“When Men Behave Badly—A Review
written by Rob Henderson
Published on April 30, 2021
A review of When Men Behave Badly: The Hidden Roots of Sexual Deception, Harassment, and Assault by David M. Buss, Little, Brown Spark, 336 pages (April 2021)
These differences in reproductive biology have given rise to differences in sexual psychology that are comparable to sex differences in height, weight, and upper-body muscle mass. However, Buss is careful to note, such differences always carry the qualifier “on average.” Some women are taller than some men—but on average men are taller. Likewise, some women prefer to have more sex partners than some men—but on average men prefer more. These evolved differences are a key source of conflict.
One goal of the book is to highlight situations in which sexual conflict is diminished or amplified to prevent victimization and reduce harm.
Because of the increased risk women carry, they tend to be choosier about their partners. In contrast, men are less discerning. Studies of online dating, for example, find that most men find most women to be at least somewhat attractive. In contrast, women, on average, view 80 percent of men as below average in attractiveness. Another study found that on the dating app Tinder, men “liked” more than 60 percent of the female profiles they viewed, while women “liked” only 4.5 percent of male profiles.
Deception is often prevalent in the mating market. And deception involves an understanding of what the opposite sex desires. For instance, on dating websites, men exaggerate their income by roughly 20 percent on average and round up their height by about two inches. Similarly, women on dating websites round their weight down by about 15 pounds.
… as Buss stresses throughout the book, “adaptive” does not mean “morally good.” Often, cultures create moral norms to suppress certain behaviors that might be beneficial for the individual but bad for the community (e.g., stealing).
Throughout the book, Buss is careful to note that just because a behavior is adaptive or “natural” does not mean it is morally good or desirable. Diseases are “natural,” yet modern science has developed vaccines and medical procedures to eliminate these ailments. Likewise, people can implement personal, social, and legal instruments to curtail the darker facets of male psychology.
What kind of men? As mentioned above, Dark Triad traits predict sexual aggression. Perhaps more surprisingly, research indicates that high-status men are particularly likely to commit sexual assault. Buss writes, “men with money, status, popularity, and power are more likely to be sexual predators.” These results parallel the disconcerting finding that men who use sexual coercion have more partners than men who do not. A popular idea is that men who are desperate or deprived of chances for sex will be more likely to use coercion. This is known as the “mate deprivation hypothesis.” However, studies suggest the opposite is the case. Men who have more partners report higher levels of sexual aggression compared to men with fewer partners. Furthermore, men who predict that their future earnings will be high also report greater levels of sexual aggression relative to men who predict that their future earnings will be low.”