Insights from sexual selection and costly signalling theory suggest that competition for females underlies men's public good contributions. We conducted two public good experiments to test this hypothesis. First, we found that men contributed more in the presence of an opposite sex audience, but there was no parallel effect for the women. In addition, men's public good contributions went up as they rated the female observer more attractive. In the second experiment, all male groups played a five round public good game and their contributions significantly increased over time with a female audience only. In this condition men also volunteered more time for various charitable causes. These findings support the idea that men compete with each other by creating public goods to impress women. Thus, a public good is the human equivalent of a peacock's tail. © 2012 The British Psychological Society.