Human Pair-Bonding as a Service to the Female

Steve Moxon


Though human pair-bonding generally is considered to be male proprietorial control and provisioning, the evidence does not support either of these assumptions. Not only is provisioning relatively lacking and of little impact, but in any case is antecedent to the evolution of human pair-bonding; and the male (in pair-bonding species generically) does not prevent the female partner from engaging in chosen extra-pair sex. In thus contradicting the standard biological model of male mate-guarding as preventing partner defection, its function instead appears to be to displace social/sexual access to the female by lower (but not by higher) mate-value males; thereby indirectly facilitating the female partner's extra-pair sex with males of her choice or acceptance (males of higher mate-value than the pair-bond partner). Furthermore, by producing successive offspring with the same male, the pair-bond in effect allows the female to project forwards in time her early peak in fertility (her own mate-value). [Reproducing instead through promiscuous sex would entail progressively lower fitness of offspring as the female's mate-value declines with age; and correspondingly the mate-value of each subsequent father.] Pair-bonding is, therefore, a service provided by the male to the female. The male's interests are served in that the offer of the service enables a degree of trade-off against deficiency in the male's own mate-value, to secure for regular sex a more fertile female than would be acquired otherwise. With pair-bonding primarily of benefit to the female, the requirement to mate-guard as hitherto understood, to prevent partner defection, is not performed by the male but by the female. This explains the findings of predominantly female control within intimate-partnerships, and indirect measures showing women value and invest in the pair-bond more than do men.

Full Text: