David Buss: Sex, Dating, Relationships, and Sex Differences | Lex Fridman Podcast #282 | Summary and Q&A

May 4, 2022
Lex Fridman
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David Buss: Sex, Dating, Relationships, and Sex Differences | Lex Fridman Podcast #282


Evolutionary psychologist David Buss discusses the importance of sex and violence in human civilization, the differences in mating strategies between men and women, and the impact of culture on mate selection.

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Key Insights

  • 🤑 Humans have a rich and complex mating psychology due to the importance of sex in reproductive success.
  • ❓ Violence, particularly intertribal warfare, has had significant historical implications for human civilization.
  • 🧉 Women's mate selection criteria are multifaceted, encompassing various traits beyond physical appearance.
  • 👨‍⚕️ Men prioritize physical attractiveness due to its connection with fertility and health.
  • 🤳 Modern society's emphasis on physical appearance can negatively impact women's self-esteem and mental well-being.
  • 🧑‍🏭 The cultural factors and societal expectations surrounding sexual attraction contribute to objectification and body image issues.


what do women want tell me what all the things women want in a long-term mate and so i would start at one end of the blackboard there were like five blackboards and they said well i want a mate who's who's kind who's understanding who's intelligent who's healthy who's got a good sense of humor who shares my values and and i just go and fill five bl... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: Why is sex important in human civilization?

Sex is crucial because humans are a sexually reproducing species, and all our ancestors had to succeed in selecting fertile mates to ensure our existence.

Q: What is the role of violence in human history?

Small group warfare has been prevalent in our evolutionary history, with conquering neighboring groups being advantageous from a reproductive standpoint. Male competition and intergroup conflicts have shaped human history.

Q: How do men and women differ in their mate selection criteria?

Women prioritize characteristics like kindness, intelligence, and shared values in a long-term mate. Men prioritize physical attractiveness and youth, which indicate fertility.

Q: Why do women have affairs?

There are different hypotheses, but one possibility is that women engage in affairs as a strategy to divest themselves of unsatisfactory partners and seek better alternatives in the mating market.


In this video, David Buss, an evolutionary psychologist, discusses human sex differences in mate selection. He explores the importance of sex and violence in human civilization and delves into various aspects of mating strategies, including long-term and short-term mating preferences. Buss explains the unique qualities of human mating, such as concealed ovulation and the importance of physical attractiveness, and touches on the controversial topics of women's affairs and the significance of penis size.

Questions & Answers

Q: What are the important factors in the development of human civilization, sex or violence?

Both sex and violence are important. Humans are a sexually reproducing species, so mating strategies play a crucial role. Humans also evolved in the context of small groups and intertribal warfare, which impacted our development.

Q: How does human mating psychology differ from that of chimpanzees?

Unlike chimpanzees, humans have evolved long-term pair bonding and male parental care. Chimpanzees have no long-term bonded mating. This distinction sets humans apart and influences our mating strategies.

Q: How do humans compete for mates using language?

Humans compete for mates by using language to convey attractiveness and to derogate competitors. Verbal fluency, reputation management, and signaling attractive qualities play significant roles in mate selection.

Q: What is the magic ingredient that made humans unique and gave birth to Homo sapiens?

It is challenging to pinpoint one factor, but Buss believes that the uniqueness of human mating is a contributing factor. Humans evolved concealed ovulation, long-term pair bonding, and male parental care, setting us apart from other primates.

Q: How do women differ from men in terms of what they want in a long-term mate?

Women have a more extensive list of desired characteristics in a long-term mate compared to men. These characteristics include kindness, intelligence, good health, sense of humor, and shared values. Women prioritize various factors in mate selection.

Q: What do men want in a long-term mate?

Men's preferences for long-term mates revolve more around physical attractiveness and youth. Other factors, such as intelligence and sense of humor, also play a role, but physical appearance remains a primary focus.

Q: What do men want in a short-term mate?

Men prioritize physical appearance in short-term mating. Physical attractiveness and cues to fertility, such as symmetrical features, are significant factors. Other aspects, like physical fitness and tallness, may also influence men's preferences.

Q: Is penis size important in sexual selection?

There is no conclusive scientific evidence on the importance of penis size in sexual selection. It is a topic that has not been extensively studied, and there may be cultural and individual variabilities in preferences.

Q: Why do men find breasts attractive?

The attractiveness of breasts is likely based on their shape, which serves as a sexually dimorphic feature and a cue to fertility. The specific reasons behind the attraction to breasts have not been extensively studied.

Q: How do women's affairs fit into evolutionary psychology?

There are different hypotheses surrounding why women have affairs. One perspective suggests that women seek good genes, while another suggests that affairs serve as a way to switch partners and find better mates. The debate concerning the reasons for women's affairs is ongoing.


Understanding human mating strategies requires exploration of various factors and theories, including evolutionary psychology and cultural influences. While there are general trends in preferences, individual variations, societal changes, and cultural contexts may shape mate selection. The complexity of human mating highlights the need for continued research and exploration into this fascinating topic.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Humans are a sexually reproducing species, making sex a crucial aspect of human civilization and evolutionary psychology.

  • Violence has also played a significant role in human history, particularly in the context of intertribal warfare and male competition for resources.

  • Mating strategies differ between men and women, with women prioritizing characteristics such as kindness, intelligence, and shared values, while men prioritize physical attractiveness and youth.

  • Women's mate selection criteria are more complex due to the need to select a fertile mate, whereas men's criteria focuses more on physical appearance.

  • The human mating system, which involves long-term bonding and male parental care, distinguishes humans from our primate relatives.

  • Modern society's emphasis on physical appearance and the objectification of bodies can be damaging to women's self-esteem and mental health.

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