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The submissive pattern of postconflict affiliation in asymmetric relationships: a test in male and sexually coerced female baboons

Baniel, A; Webb, CE; Cowlishaw, G; Huchard, E; (2021) The submissive pattern of postconflict affiliation in asymmetric relationships: a test in male and sexually coerced female baboons. Animal Behaviour , 175 pp. 87-97. 10.1016/j.anbehav.2021.02.014. Green open access

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Abstract

Reconciliation, or postconflict (PC) affiliation between former opponents, is a widespread conflict management strategy in animal societies, so-named for its relationship repair function. However, another possibility is that PC affiliation reflects a submissive response of victims towards aggressors to limit conflict escalation when the power imbalance between the opponents is large. Here we investigated this hypothesis in a highly asymmetric relationship context: heterosexual wild chacma baboon, Papio ursinus, dyads involving sexually receptive females, where sexual coercion by males is common. We found several lines of support for the submissive hypothesis in the context of sexual coercion. First, rates of sexual and nonsexual PC affiliative interactions in these dyads exhibited significant and comparable increases compared to baseline conditions (ca. three-fold). Second, the baseline strength of the heterosexual social bond (outside of an aggressive context) did not predict the likelihood of sexual and nonsexual PC affiliation. Third, mate-guarded females, who could not escape the proximity of their aggressor (and faced high risks of renewed aggression), exhibited the most PC affiliation with males. Finally, most PC affiliation sequences contained at least one sexual act, and the first sexual affiliative act was primarily initiated by females via presenting. This suggests that female victims affiliate in a submissive way by displaying sexual compliance to aggressive males. Nevertheless, we cannot exclude the co-occurrence of ‘true’ reconciliation: a quarter of PC affiliations between males and receptive females were exclusively nonsexual, and the first general affiliative act was equally initiated by males and females. Overall, our results suggest a mixed PC affiliation strategy in which submission may play an important role in highly asymmetric relationships and indicate that the function of PC affiliation may vary from submission to reconciliation depending on the species, dyads, individuals and conflicts under consideration. Future research on PC interactions would usefully consider this full spectrum.

Type: Article
Title: The submissive pattern of postconflict affiliation in asymmetric relationships: a test in male and sexually coerced female baboons
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2021.02.014
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2021.02.014
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: aggression, chacmababoon, male–female association, reconciliation, sexual coercion
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10126679
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