Author: David M. Buss
APA Style Citation
Buss, D.M. (2021). When men behave badly: The hidden roots of sexual deception, harassment, and assault. Little Brown, Spark, New York, N.Y.
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David Buss, a well-known evolutionary psychologist, tackles the challenging subject of conflict between the genders based on natural inclination and desires for reproductive success. Men generally need to know women for a shorter period of time before they are ready to have a physically intimate relationship. Women would generally prefer to wait to get to know the person better before taking a relationship to the physical level. Buss contends that this delay is because women want to be certain that their potential child has a father who can provide for potential offspring. Buss explains these behaviors as a cost-analysis system. A woman must invest time to carry a child to their birth and provide nourishment after birth. A man, however, can never be entirely certain that a child is his (without genetic testing). To improve the chances of passing his genes to the next generation, he may want to create many possibilities to pass his genes along; this is how Buss explains that men tend to have more intimate partners than women. These different approaches create conflict between the sexes and often need clarification about what people want in a relationship. Buss is careful not to excuse any behavior but rather explain, based on an evolutionary lens, why these conflicts may occur.
Buss warns that men with what he deems the “Dark Triad” characteristics may take these behaviors to a dangerous and sometimes violent level. The Dark Triad personality characteristics include narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. Narcissists care only about themselves and their wishes and will go to great lengths to satisfy their own desires. Machiavellianism is marked by the desire to exploit and manipulate others. Psychopathology involves a lack of empathy and indifference to the suffering of others. These traits exacerbate differences between sexes. Men with these characteristics are often smooth and are often portrayed as “the bad boy.” While women may initially be drawn to confident and poised individuals, this can quickly go downhill. These characteristics often lead to flattery, deception and exploitation of their partners. The Dark Triad characteristics are more likely than other personality characteristics to lead to violence in relationships. Buss explains that these behaviors still exist because it is a way to draw in a partner and then keep them by manipulation and exploitation. Once again, Buss is careful not to condone these behaviors but rather explain why they exist and have persisted.
Cross-cultural research demonstrates that men prefer more sexual partners (desired average 1.87 over the next month) than women (.078 over the next month). Biological sex was more important than sexual orientation in the results of this study. While most assume that people of similar levels of attractiveness are likely to wind up with one another, Buss finds that men tend to overestimate their attractiveness. This misperception can lead to disappointment when things do not work out as they expect in the dating market. Research in attraction has long demonstrated that individuals of similar physical attractiveness often partner with one another. When men are unrealistic about their own levels of attractiveness, they are often disappointed by their potential mates, and they are then more likely to treat relationships as a casual and perhaps not exclusive relationship. Women generally try to mate with the top 20% of males, which allows these males to have multiple relationships because of the number of options for relationships. This also leaves many men without any mating partners. Much of what is discussed in introductory psychology courses regarding evolutionary psychology dates back to Charles Darwin and the mating of finches. David Buss is one of the most well-known evolutionary psychologists of the modern era and presents much evidence that evolutionary factors regarding mating are very much present today.
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