The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating

Drawing on a wealth of research spanning 10,000 people and 37 cultures, David Buss has written a compelling study of the evolutionary origins of human sexual behavior. Men and women bring very different strategies to the challenge of finding and keeping a mate, all of them adaptive mechanisms with a specific purpose. Even traits like jealousythat appear to be capricious and irrational have a function.

Though The Evolution of Desire essentially finds human sexual behavior to be hard-wired—and not, as some might wish, infinitely malleable—I like how Buss does not give in to fatalism. In his closing chapter on Harmony Between the Sexes, the author asserts we have inherited a “versatile behavioral repertoire” subject to social context and human choice—thus, no particular behavior is “inevitable or genetically preordained.” He is hopeful in his conclusion that the “harsh consequences” of the dark side of human sexuality can be ameliorated by understanding how and why those impulses became part of our makeup.

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