When Men Behave Badly: Summary & Review

when men behave badly book cover

“When Men Behave Badly” (2021) is an evolutionary psychology-informed exploration of inter-gender dynamics to uncover the deeper and hidden roots of conflict, sexual deception, harassment, and assault.
David Buss, the author, provides a scientific, comprehensive and rational review of intersexual conflict and what happens when interests misalign.

Exec Summary

  1. Both men and women gain in cooperating for win-win, and there is much scope for cooperation and many overlapping, common interests. However:
  2. There is also scope for defection and conflict because men and women maximize their reproductive strategies in different and non-always mutually satisfactory ways
  3. Conflict is costly, so you can gain by minimizing it, by protecting yourself against win-lose and defections, and by increasing the scope for cooperation
  4. Much of sexual conflict can be predicted and understood through evolutionary psychology, which provides the deepest and best overview to understand intersexual dynamics


About The Author:
David Buss is an evolutionary psychologist, researcher, and professor at the University of Texas. He is one of the most prominent voices in evolutionary psychology and has written several wonderful and seminal books, including “The Evolution of Desire“, and the current textbook of evolutionary psychology, “Evolutionary Psychology (edition VI)“.

David Buss himself replied to TPM’s tweet to recommend this book (and quick spoiler: it was a top recommendation):

David Buss tweets ThePowerMoves.com

Sexual Conflict Is About Individuals, Not Groups

Buss says that it’s NOT about “men” or “women” as groups.

Instead, sexual conflict is about individual men and individual women interfering with each other.

My Note: I disagree because many similarly-behaving individuals are akin to a concerted group-level effort
Albeit I have the utmost respect for David Buss as one -if not the– most prominent voice and researcher of evolutionary psychology and intersexual dynamics alike, I disagree here. Buss is right in the sense that most men and women act selfishly based on what’s good for them -albeit MANY exceptions apply even there, just see feminism and the red pill who seek to defend and advance male and female causes-.
However, even while it is mostly about individuals pursuing individluaistc goals, the higher-level dynamics and the EFFECTS of many same-sex individuals behaving similarly is similar to a concerted group-level effort.

Also read this post that Buss quoted in the above tweet:

Red Pill Authors & Feminists Bloggers Are Both Misleading

Says Buss about the feminist side of the coin:

Popular explanations blame patriarchy, masculine hegemony, and toxic masculinity. Men, some scholars argue, maintain a vise grip on power and resources, put up glass-ceiling barriers, and exclude women from the old-boys’ club.

And about the “male feminists” (citing Ging’s, 2017):

Manosphere bloggers, on the other hand, blame women who seek sex with “alpha chads” (high-status males) and exploit lower-status men who are “betas” for their investment

Buss says that they’re both partially right, but also both lacking:

There is some truth to each of these contrasting accounts, but also ways in which they lack explanatory depth. Masculinity does indeed have toxic elements. It is no secret that men have a virtual monopoly on sexual harassment, sexual assault, and crass sexual objectification of women. Patriarchal institutions such as laws that give husbands control over their spouses’ sexuality, for example, are still on the books in some countries and have lingering pernicious effects in others.
On the other hand, it is also true that women, as many in the manosphere claim, tend to be attracted to men who have power, status, influence, and resources.
Some women spurn or ignore men lacking high-status attributes; some men feel invisible when it comes to women. Missing from these manosphere accounts, however, is that women’s mate preferences are enormously complex and include qualities such as honesty, intelligence, dependability, moral character, sense of humor, and many more.

Part of what the manosphere misses, says Buss, is that female desire and attraction are very complex, and include qualities such as honesty, intelligence, dependability, moral character, sense of humor, and many more.
And both manosphere and feminists miss -and in my personal opinion, feminists far more-, are the underlying causes that, Buss implies, are rooted in evolutionary psychology.

Note: We wholeheartedly agree here, and this is the same that TPM has been saying for a while.
Also see our reviews of:

And the manosphere guys here:

The Rational Male: Summary, Review, & Criticism

Why Sexual Conflict If Men & Women Need Each Other?

Buss asks this fundamental question early on:

Why sexual conflict even exists?

Wouldn’t be simpler for the species, and for men and women alike, if conflict didn’t exist at all?
Buss says that cooperation is indeed crucial:

Men and women need each other. Cooperation is a cardinal feature of successful reproduction. We fall in love, mutually choose each other, consent to sex, and sometimes commit to a lover over the long run. If we produce children, each partner has an equal evolutionary stake in their welfare. Given the inherent adaptive benefits of cooperation, sexual conflict becomes a mystery that requires explanation

In Brief, the reason why conflict exists is because while men and women have plenty of similar goals, objectives, and interests, men and women also differ.
They differ in how they can maximize their reproductive strategies and, thus, their self-interest diverge.
And, as we say on TPM, conflicting interests are fertile ground for cheating, manipulation, and coercion.

Or, to put it with Buss’ precise and more erudite words:

Wherever there exist consistently discrepant sexual optima, sexual conflict adaptations will evolve in each sex to influence or manipulate the other to be closer to its own optimum.

It’s a bit like having two hands on the steering wheel, both hands wanting to move forward, but each hand having a different ideal destination.

David Buss provides examples of the diverging interests for the “time to sex”.
While many women (on average) want to delay sex, men want to have sex as early as possible.

Sexual Conflict Is Costly

As we often repeat on TPM:

Conflict is costly.
It benefits neither opponent to do battle, says Buss (albeit that’s not necessarily and always true, since the winner can gain).

Conflict is costlier if you lose, of course.
However, from a larger point of view, it would be a mistake to think of the costs as only the imminent loss.
There are also the costs of prevention, the time and effort that went into prevention and attack/defense, the risks of losing, the risks of a stalemate or only a minor victory and, of course, the opportunity costs -ie.: the potentially more rewarding use you could have done with that time and effort-.

Finally, since effective aggressive strategies tend to evolve effective defensive strategies in an endless arms’ race cycle, oftentimes there is no clear victory from conflict.

In short, says Buss, “there is no adaptive value of sexual conflict per se”, and that “many conflicts and their outcomes are purely maladaptive byproducts for both sexes“.
Buss says both men and women would gain if they could agree on a common middle ground that albeit may not be optimal for either of them, is good enough for both, and saves plenty of time, resources, and risks.

My Note: There’s Already An Agreed Middle Ground For Cooperation
Buss focuses on conflict here.
However, it seems to me he may not highlight enough that there is already for many men and women an “happy middle ground”
That’s what relationships are.
Relationships, voc
onflictws, faithfulness, mutual support… These are already agreements for cooperation.

Cultural Conflict

Conflict extends to learned behavior as well.

Buss includes more than you’d normally expect in “culture”, including:

  • Knowledge of how to take best pictures for dating profiles
  • Deception in online dating
  • Detection of deception
  • Rape drugs

Some of these “cultural inventions” can entirely outmaneuver or undermine traditionally evolved adaptations.

My Note: was culture in the sense of public opinion missing?
It seems to me that much of the culture conflict is also fought at the level of public opinion, which in turns influences who people tend to side with, as well as the laws that get drafted, supported,d passed, and upheld.

Dark Triad Men More Likely to Inflict Costs (& Women to Manipulate)

Sexual conflict theory is not enough without looking individual’s differing personalities.

And albeit some scholars maintain that “all men are potential sexual predators”, Buss says that is not the case (I agree it’s not “all”, but depending on how you defined “predator”, it’d be different if one said “majority” or “many”).

And, in any case, it’s proven that some men are more likely to inflict costs and turn abusive.
Says Buss:

Research has hit upon an important discovery: serial harassers score high on the Dark Triad of personality traits—narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy.

When it comes to mate guarding, dark triad men are also more likely to manipulate, abuse, and inflict costs:

Men high in Dark Triad traits are more likely to engage in high-level vigilance, snooping through their partner’s mail and tracking their movements.
They intentionally evoke jealousy in their partner by talking with other women, flirting with other women, and even going out on dates with other women.
Despite their own flirtatious behavior, high-scoring Dark Triad men come down hard on their partner for flirting—yelling at her, threatening never to talk to her again, and even hitting her. They use emotional manipulation, such as pretending to be angry and making their partner feel guilty when she innocently interacts with other men. High-scoring Dark Triad men are also more likely to glare at other men who are talking to their mate and threaten them with physical violence.

Dark triad women are also more exploitative

And that is true for both genders.
Albeit there are more men scoring high in psychopathy, men and women are far closer when it comes to narcissism and Machiavellianism.

Women scoring high in Dark Triad traits are more likely to:

  • Mate poach (and more likely to be successful at it)
  • Lure men away from existing relationships for sexual encounter
  • See and consider sex as a tool, including:
    • Sleep around to get ahead or acquire resources
    • Fake orgasm to keep resources flowing
    • “Spirit of conquest”, as for some male players
  • Lie and communicate a lower sexual partners count

Women who pursue a short-term dating strategy are more deceptive

Researchers gave a group of women an incentive to “win over” and be liked.

Then, they recorded 60 heterosexual women, and measured each woman for her short-term or long-term dating strategy, personality traits of openness to experience and extraversion, and rated their physical attractiveness.

Women who pursue a short-term mating strategy appeared to intentionally signal sexual exploitability.
Physically attractive women and those scoring high in openness to experience were especially good at signaling exploitability cues.
The authors concluded that women’s cue displays reveal an active signaling strategy of mate attraction, especially strongly for women dispositionally inclined to pursue short-term mating.

Such as: as much as men evolved mechanisms to spot and potentially target exploitable women, women learned to send false signals of exploitability to arouse, excite, and potentially lead on and manipulate men.

In the arms’ race there is no victim or victimized, each gender can be either of them.

Some women are attracted to exploitative men

Men high in Dark Triad traits are unusually attractive to (some) women (Louis Carter et al., 2014).

Buss says there are good reasons why dark triad men are more attractive, including:

  1. Socially charming. They are smooth operators who talk a good game. It’s an elixir, especially for women accustomed to shy, awkward guys who lack the boldness to approach them.
  2. Self-confidence and status. key qualities that women desire in potential mates. They seek positions of leadership and social prominence
  3. Dress well and stylishly, another status cue
  4. Smooth and coordinated body language: Their posture is relaxed and composed. They do not fidget nervously. They make good eye contact (note: the resource for this entry was dubious, see the “cons”)
  5. High-power: more generally, they convey high sexual market value. They don’t seem desperate. They don’t trip over themselves trying to be too nice, qualities that can signal low status, passivity, and submissiveness (“beta men“). They act as if they’re fascinating and deserve to be at the center of the action. They attract women’s gazes and boldly take social risks, commanding the group’s attention—a key status indicator.

Also read:

Why Psychopaths Get Laid More

However, this attraction often comes at a cost.

Desirability Differences Create Conflict

There are two ways desirability create potential for conflict:

  1. Misperception issue: misperception of one’s own desirability and bitterness over rejection: A man who is a 6 but thinks he’s an 8 may get irritated when rejected by women who are legitimate 8. Men are more likely to fall for the over-estimation bias
  2. Threshold issue: men desire more women than women desire men, leaving many men “dry”: men view many women as “above threshold” in attractiveness, but women tend to prefer men in the top 20% (giving women the upper hand in the sexual marketplace and leaving many men with sexual desires they can not consummate)

As also shown in our popular infographic in the female hypergamy article:

Stop Whining About Hypergamy (& Do This Instead)

Short-Terms VS Long-Term Conflict

There’s an added twist to the above two that creates further scope for conflict.

Men are willing to lower their standards and “date down” for casual sexual encounters -say, a male 8 is willing to sleep with a female 6-.
But since both men and women seek to secure long-term partners at the top of their own value (Bruch and Newman, 2018), that female 6 who sleeps with a male 8 might mistake his interest for short-term sex into the chance -or even her desirability- for a long-term relationship.

In an enlightening real-life example, Buss says:

One colleague captured the conflict that can ensue by expressing frustration after several years of unhappy dating: “Why am I being pestered by guys I don’t care about, but the men I’m genuinely attracted to seem to show little interest in me?” I told her that she is an 8 chasing after 10s but being pursued by 6s. It dawned on her that pursuing men just outside of her mate-value range was the source of her misery.

Buss says that it took such an intelligent woman so long to realize because she was being led on by higher-value mates.

Sexual Over-Perception and Under-Perception

Among the biases that lead to potential conflicts:

  • Men underestimate how annoying unwanted sexual advances are to women

men dramatically underestimate how upsetting unwanted sexual advances, such as leering and touching, are to women. At the same time, women overestimate how upset men would be if they were sexually harassed by women. Both genders err in sexual mind reading, but in opposite directions.

  • Men overestimate how attracted women are to them

While a few men are accurate in their assessment, many are not.
Narcissistic men who prefer short-term mating are particularly prone to think they’re more attractive to women than they actually are.

Attractive women, who in actuality are far more likely to reject many men, are even more likely to elicit male over-perception of interest.

On the other hand, women underestimate how sexually interested men are in them.

Affairs (As Source of Conflict)

Men have affairs because of direct genetic benefits.

But it wasn’t sure what women would gain from affairs.
The “good gene hypothesis” and the “dual mating strategy” is a popular explanation for women’s affairs.
In brief, that would mean that women seek good gene from high-value mates, and then seek support and resources from less valuable men who were naive, willing, or ignorant enough to provide for straying women and/or children who weren’t theirs.
In the manosphere, this is referred to as “alpha fucks, beta bucks“, also read here:

The Science of “Alpha Fucks Beta Bucks” (Facts VS Myths)

However, Buss isn’t convinced about the “good gene hypothesis”.
And he says instead that the “made switching hypothesis” provides more explanatory power for women infidelity.

Buss lists as evidence that women as compared to men are:

  • Far more likely to suffer from marital dissatisfaction, while men who initiate affairs are not necessarily more likely (Glass, 1985)
  • Far more likely to fall in love and become involved with their affair partner
  • More likely to cite “emotional involvement” as the reason of the affair
  • Seek more contact with other partners when they’re ovulating
  • More interested in men who’d make for better partners, not just sexual flings
  • Looking for friends with the same quality they’d want in a long-term mate
  • Grow dissatisfied in the relationship when there are many available higher-value mates

Buss says that the evidence points to far different reasons for infidelity for men and women.
It’s sexual variety for men, and mate switching for women.

The mate switching hypothesis

The mate switching hypothesis says that:

Women have affairs to extricate themselves from a poor mateship and trade up to a better partner.

Women become more exacting during ovulation, when they’re also most attractive, which might suggest women evolved adaptation to monitor their own mate value, and adjust accordingly.
And indeed, women are most likely to escape mate-guarding attempts during ovulation, an effect most pronounced in women partnered with a low-value mate (albeit Buss says that the “scanning” stays on even in happy relationships).

There are three elements to assess a potential mate worth switching to:

  1. Interest: does the potential mate show attention, attraction, and desire? Do these indicators signal long-term interest or a fleeting sexual desire? Most women will not leave their regular partner for a passing fancy, although some see it as an important signal that something is seriously wrong in their regular relationship
  2. Mate value: only large increments in value over the value of the current partner are likely to be worth the costs of breaking up
  3. Eligibility: is the alternative free of commitments such as an existing spouse or dependent children?

And how do women actually proceed with the “switching”?
With 3 strategies:

  1. Cultivating backup mates
  2. Implementing affairs
  3. Enacting a breakup

Relationship Conflicts

To increase the odds of reducing relationship conflict evolutionary psychology predicts these can help:

  1. Monogamy long-term committed mating with zero chance of infidelity, because straying creates strategic interference the evolutionary interests of men and women start to diverge
  2. Long-term commitment, zero chance of abandonment or breakup, as any possibility of leaving the relationship decreases the alignment of interests since reproductively relevant resources get taken away and diverted to other adaptive problems or to reproductive rivals.
  3. Mutually produced offspring. Children are vehicles carrying the valuable genetic cargo of both parents into the next generation
  4. No stepchildren, which can create conflicting interests, and what is in the best evolutionary interests of one parent departs from that of the other
  5. Full and dedicated attention to the current partner only, as continued contact with an ex can create resentment and jealousy, plus the fear of siphoning off time, energy, financial resources, and sometimes sexual resources. Even social networks can create issues, says Buss, with needy friends who bleed off time and emotional energy or hopeful backups who still carry a torch
  6. Timely and concurrent death: as re-mating opens the door to diverting acquired and inherited resources toward the dead mate’s reproductive competitors.

Resource Infidelity & Financial Conflict

Some sources of financial conflict include:

  • Men may want to spend to enhance status (cars, expensive watches, etc.) One study found men who pursue a short-term strategy are more inclined to spend on luxury cars
  • Women may want to spend to enhance their beauty (creams, breast augmentation, etc.)
  • Both may want to keep some resources for themselves
  • Both may want to hide some resources in case of breakup

Every comprehensive study reveals that financial conflicts in couples are prominent, and that people do hide assets from their spouses.
For example:

One survey of a thousand individuals in New York City revealed that 40 percent of married women and 37 percent of married men had a secret bank account.12 A Harris survey found somewhat lower numbers, but nonetheless 31 percent admitted lying to their spouse about some aspect of finances—58 percent of those who did hid cash, 30 percent hid a bill, 15 percent hid a bank account, 11 percent lied about earnings, and another 11 percent lied about debt.13 Another study found that 80 percent of respondents admitted to hiding money from their spouse.14 Regardless of the exact numbers, which vary from study to study, sample to sample, and method to method, financial infidelity is clearly not uncommon.

Dark Triad spend more on appearances

One study found out:

Dark Triad traits were not correlated with unadorned attractiveness, meaning that those who score high on narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy are not intrinsically more attractive than those who score low on those factors. High-scoring Dark Triad individuals, however, are rated as significantly more attractive in the adorned condition; that is, they use more makeup, more expensive clothing, and more bling to elevate their attractiveness.

Double Standards As Conflict Sources

When we think of double standards we usually think of women being penalized.

That’s the “feminist framing”, and in truth, double standards know no gender, and probably the most pervasive ones are “self-serving double standards”.
For example, 41% of the men in existing relationships said that oral contact with someone else’s genitals count as sex, but 65% of them said that it would count as sex if their partner did it. Similar result for women, with about 36% indicating that their oral contact with someone else would count as sex, but 62% saying that it would count as sex if their partner did it.

Mate Value Discrepancies

Differences in desirability can create issues and conflicts in a relationship.

The more desirable partner may want to leave, or at least be more open to new options. And the lower value one has a bigger incentive to mate guard and limit the partner’s freedom.

But also caring and investing are affected by (perceived) mate value discrepancies.
How much we care about our partner VS how much we care about ourselves is called “welfare trade-off ratios (WTRs)” in the literature.
And since caring and investing are not fixed, there is evidence that people evolved adaptation to recalibrate WTRs, which include intentionally evoking jealousy (women more likely to use jealousy believe their partner are less invested in them than they are in), forgiveness to move forward together, and anger to proceed the forgiveness (recalibration theory of anger), which includes yelling and denying sex.

That anger creates a conflict, but it can be helpful to improve or even save the relationship.
Says David Buss:

It sends a signal that her boyfriend’s WTR with respect to her is too low. Her anger signals that his WTR toward her fails to meet her expectations. He does not value her as much as she believes she is worth.
If the boyfriend wants to retain the mateship, he will increase his WTR, curtail psychologically intimate interactions with other women, and channel his emotional energies toward her.

The underlying logic is that WTR are interdependent, and if you value me, I will value you. And if you cherish me, your value to me is higher (and I will give back with more cherishing of my own, leading to win-win).

Mate Guarding

“Vigilance” may be considered the pre-amble to mate gua5rding, and both genders are equally like to be vigilant.

There are important differences though in the actions men and women take, as well as the type of men and women who are more likely to mate guard.

Male Mate Guarding

Men more likely to mate guard are:

  • Lower value than her, since they believe they “got lucky” and they won’t be able to replace her
  • Incapable of bestowing benefits, either because they lack resources, or are unable to give, add value, or pull her up (albeit some men who inflict costs even if they have the resources)
  • Men who find their partner highly attractive: they also gave their attractive wives more gifts and jewelry, enhanced their own physical appearance, and acted possessive through verbal signals (ie.: introduce his partner to everyone as “my wife” and drape his arm around her when other men are around)
  • Men with young partners
  • When he sees his wife as more attractive than she views him

Personality traits also matter.
As we’ve seen, dark triad men are more vigilant, manipulative, aggressive, and threatening (generally more likely to inflict costs).

Generally speaking, if she’s not interested in extra-pair sex or has no desire to leave the relationship, the man can relax his mate-retention efforts.

Female Mate Guarding

In contrast, his physical attractiveness, age, or attractiveness discrepancy does not increase women’s mate-guarding attempts.
Instead, women mate guard when:

  • He’s higher income, and they spend more on physical appearances, and they act more submissive as a mate retention tactic

Female Resistance to Mate Guarding

Mate guarding limits female choice and ability to observe the market for mate assessment and possible mate switching.

So we’d expect women to have evolved strategies to evade mate guarding
Evolutionary psychologist Alita Cousin found 6 of them:

  1. Covert tactics / lying / hiding, for example, to have other men call when the partner is not around, flirting with other men when the official partner is not around, or lying about going out with friends when she was actually going out with male friends or potential partners”
  2. Covert high technology strategies, that includes passwords, erasing texts, and I will add, blocking the phone signal to avoid tracking (note: a girl I was sleeping with did that to avoid her partner’s tracking)
  3. Avoiding public displays of affection (PDAs) with official partner, refusing to hold hands with the partner in public, not allowing him to kiss her in public, or not allowing him to put his arm around her in public. A woman who successfully eludes an overly possessive man prevents him from sending signals to others that his partner is already in a committed mateship. It also allows her freedom to beckon other men with a friendly smile or eye contact that lingers a split second longer
  4. Suppress the man’s aggression toward rival men, which can invite more suitors by lowering the perceived risks. Suppressing her partner’s overly zealous mate guarding signals to others that she is not partnered with an insecure man low in mate value, which would in turn reflect on her own perceived mate value. Tamping down a man’s belligerence toward other men has the added benefit of avoiding the public embarrassment a woman might experience as a result of his overly intense mate guarding.
  5. Avoiding partner’s contact to avoid snooping and checking up on them. For example, not picking up, replying late, or switching the phone off
  6. Resisting control, involves expressing anger at the partner for being too controlling, fighting with to preserve independence and freedom of socializing, and threatening to break up with a partner who is too smothering

And the women more likely to evade his mate guarding attempts are women who:

  • Perceive themselves as more attractive than their partners
  • Are high in socio-sexual orientation (ie.: interested in casual sex)
  • Invest little in their partner
  • Have an avoidant attachment style

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)

There are three general high-level theories to explain IPV:

  • Pathology, including insecure attachment style, BPD
  • Social learning: they learned it from fathers or friends
  • Patriarchy: the most common at the time of writing, it states that IP is the consequence of gender inequality within patriarchal societies, with men internalizing that they should hold all the power, and men should submit to them. Solving IPVs then means addressing the abusive patriarchal beliefs in the short-run, and subverting the patriarchy in the long run

Buss says all of these theories have an element of truth, but they also all fall short, and don’t do go deep enough to explain the common root causes.
IPV instead, says Buss, serves a function that sexual conflict explains more comprehensively than any other approach.

The sexual conflict approach starts by recognizing that both men and women are extraordinarily valuable reproductive resources to each other.
That means that both sexes devote tremendous effort to keeping -or controlling- their mates. And to influence our partner’s “underlying psychological machinery”, to use Buss’ own terminology, there are only two high-level strategies: bestowing benefits, or inflicting costs.
We also call those two high-level strategies here as “adding value”, or “pulling up” and “taking value” or “pushing down”.

In an ideal world, everyone would (focus on) bestowing benefits. But not everyone can bestow benefits -or even trust themselves to be able to-.

P.S.: we only partially agree with the focus on male IPV, not women
Buss makes it clear that women can abuse and batter as well and that some cases are bidirectional.
And he acknowledges that culture and institutions in many countries are unfairly penalizing men when it comes to reporting female episodes of abuse (also see “The Feminist Lie” and “Men On Strike“).
However, he says that the disparity in severity of damage still sees women paying the higher costs. We mostly agree up until here, but strongly disagree when Buss includes “manipulation” in IPV since I don’t believe that women manipulate any less than men.
Also see this website’s popular article “how women manipulate men“:

Female Domestication: How Women Control Men & Relationships

Why (Some Types Of) Men Engage In Intimate Partner Violence

Men engage in controlling behavior and violence to, in Buss terminology, “solve certain evolutionary problems”.

These are:

  • Mate poachers: even when the violence is solely directed at a partner, it can send a signal indirectly to the mate poachers—“I’m the type of guy who resorts to violence—don’t fuck with me or get anywhere near my woman.”
  • Infidelity: the detection or suspicion of infidelity is one of the key predictors of intimate partner violence. Female sexual infidelity dramatically increases the risks of battering
    • Protecting against investment in other men’s children (fetus-murder hypothesis): some men get violent when their partners are pregnant and they suspect the child is not theirs. Several studies corroborate the “fetus-murder hypothesis”, albeit they’re still provisional, says Buss
  • Risks connected to being lower value: men who are lower value than her are more likely to resort to abuse with the goal of lowering her self-esteem and scare into staying to avoid worse.
    This makes logical sense because:
    • Higher value women are more likely to be sexually unfaithful
    • Higher value women are more likely to trade up and leave him
    • Lower value men are less likely to have enough resources to pull a higher-value woman up, so he has to “push her down”

Finally, as we already mentioned before, dark triad men, and especially psychopaths, are far more likely to turn abusive.
Also read more on the types and psychology of abusive men:

7 Types of Abusive Men: a Psychological Analysis

Abuse works by hijacking a woman’s psychology in several ways:

How Inflicting Costs (Or Abuse) Works to Keep A Mate

  • Lowers her self-esteem: Abuse can change her perception of how she might fare on the mating market, feeling so wretched about herself that she views herself as unworthy of any other man. Sometimes a woman comes to believe that she is lucky to have her mate, even if he’s abusive
  • Lower mating value: a woman with low self-esteem and physical marks from physical abuse is generally lower sexual market value, making her concretely less appealing to other men, besides making her feel like she wouldn’t be able -or deserving- of anyone else
  • Shame: bruises, scars and an abusive husband makes many women feel ashamed, which can lead to self-isolation and further emotional costs
  • Lower trust in her own judgment (gaslighting): victims start to distrust their own perceptions and judgments, increasingly relinquishing control over their perception of reality to the gaslighting perpetrator. If “successful”, she must rely on her perpetrator for perceptions of reality
  • Prioritizing the abuser well being (Altering her welfare trade-off ratio): afraid of triggering more episodes of violence and abuse, she may well prioritize his well-being and devote most of her time to him, at the detriment of herself
  • Financial dependence: with financial abuse, the abuse can make her dependent on him to eat and have a roof over her head
  • Fear, with threats of future harm (physical, financial, children, property, family, even pets, etc.)

Women’s Defense Against Abuse

Tools of female defense include:

  • Kinship, albeit that can go both ways because if he has more or more powerful kins nearby, then he may feel emboldened to resort to IPV.
    Figueredo argues that the balance of power between the two kin groups predicts whether IPV is or is not used to control women. Changing the balance of power is the key motive behind men’s efforts to isolate their partner and women’s efforts to stay connected with their family and friends
  • Female friends and social ties, both in physical, emotional, and social terms, including to tarnish his reputation
  • Male friends (bodyguard hypothesis)
  • Physical aggression/defense

Stalking and Revenge

Stalking is 80/20.

Women are far more likely to be victims of stalking, and men are more likely to engage in stalking, as well as in more overt and aggressive forms of stalking.

The 2 strongest predictors of stalking turning violent are:

  1. Threats of violence
  2. High jealousy during the relationships
  3. Alcohol and drug consumption

The men more likely to stalk are:

  • Insecure attachment styles
  • Lower value men, who feel that they cannot find an equally valuable partner
  • Slightly higher incidence of psychological disorders
  • Slightly more likely to be on the autistic scale (some stalkers show typical failures to read social dynamics, including not viewing themselves as stalkers, but as expressing genuine interest and the victims either being interested, or “testing them“)

How Stalking Works

  • Taking up the victim’s time: consuming substantial portions of their victims’ time – time that could be devoted to solving other problems
  • Psychological cost, taking up resources that cannot be devoted to addressing other life problems, including potentially finding and meeting another partner
  • Social isolation, with women particularly vulnerable to isolation
    • Driving away other romantic alternatives
  • Fear, through threats, threated of revenge porn

Can Stalking Be Effective?

Buss acknowledges that it may sound hard to believe that stalking may be effective and, after all, it often fails to reach its goal.

However, he says that it may have still made sense even if it worked only a tiny amount of times:

But if it sometimes succeeds, or more accurately if it has sometimes succeeded over the millions of instances in which it was attempted across evolutionary time, then selection could favor an adaptation to stalk former mates because it resulted in an on-average reproductive gain compared to other courses of action.

My Note: doesn’t add up to me.
However, “only a tiny amount of time” doesn’t seem to make evolutionary sense to me.
A tiny amount of times doesn’t seem likely to me to leave a genetic mark.

However, Buss then adds some data:

Our study of 2,431 stalking victims found that stalking does sometimes succeed, even if the victory is a temporary one. A full 30 percent of women victims agree to meet with their stalkers at their request; 13 percent agree to date them; and 6 percent agree to have sex with them. These numbers are quite conservative in that our study was biased toward including victims of unsuccessful stalkers, so the actual success rates are likely to be higher.

Buss says it can also be effective in mate-guarding partners:

Stalking behaviors, in principle, can be effective mate-guarding tactics because they monopolize the time of a partner

And also that it can be effective in reuniting with a former partner:

Rejected stalkers experience two key emotions—intense rage and a profound sense of humiliation. Rage, as we saw in previous chapters, often has the goal of recalibrating the target’s welfare trade-off ratio, and sometimes it works. Victims of enraged stalkers, fearful of violence, accord them with power and sometimes accede to their wishes.

My Note: still partially disagree on effectiveness
The fact that something works “some of the times” doesn’t mean it’s effective because one should compare it to other alternatives.

And in the modern world of endless opportunities to meet potential mates, most stalkers may be better off meeting and approaching new women.
A tiny amount of times doesn’t seem likely to me to leave a genetic mark to make sense from an evolutionary point of view.
Finally, it seems too deterministic to “find an explanation” for everything. Stalking may simply be the by-product of other mental processes, and/or simply maladaptive.

Sexual Coercion

Buss says that there is no compelling evidence that men have adapted specialized rape adaptations.

Instead, rape is a byproduct of other male adaptations, including desire for sexual variety, desire for low-investment consensual sex, sensitivity to sexual opportunities, and the general capacity of men to use physical aggression to achieve a wide variety of goals.

Buss also reviews and weighs against the “mate deprivation hypothesis” suggesting that men who turn rapist do so because of a lack of options.
Instead, he says, it’s more likely that it’s popular high-status macho men as well as men successful in dating who are most likely to rape -and not mate-deprived low-status men-.
Overall, he made a compelling case. So while previously I fully believed the mate deprivation hypothesis, I now embrace Buss’ take that it’s higher power and higher status men who are more likely to sexually coerce.
However, the “mate deprivation hypothesis” is not to be thrown out. As Buss himself says, rapes go up when there is fewer women than men, which suggests that deprivation is an element that does influences rape.

Mest more likely to rape

Albeit some have theorized that “all men can be rapists”, Buss reviews several studies to conclude that “most men are not potential rapists”.

However, a subset of men, are.
These men are:

  • Hostile toward women: they feel wronged by women and that women cannot be trusted (see the red pill)
  • Endorse the myth that women secretly want to be raped
  • Impulsive
  • Aggressive
  • Low empathy
  • Hypermasculine, including:
    • “hostile masculinity”, endorsing statements such as “a lot of women enjoy putting men down” and “in a dating relationship a woman is largely out to take advantage of men”, and generally see dating as a hostile endevor and a zero sum game
  • Narcissistic

And this constellation is particularly dangerous when combined with:

  • High sexual promiscuity
  • Short-term mating strategy, which generally means a higher sex drive, and if combined with dark triad traits, it means that they will seek sex without consideration for the victims

In general, rapists have a high level of Dark Triad traits and tend to pursue a strategy of casual rather than committed mating.
Also contributing to rape are:

  • A skewed gender ratio of more men than women
  • Patriarchal culture and ideologies
  • Lax laws
  • Cultural insensitivity towards rape or women’s rights

On the other hand, men who score high in light triad traits such as empathy, honesty and humility, are least likely to be sexually coercive.

Women’s Defense

A first line of defense centers around the ability to spot and recognize which are most likely to be sexual predators.

At first, it may seem that women’s inborn psychology, mostly afraid of strangers, is not in line with the reality of rape statics, which are committed mostly by men they know -often even family members-.
Buss suggests that either it was different during our evolutionary past, and/or that women’s fear are not miscalibrated but are effectively preventing many rapes from strangers.

Buss also says in another section that women tend to be wary of men who frequently, openly, and directly talk about sex, and that seems to be a good rule of thumb to avoid poor partners.

Other defenses against sexual coercion and rape include:

  • Fear: womens’ fear of rape often accurately track the risks of rape
  • Male friends and “bodyguards”
  • During an attack also:
    • Forceful resistance: effective if it’s “all out”, 55% of women who fought back escaped compared to 6.5% who did not resist at all
    • Running away / escaping: the second most effective
    • Alarm calling / screaming: effective, can be used in combination with either fighting back or running away
    • Appeasament / pleading / acquiescence: rarely useful
    • Tonic immobility to minimize harm during the act, if all else fails

Sexual Harassment

Researchers and legal scholars identify at least two partially distinct forms of sexual harassment:

  1. Quid pro quo, the offer of benefits in exchange for sexual favors (note: personally, I don’t see how this classifies as harassment, especially not when welcome)
  2. Unwanted sexual attention, including lewd remarks, unwanted passes or seductive behavior, unwanted touching, and unwanted staring, leering, or ogling

The men who harass the most are:

  • Inclination towards short-term mating, and remember that these men are more likely to over-invest women’s sexual interest
  • Dark triad men, albeit Buss defines it as “low on honesty-humility”, and then basically goes on to describe dark triad traits

Why Is It Men Who Harass The Most?

There are several reasons, all of which follow from evolutionary psychology logic, including:

  • Some men seek power to date better, and when they have power, they go for it more often

Says Buss:

Men strive for status and power, in part, in order to get sex (Studd and Gattiker, 1991).
As the wealthy Greek tycoon Aristotle Onassis observed, “If women didn’t exist, all the money in the world would have no meaning

Buss adds no more, but it seems to imply that since men seek power to get women, then it’s “expected” that once they get power, they will seek out women more often and, sometimes, that can end up as harassment when the woman doesn’t return the interest.

  • Link between power and sex

Buss says that male power and patriarchy and power are part of the explanation albeit, as usual, there is more.

John Bargh and colleagues found that some men experienced an unconscious association between the concepts of power and sex.
But this occurred only for men who scored high on a “likelihood to sexually harass” scale. These men linked concepts like “authority” and “boss” to concepts like “foreplay,” “bed,” and “date.”
That means that power and sex are linked, but not in all men, just in a subset of men who were already likely to harass in the first place, and not just when in a position of power.

  • Overperception bias & confusing deferential attitude for sexual submissiveness

Some harassers sometimes misread women’s friendly and deferential attitude as interest.

  • Men underestimate how annoying unwanted attention and harassment can be

In several studies, men perceived all of these workplace sexual advances as less disturbing than women did.

when men behave badly book cover


Choose a giving partner, avoid selfish ones

As Buss shows:

There’s lots of room for win-win and cooperation in dating and relationships, but also more than enough room for conflict.

What does it mean to you?
It means’ that TPM’s general approach to increase the scope for ooperation adn decrease the aone for conflict is going be crucial for good relationships.

To start with, a cooperative and giving partner will make everything easier.
Or, at least, pick a matcher who gives back and who can play win-win for a long-term.

How much they care about you VS them is defined as “welfare trade-off ratio” in the literature (WTF).
Says Buss:

When making decisions that affect both individuals, WTR is a key determinant.
It influences decisions small and large. Doing the dirty dishes versus leaving them for one’s partner may be small in the grand scheme of things. Diverting financial resources to an affair partner rather than to one’s primary partner is more consequential.
Even small daily decisions, however, can accumulate over time to large effect.
It is greatly beneficial to have a partner who does not have a selfishly skewed WTR. Selfishness is one of the hallmarks of narcissism. The narcissist’s desires will always come first, a partner’s a distant second.


Some more gold that may not directly related to sexual conflict, but it’s important to know:

A partner’s mate value is also a function of how much they value you

A partner’s mate value is critically also a function of how much they value you. The technical term is welfare trade-off ratio (WTR), the ratio of how much value they place on your welfare relative to their own welfare.

This is why, BTW, courtship and investment can work as a male courtship method.
However, there is also room for manipulation and deception. Says Buss:

Some mate selectors suffer a rude shock when an altruistic WTR during the courtship phase turns into a selfishly skewed WTR after the wedding vows. This might be one reason why divorce is most common in the first few years of marriage and then tapers off over time. A partner who initially shows high investment might curtail that investment after months or years

Friends make for dangerous mate poachers

Men better watch for her friends.

Buss says that research has shown that friends sometimes turn into mate poachers.
Friends are in close proximity, share similar interests, know of any possible couple conflicts -and may even actively or subtly drive a wedge-, and thus are perfectly positioned to implement a mate-poaching strategy.

Obviously, it’s not true that “being her friend” is what loser men do, as some average dating coaches suggest.
Also see: male roles in dating.

Lover, Provider & Friend: The Truth of Men’s Sexual Roles

There exist monogamous men looking for relationships, and “players” seeking novelty

Schmitt found individual and cultural variation.
Monogamously minded men wanted only one partner, both over the next month and over their entire lifetimes.
At the other end, some men desired hundreds of sex partners, with a few reporting a desire for more than a thousand.

As for as cultural and geo-local variations:

In Middle Eastern countries such as Lebanon and Turkey, men wanted a tad more than 2.5 sex partners over the next month, whereas in Oceanian countries such as Australia and New Zealand, men wanted only 1.77 sex partners over the next month. The corresponding numbers for women were 0.88 and 0.82. The magnitude of the sex differences in desire for sexual variety was huge by social science standards, more than twice the effect size of most psychological phenomena.

Sexual exploiters choose the victims that look the most “exploitable”

Like muggers, normal college men displayed strong consensus about which women they would choose as potential victims. Nonverbal cues of those they chose included walking slowly and having a short stride length. The women whom men chose for unwanted touching also tended to score high on the personality trait of neuroticism, low on extraversion, and high on shyness. Finally, the researchers found some correspondence between potential targets of sexual advances and the women’s self-reported frequency of having been sexually approached in their lives. In other words, women who have suffered from inappropriate touching in their everyday lives seem to emit cues inadvertently that potential sexual harassers can detect.

Female sexual attractiveness and long-term mate attractiveness are very distinct, sometimes even negatively correlated

Painful for intelligent women and successful women:

For example, if the woman was perceived to be intelligent, she rated high on long-term attractiveness but low on sexual attractiveness. Men found women perceived as cognitively disadvantaged to be easier to seduce, deceive, and pressure into having sex.

David Buss uses Tucker Carlson as an example:

Tucker: She’s so dumb. She’s like, she’s vulnerable. She’s a wounded gazelle, separated from the herd

He then asks if she’d make a good housewife, to which the hosts reply without hesitation “good”.

Other cues of “exploitability” include:

  • Young age
  • Immature
  • Emotionally immature
  • Drunk / high / intoxicated / sleepy
  • Inexperienced (especially in dating)

This is why college freshwomen, says Buss, are far more likely to be victimized than any other college woman.

How to become an irreplaceable mate

  1. Maintain your mate value and keep mate value discrepancies to a minimum my note: albeit if the goal is “being irreplaceable” one should pick a lower value mate.
    Also read “how to maintain attraction
  2. Pick a partner who cannot replace you because of a shallow pool of viable alternative mates in the local mating market, The key is not the discrepancy between you and your mate, but the discrepancy between you and alternative partners available to your mate. But it’s difficult to do this with online dating, says Buss
  3. Fulfill your partner’s unique desires Buss lists a few ways to become “unique” to someone, including:
    1. Promote a social reputation that highlights your unique or exceptional attributes
    2. Find unique attributes that others value but aren’t getting from others (and develop them)
    3. Cultivate specialized skills that increase irreplaceability
    4. Seek groups that value what you have to offer—groups in which your unique assets will be most appreciated
    5. Avoid groups in which your unique attributes are not valued or in which your attributes are provided by others already present
    6. Drive off rivals who offer benefits that overlap with those you can provide

Also read:

Sexual Market Value Hacks: Boosting Your SMV

Younger inexperienced women can fail to correctly assess their mate value

Young women just entering the mating market sometimes fail to accurately perceive their mating desirability. Consequently, they are more vulnerable to romantic approaches by men of lower mate value—often older men who exploit the youth’s inexperience and naïveté. With increased life experience and maturity, young women come to more accurately appraise their desirability on the mating market, motivating them to reject a partner when they perceive they can trade up.

Some men are genetically prone to be swayed by attractive women

Attentional adhesion is the degree to which different visual stimuli capture and maintain focus, and psychologist Jon Maner and colleagues found out that men exposed to the image of the attractive woman had difficulty detaching, their attention adhered to the attractive woman.
However, some men had higher attentional adhesion than others, and these were men with higher interest for casual sex.

Sexual harassment is less likely to be harassment if she’s into casual sex, if he’s attractive and interested in long-term

Two studies with 1,516 individuals showed that:

Both men and women high in desire for casual sex viewed the sexual advances as less disturbing.
And women evaluated sexual advances from a physically attractive man as significantly less disturbing than advances from a physically unattractive man. Workplace sexual advances from men low in desirability, apparently, are more upsetting.

And signals of genuine romantic interest such as compliments on hairstyle or mild flirtation are less disturbing than approaches that signal a quid pro quo or interest in short-term and casual sex (ie.: “sexual bribery, attaching job promotions to sex, and other cues that the person is interested only in casual sex”).
Unsurprisingly, women are also far more comfortable with signals of genuine romantic interest as compared to more aggressive forms of advances such as touching or cornering.

High-status men have lower empathy

Several studies suggest that having higher social status is linked with lower levels of empathy; the wealthy, it turns out, tend to be more indifferent to other people’s misery

Short-term mating strategy is generally measured along 3 components:

  • Behavior
  • Attitudes
  • Desires

People with a short-term mating strategy tend to have a high sex drive.
If they are low in dark-triad traits, they can be honest and court women with seduction and charm. If they’re high in dark triad traits, they can resort to threats, deception, or force.

More bullet-wisdom

  • Sexually aroused men are more likely to exploit:

sexually aroused men reported more willingness to engage in a variety of morally questionable sexual actions, from deception to date rape (albeit that doesn’t necessarily mean they would act on their willingness)

  • Single men, low-agreeableness men, and men with a preference for short-term sex are more likely to pursue a short-term exploitative mating strategy

More research confirms that the combination of Dark Triad personality traits and short-term mating strategy is hazardous to women because it increases the odds of sexual assault (Lalumiere et al., 2005)

However, note that short-term mating strategy is also correlated to deception for women.

  • Many people keep “backup mates”

When we surveyed roughly three hundred people about how they would feel if their primary backup mate had sex with someone else, on a scale from “happy” (+3) to “upset” (–3), men more than women said that they would be upset, but only by a small margin. But when we asked how upset they would be if their backup fell in love with someone else, women were roughly twice as upset as men, with the average upset being –2.5. Similarly, women were more upset than men—extremely upset—if their backup entered into a long-term relationship with someone else.

Back up mates serve the functions of:

  1. Possible replacement mates should something catastrophic happen to a regular mate.
  2. Temporary functions, providing psychological support or sexual fulfillment during the transition back into the mating market. Breakups inflict blows to self-esteem; backups can offer a boost.
  3. Protection and provisions, shield against the hostile forces of nature. It is for these reasons that the loss of a primary backup is so upsetting. The mating safety net gets yanked out.

Backups make people less vulnerable, and Buss found that people without a backup mate were twice as likely to get depressed, compared with those with a solid backup.

  • Distance romance burns brightest

Lacking exposure to the ups and downs of daily life, they allow people to fill in gaps in knowledge with positive illusions because people often overidealize a partner in the flush of a new romance. In the absence of direct information, they infer that the partner is honest, agreeable, loyal, and emotionally stable when they do not possess all the information needed for these inferences.

Buss ironizes:

The lover who burns so brightly in a fancy hotel in a faraway glittering city must surely be the kindest, most intelligent, most thoughtful, most sexually erotic, most fascinating person on earth.

  • Key predictors of intentionally evoking jealousy are mate value discrepancy and dark triad traits

When correctly used, jealousy can reduce perceived mate value discrepancies.


Each of us is descended from innumerable generations of men who lied, cheated, charmed, bullied, or killed their way to sexual intercourse, and from innumerable generations of women who charmed, seduced, lied, or manipulated their way to extracting economic privileges in return for access to their bodies.

On sexual dynamics being at odds with individual psychology and contentment, and almost set-up for frustration:

I told her that she is an 8 chasing after 10s but being pursued by 6s.

On the anguish of finding out the truth:

Recognizing that humans have evolved a psychology dedicated to mate switching undoubtedly will be disturbing to many.
It might be disconcerting to a man to realize that his wife is carrying a mate-insurance policy, harbors sexual fantasies about her co-worker, or has “just a friend” who is more his rival than he realizes.
It might be depressing to know that you are more replaceable than you knew.
It could be disturbing when it dawns on you that your partner’s unhappiness might not be transient and instead portends a hidden plan for exiting the relationship.
But nothing in mating remains static. Evolution did not design humans for a half century of matrimonial bliss. Few of our ancestors lived past the age of forty. Those who stuck it out through thick and thin might win admiration for their loyalty. But modern humans have descended from successful ancestors who carried mate insurance; who devoted energy to scenario building, the cognitive simulations of fantasizing about possible mates and laying plans for exiting; and who acted on those scenarios when the hidden calculus pointed to the benefits of switching mates.

On the coldly calculative, sometimes cruel nature of evolutionary logic:

Are these acts morally abhorrent? Absolutely. Few things seem more evil than directing abortion-inducing blows to a pregnant woman’s belly. Are such reprehensible deeds functional through an evolutionary lens? Possibly. Evolution by selection operates according to the ruthless currency of relative reproductive success. It is indifferent to the suffering of individuals. It is indifferent to our moral evaluations. Just as evolution has created male lions that kill the baby cubs sired by their rivals in order to bring a new female back into estrus, human males may have evolved a circumstance-contingent psychology that inclines them to brutalize incipient offspring sired by rival men.

On “dick pics” highlighting the different male and female psychology, as well as not working too well:

Are men aware that women find more things sexually disgusting than they do? Judging from the number of men who send unsolicited pornographic images of their decontextualized genitals to women, the answer is a resounding “no.”


In some cases we’re still at hypothesis level, with few studies. Watch out for jumping to conclusions and over-explaining

Buss never said otherwise, but it’s worth reminding.

For example, it was one single study showing that men are more likely to hit women in the belly when they’re pregnant, and when they suspect the child is not his.
And albeit it seems to make sense, we can’t be sure the ultimate goal was the abortion of a rival child.

As far as we know, it may be psychopathic men who simply don’t want children around the house.
Or it may be a spillover of general violent tendencies and wanting to cause as much harm as possible.

Buss is a real scientist, but sometimes it still felt the women’s perspective was over-represented

Starting with the title, “When Men Behave Badly”, Buss takes the women’s point of view.

That might have been a simple rational choice to sell better in the current cultural climate -and indeed the book itself is rather balanced-.
But at times I think that some more space to men as targets of abuse or manipulation might have made “When Men Behave Badly” even more comprehensive.

Even the “solutions” at the end of the book, such as lower income inequality and greater gender equality only address “how to make things better for women”, but those policies have far-reaching consequences and, as most policies, while they improve things for some, they also make things less good for some others -in this case, when women are higher power, low-status men may struggle even more to secure a mate-.
That is not to say that Buss’ solutions are not good, they may be great, and they even make “When Men Behave Badly” more complete and thought-provoking. Yet, they don’t make more complete because it only looks at one side of the coin.

Buss says things are improving. In many ways, yes. But how about a note of the dangers of “going too far”?

The world is changing, and things are improving, suggests Buss at the end of “When Men Behave Badly”:

The overall cultural trends are clear. Institutions that support male control over female bodies are eroding. The informal social customs that permitted men in positions of power to abuse with impunity are fading. Men who sexually harass women who are subordinate in the work hierarchy are getting fired. Men who rape are increasingly convicted and jailed.
Patriarchy is collapsing—its institutions, its social norms, and the expression of unseemly mating mechanisms that gave rise to male advantage.

Buss is partially right, albeit I wouldn’t take for granted that the trend will necessarily continue in the same direction -trend extrapolation is a human bias-.

What was missing though is that the trend isn’t always positive or “fair”.
In some instances, that trend has damaged some men.
For example, “When Men Behave Badly” might have been both more complete and more balanced if it had mentioned , say, predatory pregnancies to extort money from wealthy men, skewed divorce law that can engender some men’s financial well-being and, in some cases, scant penalties for false rape allegations (keep in mind that Amber Heard could make up rape allegations with zero evidence in what appeared to almost everyone totally fabricated lies, and faced no consequences).

Should we even ask ourselves if women ought to “supersede” their own programming?

Towards the end Buss asks if women can supersede their own preference for wealthy and powerful men to reduce conflict between sexes.

He even says:

These are open questions, but I know of one woman who consciously changed her mate preferences after suffering from two abusive relationships with high-status men who felt entitled to cheat on her.

I don’t think that woman “superseded her programming” or “consciously changed her mate preferences”, and more like she “consciously settled”.
That might still be a smart choice -I think it may as well be a smart choice for many many women-, but it still is no evidence of “changing mate preferences” as much as it is one of “changing behavior“.

Finally, I’m also not a huge fan of that line of questioning.
Things are the way they are, and aren’t very likely to change simply because “it might be better IF we changed them” -and I’m pretty confident Buss would agree with that-.

Sometimes a bit too quick to conclude that certain behavior “can be effective”

“Can work” is one thing and “effective” is another.

Shooting in the dark “can work”, but it’s not effective if you have the option of switching the lights on.

As an example, read my note on stalking and its “effectiveness”.
Or, discussing physical abuse, Buss says:

Unfortunately, violent tactics sometimes work. Some battered women remain in violent relationships. Some return to their abusers even after they have sought help at a shelter. In a study of 100 women at a shelter for battered women, 27 returned to their partner after he promised that he would change and refrain from violence

To begin with, to say it worked, you should compare it with women who left a spouse and were not physically battered.

Second, that 27% returned AFTER he promised to stop, so you can’t exactly say that “violence worked” because it’s the promise of stopping violence that (probably) made the difference.

Once, an head-scratching resources

When I checked the resource for dark triad men having “smooth and coordinated body language”, it was an article on graziadaily called “The scientific reason why we’re so attracted to fuckboys“.

And written by a journalist that seemed far closer to a pop magazine “opinion piece” type of article, rather than anyone familiar with research or well-sourced writing.

It was, however, a single instance, and I haven’t read the article -and it’s very possible that Buss had valid reasons to use that article-.


Listing all the pros would be an overly long endeavor on an already long review.

so, for brevity:

Simply one of the best books to understand intersexual dynamics, and sexual conflict.
And for the record, the only books that can rival it are the other books by David Buss himself.


David Buss is one of this website’s favorite authors.

And “When Men Behave Badly” is yet another gem by Buss.

Furthermore, of the hundreds of books we review and summarize here, David Buss is THE most challenging.


Because they’re so good and densely packed with wisdom.
No storytelling, no fluff, little opining, and personal conjectures… Just great science and refined logic.
It’s hard to summarize because you can’t really take anything out without missing out and without feeling bad -plus, of course, you can’t really publish everything without sharing too much of work that is well worth and deserving paying for-.

In short: absolutely recommended.

Check the:

Best Evolutionary Psychology Books


best books collection or get “When Men Behave Badly” on Amazon

Scroll to Top