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Dating Mating Sex and Reproduction

Dating and Value

As regular readers of my blog are aware, dating (mating) for humans is a competition.  Men are competing with other men for the affection of available women, and women are competing with other women for advances from available men.  The thing is, men and women are also competing.  Dating and marriage/commitment are negotiated contracts, and can be viewed in terms of basic economics.

In short, women have things men want and vice versa.  Generally speaking, we can say that two people get into a relationship when each agrees to give the other enough to be happy.  The most successful relationships can be viewed as those in which each partner gives the other most or all of what they want out of a relationship and the least successful are those in which one person gives much more than the other, or neither gives enough for the other to be happy.

(For consistency, fluidity of writing, and brevity, I’m speaking of heterosexual relationships, but the exact same economics work in homosexual, bisexual, and polyamorous relationships.)

I wrote two lengthy articles about what men and women want in mates, respectively.  Obviously, some people have additional wants, and some of these things are less important to some people and more to others, but in general, people across all cultures want essentially the same kinds of qualities in mates.   The most desirable men and women are those who have most or all of these things in spades.  The least desirable are those who have very few of them.

There are a couple of things that are difficult to change.  Even with plastic surgery, gyms, makeup, and push-up bras, there’s only so much change a person can make to their physical appearance.  There’s also the almost magical “chemistry” we feel when we’re around certain people.  It’s not entirely understood by scientists, but there really are elements of straight up chemical attraction.  We’re hot for certain people just by being in close proximity to them.

Many of the qualities we look for in mates are quite fluid, though.  Men can get better jobs or more education.  They can “upgrade” the social groups they hang out in.  They can improve their interpersonal skills and social intelligence.  They can work on “getting in touch with their emotions” more often.  They can learn to communicate on an emotional level.

For women, it’s a bit trickier.  Looks are important to women, to be sure, but most women will take an average looking guy with lots of friends, money, social status, intelligence, and business savvy over a poor, washed out gym rat.  Looks are very important to men, though.  Many men will take the vapid hottie over the frumpy overweight stock analyst.  This is why, despite all the protests from feminists, women will always dress up for men, and men will always be perfectly happy in blue jeans and a t-shirt.  Of course, men do tend to play in their own ballpark.  What I mean is that very well educated men (high value) tend to like hanging out with well educated women, and men who hang out in redneck dive bars tend to like hanging out with redneck women.   So women can certainly target a certain class of man by changing their social positioning, but within any peer group, the prettiest youngest women will always be the most desired.

Lying

Lying, either directly or indirectly, is a big part of the dating process.  Men brag about their money, their success, their athletic prowess, and the size of their penis.  (Although why they exaggerate that has always been a mystery to me.  Why would they want to disappoint a woman right out of the gate?)  Women tend to lie more indirectly.  Makeup and pushup bras are a form of lie.  (For this discussion, we shouldn’t think of lies in moralistic terms.  No serious social scientist I know of would suggest that women shouldn’t try to look as pretty as they can if they want to.)

A big part of the dating world is determining what is a lie and what is true.  Consciously and unconsciously, women test men’s claims.  When a woman sees a man sporting a three thousand dollar watch, she’s going to also want to see the fifty thousand dollar car and the half a million dollar house.  When a man sees a woman with a lot of makeup, a pushup bra, dark stockings, and several layers of potentially concealing clothes, he’s going to try to get her naked and clean-faced at some point.

The internet is abuzz with talk about “Game” and “Pick Up Artistry.”  The biggest detractors of Game are people who think it’s about lying to get women in bed.  And for some men, that’s exactly what it is.  For others, it’s applied psychology.  Some men take the principles of attraction and work on self-improvement.  They’re literally trying to become a man who is more desirable to women.  Which “Gamers” are just lying to get laid, and which really are confident alpha males with “good guy” traits?  That’s the question women have to answer if they’re going to realistically evaluate a man.

Maybe it’s a stretch, but there are also women who pretend they have a bigger sexual appetite than they really do when they’re dating.  We’ve all known someone whose sex life went down the drain after they got married.

In short, both men and women use various forms of deceit in order to make themselves look more valuable than they really are.  Maybe things would be better if we didn’t do that sort of thing, but we do.  It’s our natures, and there’s no getting around it.

Negotiating

Dating is negotiating.  From the moment we approach or are approached by a potential suitor, we’re negotiating terms.  When a man buys a drink for a woman at the bar, he’s offering her something of value in exchange for what he wants — time to talk with her and potentially attract her as a mate.  When a woman kisses her first date goodnight and goes home when what she really wants is to jump his bones, she’s negotiating.  She wants more than just a first date in exchange for sex.  When she refuses to have sex until she’s married, she’s placing a very high price on sex.

As we move from casual friendship to casual dating to serious dating to long term commitment, we’re escalating both our demands and what we’re willing to give in exchange for what we want.  Instead of meeting twice a week for a date, we want to spend five or six days together.  Then we want to move in together.  Instead of “guys night out” three times a week, it can only be once a week… or once a month.  (I recently talked with someone who dated a girl who wouldn’t have anal sex — not because she didn’t want to try it, but because she wanted to “save something” for the man she would marry.)

In the dating world, there is probably no such thing as “absolute value,” but there are some things that are usually (or nearly always) more valuable than others.  Beauty and youth are always valuable in women.  Wealth and social power are always valuable in men.  Sure, there’s the exception to the rule, but all things being equal, most women will marry the wealthier of two men.  Most men will marry the more attractive of two women.  (Again… all other things being equal.)

Social norms change the value of some things.  I stumbled upon an interesting observation in casual conversation yesterday.  I think the value of nudity for women has gone down, and I think the internet is to blame.   When I was a pre-internet teenager, nudity was a pretty rare thing, and the girls knew it.  I went to my fair share of parties, and I rarely saw the kind of nonchalant nudity that I see today.  “Girls Gone Wild” has changed the value of naked breasts.  The internet has changed the value of pretty much any display of sexuality.

The value of sex has also changed.  With the wholesale changes we’ve seen in the dating market, most women cannot afford to hold out sex for too long or they risk losing their prospective mate to someone else.  In other words, since there are plenty of women who will have sex within two to six dates, it’s unreasonable for most women to set their price at six months or a year.  To put it another way, if a man has high enough value, there are plenty of high value women who price sex significantly lower than six months.  Most men will take the lower offer, all things being equal.

Sex as a Commodity

A lot of people don’t want to think of sex as a commodity.  But it is, and there’s no way to prevent it from being so.  The exception doesn’t disprove the rule — men want sex.  Usually, they want plenty of it, too.  I’ve been talking to a lot of people over the last week while I’ve been thinking about this topic, and I’ve been really surprised at the number of men who’ve said they had broken up with a girl or would break up with her if she was either A) really bad in bed or B) had too low of a sex drive.  Incidentally, several girls also confessed that they’d broken up with guys who didn’t cut it in the sack.  Most commonly, women cited consistent premature ejaculation as a dealbreaker.

There are several ways in which sex is a bargaining chip for women:

  • In the beginning:  When a couple starts dating, the woman typically has a “price” for sex.  For some women, it’s simply waiting until she feels an emotional connection with a guy.  For others, it’s a set number of dates, or one especially expensive dinner.
  • Casual dating:  For many people today, sex does not equate to a committed relationship.  In fact, many relationships form after two people have been “hook up buddies” for a while.  Like it or not, when a man is choosing between multiple sexual partners, a woman’s availability, enthusiasm, and general skill figures into the equation.  All things being equal, men will take a better lover with a higher sex drive over a worse lover with a lower sex drive
  • Long Term Dating/Marriage:  Let’s admit it.  Many a married man looks forward to his birthday because that’s when he knows he’s going to get a particularly good lay, and maybe even a blow job or two during the day.  Let’s also admit that sexless marriages very often lead to divorce or cheating.  Sex is a way of maintaining and strengthening long term bonds.  The healthiest relationships are those in which both partners realize that sex is to men as kisses, flowers, back rubs, and attentive listening are to women.  The more you give it (even when it’s not your first preference) the better things will be.

Of course, women want sex too.  I don’t want to turn this blog into an advice column, but when I’ve commented on other advice columns, I always stress that both men and women should work on being good at sex.  It’s not something that just “comes naturally” to either sex.  As I mentioned before, many women look at consistent premature ejaculation as a dealbreaker.  Some men are oblivious to their partner’s needs in bed, and it shows in the relationship.   I wish I could remember the exact quote (somebody help me!) but I think it was in a movie that someone said something like this:  “Sex is like a Chinese buffet.  Nobody leaves until everybody gets their cookies.”  Men who understand this are more valuable to women than those who don’t.

Also, sex is much more than the old “in and out” for women.  The men who are most sexually valuable to women are those who know how to create and maintain sexual tension throughout the day with little gestures, slight touches, sly glances, and other subtle sexual “references.”   While men are most often turned on visually, women are turned on situationally.  There’s a reason rock stars get laid all the time.  Women are turned on by the power rock stars exude, and the control they have over the audience.  Men who understand that sex for women is situational are more valuable than those who don’t.

But in the end, any discussion of sex as a commodity will focus more on women.  Vaginas are more valuable than penises, and in virtually every relationship, it is the woman who trades sex to the man in exchange for something she wants, whether it’s money, a ring, a commitment, protection, love, or a promotion.

Trading Up

One of the unfortunate realities is that change happens in relationships.  I remember a couple I used to know.  Bob was an underachieving handyman and Joy was an obese receptionist.  (Yes, I’ve changed the names.)  For whatever reason, Joy got a surge of determination and spent the better part of two years in the gym.  She read everything she could find on nutrition, changed her eating habits, and worked out.  And worked out.  And worked out.  After dropping a hundred and fifty pounds, Joy was a very attractive woman, and she knew it.

During the same time, Bob had done nothing to improve his value.  Within six months, Bob and Joy divorced, and Joy started dating an investment banker.

When Bob and Joy got married, they believed they had comparable value.  Bob didn’t like working too hard, and knew (either consciously or unconsciously) that he probably wasn’t going to land a hottie.  Likewise, Joy was aware that she was obese and wasn’t going to land a top tier man.  They each “settled” for the other based on their perception of their own “buying power.”  When Joy got a serious boost to her value, she quickly realized that she could upgrade, and so she did.  (Poor Bob… I remember him telling me how lucky he was that he was married to a hottie.  Social and emotional intelligence are very important, and he just didn’t have either.)

In both short and long term relationships, things change, both internally and externally.  Sometimes things change for the better and sometimes for the worse.  There’s a reason the wedding vows include the promise that they do.  We wouldn’t be worried about that sort of thing if it didn’t happen an awful lot.  It’s not for me to prescribe someone else’s morals with regard to this sort of thing, but regardless of what any person believes, changes in value do create imbalances, and everyone involved has to decide whether they’re ok with being in an unbalanced relationship or not.   (It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that every relationship ending is a reaction to an imbalance.)

Is There a Moral to the Story?

So, can we learn something from this?  Sure.  In any dating relationship, both men and women would do well to ask some very pointed questions and look at the answers unflinchingly:

  • What, precisely, do I want from this person?
  • What, precisely, does this person want from me?
  • Is what my partner wants comparable in value to what I want?  In other words, is it a fair trade for me?
  • Am I willing to give what my partner wants?  Will I be happy giving it for the long term?
  • Is my partner willing to give me what I want?  Will he/she be happy giving it to me for the long term?
  • Does my partner feel like it’s a fair trade?
  • Are either of us experiencing a significant change in value?  What does it mean for our trade?

It may not feel romantic or sexy to think of things this way, but it can save a lot of heartbreak at all stages.  If my partner’s value is going up, I need to be savvy enough to figure out a way to keep up, or I risk losing her to an upgrade or making her resentful of giving more than she’s receiving.  If my partner’s value is going down, I need to find a way to encourage her to bring it back up, or I will become bitter and resentful, or I will leave.

Also, by thinking of things in terms of value, we can think more critically about exactly what we want and whether we’re likely to get it from a specific person.  I encourage all of my single friends (and myself as well) to avoid thinking of relationships in broad romantic terms and to focus in on two or three things that are very valuable — things I want from a romantic partner.  By doing this, we avoid falling into the trap of trying to find someone who is “perfect for us,” and instead try to find someone who will give us specific things that we want most in life.

Finally, focusing on dating as value transactions keeps us away from the belief in love as something magical.  Love is chemical and transient.  We fall in love with certain people because they trigger powerful instinctive drives in us.  Sometimes, our feelings match the reality of what we’re going to get, and other times they don’t.  By focusing on the value exchange, we can avoid getting into those nasty relationships where we’re miserable but can’t stand the idea of leaving when there’s so much “chemistry,” or where we’re giving much more than we’re getting because we “love” somebody.  When we look at ourselves and decide we’re giving too much, what we’re really saying is this:  “I am placing too low a value on myself and what I contribute to a relationship.”

When we put it that way, it becomes a lot easier to think about changing the situation for the better.

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Discussion

21 thoughts on “Dating and Value

  1. Excellent post. I think most people are either unaware of the market dynamics of relationships, or in denial about them. Frankly, I think it helps to see them in action and be honest about where you fall in the grand scheme of things.

    I think women, in particular, don’t like the reality of it because the longer-term deck is definitely not stacked in our favor. A man can achieve his way to status, but nothing can make a woman younger (albeit some things can make her look younger, for a time.)

    That said, not everything people experience can be attributed to this. We’re funny creatures, a mix of instincts, learned behavior and this goofy result of emotions. Why would one man be more of a chemical draw than the very similar status one right next to him? Does he have a lopsided smile like my father? Am I reading some sort of half-hidden set of clues that he’s an alpha? Is he the right genetic mix and I’m picking up on pheromones?

    Posted by Aldonza | February 5, 2010, 4:15 pm
  2. Thanks, Aldonza. Yes, attraction is a bewilderingly complex process. But I think if we think of it in terms of basic biology, the complexity of it starts to make a lot more sense.

    If we can say, metaphorically, that evolution has a “purpose,” its purpose is to take a billion sets of five dice, roll them out on the table, and keep only those sets which add up to 25 to 30. It’s a grossly inefficient system. (Which, incidentally, makes you question the intelligence of any god that might have designed it, but that’s another matter… but, since we’re on my openly atheist blog, I felt I needed to say it.)

    Even with that small window of success, there’s a very large number of variations. (Remember, it’s not just the numbers, it’s which position they’re in.)

    6, 6, 6, 6, 6
    6, 6, 6, 6, 5
    5, 6, 6, 6, 6
    6, 5, 6, 6, 6
    6, 6, 5, 6, 6

    etc..

    So, in dating, it’s not just one 25 finding another 25. Ironically, it’s about finding a 25 that’s quite different from our 25, since we tend to have chemical attraction to people who are significantly genetically different from us.

    That, of course, is why it happens so often. Our friends say, “Seriously, this person is PERFECT for you. We’re going to set you up.” They tell us all about them, and we admit, yes, they sound really awesome on paper. Then we meet them, and…

    Nothing.

    And that’s just the chemical attraction bit. Our tastes are shaped by the whole of our experiences, so we’ve got to find someone who matches us chemically AND has had a set of life experiences that is also attractive to us based on our own… which of course, have been filtered through our own chemical makeup.

    Bewilderingly complex.

    And yes… the harsh reality is that women pretty much lose value as they age. Having children, getting older, getting heavier, wrinkles, etc… All these things detract from a woman’s value. All the while, men are running around making money (gaining value) becoming more emotionally aware and intelligent (gaining value), forming more diverse and powerful social connections (gaining value), etc, etc.

    About the only thing men have going against them is that many of them tend to bald and grow beer guts. Beyond that, most men have the capacity to stay attractive and sexy well into middle age.

    Posted by hambydammit | February 5, 2010, 5:28 pm
  3. If I may posit something (bearing in mind that, of course, I haven’t actually had experience with relationships myself):

    Monogamous relationships, whether or not we’re hard-wired for them (there appears to be from what I’ve read, nothing but disagreement within the scientific community on this topic) are harmful. Perhaps as many as 9 times out of 10, they cause a disproportionate amount of suffering for one or both parties compared to the amount of rewards they may offer.

    Just to get my bias right up front: my mother is being cheated on by my step-father as I type this. I know my mother knows it, too; she just can’t bring herself to make the accusation. I knew that there would be trouble down the road when my step-father was promoted to vice presidency of the company he works for – to use this article’s jargon, his value simply jumped far too high for my mother to be able to compete with (she tries hard to stay in shape, but her habits are pretty poor and, well, she just kind of lost the genetic lottery). So I’m currently bracing for the fallout when tensions over here finally do just plain snap.

    Humans live, on average, about 90-100 years. Every single one of our variables tied to relationship value swings by orders of magnitude even over just 3-5 years, and even worse, what we choose as our primary focus when looking at what we want a partner to offer also swings radically depending on our own circumstances.

    It’s completely unreasonable for anyone to say, “Oh, Kate and I are made for each other – we’ll be happy to spend the rest of our lives together,” because you have no idea what your life will be like even 6 months from the day you make that claim – much less 20 or more years down the road. What if you get laid off? What if Kate puts on a lot of weight? What if either of you is paralyzed or disfigured? What if you get hit on by a girl at work, in school, etc, who you’re equally attracted to (even if you’re unwilling to admit it to yourself) but is ten years younger than Kate and scores higher than Kate in a couple of areas you put a lot of weight on?

    I know a lot of people will say, especially with that last example, “Well, I put a lot of weight on keeping my promises and being a good human being, too, so I’m sure I wouldn’t leave or cheat on Kate,” but this is where the harmfulness really steps in. You’ve stopped yourself from doing something interesting and beneficial by throwing-up an arbitrary, unjustified moralistic judgement (And, to throw an extra powder keg into the mix for good measure, you have no idea at all that Kate shares your sense of ‘altruism’, if you want to call it that – so you may well be making yourself miserable only to have Kate ditch you at the end of the day when SHE meets her new Mr. Right).

    Posted by Kevin R Brown | February 6, 2010, 7:15 pm
  4. This is a very fine post Hamby, lots of interesting stuff to unpack here. First, I’ll share a story I had with a very attractive young woman, aged 21. We were talking about what women seek in relationships, and I described two hypothetical young men, both of whom are in love with her:

    The first guy is a sensitive soul, a singer songwriter. He declares his passionate love and makes her swoon. He is broke most of the time, in fact he drives a rusty old car with one wobbly wheel. He wants to commit to her. She is in love with him.

    The second guy is an associate at a prestigious law firm. He is handsome and from a good family. He is practical and has a bright future. He drives a BMW. He wants to commit to her. She respects and admires him, but she is not in love with him.

    Who does she choose?

    Her real life answer, after a couple of minutes of thought:

    “To be completely honest, I just don’t think I could live with the wobbly wheel.”

    That says it all, don’t you think?

    Second, re what men want: I often come across men online claiming that makeup, pushup bras, etc. are a form of lying, and I disagree with this. It’s natural for both sexes to put their best face forward when vying for a mate. For women, there’s an enormous industry to help signal fertility cues. Yes, heavy makeup and a pushup bra may help a woman snag a man for the night, but he’s just shopping. One look at her sagging breasts, undereye circles and bad dye job in the morning, and he’ll run for the hills, without having lost anything. Men deceive in much more nefarious ways by and large. Because they know that women seek relationships, they pretend to be interested in commitment, in really getting to know a woman. This deception often lasts as long as it takes to get the woman into bed. At which point it’s Game Over. Male deception is much more difficult to detect, which is why most of the hurt feelings belong to women.

    Third, I disagree that love is chemical and transient. Focusing on dating as a value transaction may have value and prevent disappointment, but it’s a buzzkill all the same. It’s similar to having one’s family negotiate an arranged marriage – it may indeed be a pragmatic and fruitful match, but it’s not what girls dream of.

    Romantic ideals may be impractical, but this is where passion springs from, and women grow up hoping for a great love. What women need to do better is temper their impulsive sexual attraction with a real world value assessment. Both have their place, but I’m not willing to give up on romance yet.

    I would say don’t marry the broke singer or the dependable but boring lawyer. Keep looking for a love match that will stand the test of time.

    Posted by Susan Walsh | February 7, 2010, 1:03 am
  5. Third, I disagree that love is chemical and transient. Focusing on dating as a value transaction may have value and prevent disappointment, but it’s a buzzkill all the same. It’s similar to having one’s family negotiate an arranged marriage – it may indeed be a pragmatic and fruitful match, but it’s not what girls dream of.

    Romantic ideals may be impractical, but this is where passion springs from, and women grow up hoping for a great love. What women need to do better is temper their impulsive sexual attraction with a real world value assessment. Both have their place, but I’m not willing to give up on romance yet.

    I would say don’t marry the broke singer or the dependable but boring lawyer. Keep looking for a love match that will stand the test of time.

    Well, first, love is a chemical reaction. This shouldn’t be any more demeaning to the term than the notion that music is a result of vibrating air molecules or that poetry is just a collection of alphabetical characters. When I see, hear, smell, touch or taste things of certain properties, my brain reacts by creating a euphoric sensation for me and associating a sense of kinship and belonging with those things. That’s far more uplifting, to me, than any of the vague stupidities offered by New Age quackery about love or romance.

    Second, you and your friend are mired in a logical fallacy (one that, admittedly, is being enforced by social stigma): the excluded middle. If your friend likes the traits from both of those gentlemen and has feelings for both, [i]why not date both of them?[/i] Consider how absurd your type of reasoning would sound if applied to any other activity: say, for example, hobbies. I personally enjoy reading, writing, drawing, watching films and playing video games. I’m a polyhobbyist, if you will – just like most people. If I told you that it is morally wrong to have more than one hobby, you’d think I was insane, right?

    So why is choosing romantic partnership a special category, then? Clearly people fall in love with more than just one person at a time, and it’s ridiculous to tell them with zero justification that they shouldn’t date both people at once.

    It’s just one more religious handcuff we need to find the fortitude to tear ourself out of.

    Posted by Kevin R Brown | February 8, 2010, 1:59 am
  6. Oh, I agree that falling in love is triggered by chemicals. I’m well aware of the role of oxytocin, dopamine, vasopressin, testosterone, estrogen et al. Falling in love is chemical and the feelings of euphoria that accompany it are indeed transient. Romance is one of the tools that women and men use to get themselves ready for the chemical surge. Assessing your date’s value up front is deadly to romance. It may be wise, but as I said above, it’s a buzzkill.

    Elizabeth Bennet is my heroine on this question. She refused to consider marrying for anything but love. I don’t think Jane Austen was party to New Age quackery.

    Re the hypothetical question of the two distinctly different men, it is clear that they’ve already been dating. These two men are in love with her, and she is in love with the singer. She has already selected these two men from all of the others in the middle. Monogamy was assumed by both myself and the young woman.

    If you’re trying to promote polyamory here, no thank you. And religion has nothing to do with it.

    Posted by Susan Walsh | February 8, 2010, 9:32 am
  7. Hey Susan,

    I’m a long time LWaN reader, and a new HUS reader. I’m curious, since you threw it out there, about your views on polyamory.

    I’m an atheist gay male, and both me and my (atheist) partner value monogamy. There are many reasons I do, and I know a few of his. In gay relationships there seems to be a high degree of non-monogamy, not necessarily polyamory, so I consider us unique, so far. :)

    Posted by MKandefer | February 8, 2010, 1:29 pm
  8. Hi MKandefer, nice to meet you! I’m happy to share my views on polyamory with you, though I do believe that Hamby and I differ on this issue.

    First, I’ll say that I think people should be free to pursue whatever relationships make them happy. I don’t believe the government or anyone else should be making decisions about people’s sex lives. I don’t endorse polyamory, my view is pretty much one of “live and let live.”

    Having said that, it would never be for me. Speaking for myself, here are my concerns about it:

    Most of the accounts I’ve read include more women than men. In other words, the male has a strong desire to introduce additional sexual variety into the relationship, and the woman embraces this idea. There are a couple of women who have written books on their polyamorous experiences, but for the most part, I see this movement driven by men. Steve Pavlina is a very successful blogger who has written about his decision to embrace polyamory, and he’s very open about wanting more sex, and a new relationship, with someone other than his wife.

    I think the most common form is a V – one guy two women, and sometimes there are double Vs – two men, three women. One also hears of quads and triads. I believe it is less usual to see a V with two men, one woman, for example.

    Secondly, I have some concerns about what this means for children. I have read accounts by polyamorists that their collective children have also decided to embrace that lifestyle, but that’s true of polygamy in rural Utah as well. I’m not sure that proves anything.

    I have also read accounts by polyamorists that describe confusion on the part of the children. For example, one boy asked his bio dad, why don’t you sleep in my mom’s bedroom anymore? Do you love the other mom better now? He was seeking reassurance, and his father was not really in a position to provide it.

    Third, I believe that jealousy is a huge challenge, especially if any of the parties joined up less than enthusiastically. Personally, I would find it rather difficult sharing a sexual partner. And I’ve read rather funny accounts of the logistics – various date nights, trading babysitting, enormous wall calendars that track a whole poly combined family’s movements. These last objections are just my own view, obviously.

    The evo psych guys feel pretty strongly that monogamy is not natural for either sex in humans. It’s been quite natural for me, so I can’t relate particularly well. I can understand the idea of serial monogamy – a marriage or LTR ends, and I think it’s quite natural to find another partner for sex, love, the whole package.

    Of course, one will always find other people attractive, and one must weigh the pros and cons of acting on that attraction, risking jealousy, loss of trust, etc. on the part of one’s partner.

    It’s interesting – you’re the third or fourth gay guy to introduce himself as a reader in the last couple of weeks. I am curious to know whether the material on my blog makes sense. Some of it obviously wouldn’t, like the gender difference stuff, but much of it is about universal features of relationships.

    One guy told me he especially liked the post Do Pretty Girls Have it Harder?, explaining that he is definitely the pretty girl, and it is really hard, because he’s so intimidating to many guys. I loved that!

    Posted by Susan Walsh | February 8, 2010, 7:09 pm
  9. Your blog makes sense to a gay guy, as many gay “dating” sites are devoted to the notion of the random hook up. It can be hard to find a good guy to settle down with, one that has an interest in developing a relationship and having a family someday. I’m happy I found someone that shares my values out there, and is interested in pursuing a monogamous relationship. It’s been alleged that gay relationships are inherently non-monagamous, or destined to open up, since men do value romantic attachment, but don’t seem to see sex as tied to that. I understand this point of view, but don’t share it. I think there’s something special about allowing someone special access to a part of your self, both physically and emotionally. In open relationships, I take it that they only require the emotional attachment. I’m not saying it’s wrong, but like you, I enjoy monogamy.

    I think much of what you say to women, makes sense to a gay guy looking for a long term relationship, as we deal with much of what women have to deal with in a hook up culture.

    Posted by MKandefer | February 8, 2010, 11:18 pm
  10. Sorry it’s been a while and I haven’t chimed in here. Busy weekend.

    Just to be clear, I generally don’t encourage anyone to be polyamorous. Managing one partner is extremely difficult in the long term, and adding a third isn’t just adding a third. It’s adding three dimensions. So… practically speaking, a polyamorous triad is three times as difficult to maintain as a monogamous couple.

    Having said that, I don’t believe long term monogamy is the “natural” state of human affairs, and I know that there are a significant number of people who successfully practice various kinds of polygamy in long term relationships. I’m also not a big advocate of the kind of dating where sex = committed monogamy. That is, I believe in “dating” before “committing.” The reality of dating today is that it pretty much always includes sex, and often, sex happens before people know each other well enough to know if they ought to be in an LTR. I don’t think people should jump into a committed relationship just because they have sex. One of the PUA’s Susan has been discussing on her blog — Neil Strauss — carried on multiple relationships with several women. (Eight comes to mind, but I can’t say for sure if that’s right.) Each of the women knew it, too. When Neil found the girl that was what he wanted, he broke it off with the others and committed to her. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with that, and in fact, it makes a lot of sense. How much longer might it have taken Neil if he dated each one of those eight serially, with say, a year for each of them? And yes, I think women have every right to do the same thing if they want. Yes, there are elevated risks for STDs, and that’s an issue that needs to be addressed, of course, but if everyone is consenting and safe… well… it’s their prerogative.

    Again, I don’t necessarily advocate this kind of dating. It’s not for a lot of people. But, it does work for some people, and in my mind, it’s part of the spectrum of potentially workable dating/mating strategies.

    That’s really the crux of my view of human sexuality. We have an incredibly flexible spectrum of dating/mating strategies, and each of them works for some people in some situations, and doesn’t work for others. Some strategies — like serial monogamy — seem to be the preference of most humans, but that doesn’t mean they’re “correct” and the others are incorrect. It just means they are the norm. Scientifically speaking, the norm implies nothing about value. Just how common something is.

    Which brings me to another point that would probably be better addressed on Susan’s blog, but needs to be mentioned. In a recent post, Susan talked about the “problem” women are having on college campuses. Girls outnumber boys, and the boys are getting to raise their standards before committing. In other words, it’s getting really difficult for girls to get a guy to commit because there’s no reason for guys to commit. They are the valuable commodity for once.

    This is an example of the flexibility of the human mating strategy at work. It’s all economics. It’s not “wrong” that these guys won’t commit. It’s just the market at work. If the girls want committed monogamy, they have to either find a way to change the market, or move to another market. Blaming the guys for it (which, I should add, Susan did not do… way to go, Susan!!) is just whining. It’s like getting upset with stock traders for selling high and buying low.

    Posted by hambydammit | February 9, 2010, 5:24 pm
  11. I’m in total agreement here, Hamby. The key thing about Neil Strauss’s approach to multiple LTRs was that he was indeed open and honest with each one of the women, as you say. I think at least some of those women were very hurt when he ended things, but honestly, I don’t have any sympathy. It’s a perfect case of caveat emptor.

    Feministing had a piece saying that the Times article said all men are cads. I couldn’t believe it. One kid said, “It’s awesome to be a guy.” Of course it is! Why should men walk away from an endless supply of NSA sex?

    Women will have to restrain themselves (very hard to do), or there will be some other shift in society that will effectively repress female sexuality in some way. This, I’m afraid, is what will have to occur to bring supply and demand into equilibrium. This will not look like a return to the 1950s. I have no idea what it will look like. But I don’t believe the current situation is tenable over the long-term. In addition to the unhappy women, there are the 80% of guys who aren’t getting any to speak of.

    Posted by Susan Walsh | February 9, 2010, 5:51 pm
  12. I agree, and I seriously doubt there will be any kind of return to “older” values. I’m not sure most women will stop having sex just to get a husband, either. Instead, I think what needs to happen (but I have no idea if it will) is that both women and men need to reassess relationships, what they represent, and why we want them. The traditional progression of graduating, marrying, popping out puppies, and then retiring is a relic. It’s just not the way our society works anymore, and unless we have a serious decline in the availability of technology, travel, and birth control, it’s going to continue to be a quaint idea held by the very religious and the very sheltered.

    As I’ve mentioned before many times, relationships are for different things at different times in our lives. More and more young men and women are coming to think of college relationships as transient. It’s passing the time and getting laid for a few years before moving to another city, getting a job, and “growing up.” Similarly, a lot of older singles are thinking of relationships as good friendships that also happen to have sex as an element. They don’t want more kids. They have their own houses. They don’t need a provider. Then there are the people who travel for their jobs, and literally have a girlfriend/boyfriend in every city. The variations are nearly endless.

    I think one of the things we can teach both men and women is to examine their emotions and desires very closely, and to determine what they want out of a relationship. With this knowledge, they can tailor their dating strategies to their own situation, instead of automatically jumping into the old paradigm of finding exactly one person to date, move in with, and move towards marriage.

    Again, I’m not suggesting everyone ought to be polygamous. I am suggesting that the traditional LTR is not for everybody, including lots of women. What Neil Strauss did was strategically a great move, and like you say, I have no sympathy for any of the women. Each one of them knew they were competing for a high value male, and feeling hurt when you don’t win is part of that deal. In the end, seven of those girls weren’t high value enough for Neil.

    Which brings me (finally) to the crux of the matter. These girls on college campuses are on unfamiliar ground. They’re not the selectors anymore. The men are. It’s nobody’s fault, but it’s the way things are. And what do we tell guys to do when they’re chasing after high value women? BECOME MORE VALUABLE THAN THE OTHER GUYS. It’s like interviewing for a job. Get more education and experience than the other guy, and you’ll be more likely to get the job. So, the challenge for these college girls is how to make themselves more valuable as long term partners. I feel the pain, but I don’t sympathize. I, and guys everywhere else in the world, have been playing this game for a long time. I don’t know what Neil Strauss’s first choice did that the others didn’t, but she did something. Guys have been buying presents and flowers, opening doors, giving up their jackets, staying home instead of going to poker night, missing big games, and a thousand other things in an effort to be the guy a girl wants to keep. These girls get to play the game now. And the harsh reality is that most women will have to put up with guys playing the field until and unless they can find ways to be so much more valuable than the rest that their guys would be idiots to mess around.

    Posted by hambydammit | February 9, 2010, 6:21 pm
  13. More and more young men and women are coming to think of college relationships as transient.

    This is key. Even women who are totally in love with a college senior know that it’s over in June. Maintaining college relationships is just not feasible, even when the two parties are invested and compatible.

    I would argue that women are always the selectors, but adjust their standards for selection based on market conditions. Women want relationships by and large, so the women at UNC are willing to commit to a guy who they know is cheating. And yet they still reject half the male student body! Talk about women acting against their own best interests. The bottom line is that women are selecting, again and again, men that make them unhappy. At a university you cannot go to if you are not quite intelligent. I am a woman, and I do. not. get. it.
    At some point, quite early on I would say, it becomes an issue of self-respect. The question is why that is lacking in so many young women today.

    Re women finding ways to be more valuable – that’s a tough one. The women who are indeed qualified are loathe to sell themselves cheaply. They’ve priced themselves out of the market, at least for Alphas. This is why I encourage women to take a look around that lecture hall or lab and see if there’s a cute guy who might be great relationship material. My own early data isn’t encouraging, though; those betas who get social proof through the attention of an Alpha female are more likely to want a shot at being a Player than anyone’s boyfriend.

    Posted by Susan Walsh | February 9, 2010, 8:21 pm
  14. I would argue that women are always the selectors, but adjust their standards for selection based on market conditions.

    I’m really just thinking aloud here, but yes, women are still technically the selectors, but things get screwed up because the selection isn’t permanent. In other words, yes, Meatman Lunkhead the sports star still sidles up to the bar and lays his best line on the girl he thinks is hot. If she feels hot and bothered by his perfectly symmetrical jaw, she selects him for a night of thumping bunnies.

    The thing is, sitting beside Susy Sorority are ten other girls who would probably do the same thing if asked, and according to the article, these girls have already selected themselves out of hooking up with 60% of the male population. And only half of the 40% are available, so that leaves twenty percent of the guys being chased by all the women.

    Meatman Lunkhead did take at least one economics class, so he knows that there are 9 girls besides Susy Sorority who are holding out for his manhood. All they have to do is wait until Susy isn’t around, show a little leg, twirl a little hair, and Meatman will sidle up to them, and they get to select him.

    So in effect, even though Meatman is still approaching girls, he has an available pool of ten girls who’d rather have one night of his man-meat than dip their toes into the Untouchable Pool. When it gets to the point that he’s simply deciding which of ten girls to be nice to tonight, he’s become a kind of selector himself. He’s still got to go through the motions of offering himself as a choice, but he’s really the one choosing.

    Frankly, I’m as baffled as you that these girls are putting themselves in this situation. Are the 60% of guys they won’t touch really that unattractive and low value? Are they so afraid of losing social status that they’ll line up for the “10” rather than lower their standards a little bit? If 60% of the male population is hard up, that means that a clever hottie could pretty much have a personal man-slave if she wanted. If an 8 grabs herself a 5, she’s buying herself about fifty “Get out of High-Maintenance Jail Free” cards.

    Again, I’m just thinking aloud here, but is this some kind of bizarre doublethink going on? Are the girls really hooking up for casual sex because they are afraid they’ll get trapped in a “real relationship” with someone below their standards? Lowering their standards to keep from lowering their standards?

    Susan, maybe you and me ought to take a trip to UNC and do the first “PUA” seminar for the benefit of the girls. It sounds like there are a lot of Betas who need to learn a little Game, and a lot of girls who would be much happier if a few more guys acted like…. well… guys.

    Posted by hambydammit | February 10, 2010, 2:54 pm
  15. I’m right there with ya. A couple of thoughts:

    Suzy Sorority wants Joey Fraternity – that’s the social scene she bought into as a freshman. However, that leaves a whole lot of other women who don’t even really have access to Joey, practically speaking. The Greek scene tends to be very insular. In that sense, the focus on these particular girls was not representative, though they are facing tough odds, as the article points out.

    There are bound to be many young women at UNC who are studying hard rather than hitting the bars four nights a week, and I don’t think they would rule out half the guys in theory. However, those guys seem stuck in betatude, and don’t show up. Women who would select them don’t get the opportunity to do so. So yeah, a bit of Game would probably serve these guys well. It’s not going to be easy for the uber geek no matter what, but there are plenty of perfectly cute and socially adept guys in that cohort.

    By the way, a word about frats: I’ve seen quite a few pics of these guys and in general, they seem to be a lot less good looking than the sorority girls. I asked one woman about this and she said, “Yeah, it’s not fair. Sororities won’t take you if you’re not really pretty, but the frats select for self-confidence.” That makes sense to me. In my own experience, guys are notoriously bad at sensing whether another guy is good-looking, they really just go by attitude. So the traits of dominance and aggression are being selected by other males, which is perhaps not surprising.

    I’m scratching my head over this. I can’t quite get a handle on how things got this bad. Because regardless of demographic trends, the decline of the male in America, the Sexual Revolution, etc., there is a large population of men and women who want the same thing but are blind to one another.

    Posted by Susan Walsh | February 10, 2010, 3:45 pm
  16. I’m right there with you, Susan. I hope you could sense my tongue embedded firmly in my cheek while I was talking about the whole Susy Sorority and Meatman Lunkhead thing. And yes, I think that article was much more about creating a stink than trying to represent a whole dating population.

    And I think you’re exactly right about fraternities vs. sororities. Although I will add that there’s usually one sorority that takes the rejects. Money is money, and if Daddy wants to plop down ten thousand dollars, there’s somebody willing to make a sorority for it! But yes, sorority girls have to be pretty, and fraternity guys have to be confident (or at least cocksure).

    We shouldn’t expect anything else, should we? Men select primarily for youth and beauty and women select primarily for “manliness” if I can use that word to include all the non-visual things women like about men. And yes, I’ve found myself agape looking at gorgeous sorority girls with what I thought were genuinely unattractive frat boys.

    And yes, you’re exactly right that men are terrible at figuring out if other men are attractive. I’m terrible at it myself. I believe that women generally judge their competition by looks. That is, find a group of sorority girls and pick out the prettiest one. She’s the one all the others are talking about behind her back, calling her a slut, and generally trying to make themselves look better. With guys, it’s just not that way. The dominant male is the one who behaves dominant. In fact, it’s really common that the best looking guy in a group is not the dominant one.

    Posted by hambydammit | February 10, 2010, 4:26 pm
  17. …Mentions of Neil Strauss?

    Noooooooooo!!!

    Susan and/or Hamby: have you actually read ‘The Game’? I just finished it a couple of months ago; it’s the most preposterous book I’ve read in a long time. Not only am I quite sure that not one word of what Strauss said in it was true (…the cliche night club anecdote, where dude went looking for ‘dark corners’? Gimme a break), but I nearly had a flashback to reading H.P. Lovecraft’s personal journals, where everyone except for the author is described as menacing blobs evacuated of all sanity.

    Not only that, but Strauss described the impossible: he makes claims throughout the book of the efficacy of neuro-linguistic programming. He may as well have detailed accounts of witnessing people bending spoons with their minds.

    The whole thing reveals the ‘PUA’ community for what it is – just one more con game played on naive, desperate and/or foolish individuals, promising an easy pay-out of fantastical bounties if only you’ll shell out for one more work shop. Of course, sadly, people still fall for the lie as long as it’s big enough.

    To get back on the topic of monogamy: I can hardly tell anyone what they can or cannot do or start passing judgement, but Susan, when you say, “it works for me,” you’re not being honest. You don’t know that it works for you; it’s working now, but unless you have Nostradamus’s crystal ball at your disposal, you have no idea how things will be in 5, 10, 15, etc years down the road.

    It’s a titanic leap in logic to say, “Hey, I’m totally in love with this person right now – so I’ll be in love with them forever!

    Moreover, relationships are 2 way street, and you don’t know that your partner is in love with you the same way that you are in love with them. Your brain tells you you are, but that’s just your brain being it’s tricky old self in an emotion drenched circumstance.

    Interesting that the male-female ratio is so skewed in your local area. If I could hazard a guess, is it due to gentlemen being shipped-off to Iraq and coming home in a cedar box? (…I think this particular type of gender culling should be dubbed, ‘The Stalingrad Effect’)

    Posted by Kevin R Brown | February 12, 2010, 12:02 am
  18. Kevin, yes, I have read The Game. Its main crime is exaggeration, not falsification. I have no idea if his stories are true, but the principles he talks about are rooted in good psychology. Women are generally attracted to confident “alpha” type males, and the routines PUA’s use are just scripts for acting like alphas.

    The thing is, Strauss (and most of the other PUAs I’m aware of) aren’t social scientists or psychologists. They’re just dudes, and they make some leaps from sound psychology to over the top claims of the efficacy of “Game.” It’s the same with NLP. I’m actually plugging my way through a book on NLP right now, and from what I can tell, it’s the same kind of thing. Most of the stuff in it is basic psychology I learned back in sales seminars. You can influence a person’s feelings and likelihood of agreeing with you by framing your speech in particular ways, and there are ways of speaking that are more effective at persuasion than others. Everybody’s known somebody who could sell ice to an Eskimo. You watch them and have no idea why other people always go along with them. Part of it is the delivery, to be sure, but part of it literally is the words they use.

    On another note, I doubt the male to female ratio has anything to do with the war. Most of the kids fighting the war wouldn’t be in college. You know who the recruiters go after. You’ve even bitched at me for suggesting that the army is voluntary because recruiters go after the kids who are too poor and uneducated to have a choice but to go into the army.

    Posted by hambydammit | February 12, 2010, 1:01 am
  19. In evaluating the world of Game, the first thing I did was read Strauss’ book, followed by watching as much footage as I could find online of both him and Mystery (there’s a lot). I found it both fascinating and credible. Neil Strauss is a legit journalist, and I really felt his book was quite honest. He’s quite upfront about all his failures along the way, his awkward journey from nerd to cool dude. And there are plenty of pics around showing him with his gf Lisa, who is definitely a SHB.

    In addition, Mystery had a reality show for two seasons that showed his method in action. It works. As Hamby said, it’s based on sound principles of female psychology.

    As I recall, Strauss was quite critical of Ross Jeffries, and the NLP approach in general. He never used it. I believe that branch of Game has been largely left behind.

    As far as Game being a con, there is so much information online that no guy need shell out for it. The forums that launched Mystery’s career were always free, and she always share all of his techniques there. His bootcamps were a way to walk a guy through it, and drew the guys with the most to learn about interacting with women, including Neil S.

    In addition, there are a lot of men who write about Game without profiting in any way. In fact, most of the popular Game blogs today, don’t even have advertising, which is more than I can say for myself!

    Posted by Susan Walsh | February 12, 2010, 9:19 am
  20. Interesting post. I liked it! I have been reading nothing but blogs written by Alphas, or wanna be Alphas and Gamers. They are ALL interesting reads, but it’s nice to get another perspective.

    Posted by ashleeekaren | September 30, 2010, 4:04 pm
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    Posted by JOHN WRIGHT | May 12, 2011, 9:07 pm

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