The relationship between serial monogamy and rape in the United States (1960–1995)

Philip T. Starks

Abstract

In mating systems where individuals pair, separate and re–pair repeatedly (i.e. serial monogamy), some males monopolize more than one female's reproductive life span and thus leave other males effectively mateless. Males who cannot secure females through traditional methods may seek alternatives, such as rape, to ensure gene passage into future generations. Analysis of US government records shows that (i) divorce and remarriage patterns in the United States are likely to increase the variance in male reproductive success, and (ii) rates of divorce and rape correlate positively. The former result suggests that serial monogamy increases the variance in male, relative to female, reproductive success and the latter result suggests that this variance influences the frequency of rape in American society. Because raped females sometimes become pregnant and take these pregnancies to term, our results indicate that rape has current adaptive significance.