Thoughts On The Imperative

Just before I took my Easter break from blogging (it’s difficult to get my head into it when I’m surrounded by my kids!) I saw a conversation between Jim (@TomWatched) and Constance (@PigletParker) That had been triggered by this tweet:

There was quite a bit of to and fro, and it was, understandably, a little prickly. So I wanted to explain what is going on with Constance’s graphs and why they are as they are.

I’m writing this without passing any value judgement on what I’m saying. Nor on the motivation of whoever compiled the graphs in the first place, using just this one element. I’m not arguing that it’s right or wrong, defensible or otherwise. I’m merely sharing what I know…

Millions of years of evolution have programmed men and women to be attracted to particular traits. Men are programmed by thousands of generations of evolution to be attracted to women who are fit and healthy, and so able to deliver them a healthy child with good genes. They are attracted to women who will be alive and vital long enough to raise that child and nurture that child to maturity. We’ve been programmed by natural selection to recognise certain proxies for “healthy” and “good genes”. We recognise women with good skin and good health as being genetically good. We recognise young as being a proxy for “going to live long enough to raise a child”.

That’s why, in general, men are attracted to young-looking, fit, healthy women. It serves our reproductive success. What we consider “Beautiful” has been conditioned by those factors.

If the graph were for “Are men attracted to women with good skin” it would also tell us what we already know: men prefer clear smooth skin to spotty, pustulating, dry or scabby. Billion dollar industries exist because of this.

For women, it’s different. Their reproductive success has to be much more discriminating. Women have, biologically, fewer goes at it (and yes, for right or wrong, that’s the origin of the double standard). Most importantly survival success is enhanced by selecting a partner who, as well as being healthy and of “good genetic stock” has resources and status. A partner who has survived well into their fourth or fifth decade and is still looking good. Having a degree of wealth, financial security, loyalty, and education serve as proxy indicators to the characteristics that support a woman’s reproductive success. They are attracted to men who will look after them, care for them and not screw them over.

The graphs in Constance’s tweet focus solely on age as a characteristic. And show exactly what we would expect: men are attracted to younger, healthier, fitter women. And women are attracted to men of a comparable age or slightly older. I think that’s what you would expect without having to do a survey to find it out.

But if the graphs focused solely on another characteristic, or better still, on the range of the many factors that play a part in attraction, they’d tell a much more rounded story. Most readers of this blog have likely evolved their self-awareness and knowledge of their needs and desires beyond such a narrow consideration. But there is a bulk of society where trivial indicators are more important.

It wouldn’t surprise me to discover that whoever commissioned this study did so with the intent of trying to make men look bad. There can be little reason to isolate one characteristic and present it in this way otherwise.

© Charles Rochester 2016


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