When Men Stop Seeking Beauty and Women Care Less About Wealth

As gender equality rises in any given society, men focus less on seeking mates with youth and beauty and women become less interested in rich, powerful men

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Men seek youth and beauty, while women focus on wealth and status — evolutionary psychologists have long claimed that these general preferences in human mating are universal and based on biology. But new research suggests that they may in fact be malleable: as men and women achieve financial equality, in terms of earning power and economic freedom, these mate-seeking preferences by gender tend to wane.

The idea behind the evolutionary theory is simple: biologically, sperm are cheap — men make 1,500 sperm per second on average. In contrast, eggs are expensive; typically, women release just one egg a month and each baby girl is born with her full lifetime’s supply of egg cells. (Yes, this means that the egg from which you sprang was formed inside your maternal grandmother.) What’s more, pregnancy costs a woman nine months, while the initial male contribution to parenthood generally requires no more than a few minutes.

As a result, evolutionary theorists argue, women will be far more selective than men about their sexual partners, and they will tend to seek those with the most resources to invest in their children. Men, on the other hand, can afford to be less choosy. They’ll care far less about a woman’s ability to provide and far more about her basic signs of fertility, such as her youth and the symmetry of her facial features — a characteristic associated with beauty and good health.

(MORE: The ‘Sissy Boy’ Experiment: Why Gender-Related Cases Call for Scientists’ Humility)

But while these mate-seeking preferences may have made sense when humans first evolved — and subsequently shaped our unconscious desires — the world has changed since our species dwelled in caves. And so, researchers at the University of York in the U.K. wanted to know whether factors that characterize modern-day society, such as women’s increased earning power and status, made a difference.

In a study published in Psychological Science, researchers looked at two large samples of people who were surveyed about the qualities they most wanted in a mate: one survey was conducted in the late 1980s and included 8,953 people from 37 different cultures; the second survey was more current, administered to 3,177 people from 10 nations via the Internet.

Noting prior research finding that women who expect to be employed full-time on their own put less emphasis on a man’s “provider” qualities, the authors write: “As the positioning of men and women in societal roles changes, gender differences in mate choice criteria should change because people look for mates who fit into their anticipated future lives under prevalent societal circumstances.”

To figure out if that’s true, the researchers ranked nations according to a new measure of gender equity introduced by the World Economic Forum in 2006. Within various societies, they looked for relationships between the gender gap and how much of a difference there was between male and female mate preferences. And indeed, the researchers found, the greater the equality of power between the genders, the more similar were the traits that both men and women sought in potential mates. In Finland, the country with the greatest gender parity among the 10 countries included in the more current of the two surveys, there was a far smaller difference between male and female preferences than in Turkey, which had the biggest gender gap.

(MORE: Does Online Dating Make It Harder to Find ‘The One’?)

That means, basically, that the more equal men and women became, the less emphasis men placed on youth and beauty, and the less emphasis women put on wealth and power. These findings were borne out by the 37-culture survey as well; although it showed a definite gender difference in mate-seeking preferences, it also showed that these gender-based differences narrowed in countries with more equality. Further, it found that the top few most desired traits were shared by both men and women: most people first look for intelligence, kindness and sense of humor, even before men mention beauty or women mention wealth and status.

Other supposedly biologically based gender-based differences — such as gaps in math performance between men and women — have also been found to recede in gender-equal societies, suggesting that the role of culture in these variations has been underestimated.

In case you’re wondering, America ranks 17th in the world in gender equity. The top four most gender-equal nations are all in Scandinavia, and the bottom of the ranking is dominated by Middle Eastern and African countries.

However, the authors note that even the most egalitarian countries in the world are equally as far from perfect equality as they are from the level of inequality seen in the countries that score worst on this measure. The authors conclude: “As long as gender inequality prevails even in ‘egalitarian’ nations, an erosion of gender differentiation in mating preferences cannot be expected.”

(MORE: The Math Gender Gap: Nurture Trumps Nature)

Maia Szalavitz is a health writer at TIME.com. Find her on Twitter at @maiasz. You can also continue the discussion on TIME Healthland’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIMEHealthland.

145 comments
cvett84
cvett84

I really don't care for any woman. I see nothing really exciting about any of them, I do know some are fat, slim, ugly and beautiful but that's about it. I personally have no desire to talk or be with them. Women is a longer word that men and they are just like any one else walking down the street PEOPLE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

RickDelia
RickDelia

I;m just looking for a chick with a GREAT ASS!!! (and can suck the ivory out of rhino's horn)

pturner1976
pturner1976

Frankly, I love the new social paradigm. Since women are the ones working and doing the heavy lifting, I get to sit at my slacker job part time, play my xbox all I want and she supports me, and the occasional girlfriend on the side.

Women have been gold digging for centuries.  Its our turn now. There are so many lonely desperate women out there and they gladly part with cash for the right guy.

Thats right baby, you let the world hear you roar, just remember to pick up the latest Call of Duty on your way home from work.


a_guy
a_guy

I think many women care more about looks than we'd like to imagine, and some of them quite a lot, I think this applies to successful women in particular. Between me and my wife, she's definitely more successful than me being a manager. She's paying most bills and are making most economic decisions. Economy was never an issue when we dated. However, she admitted to care for guys who were good looking and living an active lifestyle, so for us the table is somewhat turned. While she's definitely living healthy she's not into diets and excersizing all the time, she has a few pounds extra. I'm the fitness freak, go to the gym everyday and do diets regularly to keep lean/ripped

CarmenSepulveda
CarmenSepulveda

When I first read the headline I thought it said 'When men stop seeking beauty and women care less about weight.' Shyte, are we girls ever gonna catch a break.  LOL

rvreugde
rvreugde

There are few things dumber than college "educated" females with a liberal, progressive, neo-Pagan worldview. So many become self-supporting mistresses - a male chauvinists’ dream come true - all the while walking through their 20's and 30's with the delusion that they are liberated because no man is helping them pay the rent or support what few children they chose to not abort. Like "liberated" Sandra Fluke buying her own contraceptives instead of asking her boyfriend(s) to foot the bill. There is a whole world of men out there who are laughing at these women behind their backs. For them it has become a “No Pay Still Play” candy store.

Morganne Sicinou
Morganne Sicinou

I think that this article is highly accurate. However, and even though Middle Eastern countries are very far from the average equality pattern growing around the world, the new tendancy goes to intelligence and work success before it reaches beauty and wealth.

danb88
danb88

My wife is hot and gets paid more than I do. I win. Seriously though - what's with all the misogyny?

Jenny Angelo
Jenny Angelo

I can totally see how women having more earning power means they care less about their mate's wealth.

But where and how does this equate to men not caring about appearance? Are we just assuming that, because women now have "other good qualities" (like wealth), men won't care about looks as much? Or does the fact that there is now similarity mean that women are now free to put just as much emphasis on looks as men?

Women caring less about money when they are able to make it themselves makes plenty of sense, but it doesn't follow that men suddenly care less about appearance, and nothing in this article seems to support that assertion either. 

anthro1701
anthro1701

I think it would make a more convincing argument if this author also used research on what motivates same-sex mate selection.  If men are classified as beauty focused and women classified as economically focused, does the line not get blurred for a gay man who is privileged to the benefits of "male-ism"  in our society, but seeks mates based upon power/economics more than beauty?  Or does being part of a group with 'typically' a greater exploration into the many facets of human sexuality remove the trend of focusing on beauty alone or economics alone.  For instance, a male who is comfortable enough to explore both masculine and feminine aspects of behavior may have different results than a male who is part of a group that shuns the exploration of sexuality and feminine characteristics.  This is not to suggest once explored, Male 1 sticks to exhibiting ONLY feminine characteristics (what our culture recognizes as a "fag" or "queenie" type guy lol), but the exploration could change their internal biases and allow different results in general.  Also, as this suggests, a more levelized attitude seems to be surfacing as socio-economic power levels between genders.  Perhaps as a species, through the ability to educate/culture one another with the use of widespread media, we are beginning to see humans lose the religious-based attitude that humans are not allowed to explore the limits of their own sexuality.  Religion was the media tool used for centuries, but TVs with the WNBA, Logo, and Ellen have only been around a decade.  Does it make a female gay to kiss her female friend on the lips, no. Does it make a male gay to kiss his male friend on the lips... Now why does that seem a radically different concept? CULTURE!  I've watched the "average American male's" strict adherence to masculinity wain over the years because the media is slowly teaching us that diversity is acceptable.  Perhaps media is also an influencing factor on mate selection as our species evolves culturally.

lifeisverygood
lifeisverygood

I like roseanne type of women. big women have big hearts and they also like to cook

lifeisverygood
lifeisverygood

I like roseanne type of women. big women have big hearts and they also like to cook.

sgtbilko
sgtbilko

Then judging by appearances I'd say ComiCon has the most gender equality of anyplace in the world.

RJ Suss
RJ Suss

That's interesting, I've heard also that in the most egalitarian societies, personality trait differences are much wider. Although most of the ones they look at don't have much to do with "intelligence, kindness, and sense of humor"... those are kind of universals. lol.

A. Baseer Qazi
A. Baseer Qazi

"And indeed, the researchers found, the greater the equality of power between the genders, the more similar were the traits that both men and women sought in potential mates. In Finland, the country with the greatest gender parity among the 10 countries included in the more current of the two surveys, there was a far smaller difference between male and female preferences than in Turkey, which had the biggest gender gap.

That means, basically, that the more equal men and women became, the less emphasis men placed on youth and beauty, and the less emphasis women put on wealth and power."

The second paragraph (conclusion) is not necessarily correct. Lessening of a gap could either mean both values moving closer to each other, to a central position as they interpret. Alternatively it could also be that one value moved closer to the other and thereby reducing the overall gap but the other value (in this case male preferences) remaining unchanged. I think there is more reason to believe the second interpretation is what is actually happening.

DeLani R. Bartlette
DeLani R. Bartlette

P.S. - I am shocked to see how much sexist drivel is being spouted as a reaction to this article. I thought we were living in the 21st century; I guess some of us more than others.

DeLani R. Bartlette
DeLani R. Bartlette

Because it wasn't our evolutionary heritage at all. It is/was a set of cultural assumptions and teaching about the "natural" order of sexuality in men and women, and like every other set of assumptions and teachings, it is easy to change (indeed it must).

DeLani R. Bartlette
DeLani R. Bartlette

There is absolutely no proof of that. Basing the entirety of human evolution on the last few hundred years of history (as recorded in only one part of the world, at that) is ridiculous.

DeLani R. Bartlette
DeLani R. Bartlette

Even when studies like this come out, pointing very strongly to the fact that what we consider "hot" or attractive in the opposite sex has more to do with what we're taught (culture) than our biology, they still have to trot out that old canard about "evolution" making women more selective about their mates and men as random sperm shooters. Isn't it funny that this "theory" exactly mirrors the prudish, sexist, Victorian attitudes about sex that dominated Western thought at the time these theories were invented? Hm.

Don Ho
Don Ho

Despite all this theory and some comments to this article suggesting women don't choose good looking over other qualities, I challenge you to find among your friends or among the famous, a couple where one is beautiful and the other is homely. Just one.

Men at least admit to their strong preference for appearance. We're not proud of our love of the physical, but we just can't help it and we confess to it.

tsukabai
tsukabai

Sure, women will care less about wealth equality when they have equal access to same.

tsukabai
tsukabai

Sure, women will care less about wealth equality when they have equal access to same.

Belisarius85
Belisarius85

Surely they considered some form of selection bias? Ask people what they want and they'll say all sorts of things due to social conditioning and pressure. Look at who they actually marry, shack up with, or have kids with, and you'll get an entirely different story.

I know if someone had asked me what I look for in a women, I would have listed a variety of personality traits because I assume the desire for physical attractiveness is a given.

IAmAlooserBabySoWhyDont
IAmAlooserBabySoWhyDont

I am Brazilian. I have always been considered intelligent above average by my family, friends and peers. I also always had good behaviour, and even some sense of humour. And I never saw myself as a ugly guy.

But I never had a car.

And I never had a good, stable financial situation.

And I always lived with my mom.

And I only had sex for the first time with 34 years old (after suffering and believing for years that “in the end, girls will prefer nice guys above money or anything else”), after paying for sex with a street prostitute.

End of story.

Mexi Gogue
Mexi Gogue

The premise of this article is wrong.  The fact that the criteria people consciously use to select mates are affected by gender equity does not demonstrate that genetically based predilections do not exist.  Evolutionary biologists have never said that biological predispositions cannot be consciously overriden.  Muslims fast during Ramadan, that does not mean people don't have a biological drive for nourishment.  Catholic priests abstain (sometimes) from sex, that does not mean there is not a sex drive.  And similarly, an economically self sufficient woman might choose a mate who is not a good provider over a gumpy looking moneybag.  That does not prove that a biological predisposition towards good providers does not exist.  This article is an unscholarly and misguided attempt to debunk science through slackjawed yokel armchair analysis.

Fabian Mok
Fabian Mok

I had to check the above title to see whether i came to the right place. Reading this article in Time instead of AskMen feel weird somehow

Obamney_2012
Obamney_2012

Society will crumble if dirty old rich men stop seeking out hot golddigger whores.

Karabis
Karabis

Perhaps evolutionary impulses are being revealed rather than changed, because human society is finally evolving in ways that allow for it rather than suppressing it. Ever think of that? There are extremely few examples in nature of where the female is totally reliant on the male. It isn't even in the nature of primates to pair bond, so the very social construct of one female and one male raising young alone is false. Human women having to consider the "provider" qualities of a male didn't come about until the advent of marriage and the breakdown of communal rearing of children. If adopted social practices that go against nature can alter mating preferences in that regard, then it only follows that the can be altered again.

chowching
chowching

Something

is wrong when a Mafioso or call girl scores higher on the

Respectability Index than a fast food worker. Minimum wage workers

might be broke but they have dignity and should be respected. Mafioso

and call girls have lots of cash, but they don`t have the dignity of a

fast food worker.

Douglas4517
Douglas4517

What evolution are they talking about? Surely not human evolution in a genetic sense. Sounds more like social evolution. That changes with increased knowledge, popularity of causes, and so on. You might as well be talking about fashion evolution. 

Kasbohmc2
Kasbohmc2

Thank you, as always , Time.com - for another slanted article.

Evolutionary Biology always trumps feminism (regardless of when it originated).  All you've done is cited surveys most favorable to your position, without identifying any potential counterarguments.

I swear that you and Newsweek used to have higher standards than this, but (sadly) no longer.

emouawad
emouawad

This "...as men and women achieve financial equality, in terms of earning power and economic freedom, these mate-seeking preferences by gender tend to wane..."

make me wonder about

"...as men and women achieve financial equality, in terms of earning power and economic freedom,..." how does it affect our coping with "loss"?

emouawad
emouawad

This "...as men and women achieve financial equality, in terms of earning power and economic freedom, these mate-seeking preferences by gender tend to wane..."make me wonder about 

"...as men and women achieve financial equality, in terms of earning power and economic freedom,..." how does it affect our coping with "loss"?

emouawad
emouawad

This "...as men and women achieve financial equality, in terms of earning power and economic freedom, these mate-seeking preferences by gender tend to wane..."make me wonder about 

"...as men and women achieve financial equality, in terms of earning power and economic freedom,..." how does it affect our coping with "loss"?

medic5392
medic5392

This is such liberal, fantasy land drivel. Eons of genetic pre-dispositions in order to continue the species are now, all of a sudden, changing due to a progressive, gender equality? So, men and women will no longer use physical attraction as a primary indicator of a quality both sexes want? Money and Power will no longer be a primary indicator of a quality men want and women are attracted too? So, evolution and mating habits that have been in place since mankind was born that look for physical attributes, intelligence, physical beauty, etc....as part of survival and advancement of the species is now outdated due to the wonderful world of "progressive" ideas of equality? Amazing! When delusional people write these stories, do they expect to be taken seriously or is just that they are so busy riding in the clouds on their winged unicorns that they just cannot understand reality? What's next? You going to predict the end of war and cruelty in our species? 

Does anyone read history? Does anyone not question the PC "Conventional Wisdom" anymore? Do folks honestly believe that men and women do not have some hard wiring in them or that it would change this quickly? The fact that this utopian idiocy gets repeated over and over in one form or another is sad. 

Maia, telling something over and over again does not make it true. 

stfusa
stfusa

"men focus less on seeking mates with youth and beauty"..... yeah right..

Another clueless article by clueless feminists old-bags to promote a brain-dead agenda..... When will you honey's ever learn!

Guest
Guest

It's obviously awesome that things are more equal now but there is a place to stop.  Trying to somehow make both genders exactly the same is both impossible and a REALLY bad idea.  I moved to one of those socialist countries with much "more" gender equity (women aren't even ALLOWED to change their last name BY LAW when they get married.) These are the patterns I observe in my daily life:

1) the men don't actually respect the women more, mostly because the women are brainwashed to think that "gender equity" means their unaelinable right to be massive skanks and still be respected, and the men just aren't buyin' it

2) 99% of the men here are skinny b*tchboys anyway and women don't want to date them

3) most people here never get married and very few people I know are in relationships

I can't wait to go back to my old, "backwards" country.

Just to back up my argument, the marriage rate here as of last year is 2.9 per 1000 people, while in my home country it is 6.8 per 1000. If this is "gender empowerment", then why don't I feel empowered?

CarmenSepulveda
CarmenSepulveda

@rvreugde Couldn't agree with you more.  Women like that don't realize it but they are just the recepticals of a man's desire. But, it is because of these women that so many men have zero respect for women.  If only they realized that they have all the power in that little triangle between their legs.

medic5392
medic5392

Most uniformed, illogical and non-scientific "theory" on here. Let's ignore scientific studies, brain mapping, DNA, evolution, etc.....it's all culture. Heck, let's ignore our closest relatives the Chimp as an example for science and biology. Here is an example of biology, did you know men cannot have babies? No, it's true, sure, there is "some" biology and science to back it up but it is only because of our current cultural norms that this still goes on. If we keep up this "sameness" gender philosophy it will eventually cause our bodies to change and then men will have babies. "it is easy to change (indeed it must). Now excuse me, I am going to go ride off on my pegasus and throw lightening bolts down on the ground while I talk to Zeus. 

medic5392
medic5392

If you are going to use the nature model to place against humans, females and males in the wild are attracted to each other due to biological hard wiring that wants the best seed for the female to perpetuate the species. Male birds often have the prettiest colors, male lions dominate and fight other males (often to the death), etc...it is about the best genes to ensure the advancement of the species itself.

The "provider" quality is about money today for humans, in the past it was about the physical strength required to fight and protect her or perhaps a tribe or small group and to hunt food. 

I think your whole wanna be attempt at "existential" thought is amusing but does not go much farther past logic than wishful thinking. Put down the cup of espresso and your copy of "Utne Reader" and use some common sense. There is only about 5000 years of human written history, the Ice Age was not all that long ago, the combustion engine is not even close to the 200 year mark,  etc...what I am attempting to illustrate for you is that we are not that far along the line in terms of time on the evolutionary path and advancement. The cultural changes we have had are not that far from being in the caves and sitting around a fire over some mammoth. 

As for your use of primates in nature. Guess what? Our closest relative, the Chimp, is a brutal, tribal, omnivore that still breeds due to biology. They hunt other chimps from different tribes, they mate along biological lines, they even do "patrols" on their territory, take others territory and females at times. Humans are just taller, balder and have better communication skills. Mankind is and always will be connected to our biological hardwiring. We can fight against it all we want but a physically attractive girl is still a prized commodity as is a physically dominant male, acting like this is changing or has changed is silly. Actually, I take that back, it is not silly, it is juvenile. It is something only a 19 year old college undergrad would ponder, not something a highly educated woman should be writing about with seriousness.