Male aggression against women

An evolutionary perspective

Abstract

Male aggression against females in primates, including humans, often functions to control female sexuality to the male’s reproductive advantage. A comparative, evolutionary perspective is used to generate several hypotheses to help to explain cross-cultural variation in the frequency of male aggression against women. Variables considered include protection of women by kin, male-male alliances and male strategies for guarding mates and obtaining adulterous matings, and male resource control. The relationships between male aggression against women and gender ideologies, male domination of women, and female sexuality are also considered.

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Correspondence to Barbara Smuts.

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This paper was inspired by the pioneering work of Mildred Dickemann, Sarah Hrdy, and Richard Wrangham, who recognized the costs that male reproductive strategies impose on females.

This work was supported in part by National Science Foundation grant BNS-8857969.

Barbara Smuts is Associate Professor of Psychology and Anthropology, Associate Research Scientist at the Center for Human Growth and Development, and member of the Evolution and Human Behavior Program, University of Michigan. She received her B.A. in social anthropology at Harvard and her Ph.D. in biobehavioral sciences at Stanford Medical School. She has studied the behavior of wild chimpanzees, baboons, and bottlenose dolphins and is particularly interested in evolutionary, comparative analyses of female behavior.

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Smuts, B. Male aggression against women. Human Nature 3, 1–44 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02692265

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Key words

  • Aggression
  • Reproductive strategies
  • Nonhuman primates
  • Cross-cultural analyses
  • Social relationships
  • Pair bonds