Understanding the Prevalence of Sexual Dysfunctions in Women: an Evolutionary Perspective

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    Epidemiological studies indicate that almost one in two women face some kind of sexual dysfunction. Given the importance of sexual functioning for successful reproduction, such a high prevalence is enigmatic. Selection forces should have reduced to a low frequency, or have eliminated completely from the gene pool, any alleles that predispose for sexual dysfunctions. Epidemiological studies indicate that this did not happen, and the present paper attempts to examine the reasons why. Based on anthropological and historical evidence, it is argued that in ancestral societies sexual motivation was a much weaker predictor of successful mating in women, than it is today in post-industrial societies. Accordingly, balancing selection has favored a female type of sexual behavior which is characterized by low sexual motivation. This low level of sexual motivation is not optimal in post-industrial societies where mate choice is not regulated, resulting in women, who have such predispositions, to be classified as suffering from a dysfunction. Predictions are derived from the proposed model, and matched with available evidence.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)26-43
    Number of pages18
    JournalAdaptive Human Behavior and Physiology
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016


    • Ancestral neutrality
    • Balancing selection
    • Hypoactive sexual desire disorder
    • Orgasmic disorder
    • Sexual arousal disorder
    • Sexual dysfunctions in women
    • Sexual pain disorder


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