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 arguably used to need this protection because all men are stronger than almost all women. Dominance in this case may even refer to non-violent social power determined by e.g. wealth, social competence and looks, but in non-human animals it is more about mere physical power.
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 them to evolve to be stronger and taller than the females. A minority of males is predicted to shortcut this 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 would evolve to prefer a strong partner who can protect herself and the offspring, especially from sexually coercive males of who are not as strong. Protective males defend their own reproductive interests, as well as augment the female's ability to survive and reproduce.
The bodyguard hypothesis applies in particular to unpredictable, fast-life ecologies with a high prevalence of highly sexually active, promiscous men, and thus may primarily apply to fast-life strategic women, though other women may still possess related behavioral adaptations as vestiges.
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 male could contest that bond.
Bodyguard hypothesis predicts 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 reproductive success of genetically related individuals slightly increases the fitness of one's own genes due to the similarity of the genes, i.e. kin selection).
The bodyguard hypothesis may explain why women loose interest in any given relationship more quickly than men as exposing themselves to other men instead guarantees them to be attached to the most dominant man all the time in case their previous partner lost in status in the meanwhile.
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.