‘Bad Men’ review: David M. Buss on the ‘natural origins’ of male aggressiveness

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Credit: David M. Buss
Credit: David M. Buss

Professor of evolutionary psychology at the University of Texas, [David M.] Buss is the author of a long list of popular titles, the latest of which – Bad Men: The Hidden Roots of Sexual Deception, Harassment and Assault – returns to his favourite academic topic: human mating.

Buss is interested in conflict between men and women, both as groups and as individuals. We are all engaged, he argues, in a “co-evolutionary arms race” in which the weapons are beauty, deception, charm, coercion and aggression, often deployed subconsciously. Buss understands male and female interests to be fundamentally misaligned in important ways, and Bad Men is thus dedicated to “everyone who has suffered from sexual conflict” – which is, as he points out, all of us.

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Sexual conflict has a way of bringing out the worst in humans: we learn about deception in online dating, treachery within marriage, stalking in the aftermath of break-ups and harassment in the workplace. Buss’s thesis – which is extremely well supported by the research data – is that male and female sexuality is, in general, different, and that these differences produce conflict, sometimes in strange and subtle ways.

[Editor’s note: Find Bad Men: The Hidden Roots of Sexual Decelption, Harassment and Assault here.]

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