Is Sexual Coercion Beneficial to Females

It is possible that sexual coercion may actually enhance female fitness by providing a behavioral filter for higher quality males as mates or guaranteeing that females' sons will carry sexually antagonistic traits that enable them to achieve higher reproductive success (Eberhard 1996; Cordero and Eberhard 2003). If the net effect on female fitness is therefore positive, then sexual conflict becomes a mechanism of female choice, which Eberhard (2005) contends explains most male mating aggression to resistant females. This hypothesis has not been supported by some mathematical models (Kirkpatrick and Barton 1997), but there is some related evidence for benefits of coercion to females (Valero et al. 2005).

Most primate researchers assume that sexual coercion reduces the effectiveness of female mate choice and that female preference for less aggressive males is a likely counterstrategy to sexual coercion (Smuts and Smuts 1993). This view derives in part from the intensity of both male aggression and toward females and female resistance, which seems to impose high costs on the victims (e.g., chimpanzees: Goodall 1986; Muller et al. in press). Moreover, for most anthropoid primates, group life may provide females with less costly means of evaluating mates than provoking male attacks upon themselves. An arguably more relevant variant of this hypothesis, however, is that females prefer to mate with high-quality males (e.g., dominant males), who also happen to be more aggressive generally (which constitutes an indirect cost of mating).

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