Bodyguard hypothesis suggests that women choose to pair bond with the most dominant man available to them in order to be protected from other contending males, especially sexually coercive ones. Women plausibly need this protection since men are stronger than almost all women. In many species, including humans, the greater parental investment on part of females causes males to engage in contest competitions over reproductive opportunities. This results in an evolutionary arms race between males causing males to evolve to be more stronger and taller than the females. Some males (typically a minority) are predicted to shortcut the competition by directly coercing females into sex (rape) and threaten or kill the offspring (infanticide) for their own reproductive advantage. This, in turn, predicts females should evolve to prefer a strong partner who can protect herself and the offspring, especially in case the coercive male is of low genetic quality. Protective males also defend their own reproductive interests as well as augment a female's ability to survive and reproduce. Dominance in this case might refer to social power, but in non-human animals it is mostly about physical power, i.e. the most aggressive male.
Humans[edit | edit source]
In humans, bodyguarding may also play a special role due to the relatively large share of resources that males provide. A long-term bond lasting at least a few years is hence highly conductive to reproductive success, especially in K-selected species. For such bonds to be stable, it is required that the male is the most dominant one the woman can attract as otherwise a more dominant could contest that bond.
Bodyguard hypothesis may predict that women tend to date up, especially when the most dominant males engage in polygyny and hence hoard a substantial fraction of the females as it is the case in the human species.
Some suggested that women's choice does not matter much, and women rather get chosen by contest competition among males. Counter-evidence to this is e.g. that career women often refuse to date down and rather remain single if they cannot find a more socially dominant partner (see hypergamy). Many women also experience rape fantasies, which points to a desire to be dominated. Both of these aspects point to a preference for a partner that is at least as dominant as the woman herself. Women also more often than men report social status as an important mate preference, and they prefer men who have sex with other women, i.e. men which have already won prior contest competitions. Women also have a clear preference for the physically stronger man when given the choice. In one study, none of 160 female students preferred a physically weaker male. Women prefer callous and narcissistic men, which are also high status traits. Women are sexually aroused by men who take on responsibility, do things, make the group laugh etc. In fact, the most dominant man isn't necessarily the physically most dominant one, since in humans social power and wealth can provide more protection than mere physical force (as one can buy such force or use social ties to get access to it).
The sexual dimorphism in strength and neoteny may in part come from men preferring short, weak women who are easy to control and hence less likely to cuckold them. In fact, not just men have this preference, but also their relatives who have an interest their heirs of their family wealth are genetically related (as genetic relatedness increases reproductive success, i.e. kin selection).
References[edit | edit source]
- Wrangham, R. W. 1979. On the evolution of ape social systems. Social Science Information 18:334-368.
- Packer, C., and A. E. Pusey. 1983. Adaptations of female lions to infanticide by incoming males. American Naturalist 121:716-728.