Cover: Sexual Coercion in Primates and Humans: An Evolutionary Perspective on Male Aggression against Females, from Harvard University PressCover: Sexual Coercion in Primates and Humans in HARDCOVER

Sexual Coercion in Primates and Humans

An Evolutionary Perspective on Male Aggression against Females

Add to Cart

Product Details


$68.00 • £53.95 • €61.00

ISBN 9780674033245

Publication: June 2009


504 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

24 halftones, 56 line illustrations, 20 tables


The science that allows us to understand sexual coercion by males is drawn directly from Darwin’s own work on sexual selection. There is, however, another layer here, because of course one cannot talk about the evolution of sexual aggression in male primates without pondering the social consequences of the same behavior in our own species. Are domestic violence and sexual assault simply human homologues of the same conduct seen in chimpanzees and baboons? Many social scientists bristle at this suggestion, with its invocation of biological determinism. This volume’s authors, many of them female researchers, do an excellent job of sensitively exploring the boundary between phenotype and environment that is the stuff of which human behavior is made… The editors of this volume deserve high praise for having avoided the weaknesses to which such collections are prone—the book is uniform in tone, and the papers are all of high quality. There are no polemical rantings here, nor are the contributors concerned with political correctness; the empirical evidence is what matters to them, and their analysis of it is perceptive and nuanced… Sexual Coercion in Primates and Humans is an important work and will be a valuable addition to the bookshelves of specialists and nonspecialists alike.—Craig Stanford, American Scientist

This book makes an important contribution to the fields of primatology, behavioral ecology, evolutionary psychology, and potentially even cultural anthropology… Its strength lies in the many chapters presenting findings from studies on a wide range of primate species, including orangutans, mountain gorillas, baboons, spider monkeys, and chimpanzees. What makes these chapters particularly valuable is that nearly all of them provide a superb discussion of the literature on other species, from dolphins to invertebrates, needed to situate the findings of each chapter within a larger comparative context. This makes the book of great potential value, even to researchers who study species that are not the explicit subject of this book.—Craig Palmer, Evolutionary Psychology

Is sexual coercion important enough to warrant its designation as a distinct sexually selected trait? Yes. If you doubt the power and potential significance of male aggression toward females, read the accounts in this volume.—Susan Alberts, Quarterly Review of Biology

This is an extraordinary book that looks at sexual coercion in the Primates, properly including humans with their close relatives. The book introduces the complexity and variability of sexual coercion in 18 chapters, each based on a different species or topic. There are no less than 22 women scientists as authors in the volume, two-thirds of the total number of authors, with nine being either sole or primary authors of articles. The book is a must read for both biologists and social scientists. This is particularly true for social scientists who are generally not familiar with how evolutionary biologists can approach the topic through the windows of multiple primate species, each with its own ecological and social context that produces a kaleidoscope of possibilities, causes, outcomes, and combinations. There is no reductionism here, only very thoughtful and rich analyses of the empirical world on a very important topic that concerns us all.—Jane B. Lancaster, Department of Anthropology, University of New Mexico

Throughout nature, relations between the sexes often resemble a battle. In mammalian species, the dynamics of these battles are shaped by profound differences in the strategic interests of males and females. This volume probes the evolutionary roots of such conflicts and examines the consequences of intersexual conflict for primate females. Although not all conclusions derived from this book are comforting, all are illuminating for understanding the relations between the sexes.—Joan Silk, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles

Evolutionary analysis of sexual coercion is a sensitive and controversial topic, vulnerable to simplistic biological determinism at one extreme and complete denial, at the other, of the relevance of the comparative method for understanding human behavior. This excellent volume is an open-minded interdisciplinary effort to explore the large and complex territory that lies between. Although contributors draw on a wide spectrum of data, they share a well-articulated understanding of theory and evidence from evolutionary biology. This, combined with excellent introductory and concluding chapters, facilitates an unusual degree of coherence across chapters without pressure to reach similar conclusions. The book illuminates both similarities and differences between human and nonhuman sexual coercion and encourages further research to determine which comparisons and contrasts matter most to efforts to understand and reduce human inter-sexual violence. It should be read by anyone interested in this important topic.—Barbara Smuts, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan