Alternative explanations for sexual strategies theory
Moyer, Christina Maria
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Sexual strategies theory (SST) has been one of the most popular evolutionary-based theories to explain sex-specific differences in the mating behavior of men and women. More specifically, SST states that men prefer short-term (ST) mating and higher numbers of ST partners than women, and that these differences evolved to optimize the reproductive success specific to each sex. However, research into SST has relied on a very narrow age range in most of the samples used to test its hypotheses, which calls into question the generalizability of key findings to older adult populations. Further, other psychosocial factors may significantly influence men and women's ST sexual behavior, meaning sex differences in mating preferences might result from these other factors rather than evolved sex differences in mating strategies. I tested these ideas in two samples: one in a college-convenience sample using regression analyses, and one in nationally and age-diverse sample of adults using structural equation modeling. These studies revealed that the social acceptance of women engaging in ST sexual behavior (Studies 1 & 2) and concern for personal safety when engaging with a ST partner (Study 2) were more powerful predictors of ST mating behavior than biological sex. Thus, these findings offer evidence to suggest that social and personal factors are more important drivers of human sexual behavior and cast doubt on sex differences that evolved to optimize reproduction according to SST.