In many species, the physical act of mating and exposure to accessory gland proteins (Acps) in male seminal fluid reduces female survival and offspring production. It is not clear what males gain from harming their sexual partners or why females mate frequently despite being harmed. Using sterile strains of Drosophila melanogaster that differ in their production of Acps, we found that both the physical act of mating and exposure to male seminal fluid in mothers increase the fitness of daughters. We show that the changes in daughter fitness are mediated by parental effects, not by sexual selection involving good genes or owing to variation in maternal egg production. These results support the idea that male harm of females might partly evolve through cross-generational fitness benefits.