, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 123-135

Treat ’em Mean, Keep ’em (sometimes) Keen: Evolution of Female Preferences for Dominant and Coercive Males

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Abstract

How should females choose their mates if choice is not completely free, but at least partly dictated by outcomes of male–male competition, or sexual coercion? This question is of central importance when evaluating the relationship between sexually antagonistic ‘chase-away’ scenarios and models of more traditional female choice. Currently, there is a mismatch between theories: indirect benefits are seen to play a role in conventional mate choice, whereas they are not predicted to have an influence on the outcome if matings impose direct costs on females. This is at odds with the idea that resistance and preference are two sides of the same coin: either leads to a subset of males enjoying enhanced mating success. In the same way as choosy females benefit from mating with sexy males if this yields sexy sons, females could benefit from being manipulated or ‘seduced’, if the manipulative or seductive ability of males is heritable. Here I build a model where male dominance (or coerciveness) improves his mating success, and this relationship can be modified by female behaviour. This clarifies the definitions of resistance and preference: resisting females diminish the benefit a male gains from being dominant, while preferences enhance this pre-existing benefit enjoyed by dominant males. In keeping with earlier theory, females may evolve to resist costly mating attempts as a counterstrategy to male traits, particularly if male dominance is environmentally rather than genetically determined. Contrary to earlier results, however, indirect benefits are also predicted to influence female mating behaviour, and if sufficiently strong, they may produce female preferences for males that harm them.