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Who Punishes Promiscuous Women? Both Women and Men are Prejudiced Towards Sexually-Accessible Women, but Only Women Inflict Costly Punishment.


Abstract and Figures

Across human societies, female sexuality is suppressed by gendered double standards, slut shaming, sexist rape laws, and honour killings. The question of what motivates societies to punish promiscuous women, however, has been contested. Although some have argued that men suppress female sexuality to increase paternity certainty, others maintain that this is an example of intrasexual competition. Here we show that both sexes are averse to overt displays of female sexuality, but that motivation is sex-specific. In all studies, participants played an economic game with a female partner whose photograph either signalled that she was sexually-accessible or sexually-restricted. In study 1, we found that men and women are less altruistic in a Dictator Game (DG) when partnered with a woman signalling sexual-accessibility. Both sexes were less trusting of sexually-accessible women in a Trust Game (TG) (study 2); women (but not men), however, inflicted costly punishment on a sexually-accessible woman in an Ultimatum Game (UG) (study 3). Our results demonstrate that both sexes are averse to overt sexuality in women, whilst highlighting potential differences in motivation.
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Who Punishes Promiscuous Women? Both Women and
Men are Prejudiced Towards Sexually-Accessible
Women, but Only Women Inflict Costly Punishment.
Naomi K. Muggletona,b, Sarah R. Tarranb, Corey L. Fincherb,
aWarwick Business School, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK
bDepartment of Psychology, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK
Across human societies, female sexuality is suppressed by gendered double stan-
dards, slut shaming, sexist rape laws, and honour killings. The question of what
motivates societies to punish promiscuous women, however, has been contested.
Although some have argued that men suppress female sexuality to increase
paternity certainty, others maintain that this is an example of intrasexual com-
petition. Here we show that both sexes are averse to overt displays of female
sexuality, but that motivation is sex-specific. In all studies, participants played
an economic game with a female partner whose photograph either signalled
that she was sexually-accessible or sexually-restricted. In study 1, we found
that men and women are less altruistic in a Dictator Game (DG) when part-
nered with a woman signalling sexual-accessibility. Both sexes were less trusting
of sexually-accessible women in a Trust Game (TG) (study 2); women (but not
men), however, inflicted costly punishment on a sexually-accessible woman in
an Ultimatum Game (UG) (study 3). Our results demonstrate that both sexes
are averse to overt sexuality in women, whilst highlighting potential differences
in motivation.
Keywords: Sexual suppression, Sexist attitudes, Intrasexual competition,
Evolutionary psychology, Economic games
1. Introduction
Amongst human freedoms, how often one has sex and with whom is basal
and level with the freedom to think any thoughts, speak any words, and worship
any object or being. But, in fact, not every one is allowed these freedoms. Across
human cultures there exists a sexual double standard. Whereas young men are
encouraged to “sow wild oats” (Crawford & Popp, 2003; Hadfield, 2011), young
women and girls are at risk of slut shaming, female genital cutting, and honour
killings (Do˘gan, 2016; Gruenbaum, 2005; Tate, 2016) for the same behaviours.
Corresponding author
Preprint submitted to Evolution and Human Behavior December 20, 2018
Due to the importance of sexual freedom and the commonality across human
societies of sexual double standards, several economic, sociological, and political
models have been proposed to explain this gender imbalance. The present report
seeks to inform the discovery of the ultimate causes of human sexual double
standards by asking: who suppresses female sexuality, and why? In answering
this we propose a more nuanced version of sexual control theory than existed
1.1. Evidence for Male-Driven Suppression
Given that men have historically dominated women politically and econom-
ically, it is logical to suggest that they have also dominated women sexually
(Travis & White, 2000). By enforcing gendered double standards, men can
monopolise sexual access to their mate(s) yet gain further access to additional
females via extra-pair copulation (EPC) and thereby enhance their reproduc-
tive success. Therefore, men suppress female sexuality to maximise paternity
certainty and, in so doing, ensure that property is inherited by legitimate male
heirs (Buss, 2003; Coontz & Henderson, 1986). More recently, Rudman and
colleagues have argued that men are more likely than women to endorse the
sexual double standard, which they attribute to hostile sexism and belief in
male entitlement (Rudman et al., 2013; Rudman & Mescher, 2012).
Yet despite intuitive appeal, this argument has several flaws. Although cou-
pled men should be motivated to choose romantically faithful mates, single men
could benefit from promoting female promiscuity. Empirical evidence supports
this view, showing that men are more open to casual sex than women (Petersen
& Hyde, 2010). What’s more, whereas female peer groups pressure their friends
to not go too far sexually (Crawford & Popp, 2003; Eder et al., 1995; Kreager
& Staff, 2009), adolescent males don’t mind if a female peer is sexually expe-
rienced (Crawford & Popp, 2003; Coleman, 1961) and will actively encourage
girlfriends to become more sexually experienced (e.g., Miller & Benson 1999;
see also G´amez-Guadix et al. 2011). Counter to patriarchal models, none of the
aforementioned studies found evidence to suggest that men stifle their partners’
1.2. Evidence for Female-Driven Suppression
At first glance the suggestion that women should self-regulate their be-
haviour in such a way that limits their choices and freedoms seems irrational.
Yet on closer inspection, there is overwhelming evidence that women judge
promiscuity harshly among their peers. Consider malicious gossip and slut
shaming. A cursory glance at women’s magazines and tabloids will demon-
strate prejudice towards women deemed too sexy or showing too much skin.
This trend is reflected in women’s perceptions of sexual double standards. When
asked which sex judges sexually-accessible women more harshly, 46% of women
1Although men do not stifle their female partners’ sexuality, both men and women use
mate guarding tactics to prevent EPC (see Chapais, 2009; Gavrilets, 2012).
reported that other women were harsher, but just 12% identified men as the
harsher sex (Milhausen & Herold, 1999). From the view of male control theory,
this is a strange and unnecessary behaviour. If men suppress female promis-
cuity, we should expect high levels of disapproval among men but indifference
among women.
But consider this: more than 200 million girls and women alive today have
been the victims of female genital cutting, with 3 million at risk each year
(United Nations Children’s Fund, 2013). Genital cutting is carried out to pre-
vent women from enjoying sexual intercourse, thus restricting victims from en-
gaging in pre-marital sex or EPC. Nevertheless, these practices are carried out
by mothers and grandmothers (Hicks, 1996; Lightfoot-Klein, 1989), with fathers
typically excluded from the process (Boddy, 1989). Do potential husbands de-
mand cutting of their brides? On the contrary, Sudanese men prefer uncut wives
(Abdalla et al., 2012; Shandall, 1979). What’s more, uncut, Western wives are
often favoured in regions with high female genital cutting prevalence, with men
stating that they want a wife who enjoys sex (Lightfoot-Klein, 1989).
This is difficult to reconcile with models of male-driven suppression; why
should women maintain a practice that restricts their collective sexuality, and
is actively disliked by men? The notion of ‘biological markets’ was first outlined
by No¨e & Hammerstein (1994, 1995) to describe interactions between organ-
isms (or ‘traders’) that involve the exchange of goods, such as food, shelter,
and gametes, or services, such as protection, pollination, and warning calls. As
goods and services become scarce (demand outstripping supply), organisms be-
come increasingly competitive and will offer a higher sum for a given utility.
More recently, Baumeister and colleagues have developed the concept of bio-
logical markets as a possible explanation for female sexual suppression. Sexual
economics theory (Baumeister & Vohs, 2004) starts from the assumption that
sex is a valuable ‘product’ that women supply and men demand (Baumeister
et al., 2001). In societies where men dominate economically and socially, sexual
access represents one of the few commodities that women control. In this view,
to access sex men must offer benefits such as commitment, money, or status (Lu
et al., 2015). Where sexual access can be bartered for benefits, women are at
an advantage when the cost of sex is high. Crucially, this position of power is
diminished when other women grant sexual access at a lower cost (Baumeister
et al., 2002). As such, women are incentivised to maintain a price floor, through
the control of women’s sexuality, to keep the price of sexual access high.
Nonetheless, there are several issues with sexual economics theory. First,
Baumeister and colleagues’ (Baumeister & Twenge, 2002; Baumeister & Vohs,
2004) theory is based largely on a literature review and non-current meta-
analyses (Oliver & Hyde, 1993; for more recent reviews, see Petersen & Hyde,
2011, 2010) rather than direct empirical tests. Second, given that men (vs.
women) hold more negative attitudes about other women (Swim et al., 2010), it
seems unlikely that they are champions of women’s sexual liberation. For exam-
ple, men are more likely to objectify sexualised women (Vaes et al., 2011), which
is associated with sexual aggression (Rudman & Mescher, 2012). Finally, some
aspects of sexual economics theory seem paradoxical. Baumeister & Vohs (2004)
claim that when a woman wears sexy clothing she is signalling that the cost of
sex with her would be high. But given that women who wear sexually revealing
clothes are perceived as more promiscuous (Goetz et al., 2016), we argue that
provocative clothing should be interpreted as signalling a lower cost of sexual
access. This conforms with the conventional wisdom that young women should
refrain from “showing off the goods”, that is, by wearing revealing clothing.
1.3. Uncovering Motives for Sexual Suppression
Conflicting models offer different accounts of female sexual suppression.
Male control theories propose that men suppress women’s sexuality to achieve
status (Travis & White, 2000), increase paternity certainty (Buss, 2003), or
maintain property rights for male heirs (Coontz & Henderson, 1986). Female
control theories suggest that women suppress their own sexuality to maintain a
price floor (Baumeister et al., 2002; Baumeister & Vohs, 2004), or as a form of
intrasexual competition (Keys & Bhogal, 2016; Vaillancourt & Sharma, 2011).
Although useful, it is unlikely that either theoretical approach captures the com-
plexity of female sexual suppression. Instead, a review of the literature suggests
that both men and women are prejudiced toward sexualised women, but in dif-
ferent contexts (e.g., Rudman & Mescher, 2012; Blake et al., 2018b; Keys &
Bhogal, 2016; Vaes et al., 2011).
In the present report we provide further evidence that female sexual sup-
pression cannot be attributed to one sex exclusively. Instead, we show that both
sexes demonstrate prejudice, albeit via different mechanisms and for different
reasons. We present findings from three studies designed to disentangle the role
of each sex in suppressing women’s sexuality.
1.4. The Present Report
We argue that male-driven suppression is associated with a need to secure a
sexually-faithful mate. That is, men are motivated to suppress female sexuality
as a form of mate guarding and to raise paternity certainty. Owing to concealed
ovulation and internal fertilisation, paternity is always less than certain. Men
can, however, increase the likelihood of paternity via mate guarding, sexual
jealousy, and choosing women who are sexually faithful (Bendixen et al., 2015;
French et al., 2017; Haselton & Gangestad, 2006; Leivers et al., 2014; Prokop &
Pazda, 2016). From this perspective, men should demonstrate prejudice towards
sexually-accessible women (prediction 1a). If men’s prejudice is motivated by
a desire to raise paternity certainty, then men should view sexually-accessible
women as being less trustworthy (prediction 2a). Finally, men’s prejudiced be-
haviour should be specific to mates or potential mates. That is, although men
may seek to punish promiscuous behaviour in their partner(s), they are not in-
centivised to punish sexual-accessibility in women that they are not romantically
involved with (prediction 3a). To summarise, men should favour non-sexualised
women, but do not benefit from punishing sexually-accessible women.
At the same time, we argue that female-driven suppression is associated with
intrasexual competition. In species where males invest in offspring, females may
compete for high-quality mates (Stewart-Williams & Thomas, 2013). In our own
species, intrasexual competition among women can take the form of competitor
derogation (Fisher et al., 2003; Keys & Bhogal, 2016), malicious gossip about
a rival’s promiscuity (Buss et al., 1990; Laidler & Hunt, 2001), and aggres-
sion (Vaillancourt & Sharma, 2011). Consequently, women should demonstrate
prejudice towards sexually-accessible women (prediction 1b). Previous research
has found that women perceive rivals as more likely to poach a potential mate
(Fink et al., 2014) or sabotage their sexual strategies by providing deliberately
misleading romantic advice (Fisher & Cox, 2011; Russell et al., 2017). Given
this, we predict that women will be less trusting of rivals who signal sexual-
accessibility (prediction 2b). Finally, we predict that women will regulate their
competitors’ sexual behaviour by inflicting costly punishment on those signalling
sexual accessibility (prediction 3b).2
To test our predictions, we conducted three experiments based on three stan-
dard economic games. In all games, although the participants were told that
they were playing the opponent in real time, they were playing against a com-
puterised opponent, who was either wearing a provocative or conservative outfit.
In study 1, we recruited 400 participants to interact in the Dictator Game (DG).
Unknown to the participant, all individuals were assigned to the role of Dicta-
tor. In study 2, 314 participants chose a financial sum to invest in a sexually-
accessible or -restrictive woman. In study 3, 318 participants were assigned the
role of ‘Responder’ in an Ultimatum Game (UG), choosing whether to accept
(co¨operate) or reject (inflict costly punishment on their game partner). All three
experiments used a 2 (male vs. female participant) x 2 (sexually-accessible vs.
sexually-restricted partner) between-subjects design, with four conditions: (a)
male participant paired with accessible woman; (b) female participant paired
with accessible woman; (c) male participant paired with restrictive woman, and;
(d) female participant paired with restrictive woman.
2. Methods and Materials
2.1. Stimuli production
We conducted a pilot study to develop and validate photographic stimuli
that signalled whether a confederate was either sexually accessible or sexually
restrictive. Participants rated six photographs for promiscuity, sociosexuality,
and attractiveness. Three female models were recruited to produce experimental
stimuli. For the sexually-accessible condition, all women wore bold, red outfits
(Prokop & Pazda, 2016; Keys & Bhogal, 2016), copious make-up (Coutinho
et al., 2007), tight-fitting clothes (Goetz et al., 2016), and - in one photograph -
bore a tattoo (Swami & Furnham, 2007). In the sexually-restrictive condition,
women wore neutral colours, natural make-up, did not have a visible tattoo,
2The argument that moral judgements are best described in terms of strategic interests,
and not from abstract moral ideology, is supported by work exploring the evolution of morality
(Weeden et al., 2016; Weeden & Kurzban, 2013; Kurzban et al., 2010; Weeden et al., 2008).
and wore loose clothing.3To avoid issues surrounding intrasexual competition
among female participants (Vaillancourt & Sharma, 2011) or attraction effects
among male participants (Miller et al., 2007; Solnick & Schweitzer, 1999) we
sought to ensure that women in the sexually-accessible and sexually-restrictive
conditions were matched for attractiveness. Finally, to control for racial preju-
dice (Stanley et al., 2011) we recruited models from three ethnic backgrounds:
British-Caribbean, British-Caucasian, and British-Lebanese.
To enhance the believability of the cover story, all photographs resembled
an informal, online profile picture. Photographs were taken in a kitchen en-
vironment that matched those found in a University’s halls of residence or a
bedsit. Photographs were taken using an iPhone 6S camera that was mounted
on 100.4cm tripod stand. For each photograph, the model was instructed to
stand on a marked spot that was 250cm from the camera. This distance al-
lowed for a full body shot of the model.
Thirty-one participants (men = 23; women = 8) were recruited in an online
study using Prolific Academic. Each participant viewed all six photographs.
That is, participants saw each of the three models twice: once in the sexually-
accessible context, and again in the sexually-restricted context. Presentation of
all photographs was counterbalanced.
For each photograph, participants were asked to rate the following question
on a Likert-scale from 1 (not at all) to 7 (extremely): “How promiscuous do you
think this woman is? Promiscuous means that a person engages in frequent,
non-committed sexual activity”. Photographs were also rated from 1 to 7 for
attractiveness (“How attractive is this woman?”). Finally, we administered
an adapted version of the revised Sociosexual Orientation Inventory (SOI-R)
questionnaire (Penke & Asendorpf, 2008). Items were changed from a first-
person perspective (e.g., “With how many different partners have you had sex
within the past 12 months?”) to a third-person perspective (“With how many
different partners do you think this woman has had sex within the past 12
months?”). The modified SOI-R questionnaire is outlined in the supplementary
materials. The to-be-rated photographic stimuli remained present on the screen
throughout testing.
Overall, participants reported that the models in the sexually-accessible con-
text had a higher SOI-R score, F(1,29) = 33.56, p=.002, η2
G=.29. When
explicitly asked to rate the models’ level of promiscuity, scores were greater
in the sexually-accessible context, F(1,29) = 18.14, p < .001, η2
But participants’ ratings of attractiveness were matched in both conditions,
F(1,29) = 0.00, p=.95, η2
G=.001. For all dependent variables sex and the
Sex x Context interaction were not significant (all Fs<1, ps> .30), indi-
cating that both sexes perceived the sexually-accessible and sexually-restrictive
photographs in a comparable manner. For all measures the Model x Context
interaction was not significant (all Fs<1.68, ps> .19), suggesting that the
effect of provocative clothing was consistent across each model.
3For photographic stimuli, please contact the corresponding author.
2.2. Experimental set-up
For each experiment participants were told that they were taking part in
an “Economic Decision-Making Game”. They were asked to log in at a specific
time, as they were to play an online opponent in real time. But rather than
competing against a human opponent, participants were unknowingly interact-
ing with computerised responses. Participants were told: “You are now being
matched with a partner, who could be located anywhere in the world. This
could take 2-5 minutes”. The instructions stated that, if a match could not be
made within five minutes, the study would be terminated and the participant
would receive their participation fee. In fact, the waiting time was standard-
ised at 30 seconds for all participants. During this time, a loading wheel was
presented and participants were asked to wait while a partner was identified.
Participants were required to pass a comprehension task before proceeding to
the task, to ensure that they understood the rules of the economic game. This
task was repeated until they successfully completed the comprehension task.
Next, participants chose an online screen-name and were given the opportunity
to upload a profile picture of themselves. Participants then viewed a ‘profile
picture’ of their opponent, whose screen-name was ‘Emily’. The pre-coded pic-
ture was randomly selected from the six photographs outlined in section 2.1,
and indicated that their opponent was sexually-accessible or sexually-restrictive
(counterbalanced between participants).
Participants then continued onto one of the three economic games that are
outlined below. Finally, to ensure that answers were incentive-compatible, par-
ticipants were told that they would be entered into a prize draw to earn the
sums determined by the game. In fact, a randomly selected participant received
the full £20 sum, independent of their actions during the game.
3. Study 1
3.1. Introduction
The aim of study 1 was to test whether men and women were less altruistic
towards sexually-accessible, relative to sexually-restrictive, women. To test this,
we presented participants with a DG. In DGs, two players are randomly paired
and assigned the roles of Dictator and Receiver. The Dictator is initially given
a sum of money (σ), but the Receiver is given nothing. Next, the Dictator can
choose to give a share (δ) of her portion to the Receiver, such that 0 δσ.
This results in:
Dictator’s payoff = σδ
Receiver’s payoff = δ(1)
From an economic perspective, the Dictator should always give the sum
δ= 0, so as to maximise her payoff. But empirical evidence suggests that
the majority of Dictators choose to offer the Recipient a non-zero sum (Edele
et al., 2013). This sum is determined by the Dictator’s liking of their partner
(Wu et al., 2011; Bra˜nas-Garza et al., 2011; Whitt & Wilson, 2007). As such,
participants who judge their partner favourably should give a higher sum than
to those they dislike.
The aim of study 1 was to establish whether men and women offer smaller
monetary sums to sexually-accessible women. In an online study, participants
engaged in a DG with a female player. Unknown to participants, they were
matched with a computerised player whose responses were pre-coded. The
computerised player had a profile picture to signal that she was either sexually-
accessible or sexually-restrictive. We predicted that both men and women would
offer lower sums to women in the sexually-accessible outfit (Predictions 1a and
3.2. Method
3.2.1. Participants
Based on effect sizes observed in the pilot study (η2
p=.02), an a priori
power analysis indicated that a sample of 401 participants was needed to detect
a significant Sex x Context interaction with sufficient power, 1 β=.9, α =
.05 (easypower; McGarvey, 2015). Four hundred British participants (men =
203; women = 197) were recruited in a Prolific Academic study. Participants
were diverse with respect to age, (1844; M= 30.45; SD = 6.94), relationship
status (single = 29.4%, in a relationship = 23.5%, married / engaged = 44.4%,
divorced or widowed = 2.7%), and education (high school or less = 9.3%, college
or higher education = 75.8%, masters or professional degree = 15.0%). Most
participants were heterosexual (90.9%), homosexual (4.2%), or bisexual (3.2%);
1.7% answered “other” or “prefer not to say”. All participants were financially
reimbursed for their time.
3.2.2. Design
In a between-subjects design, Participant Sex (male, female) and Context
(sexually-accessible, sexually-restrictive) were the independent variables. The
dependent variable was the sum offered to the partner.
3.2.3. Procedure
Following the experimental set-up (section 2.2), participants received in-
structions about the DG. Participants were told that they would be randomly
assigned to the role of Giver (i.e., Dictator) or Receiver.4However, all partici-
pants were assigned to the Giver role. The participant was given a sum of £20
and asked to decide how much (if anything) he or she would like to share with
the Receiver.
4The label Giver was favoured over Dictator, as a means of avoiding loaded language that
might prime authoritarian behaviour (Gomes & McCullough, 2015; Shariff & Norenzayan,
Figure 1: Mean offer in the Dictator Game (DG) as a function of Context and Participant
Sex. Note. Error bars denote standard error.
3.3. Results
Do sexually-accessible women receive a smaller payout in a Dictator Game?
To analyse the effect of female promiscuity on participants’ DG offers, we per-
formed a 2 (context) x 2 (sex) factorial ANOVA.
Figure 1 plots the sum given to Recipients as a function of context (sexually-
accessible, sexually-restrictive) and participant sex. The main effect of context
was significant, F(1,396) = 9.01, p=.003, η2
p=.02, BF01 = 0.12, providing
“substantial evidence” that sexually-accessible women receive lower offers than
sexually-restrictive women (cf. Wagenmakers et al., 2011). Specifically, the mean
offer fell from £8.44 95% CIs [7.79, 9.08] in the sexually-restrictive condition,
to £7.09 95% CIs [6.48, 7.69] in the sexually-accessible condition.
However, neither the main effect of participant sex, F(1,396) = 0.90, p=
.344, η2
p< .01, BF01 = 7.88, nor the interaction term, F(1,396) = 0.52, p=
.470, η2
p< .01, BF01 = 3.66 reached significance. Given that 3 <BF01 <10
provides “substantial evidence” for the null prediction (Wagenmakers et al.,
2011), we concluded that participant sex does not moderate offers made to
(sexually-accessible) opponents in the DG.
One possibility is that the observed findings of lower altruism towards sexually-
accessible women is moderated by relationship status. That is, women in rela-
tionships might be more hostile than single women, as they stand to lose more
(i.e., a romantic partner) to a sexually-accessible woman. We found, however,
that neither participants’ relationship status (Fs<1.93, ps> .12). Addition-
ally, the effect of sexual orientation did not reach significance (Fs<1.08, ps>
3.4. Discussion
In study 1, participants assumed the role of Dictator and chose how much of
their budget - if anything - they’d like to share with a recipient. As predicted,
both men and women offered lower sums when their partner signalled sexual-
accessibility (predictions 1a and 1b). Given the anonymous nature of the game,
participants’ behaviour could not have been driven by perceptions about socially
desirable behaviour. Further, participants were told that this was a ‘one-shot
game’, meaning the Recipient could not deliver punishment. Hence, we can
conclude that the observed effect was caused by prejudicial behaviour towards
women wearing an outfit that signalled sexual-accessibility.
4. Study 2
4.1. Introduction
The purpose of study 2 was to test whether men and women are less trusting
of sexually-accessible, relative to sexually-restrictive, women. To test this we
presented participants with a Trust Game (TG). In this task participants are
paired and each player is randomly assigned the role of Investor or Trustee. The
Investor is initially given a sum of money (σ), but the Trustee is given nothing.
The Investor can choose to invest a share (δ) of her portion with the Trustee,
such that 0 δσ. This results in:
Investor’s sum = σδ
Trustee’s sum = δ(2)
The Experimenter subsequently triples the amount that the Investor gives to
the Trustee, such that the Trustee’s sum is 3×δ. The Trustee then decides how
much - if anything - to return to the Investor. Investing in the Trustee is a high
risk strategy. If the Trustee is honest, the Investor can increase their earnings
by maximising their investment; if the Trustee is dishonest, the Investor could
stand to lose their invested sum. The sum invested is therefore a proxy for
measuring the extent to which an individual trusts their game partner. The
TG is a useful tool when experimenters wish to examine the “give-and-take”
pattern of social relationships (Cronk, 2007). Levels of investing in the TG has
variously predicted investment among resettled (vs. non-resettled) villagers in
Zimbabwe (Barr, 2004), gift-giving obligations among the Maasai community
(Cronk, 2007), and self-reported general trust (Gobin & Freyd, 2014). In the
domain of sexual behaviour, Stirrat & Perrett (2010) found that men higher
in testosterone were more likely to cheat their opponent and received lower
investment sums than men lower in testosterone. In sum, the literature suggests
that one’s trust in an agent’s propensity to ‘play fair’ and adhere to social norms
of reciprocity is captured by one’s willingness to risk a financial sum, in the hope
of fair play, in the TG.
Based on the previous finding that performance in the TG is associated with
real-world trust, we predicted that men and women would be less trusting of
women signalling sexual accessibility (predictions 2a and 2b).
4.2. Methods
4.2.1. Participants
Based on the effect sizes observed in study 1 (η2
p=.02), an a priori power
analysis indicated that a sample of 81 participants per condition would be suffi-
cient to detect a medium-sized Sex x Context interaction with sufficient power,
1β=.8, α =.05 (easyp ower; McGarvey, 2015). Owing to six participants fail-
ing to complete the task, recruitment was marginally lower than our target of 320
participants. One-hundred fifty-eight men and 156 women were recruited in a
Prolific Academic study. Participants were from 25 unique countries and ranged
from 18-73 (M= 31.41, S D = 10.07). Of these, 40% were single, 37% were in a
relationship or engaged, 23% were married, and 1% were divorced. Most partic-
ipants were heterosexual (90.5%). The rest were homosexual (3.8%), bisexual
(2.5%), or selected “other” or “prefer not to say” (1.9%). All participants were
financially reimbursed for their time.
4.2.2. Design
In a between-subjects design, participant sex (male, female) and context
(sexually-accessible, sexually-restrictive) were the independent variables. The
dependent variable was the sum offered to the partner.
4.2.3. Procedure
Following the experimental set-up and exposure to stimuli (section 2.2),
participants were told that they would be randomly assigned to the role of
Investor or Trustee. In fact, all participants were assigned to the role of Investor.
The participant was given a sum of £20 and asked to decide how much (if
anything) he or she would offer to the Trustee.
4.3. Results
Do men and women differ in their trust of sexually-accessible women? A two-
way ANOVA yielded a main effect for condition, F(1,310) = 5.75, p=.017,
BF01 = 0.58, η2
p=.02, indicating that women signalling sexual-accessibility
were endowed with less money in the TG (M= 10.3, SD = 5.78) than those
signalling sexual-restrictiveness (M= 11.8, SD = 5.94; Figure 2). The main
effect of participant sex was not significant, F(1,310) = 0.33, p=.567, BF01 =
6.90, η2
p=.001. The interaction effect was not significant, F(1,310) = 3.66,
p=.057, BF01 = 3.93, η2
As with study 1, we explored the role of participants’ relationship status and
sexual orientation as potential moderators. Neither participants’ relationship
status (Fs<1.42, ps> .22), nor sexual orientation (Fs<0.83, ps> .51),
however, reached significance.
4.4. Discussion
In study 2, participants were assigned the role of Investor and chose how
much, if anything, to invest with a Trustee. Our prediction was confirmed;
participants invested less when their game partner signalled sexual-accessibility
Figure 2: Mean investment in the Trust Game (TG) as a function of Context and Participant
Sex. Note. Error bars denote standard error.
(prediction 2). The design of the task was incentive-compatible, meaning par-
ticipants believed there could be financial repercussions for their actions in
the game. As such, it appears that both sexes believe that sexually-accessible
women are less trustworthy than sexually-restrictive women.
More broadly, the finding that sexually-accessible women are deemed less
trustworthy is consistent with Bourdage et al.’s (2007) finding that Honesty-
Humility negatively correlates with sociosexuality. This association can be un-
derstood when we view Honesty-Humility as one’s propensity to play fair, or
an aversion to cheat or exploit others. Viewed through this lens, the findings
in study 2 are consistent with our view that sexually-accessible women are per-
ceived as more likely to cheat on mates or poach the mates of others.
5. Study 3
5.1. Introduction
Study 3 uses an Ultimatum Game (UG) to test whether women (vs. men)
are more willing to inflict costly punishment on sexually-accessible women. The
UG bears close resemblance to the DG. A pair is allocated a sum of money (σ),
and the Proposer chooses how much - if anything - to offer to the Responder
(δ), resulting in:
Proposer’s share = σδ
Responder’s share = δ(3)
The Responder now has the chance to accept or reject the Proposer’s offer.
If he accepts, the money is split according to equation 3. But if he rejects,
both the Proposer and Receiver receive nothing. Classical economic accounts
argue that the Responder should accept any value of δ > 0, as it increases his net
earnings (Camerer, 2003). Yet previous studies show that Responders will reject
any offer that is deemed unfair (Fehr & Gintis, 2007) and that third-parties will
punish the Proposer when she makes an unfair offer (Fehr et al., 2002; Gintis
et al., 2003). Rejecting an unfair offer can be viewed as costly punishment,
as the Responder is foregoing payment δto ensure that the Proposer receives
The aim of study 3 was to test whether men and women inflict costly punish-
ment when their game partner signals that she is a sexually-accessible women.
We predicted that women, but not men, would inflict costly punishment on
sexually-accessible women (predictions 3a and 3b).
5.2. Method
5.2.1. Participants
Based on the small to medium effect sizes observed in studies 1 and 2, an a
priori chi-squared power analysis indicated that a sample of 320 would be needed
to detect a count-based, Sex x Context interaction with sufficient power, 1β=
.8, α =.05. Three hundred and eighteen participants (men = 132; women =
186) were recruited in an online study. Of these, 200 were recruited using
Prolific Academic. The remaining 118 participants were recruited via email and
social media, as part of an undergraduate dissertation. All participants were
aged 18-75 (M= 41.33; SD = 53.86) and varied in educational attainment
(high school or less = 10.38%, college or higher education = 68.87%, masters
or professional degree = 20.75%). Most participants reported that they were
heterosexual (91.5%), homosexual (2.5%), or bisexual (2.5%); the rest answered
“other” or “prefer not to say” (3.5%).
5.2.2. Design
In a between-subjects design, participant sex (male, female) and partner
(sexually-accessible, sexually-restrictive) were the independent variables. The
dependent variable was the participant’s response to the offer (accept, reject).
5.2.3. Procedure
Following the experimental set-up (section 2.2), participants were allocated
the role of Responder. All participants received an unfair offer of £2 from the
Responder (i.e., 10% of the total sum) and decided whether to accept or reject
the offer.
5.3. Results
Are men or women more likely to inflict costly punishment to sexually-
accessible partners? We used chi-squared tests to predict the frequency of re-
sponses. The main effect of sex was significant, χ2(1, N = 318) = 6.19, p =
.013, BF01 = 0.24, with women significantly more likely than men to reject an
offer. The main effect of condition, however, was not significant, χ2(1, N =
Figure 3: Odds for accept-reject rates in the Ultimatum Game (UG), as a function of Context
and Participant Sex. Note. Error bars standard error. Dashed line reflects the point of
indifference between accept and reject, OR = 1.
318) = 0.00, p =.983, BF01 = 7.11, signalling that sexually-accessible and
sexually-restricted women did not differ in levels of punishment received. To
explore the Sex x Condition interaction, we used the Cochran-Mantel-Haenszel
(CMH) test with continuity correction to predict the frequency of responses.
The CMH test is a variant of the chi-square test and is used for multiple chi-
square tests across multiple groups. In the CMH test, participant sex, condition,
and choice (accept, reject) were our factors. The CMH revealed a significant
interaction, χ2
MH(1) = 6.15 p=.01. The common odds ratio across groups was
not equal to 1, OR = 1.81 95% CIs [1.15, 2.84], indicating that there was a
significant association between participant sex and outcome across conditions
(Figure 3).
5.3.1. Post hoc analysis
A chi-square test of independence was performed to examine the relation-
ship between participant sex and willingness to accept an unfair offer from a
sexually-accessible woman (Table 1). The relation between these variables was
significant, χ2(1, N = 169) = 8.15, p =.004, BF01 = 0.10. Women were
2.46 95% CIs [1.32, 4.65] times more likely than men to reject an offer from a
sexually-accessible woman.
In the sexually-restrictive condition, however, men and women were equally
likely to accept an offer from a sexually-restrictive woman, χ2(1, N = 149) =
0.58 p=.45, BF01 = 3.77 (Figure 3). Women were no more likely than men to
inflict costly punishment on a sexually-restrictive woman, OR = 1.29 95% CIs
[0.67, 2.49].
Table 1: Results from chi-square tests, as a function of Participant Sex and Condition.
Sex Condition Outcome Observed Expected χ2p
Male Accessible Accept 41 35.0 6.0 2.06 .151
Reject 29
Restricted Accept 31 31.0 0.0 0.00 1.00
Reject 31
Female Accessible Accept 36 49.5 13.5 7.36 .007
Reject 63
Restricted Accept 38 43.5 5.5 1.39 .238
Reject 49
5.4. Discussion
In study 3, participants assumed the role of Responder and chose whether
to accept or reject an unfair offer. As predicted, women accepted offers from
sexually-restrictive partners at chance (see 95% CIs, Figure 3), but were more
likely to reject offers made by sexually-accessible women (prediction 3b). But
men did not choose to punish sexually-accessible women (prediction 3a), and
accepted offers at chance.
Taken together, these findings indicate that men are not incentivised to
punish sexually-accessible women, so are not willing to incur a cost to do so.
Women, however, adopt costly punishment, such that they are willing to incur
a£2 fine to ensure that their partner did not receive £18.
6. General Discussion
To date, conflicting models have offered differing accounts for the origins
of women’s sexual suppression. In the present report, however, we found that
both men and women are prejudiced towards sexualised women. Independent of
own sex, participants were less altruistic in sharing a financial endowment when
paired with a sexually-accessible woman (study 1). Prejudice was also observed
in study 2, where participants were less likely to trust a sexually-accessible
woman with a financial investment. In study 3, however, women, but not men,
were willing to inflict costly punishment on sexually-accessible women.
6.1. Sex-Specific Motives for Prejudice
These findings suggest that, although men are less generous towards sexually-
accessible women (study 1), they do not seek to actively punish them (study 3).
Although more research is needed to understand the exact process, this bias
can be viewed as pragmatic: when women offer low paternity certainty, men
should invest low sums to gain sexual access; when paternity certainty is high,
men should be more willing to invest. But it is non-rational to inflict costly
punishment on a woman that he is not romantically involved with, as he is un-
affected by an unknown woman’s sexual behaviour. As such, men’s punishment
behaviour is not affected by a target woman’s sexual-accessibility.5
These findings are difficult to reconcile with male control theories of female
sexual suppression. Proponents of this view have typically argued that men
suppress women as a class, and are motivated to punish all forms of female
sexuality (Travis & White, 2000; Rudman et al., 2013). Our findings, however,
suggest a more nuanced approach is needed. As we have seen, men seem disinter-
ested in suppressing women’s sexual autonomy by means of costly punishment.
Although prejudice undoubtedly exists, the evidence suggests that men’s be-
haviour is more flexible than has been previously assumed by male suppression
Our findings also suggest that women are motivated to punish sexually-
accessible rivals. This conforms with the suggestion that women co¨ordinate to
keep the cost of sex high (Baumeister et al., 2002; Baumeister & Vohs, 2004). To
achieve this, they contend, women must co¨operate by restricting sexual access.
This is undermined if some women lower the cost of sex. For example, if all
women demand marriage as a prerequisite for sex, more men will be willing to
invest early in relationships. But if some women offer access to casual sex, men
can choose either short- or long-term relationships. Consequently, a woman
who offers sexual access, but at a high cost (e.g., after marriage), may find her
bargaining power diminished.
It is interesting to note that there was a main effect of participant sex, such
that women were more likely than men to punish their opponent, independent
of the experimental condition. This might reflect that intrasexual competition is
present even when female participants are paired with a non-sexualised opponent
(Sutter et al., 2009). Alternatively, this might reflect chivalric behaviour among
male participants towards female partners (Eckel & Grossman, 2001).
6.2. Theoretical Implications
Taken together, these findings undermine the view that prejudice towards
sexualised women are solely attributable to either sex. Instead, both sexes
perpetuate and maintain prejudiced evaluations of sexually-accessible women,
but for different reasons. Therefore, we propose a theory of female sexuality
that acknowledges that men and women have different routes to reproductive
success, and that both men and women can attempt to control a woman’s
sexuality simultaneously. This complements previous evidence that men and
women are motivated to objectify sexualised women via different mechanisms
(Vaes et al., 2011).
A key implication of these findings is the need to recognise the foundational
role of the local ecology and circumstances for whether female control or male
control is more dominant or whether they are equivalent for the actual shaping
of a woman’s sexual behaviour at a given point in time. This is not a new
5The finding that men’s behaviour is not moderated by his relationship status suggests
that men’s aversion to female promiscuity is not limited to his mate: instead, males tended
to show a generalised aversion to overt sexuality in women.
observation, and speaks to a wider finding that ecological factors shape sexual
suppression (Price et al., 2014; Baumeister & Mendoza, 2011; Schacht & Bell,
2016). Blake et al. (2018b,a) recently highlighted how aspects of the local mating
ecology can shape both men and women’s endorsement of female sexual sup-
pression. In support of female-driven suppression, there is recent evidence that
women are more likely to sexually-objectify themselves under ecological con-
ditions of income inequality (although not gender inequality; see Blake et al.,
2018a). This could indicate that economic volatility induces women to use sex-
ualisation as a form of intrasexual competition.
More broadly, our results find that sexual suppression cannot be described as
being either male- or female-driven, and that more nuanced models are needed
to understand society’s propensity to suppress female sexuality. The sex dif-
ference in the derogation of a sexually-accessible women highlights the value of
an evolutionary framework, which seeks to understand variation between male
and female motives. If society is to understand and overcome the sexual double
standard, interventionists should seek to uncover how men and women vary in
their attitudes towards sexualised women.
6.3. Limitations and Future Research
This report has several limitations. First, Studies 1 and 2 recruited partic-
ipants exclusively from the UK. The UK is relatively low in the global gender
gap index (ranked 20 out of 144 countries) (World Economic Forum, 2016), of-
fers statutory maternity and paternity pay, plus welfare support that does not
discriminate between single and married mothers. As such, women’s economic
reliance on men is relatively low in the UK. This might result in weaker prej-
udice among women. Men’s prejudice might also be weaker in the UK. That
is, if women are increasingly independent, it may be less costly to mate and
reproduce. Yet despite this, we still observed that men and women were preju-
diced towards sexually-accessible women. This limitation could be corrected by
collecting data from less gender-equal societies.
A second limitation was the reliance on photographic stimuli, rather than
face-to-face interactions. Photographs were chosen because they allowed for
stimuli validation, and standardised interactions across participants. But it’s
unclear whether participants’ judgements of brief photographic stimuli are com-
parable with their perceptions of physically meeting a woman dressed in provoca-
tive clothing. Related to this is the role of context. Had a confederate worn
the outfits presented in the lab, she would likely receive a different reaction
than if she had been in a bar. Indeed, some readers might believe that the
photographs displayed are not too dissimilar from many young women’s pro-
file pictures on Facebook or Instagram. As such, participants in the present
report may not have judged their partners as harshly as, say, in a real-world
context. Nonetheless, despite this limitation, we observed prejudice towards the
sexually-accessible (vs. sexually-restrictive) stimuli.
In the present report, we provided sex-specific reasons for participants be-
ing less trusting of sexually-accessible women. There are, however, alternative
explanations for this finding. It is possible that women high in sociosexuality
are viewed as less trustworthy in all exchange relationships. Related to this is
the finding that sociosexuality is associated with honesty-humility (Bourdage
et al., 2007). de Vries and colleagues similarly argue that those low in honesty-
humility are more likely to seek out opportunities to access both sex and money
(de Vries et al., 2016). Given that those high in sociosexuality are reported as
being more arrogant and phoney (Bourdage et al., 2007), we might see that sex-
ualised women are viewed as less trustworthy exchange partners, independent
of sexual fidelity. Future research is needed to uncover whether the observed
findings are associated with issues of paternity certainty or fear of exploitation
in exchange relationships.
It is also worth noting that our methodology provides an indirect test of prej-
udice, rather than a direct measurement of participants’ motivations to suppress
female sexuality. Economic games benefit from providing a quantifiable mea-
sure of concepts like altruism, trust, and costly punishment. What’s more, these
methods provide participants with a financial incentive to ‘tell the truth’, which
has contributed to their popularity among evolutionary psychologists (Fehr &
Fischbacher, 2004; Eisenbruch et al., 2016). Nonetheless, provide a caveat that
economic games provide an indirect observation of participants’ hidden strate-
gies and underlying prejudices.
There is some evidence that sexual suppression is moderated via contextual
factors, such as local levels of gender equality (Baumeister & Mendoza, 2011)
and women’s economic reliance on men (Price et al., 2014; Stanik & Ellsworth,
2010). In a recent paper, Blake et al. (2018b) found plasticity in sexual sup-
pression, such that support of the Islamic veil is higher among men, as well as
women with a higher number of sons relative to daughters. Taken together,
these findings indicate that, in certain situations, female sexual suppression can
be strategically advantageous for both men and women. Future work should
consider additional moderating factors, such as women’s economic dependence
on men, sex ratio (that is, skewed supply and demand), and ecological factors
that influence moral norms (e.g. Weeden & Kurzban, 2013; Fincher & Thorn-
hill, 2012; Rand et al., 2013). Nonetheless, we should be cautious of attempting
to infer cognitive motivations for participants’ observed behaviour. Further re-
search is needed to develop our understanding of the specific mechanisms that
promote female sexual suppression.
6.4. Conclusions
The present report develops a novel theory to understand what motivates
individuals to suppress female sexuality. We show that sex-specific theories
provide a better fit for the data than both male control theory and female
control theory. By providing a more coherent theory for female suppression,
society can begin to address harmful practices, such as slut-shaming, female
genital cutting, and honour killings.
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... In the capital. However, this hypothesis is actually contradicted by empirical data (Muggleton et al. 2018), and, I would further add, presents us with a reinforcement of what Foucault (1977) called self-surveillance, in this case women having to understand their own sexuality and sexual needs through the disciplinarian lens of having to be sexually desirable to men and having to provide sexual gratification for men. The pursuit of this so-called erotic capital can be understood as one of the forms that the practices of this self-surveillance can take. ...
... It is presented as something that can empower women, but at the same time, evidence from game theory (methodology based on the trust game) shows us that both men and women are less trusting of women who are perceived as sexually accessible. Further to the point, we find women who inflicted costly punishment on a sexually accessible woman (methodology based on the Ultimatum Game) (Muggleton et al. 2018). The illusion of power through sexuality is frail not only because it provides women with an untrustworthy aura, but also because it is susceptible to race and class, and of course, age (Collins 2004;England and McClintock 2009;Fahs 2011;Farrer 2010;Lovejoy 2001). ...
The present article will tackle the concept of internalized misogyny by trying to review existing theories and to extract a number of common threads of these theories in order to find some useful insights on the internal mechanisms that make up internalized misogyny, and on how internalized misogyny should be approached by practical action. I start the discussion by exploring oppression and the internalization of oppression, and afterwards move to internalized misogyny itself, charting its place within gender dynamics in general, as well as its impact on gender roles, on women’s actions towards other women, and their actions towards themselves. Using data from the World Value Survey (2017–2020), I will explore how internalized misogyny is reflected in specific sexist attitudes, how it relates to male misogyny, and which aspects of gender relations seem to come to the fore when dealing with internalized sexism. This will allow us to confront and complement the theories on internalized sexism with data on attitudes and beliefs, and develop a clearer picture of the phenomenon, as well as drawing some brief conclusions regarding practical action to mitigate gender oppression.
... Women that are assumed to have more casual sex are subject to greater dehumanizing perceptions (Kellie et al., 2019) which associate with more negative or harmful treatment. For example, research shows that people are more willing to withhold resources from, gossip about, and act aggressively towards women they think are likely to have casual sex (Arnocky et al., 2019;Blake et al., 2016;Muggleton et al., 2019;Reynolds et al., 2018). Furthermore, when institutions and policies aim to restrict others' sexual freedoms, men and women who live sexually-exclusive, marriage-centered lifestyles are more likely to support these policies (Pazhoohi et al., 2017;Weeden et al., 2008;Weeden & Kurzban, 2013, 2014, especially when they target groups assumed to be more promiscuous (Pinsof & Haselton, 2016. ...
... Theories of why female sexuality is suppressed frequently divide into categories in which women's sexuality is controlled almost exclusively by one sex or the other (for a discussion see Blake et al., 2018;Muggleton et al., 2019;Rudman et al., 2013). Indeed, we find that men dehumanize women more strongly than women do overall, providing some support for predictions grounded in patriarchal or paternity certainty theories that predict men are more negative towards female sexuality in general (Smuts, 1995;Travis & White, 2000; also see Rudman et al., 2013). ...
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Women are more likely than men to be sexualized, objectified and dehumanized. Female sex workers experience stigma and violence associated with these judgements at far higher rates than other women. Here, we use a pre-registered experimental design to consider which aspects of sex work – the level of sexual activity, earned income, or perceived autonomy of the work – drive dehumanization. A first group of participants (N = 217) rated 80 vignettes of women varying by full-time employment, hobbies and interests on humanness. These ratings were subtracted from the ratings of a second group of participants (N = 774) who rated these same vignettes which additionally described a part-time job, hobby or activity that varied in sexual activity, income earned and autonomy over one’s actions. We find that women and especially men dehumanize women they believe are engaging in penetrative sex. We also find that women’s autonomy of, but not their income from, their sexual activity increases dehumanization. Our findings suggest that opposition to women’s ability to pursue casual sex and generalizations about the exploitative conditions of sex work may drive the harshest negative prejudice towards female sex workers and, by similar mechanisms, women’s sexuality in general.
... Sexually experienced female adolescents are often less accepted by their peers, whereas sexually experienced male adolescents experience heightened peer acceptance (Kreager & Staff, 2009). In economic games, both men and women distrust sexually available women, but only women willingly incur costs to punish them (Muggleton, Tarran, & Fincher, 2018). Qualitative interviews with sexually open women support this pattern; they report that although their relationships with men are often comfortable, other women respond to them with judgment, accusations, bullying, and rejection (Blumberg, 2003;Simmons, 2002;Tanenbaum, 1999). ...
... If some women are successful in leveraging casual sex to form long-term relationships with already-partnered men, this threat may explain why women feel motivated to avoid (Bleske & Shackelford, 2001) and punish sexually open women (Muggleton et al., 2018). Moreover, the costs of losing a resource provisioning partner may also contribute to women's stronger opposition to infidelity (Dugan, 2015;Treas & Giesen, 2000) and prostitution (Digidiki & Baka, 2017) than men's. ...
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Investigations of women’s same-sex relationships present a paradoxical pattern, with women generally disliking competition, yet also exhibiting signs of intrasexual rivalry. The current article leverages the historical challenges faced by female ancestors to understand modern women’s same-sex relationships. Across history, women were largely denied independent access to resources, often depending on male partners’ provisioning to support themselves and their children. Same-sex peers thus became women’s primary romantic rivals in competing to attract and retain relationships with the limited partners able and willing to invest. Modern women show signs of this competition, disliking and aggressing against those who threaten their romantic prospects, targeting especially physically attractive and sexually uninhibited peers. However, women also rely on one another for aid, information, and support. As most social groups were patrilocal across history, upon marriage, women left their families to reside with their husbands. Female ancestors likely used reciprocal altruism or mutualism to facilitate cooperative relationships with nearby unrelated women. To sustain these mutually beneficial cooperative exchange relationships, women may avoid competitive and status-striving peers, instead preferring kind, humble, and loyal allies. Ancestral women who managed to simultaneously compete for romantic partners while forming cooperative female friendships would have been especially successful. Women may therefore have developed strategies to achieve both competitive and cooperative goals, such as guising their intrasexual competition as prosociality or vulnerability. These historical challenges make sense of the seemingly paradoxical pattern of female aversion to competition, relational aggression, and valuation of loyal friends, offering insight into possible opportunities for intervention.
... A promiscuous woman is perceived as a threat to other women because she can reduce the price of sex (Baumeister & Vohs, 2004). Consequently, women use peer pressure to influence other women to be sexually restrained; they engage in such behaviors as derogation and gossip, and they even show motivation to punish women who are sexually accessible (Muggleton et al., 2019;Reynolds et al., 2018;Vaillancourt & Sharma, 2011). ...
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Although norms of premarital sex vary cross-culturally, the sexuality of adolescent girls has been consistently more restricted than that of adolescent boys. Three major theories that attempt to explain restrictions on female premarital sex (FPS) concern male, female, and parental control. These competing theories have not been tested against each other cross-culturally. In this study, we do this using a sample of 128 nonindustrial societies and socioecological predictors capturing extramarital sex, paternal care, female status, sex ratio, parental control over a daughter’s mate choice, residence, and marriage transactions, while also controlling for phylogenetic non-independence across societies. We found that multiple parties benefit from restrictions on FPS. Specifically, FPS is more restricted in societies intolerant of extramarital sex and where men transfer property to their children (male control), as well as where marriages are arranged by parents (parental control). Both paternity uncertainty (partitioned among marital fidelity and paternal investment) and parent–offspring conflict (prompting parents to control their daughter’s sexuality) were identified as possible mechanisms of FPS restrictions. The evidence for female control is ambiguous, mainly because it can be equally well interpreted as both male control and parental control, and because fathers, rather than mothers, are often the primary decision makers about a daughter’s mate choice. Our results also emphasize the importance of social roles, rather than stereotyped sex roles, as a more useful approach to understanding the evolution of FPS restrictions.
... Competitions are ubiquitous. Although women are stereotypically considered to be low in competitiveness (e.g., Wood & Eagly, 2012) and a lot of research on women's competitiveness has focused on women's intrasexual competition over men (e.g., Muggleton et al., 2019;Wang et al., 2021), women compete for valuable social resources in modern society. According to the OECD (2020) and the ILO (2020), 66.81% of working-age women in the United States and 47.66% of women aged 15 and over worldwide are competing in the job market. ...
Competitions are ubiquitous, and their psychological consequences for women have not received sufficient attention. For this research, we tested whether competition, in either work settings or a broader form of competition for resources, would interact with the sex is power belief to result in self-objectification among women. This prediction was confirmed by a series of studies (N = 1,416), including correlational studies, a quasi-experiment, and fully controlled experiments, with samples including company employees, MBA students with work experience, college students currently competing in a job market, and Mechanical Turkers. Competition (or a sense of competition) as a feature of the working environment (Study 1), a real state in life (Study 2), or a temporarily activated state (Studies 3–5) resulted in self-objectification among women who believe sex is power (Study 1) or who enter such a mindset (Studies 2–5). This effect further impaired the pursuit of personal growth (Studies 4 and 5). We discuss the implications of these findings.
... Still, it should be stated that, if combined, whore/slut would be the most common insult that participants listed for women, used even more frequently than appearance derogation. Both men and women tend to be prejudiced toward sexually accessible, promiscuous women (Muggleton et al., 2019); but their motives for doing so are arguably informed by unconscious, evolved, sex-specific reasons. Due to paternal certainty concerns, men place great importance on sexual chastity and fidelity (Trivers, 1972). ...
... The idea that women use social violence at higher rates than men is a familiar aspect of society and can be seen in good detail during the study of the phenomenon of 'Slut Shaming' (Muggleton, Tarran & Fincher, 2019). The researchers of this study state that women may have a natural disposition to this type of social punishment action, which the researchers identify as being ingrained in evolutionary anthropology. ...
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For around 50 years the feminist movement has dominated the discourse surrounding DV/IPV. Arguably, this approach has achieved very little. Is it time to reassess our perceptions in an effort to finally reduce numbers of victims?
Does wearing makeup benefit women by changing how they perceive themselves, and are the perceptions that others make of makeup wearers positive, or negative? In two pre‐registered experiments, we investigated the effects of makeup on women's self‐perceived traits, and others’ objectifying perceptions of them. In Experiment 1, 229 women imagined one of four scenarios (e.g., a romantic date). Half applied makeup for that scenario before rating their self‐perceived agency, humanness, romantic competitiveness towards other women and reactions to partner jealousy. Results showed little evidence that applying makeup affected women's self‐perceived traits. In Experiment 2, 844 participants rated images of women's faces from Experiment 1 on their mental capacity and moral status. Women wearing more makeup were attributed less mental capacity and moral status, with attributions mediated by perceptions that heavier makeup‐wearers have more sex and are more physically attractive. Findings suggest that although women experience cultural pressure to wear makeup, negative stereotypes of makeup‐wearers may lead to detrimental perceptions of women. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved
The notion of ‘rape myths’ (a complex set of implicit or explicit prejudicial, stereotyped, and false beliefs about rape victims, rape perpetrators, and the crime of rape more generally) is well-discussed within the sex offending literature, and is also a concept which has garnered much understanding within the general population. In this chapter we set out how this framework might help us to predict both judgements of and a proclivity towards engaging in image-based sexual abuse offending. Specifically, we critique the notion of rape culture, as it is applied to the image-based sexual abuse context, and outline the process of developing and validating a new measure of beliefs about revenge pornography in the hope of stimulating further debate and research.
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This chapter outlines how Robert Trivers’ Parental Investment Theory (PIT) has progressed from its original publication in Sexual Selection and the Descent of Man through its expansive application to research in the evolutionary psychological sciences. I begin with an abridged redux of the theory’s claims and predictions as they appeared within the original 1972 publication. After, I review groundbreaking research inspired by PIT and evaluate how well the theory has been empirically supported in the past 50 or so years. I then note several major theoretical advancements and address conflicts with other prominent theories of mating and parenting behavior. The chapter closes with several future directions that may help PIT remain a robust and relevant framework for studying human psychology within an increasingly technologically and socially complex world.
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Publicly displayed, sexualized depictions of women have proliferated, enabled by new communication technologies, including the internet and mobile devices. These depictions are often claimed to be outcomes of a culture of gender inequality and female oppression, but, paradoxically, recent rises in sexualization are most notable in societies that have made strong progress toward gender parity. Few empirical tests of the relation between gender inequality and sexualization exist, and there are even fewer tests of alternative hypotheses. We examined aggregate patterns in 68,562 sexualized self-portrait photographs ("sexy selfies") shared publicly on Twitter and Instagram and their association with city-, county-, and cross-national indicators of gender inequality. We then investigated the association between sexy-selfie prevalence and income inequality, positing that sexualization-a marker of high female competition-is greater in environments in which incomes are unequal and people are preoccupied with relative social standing. Among 5,567 US cities and 1,622 US counties, areas with relatively more sexy selfies were more economically unequal but not more gender oppressive. A complementary pattern emerged cross-nationally (113 nations): Income inequality positively covaried with sexy-selfie prevalence, particularly within more developed nations. To externally validate our findings, we investigated and confirmed that economically unequal (but not gender-oppressive) areas in the United States also had greater aggregate sales in goods and services related to female physical appearance enhancement (beauty salons and women's clothing). Here, we provide an empirical understanding of what female sexualization reflects in societies and why it proliferates.
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Whether it is men or women who suppress female sexuality has important implications for understanding gendered relations, ultimately providing insight into one widespread cause of female disadvantage. The question of which sex suppresses female sexuality more avidly, however, neglects that our interests are never unambiguously masculine or feminine; each of us has a combination of male and female kin which alters how much of our future fitness derive from each sex. Here we exploit a nationally representative sample of 600 Tunisians to test whether support for Islamic veiling—a proxy for female sexual suppression—is more common amongst one sex than the other, and is affected by the relative sex of one's offspring (i.e., the number of sons relative to daughters). We find that men are more supportive of Islamic veiling than women, but women with more sons are more supportive of veiling and more likely to wear veils than women with fewer sons. All effects were robust to the inclusion of religiosity, which was weaker amongst men and unrelated to the number of sons a woman had. The number of daughters affected neither religiosity nor support for veiling, but did increase women's likelihood of wearing contemporary, fashionable Tunisian veils compared with no head covering. We further found that men were more religious if they had more sons. Overall, these findings highlight that far from being the fixed strategy of one sex or the other, female sexual suppression manifests facultatively to promote one's reproductive interests directly or indirectly by creating conditions beneficial to one's descendent kin. These results show that both men and women can suppress female sexuality, although the function in either case appears more closely aligned with male rather than female interests.
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This study aimed to investigate indirect aggression between females from an evolutionary perspective, considering indirect aggression as a mechanism of intra-sexual competition. Previous research suggests that females who are dressed provocatively, or appear ‘sexually available’, are more likely to be victims of indirect aggression from other females. Investigating this notion via an empirical measure and a word-selection task, this study involved a female confederate posing as a participant, who was dressed provocatively in one condition and conservatively in the other. Sixty-five females completed an intra-sexual competition scale and a word selection task in which they were able to select complimentary or derogatory phrases to describe the confederate. Making derogative comments is a common form of indirect aggression; therefore, those who selected derogatory phrases could be considered to be exhibiting indirect aggression. Consistent with our hypotheses, females in the provocative condition obtained significantly higher intra-sexual competition scores, selected more derogatory words, and less complimentary words than those in the conservative condition, indicating that females dressed provocatively are indirectly aggressed against to a greater extent than those that are not. This paper adds further support to the notion that indirect aggression is used by females as a method of intra-sexual competition, particularly towards provocatively dressed females.
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The evolution of monogamy and paternal care in humans is often argued to have resulted from the needs of our expensive offspring. Recent research challenges this claim, however, contending that promiscuous male competitors and the risk of cuckoldry limit the scope for the evolution of male investment. So how did monogamy first evolve? Links between mating strategies and partner availability may offer resolution. While studies of sex roles commonly assume that optimal mating rates for males are higher, fitness payoffs to monogamy and the maintenance of a single partner can be greater when partners are rare. Thus, partner availability is increasingly recognized as a key variable structuring mating behavior. To apply these recent insights to human evolution, we model three male strategies – multiple mating, mate guarding and paternal care – in response to partner availability. Under assumed ancestral human conditions, we find that male mate guarding, rather than paternal care, drives the evolution of monogamy, as it secures a partner and ensures paternity certainty in the face of more promiscuous competitors. Accordingly, we argue that while paternal investment may be common across human societies, current patterns should not be confused with the reason pairing first evolved.
Game theory, the formalized study of strategy, began in the 1940s by asking how emotionless geniuses should play games, but ignored until recently how average people with emotions and limited foresight actually play games. This book marks the first substantial and authoritative effort to close this gap. Colin Camerer, one of the field's leading figures, uses psychological principles and hundreds of experiments to develop mathematical theories of reciprocity, limited strategizing, and learning, which help predict what real people and companies do in strategic situations. Unifying a wealth of information from ongoing studies in strategic behavior, he takes the experimental science of behavioral economics a major step forward. He does so in lucid, friendly prose. Behavioral game theory has three ingredients that come clearly into focus in this book: mathematical theories of how moral obligation and vengeance affect the way people bargain and trust each other; a theory of how limits in the brain constrain the number of steps of "I think he thinks . . ." reasoning people naturally do; and a theory of how people learn from experience to make better strategic decisions. Strategic interactions that can be explained by behavioral game theory include bargaining, games of bluffing as in sports and poker, strikes, how conventions help coordinate a joint activity, price competition and patent races, and building up reputations for trustworthiness or ruthlessness in business or life.
Male jealousy is an adaptive interpersonal process that functions to maintain relationships by reducing the likelihood of partner sexual infidelity. Ancestral men would have been most reproductively successful to the extent that they responded to signs of low partner commitment with increased jealousy and mate guarding. The current research showed that, indeed, newlywed husbands who perceived relatively low commitment in their new wives displayed relatively high levels of mate guarding. However, this relationship was moderated by wives’ use of hormonal contraceptives (HCs). HCs can unconsciously reduce women’s sexual signaling behaviors and, therefore, may eliminate the extra-pair sexual signaling likely to promote male mate guarding. Consistent with predictions, among husbands with wives not using HCs, relatively low levels of perceived partner commitment were associated with relatively high levels of husbands’ mate guarding. Among husbands with wives using HCs, in contrast, husbands’ perceived partner commitment was unassociated with husbands’ mate guarding. This finding joins others in suggesting that the use of HCs, often used in the context of long-term committed relationships, can unknowingly interrupt evolved relationship processes.