Are Men Really the More Superficial Sex?

by eHarmony Staff

Are Men Really the More Superficial Sex?

It only takes a glance through most dating site discussion boards to learn that men place a tremendous emphasis on their date’s appearance – and that women don’t like it.

For example, here’s a discussion thread called, “How to Handle a Common First-Date Problem: She’s Much Heavier in Person.” If you click through and read the posts, you’ll see that most men see this as a cut-and-dried issue. “She posted pictures that look much better than she did in real life. This is false advertising, intentionally misleading, and any chance of a relationship is over.”

The women have a very different take on the situation. They look past the potential dishonesty of an old photo and rail against the unfairness of a system that requires them to be beautiful. They wonder why a man can’t look past the superficial and into their hearts to see their inner beauty. They feel tremendous pressure to be thin, sexy, and in line with media standards of beauty that are established by women who generally have lots of time and resources to help them appear young and thin.

The implication of their comments is that THEY don’t judge men according to these rigid standards. These women seem to be advocating an attraction process that looks at the more important inner traits and ignores the obvious shallow ones.

Except that…it isn’t true. They act just like the men they criticize.

A recent study by Northwestern University looked at what each gender values most in a mate. Men were quick to admit the obvious: they want an attractive mate. How about women? What did they value the most in a potential life partner? Kindness? Verbal skills? Affection?

No, high earning power.

That’s right. Despite what an individual woman might say or think, the majority of women are turned on by a man who has high earning potential. Women are quick to criticize men’s focus on appearance because they don’t share that trait as the primary one to value. But in anonymous studies women express a primary preference for a trait that is, by many accounts, just as superficial – access to money.

It’s no surprise that men have picked up on this tendency, and discussion threads have sprung up…like the one called “Where are the women not looking for Donald Trump?” which address the other side of the coin.

It’s hard not to wonder if these preferences, which are so prevalent and independent of other socioeconomic factors, are tied into each gender’s deep and primitive biological needs.

• Do men seek out beautiful women because the most primitive parts of their brains read beautiful features (symmetrical facial features, large breasts, etc.) as signs of genetic health and fertility?

• Do women seek out high earners because the most primitive parts of their brains are attracted to men who can support them and their offspring?

These are important questions that still need a definitive answer. Of course, these probably aren’t conscious thoughts. A 65-year-old woman isn’t “thinking” about someone who can take care of her offspring. She’s just reacting to the biological programming of her brain, with the same result. The final irony of the Northwest study is that despite the primary attraction values that each gender admits to – beauty and earning power – when their actual real-life choices are examined, both genders highly valued both traits!

“In other words, good looks was the primary stimulus of attraction for both men and women, and a person with good earning prospects or ambition tended to be liked as well,” said Eli Finkel, assistant professor of psychology at Northwestern. “Most noteworthy, the earning-power effect – as well as the good-looks effect – didn’t differ for men and women.” So, in the end each side values the things that it criticizes the other for insisting upon.

Reference: Northwestern University (2008, February 14). What Men and Women Say and Do in Choosing Romantic Partners Are Two Different Matters. ScienceDaily.

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