Sexual selection and human reproductive behaviour

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Discuss the relationship between sexual selection and the
human reproductive behaviour (24 Marks)
Intrasexual selection is the evolutionary process by which members of one sex
(usually males) compete with each other for members of the opposite sex. The
victors are then able to pass on their genes whilst the losers aren't. The genes of the
successful male are then passed on to their offspring.
Intersexual selection refers to the fact that members of each sex have innate
preferences for mates with certain characteristics. The preferences of one sex
determine the areas in which the other sex must compete (e.g. physical
attractiveness for women). These indicators reveal traits which could be passed on
to offspring (e.g. height) or which could give protection and support to the offspring
(e.g. economic resources).
Men have a greater desire for casual sex and tend to seek sex earlier in a
relationship. This is because men can produce several children within a year whilst
women cannot. Men have an evolutionary desire to impregnate a woman as soon as
they can before moving on. This is supported by Clark and Hatfield's study which
found that when approached by total (female) stranger, 75% of men agreed to have
sex with the female stranger whilst no women agreed to have sex with the male
stranger. However, this validity of this study can be questioned as the study was
carried out on a university campus using students therefore the results may not be
generalised to a wider population demonstrating sample bias. There are also ethical
issues as the study could have caused some psychological harm as it involved
For long-term mating, both sexes must invest heavily in any offspring. Choosiness is
therefore high in both sexes, as they wouldn't want to waste valuable resources if
their mate is providing poor genes or little child-bearing support. Women are
particularly choosey as they have to make an obligatory biological investment in the
child. Females therefore look for good resources, physical strength etc. This theory is
also applicable in real life as women need to know that the father of their child will
be able to provide for them. Buss used 10,000 plus participants from 37 cultures and
explored what males and females look in a marriage partner. Women wanted a
partner with good financial prospects whilst men wanted physical attractiveness.
Men also wanted younger women which indicates fertility thus providing valid
support for the relationship between sexual selection and human reproductive
However, Bereczkel et al (1997) found that women now advertise for males that are
more family orientated therefore are less concerned about resources therefore
contradicting this theory of choosiness and human reproductive behaviour.
Buss's study may not provide strong support for the relationship between sexual
selection and human reproductive behaviour as although they provide information
about expressed mate choices, this may be different for information about actual

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However, another study conducted
by Buss of actual married couples from 29 cultures supported the original results
that men do actually marry women that are younger than them, thus increasing the
validity of this explanation.
In contrast, some critics argue that men may in fact prefer younger women due to
social power. Younger women are easier to control and therefore preferable as
mates. Kenrick et al.…read more


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