The latest in my long running series is here. The first post can be found here, and the fourth here. Today’s post is going to be less focused than the last.
One of the infamous commenters who occasionally frequents these parts has accused men of acting in a manner entirely similar to women when it comes to mate maximization. Her argument is that men are just as picky and choosey as women are, and that only the “hottest” women will get asked out/dated/married by men. She calls this “Guypergamy.”
Setting aside the ridiculous name, there is an element of truth to this. As most who frequent this blog are aware, lifetime monogamy is not natural to the human condition- neither men nor women are naturally monogamous. Women are inclined to serial monogamy, while men are inclined to polygamy.
The natural male response when a man comes across a woman he wants is to add her to his existing “harem.” If he runs across two at the same time, he takes both rather than choose between the two. Or as the old joke goes: If you ask a man whether he prefers a blonde, brunette or redhead, his answer will be “yes please.” You can see this especially with David and Solomon in the Old Testament. Although Jacob is another good example. When he got Leah rather than Rachel at first, he didn’t discard Leah when he later got Rachel. Essentially, the male instinct isn’t to replace an existing woman with a new one when a man run across her. When a woman is “discarded”, it is usually due to her age or a lack of resources on the man’s part (prioritizing them for himself and the women he prefers).
This dynamic changes dramatically when men are forced into hard monogamy- aka, lifetime marriage. When men are confronted with “one and done,” their behavior shifts. They start to become a lot pickier. Far more picky, in fact, then they are normally. However, I don’t think that men are ever quite as picky as women tend to be. But it can be close.
And that is just in a “hard monogamy” marriage market. Things become even more complicated when the market is as distorted as it is now. When lifetime marriage and the MMP is distorted, two different forces are at work. On the one hand, the lack of viable product (marriageable women) forces men to lower their standards or go without. And on the other hand, the instability of marriage and easy dissolution of marriage makes men even more cautious and choosier. This leads to… interesting results.
The most likely result is that men simply leave the market. They give up and go home. But another result, the one more applicable to this neck of the woods, is a little more complicated. These are men who we might call R&D men- Resigned & Discriminatory. While they haven’t given up on marriage, they are resigned to the fact that they probably won’t marry. And they are highly discriminatory about who they will actually marry. They have strict standards and will generally stick to them. I strongly suspect that most Christian men in the future will fall into this category. Not that there will be necessarily be a large number of such men- I see a strong contraction in the numbers of the faithful ahead in the future.
As for how choosey these men will be, I predict fairly choosey. Knowing the odds, they will insist on getting a good deal in the marriage market, or they will simply walk. This means a number of things will be part of their “list”: lots of feminine traits, a high degree of devotion, chastity, minimal feminist/worldly beliefs, youth and good looks. The latter is what drew the ire of the aforementioned commenter. She (and others) disliked that men would only pay attention to the “hawt” girls.
I understand and sympathize a bit with her perspective. But only so much. It is unfair, certainly, as she and other “good” women aren’t responsible for this mess. But a mess is what has been left to us. And men are finally starting to adapt to it. From a male perspective, here is what is going on in our heads:
If we are going to take the risk of marrying in the present environment, then we are going to insist we get the best possible deal out of it. In other words, we want a reward on equal footing with the risk. And that means, in large part, youth and beauty (which often go together). Beauty I will explain in the next section, but youth is also important to such men.
One of the rewards that men in this category are apt to seek is a large family. Not all, of course. But many will have that desire. The younger a woman, the more she brings to the table when it comes to fertility. This will increase her perceived “reward” value. And that is the conscious factor. Men are unconsciously drawn to youth in women. It has an appeal that we never really lose, as evidenced by various “studies” which show that the ideal age range of women for men is around 20-21.
Now, for a while men have been accepting older and older women as their brides. The general increase in median age of marriage demonstrates this. However, I suspect that men are going to be increasingly wary of marrying older women. This was tolerated at times in the past, but I don’t think that toleration will hold in the current broken market. Desperation will still affect many, to be sure. There will always be “thirsty” men. But as more R&D men emerge, or put another way, as they become a larger share of the marriage market, I expect that women will have a harder time marrying later.
Those are just a few of my thoughts on the subject. I invite my male readers who might fall into that category to offer their own.
The Holy Lampstand
One constant in my various discussions of attraction is that someone shows up and says that Christians shouldn’t be taking attractiveness into account when marriage is concerned. Most often it is directed only at men, and not women. One such person, going by the moniker Corvinus, showed up recently at this thread over at Dalrock’s to make that same, old, tired argument. He, assuming it was a he, basically stated was that all matters was for a woman to be a Christian. Her attractiveness doesn’t matter. Fortunately a number of commenters there, including Feminine But Not Feminist, quickly took him(?) to task over his(?) foolhardy arguments. The following hypothetical from FBNF pretty effectively shut him down (as evidenced by the fact he hasn’t responded to it):
If a Christian woman were to show interest in marrying you (if you’re a man; if you’re a woman then just say so), but you had absolutely zero attraction to her to the point that the idea of having sex with her is repulsive to you, had trouble keeping up a conversation because you just don’t “click”, and she is so crazy and unkind to you that you don’t even like being in her presence at all, but she still said she would be interested in marrying you… would YOU PERSONALLY be willing to marry this woman that you flat-out don’t want, just because she “is Christian”? If “yes” then please back it up with something from Scripture that clearly shows that men are obligated to marry such a woman simply because she is Christian (good luck finding that). If “no” then please explain why you wouldn’t do so but are telling every other man here that they should.
The thing is, you could remove the part about “clicking” and personality/craziness and it would still work. Marrying a woman whom you are not attracted to is a recipe for disaster. Even more so if she repulses you. The only exception might be for those men who have no sex drive. But they probably should marry at all, as St. Paul makes clear in 1 Cor 7. And that passage also highlights the importance of being being inflamed with passion towards your spouse. Because if you aren’t towards her, than you will be towards someone else. And that leads to ruin, as the Book of Proverbs makes abundantly clear several times. Proverbs also makes it clear that the way to cool your passion is through your wife:
15 Drink water from your own cistern,
flowing water from your own well.
16 Should your springs be scattered abroad,
streams of water in the streets?
17 Let them be for yourself alone,
and not for strangers with you.
18 Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
19 a lovely hind, a graceful doe.
Let her affection fill you at all times with delight,
be infatuated always with her love.
It is kind of hard to rejoice in her if you never felt that “spark” in the first place. But even with that in mind, the notion that men should not or cannot consider a woman’s beauty has no scriptural basis. Far from it- in fact Scripture speaks to quite the opposite:
17 Like the shining lamp on the holy lampstand,
so is a beautiful face on a stately figure.
18 Like pillars of gold on a base of silver,
so are beautiful feet with a steadfast heart
22 A woman’s beauty gladdens the countenance,
and surpasses every human desire.
And then of course there is the entire Song of Songs, which extols female beauty (along with the handsomeness of the man). When you point this out (admittedly, a little harder for Protestants who have tossed aside the Book of Sirach) those who argue against considering attractiveness always like to trot out Proverbs 31:30. When you point out that Proverbs 31 didn’t say to ignore or set aside beauty, but to remember it is fleeting, and that the rest of Proverbs warns about letting it bedazzle you, most usually huff and leave.
The thing is- life isn’t fair. Some win and some lose when it comes to good looks and attractiveness. That doesn’t sit well with a number of folks, but that is how the world is. As unfair as it is, men just like beauty. We do. There is something inherently pleasing and uplifting about it. Even when not in a direct sexual context, it “gladdens the countenance.” I don’t think women really understand just how powerful this can be. Telling men to set beauty aside will be no more successful in the long run than telling women they should be drawn to supplicating and weak men.
That is not to say that men cannot prioritize other features of a woman above her looks. We can, and many do. But it isn’t easy. And we never really set it aside- instead, we make a conscious decision to accept less of it in the hopes of gaining something else (hopefully) more valuable instead. At least, that is the case for those with options. For those without options, then it is less determination and discrimination at work, and more desperation.
The key point, as always, is that a man should never marry a beautiful woman just because she is beautiful. That is a plus, certainly. But since looks fade over time it is a passing pleasure. So ground your decision on traits that don’t fade like that. In the end, they are far more valuable to your enjoyment of your marriage, and life as a whole. Not to mention much safer for your soul. That said, there is no reason why, all things being equal, a man shouldn’t marry the better looking of two women.
What Is In A Name?
In my previous post of this series, which examined Hypergamy, I ended up deciding that I didn’t like the word as applied. I suggested that a new word or phrase was needed to explain the phenomena that it was used to describe. So I invite my readers to give it their best shot. Think of a new and more accurate name to describe the phenomena described and commented on in my last post in this series.
That brings this post to a conclusion.