It's common knowledge that men will compete against each other to gain a woman's attention. Not only is this observable almost everywhere, but it's also supported by a bundle of scientific investigation. When pursuing a potential mate, men, for the most part, are fairly easy to figure out; they are direct, aggressive, and violent. Far less is known, however, about how girls compete. Women seem to operate by a different set of rules, and, if you're someone trying to figure out those rules, good luck. But one thing has helped to shed light on this mystery: science. Two years ago, a study in the Journal of Aggressive Behavior found that females use indirect aggression to suppress the sexuality of other same-sex peers. Surprised? You shouldn't be. Violence, though employed by men, is rarely used as a strategy by females to fend off would-be competitors. (“Cat fights,” as they are called, are generally rare, occurring once in awhile like the aurora borealis.) There are good evolutionary reasons for this. As research has shown, physical aggression by females runs the risk of injury or death, which – if you're a woman who wants to have a child – is not a good reproductive strategy. So, females turn to other, less violent ways to compete: self-promotion and the derogation of others. In general, men show a strong preference toward young, attractive females. What's more, the study cites other research that explains how “larger women are not perceived by men as being attractive” and “studies consistently demonstrated that women with large breasts and a low waist-to-hip ratio are preferred by men for both short- and long-term relationships.” Finally, the research concludes, women tend to target and derogate females who possess these qualities. According to the study's authors, the following are a few ways women compete against sexually attractive same-sex peers: • Gossiping and spreading rumors • Degrading the competitor's appearance • Using the silent treatment • Socially isolating the rival • Employing facial and body gestures that make the rival feel badly about herself All of these tactics are aimed at suppressing the rival's sexuality and knocking her out of the competition. What I found most interesting from this research was that – in the context of relationships – females will often “mate guard,” meaning that they will not allow their male partner to meet or spend time with a female they deem as sexually attractive. “We suspect,” the researchers write, “that women who appear sexually available are not perceived as 'safe' friends. [The sexually attractive females] are expected to be mate poachers, and they likely devalue a person's value.” In other words, if you're a guy who's in a relationship and has lots of sexually attractive female friends, this, I predict, won't go over well with your significant other, as it wouldn't if you're a women with lots of sexually attractive male friends (although this particular research focuses only on competition among women, so the latter is speculation on my part). At any rate, rather than being full of “sugar and spice and all things nice,” as the old saying goes, it seems women – at least when competing against same-sex peers for the attention of a mate – are full of turpentine and arsenic and all things frightening.