A Unified Theory of Male Slobbishness and Female Preening

It’s all about asymmetrical investment, boys and girls….

One of the hot topics in the blogosphere recently has been the difference between male and female standards of attractiveness, and what this has to do with feminism and “the beauty myth”. Ann Althouse has been having fun at the expense of Laura Kipnis’s column bemoaning the grip that beauty has on women. Sissy Willis and has connected this issue to a gripe by Andrew Sullivan that women ought to demand that men turn themselves out better.

The bloggers rightly see the differing incentives attached to sexual selection as the key to understanding these differences. Those differences are the reason that the many forms of un-PC behaviors that Ms. Kipnis decries aren’t going to go away short of a genetic reengineering of human beings.

What’s missing, so far, is a unified explanation of why those incentives are different. This turns out not to be complicated, and understanding it helps us grasp some interesting and entertaining subtleties in the situation.

The central fact that controls the the preferences of both sexes is that bearing children is difficult and dangerous for women, but fertilizing a woman is almost trivially easy for a man. Furthermore, the female investment in childbearing is front-loaded (proportionally more of the risk is before and at birth) while the male investment is back-loaded (proportionately more of the risks and costs are incurred after birth).

Moderns living in a largely disease-free environment seldom realize how cruel and pressing these differences were over most of our species history. But before modern sanitation, death in childbirth was so common that men wealthy enough to afford it expected to have several wives during their lifetimes, losing many of them to childbed fever and other complications.

Also relevant is the extremely high rate of childhood death from infectious diseases and parasites that was characteristic of premodern societies. Disease resistance in humans is highly variable and generally increases with genetic mixing (the same reason a mongrel puppy or kitten is less likely to catch a disease than a purebreed). Thus, both men and women have instincts intended to maximize genetic variety in their offspring in order to maximize the chances that some will survive to reproductive age.

Our instincts evolved to cope with these patterns of life and death. The next piece we need to understand those instincts is what physical beauty means. Recent anthropology revealing strong cross-cultural patterns in the perception of pulchritude is helpful here.

In both sexes, the most important beauty indicators include symmetrical features and a good complexion (clear skin without blemishes, warts, etc.). It turns out these are indicators of resistance to infection and parasites,
especially resistance in childhood and during adolescent growth. Good hair
is also a health indicator.

In men, physical signs of strength, dexterity, and agility are also favored; this reflects the value female instinctive wiring puts on male specializations in burst exertion, hunting, and warfare. In women, signs of fertility and fitness to bear are favored (healthy and generous breasts, a certain range of hip-to-waist ratios).

Men fixate on physical beauty and youth because under primitive conditions it is a leading indicator of the ability to bear and suckle children. Through most of history, plain or ugly women were bad risks for the next round of infectious diseases — and their children, carrying their genes, were too.

The last piece of the puzzle is that men and women have asymmetrical information about the parentage of their children. A woman is seldom in doubt about which children are the issue of her womb; a man, by contrast, can never be as sure which are the fruit of his seed. Thus, genetic selfishness motivates the woman in a mated pair to sacrifice more for her children than it does the man. This is why women abandon their children far less often than men do.

While women do respond to male good looks, it’s not the agenda-topper for them that it is for men. To understand why this is, it helps to know that the optimal mating strategy for a woman begins with hooking a good provider, a man who will stick around to support the kids in spite of not being as sure that he’s their father as the woman is of being their mother. Where men look for fitness to bear children, women seek the capability and willingness to raise them.

Thus, robust health and infection resistance, while desirable in a potential husband, are not the be-all and end-all. Behavior traits indicating attachment, loyalty, nurturance, and kindness are more important than a tight six-pack. Men instinctively worry about these things less because they know women are more certain of parentage and thus more tightly bonded to their children. Fitness-to-raise also means that indicators of success and social status count for more in men. Men marry health and beauty, women marry security and good prospects.

There is, however, one important exception — one circumstance under which women are just as physical, beauty-oriented, and “shallow” in their mating preferences as men. That’s when they’re cheating.

Both sexes have a genetic-diversity incentive to screw around, but it manifests in different ways. Again, the reason is parentage uncertainty. For a man, diversity tactics are simple — boff as many hot babes as possible, accepting that you don’t know which of their kids are yours and counting on stronger maternal bonding to ensure they will have at least one devoted parent around. Because a woman can be more sure of who her offspring are, her most effective diversity tactic is different — get married to a good provider and then cheat on him.

Under those circumstances, she doesn’t have to value good character in a mating partner as much; hubby, who can’t tell the kids aren’t his, will supply that. Thus the relative value of handsomeness goes up when a woman is taking a lover on the sly. Marrying the lord and screwing the gardener is an old game, and from a genetic-selfishness point of view a very effective one.

All this should explain why men can often get away with being slobs while women primp and preen. But it is wise to distrust evolutionary accounts that are simply just-so stories without making testable predictions. This one makes a few.

Most notably, it predicts that women who are less concerned about security and the the status of their offspring (e.g. wealthier, older, or for other reasons less dependent on a male provider) are more likely to be interested in bagging studmuffins. It also predicts that by contrast, men’s tendency to value physical beauty over most other qualities in a mate will change little, if at all, with their wealth level — because their instincts tell them health, not wealth, is the woman’s most important input.

It also explains why gays and lesbians have such opposed attitudes about beauty. In (male) gay mating both parties are instinctive beauty-seekers, while in lesbian matings both parties are instinctive security-seekers. Thus, gay culture is full of posturing pretty-boys and lesbian culture full of sincere plane janes.

As others have noted, women who habitually demand peacock males are making themselves less effective at competing for the good-husband traits that instinct tells them are more valuable; they will lose out in the reproductive race to women who can tolerate a faithful slob. On the flip side, the instinctive male fixation on fitness-to-bear means that all attempts to devalue female beauty in the mating market are doomed. Hetero- and bisexual women know this in their bones; it takes a lesbian to believe this is even a reasonable project — which is why agitation against “lookism” has been the least successful facet of feminist ideology.

Categorized as Sex


  1. This evolutionary psychology crap really ticks me off. It’s fun at parties and all, but the idea that people’s behavior can be modelled and predicted based on loosey goosey post hoc prestidigitation is specious.

    If all this preening and primping people engage in is going on, why is it that women are most often concerned with thier apperance in front of other women? For example, in rich Muslim countries, such as Saudi Arabia, women primp and preen just as much as they do in the West, all for the exclusive benefit of their female peers.

    This asymmetry in child rearing is present in all mammals, and many other species. Even within human societies one sees many, many solutions to these problems, sometimes within the same culture. Extending to primates, one sees standardized species behaviors of all different flavours, monogomy, open polygamy, secret polygamy, etc. etc.

    So given this diversity, what is the argument then? That people have these latent seething genetic desires which some of us overcome through our superior intellect? I don’t buy it. There is so much genetic diversity among humans in so many other traits, I would say a system with as many genetic and enviornmental inputs as our emotional behavior could be expected to display enough variation so as to defy pat categorization.

    And if you think about the real relationships in your life, I’m sure you’ll agree.

  2. “… what is the argument then? That people have these latent seething genetic desires which some of us overcome through our superior intellect? I don’t buy it.”


    If you think that seething desires can’t overcome the intellect — and don’t do so, quite often — then you’re either a saint or an idiot. Or both.

  3. I say “Bah” for other reasons. The bread-winner demands to be pleased. If the bread-winner is female, she is not going to stand a slob around. The other situation is far more common.

    It’s hilarious, by the way, that someone would seriously quote a gay guy saying that women should expect guys to be hotter. That Andrew wants guys to be hotter is so obvious, that for him to demand women demand men to be that way is jsut too predictably self-serving for comment.

  4. “Let us take woman, said Stephen… The Greek, the Turk, the Chinese, the Copt, the Hottentot, said Stephen, all admire a different type of female beauty. That seems to be a maze out of which we cannot escape. I see, however, two ways out. One is this hypothesis: that every physical quality admired by men in women is in direct connexion with the manifold functions of women for the propagation of the species. It may be so. The world, it seems, is drearier than even you, Lynch, imagined. For my part I dislike that way out. It leads to eugenics rather than to esthetic. It leads you out of the maze into a new gaudy lecture-room where MacCann, with one hand on The Origin of Species and the other hand on the new testament, tells you that you admired the great flanks of Venus because you felt that she would bear you burly offspring and admired her great breasts because you felt that she would give good milk to her children and yours.” Dedalus goes on like this for a while (OK, fine, it’s actually Joyce but you get my meaning) but that’s already a long quote.

    I would take issue with the idea that this theory makes “testable predictions;” if they’re that self-evident then they’re not predictions.

    There’s certainly something to this sort of idea but it’s often overblown; applied too liberally.

    Also, did everyone else get the Dr. Phil “Overweight?” ad in the article at Slate? Now that’s comedy.

  5. The trouble with the Joyce quote is that his premise is objectively false. Standards of beauty turn out not to vary a great deal across cultures; there are, for example. no cultures in which warty and blemished skin is preferred to clear skin.

    The trouble with the “breadwinner” objection is that it applies a modern frame to two million years of species history. In premodern societies (indeed, until the early nineteenth century almost everywhere) the margin of survival was so thin that both man and wife in most mated pairs were necessarily breadwinners. Moderns often miss this because most of our accounts of daily life were written by the people wealthy enough to avoid the necessity. Even today, on small family farms the farm wife works as many hours as the farmer.

  6. Ahemhem. Give me enough money or time, and I’ll create an American subculture that prizes wart or “blemish”-like modifications. (If it doesn’t exist already.) But this discussion really misses the point. The feminists I know mainly object to drastic measures that women take to look “better”. Like plastic surgery or piercings for the purpose of fitting social norms. Like anorexia. The norms that encourage such behavior do not follow logically from the human genome.

    About your theory: would it also predict that more women than men find happiness in marriage?

  7. Your anti-breadwinner articles begs that we have any idea what standards of beauty were before realistic art, more distinctly, photography. Do you find Cleveland’s wife Francis to be beautiful? The country did.

    I worked on a dig at the center of the Yarmukian culture, and the only found sculpture, several hundred of them, were near-identical depictions of a woman so fat you could clearly see the folds of skin on the arms and legs. And that was just in the last 8,000 years. Was she depicted because she was famous, but not beautiful? Perhaps.

    Clear skin, an untangled mane, and lacking any odors of rotting, are all pretty obvious.

    On further review, I find your “pretty boy/plain jane” comment to reflect a dearth of first hand experience. There are butch types in both regimes. Your confusion, I believe, might stem from the conflation of the concommitant rise of anti-big-dumb-joke and mainstream homosexuality. In Athenian gay culture, the biggest and strongest chose men for lovers, and preferred the brave and strong. The most “gorgeous” man in Athenian history being the General Alkibiades, who was sought as a lover by Socrates, and could have had any lover he chose, because of his beauty. Beauty at that time included his “sexy” lisp.

  8. If you want me to chill, just say so. I think your first statement “assymetrical investment” is the same as the breadwinner argument. The breadwinner invests time in fiscal activities, which take away from the time possible to invest in looking beautiful. The non-breadwinner will have the time to look more beautiful than the breadwinner can (assuming identical base positions (which is silly)).

    A person with money can, and usually wants to, take care of other people. Their tastes are what matter, whether it be for men, women, strong, weak, smart, simple, wild or serene.

  9. As far as I can tell, it’s usual in most human cultures for both men and women to dress up, though the only one I can think of where men dressed up more than women was the colonial US. We’re anomalous in considering it to be unacceptably unmasculine for men to be vain.

    Also, I think female beauty is more complicated than you’re saying–there are pulls in two directions. One is the smooth skin/symmetry thing (low-maintenance), but the other is rarity/costly ornamemnt/doesn’t work (high-maintenance). The most extreme case I can think of for the the latter proving that it’s not a simple hunter-gatherer situation is foot-binding. The sexiest thing in that culture–one that lasted for a millenium–was a woman who’d been crippled to the point of being unable to walk more than a step or two.

    It wasn’t clear whether you’d heard of the “sexy son” theory–the idea is that men who are good at attracting women are likely to have sons who are good at attracting women. I’ve never seen any discussion of whether such men might also be likier than most to have pretty daughters.

  10. By the way, I believe that it is your own, um, non, um, well, exactly, practiced, um, habits in this regard that cause you to adopt this theory.

    It happens that computers don’t care what you are looking like today, nor mind foul breath, nor body odor.

  11. BTW, I saw Fat Pig last Thursday. It’s not particularly about fat at all; it’s a straight morality play — the 1950s or early 60s version would have had a black rather than a fat woman. The male lead doesn’t lack desire for the fat woman; what he lacks is the guts to make a commitment that is so much against the social pressures that say “Fat people shouldn’t have partners, and if they must have them, let them be other fat people.”

    In addition, I suspect that anti-fat prejudice is if anything strengthening nowadays simply because other kinds of appearance-based prejudices are less acceptable.

  12. This post makes a serious mistake, and misses a minor point.

    The last piece of the puzzle is that men and women have asymmetrical information about the parentage of their children.

    The bit of missing information is that women sacrifice a huge amount by having a child. It’s nine months of being knocked up, followed by a (pre modern medicine) huge chance of death. Physically, men donate much less than women do. I believe this point alone explains many of the male female relationships. I’m reminded of the old saying “What has more at stake in a ham and egg breakfast, the pig or the chicken.”

    Most notably, it predicts that women who are less concerned about security and the the status of their offspring (e.g. wealthier, older, or for other reasons less dependent on a male provider)

    This is what I view as the major mistake of this post. The post is confusing the deep genetic reasons for behavior with superficial cultural and environmental ones. While the misguided liberal policies of the United States have made women less dependent on men, with devastating consequences, the fact is that women still tend to be the limiting factor in sexual relationships. This is easy to see when you look at the statistics of sexual encounters of people with different sexual orientations, with heterosexuals having roughly seven different mates per lifetime, lesbians, seven per lifetime, while homosexual men have been measured to have up to hundreds in a single night.

    So, in my view, policy should be written with these human (or animal, if you prefer), forces at work. Until we rewrite genetic sequences, these forces will continue to dominate sexual interplay (including the enormous jealousy a man exhibits towards his mate), and in my unprovable guess, no amount of intellectualizing will remove these ingrained habits.

  13. If the daddy isn’t sure the kid is his, a distinctive, but ugly, feature or set of features (not a bug but a feature)might be an advantage, where generic pretty-boy looks would allow more cheating.
    Clicking on nancy’s name at her comment leads to her button catalog, which is worth checking out.

  14. the enormous jealousy a man feels for his mate

    Which man? You? Definitely not me. In 25 years, I’ve never been jealous of (not “for”) my wife.

  15. Brilliant!! I couldn’t have said it better myself. You have stuck a pin in the notion that human behavior is somehow elevated above biological concerns. One problem though: I am a married (9-yrs) hetero male of 40 yrs who does not want children, and thus far has never even fantasized about having them. My wife was 37 when we married and I don’t care one bit about that. I may be statistically abnormal that way. I dated a hot chick who wanted to marry me but I felt we were too young and later I settled down with a reliable Jane. Looks never got the best of me. Hummm…. a hetero male with no desire to procreate? That kinda throws a kink in the theory that the drive to reproduce is the single biggest factor in mate-choosing. The biggest factors for me were someone roughly my own age to be emotionally and physically intamate with, and to be with someone who could help provide financial stability (Dink’s are generally secure ie dual income no kids=dink). I suppose the hatred of lonlieness and the fear of financial ruin are much stronger in me than any genetic drive to make babies.
    I know a guy who makes 8 bucks an hour and has 6 kids with 5 women. Now, when you remove the moral imperative of looking after your brood, the risk is zero. So, while i am apparently stymied by fears of poverty and parental responsibility, this guy just dosen’t give a damn. Balance is key…less fear for me and more concern for him. It’s a complex emotional balance that makes a good parent. I think waaaaayy too many mis-fits are having kids. My childhood was less than good, but a lot of people with crappy childhoods and no clue as to how to love a kid go out and make babies. Bad idea if you ask me, but where else are you going to get the Jerry Springer Nation from? Making kids may be a genetic drive, but the will to raise them is probably a learned behavior that is hard to teach. So, if you are controlled more by prudence, you will choose a mate for non-procreative reasons. If you are controlled by fearlessness and a love of being totally irresponsible, you will be like the other guy. If you have a nice balance between responsibility and fearlessness…then you are going to be thinking positively about having and careing for kids and then long-tern traits such as motherhood skills will factor in. Still, everyone likes a hot body. One thing all men can relate to is that a nice ass and a pleasant demeanor go a long way, parenthood desires are very much more of an individual matter. Later.

  16. This is basically a Nature/Nuture debate: “Are we human beings meerly “meat machines” as Tesla reffered to himself; or are we higher, “spiritual” beings….or both. Men choose women and vice-verse for a combination of inherent biological drives and socialized ideals. The ideals may not have any survival purpose…for example: we like someone who has the same religion as we do…but does that help or hinder our lineage? Aslo,a woman having a gimpy, pigeon-toed gait is considered sexy in Japan. Isn’t that an indication of poor bio-mechanics. The list of attractive, yet unhealthy features is long and stands to contractict the general tone of your essay.
    Basically, I have no problem admitting that inherited, unconcious drives made me seek out certain traits in women. Why else does a man instictively prefer certain proportions? However, the older I get the more Nurture takes over and subjugates Nature. Remember, Nurture grows in porportion the longer you live. In other words, when you are born you are 100% Nature, all instict and no socialization. By the time you are middle aged you are 50% of each influence…DNA (hardware and animal instinct) + socialization (ideas and ideals). People used to marry young, around 15 yrs old…and they died early, aroung 50 yrs. Today poeple marry later, around 30; and die around 80. SO, if we consider that the sex drive and mind of a 30 yr old is more Nurture than that of a horny, animalistic 15 yr old, then we see that the tide of mate choosing is becomeing more Nurture than before. That is the only thing you faild to do in your essay; you failed to give adiquate weight to Nurture. We might start out as “meat machines” but we dont stay that way for our whole lives. Nature influences our decisions, but does not always deturmine them. I am a bio-machine, but I am also a bio-machine that picks up a litany of sociological, mental software along the way. It’s this software…these ideas and ideals that people talk about as being elevated above the mere mechanisms of animalistic instinct. I got married at 31. By that time i had been dis-illusioned about love, dissillusioned about the importance of physical looks also. So, much of what was survival instinct and evolution was by that time subverted by experience and ideas/ideals. I had to have sexual chemistry in order to fall for my wife…but she also had to embody ideals such as a lack of greed, which actually work against the survival mechanisms of Nature. Greedy,pushy, violent animals provide more for thier offspring, and greedy,coniving, seduceing and/or bullying poeple end up with more power and resources. They become the leaders, alpha group, and their kids go on to get into Yale wether they deserve it or not. The more Nurture you absorb, depending on how pure you ideals are, the less chance you have of becomeing an alpha group memeber. Only the snakes become political power houses…idealistic 3rd parties need not apply. And so on…and so on…
    Well, keep trying. I like the essay, but it needs some more balance to pull it back from the edge of materialistic deturminism. We don’t do everything in life just to get laid by a woman with strong thighs and a forceful persoanlity. Hell, I’m 40 and I have never fantasized about how I would like to have kids. Never wanted one. What does that say about Nature vs Nurture? We are machines…but we are THINKING machines. The more i think about it the less attractive those people who are mostly Nautre become, despite the fact that they embody the perfect survival vessal to protect and give the best advantages to my potential brood.

  17. Read it recently. A good effort.
    Regarding the ‘jealousy’ part, it is common to both the sexes. It explains why women tend to boast about their make-up, dressing among other women. It might also be the reason for tendancy of men narrating their affairs/loves/sexual experiences(adventures) to their buddies in detail;(to induce the other person’s jealousy).

    Among gays even strength might be viewed as a ‘beauty’ while the same could be viewed as a ‘symbol of security’ among lesbians. The same thing viewed in different perspectives. The blogger talks about this perspective.

    What if the woman is the bread winner and in no need of a ‘man’ to protect her in terms of wealth/security. How this would affect the woman’s inclination towards her partner?

  18. >In both sexes, the most important beauty indicators include symmetrical
    >features and a good complexion (clear skin without blemishes, warts,
    >etc.). It turns out these are indicators of resistance to infection and parasites,
    >especially resistance in childhood and during adolescent growth. Good hair
    >is also a health indicator.

    Anyone can have a good complexion. It’s all about diet. Food does NOT directly cause blemishes but is an indirect cause as a pollutant of the detoxifying organs which are overworked in a body that has not been fully detoxified. The first (and most dramatic) step in detoxification is very simple and is the cleaning up of the intestinal tract. But it depends on which product is used. I’ve tried many products and can only recommend one, it is called Oxypowder, it works overnight by DISSOLVING the contents of your intestinal tract, unlike other products which can cause scouring. Oxypowder release oxygen which reacts with intestine and colon contents and turns everything to water. Dramatic colon cleansing can be done overnight. My skin cleared up fast. Of course there are much more serious reasons to detox your body.

  19. While your thesis makes perfect theoretical sense, I’m stymied regarding the following — debatable — assertion vs. reality on the ground:

    “Through most of history, plain or ugly women were bad risks for the next round of infectious diseases — and their children, carrying their genes, were too.”

    How do we explain the preponderance of plain and ugly women “out there”?

  20. >How do we explain the preponderance of plain and ugly women “out there”?

    Why does it need explaining? Suppose it were true that most women are plain or ugly: that would simply mean our perception of ‘beauty’ starts relatively high on the bell curve.

  21. a hetero male with no desire to procreate? That kinda throws a kink in the theory that the drive to reproduce is the single biggest factor in mate-choosing.

    i think you might be confusing the drive to mate with the drive to reproduce. i think this is the classic ID/EGO conflict that makes male/female interaction so confusing in modern times. i can very easily rationalize not wanting kids (especially since i have two kids already) but cannot so easily rationalize celibacy (at least not the voluntary variety).

    if you buy into the whole psychology of evolution, then the male instinct to mate is deeply rooted in the subconsious. while the desire to conform to western/judeo-christian society by remaining monogamous is a newer (in terms of human evolution) and more conscious (possibly even intellectual) desire. this would explain why men try to be good but can’t help sneaking a peek.

    in other words, our desire to have sex is a vestage of the primordial drive to continue the species. males want sex, though they may not want children as a result. that might expalin why we invented birth control instead of “libido control”.

    in keeping with this line of thought, modern society has created much conflict with our primordial instincts. one is example is the effect that birth control has had on western society. since women have access to birth control now, they do not have to be so selective about their mates, yet female promiscuity is not viewed the same as it’s male counterpart, by both men and women. also, women can choose to have sex for reasons other than reproduction, or satisfying a perceived obligation to a male provider. therefore we are seeing a sort of “male crisis” in terms of sexual prowess and capability. modern women can now have sex for pleasure and can choose to be satisfied by capable and competant lovers, rather than settling for what they married. this means a change in the rules for men, leading them to seek education and/or medical help for impotence or even incompetence.

    there are many more examples of this. women have infinitely more choice now than in the past, and can make more demands now than ever before. i think that this “evolution” of choice will continue to create conflict with both our “traditional” society and our more basic instincts.

  22. Interesting read.

    One question on the whole “reduce it to genetics reasoning” for cheating. What is a woman’s motivation after her ability to bear children is gone? Could there be social reasons for screwing the gardener? Perhaps he was there and he listened and he cared? Maybe her husband was cheating with his cubicle mate — for years — and she just wanted to connect in a personal way with someone — for even just the briefest of moments — just to know she was alive and desirable and appreciated.

    Or, maybe he was hot and they were drunk.

    All of this is, of course, intellectual gymnastics. We may be on the cusp of teleporting , but, we will never master the decision-making process of the human species. There are times, Eric, we do things for illogical reasons! ;-)

    Now, start blogging. This is old stuff and you have more to share, I am quite certain.

  23. Demographics may yet have to discover whether indeed men want children at all, or how many of them actually do want children.

    The simplest of questions, in theory, to ask, yet, the reticence of men to marry suggest that men are far more into sex than marriage, and far more into marriage than children, based upon the number of men willing to abandon women and children through divorce, etc.

    If reality is that men don’t really want children, and biology doesn’t extend to natural desire to have children, society needs to reckon with whether it is ethical to deprive women of children because of the expense and hardship of single parents.

    With organizations like the man – boy love association, it also seems reasonable to conclude that gender balance needs to consider whether there are enough men to produce children for society. Conceivably, society may have to encourage test tube fertility to meet the demands of women born who do want to have children.

    Since it is mother-child (or parental) love that may well be the strongest procreative instinct in human interpersonal relations, society may need to rethink public policy on the possibility that it isn’t organized to provide for all circumstances, and instead, suffers dysfunction because of basic fundamentals that have never been answered – like – do men really want children?

    That society is managed haphazardly, and with preconceived notions of morality, it’s possible society has yet to reach the degree of human knowledge to be able to plan itself correctly, and is always chasing an illusionary dream of the perfect balance.

    Since resources allocated to the functions of society and how they are distributed is of crucial importance to any society and its success, these fundamentals should not be ignored, but given the greatest credence and possibility. The alternative of deadbeat dad collections is representative of not studying the full range of human potential as well as human practice in anticipating how society can organize itself effectively and efficiently.

    It may also be the result of allowing males only to define gender, biology, morality, and public policy that is biased and fails to consider the alternate gender desires of females or homosexuals.

  24. I have been looking at a lot of articles talking about sexual selection. Perhaps too many for a 21 year-old.
    I often wonder where I stand on the genetic totem pole. Neither side of my face or body is better looking than the other when looked at separately, is this a good thing? It all is giving me quite a scare to be totally honest. Now I don’t know what to think whenever I go and try to talk to women. I know this probably ISN’T the place to discuss such things but this study is broad and doesn’t really talk about individual experiences. It’s all very “zoomed out” (so to speak.) So I just wonder, what if a male is asymmetrical? What then? Is he simply doomed to be removed from the gene pool? Will there come a time where an average or not-so-good-looking man will never be able to have sex simply because he just isn’t symmetrical? The whole thing sorta does have me a bit frightened about what relationships I may develop, assuming I actually have sex ever again in my life.

    But I also wonder, is all of this somehow related to how we are conditioned to look at the world? By this I mean do we see these as reasons for infidelity and justifications because of the culture we live in? I’m talking about the U.S. After reading it all it just makes the world look so brutal and callous. Can human nature be so unforgiving? I mean, for anyone that reads these articles, do any of even think what all this may mean for YOU?

  25. George,

    At a high altitude, individualism can be pretty much averaged out of the equation and you’re left with hard “nature”. This isn’t good for predicting world events (initial conditions matter too much, e.g. the world would be different if the birthdate or birthplace of people like Hitler, Christopher Columbus, or Einstein were different) but it’s good enough for modeling human behavior. If feels uncomfortable because we don’t like being confronted with the fact that we’re not as individual as we’d like. It’s silly human nature and it gets in the way.

    As long as there is sex rather than cloning, there will be asymmetry. In fact, given advances in medicine and nutrition, I’d expect that less genetically gifted people will die off, making asymmetry MORE common, not less. But we’re talking generations here. If I’m right or totally wrong, it does not affect you individually.

    Everyone is asymmetrical, btw. Once you see it on your face, it will stand out to you like it’s painted neon orange even if nobody else ever notices. Don’t sweat it, kid.

    If you’re not hot, then it’s _less_ likely you’ll get a hot mate, but the same goes for everyone else, and most people are average looking and want to hook up with _someone_. At least you’ve got an advantage: You’re male, and as ESR explains, women don’t value looks as much as men.

    For your concerns, though, you’re at too high an altitude for any useful insights. Stop focusing on sexual selection and instead focus on how to pick up women, and seduction. There are several books. I have a friend who is recently divorced and has had lots of success after reading a book and doing what it said. Apologies that I don’t know which book.

  26. It’s really kind of a tough to figure out, at least for me!

    I’ve so often met women who are just about everything I could ever want, except for the physical appearance. Makes me feel shallow, but I’ll be darned if there is a darned thing I can do about it!

    It just feels like I’m hard-wired.

  27. I think it’s impossible to argue that the “beauty myth” is new. I have never seen a piece of literature from any era that did not indicate that women were valued for their beauty. I like the stark 19th century phrase “a face made for fortune” — if you don’t have the face, you don’t make your fortune.

    On the other hand, valuing women by their beauty is *terrible* for women, no matter how universal the practice is. It’s particularly cruel because it sets the norm so high above the average. Maybe 5% of women are truly beautiful. But we perceive those 5% as simply “women” and perceive everyone else as “uglies who don’t even count as women.”

    If you’re an ugly, everything is ludicrous when you’re doing it. Wrote a book? “Ha-ha, an ugly woman wrote a book.” Rode a bicycle? “Ha-ha, an ugly woman riding a bike, doesn’t she know none of us want to see her?” Want a leadership position? “Ha-ha, an ugly woman wants to be the boss.” (I think Hillary Clinton brought some resentment on herself through her policies, but a lot of it seems to be simply about the fact that she’s middle-aged, plain, and female, and is not properly self-hating about that.)

    Worst of all, maybe you’re in a relationship. “Ha-ha, an ugly woman thinks it’s okay to have love and sex. Isn’t it a hoot? Doesn’t she know how RIDICULOUS she looks? What a dummy — she doesn’t even *know* that only normal girls get to fall in love.” Let me tell you — it’s not fun. To be sickened and embarrassed by experiences that ought to make you joyful, because you know you don’t deserve them. To really want to be alone so nobody will see you.

    Maybe we’ll never get rid of the instinct to judge women based on beauty, but maybe we’ll learn to soften it. We successfully control a lot of the things we’re evolutionarily hard-wired to do — people kill each other a lot less than we did in the ancestral environment. Focusing only on our genetic roots is misleading because we *do* now and then transcend them. Beauty standards are a terrible thing.

    1. >If you’re an ugly, everything is ludicrous when you’re doing it.

      On the other hand, more women underestimate their attractiveness to men than overestimate it. A well known special case of this is that most women significantly underestimate the amount of body fat that men think makes for the sexiest possible figure, trapping themselves in a belief that they’re ugly because they haven’t achieved a sort of rail-thinness that (heterosexual) men don’t like very much.

      I specified “heterosexual” because significant percentage of beauty-myth distortion and the rather bizarre iconography of fashion magazines derives from the concentration of homosexual men in the fashion and design industries. Comparing fashion models to porn models (who are selected to appeal to heterosexual men) is instructive in this way.

      Men, in general, think women are way too uptight about their looks. We look for fitness-to-bear signals, but we’re also bemusedly conscious that a lot of “beauty myth” female preening is aimed at sending signals we don’t care about – either due to strange ideas about beauty acquired from gay fashion designers, or competitive displays that men barely notice (such as expensive clothing and accessories) which are actually status maneuvers aimed at other women.

    2. >But we perceive those 5% as simply “women” and perceive everyone else as “uglies who don’t even count as women.”

      I want to reinforce the point that men, in general, don’t react this way. What you see in singles bars and other settings where everyone is hunting isn’t every guy in the place homing in on one in twenty women and ignoring the other nineteen as though they “don’t even count as women”. Rather, men assess themselves by their own bid value in the mating market and are relatively realistic about targeting women who are as attractive as they can reasonably expect to score with.

  28. Never having watched porn, I wiki’d the latest female winners of the AVN awards. If that’s who’s “selected to appeal to heterosexual men,” then I can breathe a huge sigh of relief. They’re a lot different than fashion models. Phew, thanks.

  29. Sarah

    Yes dear, Porn is screwing up men’s expectations of what women should look like.
    Men are the shallower sex, but hey “men would schtup anything that moves”.
    Why do you women like to maintain incompatible myths?

    I have seen women the size of a small car having no trouble getting fit young men to have casual sex with, middle aged ok looking divorced moms hanging around military hostels,
    You women dont need to be good looking to get all the casual sex you want. Mediocre looks can cut it. Just make a goddman profile on an internet sex finder and you will be inundated by offers from a 100 men in a week. Then choose 4-5 of the best looking ones and meet them up for sex. This is what an AVERAGE LOOKING woman can pull off.

    If its anyone who needs to be good looking in order to attract partners for sex, its men.

    1. > If its anyone who needs to be good looking in order to attract partners for sex, its men.

      Very true. I believe it is also due to our evolutionary roots, that males are, on average, much more attracted to females than the other way around. Which creates asymmetry in the love-sex seeking market, and we end up with women having much bigger selection than men.

  30. Good article, Eric. For myself, all you wrote it was almost obvious, but I’m not able to express it as well as you do.

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