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Sexual conflict in humans: evolutionary consequences of asymmetric parental investment and paternity uncertainty

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We argue that sexual conflict was a recurrent feature of human evolutionary history, just as it has been in every sexually reproducing species that does not practice life-long genetic monogamy. We suggest that the source of much of the conflict between men and women can be reduced to an asymmetry in reproductive biology. This asymmetry—fertilization and gestation occurring within women—produces (a) sex differences in minimum obligatory parental investment and (b) paternity uncertainty. We argue that these consequences of internal fertilization and gestation are responsible for many phenomena in humans, such as sexual coercion, commitment skepticism, sexual overperception, and a host of adaptations associated with sperm competition.

Affiliations: 1: California State University, Fullerton; 2: Florida Atlantic University


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