Male Behavior Related to Mating

The best way to understand male mating behavior is as the product of biological evolution. Evolution is only concerned about getting genes into the gene pool. It selects for genes that increase their own presence in the gene pool, and this is accomplished by having a large number of surviving offspring.

The difference between men and women is summed up in this pair of stanzas:

Sex for a woman’s commitment;
Its pleasure is alloyed with tears.
After its peak still it takes forty weeks,
Then drags on for eighteen more years.

Sex for a man is all pleasure.
It’s wild and it’s cool and it’s groovy.
Just lay it on thick and you’re done really quick,
Even counting the dinner and movie.

Women can have few offspring over a lifetime. It takes a great deal of energy and time to bear and raise the children.

Men have more options. They can have any number of offspring per year, and men have the option of devoting their resources to raising their children to adulthood or just having more children or some combination of the two.

The elements of male sexuality are consistent with the pressure to have many offspring that reach reproductive age themselves. Men are biologically programmed to get have as many surviving offspring as possible — that is precisely the thing that evolution selects for. Note that this expresses the outcome that evolution selects for, but it doesn't specify the mechanisms by which that happens, and does not compel men to act on the predisposition.

Commitment to a family is good: it helps the offspring reach adulthood, but the commitment is not necessarily exclusive. A wife's womb is a bottleneck. More children outside of the marriage would increase reproductive success, as would more marriages, if the man can support them.

A man wants sex more often than a woman, on the average, and especially when the woman is occupied with pregnancy, lactation, and caring for children. And "menopause is nature's way of telling your man to find someone younger." This encourages a man to seek out more than one woman.

Men commonly fantasize about sex with many women. Giving reasons for being unfaithful, men commonly report they are "bored" with sex with their wife or girlfriend, that they need "variety." These are the ways natural selection translates into human experience.

"Love you honey. Nothing personal," could be the motto. Sex for a man is not personal. It is a response to the archetypal Feminine. 

However, when a man commits, it is typically because he chooses the woman for herself — at least, for how he knows her at the time he chooses.

Male sexual urges are strong, frequent, and insistent. Men are quickly aroused. It greatly increases his reproductive success if he is always ready and perceptive of opportunities.

Male sexuality is primarily visual. It helps him imagine opportunities quickly. His attraction is not delayed by needing to strike up a conversation—indeed, without the attraction from a distance, he probably wouldn't get in a conversation to begin with.

What men want in a woman

What men are programmed to look for in a woman is her fertility, the likelihood she can bear children and raise them to adulthood. This programming is independent of whether the man consciously wants to have children. Men widely view these physical features as attractive:

  • Widened hips and developed breasts, indicating sexual maturity.

  • Symmetric features, indicating good genes and general health.

  • Curves, indicating enough body fat to permit ovulation and to get a fetus through gestation.

  • Youth, indicating enough time to raise a child to maturity.

For more information, see our page answering the question "What do men want in a woman?"


Male sexuality is entwined with aggression. The natural metaphors are "the chase" and "the hunt." Part of manhood from the time of hunter/gathers is taking risks, and in mating, men are expected to take the risks of rejection.

In mating, men are in the ambivalent position of having to display enough aggression to show they can support their wives and children, but without themselves being a threat.

Men seek power and dominance. As in many (most? all?) social mammals, that comes with access to the most females. 

Related to dominance, men are success oriented. If women are sex objects, men are success objects. Men strive to succeed to prove they're worthy of reproducing, and also to support those they have committed to.

Stages of physical intimacy

It is worth reviewing here how men and women grow physically intimate. There are a series of steps or levels that men and women go through. Usually the progression of steps is a game in which the man initiates the progression to the next step and is met with repeated refusals until acceptance. This fits into male aggression in mating. 

These are the twelve steps Desmond Morris presented years ago, with an optional thirteenth step interposed between the last two of his steps:

  1. Glancing at the other.
  2. Meeting eyes.
  3. Talking.
  4. Holding hands.
  5. Placing hand on shoulder.
  6. Placing hand  around waist. (These two steps constitute touching the superior dorsal region, a.k.a. the back above the waist.)
  7. Kissing on the lips. 
  8. Touching the head.
  9. Touching the buttocks and breasts (inferior dorsal and superior ventral regions).
  10. Touching the breasts with the mouth.
  11. Touching below the waist (the inferior ventral region).
  12. (Optional) Touching below the waist with the mouth.
  13. Intercourse.

Men fall in love

Falling in love is a way to overcome inhibitions and concerns, but falling in love at first sight cannot be personal in the sense of responding to each other's personalities: the people don't know each other yet. I regret at this point taking the approach of discussing male sexual response from a strictly evolutionary perspective. That seems to dismiss the exquisite experience of falling in love.

Being in love allows men to experience positive feelings intensely. 

Falling in love motivates shy men to approach, despite their inhibitions.

I guess I never thought this thing would happen,
And now I’ve no idea what to say,
Afraid that I will end up looking foolish,
Afraid that you’ll get up and walk away.
While we were talking, suddenly I woke up
And saw the kindest person I have known,
And wrapped up in your voice and your expressions,
I love the one your face and words have shown.

My feelings of affection flowing thicker,
Excuses for inaction running thin,
Though I have watched your face and shared your feelings,
I’m finding it so awkward to begin.
“Excuse me, but I’ve let your spirit touch me.
Forgive me. I have let your beauty in.”

To learn more

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