Sexual Conflict in Humans

Todd K. Shackelford, Aaron T. Goetz, James R. Liddle and Lance S. Bush

in The Oxford Handbook of Sexual Conflict in Humans

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780195396706
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Sexual Conflict in Humans

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This chapter provides an introduction to and brief overview of empirical and theoretical work on sexual conflict in humans, some of which is showcased in the current volume. We begin the chapter with a brief review of evolution by natural selection. We then discuss the application of evolutionary principles to psychology, with a focus on human psychology. With this background established, we present an overview of theory and research on sexual conflict in humans. Sexual conflict was a recurrent feature of human evolutionary history, just as it has been in every sexually reproducing species that does not practice lifelong genetic monogamy. One source of much of the conflict between men and women can be reduced to an asymmetry in reproductive biology: Fertilization and gestation occur within women, not men. This asymmetry produces (1) sex differences in minimum obligatory parental investment and (2) paternity uncertainty, but maternity certainty. These consequences of internal fertilization and gestation help to account for many phenomena in humans, including sexual coercion, commitment skepticism, sexual overperception, and a host of adaptations associated with sperm competition.

Keywords: sexual conflict in humans; infidelity; paternity uncertainty; sperm competition

Article.  8984 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Social Psychology ; Clinical Psychology

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