28 Comments
Feb 20Liked by Regan Arntz-Gray

What a wonderful essay. Subscribed.

It might be that the sexes aren’t good at understanding each other. Men spend too much time in the gym and women in school.

I am also often perplexed when I hear women talking about why they or their friends are great catches. They seem completely oblivious of evolutionary psychology. This is one of the few places where men seem to have an advantage in social savvy. I do not think any man would consider himself more attractive because he is good at counterstrike but women often list the female equivalents.

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Thank you so much!

I agree that men are relatively more in tune with what women are looking for as summed up in your observation that "I do not think any man would consider himself more attractive because he is good at counterstrike". But maybe this is what we'd expect given that men are more likely to be in the "pursuing" role than women are, so they're getting more direct feedback from women whereas women are modeling what they care about and assuming men will care about those things too.

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Yes, men also get better feedback because the intrasexual dynamic/competition works differently.

Most men learn early on that women raise problems/issues with them for comfort and assurance, not problem solving. A part of being a decent partner nowadays is learning to adopt this feminine approach when responding to your wife/gf.

So it goes with women raising issues to each other anyways, and while the result may be emotionally fulfilling it's usually not much use in yielding concrete advice. The fellow is always blamed (and portrayed in the narrative as a villain anyway), the interlocutor treated as an innocent and noble victim/heroine too good for him anyways, etc.

This works fine most of a woman's life because, while young and vibrant, she probably can just fall from one relationship to another - there really will be another man around the corner waiting - until she finds one better suited for her.

For most men that's not the case - none of it is, and to us obviously so. Not that one or the other is better per se; the utility and impact on each of us varies, and generally we're adapted to it accordingly.

An exception arises here, where certain women, as you describe, are having a basically male experience of dating failure and need-for strategizing. Then the shortcomings in the feminine approach manifest, similar to how issues in the male approach have arisen in recent years as we've had to deal with new, typically female issues around looks and our bodies (a decent part of the crisis of masculinity and all that arising from being subject to the female equivalent of the male gaze via social media and dating apps; though it's nothing compared to what women have been subject to forever, we hate it and many are visibly melting down/wilting as a result).

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Feb 20Liked by Regan Arntz-Gray

Good article. Further proof that a big part of what is making women unhappy these days is thoughtless projection. They find wealth and status sexy and can’t figure out why men don’t find wealth and status sexy. Why would they? Men find youth and beauty sexy. That is Darwinian — youth and beauty = fertility and reproductive fitness. What women find sexy is also about mate fitness. Sexual attraction is about reproduction, and with women that includes safety and provisioning of their children, and themselves when they are rendered helpless by the presence of infants and children. Men and women are different and want different things because they have different reproductive functions.

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I was just responding to Disder's comment that pointed out that men don't seem to project what they desire in a woman onto their expectation of what a woman will desire in a man (at least not to the same degree as women do). But keeping with your evo bio points - maybe this is what we should expect? Since men are more likely to be in the "pursuing" role than women they get more direct feedback from women... whereas women are modeling what they care about and assuming men will care about those things too.

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Yes, that seems right. Men approach, and women accept or reject. Men may have a better idea of what women want from men.

But, why do women persist in insisting that men SHOULD be attracted to whatever it is they happen to be, or to be doing?

Glad I have been married for many years and most of this is not of daily concern to me. It would be tough to be young these days.

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Feb 20·edited Feb 23Liked by Regan Arntz-Gray

Good article! I think what women are really asking for is reassurance of commitment - looks don't last, so a bond deeper than physical lust is required to sustain a long term relationship, especially if she's with a partner who themselves is attractive, and wouldn't have a hard time finding other mates - so the insecurity might be justified if there's a fear of the love being based on looks alone. But I think the modern fixation with career and success is a shallow one born out of the competitive nature of our current economy, and the cultural glorification of individualism. Sure, it can be argued that being hard working and ambitious are virtues worthy of love, but I think other virtues such as compassion, intelligence, honesty, courage, commitment, and sense of humor are just as important. If our love towards our partner is conditional (spoiler: it is!), it should at least be grounded in a combination of those things, because those are the qualities that can grow over time.

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I agree. I think we really want our love to be based on the qualities we like about ourselves *and* which we think will sustain or even improve over time since this has a higher chance of leading to a long term stable and happy relationship. But at the same time we're cognizant of the general mating market we're in, and that our partner also values some more "shallow" traits (since we probably do as well). And the most relevant of those shallow traits for women is beauty. For men it's probably something more closely related to earning potential. Hence why women get twitchy and insecure about their beauty while men would be more likely to feel that way about their wealth or income. I also think women observe how much being attractive helps on the dating market and how highly it's valued in our culture in general and internalize that value. So while they may say they don't think looks are important part of them is convinced that they're actually extremely important.

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Agreed, I think there’s mutual frustration and cognitive dissonance on both sides in terms of what we feel we should value (ideals) vs what actually stimulates our reptile (or lobster) brain. Hopefully greater awareness of the science of attraction/relationships will help people bridge the gap between the two, and help people avoid low quality click bait advice online, or from friends who think they have all the answers but aren't aware of their own blind spots. Maybe teach relationship education alongside sex ed in high school?

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So what you're saying is... that society should follow the way of the lobster?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A99G6O721gA&ab_channel=broncojonnes

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Feb 20Liked by Regan Arntz-Gray

JP voice: "Better our inner lobster than a bunch of ideologically possessed bureaucrats!!"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XTsdvAdsFR4

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Oh, this is definitely true. I've been reading through a lot of old diaries and journals from my dating life in my teens through my late twenties, and my biggest concern and reports of fights with boyfriends was always me trying to get an answer to the question, "but why do you *really* like me?" that didn't include something about my appearance or the vague words "not like other girls."

I'm 40 now and feel content enough with my marriage and personal appearance, but I do still notice often that my desire to have my partner interested in *who I am* is the most important thing to me. I don't want my husband to love me if I was a worm, because what would there be to love? Not only do I not look like myself and it would be absurd (and disturbing) if he were still physically attracted to me in that state, but there is also no way for me to express any of the internal things about me that he does admire and that keeps him around and will presumably do so as we get into old age.

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"and reports of fights with boyfriends" - same! lol

I think your point that we aren't really able to express what exactly this "inner self" or "true self" is that we desire to be loved on the basis of is why this is so fraught! On the one hand it's not too hard to see that the idea of a pure "inner self" doesn't make much sense, but on the other hand most of us have some intuitive feeling that we have one.

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Feb 20Liked by Regan Arntz-Gray

A big part of what we want is not to be too aware of the details and exactly how it works. Love is supposed to have an air of the sacred to if and it's commonly felt that sacred things are devalued by having too firm a grip on how they trade off with mundane things. The problem is, specified in enough detail, almost all considerations we apply in mate selection appear mundane (looks, success etc etc).

What puts men at a disadvantage is that their interests are more predictable and hence less mysterious and that makes it harder not to notice the mundane concerns.

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Feb 28Liked by Regan Arntz-Gray

“I’d guess most men view earning potential in women as a positive, just as less of a positive than women view it in men.”

All else being equal, it would be a positive. I want a woman who knows a whole lot more than me in her field of specialty so we can take turns mansplaining stuff to each other. Plus who wouldn’t appreciate a little extra household income?

Where that falls apart is looking at the types of personalities that tend towards the top of the income distribution. It’s the thirst for knowledge that I’m looking for, which might have *some* correlation with income, but on the other hand, social ambition and the wealth it can bring are actively off-putting for me. I’ll take a broke grad student over a successful but socially-competitive ladder-climber any day.

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Makes perfect sense, and for what it’s worth I’d also take the grad student over the ladder climber (but still, on average women care relatively more about earning potential than men do)

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Feb 22·edited Feb 22Liked by Regan Arntz-Gray

We are the sum of our characteristics. Always, no matter what, everyone, is "objectified". Language - what we use to describe things and one another - by definition objectifies. It places boundaries over this and that, what you are and what you aren't.

We tend to say we are "objectifying someone" when the dimensionality is very small (e.g. a single trait: "he/she is rich"), and not when the dimensionality is high ("he/she is X, but not Y, a little Z, and so on.."). It just comes down to a question of degree.

But the fact remains: we are described by the sum of our characteristics. Obviously we'd all prefer to be described with high granularity, and that typically just depends on the "cost" any individual bears to describe you.

For example, recently I'm looking at a bunch of CVs, and given the volume, the total cost to review all of them is high, so I must objectify/classify/discriminate with very low dimensionality. Not great, but it is a function of the marginal cost.

There's a great remark from Larry David when asked if he has an issue with women wanting to date him now that he is now rich and famous: "Why would that concern me? Why would I care? Are they supposed to like me for me? They had many, many years to like me for me. That didn't happen. There was no liking for me. And there shouldn't have been!"

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Yes! That’s right. Low dimensional description is what we term objectifying and high dimension (and high fidelity to how we’d describe ourselves) description makes us feel known and understood. But you’re still being valued for some collection of traits not the “core you” which we know doesn’t really have meaning anyways. Love the Larry David quote lol

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Feb 21·edited Feb 21Liked by Regan Arntz-Gray

“I think really believing that your partner not only loves you unconditionally but will stay with you unconditionally is probably a net negative for the relationship.”

A big part of this is how relationships are rooted in respect. I can imagine we would lose respect for a partner if they loved us the same way had we been a worm lol. we care about how we receive love and from who. It’s like when you learn about your partner’s exes - you’re gonna feel pretty bad if you thought the ex was extremely or objectively “dumb/ugly/a total loser” etc.. we want our partners ex object of desire to compare to us on some level not only to feel good about being with them but more so that we can feel good about ourselves…

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Yes, who someone’s exes are signals their mate value to others which (if it’s high) validates you. So you want the exes in some sweet spot where they’re not threatening to the relationship but are also objectively attractive as a partner.

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Feb 21Liked by Regan Arntz-Gray

Absolutely superb writing

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Thank you so much, Jonny!

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Feb 20Liked by Regan Arntz-Gray

These essays always give me a lot to think about. You voice a lot of the things I think about but can't connect in my head. I appreciate this part:

"In fact, I think really believing that your partner not only loves you unconditionally but will stay with you unconditionally is probably a net negative for the relationship. What we want is to feel as sure as possible that we’re such a good match for our partner that they won’t find someone else whose mate value (to them) is higher enough than ours that they’d be tempted to leave. Women who care a lot about and are proud of their career success can’t change the average preferences of men, but it makes complete sense for them to prefer a partner who values their career success more than most men do. And while there’s only so much you can do to become more physically attractive, if you’re lucky you’ll match up with a partner who thinks you’re hotter than most people do (aka where you’re their type)."

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Interesting and quite welcome read. Not least for reminding me of the classic, and related, song by Hank Williams:

"Well, why don't you love me like you used to do; How come you treat me like a worn out shoe; My hair's still curly and my eyes are still blue; So, why don't you love me like you used to do?"

https://youtu.be/CVN3mtGaVjQ?si=920sOJ7H_6XtHGMa

It was the theme song for the classic and quite brilliant movie, "The Last Picture Show" -- probably well before "your time" (1971) 😉🙂 -- but highly recommended:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Picture_Show

Thanks for the memories ... 🙂

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Thank you so much!!

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Saying that men value women's career success "less than women value men's success" or "less than women think it should be valued" is an understatement. I honestly think that woman's career success, when controlled for confounding variables, has a negative impact on the relationship and mate value. It's a turn-off, and it doesn't have to do anything with being intimidated, as wisely pointed out in the article.

Orion Taraban from PsycHacks has a great guide for women looking for hypergamous relationships with high value men, a 3-part series entitled How To Get Any Man You Want. He lists 2 critical things a woman should do and one that she absolutely cannot do, which are 1) Become useful to the man 2) Full sexual commitment (politely speaking) and 3) Don't be disrespectful.

I consider these field tested, based on the history of my successful relationship with my wife. On the other hand, woman's career success is detrimental to all of the aspects above. High commitment into personal career goals makes the woman less likely to commit to the shared relationship goals such as running the household, sexual fulfillment and having children, and to support man's personal goals (which, if his goals are career related - not "playing Counterstrike" - and he is the main breadwinner, as it typically happens in standard hypergamous relationships, may also be considered shared goals to some extent) - everyone has a finite amount of time/energy/commitment to allocate.

Youth and beauty were mentioned as things men really want, but there is one more important thing on the emotional level and that is happiness - the ability to meet your own expectations (or adjust the expectations accordingly). Happy wife = happy life, it's as simple as that. One could think that career success may lead to happiness, but this is not always the case. Successful people are often ambitious, greedy, chasing the big thing, always looking for more and never truly satisfied - this is what pushes them to continuously strive to achieve big things. Does anyone think men want that in their female partner? Or maybe they would just like them to be happy?

As mentioned above, there are confounding variables. Career success is correlated with intellectual, social and cultural capital, which, for some high value men, might be required both personally and in order to become an accepted member of the family and/or social circle (friction in this area is a common trope in romantic comedy). However, having a successful career is not required for being a smart, intelligent, sociable and interesting person.

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"Do women really want to be pursued by men on the basis of their career success? Or to be with a man that wouldn’t have wanted to date them if they were less financially successful? Isn’t that a bit… objectifying? This is a sort of objectification which most women haven’t experienced and which therefore might seem desirable. What most women have experienced however is feeling physically objectified."

This really hits for me because I feel it so much from the opposite direction. When you grow up male, being *physically* objectified is "a sort of objectification which [you] haven’t experienced and which therefore might seem desirable." I think that's a reason things like catcalling may persist: many men probably genuinely think that's flattering.

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I love this comment - I think you're totally right. Men can't fully empathize with why cat-calling often makes a woman's skin crawl (although there are some exceptions where men are able to compliment women they don't know in non-threatening ways). And women aren't able to fully empathize with the stress some men feel about being successful enough etc. for the dating market.

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