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Curr Anthropol. 2000 Jun;41(3):385-413.

The Evolution of Human Homosexual Behavior.


Homosexuality presents a paradox for evolutionists who explore the adaptedness of human behavior. If adaptedness is measured by reproductive success and if homosexual behavior is nonreproductive, how has it come about? Three adaptationist hypotheses are reviewed here and compared with the anthropological literature. There is little evidence that lineages gain reproductive advantage through offspring care provided by homosexual members. Therefore, there is little support for the hypothesis that homosexuality evolved by kin selection. Parents at times control children's reproductive decisions and at times encourage children in homosexual behavior. There is therefore more support for the hypothesis of parental manipulation. Support is strongest, however, for the hypothesis that homosexual behavior comes from individual selection for reciprocal altruism. Same-sex alliances have reproductive advantages, and sexual behavior at times maintains these alliances. Nonhuman primates, including the apes, use homosexual behavior in same-sex alliances, and such alliances appear to have been key in the expanded distribution of human ancestors during the Pleistocene. Homosexual emotion and behavior are, in part, emergent qualities of the human propensity for same-sex affiliation. Adaptationist explanations do not fully explain sexual behavior in humans, however; social and historical factors also play strong roles.


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