Author ORCID Identifier

Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Vincent Cassone


The complexity of human reproductive behavior has necessitated its examination through a variety of scientific disciplines, each focusing on specific elements of our biology, behavior, and society. However, this complexity also necessitates that we reintegrate the information learned from each discipline into a single framework, one rooted in the evolutionary principles that have shaped the development of all life on earth. In this dissertation, I use this framework to explore human reproductive behavior, with a particular focus on sexual coercion and fertility-mediated sexual behavior.

In Chapter 1, I introduce the approach taken in this document, identify several key limitations, and outline the general structure. In Chapter 2, I conduct a comprehensive and interdisciplinary review that includes the fundamentals of sexual conflict and reproductive strategies; the evolution of human reproductive characteristics in response to socio-cognitive demands; the aspects of human sociality expected to influence reproductive behavior; the identified trends in human mating behavior; the proposed pressures behind concealed ovulation in primates; the essentials of the menstrual cycle; and the existing evidence for behavioral fertility in humans. In Chapter 3, I use a game-theory model to investigate the emergence of sexually coercive behavior across a variety of species, including humans, in which male coercion is a non-developmentally-determined reproductive strategy to identify several ecological and behavioral characteristics that predict the emergence of coercive behavior generally consistent with observed trends. In Chapter 4, I use face-trait research to investigate the degree to which women recognize and discriminate between images of men with personality traits associated with different male reproductive strategies as well as how these preferences might be mediated by her relationship and fertility status. In Chapter 5, explore the intersection of fertility, fertility belief, and sexuality, specifically testing the hypothesis that a woman’s sexual interest shifts in response to her fertility while taking into consideration her beliefs regarding her fertility. Finally, in Chapter 6, I review the primary take-home messages of this work and recommend that future research take these into consideration as they move forward.

By taking an interdisciplinary approach rooted in evolutionary biology, this work reveals the need for an understanding of human reproductive behavior that incorporates a wider view of reproductive ecology. In doing so, we can gain a more accurate, comprehensive, and nuanced understanding of human reproductive behavior.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

Wimberly C. Royster Graduate Excellence Award, University of Kentucky, 2015-2018

Gertrude Flora Ribble Research Fellowship, University of Kentucky, 2015-2016

Daniel R. Reedy Scholarship, University of Kentucky, 2015-2016

STEMCats, College of Arts and Sciences, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, 2017-2020