University of Cambridge > > Computer Laboratory Security Seminar > Sex, money, and the mating market: How big data helps us understand sexual politics

Sex, money, and the mating market: How big data helps us understand sexual politics

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Why are sex differences the result of biological and economic forces? How do mating market conditions affect gendered violence? Why are so many people – including women –concerned with regulating female sexuality? For too long, our approach to gendered outcomes has quarantined the biological from the sociocultural, as if one has nothing to do with the other. Yet a close understanding of the drivers of male-male aggression, intimate partner violence, and female beauty practices shows that the biological and sociocultural often intertwine. In this talk I review a growing body of my research that uses big data to implicate mating market conditions in gendered outcomes. Using data from 113 nations, I will explain how income inequality affects the local female mating ecology and thus incentivizes intrasexual competition and status-seeking. I will then show that by disadvantaging male mate competition, the operational sex ratio and manufacturing shocks in the USA drive troubling online sub-cultures linked to gendered violence (i.e., “inCel” ideology). By linking online behaviors with offline violence, I show how social media can be used as a barometer to identify prospective hotspots of crime. By incorporating insights from behavioral ecology, social psychology, economics, and international security, I provide a functional account of gender conflict, highlighting the value of integrating competing disciplinary perspectives to understand these phenomena. With it I offer a new approach to understanding how and why sexual conflict manifests, and how attitudes toward gender are related to potential fitness payoffs.


Dr Blake is an expert on sexual politics who combines insights from evolutionary biology, psychology and big data to understand conflict and competition among people. Her research addresses big issues that profoundly influence wellbeing, including personal agency and empowerment, intimate partner violence and the varied ways in which people seek and enact status. Dr Blake convenes TwitPlat, a database of 6 billion geolocated Twitter posts spanning 9 years, and the Daily Cycle Diary, an online platform that helps women to understand how their menstrual cycle affects their psychology. She is the holder of seven international and eight domestic awards for research excellence, and has featured her work at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, Melbourne Writer’s Festival, Melbourne International Film Festival, in The Age, The Herald Sun, The Sydney Morning Herald, and on ABC News and The Project. She is an ARC DECRA Fellow and a lecturer at the Melbourne School of Psychological Science at the University of Melbourne.

This talk is part of the Computer Laboratory Security Seminar series.

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