In this post, we’ll unpack all you need to know about Sexual Strategies, defining exactly what they are, their role in evolution, short-term versus long-term Sexual Strategies, male versus female sexual strategies and more.
What Are Sexual Strategies?
Sexual Strategies refers to the strategies that men and women developed through the process of evolution in order to achieve their respective reproductive goals.
“Those who fail to mate do not become ancestors. Each living human, therefore, has descended from a long and unbroken line of successful mate-ships stretching back millions of years.” ― David M. Buss
Sexual Strategies & Adaptive Problems
The same way we evolved strategies to solve the problem of survival, is the same way we evolved strategies to solve the problem of reproduction. Sexual strategies are adaptive solutions to mating problems.
Underlying each Sexual Strategy are psychological adaptations. Each psychological adaptation is sensitive to information from the external world.
The adaptive problems both sexes had to solve differ dramatically and so they each evolved profoundly different sexual psychologies.
“Constants do not influence mating decisions.“
Short-Term Versus Long-Term Sexual Strategies
The primary factor that influences one’s mating behaviour is time-span. It ranges from short-term mating at one end of the spectrum to long-term mating at the other.
Short-term mating is typically characterised by low commitment relationships with many partners during a period of days or months. Long-term mating is typically characterised by high commitment relationships with one partner during a period of years, decades or a lifetime.
For men, the main adaptive function of short-term mating is a direct increase in reproductive success. For women, the main adaptive function of short-term mating is obtaining superior genes.
The main adaptive function of long-term mating for men is paternity certainty. The main adaptive function of long-term mating for women is security.
It’s in a women’s evolutionary best interests to balance the best short-term reproductive benefits (genes) with the best long-term survival benefits (security). Ideally this balance would be found in one man, but history shows that women must find it in multiple men.
Other factors that influence mating strategies include: sex ratio and availability of recourses.
Male Versus Female Sexual Strategies
A man’s primary Sexual Strategy is polygyny. Evolution endowed men with the desire to spread their seed as far and wide as possible by impregnating as many women as possible.
A woman’s primary Sexual Strategy is hypergamy. Evolution endowed women with the desire to identify and reproduce with the most competent man possible who will maximise the fitness of both themselves and their offspring.
Hypergamy is a two-sided equation that consists of short-term sexual genetic benefits and long-term security benefits. It wants to satisfy both sides of this equation by the same man. However, rarely can this be met by one individual.
Hypergamy is based on doubt which unceasingly asks one question: “Is this the best I can do?” Thus, a woman is always comparing her options ― real or imagined. As a result, men must accept the Burden Of Performance ― they must constantly demonstrate higher value and performance.
Since they each have different strategies, for one gender’s Sexual Strategy to succeed, the other gender must either compromise or abandon their own.
“Men want quantity. Women want quality.”
Higher Investing Sex
Women bear the metabolic costs of pregnancy, childbirth and child care which has rendered them the higher-investing sex. Consequently, women are required to be more discriminate than men when it comes to choice of mate because they suffer greater costs when choosing poorly.
Historically, women who made a poor choice of mate risked enduring pregnancy, childbirth and child care unaided. Furthermore, they were less able to attract an alternative mate, since existing children are seen as costs by other men. They also risked passing on genes to their children that were inferior.
From an ancestral man’s perspective, the single most damaging form of infidelity his partner could commit, in the currency of reproduction, would have been sexual infidelity.
A woman’s sexual infidelity jeopardizes a man’s confidence that he is the genetic father of her children. A cuckolded man risks investing time, energy and recourses in another man’s children. Consequently, he risks propelling someone else’s genes at the expense of his own.
Men Date Down, Women Date Up
Due to their respective sexual mating strategies, men tend to date down on the socioeconomic scale while women tend to date up.
Consequently, when a man increases his socioeconomic status, he increases the pool of women willing to mate with him. However, when a woman increases his socioeconomic status, she decreases the pool of men willing to mate with her.
“Money opens doors for men but closes doors for women.”
All We Need Is Love
Both sexes differ entirely when it comes to their primary sexual strategies. However, a feature that they have in common is a universal emotion of love.
Love is a powerful evolved emotion. It inspired ancestral men and women to remain committed to each other through thick and thin. Love helped bond ancestral men and women together and unite their reproductive interests in mutually produced offspring.
The same way we evolved survival strategies for obtaining food ― hunting and gathering ― is the same way we evolved sexual strategies for obtaining mates.
Sexual Strategy refers to the mechanisms that men and women developed over the course of evolution in order to achieve their individual mating goals.
Men’s primary Sexual Strategy is polygyny ― they evolved to reproduce with as many women as possible. Women’s primary Sexual Strategy is hypergamy ― they evolved to consolidate on the highest value man possible.