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Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 504
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    In only a few species do males strategically employ violence to control female sexuality. Why are females routinely abused in some species, but never in others? And can the study of such unpleasant behavior help us to understand the evolution of men's violence against women? The book presents extensive field research and analysis to evaluate sexual coercion in a range of species - including all of the great apes and humans - and to clarify its role in shaping social relationships among males, among females, and between the sexes.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-05434-9
    Subjects: Anthropology, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xii)

    • 1 Male Aggression and Sexual Coercion of Females in Primates
      (pp. 3-22)
      Martin N. Muller, Sonya M. Kahlenberg and Richard W. Wrangham

      Primates have long played a prominent role in the study of sexual selection. Darwin (1871) drew particular attention to the thick manes of male baboons, the bright facial coloration of male mandrills, and the large canines of male gorillas as sexually selected traits, and his first scientific paper on sexual selection famously concerned the “brightly-coloured hinder ends and adjoining parts of certain monkeys” (Darwin 1876). Subsequently, primates have provided model systems for the study of sexual selection in a wide range of contexts, including male infanticide (van Schaik and Janson 2000), sperm competition (Harcourt 1995; Birkhead and Kappeler 2004), sexual...

    • 2 Evolution of Sexual Coercion with Respect to Sexual Selection and Sexual Conflict Theory
      (pp. 23-41)
      Jana J. Watson-Capps

      In this chapter I discuss how the biological explanation of sexual coercion depends on understanding the interplay between female and male interests regarding sex. Sexual selection theory contains a well-established body of principles, but the importance of sexual coercion as an independent arena of conflict has only been appreciated in recent years. As a result, theories describing the evolution of sexual conflict and sexual coercion are still developing.

      Sexual coercion theory and broader sexual conflict theory are rarely discussed simultaneously, even though they are interrelated. Different terms associated with sexual conflict or sexual coercion are often invoked to describe identical...

    • 3 Intersexual Conflict in Primates: Infanticide, Paternity Allocation, and the Role of Coercion
      (pp. 42-78)
      Parry Clarke, Gauri Pradhan and Carel van Schaik

      Following Darwin’s (1871) lead, scholars have traditionally viewed sexual selection as a positive process that enhances individual fertility and, consequently, population fitness. More recently, however, our understanding of the intersexual dynamic has changed (Arnqvist and Rowe 2005). It is now widely acknowledged that, owing to divergent reproductive optima, the interests of the sexes will invariably be at odds across almost all facets of reproduction. Indeed, it appears that sexual conflict has pervaded everything from sex allocation to life history (for reviews, see Lessels 1999; Arnqvist and Rowe 2005; Wedell et al. 2006). Early theoretical treatments of this conflict (e.g., Borgia...


    • 4 Orangutans: Sexual Coercion without Sexual Violence
      (pp. 81-111)
      Cheryl D. Knott

      It is perhaps not surprising, given the prevalence of male aggression against women in humans, that the role of sexual coercion as a male mating strategy in animals emerged into the mainstream academic consciousness after the women’s movement of the 1970s. With the publication of Smuts and Smuts’s seminal paper on the subject in 1993, the importance of sexual coercion as a form of sexual selection was proposed, and sexual coercion has received increasing, though still somewhat limited, attention from scientists. Clutton-Brock and Parker (1995) extended the argument of sexual coercion as sexual selection by proposing a theoretical framework consisting...

    • 5 Male Aggression against Females in Mountain Gorillas: Courtship or Coercion?
      (pp. 112-127)
      Martha M. Robbins

      Adult male gorillas weigh approximately 200 kg and are roughly twice the size of adult females (see Figure 5.1). Biologists frequently ask why such dimorphism evolved and, in such circumstances, how it influences the behavioral patterns that are used by both males and females to pursue their reproductive strategies. This extreme sexual dimorphism in gorillas enables males to easily exert dominance over females, and therefore they are a likely candidate for sexual coercion. The predominantly one-male or harem social system of gorillas is believed to be an outcome of sexually selected factors. Male-male competition for access to mates leads to...

    • 6 The Causes and Consequences of Male Aggression Directed at Female Chacma Baboons
      (pp. 128-156)
      Dawn M. Kitchen, Jacinta C. Beehner, Thore J. Bergman, Dorothy L. Cheney, Catherine Crockford, Anne L. Engh, Julia Fischer, Robert M. Seyfarth and Roman M. Wittig

      At least once in every 10 hours of observation, a female chacma baboon(Papio hamadryas griseipes)can be heard screaming as she runs from a hostile adult male. Why do fairly protracted attacks like this occur so frequently outside of a feeding context? To the casual observer, it may not seem remarkable that male baboons assault females—given their huge sexual size dimorphism, it would appear they do so because they can. To determine whether there are any functional explanations for the phenomenon, in this chapter we search for underlying patterns to male aggression directed at females. Are some victims...

    • 7 Female-Directed Aggression and Social Control in Spider Monkeys
      (pp. 157-183)
      Andres Link, Anthony Di Fiore and Stephanie N. Spehar

      Spider monkeys (genusAteles) have been studied in the wild since the mid-1930s, and, since the late 1970s, long-term studies have provided considerable insight into their ecology, social behavior, and social structure. Spider monkeys live in a fission-fusion social system, characterized by large, stable social groups that divide into smaller foraging or traveling parties that can vary in size and composition (Wrangham 1977; Symington 1987). These flexible grouping patterns are proposed to reflect an optimal balance for each individual between the advantages and disadvantages of group living (Lehmann and Boesch 2004).

      One of the more consistent results to emerge from...

    • 8 Male Aggression against Females and Sexual Coercion in Chimpanzees
      (pp. 184-217)
      Martin N. Muller, Sonya M. Kahlenberg and Richard W. Wrangham

      Aggressive competition among males is a prominent feature of chimpanzee social life, and descriptions of violent—occasionally lethal—conflicts over both dominance status and territory abound in the literature (Muller and Mitani 2005). Male aggression against females has received considerably less attention, but it is clear from published reports that such aggression occurs regularly at all long-term chimpanzee study sites (Nishida and Hiraiwa-Hasegawa 1985; Goodall 1986; Smuts and Smuts 1993; Watts 1998; Matsumoto-Oda and Oda 1998; Watts and Mitani 2001; Muller 2002; Newton-Fisher 2006; Stumpf and Boesch 2006; Muller et al. 2007). There are few published data on the rates...

    • 9 Sexual Coercion in Dolphin Consortships: A Comparison with Chimpanzees
      (pp. 218-243)
      Richard C. Connor and Nicole L. Vollmer

      Until we published our observations of sexual coercion in Indian Ocean bottlenose dolphins in the early 1990s, they enjoyed, at least in the public view, a reputation of being gentle creatures almost incapable of aggression. When infanticide was reported in populations from Scotland and Virginia a few years later (Patterson et al. 1998; Dunn et al. 2002), it became clear that conflicts between the sexes over reproduction were as important in shaping the reproductive strategies of male and female dolphins as they are in many other mammals.

      What struck us immediately was how similar the pattern of sexual coercion in...

    • 10 Male Aggression toward Females in Hamadryas Baboons: Conditioning, Coercion, and Control
      (pp. 244-268)
      Larissa Swedell and Amy Schreier

      One of the most striking elements of hamadryas baboon social organization is the difference in female behavior before and after a takeover, a social transition in which one “leader male” appropriates a female from another. The day before the takeover described in the excerpt, “Syl” had five females, none of whom had ever been seen interacting with another male. One of the females was “Who,” described above, and another was “Bea.” The day after the takeover, any observer might have concluded that Syl had been wiped from Bea’s memory. Syl sat only 3 m away, but Bea did not even...


    • 11 Coercive Violence by Human Males against Their Female Partners
      (pp. 271-291)
      Margo Wilson and Martin Daly

      Studying conflict and violence in human relationships sounds like it should be easy. We begin, after all, with an intuitive understanding of the species of interest and an affinity for its preferred habitats, and it is a great convenience that a seemingly limitless supply of people have relevant experience that they are often willing—even eager—to share. However, the ability of human beings to recount their past actions and their subjective experiences to others is a two-edged sword, tempting researchers to rely excessively and credulously on accounts that are often self-serving or otherwise biased. The questionable validity of self-report...

    • 12 The Political Significance of Gender Violence
      (pp. 292-321)
      Lars Rodseth and Shannon A. Novak

      Violence against women is a worldwide phenomenon, but it varies in both frequency and severity from one population to another (Counts et al. 1999; Garcia-Moreno et al. 2006). In a few small-scale societies, such as the Wape of Papua New Guinea (Mitchell 1999), gender violence of any kind is reported to be extremely rare. In many other settings, however, women are frequently subjected to physical harm, including abuse by their in-laws or their own natal kin (Brown 1997; Gruenbaum 2001; Sen 2001). Intimate partner violence, especially wife-beating, may be socially condoned and even commended (e.g., Abraham 2000; McClusky 2001).


    • 13 Intimate Wounds: Craniofacial Trauma inWomen and Female Chimpanzees
      (pp. 322-345)
      Shannon A. Novak and Mallorie A. Hatch

      Because physical assaults can leave distinctive traces in hard tissue, it is often possible to recognize cases of serious violence based on physical evidence alone. In humans, the skeletal effects of interpersonal violence have been described in terms of wound location, fracture morphology, and state of healing (e.g., Brickley and Smith 2006; Judd 2006). Most of the research along these lines has focused on injuries suffered in warfare (e.g., Walker 1989; Owsley and Jantz 1994; Smith 2003). When war is not in evidence, however, and adult female skeletons exhibit healed lesions of traumatic origin, the injuries are sometimes attributable to...

    • 14 Human Rape: Revising Evolutionary Perspectives
      (pp. 346-374)
      Melissa Emery Thompson

      The role of biology in understanding human rape has been the subject of heated and not always scientific debate. Our study of pervasive sexual aggression in the human species can and should be informed by our less emotion-laden analyses of sexual dynamics in closely related species, and warrants objective analysis of scientific predictions within the context of our complex sociocultural environments. In this chapter, I explore hypotheses proposing that some types of human rape function as sexual coercion. Rape by any definition consists of verbal or physical coercion to engage in sexual activity. However, in the context of this book,...


    • 15 “Friendship” with Males: A Female Counterstrategy to Infanticide in Chacma Baboons of the Okavango Delta
      (pp. 377-409)
      Ryne Palombit

      The fundamental conflict of reproductive interests between males and females, originally articulated by Trivers (1972) and Parker (1979), may have diverse evolutionary consequences at multiple levels: genetic, morphological, physiological, social, ecological, life historical (Arnqvist and Rowe 2005; Chapman 2006). This volume addresses one dramatic manifestation of this conflict: coercive behavior directed at females by adult males. This phenomenon draws our attention immediately to selection on females for adaptive strategies countering the costs of male coercion.

      In this chapter, I examine evidence for one such proposed counterstrategy in one particular system: “friendship” in a population of chacma baboons. “Friendship” refers to...

    • 16 The Absence of Sexual Coercion in Bonobos
      (pp. 410-423)
      Tommaso Paoli

      Bonobos(Pan paniscus)and chimpanzees(Pan troglodytes)share a similar fission-fusion society, characterized by male philopatry and female dispersal, in which communities of up to 140 individuals form temporary subgroups (or “parties”) that fluctuate in size, composition, and duration. Despite these common features, three decades of research have revealed clear differences between the two species in their social behavior, particularly in the nature of social bonds within and between the sexes. Bonobos exhibit more frequent male-female and female-female associations (Kuroda 1980; Badrian and Badrian 1984; White 1996; de Waal, 2001), a reduced level of aggression within and between groups, and...

    • 17 Sexual Coercion, Patriarchal Violence, and Law
      (pp. 424-448)
      Diane L. Rosenfeld

      This chapter considers how evolutionary perspectives on male sexual coercion can usefully inform legal policy. The underlying conceit is that by analyzing the law’s treatment of male sexual coercion through an evolutionary lens, we can help explain the law’s failure to effectively prevent or redress much violence against women. I briefly explain the current state of law in the United States and suggest ways in which a legal approach that focuses on the sexual coercion underlying much violence against women might advance us toward the goal of gender equality.

      I refer to sexual coercion using Smuts’s definition: “male use of...


    • 18 Sexual Coercion in Humans and Other Primates: The Road Ahead
      (pp. 451-468)
      Richard W. Wrangham and Martin N. Muller

      This volume is the first compilation of studies of male aggression toward females in species living in complex societies. It includes all the great apes (orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees, and bonobos), and a selection of other cognitively complex primates and dolphins for which suitable data were available. Four analyses of human sexual coercion complement the nonhuman data. The book thereby offers new opportunities to understand the evolution and adaptive significance of a behavioral system that has considerable importance in the lives of animals and unpleasant relevance to our own species. In this chapter we discuss selected lessons arising from the new...

  8. Contributors
    (pp. 471-474)
  9. Index
    (pp. 475-483)