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Trends Ecol Evol. 2009 Jun;24(6):297-304. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2009.02.005. Epub 2009 May 4.

Bateman's principles and human sex roles.

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School of Psychology, University of St Andrews, South Street, St Andrews, Fife, KY16 9JP, UK.

Erratum in

  • Trends Ecol Evol. 2013 Oct;28(10):622.


In 1948, Angus J. Bateman reported a stronger relationship between mating and reproductive success in male fruit flies compared with females, and concluded that selection should universally favour 'an undiscriminating eagerness in the males and a discriminating passivity in the females' to obtain mates. The conventional view of promiscuous, undiscriminating males and coy, choosy females has also been applied to our own species. Here, we challenge the view that evolutionary theory prescribes stereotyped sex roles in human beings, firstly by reviewing Bateman's principles and recent sexual selection theory and, secondly, by examining data on mating behaviour and reproductive success in current and historic human populations. We argue that human mating strategies are unlikely to conform to a single universal pattern.

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