Back in Ye Olde Shakespearean times, there was a fantastic word for what happened when one man shagged another man’s wife: cuckolding. Contrary to how it might sound, a ‘cuckold’ was the injured party, while the wife-snatcher was said to have ‘put horns on another man’s head’. Although I can’t vouch for the origins of this latter colloquialism, cuckold was aptly inspired by the French word for cuckoo – that is to say, a bird which lays its eggs in other birds’ nests.

So on that note, let’s talk about Pete Doherty – or, more specifically, his none-too-subtle appearance in this article on bad boys. More specifically still: the fact that, in keeping with popular mythology, they apparently do get all the girls.

Short term, anyway. According to new extensive research, males who exhibit dark characteristics such as narcissism, deceitfulness and thrill-seeking do better in the mating stakes; or, to quote researcher David Schmitt, “They are more likely to try and poach other people’s partners for a brief affair.”

The success of cuckoo bird species is, biologically speaking, ingenious: have all the fun of mating with another cuckoo, find some poor devoted wren or smaller bird, replace their eggs with your own and fly off into the sunset. In times past, one suspects this tactic might have worked well for cuckolds of the human type, too, thus ensuring these traits were passed on – but that was before contraception.

Which raises the question: if treacherous, deadbeat cuckolds remain a genetic mainstay despite our ability to block their genes from the pool, is it because we’re stupid? Or are they all just sneakier than we thought?

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