Sexual Conflict and Sexual Coercion in Comparative Evolutionary Perspective

Melissa Emery Thompson and Louis C. Alvarado

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 and Sexual Coercion in Comparative Evolutionary Perspective

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Humans exhibit sexually coercive behaviors that also occur in other apes: forced copulation, aggressive mate guarding, and enforced proximity through sequestration. These human and nonhuman behaviors share important commonalities. Coercion is used most commonly within preexisting social and sexual relationships. Coercive tactics are not the domain of sexually disenfranchised males and may be used to greatest effect by socially dominant males. Finally, the sexual conflict underlying coercion most often centers on paternity confidence and restricting female access to other partners, rather than over the sexual access of the coercive male, per se. The potential for conflict to lead to coercion in humans is reduced by the limited promiscuous behavior of women and by the increased probability of sanctions by the female’s kin. Coercion is simultaneously enhanced by the high costs of cuckoldry to paternally investing human males and by the division of labor that reduces the male’s ability to directly observe female behavior.

Keywords: sexual conflict; sexual coercion; rape; claustration; apes; chimpanzees; orangutans; domestic violence

Article.  17745 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Social Psychology ; Clinical Psychology

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