About five years ago I wrote a post called You Need Sex. In that essay I asserted a few key points about the importance of a healthy sex life for men. If I’m honest I kind of expected most of the reactions I got from that post and even now it remains one of my more contentious pieces. Even when I was in my Blue Pill youth in the 80s and 90s I’d run across the guys who always wanted to deemphasize sex in some reverse-psychology effort to get women to believe that they were deeper than the guys who just wanted to bang them. These were the guys who’d listen to a girl say something like, “I don’t see why sex is such a big deal to guys” or “Am I just a piece of ass to you?“, they’d take it to heart, and then construct some kind of personalized Game around how they respected women and wanted to really relate with them ‘beyond the sexual’.
That’s exactly what the Blue Pill teaches guys; they should always defer to, empathize with and identify with the feminine. This is Blue Pill conditioning at its most basic. It is a boy/man’s imperative to place women’s existence as more important than his own – and with men’s innate protection instincts for women this Blue Pill training is key to establishing a gynocratic social order.
But guys also have to find some way to set themselves apart from the competition in the Blue Pill sexual marketplace. They have to find someway to make themselves unique in how unlike ‘typical‘ guys they are. The miscalculation is, of course, the belief that the more alike, the more they identify, with (as?) women the likelier a woman would select them for intimacy and reproduction.
Men are natural problem solvers. It’s part of our evolved firmware to look for solutions to challenges in our environment. This makes us constructive, creative, often innovative and more ready to take risks. It also makes us competitive and that competitiveness extends to the sexual marketplace. So it’s not too much of a stretch to see how Blue Pill conditioned young men might look for creative ways to outdo one another in the ‘female-identification olympics.
One way this identification competition gets pushed to new heights is in how well a man might better devalue and abase his own sexual strategy to better accommodate that of the woman he believes will appreciate it. Taken to the binary extreme this means finding some way to devalue all men’s sexual natures. What better way to set oneself apart from other guys than to not be a guy? What better way to empathize with the feminine than to tear down the gender women say they despise?
Does all that seem kind of ridiculous? I used to think this way when I was younger. There was a time I might’ve even jumped on the “masculinity is toxic/confusing/outdated/outmoded/ridiculous” train because I truly believed it was the way to a woman’s vagina heart and mind. Even in the 80s and 90s this was a popular misconception. It wasn’t until I’d been through my first bad breakup that I realized the truth. Then I had nothing to lose by making myself more important than the women I was idealizing and behold! The women I wanted, wanted me – sexually to be sure, but they wanted to lock me down in commitment.
In my 20s I had unwittingly shifted from one sexual strategy to another, and I liked the change. It didn’t happen overnight. I had to learn to adopt the attitude, the swagger, the character that would get me laid, but I found that the most important part of playing the game well was putting my own desires well above those of any woman.
Suddenly I discovered I could easily nail the girls I could only jerk off to in my younger years. I can remember the time I first had sex with a girl I thought was the apex of hotness when I was in my teens. She was the best friend of the girlfriend of the drummer in the band I was in then. Both were swimsuit models and I thought I’d finally reached the goal. It wasn’t until after I dumped her to get with a centerfold model that I knew I’d set my sights too low.
Does that sound like a humblebrag? If you’re still held back by a Blue Pill mindset it probably will. I mentioned on a podcast recently that a majority of men will never know sex as anything but a mitigated, compromised transaction. They’ll never know what it’s like to have a woman lust after them. They’ll never experience the dilated eyes of a woman that would give anything to please him in that moment. Not because she’s obligated, but because her ego is validated at the same time her body is aching to have sex with him.
Strategic Pluralism Theory
According to strategic pluralism theory (Gangestad & Simpson, 2000), men have evolved to pursue reproductive strategies that are contingent on their value on the mating market. More attractive men accrue reproductive benefits from spending more time seeking multiple mating partners and relatively less time investing in offspring. In contrast, the reproductive effort of less attractive men, who do not have the same mating opportunities, is better allocated to investing heavily in their mates and offspring and spending relatively less time seeking additional mates.
From a woman’s perspective, the ideal is to attract a partner who confers both long-term investment benefits and genetic benefits. Not all women, however, will be able to attract long-term investing mates who also display heritable fitness cues. Consequently, women face trade-offs in choosing mates because they may be forced to choose between males displaying fitness indicators or those who will assist in offspring care and be good long-term mates (Gangestad & Simpson, 2000). The most straightforward prediction that follows is that women seeking short-term mates, when the man’s only contribution to offspring is genetic, should prefer muscularity more than women seeking long-term mates.
The latter quote here is a simple outline of Hypergamy, but the first part, Strategic Pluralism Theory is what I want to focus on today because this is where the “sex is no big deal” cop out derives from for men.
The first sexual strategy, the one in which a higher SMV (sexual market value) male can enjoy the sexual experience of many women is a strategy predicated on what our most basic, evolved, biological instinct directs us to. It served ancestral men better to ‘hit it and quit it’ and move on to the next girl as expediently as possible for a variety of reasons. This is also a reason why women’s Hypergamous filtering is a base part of women’s sexual selection process today. The investment cost of becoming pregnant was so high that it became part of women’s evolved firmware to be hypersensitive to reproduction cues as well as parental investment cues (provisioning resources) to ensure survival of herself and her offspring. If you ever wonder why rape is such an existential fear for women you have to understand that this fear is written deep into women’s evolved mental firmware because of men overriding this filtering process by violence.
The first archetype of Strategic Pluralism Theory we could day is the Alpha archetype. This is the guy who has the luxury, by effort or genetic lottery, to pursue what I’d speculate was our ancestors’ pre-agrarian, hunter-gatherer sexual imperative. This is what guys like to call the “Natural” with women. Thanks so any number of intersexual advantages (looks, Game, social proof, preselection) it serves him best to spread the seed and women are only too happy to enjoy him as well. He represents the 20th percentile in the 80/20 Pareto distribution of the sexual marketplace.
This side of Strategic Pluralism Theory reflects the r aspect of the r/K reproductive theory. A lot of well meaning Red Pill theologians seem to think that r/K reproductive selection is only limited to the female side of the equation. I’d also point out that this applies to the male side as well. Hypergamy is women’s evolved sexual strategy, however, I would argue that men’s innate, default sexual strategy is unlimited access to unlimited sexuality. This r strategy is manifested today in our base predilection for pornography. Untempered by societal restraints, Alpha sexual strategy is what men a majority would default to if given the choice.
More attractive men accrue reproductive benefits from spending more time seeking multiple mating partners and relatively less time investing in offspring.
I’m establishing this perspective to better illustrate the Beta side of Strategic Pluralism Theory. For sake of convenience I’m labeling men who fall into the ‘more attractive men’ category as Alphas. I don’t think this is too much of a stretch for most of my readers, but if you have a problem with this just consider the statistics laid out in the book Dataclysm. A majority of women rate 80-85% of men as “unattractive”. That last 15-20% are our ‘more attractive’ Alphas here.
This then leaves the remaining ‘less attractive men’ as the Beta cohort.
…the reproductive effort of less attractive men, who do not have the same mating opportunities, is better allocated to investing heavily in their mates and offspring and spending relatively less time seeking additional mates.
This then is the Beta mating strategy and if it sounds like the conventional idea of monogamy you’re not too far off. This is the K side of the r/K selection theory. Before I continue I want to stress that monogamy or non-exclusivity is not a value judgement in this essay. Alpha Fucks and Beta Bucks has male sexual strategy implications beyond women’s Hypergamy. I refer to Alpha and Beta as placeholder terms here.
For the Beta side of Strategic Pluralism the reproductive strategy is one that, in part, aligns with one side of Hypergamy. The 80% of ‘less attractive’ men find it necessary to compromise their biological imperative (unlimited access to unlimited sexuality) in order to successfully reproduce. This is the nuts & bolts of what is today being called “enforced monogamy”. While this idea is taken to absurd extremes by critics, the premise is rooted in Strategic Pluralism. Since monogamy serves the largest block of men’s reproductive efforts it follows that it would be the institutionalized standard for ‘civil’ society.
Monogamy is Beta
Monogamy is a social norm, if not an evolutionary norm. A lot has been written about how monogamy in its present incarnation – one man, one woman – is really the result of a post-agrarian social order that optimized the sexual strategy of Beta men. In essence socially-enforced monogamy serves the largest population of Beta males.
However, the tradeoff for women was long term provisioning, protection (in as far as the man was capable) and parental investment – all thing conducive to sustainable futures for women and their children. All that was expected of women was a compromise on the Alpha arousal side of Hypergamy. And naturally, Alpha men and most women found ways to circumvent this socio-sexual adaptation that benefitted women in spite of Beta men.
I had the above video passed along to me by a Twitter follower about 2 weeks ago. I think he expected me to take issue with how she was defending ‘gold-diggers’ but, ironically, she unwittingly detailed the basics of Hypergamy and Strategic Pluralism Theory. She’s not wrong. Women’s sexual strategy is optimized in conditions of polygamy and polyandry, while men’s sexual strategy – the Beta sides anyway – is optimized in a condition of socially enforced monogamy.
What’s really ironic is that this girl discounts what so many men discount when they consider Hypergamy. She couches her total perspective on the Beta Bucks, long-term provisioning side of Hypergamy while conveniently omitting the Alpha Fucks side of Hypergamy. The only consideration she has is for resource transfer – again perpetuating the Beta sex experience – and ignoring the fact that even poor men still get to bang women like her if they’re “hawt’. ‘Monogamy is made to benefit men‘, no it’s made to benefit Beta men; Alpha men solve the reproductive problem irrespective of (in spite of) socially enforced monogamy. ‘Broke men don’t get women‘,…unless they’re hot broke men.
I’ve seen Jordan Peterson and more than a few notable evo-psych professors make a similar mistake. They deliberately make Hypergamy solely about the Beta Bucks side of a dualistic mating strategy. Mostly this misdirection is due to personal bias or a want to present the feminine in a positive light. But likewise we also tend to see focus of men’s sexual strategy centering on what long term resources a man has to measure his worth by. Historically, women have generally been the losers in a social order based on a monogamy that tries to ensure that the most men (majority Beta) are solving the reproductive problem. Because women lacked the same resource generating capacity of men, because up until 50 years ago women needed men to solve the Beta Bucks side of Hypergamy, monogamy was a at least a workable solution to their own reproductive problem.
In 2018 this is no longer the case. For all of the bleating of women wanting a ‘good man’ once they exit the cock carousel, the reproductive problem they’re trying to solve isn’t founded in the Beta Bucks side of Hypergamy it’s on the Alpha Fucks side. For as much as the women in this video tried to defend their mercenary sexual strategy of being justifiable gold diggers they really didn’t need to. All of the provisioning needs side of Hypergamy is relatively provided for for women in western cultures today.
The monogamous priority – the one that tried to ensure that most Beta men reproduced – that priority has now shifted to a neo-polyandry. This new social mechanic attempts to solve the Alpha Fucks side of the reproductive problem for the largest number of women. Just as patriarchal monogamy attempted to aide men who wouldn’t otherwise reproduce, the new polyandry seeks to ensure that even the lowest SMV women are entitled to breed with an Alpha male of their choosing.
Once all social stigma and religious buffers were removed from Hypergamy (since the Sexual Revolution) it has been a rapid shift from a male-beneficial monogamy that’s been the social norm for millennia to a form of polyandry that benefits the female sexual strategy.
I’ll be continuing this post in the next essay, but before I leave this essay let me reiterate the Cardinal Rule of Sexual Strategies: For one sex’s strategy to be fulfilled the other’s must be compromised or abandoned. Think of this on a sociological meta-scale.
You’ll have to forgive this exceptionally long post here, but for many critics of (and in) the manosphere of evolutionary psychology the following post articulates things better than I could. Some in the ‘sphere seem to think a reliance on evo-psych is some form of blind faith at worst; some sort of creative, purpose-built guesswork at best.
It is not.
When I apply anything regarding evolutionary psychology on Rational Male I approach it in the most deductive manner I can see fit insofar as connecting the behavioral dots with the social apparatus I observe. While Red Pill awareness isn’t reliant upon evo-psych it is founded upon a similar observationally deductive methodology.
Evo-psych is a very broad school of psychology that is not just limited to intersexual relations. While I do largely embrace the foundations of evo-psych, it’s important to remember that my particular education revolves around behaviorism.
A few years ago, I was giving an invited presentation to an audience of mostly sociologists and family studies professors on the topic of evolution and human reproductive strategies. I mentioned that some social scientists hold false beliefs about “evolutionary psychology,” such as the mistaken assumption that evolutionary psychologists think all men are interested in bedding as many women as possible (often called short-term mating), whereas all women are only interested in marrying a single man and staying faithful to him for a lifetime (i.e., long-term mating).
When I tried to dispel this common misperception by noting, for instance, that evolutionary psychologists have hypothesized women are just as designed for short-term mating as men are—in some ways even moreso such as women’s heightened desires for cues to genetic quality in short-term mates—an audible gasp swept through the conference hall. I kid you not, I could see rows of people who looked genuinely horrified. I was a little taken aback, so I asked an audience member near the front row who had her hand over her mouth if something was unclear, to which she proclaimed, “that’s not the evolutionary psychology I know.”
When I tried to explain that women’s evolved short-term mating desires have been studied by evolutionary psychologists since the early 1990s and the topic remains a very active area of inquiry today, heads swiveled in disbelief. My subsequent Power Point slides chock-full of studies confirming women’s specially designed short-term mating psychology were falling, I feared, on an auditorium of deaf ears (or blind eyes, I suppose). Alas, this stereotype about evolutionary psychology wasn’t going to change anytime soon.
It seems to me many critics of evolutionary psychology cling steadfastly to false stereotypes of the field, both theoretical and empirical. This is partly because so much evolutionary psychological research has been produced over the last 25 years it is hard for even evolutionary-informed scholars themselves to keep up (for an up-to-date review, I recommend Buss’ new edition of The Evolutionary Psychology Handbook). Add to that the methodological breadth of different techniques used by evolutionary scholars to test hypotheses about the adaptive design of the human mind, and it is understandably difficult to know what all evolutionary researchers have been, and currently are, up to as active Darwinian scientists.
Perhaps more than other social scientists, evolutionary psychologists use an incredible variety of research methods, ranging from self-report surveys and behavioral field test experiments, to investigations involving genetics, hormones, and neuroscience, to cross-species and cross-cultural comparisons, to ethnographies of foraging societies and computer modeling of artificial intelligences. To be aware of contemporary evolutionary psychology requires broad and deep knowledge of many scholarly disciplines, and a lot of evolutionary psychology’s critics simply do not know what they do not know about the field as it is practiced today.
Beyond simply not knowing about the empirical breadth and methodological richness of modern evolutionary science, many critics exhibit a certain kind of “empirical nihilism” toward any psychological findings even remotely portrayed as supporting evolutionary hypotheses. For instance, when one points to a set of studies that respond to a specific criticism, some critics reply with a “yes, but” attitude and set forth new criticisms requiring more evidence (sort of a serial “moving the goalposts” maneuver).
Now, in science extreme skepticism is generally a good thing. For scientists, there are no capital “T” Truths, and every claim about reality is tentatively true with a small “t” and is always adjustable as more evidence is accumulated over time. Sometimes, though, this attitude is more than healthy skepticism about a particular empirical finding and is, instead, clearly an attitude of irrefutable empirical nihilism toward evolutionary psychology studies in particular. As an example of this type of unshakeable attitude of disbelief, I list below 10 of the more common “yes, but” criticisms of evolutionary findings on women’s long-term mate preferences. It’s an illustrative (not exhaustive) list of just how impenetrable some scholar’s beliefs are when it comes to considering evidence that our evolved human mind might be something more than a domain-general learning mechanism writing on an asexual, ungendered blank slate.
Women’s Long-Term Mate Preferences
Looking across the animal kingdom, one cannot help but notice that members of most species tend to mate non-randomly. Whether it is peahens preferring peacocks with more elaborate trains or female common chimpanzees preferring males who possess higher social dominance, males and females of most species display adaptive forms of preferential mate choice.
Evolutionary psychologists were among the first to propose similar sex differences might exist in human mate preferences. For instance, evolutionary psychologists hypothesized that women may possess specially-designed long-term mate preferences for cues to a man’s ability and willingness to devote resources to her and their offspring. Such cues include a man’s status and prestige which, depending on local culture, may involve hunting ability, physical strength, or other locally-relevant attributes, as well as his ambition, work ethic, intelligence, social dominance, maturity, and slightly older age. Not all women desire the highest value long-term mate at all times, of course, but it is expected that women’s long-term mate preferences should be marked by some degree of “special design” that is reliably observable using the methodological richness of modern evolutionary psychological science.
One way to evaluate whether women possess long-term mate preferences for cues to status-related traits is to directly ask people whether they prefer those attributes in long-term mates (via methods such as self-report surveys), and then compare the intensity of responses of women and men. When doing so, psychologists typically evaluate the degree of sexual differentiation using the dstatistic, with an observed d value of ±.20 being considered a “small” sex difference, ±.50 is a “moderate” sex difference, and ±.80 is a “large” sex difference. Negative d values typically indicate women score more highly on a particular preference, whereas positive values indicate men score more highly.
Buss and Barnes were among the first to evaluate whether women (more than men) prefer cues related to a man’s ability and willingness to devote resources. For instance, they found women more strongly prefer long-term mates who have a “good earning capacity” (a large sex difference, d = -0.82), “are a college graduate” (d = -0.60), and “possess intelligence” (d = -0.19). Obviously, these findings are not definitive proof that men and women differ in the evolved design of long-term mate preferences. The findings are merely tests of evolutionary-guided hypotheses, and the tests were supportive of specially-designed sex differences existing in human mate preferences. Still, some critics challenge these results, arguing yes, but…
1) Yes, but…that is just one study. One cannot trust the results of just one study. Evolutionary psychologists need to conduct many more studies before I am convinced these effects are legitimate, let alone evidence of evolved psychology. I’m sure many other studies wouldn’t find sex differences in mate preferences.
Actually, most investigations of sex differences in mate preferences have been supportive of these hypotheses (to be honest, virtually all studies have). In 1992, Feingoldmeta-analytically reviewed the extant literature (including 32 independent samples) on self-reported mate preferences across college students and community samples and found women more greatly desired socioeconomic status (d = -0.69), ambition (d = -0.67), and intelligence (d = -0.30) in potential long-term mates. Numerous additional investigations have since replicated these basic sex differences in long-term mate preferences among college students. For instance, a recent study focused on women’s mate preferences for men with the ability to invest in them, revealing that college women desire a man who has earned his money (compared to other sources), ostensibly reflective of the aforementioned qualities (ambition, work ethic, intelligence), and that this effect is strongest in the long-term mating context.
2) Yes, but…those studies are mostly with college students. People in the real world (e.g., representative samples of adults) won’t display these stereotypical sex differences of youth.
Actually, yes they do. For instance, Sprecher and her colleagues examined sex differences in mate preferences across a nationally-representative sample of the United States and found women, more than men, valued a long-term mate who had a steady job (d = -0.73), earned more than they did (d = -0.49), was highly educated (d = -0.43), and was older by five years (d = -0.67). Young or old, gay or straight, sex differences in long-term mate preferences for status-related attributes tend to reliably emerge.
3) Yes, but…many of those findings are from decades ago. Sex differences in mate preferences are probably not historically stable. They may have existed many decades ago (in the era of Mad Men), but sex differences in mate preferences are surely not present in more recent times.
Actually, yes they are. In a cross-generational analysis of the same mate preference questionnaire administered to Americans from 1939 to 1996, both men and women increased their valuing of good financial prospects and decreased valuing ambition/industriousness over time, but the degree of sex differences in these items largely persistedin strength across more than 50 years.
4) Yes, but…that is only when you have people self-report their ideal mate preferences from a pre-chosen list of traits given to them. If you ask them what they really want, say at a minimum, or maybe let them freely design their ideal potential partners, status-related traits aren’t emphasized by women more than men.
Actually, yes they are. Researchers have questioned people about their long-term mate preferences using a wide variety of self-report methodologies. Kenrick and his colleagues asked people what the minimum threshold of possessing a particular attribute would need to be to agree to marry a person. Women, on average, required men’s earning capacity to be in the 70th percentile to be marriageable, whereas men required women to be in the 40th percentile (overall d = -1.41).
Using another nuanced form of self-report, Li compelled men and women to engage in tradeoffs among various cues when intentionally designing a desirable long-term mate. Women devoted the most of their limited budget toward their mates’ social level (33%), whereas for men social level was of moderate budgetary importance (17%). Across a series of studies, researchers using this tradeoff paradigm concluded that women, but not men, consider a long-term mate’s social status a “necessity” and not a “luxury.” Indeed, when forced to make decisions with very limited budgets, sex differences in long-term mate preferences are stronger than with typical self-report surveys.
Self-report surveys also reveal men, more than women, appear effective at displaying status-related traits to the opposite sex. Overall, self-report methods (via ratings, rankings, trade-offs, nominations, or open-ended questions) consistently support the hypothesis that women possess long-term mate preferences for cues to a man’s ability and willingness to devote resources.
5) Yes, but…this is only because women are denied access to resources themselves. If women have higher status themselves, they would not prefer men with high status. It’s just basic rationality, not evolved psychology, causing these sex differences in mate preferences for status.
Actually, it is a compelling test of women’s long-term mate preferences for men’s status-related traits (including their ability and willingness to provide resources) to evaluate whether their expressed preferences disappear when women have ample resources of their own. It could be women only prefer cues to men’s ability and willingness to provide resources because women are structurally denied access to resources.
Addressing this alternative explanation, Townsend and his colleagues have found women in medical school and law school are more selective of a future mate’s financial status, not less. Similarly, Wiederman and Allgeier found college women’s expected income was positively associated with their ratings of the importance of a potential long-term mate’s earning capacity. Regan found as women’s mate value goes up, so does their insistence on men’s high status and resources (i.e., they “want it all”; see also). Having higher personal status and resource-related traits appears not to attenuate women’s preferences for cues to men’s ability and willingness to provide resources. Instead, at least in the USA, women achieving high status themselves appears to make their long-term mate preferences for men’s high status even more intense!
6) Yes, but…that is only true in the United States. Americans happen to live in a culture with conspicuous gender stereotypes about mate preferences that the rest of the world does not share. If you look at more gender egalitarian cultures, in Scandinavia for instance, sex differences in preferences for status-related attributes “disappear” (as claimed by Marks).
Actually, no, they do not. Numerous studies have found sex differences in mate preferences for status-related attributes are prevalent across cultures. Lippa conducted an internet sampling of 53 nations and Zentner and Mitura conducted an internet sampling across 10 nations and both studies found 100% of cultures displayed expected sex differences, with women demonstrating especially heightened long-term mate preferences for good financial prospects, social status, ambition, and older age.
Some researchers have found the magnitude of sex differences in mate preferences for status-related attributes shifts from a large/medium effect size to a more moderate medium/small effect size in nations with higher gender egalitarianism. Zentner and Mitura found exactly this pattern of results after placing nations into three groups, low gender egalitarian cultures (within which women valued Ambition-Industriousness moderately more than men, d = -0.65), medium gender egalitarian cultures (women valued Ambition-Industriousness moderately more, d = -0.53), and high gender egalitarian cultures (women valued Ambition-Industriousness moderately more, d = -0.48). Hence, sex differences in the preference for Ambition-Industriousness in long-term mates were reduced (though not by much, and were still medium in terms of effect size) in nations with higher levels of gender egalitarianism.
Most other sex differences in status-related mate preferences also were attenuated from larger to more moderate levels in Zentner and Mitura’s sample of nations that were higher in gender egalitarianism (e.g., Good Financial Prospects went from d = -1.04, to d = -0.84, to d = -0.55; Favorable Social Status went from d = -0.67, to d = -0.42, to d = -0.31). In most cases, these reductions were caused by women preferring status-related traits less in high gender egalitarian nations, though in many cases men’s preferences for status-related attributes also were reduced in high gender egalitarian nations (which seems counter to the logic of men appreciating women’s status-related traits more as women enter the workforce in high gender egalitarian nations). One thing is clear, sex differences in long-term mate preferences for status-related traits do not “disappear” in gender egalitarian cultures. They may only be moderate in size, but we see them just fine.
Importantly, Zentner and Mitura also found in low gender egalitarian nations, men valued Good Looks only a little more than women, d = 0.24; in medium gender egalitarian nations, men’s valuation of Good Looks was higher still than women’s, d = 0.43; and in the highest gender egalitarian nations, men’s valuation of Good Looks was the most different from women’s, d = 0.51. Thus, contrary to the expectation that gender egalitarianism always reduces sex differences, Zentner and Mitura found sex differences in Good Looks are largest in nations with the highestgender egalitarianism. What!? Actually, these findings are not unusual, as high gender egalitarian nations also exhibit larger sex differences in Big Five personality traits and the Dark Triad traits of Machiavellianism, Narcissism, and psychopathy; in romantic attachment and love styles; in sociopolitical attitudes and personal values; in clinical depression rates and crying behavior; in tested cognitive and mental abilities; and in physical attributes such as height and blood pressure. If the sociopolitical gender egalitarianism found in Scandinavian nations is supposed to produce smaller psychological sex differences, it’s not doing a very good job of it.
7) Yes, but…all these studies showing men and women want different things in potential partners are merely evidence of gendered narratives as measured by self-report surveys. If ever tested in the real world, women would not preferentially choose or be affected by a partner’s status-related attributes more than men.
Actually, there have been dozens of studies of real world mating and mating-related cognition, and almost all find that women do choose and are affected by a partner’s status-related traits more than men are.
Feingold meta-analytically examined what women ask for and what men advertise in public, real-world personal advertisements and found, as expected, women more than men ask for cues to willingness and ability to provide resources (e.g., 27% of women ask for high socioeconomic status compared to 7% of men). Men who advertise such status-related cues actually receive more responses from women, as well. For example, in a study that experimentally manipulated real-life personal ads, ads placed by men noting they were financially successful elicited the most interest, whereas for women physical attractiveness was the key. In a study of Polish personal ads, the top four cues displayed by men that received responses from women were good education, older age, high resource levels, and tall height. In a study of mail order brides from Colombia, Russia, and the Philippines, women universally listed ambition, status, and wealth as among their most desired attributes in a future husband.
Numerous studies of marital patterns also have found women tend to desire (and actually marry) men who are slightly older than they are, regardless of women’s own age. As men get older, in contrast, they tend to desire and marry younger and younger women. Women have been found to preferentially marry higher status men across such diverse cultures as the Kipsigis of Kenya, the Hausa of West Africa, Trinidadians, and Micronesian islanders, among many others. It is true that some speed-dating studies in urban settings find women do not choose higher status men more often as dates, but these studies are limited by having only high status men in their samples (no homeless men allowed) and potentially including those who are interested in short-term mating (women’s short-term mate preferences focus more on gene quality, not status). In speed-dating studies with low status men included, and when the context is explicitly long-term mating only, women do pick higher status men more often for dates.
There also are a wide range of cognitive studies that test for women’s desires for status-related traits without explicitly asking them what they want. For instance, as part of a study ostensibly helping a university develop a dating service, Kenrick and his colleagues experimentally manipulated whether already-mated men and women were exposed to a target date either very high in dominance or very low in dominance. They found women, but not men, were less committed to their current long-term mating partner after being exposed to a high dominance member of the opposite sex. Merely being experimentally exposed to a man with very high dominance lowered women’s commitment to their current mate, and did so without consciously asking women about their preferences for dominance.
Similarly, exposure to physically attractive women appears to evoke in men desires to fulfill women’s evolved preferences, such as increasing men’s attention toward and desires to possess resources and to display ambition, creativity, independence, and risk-taking. And when exposed to men who are high in dominance, men tend to rate themselves as lower in mate value and men’s feelings of jealousy are more strongly evoked. All of these cognitive processes occur differently in women and men without explicit, conscious awareness of why they are doing so. Surely, to an open-minded scientist these types of non-survey findings should buttress the view that women possess mate preferences for men’s status-related attributes…
8) Yes, but…even though evolutionary psychologists may study real life cognition, emotion, and behavior, they fail to study the most important Darwinian outcome…fertility. If women evolved mate preferences for status-related traits, then women who marry men of high status men should have more children. Evolutionary psychologists haven’t even bothered to look at these outcomes, lazy-headed daisies…
Actually, several studies by evolutionary psychologists have found women who marry higher status men tend to have more children, and to have children survive to an older age. In a study of pre-industrial Finland (from the 1700s), women married to wealthier men had more children and decreased child mortality. In another study, marrying a man four years older was associated with maximum levels of fertility among women. Bereczkei and Csanaky conducted a study of 1,800 Hungarians over 34 years of age and found women who married older and better educated men tended to have more children. These are important findings, as it is critical that women’s mate preferences for status-related attributes lead to reproductive success, or at least likely did so in our evolutionary past.
One may also look at the effects of high personal status on men’s versus women’s reproductive success. Nettle and Pollett and many other scholars have found men’s higher level of personal status is related to higher fertility, but the same is much less true (or not at all true) for women’s higher level of personal status. In fact, modern women who have higher personal incomes themselves tend to have fewer children. Jumping Jehoshaphat…yes, but…
9) Yes, but…ancestral men were foragers and could not accumulate wealth, so these mate preferences for “good earning potential” are largely irrelevant to evolved mating psychology. Evolutionary psychology findings are extremely limited because they only apply to modern materialistic cultures.
Actually, it is correct that large masses of “material wealth” were not present in our ancestral past when we lived as foragers, but it is likely ancestral men did accumulate social capital or “status” (from among other things, hunting ability). Several studies have documented this form of male status as being the subject of selective pressures (i.e., high status men—whether that status comes in the form of land, livestock, money, physical prowess, or hunting ability—have more offspring). Evidence of selection for men’s status has been found in many types of cultures, including studies of men’s hunting ability among the Aché, Hadza, and Tsimane. Apicella, for instance, found men’s hunting reputation and upper-body strength both predicted reproductive success among Hadza hunter–gatherers.
Moreover, it is important to acknowledge that women’s preferences in modern nations do not seem to be calibrated on money, per se. Instead, women may view money as a proximal cue to the underlying qualities that they have evolved to care about, such as status, prestige, social dominance, ambition, work ethic, and intelligence. So it is certainly true that ancestral men did not accumulate financial wealth, but focusing too much on the importance (or not) of money or wealth across all cultures is missing the adaptive forest for the trees.
10) Yes, but…I know so many people who strongly believe that sex differences in mate preferences simply cannot exist. The idea of evolved sexual desires of any kind are a theoretical impossibility from my point of view! Evolved sex differences in mate preferences have to be just a figment of the imagination of evolutionary psychologists bent on maintaining patriarchy. If the evidence is, on balance, supportive of women possessing long-term mate preferences for men with high status, why do so many post-modernists and social constructionists insist evolved sex differences are not, indeed cannot, be real?
That’s a big question requiring several responses. First, the evidence of evolved sex differences in mate preferences is accumulating, but it is certainly not definitive. Evolutionary psychologists evaluate evidence of psychological adaptation in many ways, including cross-species, neurological, hormonal, genetic, and epigenetic evidence that has not been reviewed here (some examples of such evidence, see). Nothing in science is ever set in stone, and more evidence could emerge that would cast serious doubt about evolved sex differences in mate preferences (though it would take quite a lot to tip the scales against the existence of this particular set of mate preferences). Scientists are skeptical and open-minded, so anything is possible.
Second, it is a mistake to pit post-modernism and social constructivism against evolutionary psychology as though they are in an intellectual death match that only one side can win. This tribalistic, us-versus-them thinking isn’t helpful to science. Much like partitioning the causes of human behavior into nurture versus nature or culture versus biology or learned versus innate, social constructivism versus evolutionary psychology is a false dichotomy that may feel intuitively correct but should not be utilized very often by serious scientists (exceptions include behavioral genetics studies). As insightfully noted by Tooby and Cosmides,
“To say a behavior is learned in no way undermines the claim that the behavior was organized by evolution because the behavior was learned through the agency of evolved mechanisms. If natural selection had built a different set of learning mechanisms into an organism, that organism would learn a different set of behaviors in response to the very same environment. It is these evolved mechanisms that organize the relationship between the environmental input and behavioral output, and thereby pattern the behavior. For this reason, learning is not an alternative explanation to the claim that natural selection shaped the behavior, although many researchers assume that it is. The same goes for culture. Given that cultural ideas are absorbed via learning and inference—which is caused by evolved programs of some kind—a behavior can be, at one and the same time, ‘cultural’, ‘learned’ and ‘evolved’.”
Mate preferences in humans are certainly to some degree cultural, learned, and evolved. Ultimately, the adaptations of the human mind unearthed by evolutionary psychologists will likely play key roles in explaining precisely how and why human social constructionists have the mate preferences they do.
Third, some scholars believe, based on strict ideological commitments, that evolved psychological sex differences must not exist or even if they do exist, studies of sex differences should be evaluated in ways that favor certain political ideologies over others, such as raising the evidentiary bar for evolutionary psychology hypotheses. As a consequence of these political beliefs, many scholars chauvinistically dismiss or ignore much of the extant evidence accumulated by evolutionary psychologists.
This is a mistake on several levels, not the least of which is that even if evolved sex differences in mate preferences do exist, that does not make them “desirable” or “good” or “inevitable” in any way. Thinking like that is fallacious, it is wrong. Even though humans have likely evolved to be omnivorous, that doesn’t mean we should eat meat. What is natural is not inherently connected to what is desirable and thinking that way is committing the so-called naturalistic fallacy (actually more related to the is-ought problem and appeal to nature fallacy).
Instead of this false point of view, evolutionary psychologists take the position that by knowing what our evolved psychological adaptations are, and precisely how they are expressed (e.g., how they are specially-designed and which environments especially accentuate or attenuate their expression), we will be more capable of creating effective tools for altering human behavior in ways we do find desirable. This includes utilizing the socially-constructive psychological adaptations in our mental toolkit to do so. Evolved sex differences are not to be ideologically feared, they are to be scientifically evaluated and, if they exist, knowledge about their special design can be used to more efficiently create the healthy society within which we wish to live.
Lastly, there are some scholars who are actively deceiving people about empirical findings in evolutionary psychology (e.g., claiming that sex differences “disappear” in egalitarian cultures). Many of these thinkers spread doubt about evolved mate preferences by alluding to a highly popular study by Eagly and Wood. People’s memories of Eagly and Wood’s study, however, are often quite at odds with what they actually found, and with the hundreds of empirical findings since.
Eagly and Wood related the size of sex differences in mate preferences for “good financial prospects” to sociopolitical gender equality measures across nations (actual mate preference data came from a large cross-cultural study by Buss). Eagly and Wood examined four indicators of sociopolitical gender equality and found only one indicator (that’s right, only one of four tests) was significantly linked to smaller sex differences in long-term mate preferences for good financial prospects. Based on that rather meager empirical finding, a generation of scholars seems to have fallen for a “Jedi mind trick” (these aren’t the sex differences you are looking for) and have been convinced that sex differences in mate preferences completely disappear in more gender egalitarian nations. Indeed, Eagly and Wood’s study has been cited over 1,000 times and has led to many to believe all psychological sex differences disappear in gender egalitarian cultures. Not true then, not true now.
To the contrary, most cross-cultural studies find nations with the highest sociopolitical gender equality (e.g., Scandinavian nations) exhibit the largest psychological sex differences in the world. You read that correctly. Higher gender egalitarian nations tend to have larger sex differences in mate preferences for Good Looks, in Big Five personality traits and the Dark Triad traits of Machiavellianism, Narcissism, and psychopathy; in romantic attachment and love styles; in sociopolitical attitudes and personal values; in clinical depression rates and crying behavior; in tested cognitive and mental abilities; and in physical attributes such as height and blood pressure. If sociopolitical gender egalitarianism is supposed to reduce sex differences to the point where they “disappear,” it’s doing a terrible job. In fact, it’s most often doing the exact opposite. Without the constraints of patriarchal sex role socialization, it appears men and women are freer to follow their evolved desires in ways that lead to even greater psychological difference.