Book Reviews -- the Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating by David M. Buss

By Symons, Douglas K. | Journal of Marriage and Family, November 1994 | Go to article overview
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Book Reviews -- the Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating by David M. Buss


Symons, Douglas K., Journal of Marriage and Family


The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating. David M. Buss. New York: Basic Books. 1994. 240 pp. ISBN O-465-07750-1. $22.00 cloth.

David Buss has written a very thoughtful book on mating relationships from an evolutionary perspective. The 10 chapters cover the developmental course of relationships, desires that women and men want from relationships, attracting a partner, forming and maintaining relationships, and sexual conflict/dissolution of relationships. While Buss concludes with a chapter on harmony between the sexes, he acknowledges that much of human mating is unpleasant, writing, "In the ruthless pursuit of sexual goals, for example, men and women derogate their rivals, deceive members of the opposite sex, and even subvert their own mates" (p. 5).

The premise of the book is that human behavioral characteristics have evolved because of their reproductive as well as survival benefits. The emphasis on sexual selection is used as a context for understanding gender differences in sexual strategies and relationship goals, as well as how these change within a lifetime of males and females. The balance between ontogeny as well as phylogeny makes the contents more relevant for understanding human behavior change. There is an equal treatment of strategies of males and females because both are critical to the evolutionary equation. According to Buss, males do not compete for passive women, but both genders contribute to a social milieu from which relationships develop, and in fact, they depend on each other for passing genes on to future generations. While the primary focus is on sexual behavior, family structure and parenting are incorporated into the book through discussion of male commitment to assist in raising children.

At least a rudimentary understanding of evolutionary principles is helpful but not necessary for the reader.

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