Humans, ducks, and evolutionary responses to rape

There’s been a controversy for years as to whether rape actually evolved as an evolutionary strategy among human males (i.e., if nothing else works, its a last resort way to try and reproduce).   Slate’s Jesse Bering summarizes some of the provocative evidence suggesting that human females have evolved some evolutionary responses to the possibility of rape.  To wit:

1. When threatened by sexual assault, ovulating women display a measurable increase in physical strength.

2. Ovulating women overestimate strange males’ probability of being rapists.

3. Ovulating women play it safe by avoiding situations that place them at increased risk of being raped.

4. Women become more racist when they’re ovulating.

As Bering explains, all these differences are only in the case of ovulating women.  Quite interesting.  Anyway, it made me think of one of my favorite little scientific anecdotes I like to share.  Along with humans, ducks are one of the few species in nature to engage in non-consensual sex.  There’s been some fascinating studies about the crazy development in duck penises that is apparently related to this fact.  This Wired article summarizes some of the developments in the reproductive tracts of female ducts to defend against unwanted insemination.  In some cases, the female duck’s system may even resemble a maze with all sorts of twists and blind alleys.   Anyway, I’m glad it hasn’t come to that it humans.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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