Male Quality Control

March 14, 2013

Women are the gatekeepers of sex for a simple reason. The “cost” of a sexual encounter is much higher for women than for men. There is the risk of being impregnated, possibly even by a bad or unworthy man. Women are far more likely to contract STDs than men are. And of course women are more likely to invest emotionally in a sexual encounter, even a casual one. (Note: It’s true that pregnancy can now be prevented or terminated, but our brains haven’t changed in thousands of years.)

The most important thing a woman can do in mating is manage these risks.  She does this by filtering men based on cues that signal an intent to stick around after sex. By delaying sex long enough to assess a man’s intent, character, and reproductive quality she eliminates poor prospects and considers only men with the potential to be good fathers. 

One reader suggested recently that the ideal mating strategy is the one with the highest reward, “if you can pull it off.” What he neglected to consider is that the highest reward often entails the highest “cost” or risk. A good strategy is one that thoroughly considers both costs and benefits, and has the highest “net” payout of all options. 

Here’s an illustration of how this works:


Obviously, the best outcome is the top right quadrant, WIN THE LOTTERY. You believed him to be a good man who cared for you and you were right. Well done.

The next highest payout is the top left quadrant, DODGED A BULLET. You didn’t get a good guy out of it, but you did avoid having sex with a bad guy, and thereby prevented the destruction of your future. You have suffered no damage, and you can return to the pool of potential mates unscathed and try again. 

The third best outcome is the bottom right quadrant, THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY. You missed out on a good guy because you judged him unfairly. This is an opportunity cost – you forfeited “what might have been.” But as in DODGED A BULLET, you may return to the dating pool and try again. It’s probable you’ll never know you missed out, but even if you do, there are many guys on the guy tree.

The worst outcome, which is unfortunately very common among young women, is the bottom left quadrant, QUEL DESASTRE. Either he gave an Oscar-worthy performance or you were in denial about his true intent. He made it through your filter, you had sex with him, and it blew up in your face. You will pay a price for this error in judgment. You may be pregnant, you may have contracted a disease, or most likely, you may get hurt and feel used. Every time you experience this you chip away at your own worth, and your hopes for the future. You may return to the dating pool, but you are not unscathed.

It is imperative that you stay out of the bottom left quadrant.