Rak höger med Ivar Arpi
Rak höger med Ivar Arpi
Män är djur, men alla är inte svin

Män är djur, men alla är inte svin

Evolutionspsykologen David Buss har ägnat en hel forskningskarriär åt att förstå varför män och kvinnor är så olika vad gäller sex och samlevnad.
David Buss. Foto: Privat

Varför är det män som skickar dick pics och inte kvinnor som skickar vagina pics? Varför tycker män att den värsta sortens otrohet är sexuell medan kvinnor känner ett större svek om otroheten snarare är känslomässig? Varför är män och kvinnor så olika när det kommer till sex, dejting och relationer? Och varför fungerar det inte att endast skylla dåliga manliga beteenden på patriarkatet?

I sin nya bok When Men Behave Badly: The Hidden Roots of Sexual Deception, Harassment, and Assault (Little, Brown Spark 2021) svarar evolutionspsykologen David Buss på detta och mycket annat och i dagens podd fick jag chansen att prata med honom.

Nedan följer en något kortad transkribering av samtalet.

Welcome David Buss to Rak höger!

– Well, thank you! It's a delight to be talking to you.

So your book is When Men Behave Badly and I think that's a great title in this day and age because it's a perennial question, but after the #metoo movement, I think a lot of people wonder why men do behave badly and everybody has a theory and what you bring is very interesting because you take up the evolutionary perspective: How did these behaviors come to be? Why do we do it like this? But right out the gate, I would just want to clear up a confusion that you write about in the book as well. When you speak about evolutionary psychology and evolved behaviors and psychology, many people react quite badly and they think that you say that the behavior is inevitable because it's part of nature or that you excuse some of these behaviors, for example, intimate partner homicide. Perhaps you could talk about that, why does that conflation happen and why is it wrong?

– Thank you for that question. It's a very common confusion, two confusions, and maybe I could address them one at a time. One is the inevitability question and it's precisely the opposite. Humans have evolved a large number of psychological adaptations and once we understand that these psychological adaptations are activated or deactivated, deactivated by specific, social personal, and environmental cues, then we are in a better position if we understand the causes of these things to alter the behavior. Part of the reason I wrote the book When men behave badly, which is focused on sexual violence broadly speaking, is precisely because a causal understanding of the roots of sexual violence is the key to eliminating it and that's what I hope the book is used for. If we ignore the evolved psychological adaptations that are causing these problems, then we are handicapping ourselves for the goal of eliminating things like sexual harassment, intimate partner violence, sexual assault. Evolved does not mean inevitable, that is false confusion. But a lot of people who don't understand the logic of evolutionary psychology make that confusion. I try in the book to clarify that's not the case. And I think anyone who reads the book will see that.

– The second thing is the justification where “If it's evolved”…. I've had this throughout my other books. One of my most well-known books is The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating where I talk in great detail about sexual infidelity. And in this book, I do as well, about men’s desire for sexual variety. And it would be a mistake to say “Oh, this man couldn't help cheating on his wife, his evolved psychology made him do it”. Well, no, that's not the case. I had one man tell me precisely the opposite, that after he read my book, it helped them to remain more sexually faithful to his wife. He was married and he would find himself attracted to other women and he interpreted that as “Maybe I'm not in love with my wife anymore”, but once he read my book, he realized no, these are two different psychological adaptations. One for love, one desire for sexual variety. And he realized when he was attracted to other women, it doesn't mean that “I don't love my wife anymore. I still love my wife”. He was able to keep that in perspective and not act on his desire for sexual variety. In this sense, I think it's not only understanding our evolved psychology and how they lead to behavior, does not make it inevitable. I think it gives us greater individual control over which psychological adaptation we want to activate and which we want to keep quiet.

I think your book does a very good job of explaining. The book’s first part explains the evolved differences between men and women and how we perceive the other sex and ourselves. And our interests on average, you have a caveat in the beginning. Like, when I speak about men and women, it's always with an added-on average, but it would be cumbersome to use it in every sentence. So when we talk here as well about men and women, it's mostly on average.

– Yeah, absolutely. And that's why I make that. Because the distributions overlap and it's just like, if you look at height, there are average sex differences in height. But of course, there are some women who are taller than the average man and some men who are shorter than the average woman. The same applies to things like upper body strength, where there's a very large sex difference, but there’s still overlap in the distribution. So, these statements are always on average. So thank you for making that point. I try to clarify it in the book.

You do manage to clarify that in the book. We will talk about the differences first, and then we will arrive at the bad behaviors that you describe. If you're a scientist then it's great that there are dating apps, which collect a lot of data, So you describe Tinder for example. I'm too old, I met my wife via Twitter in the early days. But I was extremely bad at trying to seduce her via Twitter. So when she wanted to see me, it was just that we met in person because I asked her out by saying “Can we go and play a basketball game together?” It's like the worst pick-up line I've ever heard. “Because you look tall,” I said, or something like that. It was like the worst pick-up line. So it's a miracle that we are now married and have four kids, but she must have seen something else. We haven't played basketball yet together. But, in Tinder you describe how men swipe right, they say they're interested in a very large number of women, it’s like a strategy. And women swipe right on very few men. And another thing that I wanted you to elaborate on is that the average man is not that attractive to the average woman, but the average woman is kind of attractive to men. So there are two different distributions there, of who attracts women and who attracts men?

– Yes, absolutely. To me, these are fascinating sex differences. Tinder is an app, I don't know if this is true in Sweden, but in the United States, it's basically a hookup app. So it's an app for casual sex. There are some estimates that 30 percent of the men on Tinder are married or in serious relationships and they're looking for sex on the side. And by swiping right on dozens or hundreds of women, they're basically pursuing a base rate strategy. They're hoping that one or a few will respond, and that's mostly what they're looking for now. Other dating apps are not like that, like OkCupid, eHarmony, or Bumble. Other dating apps are more oriented toward long-term relationships. But yes, this is one of the second findings that you mentioned is what I talk about in the book, which is that women on dating apps like Tinder are attracted to guys in the top 20%, you know? The top 20 % of guys get the vast majority of interest from the women and what that means is that 80% of the men are kind of out of luck.

– This is again a reflection of the fact that women are more discriminating than men when it comes to short-term mating. When it comes to long-term mating the key is an investment. Going back to sexual selection theory, where the sex that invests more, tends to be more choosy or discriminating, discerning or intelligent about their mate selections. The sex that invests less tends to be less choosy, less discriminating, and more competitive with members of their own sex for sexual access to the opposite sex. When it comes to long-term mating, committed mating, like marriage, both sexes invest a lot and both sexes are very discriminating. Both sexes are very choosy when it comes to long-term, mating like marriage or raising a family. But when it comes to short-term mating, women are still very choosy, and men become embarrassingly less choosy. And part of the reason is, they're trying to fulfill their desire for sexual variety. Now, desire for sexual variety is one of these things that shows a profound sex difference on average. We're men, if you ask, how many sex partners would you like in the next 5 years, 10 years, your lifetime, there are huge sex differences. These occur in every country around the world women say I like one or a few or maybe I'd like five, although a few women put higher numbers. But men say I'd like a dozen or 25 or a hundred, a few say they would like a thousand. These are enormous sex differences that are highly replicable and are one reflection among many of men's desire for sexual variety. Many other studies show this sex difference, like consenting to sex with total strangers. There are experiments where a member of the opposite sex walks up to someone, saying “Hi, I’ve noticed you around, I find you very attractive, would you have sex with me? And women approached by men the “Yes” are like 0%, unless the guy is really attractive. If he is a 10/10 maybe you get a few percent of the women saying, yes. But something like 75% of the men says yes, and of the 25 % who do not, they sometimes ask for a phone number and a rain check. These are enormous sex differences, and they show up in hundreds and hundreds of studies: Experimental studies like that, expressed desires, even sexual fantasies. Men for example have more sexual fantasies, more frequent sexual fantasies, and a wider variety of different sex partners. This is not a great thing. I mean, it's not a great thing that men have these desires. I got an email from a man, who was 85 years old, and he said “I'm 85 years old, I just read your book and I’m plagued by the fact that every time I walk down the street, my brain punishes me by evaluating the sexual attractiveness of every woman I pass by. This is a reflection of how men could just walk down the street in any major city and have these sexual thoughts about half a dozen women as they walk down the street. Women tend to be more selected even in their sexual fantasies. They might fantasize about a movie star or a particular musician. But often they fantasize about their romantic partner or someone that they want to be in a romantic relationship with. And so, even when it comes to sexual fantasies, you see these large sex differences. And there are sex differences that cause problems. I think this desire for sexual variety is one of the things that leads men into things like infidelity and even into things like sexual harassment, which is a topic we can get into.

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I have an anecdotal story that confirms your scientific explanations. I'm skewed in my selection because most of my friends are male so I have more stories about men and their girlfriends. But I’ve seen bad behavior up close. One friend was in a stable relationship, and he was kind of happy. We were at a party and he was unfaithful. I gave him a lot of chances to leave with me but in the end, he told me to fuck off. So I thought “Ok, you can make your own mistakes”. But it was just a variety thing. He said it before, and he said it after that it basically was that. When you read your book, many examples, pop up in your mind. But also when it comes to the dating market.

You have men sending unsolicited dick pics to women. At face value, it’s very strange to me. But what's even stranger, is that there was a feminist who was angry so she tried out an experiment, where she sent out unsolicited vagina pics to men. She wrote like “Hi” and then she sent vagina pics and then she posted the responses and almost 100% were happy and wanted to meet her and wrote, “You’re so beautiful”. She wanted to disgust the men and she failed miserably.

– Yeah. I discussed this in the book and it's a profound failure of mind reading, a profound failure of men to correctly understand female sexual psychology. When men see pictures of woman's genitals or their naked breasts, they find those attractive and sexually arousing and therefore they think “Women should find pictures of my genitals sexually arousing”. But most of them don't. Most of them find it gross, especially the unsolicited ones. Women generally do not like receiving unsolicited dick pics. I talk about this in my class on human sexuality as well. I tell the men: Don't do it! I was reading a story about this yesterday, about a woman who's an influencer and every day gets a barrage of these dick pics and other kinds of unsolicited images. And in a way, it's a form of sexual violence because the women can't filter them out, at least on certain apps. Men really need to understand female sexual psychology and the fact that it is not the same as their sexual psychology. It's hard because we're stuck in the interiors of our own minds and our own brains. And we must make inferences about what's going on in the minds and brains of other people. And if you're a man you have some clues about what's going on in other male brains. But when it comes to sexual psychology, we're really off base. And that applies both ways, by the way, women also don't correctly understand male sexual psychology. I think knowledge about these on-average sex differences in sexual psychology is critical to creating harmony between sexes.

Men tend to have a misperception of how attractive they are. If you have a scale of 1 to 10 and if you're a 6, it's more prevalent that men have a self-perception that perhaps they’re an 8. So, when they see an 8, they think that they’re on par. So you also have men punching above their paygrade, or trying too much more.

– Yes, and it's important to recognize individual differences in that proclivity to overestimate your own desirability. Men who are high on narcissism and men who pursue a short-term mating strategy are especially prone to overestimating their mating value and also overestimating women's sexual interest in them. A really profound feature of male sexual psychology is the sexual over-perception bias. That is men see women, they find them attractive, and they find it inconceivable that a woman doesn't find them attractive as well. When a woman smiles at a man, he thinks “Oh, she's interested in me”. Where is in fact, she could be just friendly or polite, or even nervous, if the guy's a little creepy. This male sexual over-perception bias is critical to understand because it's one of the causes, it's one of the features of male sexual psychology that leads to sexual harassment. And sexual harassment is a very widespread problem that we want to eliminate but we can't eliminate it unless we understand the causes of it, and the male sexual over-perception bias is one of the causes among several.

You bring up a really ridiculously clear example, I think it was a US senator in the ’90s. He was in the copying room and he was convicted of sexual harassment but in his own statement he said something to the effect of “But how can she not be interested in me sexually? She knows I’m in the copying room. I have my shirt buttoned up, I’m showing my forearms and they’re always pulsing with lust”. He said that of himself and his perception of his raw attractiveness for women was through the roof. He couldn't put it into his mind that someone could enter the room and not be interested in him. Like, “If she enters that room then, of course, she knows what will happen, and she wants that to happen”.

– Yes, exactly. If I’m remembering correctly, he was accused by something like 20 women of sexual harassment. His male sexual over-perception bias was leading him to make sexual approaches that were unwanted and unwarranted. But that's why I think that this knowledge can be very useful. If a man experience this, looks at a woman, thinks “She smiled at me or she accidentally brushed up against my arm, that must have been an intentional signal to me that she's interested”. If men are aware that they have this error, this bias to overinterpret sexual interest when it's not there, then they can perhaps curb themselves and prevent themselves from acting their sexual attraction and lower the rates of sexual harassment. I think it's a goal that we all want.

In some corners of the Internet, you have the incel culture, like a subset of the 80% on Tinder who are spurned. And then you have a minority there that feels like they are attracted to women, but they see the women go off to other men. What can they learn from your book? If any, let's say a self-identified incel reads your book and he’s bitter towards women. Can he be cured of his anger or will it just make him more angry?

– Well, that's a great question and I don't have a magic bullet on that. These are involuntarily celibate, men who are attracted to women, but women are not attracted to them. Men are higher on these so-called spectrum disorders, like Asperger's and so forth, than women are, and a lot of guys don't have the social skills to approach women, but social skills can be learned and there are things that men can do to increase their own desirability, their own mate value. I refer to these as mate values. Women value a wide variety of things in men. They value physical fitness; they value cues to good health. They value a guy who is reliable, dependable, emotionally stable, who's ambitious, has goals in life, has drive, who has a good job. These are all qualities that can be improved, and men can do things to increase their mate value to women, and thereby solve the incel problem. And they can also develop social skills. Sometimes men who are on the spectrum might even have desirable qualities as a mate but they're too socially awkward to approach women effectively. Maybe you were one of these men with your basketball thing, but clearly, it's worked out well for you.

Yes, it worked out well! I wasn't an incel but if there are some guys who are pickup artists, I wasn't one of them, that wasn't the skill I had.

– You don't need that though. If you're interested in long-term mating, you don't need pickup artist skills.

Exactly. The mate value term, it's sort of something you get on paper, like getting your IQ on paper. “You’re an 89”. It's hard to swallow for some people that there’s a value that people put on you. But deep down, you know it's true. You have friends who are more beautiful, who are more successful, stronger, funnier. I have a friend, he's much more good-looking, he's stronger, he's smarter, and more fun than I am. It used to be awful to go to parties with him because you never got any attention in any area. You have these examples anecdotally that you know, deep down, he's a greater catch than I am.

We could go into the bad behavior now because one cause of intimate partner violence, for example, is the discrepancy in mate value. When that shifts, when you perhaps are on par with each other for a while but then the woman shoots up her value with success or something?

– Yes. Well, the mate value discrepancies are one source of intimate partner violence, and there are different causes. One of the things I talk about in the book is that sometimes older men can get with the younger woman before she has an accurate assessment of her own mate value. And over time, she realizes she's higher in mate value because she's getting attention from many other guys. That’s one source: Mistakes in the early mate selection process. The other is that even a couple who is similar in mate value can become dissimilar over time, as you said. One partner could become more successful, another partner could lose a job or become alcoholic or addicted to drugs or lose mate value for a variety of reasons. And one of the things that happen is that men who are lower in mate value than their partner, if they don't have the benefits to provide, if they don't have the value to keep the woman through the benefit provisioning, they sometimes engaging cost infliction and I could be both verbal abuse or physical abuse. One of the interesting things that I found in my study, perhaps disturbing, is that verbal abuse and physical abuse are correlated. That is people who engage in one form of abuse also tend to abuse their partner in other ways as well. Men will sometimes try to undermine their partners’ self-esteem, telling her she's ugly or unattractive, or fat or undesirable. And then of course sometimes use physical violence. One of the things that I was shocked by that, that I talk about in the book, is the high lifetime prevalence rates of intimate partner violence, even in countries like Sweden. It's something like 27 percent. Almost a third of women will experience some form of intimate partner violence throughout their lifetime. This is a pretty widespread problem and again, understanding the causes will help to create the cures. Intimate partner violence, like sexual harassment, is an attempt to bypass female choice. And female choice, that is female ability to choose who, when, where and under what circumstances, she consents to sex. This is like the first law of mating. Men's sexual harassment, men's intimate partner violence, are things that attempt to bypass or undermine females’ freedom of choice. That is intimate partner violence often occurs when the woman decides she wants to leave the relationship and the man does not want her to leave because he realizes at some level, he will never be able to replace her with a mate of equivalent mate value. The violence is sometimes a last-ditch attempt to keep her when she wants to leave.

– And one of the other things I talk about in the book, and this could be useful for women to know, is what are the predictors of intimate partner violence? Some of the predictors are things like if he tries to cut off her relationships with her friends and family if he insists on knowing where she is at all times, if he verbally, abuses her, insults her. These are statistical predictors. They don't invariably mean that physical violence will occur but they’re statistical predictors that increase the likelihood that a woman is in danger and women can use this information if the guy starts to engage in these extreme forms of mate guarding, she needs to get out of there. Because these are danger signals. And not just the women, but the men and friends who care about her. The father, the brothers, the male friends, the female friends, the mother. One of the critical things that women use to prevent intimate partner violence, and other forms of bypassing female choice, are bodyguards. That is friends, allies, family members. Just their mere presence deters some of this bad male behavior. And so that's why when an intimate partner starts to cut off her relationships with her friends and family, that's a danger signal because he's cutting off her bodyguards.

One of the explanations that you also bring up in the book is to say that this is because of patriarchy and patriarchal ideologies. And that's one of the most common explanations. In our culture, we learn that women should be subordinate to men and men should hold the power in the relationship. And men are taught in childhood and our culture that we are allowed to hit women and control them and use violence. So, if we are to solve the problem of men's violence against women, then we need to change the culture. The rape culture, and crush the patriarchy so to speak. I would say that you could still be a feminist and agree with much in your book. But I think this is one of the key conflicts, that this theory does not match 100% with how you view the issue?

– Yeah, so well there's overlap. There are a couple of things I have to say about that. One is that patriarchy as a kind of universal, causal explanation for all the bad stuff is simply wrong. But there are senses in which it is correct, in which it is part of a causal process. But first, we have to ask the question: What is the origin of these tendencies? What I argue is that the origins of what we call patriarchy are actually rooted in male sexual psychology and female sexual psychology. Just as an example, one of the things discussed is why do men control the resources in every culture that we know about? Well, part of the explanation is that women over evolutionary time have selected men, preferred to mate with men, who had resources and had the ability to acquire those resources and devote them to them: the woman and her children. And one statement by a famous evolutionary biologist is that men are one long breeding experiment, run by women. Women’s mating preferences are part of what has led men to try to claw their way up the status hierarchy and get the resources that women desire. There are what I would call patriarchal laws in some cultures. There are some cultures where marital rape is not viewed as rape or cultures where hitting a woman is not a crime. Now it is in most Western European cultures and the United States and Canada, but they're still cultures in which it's not. And if you go back in time in the United States, for example, many of these crimes weren't viewed as crimes. Now, if you ask the question who created these laws? Well, the laws are typically historically written by men and by men who are in higher status and a position to write these laws. And they are reflections of male sexual psychology. And yes, I think it's important to get rid of these patriarchal laws and I would call them patriarchal laws. I think that there are elements of the patriarchal expression that are, in fact, correct. But they require a deeper understanding of the origins of these phenomena.

– The second thing I would point out is that many who invoke patriarchal explanations, make a fundamental mistake, that’s incompatible with what we know about evolutionary theory. The mistake is that they assume that implicitly, sometimes explicitly, men are united in their interests in oppressing, women. From an evolutionary perspective, even a moment's thought will reveal that’s not the case, for two reasons. One is that men are not united with other men. They're in competition with other men for mating access to women and men don't have each other's best interest. Second, each individual man, each woman, is allied with and has strategic interests in common with some members of the opposite sex. A man has a daughter or a mother or sister, and every woman has also a father, perhaps a brother, male friends, and so forth. And the sexes are not males as a group united in their interest in oppressing women as a group. That can't occur for these fundamental reasons. Those who invoke patriarchy are wrong. I think a more sophisticated analysis would combine, an understanding of our evolved sexual psychology, with correct notions of patriarchy rather than theoretically misguided notions of patriarchy.

You bring this up in your book, not this specific anecdote, but I had a friend when I lived in Denmark, who studied medicine. She was from the Tamil minority from Sri Lanka. She was engaged to a higher case man and he was not very nice to her. So she found another, she wanted to break it off and that's frowned upon in the Tamil society. It’s a very honor-based society and culture. She broke it off and then had a boyfriend who lived in another country. Together with her best friends and her sisters, they cooperated to go to her house and they fooled her father, who was on her side. So her father supported her. They fooled the parents to give them the extra key to her apartment. He came with 10, 15 people, and they were going to do bad things, so to speak. They found her and her new boyfriend in her apartment but she was lucky because he had gotten a number to the Danish police and they arrived in two minutes. The whole situation was solved and we and her friends who studied medicine, like from other ethnicities, we helped her move. Then the guys from the Tamil minority were standing across the street and watching while we moved her apartment, and she couldn't be seen on the street because strange Tamil men or women would shun her and abuse her. Her best friends and her sisters actually let her down. If you use your vocabulary from your book, her behavior lowered their mating value as well because they were her sisters, her family. But the older male who is sort of stereotypically one of the bad guys, in this drama actually supported her the whole way, but her female friends and sisters, siblings did not.

– That’s a perfect illustration of the point that I was making: It's not men as a group trying to oppress women as a group. Each individual has specific alliances with some members of the same sex and some members of the opposite sex, but I'm very delighted that she was able to escape the horrors that were being inflicted upon her.

One you talk about in the book is that not all men are equally likely to commit these crimes against women. You talk about the dark triad, and that these men are more likely to do these kinds of things towards women?

– Yeah, that is absolutely correct. It's not about all men. I hope that no one would interpret my book as slamming all men because it really is a subset of men who commit the large majority of acts of sexual violence of the sort that we've been talking about. For your listeners, the dark triad is a set of personality characteristics that are narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. The hallmark of narcissism is people who have an overinflated sense of themselves, they think they're more intelligent, more attractive, higher in mate value than they really are. And they also feel entitled and that extends to sexual entitlement. So, that's narcissism. Machiavellianism is characterized by people who pursue an exploitive social strategy. These are the liars, the cheaters, the deceivers. They view other people as pawns to be manipulated for their own personal goals. And then psychopathy is, one of the hallmarks is lack of empathy. These are cruel dudes, they're indifferent to the suffering of other people. When most people see someone who's getting harmed, they feel empathy, they feel compassion for the person and try to help. Those high on psychopathy do not. Their empathy circuit, which is a normal part of human nature, is non-existent. If you combine these dark triad guys: narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism with a short-term mating strategy, that combination is a deadly combination. It's these men who commit the vast majority of acts of sexual harassment, intimate partner violence, and sexual assault.

– This is widely known: Most men find sexual harassment to be morally abhorrent or even disgusting. It’s critical to differentiate, to understand those individual differences, and practical importance in identifying who these individuals are so potential victims can avoid them. One of the difficulties with this is that men who have these dark triad traits can be very charming and very socially skilled. They can be very good at the art of seduction, but they're terrible as long-term mates. They will deceive, cheat, they’ll take her money, they’ll sexually assault her and then they'll abandon her. These are terrible long-term mates but are sometimes very charming on the initial encounter.

You bring up a very interesting experiment in your book. When people come to the lab room they get photographed in their ordinary clothes. Then make-up is removed, and all adornments. And if you have a haircut, it's just pulled back so you're not benefiting from a nice haircut. When you have that natural look so to speak, the people who have a dark triad personality and those who don’t, don't differ in mate value. But when you see the dark triad, both men and women, there are dark triad women even if they are fewer because there are fewer psychopaths among women. But when you see them when they have makeup on and they have their haircut and normal they’re a little bit higher in the mating line. The anecdotal evidence that the bad boys are so hot or “I know he's bad for me but he's so attractive”. You can find that effect. I'm not sure how large it is but there is still some truth to that.

– Yes. In addition, the physical appearance of the high dark triad men and women put more effort into enhancing their physical appearance, which of course everybody can do but the dark triad people do it a bit more. The other attraction, the dark triad men have for women is that they're often risk-takers, which women find attractive. They often put themselves at the center of attention. So at a party, for example, they'll be the ones telling the jokes and telling stories. That’s a cue to status, which women, find attractive. The men who are the highest in status or the women who are the highest status are the ones to whom the most people pay the most attention. And the triad guys are very good at attracting attention from the group. Combine that with risk-taking, which signals social confidence, and women find that very attractive as well. These dark triad guys have qualities that women find attractive but they’re attractive in the short term but again, disastrous in the long term.

I’m making a leap here, but you discuss stepchildren and how they are more at risk statistically. A woman divorces her husband, and then she has a new husband, but she has children from a previous marriage. The new man’s stepchildren are running a higher risk that he will be violent towards them, that he will not invest in them. Men on average, now I said it, on average, invest more in their biological children than in their stepchildren and they are more violent towards their stepchildren than they are towards their biological children. You don't say that this comparison is totally correct, but when male lions take over a pride, they kill all the cubs because then the lionesses start ovulating sooner or enter estrous faster. And here's a time to say it’s not morally acceptable to kill all your stepchildren and think that you’re a male lion. But there’s something in this domain when it comes to stepchildren. Why do men even enter relationships when there are children from a previous marriage? It seems like a very stupid deal if you're just purely by looking at it evolutionary.

– Well, this is where mate value comes into play again. Let's say the woman is an 8 and the guy is a 6, but the woman has two kids and kids by another man lower her mate value. This guy who's a 6 can attract a woman who's an 8 as long as he's willing to invest in her children. Investing it in her children is a form of mating effort, rather than parental effort. And similarly, a woman is willing to mate down with that 6 as long as he's willing to invest in her children and this is where the harsh realities of the mating market and mate value discrepancies are critical causal variables in this mix and have to be understood. After the mating has taken place, after they for example get married, then sometimes you see guys trimming back on the investment in the step kids. Again, not slamming all men because many stepfathers love their stepchildren and invest heavily in them and pay for their schooling, and so forth. But you're right that having a stepfather in the home is the single largest predictor statistically of abuse. And we know that on average men invest less in their stepkids than in their biological children. I think that this reflects evolved proclivities, I don't think we have adaptations to harm stepchildren, I don't think we have adaptations to kill stepchildren as the lions do. But we have adaptations that guys just don't feel quite as much love for the stepchildren as they do for their own biological children. One of the kinds of harsh mixes is when you have both. So, if the woman has two kids by a prior made and then she gets married to a new guy and they have a child together. Then you have this additional complication that one kid in the home is biologically related to both mother and father. And then two kids in the home that are just biologically related to the mother and not to the father. And that's where you find some additional form of conflict. Combined with the fact that the children are less genetically related to each other. They're only half-siblings rather than full siblings with the new child. But again, this is where an evolutionary lens adds clarity to understanding these family dynamics.

I want to close on the #metoo movement. We had a huge #metoo movement here in Sweden and men and women view consent differently. Men can perceive that if you lie in a bed together and you kiss, then your basic have consent. And the woman doesn’t think so. I'm not saying that it is like that, but there are differences in what you're allowed to do and how you perceive that. I just want to close with how can we proceed now? If we read your book and we understand each other and ourselves a little bit better, are there any key lessons that listeners could learn and not get themselves into trouble? And also educate people who might get into trouble?

– Yes, well I think there are some important lessons in the book and I'll just mention a couple. We have to understand that men and women have fundamentally different evolved sexual psychology. And unless we understand those sexual psychologies and the differences between them, then we're not going to get anywhere. I think that's the first step is a deeper understanding of the sexual psychology is of men or women and how they differ. Second is the critical issue when it comes to the consent of female choice. And as I said earlier, female choice is the first law of mating. It’s the woman’s right, as it is the man’s right, to choose when, where, with whom, and under what circumstances they consent to sex. And we need to understand that attempts to bypass female choice is a violation of that fundamental component of women's sexual psychology.

– A third thing that I would note is that when men are sexually aroused, they're more likely to engage in immoral actions, such as attempting to bypass female choice or force the woman. And that's why I think even the knowledge, that when you as a man become sexually aroused, you're more likely to try to bypass female choice, that knowledge can help prevent the man from doing that. Prevent getting into trouble, from committing a crime. These are three things that I think listeners can take away from this, all stemming from the fact that we need to understand the fundamentals of our mating strategies if we're ever going to reduce the conflict between the sexes. I think reducing conflict between the sexes is the whole purpose of my book.

I've spoken a lot about your book with my wife. I'm not sure it has reduced conflict in our marriage, but it's been a very interesting discussion nonetheless. Thank you very much David Buss for being part of this podcast.

– Thank you! It's been a delight to chat with you. 

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