The other day I was talking to a friend who I would describe as an alpha female: super bright, top education, high-earner and possessed of a sharp analytical brain. She told me that most alpha females would not want to date down but want alpha mates. She’s in her mid thirties and described a situation she sees happening quite a lot in her milieu: guys who have met their girlfriend in their early/mid twenties, stayed together for 10 years and have now reached their mid thirties are trading them in for a younger model.
Nearly everyone has faced problems of mate selection, mate attraction, mate retention, and conflict between the sexes. Good mating decisions create life’s most glorious highs; bad ones sink us into the depths of despair. Everyone should know what modern science tells us about human mating and what we can do to understand how it affects our every move — so the choices we make are conscious and that we’re aware of what shifts are going on in society.
David Buss (@ProfDavidBuss) is a professor of evolutionary psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. He is considered the world’s leading scientific expert on strategies of human mating, and his most recent book is The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating.
David explains that there’s currently a sex ratio imbalance in colleges throughout the United States and Western Europe because more women than men are seeking higher education — in some schools the ratio is 60% women to 40% men.
“The reason this creates a crisis is because women have very strong mate preferences such that they don’t want to mate with guys who are less intelligent, less educated, and less professionally successful than they are,” says David. “Women have stronger mate preferences on those variables. So what that means is that there aren’t enough highly educated, intelligent, successful men in these settings that women would like.”
In such a situation, the rarer sex — in this case, males — has the advantage when it comes to selection. “A guy who’s normally a five in any other context could be an eight at Texas Christian University…when you add that into the mix, what happens is that males have greater desire for sexual variety — that’s part of our evolved sexual psychology — and when men are in that position, they can tip the balance in their favour,” says David. “So you get more hooking up, less stable relationships, more dissatisfaction.”
In such an environment, women and men tend to give very different answers when asked what they hope for as an ideal outcome to a casual hookup. Women more often than not hope it will lead to a relationship. Men are more likely to say they hope a hookup will lead to more hookups — either with the initial partner or by way of introduction to her friends.
David explains: “These conflicts come up in part because men and women have overlapping mating psychologies, but in some domains, dramatically different mating psychologies. It’s become fashionable to try to argue that men and women are really identical in their mating psychologies and their sexual psychologies, but they’re not. I think it’s one of these ideologically driven agendas and we know scientifically the areas in which they differ.”
Couples who come together in unbalanced environments ¬– like Manhattan, where there is a huge sex ratio imbalance: 7 single women for each single man – may find when they move out of that environment that there is a mate value discrepancy, which can cause problems for both parties. For example if the woman is an 8 and the man is a 6, she may feel she can do better elsewhere, and he is worried that she might defect from the relationship or be unfaithful. The man sometimes tries to influence their partner’s perception of their mate value in manipulative ways, like trying to undermine their self-esteem.
So what are the solutions for the alpha female? First, you can get out of the disadvantageous mating pool, move to a city or university where the sex ratio is more in your favour. The other strategy that the alpha female can do is to widen the pool of potential mates that she would consider. Women have very often a long list of non-negotiables, which are impossible to fulfil.
David says “Our predictions of what is going to make us happy are known to be off base. A little self-awareness is useful. What are necessities, what are deal-breakers and what can you live without?”
A lot of people pay too much attention to the mate attraction process and not enough attention to the mate retention process. It may feel like a victory for a guy to get a woman with a high mate value initially but if you have nothing to talk about or she leaves for a man with higher status, then it is an empty victory.
So those guys in their mid/late thirties, who have increased their status by becoming successful, then trade in their childhood sweethearts for a younger prettier model, may find that life is not as sweet as they imagined.
The internet has created a major shift in human mating behaviour. If you compare how our ancestors used to mate with our modern lifestyles, it is completely different. We used to live in small groups and have a few dozen potential mates. Now with dating apps and sites we have thousands, which has a positive and negative effect. On the one hand it increases the mating pool that you have access to, but on the other hand it gives people the illusion that there is someone out there who can tick all their boxes and the grass is always greener on the next date. This means that you often don’t give people long enough to get to know them before dismissing them.
As David says “On most dating apps physical appearance takes on a disproportionate importance. Physical attractiveness is important for both men and women, but there are other things too such as shared values, interests and things in common.”
With i2i my intention is to create a community so that people can really discover more about each other than just the surface. It shouldn’t just be a solitary swiping game. Our aim is to create the atmosphere of a great party with features such as recommend a friend when double tap on a profile, offline events, fun games and contests. We are encouraging eye contact when people first meet as it’s already proved to be so powerful in our initial tests and street events, to bring people closer together and build relationships through meaningful interaction.
By Julia Macmillan, i2i Founder
To get links to download the app which launched recently go to the home page of this site and register for the newsletter to find out about events. We’ll post the contests on our Facebook page
To read the full interview with Professor Buss click here.
Photo by Brook Cagle on Unsplash