BOOK REVIEW
The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating
By David M. Buss
Basic Books, 1994 (2003). 320 pages

Did you ever wonder why friendships with the other sex were tricky? Or why even an intelligent woman might feel inexplicably prone to acts of incompetence in the presence of an interesting man? Or why groups of women dedicate huge amounts of time to examining their friends’ partners? What is gossip for and is jealously necessary? Is rape inevitable? What are the origins of war and our obsession with the accumulation of wealth?

Buss, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas, has some answers; and they all relate to our species’ drive to keep the gene pool full and fresh. Using the results of recent and psychological, biological and neurological research, Buss explains diverse cultural phenomena, such as the fact that in virtually every culture, male infidelity is considered less grave than female or that, even allowing for local taste, standards of female beauty are remarkably similar the world over. And he shows how, although the genetic goal may be the same, female and male strategies are often at cross purposes.

Despite providing answers that are still contested by many, Buss takes none of the mystery out of courtship. Anzi…

Reviewed by Madeleine Johnson