Selection against costly reproductive interactions can lead to reproductive character displacement (RCD). We use information from patterns of displacement and inferences about predisplacement character states to investigate causes of RCD in periodical cicadas. The 13-year periodical cicada Magicicada neotredecim exhibits RCD and strong reproductive isolation in sympatry with a closely related 13-year species, Magicicada tredecim. Displacement is asymmetrical, because no corresponding pattern of character displacement exists within M. tredecim. Results from playback and hybridization experiments strongly suggest that sexual interactions between members of these species were possible at initial contact. Given these patterns, we evaluate potential sources of selection for displacement. One possible source is ‘acoustical interference’, or mate-location inefficiencies caused by the presence of heterospecifics. Acoustical interference combined with the species-specificity of song pitch and preference appears to predict the observed asymmetrical pattern of RCD in Magicicada. However, acoustical interference does not appear to be a complete explanation for displacement in Magicicada, because our experiments suggest a significant potential for direct sexual interactions between these species before displacement. Another possible source of selection for displacement is hybrid failure. We evaluate the attractiveness of inferred hybrid mating signals, and we examine the viability of hybrid eggs. Neither of these shows strong evidence of hybrid inferiority. We conclude by presenting a model of hybrid failure related to life cycle differences in Magicicada.