Evolutionary Life History Perspective on Rape
Life history theory is a subtheory of evolution, a set of fact-based principles for productively studying the lifetimes of all organisms (Charnov, 1991, 1993; Roff, 1992; Stearns, 1992). This chapter focuses on life history theory’s application to the evolution and ontogeny (development within the individual) of human individual differences in life course decisions about reproductive investment versus survival investment, and the condition-dependence of these decisions. It argues that life history theory’s factual and theoretical foundations provide a basis for social policy that may substantially reduce rape. In life history terms, rape is a type of reproductive effort, specifically a mating effort. Investment in survival and in the timing, type, and magnitude of reproductive effort expenditure has evolved to be highly sensitive to information received by the developing individual of its intrinsic and extrinsic mortality. When survival prospects are perceived during development to be dismal or uncertain, individuals devalue the future, divesting in survival and expending more and earlier reproductive effort, including risky effort such as, in men, rape and other forms of sexual coercion to force sexual access. But when survival prospects are good, the same individuals value the future and adjust their survival and reproductive efforts accordingly.