6 Sexual Conflicts between Men and Women w/David Buss

Prosci bi-weekly podcast featuring the leading thinkers in change management.

Hosted by Morten Kamp Anderse

Men and women have different sexual desires. And this leads to sexual conflicts. Conflicts, which can create problems in relationships. But why? Evolutionary psychology uses the theory of sexual selection to explain these conflicts. 

My guest today, David Buss, will lay out six sexual conflicts that typically occur between men and women due to our evolutionary traits; why men sometimes mistake a smile for a sexual signal, why women tend to file for more divorces or why men statistically cheat more than women. 

David Buss often appears among the top 50 most influential psychologists ever to live due to his research on the evolutionary psychology of human mating strategies, conflicts between sexes and the evolution of jealousy, to name a few. Listen along to hear how we can use this knowledge to engage in a healthier conversation between partners. 


  • The theory of sexual selection: Why men and women approach sexual relationships differently
  • The six sexual conflicts: what we lie about, why men have a deeper desire for more sexual partners and why we sometimes do bad things to the people we love
  • How Tinder reflects modern sexual selection
Honest communication about our sexual differences will work wonders between men and women
David Buss


Talking about sexual selection and the differences between sexes can be a difficult subject today. Nevertheless, it is important to verbalize these differences to get a better understanding of the underlying drivers in human psychology. These are my key takeaways from my conversation with David. 

#1 A lot of our fundamental psychology - our fundamental emotions - can be explained on the basis of sexual selection. Darwin's theory of natural selection is pretty well known, but his other theory about sexual selection is probably more important. It explains why there are differences between men and women and why we have emotions such as jealousy and desire. This is important to know because we have evolved over millions of years, and this is one of those things which is hard to change. 

#2 Sex differences lead to sexual conflicts. David has identified six sexual conflicts between men and women. They range from sexual variety, sexual over-perception bias, what we lie about, infidelity and so on. And because of these conflicts, men do bad things to women, and women do bad things to men. But the really bad things are statistically almost always done by men: sexual harassment, sexual assault, stalking, rape. We need to change that. 

#3 We can use this knowledge to make our relationship better. David said that the single most important decision we can make is the selection of our long-term mating partner. And if you are in a relationship, understand that we have, so to speak, built-in sexual conflicts due to evolutionary pressures. Men desire more sexual partners than women do. We need to understand these differences in order to change them. 



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EP20 - David Buss


women, sex, men, sexual, mate, conflict, sexual selection, psychology, people, tend, desire, differences, female, evolutionary psychology, book, relationship, harassing, important, problem, sex differences


Morten Andersen, David Buss

Morten Andersen  00:05

Hello, and welcome to What Monkeys Do. My name is Morten Kamp Andersen. And this is a podcast about what it takes to make a change and make it stick. So this podcast is about change, and it's called What Monkeys Do. And the name reflects that a lot of our psychology is best understood by understanding how we as a species has evolved over millions of years. There are things that we cannot change, or at least are harder for us to change. And only by understanding what we can and what we cannot change, can we select the best strategies to make a change. The area within psychology, which focus on this is called evolutionary psychology. evolutionary psychologists attempt to explain common human behaviors from selection pressures in our environment, you know, like Darwin. I remember when I was hooked on evolutionary psychology, it was when I was a psychology student, my professor in personality psychology was replicating a very famous study, he used a couple of students to ask strangers three questions. The female students were asked to go up to random men in the street and ask them three questions: A, would they consider going on a date with her? B: Would they consider to go home to her flat and C:, would they consider having sex with her? The male students were asked where to ask random female in the streets the same questions. Now, it probably comes to no surprise to you the listener that there were significant differences in the replies from the men and the women. 0% of the women asked said yes to having sex with the man who asked, whereas about 70% of the men said yes to having sex with a woman who asked, and this study has been replicated all over the world over many years with the same results. My guest today can explain why we found such a big difference. He is a professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. He is a true rockstar in psychology, he often appears on top 50 lists of most influential psychologists ever to live. His primary interest include the evolutionary psychology of human mating strategies, so conflict between sexes, the evolution of emotion of jealousy, etc. He has authored or co authored more than 200 peer reviewed journal articles, he's written many books, it's hard to name the best of those many books, but I will encourage everybody to read the Evolution of Desire. Welcome to you, David Buss, 

David Buss  03:00

thank you as to why I'm delighted to be here talking to you. 

Morten Andersen  03:03

Fantastic. I am truly excited about this. So in this episode, we'll talk about differences and conflicts between sexes, and about how evolutionary psychology can explain this and how we can use this maybe even to make our relationship better. But first, can you tell us a little bit about what evolutionary psychology is and why you have dedicated your life to this field?

David Buss  03:30

Yes, evolutionary psychology is simply psychology, looked at through the lens is the evolutionary theory. That is, our psychology is housed in our brain and to some degree in our body and our endocrine system. And these are organs that evolved through natural and sexual selection. Understanding the causal origins of our psychology can inform us about the nature of that psychology. Importantly, evolutionary psychology asks a critical question that most psychologists tend not to ask or haven't historically, and that is, what is the function of our psychological mechanisms, whatever those mechanisms are, that is, what are they designed to do? And you can think about two large classes of problems. One is survival problems, and one is mating more reproductive problems. And Darwin originally focused on survival problems, how do you combat predators? How do you get food? How do you deal with parasites and those issues of survival? What I focused on and what I've been drawn to is me human mating, which deals more with the reproduction or differential reproduction. And this was discovered by Darwin in the pub first post 1871. So 12 years after his classic on the origin of species, and it turned out to be a monumentally important discovery. The theory of sexual selection, ignored by biologists at the time for roughly 100 years, but now it's become one of the most important theories in the field of psychology. It deals just in a nutshell with not differential survival, but differential mating success or differential reproduction. And the two causal processes there are. One is male competition. The idea that males often compete we now know females do as well, but males often compete with each other in physical contests, and the victor, gains sexual access to the female loser handles off with a broken antler and dejected and with low self esteem. The logic is that whatever qualities lead to success in the same sex battles, those qualities get passed on in greater numbers due to the preferential meeting access sexual access to the victors game, and then the second component, so in other words, a difference or reproductive success is achieved through same sex combat. The second is preferential mate choice. That is, if members of one sex have some agreement about what qualities they desire, in the opposite sex, those who possess the desirable qualities are preferentially chosen. Those lacking the desired qualities are ignored, banish, shunned, or become in the modern lingo, insults, involuntary celibates. And so the logic there is that quality heritable qualities that are preferentially chosen, if there's some agreement, those increase in frequency over time, and so you get evolution, which is simply change over time. As a consequence of preferential mate choice.

Morten Andersen  06:44

This theory of sexual selection is monumentally important, and is the overarching theoretical framework for understanding the mating systems of all sexually reproducing species, including humans. So the idea is that the theory of sexual selection proposed by Darwin explains a lot of the differences that there are between male and female. And that also explains differences in psychology between the male and the female. So different psychologies come from this are emotions, such as jealousy and other emotions come from, from this theory of sexual selection? Is that correct?

David Buss  07:24

Yeah, that is correct. So sexual selection explains the vast majority of sex differences. And I think it's important for your listeners to understand the evolutionary meta theory of sex differences and sexual similarity. So it's not the case that men are from Mars and women are from Venus says that cliche goes, the meta theory is that we expect men and women to be the same or similar in all domains, where they faced the same or similar adaptive challenges over human evolutionary history, both sexes have to eat both sexes have to fend off predators, both sexes have to deal with parasites, but it's only in those domains where the sexes have faced different adaptive challenges that we expect to see sex differences. And so it's not a theory of the two sexes are from different planets for him. never the twain shall me, there are a lot of overlap, but there are some key differences. And as it happens, almost all the key differences fall in the domain of mating, and things related to make.

Morten Andersen  08:26

Okay, and we're probably going to focus more on the sex differences also, because we are going to focus on why it is that men tend to do more harm to women from from the sexual conflicts that arise. But just to be clear to the listener, we're going to talk about sex differences, but there is also something called gender differences. Can you maybe explain a little bit about the difference between sex and gender and how you use those terminologies.

David Buss  08:52

In the literature, the two terms are often used interchangeably. And so there's a lot of confusion about it. And then some people have argued that there's no such thing as biological sex itself, which, of course, is an absurd perspective from I mean, we know that there were two sexes sexual reproduction evolved approximately 1.3 billion years ago. And so it's a very ancient system and the sexes are defined not by you know, pulling down the pants and looking at the genitals, but rather they're defined by the size of the sex cells. So as the females are the ones with the large, nutrient rich sex sells gametes, males are the ones with a small nutrient poor gametes. And these are basically little packets of DNA with an outboard motor attached designed to get to the A. And so when I talk about sex differences, what I'm talking about is differences between male biological males and biological females. Now, gender is more often used to refer to things like gender identity or gender orientation, or Gender proclivities and there, there's, there's a whole rainbow of sexual identities and orientations and getting more and more so everyday. And that's, that's perfectly fine.

Morten Andersen  10:11

But from an evolutionary perspective, when I talk about sex differences, I'm referring to biological sex differences. Obviously, at the moment, there is sort of a redefinition of gender and gender is is something that is talked a lot about, and especially at American universities, as well. Does that has that impacted evolutionary psychology at all? Has that created issues with how you can work with this or talk about this?

David Buss  10:36

No, we are, it hasn't affected the research, you know, the research, it's been an extraordinarily productive research program, applying Darwin's theory of sexual selection, and also, that we'll talk about later, maybe a sexual conflict theory to human the understanding of human psychology and behavior, an extraordinarily productive and said nothing has changed. In terms of the research program, new discoveries are being made every day, using this paradigm, the way it's affected, I guess it's affected the way that some people talk about it, it's talked about a lot more. And then I get students, some students in my class who say, well, another professor has told them that there's no such thing as sex, you know, and so I have to do some correcting of the scientific understandings of these things. And, you know, and I think that there's just a lot of confusion out there around around these terms. And that's why I try to just stay clear on what I'm focusing on is average on average differences between males and females as defined by biologists.

Morten Andersen  11:44

Okay, so there are so many interesting angles to this, and in this episode will try to talk about and use evolutionary psychology to understand the conflict of sexes to understand how we can have a healthy relationship without having harassing situations. But first, let's try to understand why there is a conflict between the sexes. But you're in your book, you say that a starting point for understanding sexual conflict is the realization that there exists a battle over women's bodies. What do you mean by that?

David Buss  12:19

Yes, well, so this basically boils down to the fact that women are the more reproductively valuable sex. And this starts with the sperm and the egg. So at the from the very moment of conception, female is contributing a very large, nutrient rich egg and the males contributing to contributing basically, DNA. And that's that's basically it. And so but this minimum sex difference in minimum investment is a critical issue. And this was the insight that Robert Trevor's famous Harvard biologist, came up with in 1972 was what drives these two components of sexual selection, which sex does the choosing which sex does the competing? And his answer was relative parental investment, so the sex that invests heavily or more than the other sex becomes the more valuable sex and when you're the more valuable sex and the high investing sex, what that means is that there is a great penalty tremendous cost associated with making a bad sexual choice or a bad mate choice. But on the flip side, great benefits to making a good mate choice for the sex is not investing very much good and bad matrices don't matter so much rather, it is access to the valuable member to the to the valuable other steps that is the limiting factor for reproductive success. And so what that means in English is that women carry with them because you know, imagine, you know that we're studying some species and the female of the species. fertilization occurs internally within her, she incubates that fetus within her body for nine months, she feeds it metabolic resources, even if there's a caloric deficit, you know, calories and minerals are leached from the woman's body in bonds to feed that, that fetus for nine months, and then subsequently lactation, the breastfeeding, so these are extraordinarily heavy investments that massively don't engage in. And so from a purely reproductive standpoint, someone who's willing to do all that investing for your child, that's hugely valuable. And so what that means is that women have become the limiting resource for men and men tend to compete for access to that limiting resource. Now, it gets a little bit complicated with humans because we have, you know, I'm speaking of just simply sex per se, and in particular short term maintenance strategy when you get to long term mating strategies, both sexes invest heavily. And fortunately, men do more than the male, you know, and so, and so they invest years and decades and in their children and protecting their children and providing for their children and their families. And when you get both sexes investing heavily, you get both sexes being very choosy. Importantly, both sexes competing with members of their own sets for the most desirable members of the opposite sex. So in long term mating, both components of sexual selection, or for both sexes,

Morten Andersen  15:36

yes, women tend to invest more, and therefore they are more valuable. That means that they do more the choosing, men do the more they're competing for women. There are also many other differences. Men are fertile for many more years than then women are, and so on. And that leads to a number of sexual conflicts. And you have, you have highlighted six sexual conflicts, and I just want to go through them and also maybe talk about some examples from some of your your studies of how those differences actually play out. So let's just go through them and see how those sexual conflicts look. So the first one you talk about is called a desire for sexual variety. How is that a conflict,

David Buss  16:22

desire for sexual variety needs that manifests itself in many ways, but men tend to desire a wider variety of partners, sex partners, than women on average, there's overlap in the distributions, but on average, they do. And this shows up and things like, how many partners Would you like to have how many sex partners just like that over the next year, or 10 years, man and many more than women, but it shows up in sexual fantasies, you know, with how many different partners do you have sexual fantasies about or even in the course of a single sexual fantasy episode, men tend to do more partner switching during the course of a fantasy episode. It also shows up in men tending to let less time elapse before seeking or initiating a sexual encounter than women, women tend to need more information about the guy. And that's why that strangers study that you mentioned, women tend to say no. Would you have sex with me? They said, No, I need a little more information. Men, they all the information is right there available to them in its physical appearance.

Morten Andersen  17:30

Yes. In one of the studies that you suggested was that if you ask on average, women, how many sex partners would you ideally like to have over a lifetime, they would say something between four to five, whereas for men, that number is around 18. So men simply are looking for more sexual partners over a lifetime, then, then a women woman is

David Buss  17:53

yes, ideally. And so this is, and this will relate to when we get back to the issues of relationships, there's a desire, and that's why I call my book the evolution of desire, my first book, but then there's also it's the expression of desire in behavior, have these desires, they often suppress the desire it let's say they're in a long term committed relationship, and they don't want to jeopardize the relationship. They don't want to incur reputational damage, or their religion or their code of morality prevents them from doing so. Of course, not always. But that's why evolutionary psychologists make a key distinction between the underlying psychological mechanisms and their expression and behavior. So just a quick analogy would be people have a desire for foods that are rich in sugar, fat, salt, and protein. But let's say we have we want to get fit, we want to lose some weight, we might choose not to express those desires in our eating behavior for a period of time. So it's a lot easier to prevent the expression of desire, it's a lot more difficult to change that underlying desire.

Morten Andersen  19:02

Yes, okay. The second sexual conflict is sexual over perception bias. Can you tell us what that is? Yes, this

David Buss  19:10

is this is a, an amusing one, but an important one. And I think one key cause of sexual conflict. So typical scenarios a woman encounters a man and the woman smiles at the man and men infer sexual interest. She's trying to be seductive. She's trying to flirt with me. And women will often say No, I was just being I was just being friendly, or I was being polite. And so men tend to over infer sexual interest when it's not there. And we think this is it's a bias, but it's an adaptive bias in the sense that over evolutionary time missing out on sexual opportunities would have been very, very costly for men in the currency of reproduction, reproductive success, and so men have this bias to you know, basically widen the search net and in for sexual interest when it's not there, in part because that gives if they perceive that they're getting sexual signals that gives them the confidence to approach the woman and sometimes they can convert and initially uninterested women into an interested one

Morten Andersen  20:19

So big because it's the woman, it's the female that is choosing the male better be ready when she's choosing so therefore having an over perception bias may actually help him be ready when she's choosing is that is that how the analogy goes? Yeah, that's

David Buss  20:38

Yeah, that's one component and and I think another component is simply, you know, base rates if men are widening the pool. And let's say that they get turned down by let's say their sexual perception bias causes them to try to initiate an encounter 100 times while they may get shot down many times, but maybe they'll get a few hits. And that's basically what we see played out on dating apps like Tinder in the modern environment where men, you know, swipe right on hundreds and hundreds of women, and in the hopes that they'll get they'll get a few that say, yes, women are much, much more selective, including sites like Tinder.

Morten Andersen  21:16

Yeah, I think I think your research using Tinder is just excellent, because there you can really see behavior how that is played out on, you know, on a market, which is very related to, you know, sexual attraction, essentially. And here, you say, well, men just swipe right, a lot more than female do, which which explains maybe some of the sexual perception bias.

David Buss  21:37

Yeah, or it's an expression. So is it an expression of the desire for sexual variety?

Morten Andersen  21:43

Yes, six different sexual conflicts. The first one desire for sexual variety, men simply want more sexual partners than women. The second one is sexual over perception bias. Men are quicker to infer sexual signs compared to female. The third one is deception. What is that?

David Buss  22:03

Yeah, well, both sexes deceive on the mating market. Our research has found that they deceive in somewhat different ways. So men are more likely, when they're pursuing a short term mating strategy, they're more likely to express deeper feelings for the woman than they actually have. I feel this true emotional attachment to feel true love I, I feel a depth I feel like we under your soulmate, they're more likely to exaggerate, basically finding a long term mating strategy. And these words, in order to pursue a short term mating strategy, women sometimes to see in the opposite way, sometimes they are making mark or pretend that they're okay with casual sex, but then try to convert the man into a long term relationship. So one example of this is studies of of hookups on college campuses, where they asked men and women are what is your ideal outcome of a hookup? And women say, Well, my ideal outcome would be that it leads to a relationship. And men are more likely to say, Oh, I hope that this hookup leads to more hookups with more or less so so the sex difference plays out in that way. 

Morten Andersen  23:14

And you have also looked at at Tinder and what it is that people lie about in their profile, which is also different between the two sexes?

David Buss  23:23

Yes, there's a whole hundreds of researchers have collected on this site, survey many of them in my books, but men tend to lie about their height. So how tall they are, they tend to add a couple of inches. So American system that's their five feet, 10 inches, they round up to six feet, they lie about their income. And then they lie about what their mating strategy is. They pretend that they're more interested in the long term mating strategy. And then they may be sincere requires only I'm interested in, you know, a real connection. Women tend to deceive about their weight. So they tend to shave off about 15 pounds, or I don't know what that translates into, I guess, six or seven kilos. And and then both sexes deceive about appearance in the sense of posting either old photos or photoshopped photos that are not truly representative what they actually

Morten Andersen  24:21

look like. So we should meet people before we have we engage with people.

David Buss  24:26

Absolutely, that's, that's my number one recommendation, you know, cut off the, you know, the internet communication, you have to meet someone. And even to determine whether there's any of your chemistry there, you have to meet the person in person.

Morten Andersen  24:39

So that was three of the six sexual conflicts. And essentially, what we're saying is that these are differences in how men and women approach the other partner and in in order to find a mate, and these are from deep evolutionary reasons why there are these differences but because there are the these differences It leads to conflicts. Let's look at the last three, and then we'll find out what does that do to us in terms of how do we live well together? So the fourth one is mate value, discrepancies, mate value. What is that?

David Buss  25:14

I think there are analogs in European countries and Americans use this crude 10 point scale, where the person's at 10, if they're paying a value, or an eight, or a six, or a two or a one, the problem is that if a person is assessed in mate value, and they're attracted to in a, while the eights not going to be attracted to them, or if the six manages to convince the eight that they're an eight, temporarily, the eight is more likely to cheat on the six, and the eight is more likely to dump the six to leave that relationship. For someone who's more comparable and mate value. The problem is that men tend to overestimate their mate value on average. And so you get a lot of men who are sixes but thinks that they're eights. And that leads them to not waste a conflict, they approach a woman who they think is within their mate value range. And the woman says, No, you're not, you're not, you're not good enough for me. And so and so that can generate resentment, sometimes hostility toward women. Now, not all men do this. So men who are high on the personality trait of narcissism, tend to think they're hotter than they are, they think they're hot, but they're not. So not all men overestimate their mate value, but there's a sex difference, there were men, on average, think they're higher than they are. 

Morten Andersen  26:37

So obviously, by this theory, or this part of the theory, what you're saying is that if you're an eight, find somebody who's an eight, because if you're finding somebody on a 10, you might let that person in, but that is likely to lead to that person leaving you at some point that is a higher likelihood of divorce, if there is a big of a range between and don't go for a six, because you might feel in your relationship that you could have done better. So find somebody at your level, essentially.

David Buss  27:05

Yeah, absolutely. It's, it's one of the one of the laws of mating, you know, find someone that the equivalent to mate value, that's going to lead to more happiness and longevity in the long run. Although it's also true that mate value changes over time. It's never it's not a static quality. And so someone could get a job promotion or become a famous musician, or lose a job or become a drug addict or alcoholic or so. So there are changes over time. So what you really want is someone who's on the same mate valuetrajectory, that you are not someone who's exactly like you are at that moment. So for long for the goal of long term happy relationships.

Morten Andersen  27:46

Yes. So that was the fourth sexual conflict. The fifth one is infidelity. What is that about?

David Buss  27:54

You know, people when they get married or or engaged in a presumptively monogamous relationship, they commit their sexual resources to one partner, and people cheat sometimes not everybody. But you know, it's nothing like 25% of women and maybe 40 to 50% of men at some point, there's a bit of a sex difference, a non trivial sex difference on my head. In evolutionary terms, this is the diversion of reproductively relevant resources, someone outside of the partnership. And it's extremely costly. Man from an evolutionary perspective risks. Getting genetically coupled with that is taking risk investing in a child who is not their child, it might be that the mailman or the neighbor's women from women's perspective, if their partner is unfaithful, she risks losing the man's investment, commitment, time, attention, resources, all of which could be channeled to a rival woman, and her offspring. And so infidelity is it's one of the leading, it's one of the two leading causes of divorce worldwide, people are tempted to do it. I think they do it for somewhat different reasons. And the sites for this and in my book, as well, that men tend to cheat on average for to satisfy desire for sexual variety. So the woman who they cheat with couldn't mine doesn't necessarily mean anything. to them. It's just like a desire for sexual variety. Women tend to tend to cheat when they're fundamentally unhappy with the relationship and are looking to see if maybe they can do better out there on the mating work. So it's what I call the mate switching hypothesis.

Morten Andersen  29:35

And I think there is also something about having a backup, maybe for the female, which is not the same for the male essentially.

David Buss  29:43

Yes, yeah. When one woman told me men are like suit, you always want to have one on the back burner.

Morten Andersen  29:50

Yes. interesting analogy. And number six of this sexual conflict is breaking up. Can you tell us a little bit about what what that is about?

David Buss  30:00

Yeah, well, breakups are, we've studied them in my lab, they're they're very traumatic for most people involved, even the person who's doing the breaking up. But often there is an asymmetry. That is one person wants to break up and the other person does not. And so that's a conflict between the sexes. As a general rule, women tend to do more of the breaking up, women tend to seek divorces more often than men. Of course, men men do as well sometimes. But one of the interesting things about relationships is that sometimes men are totally surprised when the woman comes and says, I want to divorce if they don't see it coming. Whereas women tend to be more in tune with the rhythms of the long term relationship, and are more likely to anticipate when their problems and they can see it coming on average, although I know some cases where I've been totally shocked as well. Okay, fantastic.

Morten Andersen  31:09

So far, we talked about conflict of, of sexes. And you have said that this conflict is basically a result of an evolution over millions of years. Because of this conflict, men does bad things to women, women does bad things to men, because of this conflict. But in your book, which is coming up next week, you have a book coming out calling, called When Men Behave Badly. And in that book, you state that even though both men and women do bad things to each other, the really bad things, the really bad things are done by men towards women. Why is that?

David Buss  31:46

Yes, both sexes deceive each other. Both sexes can engage in unwanted sexual contact. But the more extreme the behavior, the more it tends to be committed by men. So when you talk about sexual harassment, yes, some women sexually harass men, but men tend to do it much more often. Sexual coercion, men do it more often rape, men do it more often stalking. You know, men do it more often. So criminal stalking and that 80% men and 20% women, and then of course, Homicide murder, if an adult woman gets killed, the odds are between 50 and 70%, that she is killed by her romantic partner that is a boyfriend or an ex boyfriend, husband or an ex husband. And whereas for men who get killed by women, only 3% are the result of a romantic partner. And so I think that part of it is that has to do with the some of the things we've been talking about, like desire for sexual variety, that women are the more valuable reproductive resource, and man sometimes go to great lengths to hold on to, or gain access to to women. And that's partly what sexual herassment is about is currently what stalking is about in a season. disturbingly, partly what intimate partner violence is about. That is, men engage in violence. And this sounds horrible, but for very functional reasons, to try to lower the partner self esteem, to try to make her believe that she is lucky to have him that men tend to do this, engage in intimate partner violence as a latch last ditch effort when they're losing the woman and they're doing going to great lengths to try to keep her and with these desperate measures. So I think it's very important that women know this knowledge. So the woman's odds of getting killed, for example, by by an ex are occur mostly within the first three to six months after a breakup. And sometimes, you know, women are aware of that, and the guy will say, Oh, boy, you meet with me one last time for coffee and, you know, and then I'll leave you alone, and then they end up dead. So, women have to know what these danger signs are.

Morten Andersen  34:11

And this is obviously not trivial problems. I mean, in your book is, you actually state that sexual violence against women is the most widespread human rights problem in the world. And also, so one thing is the act itself, but also what happens to the consequences. So what happens to the women so the consequences of of having endured this so depression, anxiety, eating disorder, intention to suicide, all of these things that is is a consequence of these things. Obviously, this is not a trivial matter, this is a huge problem. Can you explain why you think this is is such a big problem?

David Buss  34:50

Well, the the the psychological Aftermath for women who are victims of sexual violence is horrible. I didn't realize when I wrote the book, how quite how horrible it was. But in our studies and my review literature, yes, exactly the issues you point out, depression, low self esteem, being cut off from social support and kin ties and friendships and disruption, school disruption of work life. And I think that it because what it is what sexual violence against women, the key component is that it interferes with the number one law of female mating strategy, which is female choice, that is women's ability to choose who, when, where, and under what circumstances she has set. And men strategies often interfere with female choice, when that happens, and I think this has this has a certain long evolutionary history. As far as we can tell, it doesn't mean that rape is an adaptation by the way I talk about that issue in great depth in my book. But clearly women have been victims of sexual violence for a very long time, over evolutionary history, and it has devastating consequences. And the reason I call it the most widespread world human rights violation is for a couple of reasons. One is the sheer number of women who are victims. And this occurs in every culture, in every ethnic group, religious group, whatever your political orientation, so nobody has no culture or subculture has a monopoly. And we're talking about 50% of the population. And so even women who weren't direct victims often live in fear of becoming victims, so curtails their freedom of movement, their ability to go out at night, their ability to attend night classes, and then secondary victims, as they're called. So the friends, the family members, the brothers, sisters, of the women who are victims, they to become victims as well, secondary victims. It's the most widespread in the sense of affecting the largest number of people around the world.

Morten Andersen  37:06

Some of of the of the worst of and I don't know if we can say that, but some of the worst offenders hit the headlines. So we talk about Jeffrey Epstein, Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, some of those people, and you're absolutely right, they're all men. Are there any common things when you look at those kind of people? I mean, do they share personality traits or anything like that?

David Buss  37:30

Yes, they do. So and this is pretty solid, I document this in, in my new book, that what's called the dark triad personality traits. And so these are people who are high on narcissism high on Machiavellian ism and high on psychopathy, but also high on pursuing a short term mating strategy. So those four elements when they combine, so narcissism is feelings of grandiosity and feelings of entitlement, including sexual entitlement. Machiavellian isn't as people who adopt a an exploitative interpersonal strategy. So these are cheaters, defectors exploiters, who are just looking out for themselves, and they don't care about others. And then psychopathy, one of the hallmarks is lack of empathy. So they don't care about the victims. They don't care who they harm. They're just implementing their preferences. And when you combine that with short term mating strategy, it's a deadly combination. So the people you mentioned, like Harvey Weinstein, excellent example of that Jeffrey Epstein clearly had high and dark triad traits. And you're absolutely right. Where are the women that are hitting the news for sexually exploiting all the men that, you know, there? There aren't. So not that women don't sexually exploit men sometimes, but at the scale that we're talking about, men have a pretty exclusive monopoly on. 

Morten Andersen  38:58

And I guess, obviously, talking about those people in the dark triad. I mean, hopefully, they they're not so many of those in the world. But some of the things that I read in your book I was surprised about and and which may go to a also a length of explaining why there are so many women who are harassed is that, for instance, if you ask people how harassing is this, and you give them a number of options, so for instance, staring at a chest, how harassing is that? Or talk about your sexual experience? Well, then men will say, well, that's not very harassing at all. Whereas women will say, well, it actually is. So there seems to be a discrepancy between what act actually is harassing for the other person.

David Buss  39:45

You're absolutely right about that. And, and this is another key cause of conflict. Because when men engage in these acts that women perceive as harassing men think oh, like, it's no big deal. What's the big deal? I was, you know, she had a nice body. I'm I just felt like looking at it and said, there's this disconnect. And I think part of it is that we are stuck in our own sexual psychology. And so with the only way we can know no other minds are one way in which we know their minds is we infer that other sexual minds are similar to our own. Hmm. And consulting your own personal intuitions about the sexual minds of others, if it's the other sex is a mistake, because the sexual psychology of men and women differ different fundamental ways. 

Morten Andersen  40:35

And also, you've researched stalking, I think you mentioned that before as well and just are so surprised about the number of how many people have experienced stalking. So I think you mentioned that 19% of people in high school have actually experienced stalking. Now, stalking can be a physical, physically following somebody, but it can also just be stalking somebody on social media breaking into a phone or something. What have you learned about stalking in your research?

David Buss  41:04

Yeah, well, that's, that's a great great that you bring that up, because that's a very new form of stalking, cyber stalking. And it's only now gotten the attention of lawmakers who are starting to strain to criminalize it. In most places around the world. It's not it's not criminal activity. But I think that that's going to change. So cyber technology has enabled people to implement conflict between the sexes and in ways that are historically unprecedented. And it's extremely disturbing. I'll tell you one, one more that has come up recently is I can't remember it's called it's like called Deep fakes or something like that, where people can literally take a someone's photograph, place photograph of their face, and they can implanted on a sex video tape that is not them. And everyone and then posted on the internet, and of course, is extremely traumatizing to the victims, most of whom are women. So this new technology is allowing sexual harms in a way that we never really had before.

Morten Andersen  42:08

Yes, with using deep, deep fake that you can take a picture of a woman wearing a bikini, and then it can remove the clothes, and it will show how she looks like without any clothes, and then posting that, obviously to to harm her on social media. And as you rightly say, that is men mainly doing that to to women.

David Buss  42:30

Right, right. And that's something I do talk about in the book is revenge porn. And so men who are served by women, or rejected by women, often are the ones who are doing that revenge porn.

Morten Andersen  42:43

Yes. Evolutionary Psychology is essentially taking the Darwin's theory of sexual selection. And then from that, inferring six sexual conflicts that there are between the sexes, so essentially saying that there are more similarities between men and women. But on some areas, there are differences. And this relates to the sexual selection theory. And these conflicts essentially leads to conflicts in a relationship or between men and women. And I'd like to get to the point now, where we we talk about how this might relate to for the listeners. So What Monkeys Do is a podcast about change. So I want to talk a little bit about him the end about how we can use this knowledge, to say something about how men and women can engage in a conversation with that knowledge in engage in a conversation about making their relationship, marriage, whatever it is, as healthy as possible. Do you have any, from your research? And your many conversations? You've probably been asked this many times before as well, to have you have you got any advice for for for relationships with this knowledge?

David Buss  44:02

Yeah, Yes, I do. I guess you can divide it up into two things. So one is, and this was actually a question posed recently on on Twitter, what is the single most important decision you can make in your life? And what I say is, it's the selection of a long term mate, that that affects just about everything else in your life. Not that matings always best to lifetime, of course, they doubt their breakups, divorces and so forth. But selecting the right long term mate is absolutely critical. We've mentioned in one element that in our conversation, which is selecting a mate who's similar and mate value, or who has a similar mate value trajectory, and I think that's critical. Second, I would go for avoiding the dark triad. So avoid mates who are excessively narcissistic, manipulative, Machiavellian or psychopathic. You want to pick someone who is interested in a long term mating. Not someone who wants to play the field and express their desire for sexual variety. personality wise, we also want to select someone who's emotionally stable. emotional stability in our research is one of the key causes of conflict within married couples, then once you're in a relationship, I think it's important to be open and honest in terms of communicating. Because as we talked about males and females have different psychologies in different sexual and mating psychologies in some ways, and an honest communication about that can do do wonders. Because otherwise, if you just think, well, the other person is exactly like I am, then you're always going to be frustrated when they don't behave exactly like you are like you want them to behave. And so I think honest communication about that. The other thing I would recommend is, is been to pardon the self serving is to read my book on The Evolution of Desire and Why Men vs. Women Behave Badly. Because I think that gives the insights and in Why Men Behave Badly. I devote a whole chapter to the issue of coping with conflict, because conflict will emerge in all relationships. I've never encountered a single major shift that with black comp, any conflict, the issue is how you cope with it. And there are effective strategies of dealing with it in any effective ones. And so I would encourage your listeners to read that chapter in the new book.

Morten Andersen  46:30

Yes. And I think this is an important part because obviously, outlining the differences in between men and women does not justify what men do to women in terms of harassment. But I guess what one of your main point is that in order to create the best strategies as a society, for dealing with these harassments, and and and these things that men do to women, we need to understand the fundamental reasons, evolutionary pressures for these conflicts to arise in the first place. And then we can create strategies and laws as a society to combat that. And I guess that also works in a in a relationship, I suppose, is by understanding the underlying drives that may be different for the for the men and for the man and the woman in the relationship may be the first step in understanding how do we then deal with it?

David Buss  47:26

Yes, absolutely. And just to give one concrete example, one man told me that after he read my book, he it caused him to be more faithful to his wife, because he found himself in a good relationship, if you felt felt attracted to other women. And when he was attracted to other women, he thought, well, maybe I'm not in love with my wife anymore. After you read my book, he realized, Oh, that's my evolved desire for sexual variety. It doesn't mean I don't love my wife, I still love her. But it's that evolved desire for sexual variety that helps me to stay faithful to my wife.

Morten Andersen  48:03

Yes. So if one of our listeners is in a relationship, or in a marriage, and it's going really well, but then you're like, you're saying, well, there's likely going to be sexual conflict, because there is in most relationships, and the best way to combat that is actually, first of all to understand the evolutionary reasons and the drivers for those conflicts, because then you can tackle it through communication and having that understanding.

Morten Andersen  48:35

Great. That was all I have for this interview at this has been a really interesting interview. I have I've read your new book, it's coming out next week. And I will encourage listeners to to read it. I said in the beginning that I will encourage everyone to, to read the the Evolution of Desire, I still mean that. But your new one is actually really good. And it has a lot of up to date, examples and also using social media and your research using Tinder and so on. I think this is truly fascinating. And then I think it has a very critical eye on there is too much harassment for against women, and we need to do something about it. But ignoring our evolutionary drive will probably not solve the problem then. So I want to say thank you very much, David for for taking the time to speak with me. I really enjoyed this.

David Buss  49:23

Thank you. It's been a delight tochat with you. 

Morten Andersen  49:25

Fantastic. What a great interview. I took three things away from my talk with David. One. A lot of our fundamental psychology, or fundamental emotions can be explained by sexual selection. Darwin's natural selection is probably pretty well known but his other theory about sexual selection is probably more important. It explains why there are differences between men and women. When, and why we have emotions such as jealousy and desire. And this is important to know because we have evolved over millions of years. And this is probably one of those things, which is hard to change to sex differences leads to sexual conflicts. David has identified six sexual conflicts between men and women. They range from sexual variety to sexual over perception bias, what we lie about infidelity, and so on. And because of these conflicts, men do bad things to women, and women do bad things to men, we all try to do what we can to get the best mating partner we can. But the really bad things are almost always done by men, sexual harassment, sexual assault, stalking rate, all of that is mainly done by men. And three, we can use this knowledge to make our relationship better. David said that our single most important decision we can make is the selection of our long term mating partner. And if you are in a relationship understanding that we can have, so to speak, in sexual conflicts, due to evolutionary pressures, is very important for us to understand because by understanding that, we can then create coping strategies, so men desire more sexual partners than women do now, but it's up to men to suppress this desire and understand that this is mainly biological rather than any other reason, and therefore should not follow this design. David has a fantastic research. He's a great writer, but also a fantastic speaker, you should check out his excellent TED Talks. They are truly fantastic. Until next time, take care

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