Friday, June 29, 2012

Fun Fact Friday: What Evolutionary Psychology Tells Us About Sugardaddies.com

Continuing our exploration of Nancy Etcoff's book Survival of The Prettiest, today's lesson and discussion questions come from Chapter 3, titled "Pretty Pleases."  Again, let's recall that Etcoff is writing from a particular theoretical perspective, Evolutionary Psychology, which insists that "our passionate pursuit of beauty reflects the workings of a basic instinct (7)".

In this chapter, Etcoff begins to explain why attractive people often receive privileges, focusing on how men and women consider attractiveness when it comes to selecting mates.  Etcoff states that "for both sexes, looks are more important to short-term casual relationships than for more serious relationships" in which other qualities become more important.  Abundant research shows that neither sex views attractiveness as a neutral or unimportant quality to insider when choosing a mate.  Neither men nor women view attractiveness as indispensable.  That said, even though both sexes want beauty in a mate, "men want it more," (63).  In other words (surprise, surprise) beauty does matter when it comes to mate selection, and it matters in a gendered way.

Is this "New Younger Woman Gets New Younger Car"!??
Etcoff also brings up the issue of aging and attractiveness, and how this impacts women, in particular.  Now, we all know that our culture values youthfulness as an element of beauty, for women more so than for men.  From an evolutionary perspective, this is due to women's fertility decreasing with age.  So, are men built with innate biological-clock-dectectors that somehow sense a woman's decreasing fertility?  Nope.  Rather, the appearance of youth seems to be used as a proxy.  These (supposedly) innate drives help explain why women feel pressured to maintain youthful appearances.  Speaking of pressure, research shows that, as older men re-marry, they tend to select younger and younger wives.  (Bah!)  The threat of being replaced by a younger woman like a car with too many miles gets traded in for a new model, sounds like pretty strong motivation for women to spend bundles of cash on beauty products and cosmetic surgery.

This all sounds like crappy news (for women, at least!), and yet, no Ev-Psych essay on mate selection could leave out the fact that women, more so than men, tend to prefer mates with access to wealth and resources. (We are such gold-diggers! Shame!)  So there. men!  We ladies can race you all the way to the bottom of the bad gender stereotypes race!
EEW.
EEW.  Again.
Personal aside: if you don't think these patterns exist, I implore you to check out the website www.sugardaddies.com (byline: "Dating for the attractive and successful!"  I'll give you one guess as to which gender tends to be the attractive one in the pairings, and which gender tends to be the successful one!)  See the zoomed-in image to your right for some scientific definitions of exactly what a "sugardaddie" and a "sugarbabe" are....  BTW, please don't be tempted to actually sign up for this dating service.  I am pretty open-minded about love/attraction/pairings, etc. but the power differential that implicitly results from dating explicitly for these characteristics is pretty concerning to me.  I can't help but recall my good friend Liz's favorite (sarcastic) line: "Beauty fades but money is forever!"  In other words, shitty economy aside, when beauty fades, money can just go out and buy more.  Therefore, it seems more prudent to seek long-term love with a partner who appreciates characteristics that don't fade quite so quickly!  

Getting back to the lesson:  The good news is that even evolutionary psychologists admit that the MOST important characteristics that the average men and most women look for in mates are NOT beauty and bucks.  Yes, men value looks more than women do, and, yes, women value "success" more than men do, but characteristics like kindness, honesty, and faithfulness rank higher on the list than beauty/succss for both sexes. 

I'll say that again: characteristics like kindness, honesty, and faithfulness rank higher on the list than beauty/success for both sexes.   (BTW, I didn't get this from the Etcoff book, but from other sources that she didn't bother citing... boo.)

Thus, it appears that (1) we women and men are more alike than dissimilar AND (2) we aren't all superficial jerks.  Hooray!  Take that www.sugardaddies.com!

Alright... of this talk about sugar has left me feeling hypoglycemic.  I'm headed out to buy me some candy.  Sugar Daddies, anyone?

Question for discussion: there's been a ton of criticism for these "sugar daddy" dating websites.  Many critics compare them to prostitution, while supporters say things like "all relationships involve exchange," or "well, wives sometimes sleep with their husbands to get a new fridge." Anyway, there seems to be a pretty huge grey area when it comes to the things that people can legally "exchange" within romantic relationships.  What do YOU think?  Further, what do YOU exchange, if anything?

23 comments:

  1. I hate that "to get a new fridge" 'example' so much. Does a husband not benefit from a good fridge? Does a husband not benefit from the prestige of up to date kitchen decor? How many women are just fridge-mad, willing to do anything in order to secure themselves their very own personal secret super-modern show fridge?

    A husband and wife both enjoying some sex and then both enjoying a new fridge isn't an exchange, it's a partnership. And a husband enjoying sex with a wife that is indifferent, in order that he then allow her to please him via non-mouldy food and aesthetic-based social standing isn't an exchange, it's a controlling bastard and his unhappy servant.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Claire,
      Yes, isn't that "get a new fridge" thing pretty awful? I swear I pulled this from a website and didn't make it up!

      I like your suggestion of both partners enjoying sex and both enjoying a new fridge. :) Partnership rather than exchange!

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  2. I think attraction to someone based on appearance may be nature's way of getting things started. Then you figure out (hopefully, pretty quickly) if this other person is kind, humourous, trustworthy, etc.

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    Replies
    1. I think that's true in many cases. Also, sometimes people connect physically only after an emotional connection.

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  3. Hm. I cannot think that I do "trades" although I suppose it is inevitable. I know that I have been given some gifts when my partner was feeling guilty about something. He'll buy me chocolate when he stocks up on his favorite beer. I finally asked him to stop...and he grinned, realizing that I recognized his motivation.

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    Replies
    1. That's ture! It's interesting too, isn't it?, though we have different opinion in some cases.

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  4. Oh. my. goodness. I literally laughed out loud when I saw the sugardaddy.com website. I guess it's not unlike that show millionaire matchmaker? I will be the first person to admit, I love getting treated by my boyfriend (e.g. getting flowers, taken out to dinner, etc.) but I will never, ever expect for him to pay for me. I will never ask a guy to buy me anything I wouldn't be able to pay for myself. The dynamics of every relationship are different--I think it totally depends on the couple and how they want to split up costs, etc. but the whole dating someone because he is rich thing is ridiculous to me. Yes, finances are important. I would never marry someone who wasn't financially responsible, but that's because I'm financially responsible, too. I don't want to screw up my credit score just because my guy is late paying his bills. But money doesn't buy happiness. And if you're a woman who can't pay for yourself and your man leaves you for an "upgrade," you're screwed.

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  5. Yes, men value looks more than women do, and, yes, women value "success" more than men do, but characteristics like kindness, honesty, and faithfulness rank higher on the list than beauty/succss for both sexes. sample compare and contrast essay

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  6. Considering the list of top dating sites out there, I find sugardaddie as a disappointment, as it seems to be more focused on looks and has minimal emphasis on other great traits like intellect and that sort of thing.

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  7. hi,
    as an evolutionary biologist (and also a woman who is concerned about beauty, its meaning and its social significance) i find the article interesting. I've read some books on sexual selection and the real problem I find is the comparison between the human species (animal which live in a society and are shaped by culture) and other animals, which are not shaped by their culture in the same way as we are. I don't think we should think about our behaviour only in terms of a biological imperative.
    and however, evolutionary tendencies are not always true. for example: sometimes females may choose wounded males for partners, because his genes must be good so he can survive even wounded. this doesn't match the common sense of "choosing the strongest male" or the more capable of feeding the offspring.

    yes, evolution is driven by the need of leaving more offspring than your competitors... and I'm not saying we are beyond evolution, I just think it works diferently because of the interactions with different cultures.


    I don't know if I made myself clear, english is not my mother language. sometimes I find it pretty hard to put my ideas to words :P

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  8. I think that men and women are more atracted to people that they can have fun with, and to people that have the same taste in music, food, sports, etc. binäre optionen

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  11. I think that men and women are more atracted to people that they can have fun with, and to people that have the same taste in music, food, sports, etc.

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