The Toll of Bad Dating Experiences

“You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot – it’s all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.”

Maya Angelou

getty_rf_photo_of_sad_woman_eating_ice_cream_in_bedAs an avid reader, when I finish a book I often judge it on one criterion: Did it change me? I don’t care if the prose is poetry, or the characters are likable, or whether it made me laugh, or cry. I want to be changed. Ideally, my brain will be a little (or a lot) different than before. Sometimes that change is small. Other books have changed the way I choose to live or the way I see the world.

I believe that all of the choices we make change us in ways both big and small. Most of our choices are small and fairly meaningless. Do you want pizza or Thai tonight? Red sweater or navy? We won’t ever need to consider the “what if” of having made another choice.

Other choices are hugely important and may have an enormous impact on our lives. Our education, our work, where we live, who we marry.

It is natural and human to make bad choices sometimes. No matter how hard we try to be good, or smart, or rational, we’re going to do stuff we regret later. If we’re lucky, the consequences of our actions won’t be devastating to our lives and the lives of others. We won’t drive drunk, or try heroin, or have a one-night stand with a serial killer. We’ll avoid total self-destruction.

But we will make countless small mistakes, and those do become part of who we are. Making the same mistakes again and again – even if relatively minor – can affect our self-esteem and the way we are perceived by others. We feel that people are responding to us differently or even poorly, but we’re at a loss to figure out why.

Courtney is a young woman I know well. She has had several bad dating experiences recently and she can’t figure out why. She asks, “Tell me what I’m doing wrong! What did I do to deserve this?” She’s made some small mistakes, but they’re adding up and beginning to show.

After graduating college in 2011 Courtney went to work for a consulting firm in DC. She quickly met Josh and dated him seriously for three years. He was her first boyfriend and sexual partner. When she decided that he was not the man she would marry, she ended the relationship and returned to San Francisco, which is home.  She quickly found a dream job and an apartment with a college friend.

In the eight months she’s been back, Courtney has dated three men for 2-3 months each. She had sex with each of them. She ended one relationship, and the other two men disappeared shortly after sex. She isn’t quite sure how she could add three sexual partners and still not be in any relationship! How did this happen?

What did Courtney do right?

In each relationship:

  • She filtered for respectful, reliable behavior.
  • She listened to her instincts about whether the guy really liked her, and backed them up with his demonstrated actions.
  • She assessed his character.
  • She shared expenses, cooked meals, and exhibited traits that signal readiness for a relationship.
  • She maintained her friendships, but also made a point of getting to know his friends.
  • She tested compatibility in a variety of situations over time.
  • She delayed sex until she felt secure – the soonest was after 15 dates or so.

Where did she go wrong?

  • She never expressly asked what would happen if they had sex.

Courtney wanted things to happen organically. She didn’t want to initiate the awkward DTR in a moment where everything was proceeding in a natural and lovely way.

  • Each of these men was consistent in his display of interest.
  • Each sought her company 3 or more times per week.
  • Each planned fun, creative and sometimes expensive dates.
  • Each said how much they liked her.
  • Each acted like a boyfriend.

I. Eric

Eric was attractive and fun, but he became needy and possessive once they’d had sex. He not only wanted Courtney to be his girlfriend, he wanted her to be his soulmate 24/7 and make decisions for him. Courtney felt overwhelmed. After she ended it, she heard from someone who’d known him in college that he had had two very serious girlfriends before and that his MO was to go all in ASAP.

2. Ian

Ian was great fun to be around. He focused on Courtney and gave her a lot of attention. He was eager to have sex, but when Courtney said she wasn’t ready, he said he understood and continued the full-court press for her affection. On their last weekend together, he came over for dinner Friday night and stayed for two very romantic days.

When he didn’t text on Monday, Courtney had a bad feeling. On Tuesday he texted that spending the whole weekend with her had “freaked him out” and that he “needed space.” After that he texted intermittently for late night meetups, and Courtney did not respond.

3. David

Courtney liked David best of all. At 30, he was serious about his career and openly stated he was dating to meet his future wife. He said from the beginning that he wanted to move things forward but at a very gradual pace. He did not pressure Courtney for sex at all. He understood that was not fair since he was being careful about emotional intimacy. After 16 very fun dates he told Courtney he was ready to become more serious. They had sex. He disappeared.

Courtney had met David on Tinder, and they had a mutual Facebook friend. When Courtney asked her friend what she knew about David, she learned that he had been heartbroken when his ex cheated on him last year.

What now?

This isn’t the end of the world. Courtney is not promiscuous by any means, and has never had casual sex in the strict sense of the word. She felt comfortable and assured that she was building something real with each of these men. And yet, she was mistaken. Now she feels emotionally exhausted and discouraged. And it shows. It’s palpable.

Dating is shopping for your life partner. You will most likely date several people before you meet the person you choose to marry. But when each of those relationships destroys a piece of your soul, it takes a toll on your outlook and your emotional well-being. Other people may read that as a weakness. You will attract men who are drawn to that.

Courtney failed to fully evaluate and understand her own feelings before sex, as well as those of her partner. After Eric clung to her possessively, she appreciated Ian’s independent spirit all the more. She failed to notice that he saw her as an attractive woman on his arm rather than someone he might become intimately connected to.

David made it clear he was auditioning Courtney for the role of wife, and he indicated she was passing all his tests with flying colors. She was so pleased it was going well that she failed to notice a guarded quality that would have been obvious if she had paid attention. She may have been acing his tests, but they would continue forever.

We’re all prone to misunderstandings, especially early in a relationship. What would have lessened or even eliminated the disappointment and rejection Courtney eventually felt?

You have to talk about the relationship. You have to talk about sex. When to have it and what it means. You have to say out loud what you believe to be true, what you are willing to give, and under what conditions. Then you have to make sure the other person is on the same exact page.

It’s not romantic. If the relationship works out, you’ll have years to be romantic. Courtney went on about 50 romantic dates with these men, and all she has to show for it is a feeling of having been wrung out.

You can have casual no-strings sex, or you can have relationship sex. Those are the only two options. Casual is the default expectation, so if you want to avoid it, you must get a commitment first.

It won’t prevent every disaster. Eric would have gladly committed to a relationship right away, and perhaps Courtney had no way of knowing how clingy he would become. Ian might have agreed to a relationship at the start of his sexy weekend, and still “freaked out” on Tuesday.

But at least you’ll know that when these things happen, it’s not on you. You were honest, you did your due diligence, it didn’t work out. It wasn’t your mistake.

A Player Seeks Redemption

player quoteSusan,

Going to make a long story short, but I am a 29 year old attractive male who has the “Player” stigma from the people that surround me due to my old days. I have fallen in love with a friend who shows me all the signs that she likes me as well, but WILL NOT DATE ME. She never gives me a straight forward answer on why. I think of her night and day for the last 7-8 months, although it does not hinder my day to day life, it still makes me sad.I am not one to use the word love loosely, matter of fact this is the first person I have ever used it towards, my friends will tell me it is because I cant have her, I PROMISE that is not the case. What do I do?

P.S. She has currently started “Talking” to someone, but is not official. I saw her a few days ago and the intense chemistry is there still, flirtation was crazy.

Paul

Paul,

I don’t think you’re going to enjoy my response, but I promise to end with real strategic advice.

First, I find it fascinating that you say your being branded as a player is the fault of your old friends hanging around and blowing up your spot. Instead of, you know, actually having a history of being a player.

I am encouraged that you consider it a stigma, now that you are interested in a committed relationship. There’s a valuable lesson here for the wannabe poon slayers out there. However, I urge you to take responsibility for your own history – this woman is not rejecting you because of your friends. You clearly suspect she is rejecting you because she found out factual information about your past and does not think you are a good bet.

Are you a good bet?

Everything we know about promiscuity would suggest otherwise:

1. Men with a high number of sexual partners (6+) experience a sharp decrease in attraction for a woman as soon as sex is over. This happens to facilitate the dump after the pump, so that men wired for short-term mating are free to move on to the next victim conquest. Evolutionary psychologist Martie Haselton:

“For men who pursue a short-term mating strategy, first-time sex signals both that a goal has been achieved and that there is a possibility of becoming entangled in an unwanted long-term relationship.”

2. One study showed that marital sexual satisfaction declines more than 5% for every partner a man has been with other than his spouse. By implication, all men with 20 previous partners will feel moderately sexually satisfied in marriage at best.

3. People with a demonstrated history of casual sex are more likely to cheat on a partner. 63% of men in the top quintile of sociosexuality have cheated! Due to their proclivity for extramarital affairs they also have a very high divorce rate, naturally.

4. Having impersonal sex, which is characterized by engaging in sexual relationships that lack emotional closeness, is correlated with sexual aggression.

Many women won’t date a player.

Assuming that your friend does not share a history of casual sex, it is not surprising that she would perceive you as lacking relationship fitness:

“Women with an unrestricted orientation to sex (i.e., those who have more positive attitudes toward casual, uncommitted sexual activity) gave higher desirability ratings to moderate or considerable sexual experience in a partner than did women with a restricted sociosexual orientation.

Conversely, the restricted women rated chastity in a partner as more desirable than did unrestricted women.

Women with extensive sexual experience should be more willing to consider a sexually experienced person as a partner. More specifically, they:

  • Would be unlikely to have negative impressions of a sexually active (similar) other.
  • Would assume that they (and others like them) are “uniquely invulnerable” to sexually transmitted diseases (Brehm, 1992).
  • May be guided by a specific, adaptive mating strategy.

Are your feelings really love?

Or is she the ultimate conquest? Those who know you well think it’s the latter. You say they are wrong, but you say you’ve never loved anyone before. At 29 you have still not had a loving relationship.

You don’t say why you love her, or what you love about her, just that you PROMISE you do.

She is not interested.

You perceive terrific chemistry and ongoing flirtation, but she has categorically rejected you as a romantic partner. If she harbored a serious attraction to you, she’d feel torn and tempted, and you’d know it. Instead, she is focusing her attention on someone else without even glancing back in your direction.

So why is she friendly and flirty? Because you are an attractive guy whose ongoing attention is flattering, especially since you’re willing to “go straight” for her. No doubt she enjoys knowing that she holds all the power and the player learns a hard lesson.

Bottom line:

The wages of manwhoring is rejection! At least by a woman who does not share your short-term mating orientation.

I promised strategic advice, so here it is. First, a window into female psychology and attraction. No doubt you’re aware that women favor preselected men. If a ton of other chicks think you’re a catch, we can save a lot of time by jumping into the competition without doing independent due diligence. But this preselection benefit is not unconditional and unlimited.

Relationship-oriented women love it when a man has options, but they respect a man who is very selective. If you’ve had sex with a lot of women, by definition you have not been selective. How do we know this? Because men compromise on looks to get casual sex, and the best looking women generally won’t play. So you’re asking a woman who is herself quite a catch to get with a man who sets the bar low. Quality women don’t want to be part of that herd.

If you truly believe you are in love with her, and want to change your lifestyle, your mission is to convince her of the sincerity of your affection and your desire to become “a new man.”

This will take time and patience.

  • You should lay it on the line and tell her how you feel about her.
  • Your behavior should be loving without expectations of getting anything in return.
  • You should settle in for a long-term project. Winter is coming.
  • You should stop flirting like a player and start acting like a man who wants the real deal with her and only her.
  • No impersonal sex with others.

Most former players couldn’t and wouldn’t do this. You certainly are not obligated to follow this strategy – you could let this one go. There is no guarantee she would ever return your feelings or be able to trust you in a long-term relationship in any case.

If you decide to move on (which is what I would recommend), then you will need to either go back to pursuing women who share your short-term mating orientation, or seriously get your friends to keep your manwhoring days a secret.

Susan

Where Were You When I Was Still Unattractive?

Hi Susan,

I stumbled on your site and have been fascinated with it the past few days. It has given me a fresh perspective and helped me feel better about myself–and more confused.

Lately I’ve been thinking about my college dating experiences. I’m 28 years old now and I’ve noticed a very odd phenomenon lately. I’m getting noticed (and approached) by women that never would’ve given me the time of day when I was in college. Successful, accomplished women! One in particular is incredibly hot, but they all are attractive. I am baffled by this. You may laugh, but this is making me extremely frustrated and stressed out.

Reading your blog has offered some explanations. I’m an analytical guy, so I’ve been very impressed with the social science you weave into your writing, and the research about how 28 is the ideal male age for women helped to explain what might be going on. But I still can’t figure out what’s going on, with me or with them. I feel emotions like resentment and suspicion, as well as desire, but I’m not at all flattered. I find myself unable to respond in any way, positively or negatively. I feel paralyzed.

Sometimes I think I’m just offended. These are the very same women who rejected me time and again in college. I mean, I know they’re not the same but…they’re the same. I wanted relationships (I tried casual sex…EPIC FAIL), they didn’t want me. My one serious college girlfriend cheated on me with her professor. I was really, really hurt, felt like a chump, etc. 
To put it in a HUS context, the [college girls] preferred alpha males (I’m definitely a beta, introverted, overly intense, with a baby face.) Or maybe they were reluctant to get involved during college because they wanted to be free to move on after graduation and not be tied down.

The thing is, I don’t think I’ve changed all that much. Frankly, I couldn’t change if I wanted to, even if it meant getting these women. I may have come out of my shell a little, but I honestly don’t think it’s me that’s different. It’s them, and I don’t think I like the difference. I think I’m the consolation prize. I think they still want the alphas but they’ve given up. Time to settle. I’m offended. I don’t trust these women.

Am I too proud? Getting my revenge? Guarded from past humiliations? Or have I just grown up and learned from my experiences?

Stephen

Dear Stephen,

Let’s set aside the bad feelings you’re experiencing for the moment and examine this situation strategically. Are you maximizing opportunities for your own happiness, or falling victim to self-limiting beliefs?

I have heard from many readers over the years who suddenly found that they were getting a lot more interest from the opposite sex. It’s not unusual for men to feel exactly the way you do – like a consolation prize.

Interestingly, women are usually very pleased when they see a jump in male interest. They don’t harbor a grudge, but enjoy their newfound popularity.

I suspect it’s because women know how important visual cues are to men. A substantial portion of the American economy depends on female efforts to improve our appearance so as to be more attractive to men. When this works, we’re generally delighted with the results. Our stock has risen, and we have more opportunities.

Also common is the ugly duckling effect. Many people don’t really grow into their looks for a while, and as you’ve noted, this can take longer for men. You specify that you are getting “noticed and approached” more at 28 than you were in college. Let’s unpack what that implies:

Women find you attractive. 

These are the very same women who rejected me time and again in college. I mean, I know they’re not the same but…they’re the same.

I honestly don’t think it’s me that’s different. It’s them, and I don’t think I like the difference.

You resent the change in women’s perception of your physical attractiveness, but have you considered that you are actually better looking now? You may say you haven’t changed much, but every male changes very significantly between the ages of 18 and 28.

Why would you expect the same results as before, even though your appearance has improved? Or conversely, why do you believe that you should have been noticed and approached when you were less attractive than you are now?

You describe yourself as having a “baby face.” It’s very likely that you came across as more boyish than manly before your testosterone-fueled physical development was complete. No doubt the girls at college rewarded the males who were early developers and exhibited masculine qualities then. Why take that personally?

Inspiring attraction and sustaining it are two different things.

You describe yourself as analytical, introverted and “overly intense.” I’m not exactly sure what this means, but women generally find excess intensity daunting or even frightening. An emotional state of heightened intensity may signal passion but also anger or even rage. Most women will recoil from this kind of behavior.

In college, where you would have been more of a known quantity among girls than you are among strangers today, this may well have been what prevented you from securing or sustaining the relationship you wanted.

The women who notice and approach you today are signaling a desire to get to know you better. Whether they decide you are relationship material depends largely on you.

Why would successful, accomplished women be seeking a beta provider?

Let’s apply Occam’s Razor. Is it more likely that high-achieving women approach you because they find you attractive, or because they have given up all hope of finding an attractive mate who can provide for them financially?

If women your own age or a bit younger find you attractive enough to initiate conversation, it makes no sense to assume they’ve given up and are looking to settle, especially if they’re financially successful already. You are the age of the typical educated bride. That seems awfully early for women to “give up” and find some chump they’re not attracted to, don’t you think?

The very same men who perpetrate the “beta bux” theory also complain that women who have “hit the wall” have an unrealistic sense of their own market value. Which is it?

Let’s take a look at the research. Both men and women who fear remaining single settle in two key areas:

1. “They settled in the area of personality, choosing someone who might come off as more of a jerk or uncaring as a partner.”

2. “People who were more afraid of being single were more willing to date someone unattractive.”

Clearly, women find you attractive if they’re approaching you. And they have no idea initially whether you’re an uncaring partner or not. So the beta bux theory doesn’t make much sense.

As I see it, you are facing four potential outcomes every time a woman shows interest in you:

Beta bux.001

 

Only one outcome gets you what you want. Clearly, you need a strategy to filter for genuine attraction. If you can forgive women for noticing that you’re handsome, why not filter for intent, the way women do?

Is she going for a hookup, or a relationship?

  • Is she trying to get a one-night stand, or does she seem more interested in arranging a date?
  • Does she make conversation in an earnest attempt to get to know you better, or are her advances primarily physical?
  • Is she sober and friendly at a coffee shop or drunk and sloppy at the bar?

Is she genuinely attracted to you?

  • Does she express and demonstrate desire for you?
  • Does she make you feel sexy?
  • Does she show signs of becoming emotionally invested?

…Or just after your bux?

  • Does she behave as if she expects you to spend money on her?
  • Does she share expenses?
  • Does she lack ambition and have a history of depending on others financially?
  • Has she expressed a desire to have a baby and stop working asap?

You get the idea. So what if the woman you want to date wouldn’t have dated you in high school. She probably had crooked teeth and no breasts in high school, and you wouldn’t have wanted to date her either. We all change over time as we mature. No guys liked me in high school – in fact, one boy I had a crush on told my best friend he was really worried that I liked him.

Very few of us get to adulthood without some major disappointment and rejection. You’re one of the lucky ones. Enjoy your newfound bump in value, and don’t waste your time blaming the market for your rising stock price.

Or – you could continue as you are and remain alone.

Good luck,

Susan

 

Creatures of the Night

Give yourself over to absolute pleasure. Swim the warm waters of sins of the flesh - erotic nightmares beyond any measure, and sensual daydreams to treasure forever. Can't you just see it? Don't dream it, be it.

Give yourself over to absolute pleasure. Swim the warm waters of sins of the flesh – erotic nightmares beyond any measure, and sensual daydreams to treasure forever. Can’t you just see it? Don’t dream it, be it.

Apropos of Halloween…

Yesterday’s post on jerks in the dating pool heavily featured the work of Peter Jonason, an Australian researcher who recently won the prestigious Ig Nobel Prize for his work on the sleep habits of Dark Triad males. (H/T to reader Tara)

In Creatures of the night: Chronotypes and the Dark Triad traits Jonason et al studied whether a person’s being a morning or nighttime person was linked to sociopathic traits.

The [results] found students who were awake in the twilight hours displayed greater anti-social tendencies than those who went to bed earlier.

“Those who scored highly on the Dark Triad traits are, like many other predators such as lions and scorpions, creatures of the night,” Jonason says.

“For people pursuing a fast life strategy like that embodied by the Dark Triad traits, it’s better to occupy and exploit a lowlight environment where others are sleeping and have diminished cognitive functioning.”

There is an evolutionary explanation:

“There is likely to be a co-evolutionary arms race between cheaters and those who wish to detect and punish them, and the Dark Triad traits may represent specialized adaptations to avoid detection.

The features of the night…may facilitate the casual sex, mate-poaching, and risk-taking the Dark Triad traits are linked to.”

Oh boy. Obviously, not all night owls are Dark Triad males, and I wouldn’t even think of making that a red flag. But you might want to keep a light on and your eyes open, figuratively speaking.

In the meantime, I will continue my crusade to detect and punish Dark Side

Do Chicks Really Dig Jerks?

One Night OnlyChicks dig jerks.

True or false?

This statement is one of the guiding principles of mating in our time. The unfortunate state of affairs, which is often credited with destroying society, is usually attributed to the Women’s Movement. Feminism ostensibly gave women the freedom to have sex with the bad men they really want.

Badness ——> Women want to have sex with you and grab those bad boy genes.

Goodness ——> Irrelevant and unappreciated until women are no longer sexually viable.

This simplistic causal relationship is repeated ad infinitum among men who feel shortchanged in the SMP. If we can think of some asshole who is a successful player, we have all the proof we need that life isn’t fair, and we were lied to! If not, we can simply point out that mass murderers receive marriage proposals in prison from adoring female fans. Case closed!

In fact, there is one factoid that is routinely invoked to prove the truth of the depravity of female mating preferences. That is the finding – largely supported by research – that bad men have more sexual partners than good men:

“Men who were manipulative, arrogant, calculating, and sly were more sexually active and had a greater variety of sexual experiences and a greater number of sex partners. These men scored higher on the agentic facets of an extraversion scale, namely assertiveness, activity level, and excitement seeking. These dimensions were correlated more highly with sexual experience than other communal variables such as warmth and positive emotion.”

Trapnell and Meston, 1996

As someone who has never once been attracted to a jerk or “bad boy,” I’ve long wanted to get to the bottom of this claim. Who are these men? Who are the women who like them? What is appealing about them? How much “success” do they have?

Does badness generate sexual attraction? Or is there something else going on? Might there be numerous correlating factors with number of sexual partners rather than one simple causal one?

Who Digs Jerks?

  • Thrill-seeker girls

  • Girls who can’t commit

  • Girls with near-zero self-esteem

For some women, the sexual aspect of a relationship is primary (Kalof, 1995). In particular, women who are more permissive and who are willing to engage in sex are more attracted to bad boys.

“Dating Preferences of University Women: An Analysis of the Nice Guy Stereotype” from Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 25339-343, 1999

Scott Barry Kaufman:

“I think individual differences play a role here. Amy Alkon, Advice Goddess puts it well: “Bad boys appeal to three types of women: Thrill-seeker girls, girls who can’t commit, and ‘Near Zeros’ — girls who aren’t operating on a full tank of self-esteem.”

  • Girls who are gullible, naive or cognitively challenged.

David Buss:

“Men who pursue a sexually exploitative strategy also face a problem whose solution would be aided by a difference-detecting adaptation. The ability to identify more vulnerable victims — perhaps those who are more gullible, naïve, or cognitively challenged—would afford these men the ability to neutralize or circumvent whatever evolved defenses exist in potential victims and more successfully carry out their sexually exploitative strategy (Buss & Duntley, 2008).”

Jerks have more sexual partners.

How many sexual partners do players have?

Andrew Smiler has studied male players in college. His research reveals some interesting statistics (as reported by the players themselves):

  • 50% have more than one sex partner per year, compared to 20% of non-players.
  • 3-5% have 4 or more partners per year over a four-year span.
  • In any given year, aspiring Casanovas may be up to 15% of the male population, but only about 5% of men sustain this behavior for three years.

According to a study of hooking up behavior among college students, only 3.5% of males rack up more than 6 partners in four years.

Only 12% exceed 3 partners, which is less than one per year.

Very physically attractive men have more sexual partners.

For men, being very physically attractive (versus average/attractive) increases reported partners by 26%. (10% of the male population is deemed very attractive, 36% attractive, and 47% average.)

Let’s put this in perspective – The most attractive males have nothing like double the partners, but 26% more partners. In many cases, that will mean one additional sexual partner during college. 

The odds of men reporting having had sexual intercourse in the first week after meeting the partner are 20% higher for the top 10% of males.

Clearly, the differential in number of partners between players and non-players, while statistically significant, is small in real terms.

There is some evidence that Dark Triad males are better looking than average, but it is unclear whether greater perceived attractiveness is innate or due to grooming. Narcissists are more likely than other males to be preoccupied with personal appearance. They may also inflate their own perceptions of their attractiveness, enabling them to pursue women beyond their realistic prospects.

Re a 2011 study:

“The photos of the subjects – both the dressed up and neutral shots –  were then shown to strangers, who were asked to rate them in terms of physical attractiveness. Those who scored higher on the dark triad were consistently found to be more attractive by strangers than those who rated lower… but only when they were dressed up. When all of the subjects were wearing the sweat-suits and showing their more natural look, the influence of the dark triad personality type disappeared.”

Jerks exaggerate their number.

Researchers are well aware that narcissists, who tend toward grandiosity, are likely exaggerating their number of sexual partners, and are certainly including those whom they coerced or assaulted.

Unfortunately, self-reporting is the only way to collect information on sexual partners. It’s impossible to say how large the deception is, or how much greater than the normal male tendency to “round up” the number of sexual partners.

Other Correlations to Larger Number of Sexual Partners

Sexual Aggression

“The number of sexual partners was a significant predictor of sexual aggression. As the number of sexual partners increased, so did the propensity to sexually aggress.

This finding is in line with previous research on men with more impersonal proclivities to sexual relationships (Malamuth, et al., 1991; Malamuth, et al., 1995, Malamuth, et al., 2000).”

Men who sexually aggress are more likely to acquire sexual partners via sexual assault.

Sociopathy or Dark Triad Traits

“In 2009, Peter Jonason and his colleagues published a study showing that college students scoring high on characteristics known as the “dark triad” (Machiavellianism, subclinical narcissism and subclinical psychopathy) tended to report having a higher number of sexual partners as well as more of an interest in short-term mating than those scoring lower on the dark triad.”

Unfortunately, Jonason’s study does not specify the differential in the number of partners.

Dark Triad males acquire an ample supply of short-term mates by adopting low standards:

“We found that the scores on the Dark Triad traits were positively related to having more sex partners, an unrestricted sociosexuality and a greater preference for short-term mates.

 …Men had slightly lower standards than women for short-term mates. Men who were high on the dark triad had even lower standards than men who scored low on the dark triad.”

They avoid kind, stable women:

“…Psychopathy was positively correlated with a preference for short-term mates and was negatively correlated with a preference for long-term mates who are kind. The researchers suggest that those scoring high in psychopathy may devalue kindness in a potential long-term mate in order to create a drama-rich environment to satisfy their high need for stimulation, risk-taking and impulsivity.”

Hardcore jerks are relatively rare.

David Buss:

“There is good empirical evidence for stable individual differences among men in which some, but not others, pursue a sexually exploitative strategy—those roughly 4% of men who have the cluster 40 of traits captured by the term psychopathy (Lalumiere, et al., 2005).

…Men high on psychopathy tend to pursue short-term mating strategies marked by deception, manipulation, the threat of force, and the use of force (Lalumiere et al., 2005).”

Scott Barry Kaufman, author of Mating Intelligence:

“My research with Glenn Geherand other researchers on Mating Intelligence does suggest that these traits by themselves along with some other skills of the asshole such as mind-reading, self-deception and other-deception can be predictive of number of sexual partners as well as college “hook-up” behaviors.

For the jerk, these traits can mask the shallowness that lies beneath (although the truth almost always eventually comes out).”

Narcissism evolved to foster short-term mating for men who failed to pair-bond.

Virtually all studies report greater narcissism in men, including cross-culturally (Foster, Campbell, & Twenge, 2003).

Holtzman and Strube (2010) propose that narcissism emerged in response to problems posed by the adoption of a short-term mating strategy in men. Adaptive narcissistic solutions include a willingness and ability to compete with one’s own sex, and to repel mates shortly after intercourse.

Narcissists find it comparatively easy to begin new relationships, perceive multiple opportunities available to them, and are less likely to remain monogamous (Campbell & Foster, 2002; Campbell, Foster, & Finkel, 2002).

The result is that sociopathic males are predators in the dating pool for the duration, while mentally healthy men pair off and reenter the dating pool far less frequently.

Unsurprisingly, short-term mating strategists are cheaters. David Buss:

“Selecting a narcissistic or low conscientious individual for a spouse, for example, means facing a statistically greater likelihood of confronting the adaptive problem of spousal infidelity (Buss & Shackelford, 1997).

Being disagreeable and low on conscientiousness increase the odds that an individual will pursue an unfaithful short-term mating strategy (Schmitt, 2004).”

Machiavellian men have sex early and often, regardless of consent.

“Machiavellianism is associated with social manipulation and opportunism, both beneficial to the pursuit of short-term mating.

Machiavellians report a tendency towards promiscuous behaviours and love-feigning (McHoskey, 2001b). Machiavellian men also report more sexual partners (including affairs), earlier sexual activity, and are inclined towards sexual coercion (McHoskey, 2001b).”

Binge drinkers have more sexual partners.

“Research from Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis revealed that there was a direct link with high rates of alcohol dependence and an increased number of sexual partners — 41% of frequent bingers indulged regularly in unplanned sex, while this happened to only 8% of occasional drinkers.”

Brain chemistry has something to do with it.

“Research from the University of California Los Angeles and published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience shows…that some people’s brains are simply more sensitive to sexual cues than others — which means it takes less to get them aroused and ultimately leads them to find sexual partners.”

Environmental Correlates

  • Parental violence
  • Parental divorce

The Bottom Line

  1. There are few bona fide jerks in the population.
  2. High levels of confidence and extraversion are superficially appealing to new targets.
  3. Jerks attract unstable women with low-self esteem.
  4. Jerks prey on gullible and naive women.
  5. They avoid commitment and seek impersonal sexual encounters.
  6. They acquire sexual partners through sexual assault.
  7. They provide grandiose accounts of sexual prowess, which cannot be verified.
  8. Very good looking men have more sexual partners whether they are narcissistic or not.

Scott Barry Kaufman:

“Perhaps at the end of the day the allure comes down to a few positive traits (e.g., confidence, honest display of sexual intentions with no beating around the bush, creativity, non-neediness, a fun and exciting persona) and mating skills (e.g., cross-sex mind reading).

Perhaps all the extra negative traits aren’t really necessary to attract women above and beyond the essentials.”

Is it helpful to understand the dynamic at play here? Are you surprised to learn that headlines like “Women Love Psychopaths!” are misleading?

What would you say to young men who seek to emulate the Dark Triad sociopath? Are those character traits in isolation (regardless of looks) catnip to women?