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Relative to other species, human females invest considerable effort in attracting and retaining mates. Stroll the aisles of any bookstore and you may come across titles such as “Get the guy: Learn secrets of the male mind to find the man you want and the love you deserve” (Hussey, 2014), and “Texts so good he can't ignore: Sassy texting secrets for attracting high-quality men” (Bryans, 2018). A desire to attract and retain mates underlies diverse facets of women’s psychology and behavior, including displaying or enhancing aspects of one’s personality and physical appearance. Not surprisingly, these efforts correspond with men’s mate preferences. Human males are unique in their relative choosiness surrounding their mates, especially within the context of long-term pair-bonding. Look further in that bookstore aisle and you might come across a title such as “The man's handbook for choosing the right woman” (Daniels, 2009). In this chapter, we examine the theoretical rationale underlying female intersexual selection. We begin with a discussion of the theory underlying human mate choice, highlighting why men’s choosiness has been selected for, and why this compels women to exert effort toward attracting men. We then discuss specific characteristics of men’s short-term and long-term mate choice, and the multitude of tactics women utilize to better embody those traits. We describe preliminary evidence surrounding how intersexual selection may have shaped some phenotypic traits in women as costly signals of underlying fertility or immunocompetence. Finally, we discuss both individual and contextual differences among women in their mating effort and provide suggestions for future research directions aimed at further understanding how intersexual selection has shaped women’s mating psychology.
Despite a tendency to form socially monogamous pair-bonds that carry expectations of sexual exclusivity, infidelity has been a recurrent feature of human mating across societies. The attitudes, social cognition, affect, and behavior associated with infidelity vary in patterned ways between women and men. In the current chapter, we use an evolutionary perspective to make sense of the historical and cross-cultural ubiquity of extradyadic behavior, as well the adaptative costs and benefits of men’s infidelity. Specifically, we review theory and research pertaining to men’s extra-pair mating and consider salient individual differences, romantic relationship dynamics, and social–ecological factors that influence mating strategies and extradyadic involvement. Following other scholars, we argue that men have evolved adaptations for short-term mating that facilitate opportunistic extra-pair behavior in a “quantity-over-quality” reproductive strategy. Consequently, on average, men are predicted to express a stronger desire to engage in sexual infidelity and to have more permissive attitudes toward extradyadic involvement than women. However, only particular men appear to execute a mixed mating strategy involving a long-term mate and an extra-pair partner, such as those with greater mate value. Satisfaction with and commitment to the relationship appear to be crucial in preventing men’s infidelity, and socio-ecological factors, including cultural dynamics (e.g., norms surrounding infidelity) and sex ratios that create conditions of mate scarcity, are inextricably tied to men’s extra-pair mating.