Sex Differences in Post-Coital Behaviors in Long- and Short-Term Mating: An Evolutionary Perspective
Hughes, Susan M., Kruger, Daniel J., The Journal of Sex Research
The vast majority of literature in evolutionary psychology regarding reproductive strategies in humans has focused on adaptive behaviors ultimately leading to copulation, such as mate selection, courting, and sexual activities prior to full sexual intercourse (i.e., foreplay). However, reproductive strategies may not cease with intercourse; they may also influence specific behaviors directly following sex. Immediately following sexual intercourse, individuals have to contend with several issues related to reproduction, such as pair-bonding, continued sexual activities with that partner, future relationship intentions with that partner, sperm retention and competition (for reviews, see Baker, 1996; Gallup & Burch, 2006), mate guarding, and the possibility of fertilization. We propose that these post-coital considerations are experienced quite differently by males and females due to divergent adaptive reproductive strategies of each sex, and are reflected in immediate post-coital activities and preferences.
According to Buss and Schmitt's (1993) Sexual Strategies Theory, men and women have evolved reproductive strategies that can involve both long-term and short-term mating; however, men and women benefit differentially from practicing such strategies. Males tend to mate more opportunistically due to their lesser parental investment and greater reproductive potential compared to females (Trivers, 1972). Therefore, men can achieve greater reproductive benefits than women by engaging in short-term mating to increase their overall number of sexual partners. On the other hand, men who engage in long-term mating can benefit from enhanced paternal certainty (by means of greater mate guarding), increased offspring survival through greater bi-parental care, and increased odds of obtaining a more desirable mate because high mate-value females will usually not consent without signs of male commitment (Buss & Schmitt, 1993).
Women make comparatively more parental investment and have less reproductive potential than males, making long-term mating strategies relatively more advantageous (Trivers, 1972). Pair-bonding is more essential in females' mating strategies in order to secure a mate who can provision resources and provide parental care. The benefits afforded to females who pursue short-term mating strategies are quite different and are not as obvious as those for males. Some reasons proposed for why females engage in short-term mating include gaining immediate resources (Jennions & Petrie, 2000; Smith, 1984; Symons, 1979), obtaining higher quality mates (Shackelford, Goetz, LaMunyon, Quintus, & Weekes-Shackelford, 2004), obtaining protection (Smuts, 1985), increasing genetic diversity among their children (Smith, 1984), promoting sperm competition (Shackelford, Pound, & Goetz, 2005), mate switching (Smith, 1984; Symons, 1979), or current mate manipulation (Symons, 1979). In many cases, women will use short-term mating simply as part of a longer-term reproductive strategy to identify and acquire long-term mates (Shackelford et al., 2004). For instance, women are more willing to have casual sex with a hypothetical partner when there is a chance of forming a long-term relationship (Shackelford et al., 2004), and women tend to choose short-term partners with traits reflecting good parenting qualities (Surbey & Conohan, 2000). Therefore, pair-bonding may be sought more by females for not only for long-term partners, but also for short-term partners.
It is possible, then, that the feelings and attitudes surrounding sexual behavior are highly dependent upon these sex differences in mating strategies and the intended relationship duration with a sexual partner. In other words, the sexual motivation preceding intercourse may play a role in behaviors occurring directly after sex and influence later evaluations of the event. Despite the fact that both sexes appear to benefit from engaging in short-term or casual sexual encounters, men still report a greater likelihood of pursuing casual sexual relationships than do women (Shackelford et al. …