The Dangerous Passion: Why Jealousy is as Necessary as Love and Sex

David H. Buss, Author
David H. Buss, Author Free Press $25 (272p) ISBN 978-0-684-85081-8
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Buss (The Evolution of Desire) painstakingly argues that, although sexual jealousy may lead to regrettable events, it is ""an exquisitely tailored adaptive mechanism that served the interests of our ancestors well and likely continues to serve our interests today."" Drawing on many studies, including his own research, he believes that jealousy arises from the reciprocal impact of men's and women's approaches to sex and commitment on their ""co-evolutionary spiral."" For instance, while ""men and women from seven nations reported virtually identical levels of jealousy,"" men became more physiologically distressed by sexual infidelity, while women showed greater distress at emotional infidelity. The root of sexual jealousy for men, Buss asserts, is the risk of paternity uncertainty; for women, it is the threat to commitment. Among the benefits of the emotion he cites: it can be useful in testing a bond and can ignite sexual passion. As for the pathology of jealousy, studies ""strongly point to sexual jealousy as a major cause, and likely the leading cause, of spousal violence."" While Buss's major contentions frequently seem self-evident, a few may stretch readers' credulity--like the ""innovative"" study that shows that women tend to chose men with symmetrical features as affair partners, based on the finding that ""women judged the T-shirts that had been worn by symmetrical men as more pleasant smelling, but only if they happened to be in the ovulation phase of their menstrual cycle."" Ultimately, this portentous, workmanlike study promises more than it delivers. (Feb.)
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