisting set of data or
experiment that could be done to test this stuff.
I'm not sure if anything similar could be said about the male mating
strategy. Women are trying to trick men as the primary focus of their
strategy, but it seems men are also trying to trick men. But how, and is
there a phase transition, power law, or scale-free network process
Paternity is probabilistic, for one. However, it's a fact that women
tend to for whatever reason have sex with their lovers during their most
fertile times, so there may be a skewing from mere number of couplings.
Maybe there's a reproductive payoff, that is, go big or go home, or,
unless one exceeds a certain threshold of lovers, being a Don Juan
doesn't pay. Biology, including tribe size, "culture", and available resources,
govern the female choices that basically determine how easy or difficult
it is to be a "dupe" or a Don Juan. For example, if the females demand
high levels of support from the males and do nothing but direct care of young
children themselves, then men will tend to be schlubs and there will be greater reproductive reward (for males) from being a schlub. But also a much greater downside risk of loss (to males) if one is the victim of a Don Juan, that is, if one's female partner "cheats" with a Don Juan.
Memetics may have something to do with this, by the way. It may have little influence on female sexual strategy, but a meme-driven world could have a drastic impact on the male strategy and on
the position of the percolation point where a male switches from a schlub to a Don Juan (raising it). In other words, just impregnating lots of women transmits one's genes but not ones memes so the transition of a species, like humans, to a genetic-memetic dual replicator dynamic should produce increased male "loyalty" but not increased female loyalty. Being loyal serves male memes (if not their genes), and so produces downward pressure on Don Juanism.
By contrast, if females are very self-sufficient and get most or
all of their livings independently, in theory all females will try to
copulate with the most desirable males whom they will only expect to be
around for impregnation purposes and make do with inferior males the
rest of the time. In the latter case, a schlub male would sire offspring
only by dint of persistence and effectively by dumb luck. It seems that increased female self-determination drives Don Juanism upwards1.
This brings us back to the idea that whatever determines the expression of
female reproductive strategy, sometimes described as the "choosy girl"
versus "easy girl", or perhaps more cynically, tricking males openly or sneakily, is the thing that governs this
phase change phenomenon in the male, that is, schlubism versus Don Juanism.
But this doesn't seem to fit exactly with what we discussed above, and also seems unfair to the female in general. It seems no matter what females do they're lying or cheating somebody. Whether women are supposed to "be loyal" or "not cheat" or what-have-you implies a kind of ownership of women, by men (and by each other?). The historical extreme "solutions" have been locking women up in harems, chastity belts, nunneries for young girls, cruel enforcement of fidelity in marriage6, and on the other side the denigration of and even violence against independent women such as spinsters2, prostitutes4, career women3, and so forth7.
Even if we set aside the horrible cruelty and ridiculousness of these "solutions", we have to recognize that they are highly, if not totally, ineffective (at preventing female "infidelity"). It may behoove men, or rather, society in general (since women are just as involved in their own oppression), to recognize that women's sexuality is simply too powerful to be controlled or contained, and that it probably doesn't make sense to try anyway. Perhaps we need to think of "preventing female infidelity" in the same kind of terms as "preventing the invisible purple elves from splurfing our magic pancake syrup". In other words, we made up these imaginary things like "invisible purple elves" who are able to "splurf" (whatever that is) our "magic pancake syrup" (sounds tasty, and I can almost imagine what it is, but not really). Maybe things like "wife" and "cheat" (that sounds like something familiar...but at what?) and "marriage" all need to be thought of in similar terms. Science has been doing this sort of thing for a long time with concepts and terms like "elements"5, humors, phlogiston, plum pudding model, orbital model, the ether, Newtonian gravity, quarks, black holes, relativity, strings, photons, alchemy, etc.
We get hung up on terms and concepts and their relationships, but eventually we get over it and we invent new ones.
1But is this even true? There is also the milkman or the "wait a minute Mr. Postman" effect of males who are in regular contact with females who are ostensibly committed to (married to) other males. This is similar to the effect of young women being in office environments, à la Mad Men or "office ladies" (in Japan), but these women are not pretending to other men that they are committed to them, i.e., they are not cockolding anyone. That is, they are honestly "available".
2Women who could make enough money with the then-miraculous invention of the spinning wheel to support themselves.
3An expression for marrying a woman is to "make an honest woman out of her"...go figga.
4Calling them "working women", slut, whores, etc., both by men and by other women (internalized oppression).
5Used to be earth, wind, fire, and water, now we think in terms of hydrogen through uranium.
6Including divorcing women when the system allowed them no other means of support.
7Witch burnings targeted women of independent means.