Monday, November 16, 2009

Why Women like to Believe in "Inner Beauty"

If you have ever lived on a university campus, you probably know that the various stereotypes that we associate with doctors and lawyers take roots early on in their careers. Each college has its buildings where almost all the people who are walking into carry brief cases, ties and loafers or blouses, pant suits and pearl necklaces, while nearby lecture halls are surrounded by large male groups wearing striped shirts neatly tucked into slackers. And then there are the parts of campus where students wear predominantly black or pay tribute to the pseudo-eclectic fashionistic dictates of the hipster culture that is currently en vogue. It really is not too hard to find your way around campus toward the local law school, the engineering department or the lecture halls of critical literary theory using any of these hints.

The biology department I was in had its share of stereotypical accessories such as Birkenstock's, self-knitted wool scarfs and Greenpeace bumper stickers, too. Interestingly, though, and in sharp contrast to any of the other departments, there was a notable decrease in stereotypical accessories as one got closer to graduation. The reason for that was that most of the (often female) students who had decided to study zoology because they "loved animals too much to become a vet who might have to put them down" had gradually dropped out.

Professors referred to this cohort as "bambi biologists", hinting at the idealized, romantic notions about nature that characterized this particular student population. Having grown up with TV documentaries that fade to black any time a predator actually catches a prey, this particular group of students was in for a shock when the reality of things got unveiled lecture by lecture, right in front of their eyes.

To the cold, objective eye of the scientist there is no such thing as "harmony" in nature. The evolutionary processes we witness in nature are the result of quite the opposite - a continuous, merciless struggle on the battlefield of life that gets fought with literal claws, blood and tears. 

Nature is brutal.

By all evidence the cosmos is indifferent to our moral and aesthetic judgments. The universe doesn't give a crap about us. Nature - the mighty ruler of all our lives - truly is "deaf to our music, and as indifferent to our hopes as it is to our suffering or our crimes."

And a good piece of evidence for that are the manifold ways in which even the most desirable of women eventually lose their beauty

The two main killers of a woman's beauty are:
- The bodily disfigurement arising from the female preference for sweet, fatty food.
- Time (quadratically!).

Both, lost youthfulness and a big belly are sexual no-goes for men. The first indicates decreased fertility due to aging gonads (in contrast to sperm, egg cells don't get renewed and therefore are prone to age-related tissue damage). The latter also leads to fertility issues since big bellies are either the result of pregnancy or at the very least make it hard for a guy to judge.
Guys with a genetic predisposition towards older or obese women thus ran into the risk of having no or another man's baby to care for. The widespread adoration of young, fit women is the result of this evolutionary pressure.

Given that, an obvious question arises to the inquisitive mind.

What is more attractive to men - a young, fat woman or an old, skinny one?

Logic would predict that fat girls have an advantage. The infertility caused by pregnancy is temporary, whereas the decreased quality of egg cells that comes with a woman's age is permanent.

So, who would you put your bet on during a dating death match? A sexy cougar or the freshman walrus?

This is a tricky one to answer. Most men work hard on hiding their sexual exploits involving obese members of the opposite sex. And given that many older women sport diamond rings, there is ample demand for discretion when it comes to any encounters with "the hot neighbor", too. Bars and clubs, as so often, are a good venue for field research in human sexuality. Yet, women are smart in their ways to the bedroom, and older women tend to aggregate/stay away from places with younger girls abound. Some small town bars, however,  do not allow for this leveling of the playing field, and in these situations it can be remarkable how hard older women need to (and are willing to) work for an escorted walk home.

But things are not that simple. While it is hard to find any actual statistics on the matter, there seems to be far more porn out there sporting older women than obese girls. The reason for that seems obvious. Thanks to plastic surgeries, diet boom, make up, perfumes and other ways to "prevent aging", it has become much easier for women to "hide" their age and to thereby remain attractive to men than at any previous point in history. Man's sexual triggers are simple: perky tits, a slim body with smooth skin and full head of hair is all it takes to trigger a reaction.

The flip side is that there is little excuse for a woman to let her beauty fade away (more than necessary). Fat and age both can be combated successfully. Yes, it does take some effort. But, men are expected to keep working on their careers for most of their lives. And if you really think about it is mostly to become and remain attractive to the opposite sex. There is no reason why women should not be held to the same standard - even if is achieved by different means.


  1. To build attraction as a man you obviously don't need an actual career. But it's interesting how men are programmed to be more alpha the more high status they believe their career is. There is a missing step in the causal chain of high status career to more alpha behaviors. You think men are just designed to walk around feeling superior for their status-increasing accomplishments?

  2. Milf porn is a distortion of reality. Most so-called Milfs are actually 23 - 28 and not 35 - 45. Yes, they are old enough to be mothers, but they are not cougars yet.

  3. If those MILFs are really 23-28, women truly age terribly. Way too early to have saggy tits and a wrinkly forehead.

  4. Just want to comment: contrary to common "knowledge", fatty food doesn't make you fat. The problem is with carbohydrates.

  5. Just want to comment: contrary to common "knowledge", fatty food doesn't make you fat. The problem is with carbohydrates.

    Hm. Which studies do you base that judgment on?

    When it comes to dieting none of the three main nutrients really matter, it is all about the good old "calories in, calories out":

    Either way, it is amazing that in our time and age such a large fraction of Western women happily eat away the only thing they need for dating success.

  6. 11Minutes haven't you ever heard of Gary Taubes? Check out What if it's all been a big, fat lie?

    There is in fact quite a substantial difference between fat, protein and carbohydrates and their effects on your blood sugar and fat storage.

    All calories are NOT equal.

  7. I guess one of the side effects of the womens lib movement is, now women have to care a lot more about preserving their beauty. Women are staying single and independent into older ages, and can no longer rely on a chunk of rock to keep a man hooked...

  8. You have it backward re: sperm and egg. Sperm don't get "renewed", they get copied..........mutations and all. By age 50, sperm have gone through 800+ rounds of spermatogenesis and carry a heavier burden of mutational error. Google "paternal age intelligence", "paternal age miscarriage", "paternal age congenital abnormailities"

    In contrast, eggs undergoe no additional oogenesis after a baby girl's birth. She will discharge them from age 13-50, and then they are gone foreever.

    Have you frozen your sperm?, or let them take on additional mutational burden?

  9. To the calories debate. Calories in and calories out matter. There is an ideal amount of calories needed to maintain your current state. And 10% either way will help build muscle or lose fat.
    But carbs are stored better as fat, and produce other health problems, including pastier skin, acne and that 'puffed' look. Humans are not meant to eat as many carbs as we do, and certainly not the types of carbs we do.

    When it comes to carbs eat only fruit and veggies. Stay away from processed carbs.

  10. @jz - You read what you wanted to read. The fact that sperm loses quality with increasing age of its donor doesn't take anything from the fact that women get (increasingly) infertile during mid-life while men don't.

    There is a reason why gray-haired men can still look sexy while gray haired women make us throw up in our mouths a little by merely attempting to do so.

  11. @Anonymous&Keoni:

    Don't want to beat a dead horse, but - yes, it is all about "calories in - calories out" when it comes to weight managment. It's (bio)physics after all.

    At the same time, it is true that "not all calories are equal" since (certain) carbs are thought to further increase caloric intake via hormonal response. This is still in line with the "calories-uber-alles" hypothesis.

    I am sure that most readers of this blog hit the gym a couple of times a week and follow high protein/cholesterol diets accordingly (if not, you should really read up on the link between exercise/diet and testosterone production).

    Given the toll the metabolic syndrome takes on aging bodies, it is no surprise that the evolutionarily engrained male mind will grant fatties one night stands at best.

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