Monday 21 February 2011

Dating: Are women shallower than men?

Is this an interesting proposition? Or is the answer fairly obvious? In a digital world where speed is of the essence, just what does one do to size up a stranger and determine if it's a go or no?

Kat Wilder discussed the question back in June 2010 when she overheard a group of men:

They were grumbling about women. It was about the usually suspects — how women only care about how much a guy makes, and their cars, and their stuff, and their hair (like, if they have some). “Women are shallow, my friends, what can I say?” one said.

Kat's ever-present sidekick Sara said that no, women were not shallower than men because "It's harder for fat gals to have sex than fat guys." While this may seem to be a commonplace impression of the sexual playground, is this true and to what extent?

In April 2010, the British Medical Journal published a study entitled "Sexuality and obesity, a gender perspective: results from French national random probability survey of sexual behaviours" which looked at 12,364 men and women aged 18-69 living in France in 2006. The randomly selected group included 5,535 women and 4,635 men, of whom 3,651 women and 2,725 men were normal weight (BMI 18.5-<25), 1,010 women and 1,488 men were overweight (BMI 25-<30), and 411 women and 350 men were obese (BMI >30).

The results of the study showed a correlation between sexual activity and weight but some surprising differences between the sexes.
  • Obese women were 30% less likely than normal weight women to report a sexual partner in the past 12 months. Obese women were as likely as normal weight women to be living with a sexual partner in the past 12 months but were significantly less likely to have an occasional sexual partner.
  • Results showed no association between obesity or being overweight and having a sexual partner in the past 12 months among men. Nonetheless, obese and overweight men were about 70% and 30%, respectively, less likely to report more than one sexual partner in the past 12 months. In fact, the likelihood of reporting more than one sexual partner in the past 12 months decreased with increasing BMI for both men and women.
Kat and Sara said that it's harder for fat gals to have sex than fat guys and the conclusions of the study bear that out. I note that for women, the criterion is having "a sexual partner" in the past 12 months while for men, having "a sexual partner" isn't where the issue of weight crops up, it's the question of "more than one sexual partner". The difference in wording is subtle and easily overlooked but could be a telling difference between the sexes interviewed for the study which confirms the observation made by Kat and Sara.

The Huffington Post ran an article on the study and wrote:

"Maybe women are more tolerant of tubby husbands than men are of tubby wives," said Kaye Wellings, a professor of sexual and reproductive health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and one of the BMJ study authors.

Experts said the problems faced by obese people were probably due to a combination of physical problems linked to obesity as well as other issues, like low self-esteem and social prejudices.

Huffington reports that Wellings and colleagues found no difference between obese people and normal-weight people in terms of how often they had sex. But one interesting point is that women tended to have partners with a similar body shape. Nearly 70 percent of fat women reported having a partner who was also heavy, while only about 40 percent of fat men had a similarly proportioned partner.

The article went on to quote a doctor, "If you lose weight, you will feel more attractive and that could improve your sex life."

In 2004, two researchers from the University of Pennsylvania studied this commercial dating service which follows the model of "speed dating". 25 men and 25 women interact with each other for three minutes then indicate whom they would like to see again. The study notes that agreed-upon mate values for both men and women derive almost exclusively from physically observable attributes like attractiveness, BMI, height, and age and are not substantially related to harder-to-observe attributes such as education, religion, sociosexuality, having children, or desiring future children.

The results show that women were chosen by 49% of the men while men were chosen by 34% of the women.

The NY Times in reporting on this "online dating" concludes that women are pickier than men. Correctly divining that men put a premium on looks, the more attractive women set a higher bar for their partners than less attractive women did. On the other hand, men seemed to be trying to cast a wider net by selecting more women. Women have less of a “variety preference” — they’re more interested in a long-term partner — and they’re concerned with a lot more than looks. They want a partner who’s at least as educated as they are, whereas education isn’t as important to men.

The NY Times goes on to point out how women looking for a long-term partner can translate into things other than looks. An ordinary-looking guy can compensate for his looks by making more money. In fact, a study which applied a ranking of attractiveness to online pictures of men, arrived at dollar amounts to explain just what money was necessary to make up for a lack of looks. Suppose you’d like to be as successful with women as a guy whose picture is ranked in the top tenth. Then you’d need to make $143,000 more than him. If your picture is ranked in the bottom tenth, you’d need to make $186,000 more than him.

Height also seems to enter into the equation. A 5-foot-0 guy would need to make $325,000 more than a 6-foot-0 man to be as successful in the online dating market. A 5-foot-4 man would need $229,000; a 5-foot-6 man would need $183,000; a 5-foot-10 man would need $32,000. And if that 6-foot-0 man wanted to do as well as a 6-foot-4 man, he’d need to make $43,000 more.

Height is also applicable to women but shorter is better. A 5-foot-6 women would need to make $59,000 more than a 5-foot-0 or 5-foot-2 woman to do as well. She’d need to make $50,000 more than a 5-foot-4 woman.

Final Word
Kat sums up by saying. "I actually think both sexes are pretty shallow — for different reasons. Women are still drawn the idea of a prince who’ll carry us to his castle where we’ll live happily ever after, and men are still drawn to Playboy bunnies."

In the above studies, men seem to pick more often than women. Reminds me of an old joke: Every night a man goes to a bar and asks 50 women to sleep with him. He gets slapped in the face 49 times, but he never sleeps alone!

Women pick less often and look at things like money. Is that shallow? Heck, if you had a choice between somebody poor and somebody rich, why not go for the rich? That's not being shallow; that's just being practical. I'm chuckling at the men Kat overheard grumbling that women only care about how much money they make their cars and their stuff. Think about it. Why would a woman want to be with somebody with no money, no car and no "stuff"? Because you're cute? Because you're a regular stud muffin? That ain't gunna pay the bills and put a 50 inch flat screen TV in the living room!

So, in the end, I'll dress up as a prince and she can dress up as a bunny and both of us can pretend that my hovel is a castle.

Oh yeah, I hope to have the TV paid for by 2015, just in time for one hundred inch models.


Kat Wilder - June 16, 2010
Now who’s being shallow?

British Medical Journal - April 2010
Sexuality and obesity, a gender perspective: results from French national random probability survey of sexual behaviours

Huffington Post - June 15, 2010
Being obese raises the risk of sexual problems by Maria Cheng

The New York Times - April 9, 2007
How Don’t I Love Thee? by John Tierney

HurryDate: Mate preferences in action by Robert Kurzban, Jason Weeden
Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania - August 2004


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