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JSPES, Vol. 28, No. 4 (Winter 2003 )
pp. 451-486

An Examination of Gender Asymmetry in Divorce:an Extension of Fisher's Thesis

Wade C. Mackey, Ronald S. Immerman

Fisher profiled the broad outlines of the relationship between men and women in the "sex contract": courting, marriage, and divorce. This article examines selected dynamics of divorce to extend the basics of Fisher's thesis. The argument is presented that, although the genders have a reciprocal relationship with each other, the reciprocity is not symmetrical. The relationship is asymmetrical. In the context of the development of romantic love (limerence), the social father, and paternal certainty, plus the cultural overlay of marriage upon pair-bonding, it is suggested that, across the millennia, the range of options from which the woman would choose her sexual partners has been attenuated. However, in the latter part of the 20th century, for some communities there was a lessening of the cultural mandates for an on-going social father and a permanent marriage commitment; i.e., procuring a divorce became relatively easy and was de-stigmatized. The resulting divorce patterns in the these communities, it is argued, reflect a much older mating pattern wherein female choice, based upon her psycho-emotional motivations, may have been pre-potent in selecting mating partners.