Evolution, Gender, and Rape

Evolution, Gender, and Rape

Edited by Cheryl Brown Travis

Multidisciplinary critiques of the notion of rape as an evolutionary adaptation.

A Bradford Book





Multidisciplinary critiques of the notion of rape as an evolutionary adaptation.

Are women and men biologically destined to be in perpetual conflict? Does evolutionary genetics adequately explain sexual aggression? Such questions have been much debated in both the media and academia. In particular, the notion that rape is an evolutionary adaptation, put forth by Randy Thornhill and Craig T. Palmer in their book A Natural History of Rape (MIT Press, 2000), vaulted the debate into national prominence. This book assesses Thornhill and Palmer's ideas, as well as the critical responses to their work. Drawing on theory and data from anthropology, behavioral ecology, evolutionary biology, primatology, psychology, and sociology, the essays explain the flaws and limitations of a strictly biological model of rape. They argue that traditionally stereotyped gender roles are grounded more in culture than in differing biological reproductive roles.The book is divided into three parts.

The first part, "Evolutionary Models and Gender," addresses broad theoretical and methodological issues of evolutionary theory and sociobiology. Part 2, "Critiquing Evolutionary Models of Rape," addresses specific propositions of Thornhill and Palmer, making explicit their unexamined assumptions and challenging the scientific bases for their conclusions. It also considers other studies on biological gender differences. Part 3, "Integrative Cultural Models of Gender and Rape," offers alternative models of rape, which incorporate psychology and cultural systems, as well as a broader interpretation of evolutionary theory.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262201438 472 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


$7.75 X ISBN: 9780262700900 472 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


Cheryl Brown Travis

Cheryl Brown Travis is Professor of Psychology and Chair of Women's Studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.


  • A comprehensive refutation of A Natural History of Rape.

    Publisher's Weekly

  • A valuable resource for anyone who is wrestling with concerns about gender dynamics, sexual aggresion, or evolutionary psychology.

    Joanna L. Bettmann

    Psychiatric Services


  • I would not have anticipated that anything good could come from the notorious recent attempts by so-called evolutionary psychology to understand human rape. But perhaps every cloud does have a silver lining. This book not only says exactly what is wrong with the crudely biological approach to rape, but also provides a wealth of real information about rape, evolution, and a good deal else besides. If you prefer complex insights to sound bites, this is a book you will want to read.

    John Dupre

    Director, ESRC Centre for Genomics in Society, University of Exeter