Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Do women want bad boys, or do bad boys just want more women?

The NMSU study reporting that bad boys get more girls has been a post subject at several sites I regularly visit. The unfounded conclusion some have reached is that women find bad boys more attractive than good guys. Maybe, but this study doesn't prove it. There are several reasons to be skeptical:

- What is the relationship between the number of sexual partners one has and the number of offspring produced in the US (and the developed world where contraceptives are widely available more broadly)? Do these men actually grow up to have more children?

The idea that you need to have the appeal of James Bond to reproduce in contemporary Western society is absurd. Fornification and procreation are no longer basically the same thing--the latter only occupies a small sliver of the former's terrain. Have all the conventional attractive attributes--financial success, self-confidence, good personal hygiene (including dress), intelligence, height one standard deviation above the mean, a symetrical and handsome face, a little more time on the planet than the girl (in the range of 2-8 years), a toned upper body (the more athletic the better)--and producing as many children as you desire is not difficult.

These traits, coincidentally, better describe the traits women actually say they find desirous in men than the dark triad does. Women also find long-term relationships more appealing than men do, which suggests that what most women want in a man and what some women will give to a man in hot pursuit are not the same thing.

I suspect that if intelligence is controlled for, good guys are more desirous of children than bad boys are. This desirability (or at least acceptance) of children is surely one of the most important indicators of how many offspring men actually end up having in the developed world.

- The desire to actively pursue multiple sexual partners is plausibly the single most important factor in how many sexual partners one has. Men who scored higher on the "dark triad" personality traits also expressed more interest in short-term relationships than soldiers of the light did. If good guys are more likely to be in long-term relationships than bad boys are, of course bad boys are going to have more partners. The Boomhauer strategy nets more notches in the belt, but it doesn't indicate greater attractiveness.

- Might psychopaths be more likely to embellish the successes of their own personal exploits than others are? This just in: People who score high on personality traits associated with exaggerating their own personal abilities and accomplishments are more likely to have greater abilities and to have accomplished greater things than others, according to self-reported response data!

Self-reports on the number of sexual partners are especially suspicious. Wherever I've seen it reported, the number of partners males average tends to be at least twice as high as the female average which is, uh, mathematically impossible unless you're a harpy living in Xanth*. A study out of the University of Michigan found one-in-five men and just less than one-in-six women admitted responding inaccurately, and men who reported 50 or more partners were far more likely to lie than other men were. Even if it is the median rather than the mean being reported, such a pattern suggests that there are a few indefatigable women (presumably prostitutes in many cases) while men are more middling, exactly the opposite of what is being insinuated with this report (dark triad traits don't correlate with more partners among women).

- Prostitution, VIP rooms, bar prizes, and the like can all essentially be bought. The bad boys, being more desirous of multiple partners than good guys are, are probably more likely to earn notches this way than good guys are. In the college environment, this translates into poaching freshmen girls at parties!

Questions of psychopath integrity aside, men more desirous of several partners almost certainly do have more partners than men relatively more interested in long-term relationships. And the preliminary results out of Bradley University showing that men with dark triad attributes are more reproductively successful internationally suggests that prior to the widespread availability of birth control, being a bad boy definitely had its evolutionary advantages (although this too is suspicious--if psychopathy is evolutionarily beneficial, wouldn't it be expected to occur more frequently than it does, rather than being about as common as homosexuality in the general population?).

[Agnostic answers: "It's not a dichotomous trait like gayness, so 3% of the male population exceeds some threshold to be categorized as psychopathic. But that's just the tail of a continuous personality trait."]

This still doesn't say anything conclusive about what women want, though.

* It's not clear if these questions only pertain to partners of the opposite sex. Male-to-male encounters could skew the male number upwards, but not enough to account for the entire discrepancy. If 5% of the male population is gay, fully accounting for the male-female disparity would require the average gay man to have 40 times as many partners as the average heterosexual man (assuming lesbians are about as sexually active as heterosexual women). The gay male hedonist reputation is explained by the fact that both parties involved are men, and men want sex more frequently and with more people than women do.

18 comments:

agnostic said...

if psychopathy is evolutionarily beneficial, wouldn't it be expected to occur more frequently than it does, rather than being about as common as homosexuality in the general population?

It's not a dichotomous trait like gayness, so 3% of the male population exceeds some threshold to be categorized as psychopathic. But that's just the tail of a continuous personality trait.

Its frequency will be determined by the costs and benefits of having a certain personality. Imagine how big the costs would be if 50% were psychopaths -- so 3% doesn't sound too low, especially compared to traits that are caused by de novo mutations (on the order of 1 in 10,000 at the commonest).

None of the websites I read that reported on the study suggested that girls prefer dark triad guys, just that they're more successful. But you're right that this is an overlooked side of sexual selection, where normally people think it's only courtship of females / female preferences that matter, forgetting male-male competition.

Ha, poaching freshman girls at parties is not like procuring a prostitute. They're somewhat more naive than other college girls, but they're not going to sleep with any old dumbass who gives them attention and/or beer, money, or whatever.

blue said...

Check out Jason Malloy's comments in
Gnxp's post on this topic.

Comment 06.20.08 - 2:53 pm :


To put things in perspective, most men really don't want (or at least seek out) tons of sex partners. Though not all promiscuous men are criminals, a reliable mark of criminality is high mating effort: seeking out a high number of low commitment sexual encounters, and this cad mating strategy often signifies lower status and opportunity. Rapists and unemployed men also have higher numbers of sexual partners...


Comment 06.20.08 - 6:57 pm :


According to the GSS, the correlation between socioeconomic status and number of female sex partners for men is -.02. The same correlation for years of education is -.03.

Men with higher status are much more desirable yet have the same or less partners because they put less into mating effort and are more achievement oriented.

Consider the sex lives of the super-rich. Does Bill Gates spend his money and time building up a harem of nubile princesses or earning more money? (here's his tastefully compatible wife, Melinda) Mark Zuckerberg, the 23 year old billionaire founder of Facebook gets relationship demands from his monogamous Asian girlfriend...


Comment 06.21.08 - 12:30 am :


Another finding from the GSS: promiscuous men are less happy. Men with over 20 partners are as happy as lifelong virgins, and men with over 100 are even less happy. Men with one lifetime sex partner were the happiest. In fact promiscuous women were happier than promiscuous men (and monogamous men were happier than monogamous women). Male happiness kept declining with more sex partners (e.g. men with 100 partners are less happy than men with 80), but female happiness stops declining after 4 partners. Men with 100+ partners are less happy than females with 100+ partners.



Comment 06.23.08 - 9:42 pm :



A lot of this is discussed above and in the same thread you reference. The problem is interpreting simply "more sexual partners" to mean women prefer men that treat them poorly, that traits that achieve some goal must be preferred because they can be identified as such, or that men with more sex partners are "more desirable" (i.e. "Too perfect" Mitt Romney must have less mate value than thrice-divorced Giuliani). As I showed above the opposite is more true. Number of sexual partners can mean a lot of things, among them is inability to maintain a functional relationship. More desirable men are more monogamous both through preference and ability (i.e. more desirable men can hold a partner's affections, while less desirable men keep getting dumped and moving on) The 'dark' personality traits discussed in particular involve the willingness to deceive and use others, which is associated with criminality and cad orientation. Just because women can be used and deceived doesn't mean they prefer it.

RE: the MR thread. Agreeableness is highly attractive both in the abstract in survey data, and in rating real men and women. Jensen-Campbell et al found:

"In summary, the substantive message here is that perception of agreeableness in a partner is a major contributor to interpersonal attraction, for both men and women. Agreeableness is a large star, around which rotates the much smaller, dark moon of dominance."

Audacious Epigone said...

Agnostic,

A friend emailed me this from the Huffington Post. Also, looking back at HS's take, I misread him, thinking he was insinuating the same thing.

I wrote the post with the assumption you'd set it straight when I steered off course.

Heh, and the poaching thing was supposed to be a humorous exaggeration.

Blue,

Yeah, Jason's commentary was my impetus to look a little more closely at the study after it'd started irking me.

joe friday said...

And then there were the guys like me. When I was in my mid 20s (about 25 years ago), I was not interested in settling down, and found masturbation to be boring. I was a very nice guy, never a jerk, and never deceived any girls about my intentions. I just took what was offered to me. Sometimes I had to try a little harder than others, sometimes I'd hit a dry spell, other times it seemed like an embarrassment of riches, so to speak. I didn't spend a whole lot of time thinking about what I was doing or why, and the thought never crossed my mind that I was doing anything but what any normal guy would do.

Strangely enough, after I got divorced in my mid-40s, I did not return to my earlier MO when I re-entered the dating pool. I had no problem getting dates, but something told me I needed to be careful and not jump into every bed that was offered to me, and my instincts served me well.

agnostic said...

Have all the conventional attractive attributes--financial success, self-confidence, good personal hygiene (including dress), intelligence, height one standard deviation above the mean, a symetrical and handsome face, a little more time on the planet than the girl (in the range of 2-8 years), a toned upper body (the more athletic the better)--and producing as many children as you desire is not difficult

No way can you produce as many children as you want -- if you're monogamous, you might as well be a female: you sire a kid as often as she gives birth. The whole point of some males vastly outreproducing others is that they're fertilizing the eggs of many females more or less concurrently.

The traits you listed will help you get married, but the dark triad traits are more helpful for having lots of partners -- ask Genghiz Khan!

I doubt many of them are prostitute types, btw. I don't think you believe that either: if such a guy started dating your daughter, would you think, "Meh, he'll never win my daughter over; that guy only does well with low-life females." In reality, sociopaths are the "guy next door" who she never suspected.

They are the ones who bilk elderly women out of their life savings -- that could be another fitness advantage, btw. Not just fertilizing lots of eggs, but freeloading off of girlfriends / wives instead of working. You have to be pretty cunning to parasitize someone.

Peter said...

Knowing that men with high numbers of sex partners tend to be unhappy raises a chicken-and-egg question. Does something about having so many partners make them unhappy, or do they seek out many partners in an attempt to escape from pre-existing unhappiness?

Plain_Jane said...

***
Have all the conventional attractive attributes--financial success, self-confidence, good personal hygiene (including dress), intelligence, height one standard deviation above the mean, a symetrical and handsome face, a little more time on the planet than the girl (in the range of 2-8 years), a toned upper body (the more athletic the better)--and producing as many children as you desire is not difficult.
***
So, if you are in the top 50% financially, and in the top 50% with height, and in the top 50% in intelligence, then getting plain Jane to be interested in you, maybe, is possible?

Yeah.

But you have to have the proper "attitude" of total female worship. An attitude that makes American Men among the most wanted in the world... in order to get a woman, the American Woman, LEAST WANTED IN THE WORLD.

Double f'ing yeah.

I mean really.

Let me set it straight, if you let American women determine your self-worth, you are insane. Zero exageration.

Audacious Epigone said...

Agnostic,

Presuming you are going to live a working-class to middle-upper class existence in contemporary Western society and raise the children you sire (whether in a traditional sense or through court-ordered transfers), that is.

The ideal family size consists of 2-3 children. A man with the above qualities can easily triple that if he desires to do so, without working to hone his PUA skills. I didn't mean for it to apply to a warrior from the steppes with a harem of hundreds, though!

agnostic said...

He can, but it'll be much harder. Take 6 kids -- easy to do if you sleep with 6 different females in a year, impregnating each. Takes at least 6 years if you're monogamous.

Aside from time, think of all the other investments you're making if monogamous rather than an opportunistic "sneaky fucker" -- the latter gets other males to raise his cuckoo's egg. Or, the female can raise it herself if the ecology permits female subsistence.

Audacious Epigone said...

Agnostic,

But do bad boys ever want 50 kids? The consequences will devastate him in contemporary Western society in ways they never would've have in h&g days. As previously stated, I'd guess that, ceteris paribus, bad boys want fewer kids than good guys. And how many children a man desires is the most important factor in determining how many children he actually has if he approaches most of the conventional qualities laid out.

Justin Halter said...

Exactly why traditional societies did not let women have casual sex. You are forgetting the role women played in weeding out irresponsible men. This conversation is only possible in today's world. In traditional societies, men who did not or could not settle down did not pass along their genes. Women did not have casual sex, and infidelity could get both the wife and the other man killed.

Audacious Epigone said...

Justin,

My understanding is that the prehistoric norm was polygamous.

In Before the Dawn, Nick Wade reports that about one in twenty children were raised by cuckolds among Jewish Cohen. That's a high level of fidelity. Modern contraceptives and costs imposed on absent fathers place obstacles in the way of bad boys who want to be Genghis Khan's, although most of them probably do not want any part of that.

Justin Halter said...

That study you linked to does not suggest polygamy so much as it suggests the rather common-sense fact that more men than women die early, thus leading to fewer men that women passing along their genes. our society is sex-obsessed, but we are the outliers, and quite frankly, it negatively affects our interpretations of the data. Historically speaking, I think it is safe to say, people are sexually conservative and prudish. Our theories should always reflect that, or they are probably wrong, I would say.

Whiskey said...

No Justin, you don't get it.

Ghengis Khan did not have all those kids because he honed his pickup skills, or because men just happened to die younger around him. He had them because ... he killed every man he conquered and took their women as sex slaves.

Wade's "Before the Dawn" shows the pattern of female selection: in hunter-gatherer societies, a man likely to stick with and provide for children, relatively flat hierarchies, no real property, lots of travel, egalitarianism and mot much mate-grabbing (you'll get a spear up your backside). In pastoral societies, often "Big Men" with lots of herd animals can dominate, like Ghengis Khan, Attila, etc. by warfare and raiding, a more hierarchical society with women's choice generally irrelevant. In agricultural societies, generally a King or Emperor or such, dominating by hereditary and financial means, professional army, careful patronage, lots of finely graded hierarchies, women's choice either somewhat important (in Western Europe) or totally irrelevant (everywhere else).

Women are a "resource" and men fight over them just like every thing else.

Do western women prefer the "Dark Triad?" Oh yes absolutely, all the evidence suggest that the Sexual Revolution, the condom and pill, along with freedom for women and the welfare state, have led to women preferring bad boys greatly.

In Britain, 50% + of all births are illegitimate. Dalrymple's "Life at the Bottom" shows how women, even his professional nurses (Dalrymple was a doctor), choose abusive bad boys as mates. In the Black community, bad boys completely dominate, with 70% of the births illegitimate, and 90% in the urban core. As opposed to only 24% in 1965, when the white rate for America was 4% (as opposed to 34% today).

A good example would be Karl Malone. Who got a 13 year old girl pregnant at age 22 (his son by that relationship is now an NFL player). Malone has something like two other kids by other relationships, and four kids by his wife. Total: 7 kids. Of course the net effect of Malone getting the other women pregnant was to take them out of the consideration by other men as mates. Most men, shockingly, prefer a family of their own, not taking care of the bad-boy's kid.

Unless women's choices are constrained, they will (and do so today in large numbers) ALWAYS choose the bad boy. Who has more masculine characteristics. Women find intelligence in particular distasteful and not sexually attractive, as it correlates with lower testosterone levels. Compare/contrast Bill Gates with say, Scott Peterson. Who convinced one pretty woman to marry him, and another to be his mistress.

In a short-term, consequence-avoidance society, where choice is equated with picking a different brand of dishwashing detergent, women always will choose the "dark triad" because it correlates with higher levels of testosterone.

Of course, this leaves higher intelligence, non-socially dominant men out in the cold, unconnected to women, certainly not reproducing, without any investment in society, and without passing on vital traits that are mostly inherited like say, focus on improving technology/tools.

Now who could see any problems with THAT I ask you?

[I've blogged extensively about this here ]

Justin Halter said...

Are you kidding me? This is all you got? "Ghengis Khan... Scott Peterson... Karl Malone... Illegitimate kids... QED!"

More than one of your assumptions is so stupid as to be beyond discussion, something only a brainwashed follower could fall for. Like this one: “Women find intelligence in particular distasteful and not sexually attractive.” You clearly don’t know a single thing about any living culture in the history of the world.

“Unless women's choices are constrained, they will (and do so today in large numbers) ALWAYS choose the bad boy.” Quite the opposite. Women only choose the bad boy when they feel they have no better options. In today’s society, when the traditional virtues of manhood (and womanhood) have been completely gutted, there are few other options.

The collapse of traditional values has led to irresponsible men and sleazy women. All you idiot followers proclaiming the gospel of alpha maleness are only part of the social breakdown. Just what women want: more men who act like assholes. Anybody who even uses the phrase “beta-male” is flying the flag of their own stupidity and follower-status.

Nothing opens a woman’s fertility gates more than a stable, caring, kind, and devoted husband. That you idiots equate such traits with “beta maleness” is only a symptom of your own stupidity , weakness, and ignorance. While you idiots are off chasing sleazy women in pick-up locales, the real alpha males are busy siring in stable families, and not creating stupid online fads about it.

Audacious Epigone said...

Whiskey,

Jason Malloy has looked at the GSS and found no correlation between SES and the number of sexual partners one has. More intelligent, higher achieving men devote relatively less time mate-seeking than less prosperous men (they spend more time working and are more likely to be married or in a long-term relationship) yet their results are the same. Perhaps to the extent that the "dark triad" correlates with higher testosterone levels, women are 'attracted' to those with them, but I see no evidence that the traits themselves are attractive in most womens' eyes. Certainly surveys of what women want do not indicate that (at least none that I'm aware of).

Justin,

I agree that the alpha/beta dichotomy is stupid. Seems to me that men will dominate a social situation if they are able to, not submit to someone they do not need to submit to. That expands beyond the corporate setting or the basketball court, to all kinds of social situations, and domination does not necessarily equate to aggressiveness (we could be talking about trend-setting in dress or influencing where a group of friends goes to eat). The card game War strikes me as a better analogy, but men bring different decks depending on the situation at hand.

Eman said...

JH: "While you idiots are off chasing sleazy women in pick-up locales, the real alpha males are busy siring in stable families, and not creating stupid online fads about it."

I'm late in this conversation, but very good point - and that's why solid traditionalist-oriented cultures and subcultures will survive for the long run while the debauched and decadent postmoderns are currently in the process of collapsing and fading away.

Anonymous said...

You are missing the point of this scientific exploration.

Human mating behaviour is the most complicated of any biological system on Earth. Trying to find general laws that always fit in a complicated system is extremely difficult.

The question in the title is nonsense. To say that bad boys want more women is to say their desire for sex is higher and this is ridiculous. If you are male, you know all of the frustrated nice guys questioning females mating choices.

Women are never proud to admit their bad boy short term mating behaviours. But a large quantity of data shows this is the case.

This reminds me of the uproar from The Bachelor or something. Women hate to be seen in this light.

Science doesn't care, so stop with your spin.