What Men and Women (no longer) Want

By Maia Szalavitz:

Well, I’d like to know if this is accurate in your world?

Men seek youth and beauty, while women focus on wealth and status — evolutionary psychologists have long claimed that these general preferences in human mating are universal and based on biology. But new research suggests that they may in fact be malleable: as men and women achieve financial equality, in terms of earning power and economic freedom, these mate-seeking preferences by gender tend to wane.

The idea behind the evolutionary theory is simple: biologically, sperm are cheap — men make 1,500 sperm per second on average. In contrast, eggs are expensive; typically, women release just one egg a month and each baby girl is born with her full lifetime’s supply of egg cells. (Yes, this means that the egg from which you sprang was formed inside your maternal grandmother.) What’s more, pregnancy costs a woman nine months, while the initial male contribution to parenthood generally requires no more than a few minutes.

As a result, evolutionary theorists argue, women will be far more selective than men about their sexual partners, and they will tend to seek those with the most resources to invest in their children. Men, on the other hand, can afford to be less choosy. They’ll care far less about a woman’s ability to provide and far more about her basic signs of fertility, such as her youth and the symmetry of her facial features — a characteristic associated with beauty and good health.

 

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Steve

    Seems highly general to me. Not sure I buy it.

  • Joe Canner

    Scot, I think you’ve “buried the lead” here. The last two paragraphs describe the way evolutionists believe males and females have behaved up until now. The punchline is found in the introductory teaser at the end of the first paragraph: that as societies become more equal, men and women become more similar in what they value in a mate, contra evolutionary history.

    Anyway, I think this is great news. One of the principle premises of theistic evolution (or evolutionary creation, if you prefer) is that evolution represents “original sin” and that God’s grace and Holy Spirit are necessary to lift us out of our evolutionary predispositions and onto a path that pleases God and honors one another. This research shows that such a thing can happen (at least in part) via gender equality. Accordingly, Christians ought to be aware of how important gender equality is as it relates to moving people in the direction of Christ-like-ness.

  • http://www.eric-michael.com EricMichaelSay

    In my egalitarian marriage, my wife is 9-years my senior, and worked to put me through 2 years of college. We fit the bill for going against the evolutionary grain.

    Not to say it’s a smooth path to take…

  • Nicholas

    Great comment Joe! Thanks. I couldn’t agree more.

    I have thought as well that Christians can learn gender lessons from the same theory proposed here but in a slightly different manner. That is, since wombs are simply more valuable when it comes to maintaining a population, anthropologists DO suggest that division of labor could have developed due to this. Since our male ancestors were more ‘disposable’ (or sperm was cheaper as the quote says haha) so they tended to fight and hunt while women gathered and stayed near camp.

    But! If one believes in evolution and the Christian tradition, we know that we have inherited a lot the we are called to abandon. In a sense, if being a Christian is the way we can be most genuinely human, as many theologians suggest, then naming and shaming certain evolutionary attributes may be a large part in reflecting God as image-bearers (explaining why Jesus would command them). Animal aggression… now we are seek peace. Animal sexuality… now monogamous lifelong marriages. Gender labor divisions… now one in Christ, equally called and gifted. The list goes on. In a sense, maybe to become less animal, and more ‘human.’ :)

  • Marcus C

    “But new research suggests that they may in fact be malleable: as men and women achieve financial equality, in terms of earning power and economic freedom, these mate-seeking preferences by gender tend to wane.”
    Link?

    Financial equality is a very recent phenomenon. I’m skeptical that tens of thousands of years of our brains hard-wiring could change so quickly. By this logic shouldn’t we have a much more visceral fear of cars than snakes and spiders?

  • TriciaM

    http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2012/08/29/0956797612441004.full

    I think this is the link you’re looking for.

  • RJS

    Marcus C,

    I am not sure that I agree with the premise of this story. But if it is true it would not mean that brain hard-wiring has changed, rather that are brain wiring is much “softer” and more determined by environment than had been thought previously. This malleability could, in fact, be an important part of human evolution (and an important part of what it means to be human). We are not hard-wired in most things and can adapt, change, and grow.

  • John I.

    “could, in fact, be”

    Until there is empirical evidence to support any specific alleged evolutionary advantage, I remain highly skeptical of such claims. As part of their “after the fact” way of arguing, evolutionists of all stripes claim that particular features gave an advantage. Did they? hard to say, given that evolution proceeds by random mutations and that survival is a game of chance where even a significant improvement in the odds of successful reproduction are not sufficient to guarantee success. Anyway, the “just so” stories are entertaining if nothing else.

    J.


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