Today we have a guest post by longtime reader and active commenter Anacaona (formerly known as Stephenie Rowling). In this post, she tackles the beast of female hypergamy, and offers some strategies for wrestling it to the ground. First, an introduction:
The first time I heard the phrase female hypergamy, my mind went straight to a visual of a pair of ginormous cankles.
“I’m sorry Ms. Walsh, but you’re suffering from a chronic condition known as female hypergamy.”
“Oh my God! Is it curable?”
“No, not curable, but with patience and the right treatment it can be managed.”
“No man will ever love me with these cankles!”
“Some fellow might. But I think you can safely rule out the Brad Pitt types. You need to accept reality and live with it if you expect to find peace.”
What is the dreadful female condition known as hypergamy? From Wikipedia:
Hypergamy (colloquially referred to as “marrying up”) is the act or practice of seeking a spouse of higher socioeconomic status, or caste status than oneself.
The term is often used more specifically in reference to a perceived tendency amongst human cultures for females to seek or be encouraged to pursue male suitors that are higher status than themselves
According to evolutionary psychologists, females have evolved a preference for higher status males because they offer their prospective children both “better” genes and greater resources, e.g. food and security. Men, who invest less in their children, have less reason to prefer mates with high social status. Some have even argued that men “marry-down” to ensure that their mates have a higher incentive to remain faithful.
Some evolutionary psychologists believe that women exhibit mate-selective preferences for spouses who are greater than them in terms of attained physical attractiveness, educational level, job status, social standing, and capital accumulation. In comparison, males would tend to place higher emphasis on the value of physical attractiveness in a woman alone.
Eve is the symbolic mother of our entire species. She lived in the Garden of Eden where all her needs were fulfilled and there was plenty of pleasure and love.
But Eve, being a woman, had a trait that many of us XX carriers have as well: She wanted more. Women believe and hope that things can always improve. This is a wonderful trait to have – without it, women wouldn’t have been able to achieve so much in a world with so many biological disadvantages, but it’s a fatal flaw to have if you happen to already live in Paradise.
In modern society Eve’s desire for more, always more, is seldom a fatal flaw, but it’s an illness that has infected the relationship between women and men.
The old saying “I can do better” is practically taught since birth to women as a way to empower them: you can have a better job, a better car, a better home and better, better, better… The problem is that modern society doesn’t say to women that they could also “do a lot worse” and more often than not they have no idea how to change a pattern that keeps taking them to the same failed place. Sadly, many do not realize their self-destructive choices until it is too late.
Eve is whispering in your ear, telling you to look for the “better” man. But what is better in terms of mating? The tallest one, the handsomest one, the one that seems confident and strong? This is where Eve is still eating the forbidden fruit.
You think you know everything you need to know but you don’t understand your own desires, and so cannot guard against them.
The temptation is a base urge, lodged in your reptilian brain, that still hears the drums of the past and thinks that a strong, aggressive man will kill a mammoth and bring the meat to your cave. But that was a million years ago, and we no longer live in caves. Today, any guy strong enough to hold a hamburger should be able to provide you with the food you need. Thus we are heeding a completely obsolete instinct, because our culture and technology advanced faster than our bodies did. Biological evolution is a painstakingly slow process.
When you look at the man that has twenty other women making a beeline for him, you want him even more. That is you are going for the quick reward of the “better” genes, but this man will be looking at a long line of women wanting a piece of him. Given that he knows there are many women like you listening for Eve’s tempting offer, he won’t be singling you out as a “better” woman. He’s more likely to say, “Better have someone else next in line!”
Eve probably thought that Paradise was boring, that she was seeing the same plants, the same streams and the same animals. She craved something new and different. But she was lazy. Instead of trying her hand at inventing a sport or learning how to sing like a bird, paying attention to the wonders of paradise, she took the easy route of breaking the rules because it looked like the best way to improve her life immediately. She selfishly destroyed a good thing for the chance to have a better thing.
I’m not saying women shouldn’t try to pursue happiness or get the best possible mate they can, but if Eve had asked herself a couple of questions she might have resisted temptation:
- How will I feel about this tomorrow?
- What is this serpent after?
- Can he be trusted?
So next time you see a handsome man at a party, happily enjoying the attention of many women, instead of taking that last drink and hooking up with him ask yourself some questions:
- Are you being tempted by a serpent?
- Do you lose more by taking a pass or giving in?
Maybe you should pay attention to the shy guy in the corner. He may not look “better” at first glance, but he might just be paradise.
The Dichotomy of Reproductive Success
Women and men didn’t evolve in the same way. Life is designed to perpetuate itself by any means necessary. It doesn’t have to be fair or egalitarian, just effective in selecting genes to pass on under hospitable conditions. So, even if hypergamy isn’t applicable to all men and women it was a successful strategy for our forebears. Today’s men and women inherited that legacy. The genes for hypergamy, and the male response to it, are present in all of us in different proportions. The majority of people reveal this in their behavior.
Men produce abundant sperm and only need one good swimmer to fertilize the egg to make sure their genes are passed on. They are wired to seek fertile women, i.e. young and healthy, to procreate. Furthermore, they have their entire adult lives to do so.
Women, on the other hand, not only need suitable eggs, they also need a suitable environment for them to grow and develop into a viable infant, capable of carrying their genes into the next generation. Add to that the fact that our big brains make human young completely defenseless without the assistance of adult humans and you have a recipe for diverging mating strategies between men and women.
In the past it made total sense for men to try and mate with the youngest, healthiest and largest number of women possible. (The universal standards of beauty are actually indicators of fertility. This is why men place so much importance on good looks.) But a gene passed is a gene passed. Since men also took physical risks routinely, if they had an average looking woman available and willing, they wouldn’t waste the chance given that five minutes later they might be slayed by a saber tooth tiger. (Today’s extreme risk seekers are the unfortunate product of that instinct.) A competing drive, though, was to stay around to help raise his young, giving them a chance to further propagate his genetic line. It was necessary for males to balance these different strategies to be evolutionarily successful.
Women had to maximize their chances to pass on their own genes by getting the best prenatal care and the best resources and protection available from men. This meant that many women selected the genes of the physically strongest men to mate with. Sadly, many women learned the hard way that a prize physical specimen also has plenty of other women looking to mate with him. And the more kids he fathered, the more mouths he had to feed, and the less he could share with any one child. So women had to balance physical strength and prowess with good partnership traits.
So males balanced their desire to impregnate many women with the responsibility of caring for offspring. Women balanced the desire of having the strongest male’s offspring with the need to select a worthy partner (or several partners in case the primary died). And of course, women had a relatively narrow window of fertility.
Evolution is a real bastard.
Some men went the seed-spreading route. They are today’s alpha males (players, cheating bastards, Charlie Sheen), and they probably have the minimum amount of bonding potential – their reproductive strategy is one of quantity. Other men inherited desirable security traits: nurturing, family-oriented, diligent, intelligent, etc. to be more attractive to women in the long run. They are today’s betas (Nice guys, Adorkables, Denzel Washington).
Studies show that women are most attracted to very masculine, testosterone-filled men during ovulation. The rest of the month she prioritizes partnership traits.
Many women gamble recklessly by banging alphas only (sluts, impulsive women, J Lo), hoping one of them will stay. They may rely on societal support in case of single motherhood. Others secretly bang the alphas and some betas to make sure they get the genes of the former and the care for the offspring of the latter. (Of course, this was something that they could choose to do secretly before the technology of paternity testing was available.) Finally, the ones that didn’t trust alphas to stay around or didn’t want to reproduce alpha traits primarily chose beta guys (smart ladies, long-term focused women, Rita Wilson).
In short, men are not selective about having sex but they are very selective about committing their emotions and resources. They need to be selective to make sure all their childrearing efforts are fruitful in propagating their own genes. Women are much more selective (or should be) about sexual partners because every sexual encounter could lead to pregnancy (theoretically, birth control notwithstanding).
Of course, genes and human behavior lie on a spectrum. Society, culture and morals were created to regulate our instincts to make sure the best strategy for the group worked in the long run. This prevents us from doing silly things like killing each other competing for mates, or breeding with close family members. Consequently, when we started to build civilization, human groups were stable and not constantly worried about passing genes or mating. They capitalized on that stability by doing important things like invading the neighbors, conquering lands and laying waste to them.
To maximize the chance that all of us can be successful in passing our genes in the most safe and effective way, we developed cultural norms such as marriage, monogamy and societal shame for things like divorce and infidelity. Even polygamous societies were trying to make sure that the most desirable Alpha males had enough variety within their marriages to avoid trying to steal or cheat with someone else’s wife, cuckolding another man into raising a kid that didn’t carry his genes.
Over time, societies found monogamy most beneficial and orderly. Imagine a small village – we’ll call it Moralia: 100 men and 100 women. Twenty percent of each sex is the most desirable (the Brad Pitts and Angelina Jolies). If the two most desirable members get married early on, and this society punishes adultery and divorce, then the rest select from among themselves and pair up with the best mate they can get. Yes, men love variety but if they know they will have access to one and only one, then they will be happy to get laid and will provide for a family in exchange. Women are hypergamous, but if they know that if they don’t take one of the better available men off of the market fast, one of her sisters will do it.
So in Moralia, even the ugliest and least capable will end up paired. Thus, we get tons of gene variation (wider variety of men procreating), and social stability. Now people have time for science and art. Everyone wins!
Now imagine the village next to them: Libertalia with the same demographics. However, in Libertalia, men are encouraged to freely engage in sex, or at least to delay marriage. Women are indoctrinated to pick the best men and taught that they can use their pussies to turn these alpha males into love slaves. There is no sense of urgency because they have so much to offer, and men aren’t really zeroing in on having kids anyway.
What happens? The majority of women will go after the strongest 20% of men and ignore the men with the best partnership traits. The ones that carry babies from their alpha liaisons will have to do most of the childrearing themselves. The alpha is too busy banging every available woman he can to provide emotional, financial and logistical resources for his own kids. The betas are hurt because they were ignored them during the years of peak female desirability (and their years of peak sex drive). Some would rather stay single and “play” rather than find a life partner. Many women won’t have a family because that’s very difficult to do as a single parent. In Libertalia, there is no pride in their civilization and caring about the common good is oppressive.
In the end which village is most successful in passing along its genes? Which village will be more stable and productive? Of course you know the answer, you always knew it, but is hard to hear it when you are having so much fun, isn’t it?
You might ask, “Why do I have to sacrifice my personal freedom for the betterment of our society?” Well, unless you are an outlaw, then you are already following a set of rules designed to make society a habitable place. But just because it is habitable today doesn’t mean it will even exist in the future.
The modern feminist idea that if sex is culturally regulated, and if we suppress our sexual instincts we are being denied a human right, is a social construct. Feminists claim that women deserve to “have sex like men.” But even in the most patriarchal societies there were rules for sex: no adultery, not having sex with a girl before she had her first period, not having sex with another’s mans wife, if you had sex with a virgin you had to marry her, and so on. The idea that sex was unregulated for men is a fallacy. Men who restrained their own sexuality for the common good were rewarded with social success, such as loyalty in time of war and career advancement. Arranged marriages allowed alliances for the purpose of gaining and consolidating resources and power.
The modern sexual marketplace, post-Sex Revolution, marks the first time in history that we have viewed sex as something people should be able to have without limit. It’s quite a mess. Our less evolved forebears understood the dynamics better than we do today. They created marriage, made divorce hard to obtain, and monogamy was neither derided nor ridiculed. (Admittedly, they committed other atrocities that harmed civilization.)
This doesn’t mean that fundamentalists are right in trying to regulate marriage, but that all of us should try to work together to regulate sex in a way that is best for society.
Searching for a truly “better” man.
Now you know why are you attracted to men who ignore you, play games, don’t call and are chased by other women, men who are mysterious aloof and distant. But what can you do about it?
1. Revisit your relationship with the males in your life while you were growing up.
Whether a father, a stepfather, an uncle, a family friend or even a teacher. Try and make the effort to remember how they shaped you. Like it or not, when you were a little girl your contact with these men shaped your romantic future. If your father was a faithful man but your mother cheated on him, chances are you see nurturing traits as weak and undesirable.
If your father was the Alpha cheater, chances are that you are still looking for a dad figure that loves you enough to stick around. Maybe your father abused you, maybe he ignored you. The point is, the ways in which a man might exaggerate your natural attraction to Alpha males are endless, so try to fix this in yourself. Whether through counseling or self-help books, address this before you try to date or have a relationship. And do not have sex until you’ve got this figured out! You need to learn to live without men in order to find your natural attraction to good men instead of losers. It is there in every woman, it is just a matter of finding it.
2. Redefine empowerment.
It’s no surprise that women who hate or distrust men have the highest divorce rate. It doesn’t matter who initiates divorce, it is still a failure. These women focus on what they’re getting out of the relationship. They’ve been convinced that unless they get at least 50% in the relationship all the time, they are being oppressed, and they want to convince you of this as well.
- “Men are not trustworthy, they always hurt women.”
- “Being selfish is your right.”
- “If a man doesn’t do everything you ask he is not respecting you and you should leave.”
- “If the spark is gone, and you are bored, you should leave and find yourself.”
Do you think that a man that expects the worst from you because you are a woman is going to have a nurturing, successful relationship with you? Of course not! Well, it works the same way for women too. Repeat this to yourself:
- I’m not better than men and men are not better than me.
- All men are innocent till proven otherwise.
Focus on whether you feel loved. If you are well treated, consider yourself lucky. Don’t worry about who’s giving more than 50%. If everyone is giving there’s plenty to go around.
3. Redefine what it means to have high standards.
Which is easier?
- To give in to temptation or to resist it?
- To use drugs or not to use them?
- To hit a person in anger or to resist and walk away?
- To show a person you care or to show them that you don’t care?
- To have casual sex or to make a commitment?
Every time you see an unstable guy playing games ask yourself if he’s taking the easy way out. That makes him weak, not strong or desirable. Take a pass.
Character is the trait that you should prioritize the most in a mate also, because is what makes people successful in long-term relationships. We live in an age of self-indulgence where our happiness is always just a “purchase away.”
A good man of modest means is a far better choice than a wealthy womanizer. A stable home of any size is worth a lot more than a mansion where unhappy people live.
4. Reflect on your own character.
You can’t demand strength of character in someone else unless you have it yourself. Having sex with the first guy that makes you horny displays weakness. You are showing poor impulse control. People say they want a test run before committing, and that’s fair. But modern society defines the test run as sex, and that’s wrong. Anyone can have sex. Having sex is not a mystical art only mastered by those with the largest number of partners, but an instinctive activity that anyone with enthusiasm can learn. Real, mindblowing sex happens in a love relationship, not with a stranger.
The real test run you should be offering is the display of qualities that will make you a good partner in the long-term.
Sex is not empowerment, it doesn’t make you stronger.
Sex is not a self-esteem elixir.
Whether you are a strong, independent woman or an insecure one, the number of sexual partners you have will not change it. Thinking you are hot stuff because a guy that has slept with many women also slept with you says more about what you expect from sex than what he expects from it.
5. Before having a hookup or one-night stand ask yourself four questions:
- Would I do this completely sober?
- Will I feel badly tomorrow if I find out this guy placed me on a list of women he’s had sex with, and gave me a score?
- Will I feel regret if this guy pretends I don’t exist the next time I see him around?
- Will I feel upset if a good guy rejects me after finding out I was doing this while younger, or if I have to lie about this to someone I plan to spend the rest of my life with?
If you can honestly answer these questions with a no, then go ahead! You are wired to have casual sex without experiencing negative emotions. But be honest; don’t pretend all this is meaningless and then get all hurt if any of the above happens.
6. Redefine social and moral norms.
Many people are angry at others. They buy into the idea that if you are unhappy it is someone else’s fault. Of course, many things are beyond our control, but most of this is fabricated. Instead of thinking “Society doesn’t allow me to do this, that is why I’m so miserable,” ask yourself what would happen if everyone was allowed to do anything they pleased. Anarchy, anyone?
There are many injustices in the world that deserve your anger and energy. The right to have casual sex without consequences is not one of them. Thinking you’re a goddess because you had a gang bang last night is an illusion. You are not bettering the world, you are contaminating it. If you die tomorrow and you are primarily remembered for your promiscuity, your life has been meaningless.
The sad truth is that life is short and in the end we all are dust. Leaving a string of broken hearts and a broken family is not a legacy, it’s a tragedy, and that will be true whether you’ve won an Oscar, had a brilliant career, or hundreds of contacts but no real friends.
The small moments with the people we love are the ones that matter. That is what makes us human and immortal. Hedonism doesn’t have any witness, any memory, or anything to share.
The toughest battle you can fight is not battling society for the right to have more pleasure in your life, it’s the knowing and fighting your own nature to share real love with others. That is the only true source of control and power.