Thanks to reader Winnifred who sent me this story about men who feel entitled to date out of their league, physical attractiveness-wise. There’s a lot to criticize, as you can imagine, but what really threw me off my imaginary chair was this:
Besides, from an evolutionary perspective, men are simply looking for the woman most likely to produce a strong healthy baby — so that means they’re often focused on physical attractiveness.
“Men might as well reach for the stars,” says William Pollack, a Harvard University psychologist and the director of the Center for Men and Young Men at McLean Hospital. “Women are the ones who are going to have the baby. They need to be a little more picky.”
So men are pickier about looks because they, unlike women, need healthy offspring, and women are pickier. This is the sort of confused thinking that dominates these evo psych articles, though this is a particularly incoherent example. Men think they have a chance with the hottest women, argues the article, so they ask out more, which instead implies that they don’t think that but are just happier to hedge their bets. (Also, that they’ve been socially conditioned—I know! Impossible!—to take the initiative in dating.) And it appears that there’s confusion about genetics, specifically that men give babies half their genetic heritage and therefore men and women would have equal interest in their mate’s health profile, genes-wise. I suppose they could mean that men want a healthy incubator for “their” babies, but that’s a fairly bizarre view of genetic biology to downplay the importance of, you know, genes.
Re: The story. Um, it’s about how women tend to be accurate judges of how the rest of society will rate them on the physical attractiveness scale and how they don’t try for men deemed better-looking on average than they are. Men, however, aim high (and equal). So it’s a stereotype confirmed, albeit through extremely questionable methods. It’s only mildly interesting to me that men are more likely to try to date out of their league than women when it comes strictly to how you look on online dating profile pictures. What would be more interesting is seeing if men are more daring than women in shooting “out of their league” on not just looks, but employment, education levels, social class, and other factors.
One point in the article’s favor is that they hold out on evo psych bullshit until the end, citing social factors for the difference.
Maybe men think women have all read “The Frog Prince” and taken it to heart, allowing us to look past an ugly exterior in the search for inner beauty. Or perhaps it’s that men have internalized the messages in the popular media: movies like “Knocked Up,” where the slacker hero lands a beautiful babe, or TV shows like “According to Jim,” in which a difficult, slobby guy is coupled with a gorgeous wife.
Or it could be that they’re accurately assessing the dating market, where women’s lower status and lower economic prospects means that men with both have a few more cards to play than just looks. But again, because of feminism you’re seeing women able to bring more attributes than looks and family to the dating market. Education and employment matter more than they used to, at least in the harumph harumph urban liberal elite circles I’ve spent most of my dating life in. And money—I think a lot of women feel like they have to hold their own with the guys they date. Maybe not make as much or anything, but have a comparable amount of spending cash.