Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Benefits of Sausage Fests

In "Roger Dodger" there is a scene where the experienced womanizer Roger Wanson tells his 16-year old virgin nephew Nick a central theorem of his philosophy of parties:

"It's a little harder to recognize than when you're in a bar
but the concept is the same.
There's an incredible moment
that happens when a party passes its apex, its peak.
As if by magic, suddenly
every person in the room is acutely aware
of the time. It is at that moment that the fear hits.
The fear of the empty apartment.
That is more than most people can stand.
Desperation creeps into the room like a fog.
Eyes begin to search the crowd anxiously.
Standards are drastically lowered. I mean, it's palpable.
This is the moment that separates a true champion."

What fictive Roger describes is one of the many human experiences that are shared by many, neglected by even more - and never appreciated in any other form of human self reflection than art.

The closest science ever got to investigating "empty apartment panic" relates to desperate crowds rather than desperate times.

Take this study by Peter Todd's group, for example.

The researchers investigated, using massive data collected during speed dating events, how the number of "options" (i.e. males present) impacted the mating choice of women.

What would be your guess?

This has direct implications: Would you rather stay or leave a party or bar - assuming you are the most alpha if there are more men than women present?

There are two surprises in this study:

1) The overwhelming number of (non-human) animals studied so far regarding this question showed decreased inequality when more males are present: Alpha males are less successful if there is a lot of competition.

2) For humans, this does not seem to be the case: The more men in the speed dating crowd, the choosier the women.

Note that the alpha always gets more attention (and sex) than beta and omega males. But the degree of this inequality is higher when others are in for the competition. A human beta male will profit from few rivals present. But a human alpha's attractiveness will get propelled to stratospheric levels if he is surrounded by whole squadrons of lesser men.

What does that mean?

Well, for one you should seek out bars that are crowded with men chasing tail if you believe you have what it takes. But by all means, do the complete opposite if you aren't quite there yet.

A simple explanation is that what defines human alphas is social dominance uber-alles. The more men present in a room, the more shoulders there are for an alpha to elevate himself above the crowd (thanks, stagetwo for the metaphor).

This may be different for animal species that signal alpha status by means of physical traits such as horns or feather ornaments. Thus, heavier competition hurts rather than helps the top guys.

This is a rather simple idea and there may be other factors at work, too. Moreover, speed dating data is certainly limited in revealing who women actually chose to sleep with when they go out. Yet, it does make sense if you accept the idea that women are attracted to socially dominant men.

There is another twist to the story that is fascinating.

From a woman's perspective this means that the more men are present, the less she will be attracted to any one of them. All the female attraction gets more or less bundled to a single guy!

And since that guy is likely to chose one (or two) girls only, the vast majority of women will be "leftovers". In other words, with more more men showing up at a party there will be less and less coupling. Women who really want to "find someone" would fare better at events with few men present.

I believe what Roger alludes to in his lecture to the innocent is an effect of the above. There is a moment at parties (with lots of men present) where the alpha makes his final move - thus demonstrating whom he chose for the night to all the other women. The other women now realize that they were chasing someone unattainable. Desperate looks. They are now accepting applications again. Of course, this will be in vain. The other men are too deep in the shadow of the actual object of desire.

I have seen women trying to take guys home at this point. They will openly advertise their willingness - just to get turned off and disappointed the moment the guys reacts (positively) to the offer. As long as all the other men are present, her natural desire - even if at the boiling point - will not be in his favor (hint, hint).
The opportunism Roger alludes to needs a high degree of skill.
He does not get laid.
While the 16-year old nephew turns out to be the alpha.

4 comments:

  1. Note that the alpha always gets more attention (and sex) than beta and omega males. But the degree of this inequality is higher when others are in for the competition. A human beta male will profit from few rivals present. But a human alpha's attractiveness will get propelled to stratospheric levels if he is surrounded by whole squadrons of lesser men.Wow...

    That was a revelation.

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  2. interesting to see how the opposite of scarcity, abundance works differently for men/women.

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  3. The nephew isn't an alpha btw. He is a virgin and clueless of game at 16... that is way too late. Naturals aka alphas should have lost their virgnity by 15 and should know game from birth. Both are betas. Only real alpha on tv these days is Vince from Entourage and Christian Troy from Nip/tuck.

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