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Thread: Gender differences in sexual attraction: An illustration of the complex nature -nurtue interaction

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    Gender differences in sexual attraction: An illustration of the complex nature -nurtue interaction

    So, it will surprise no one here to learn that men of all ages prefer the looks of women in the early 20's. IOW, men never change in their sexual attraction to women and like the same age women when they are 50 as they did when they were 20.
    It may or may not surprise you to learn that women of all ages prefer the looks of men close to their own age. Women's tastes in men change in correspondence with their own age such that at age 20 women like men around 21, while women at age 50 like men around age 46.

    The founder of OK cupid published some data from his site based upon about 10 million users who as part of their attempts to find dates are asked about their preferences. Below are the graphs that show what I just described.





    This is NOT a thread about whether this difference in attraction is biologically based or evolutionary adaptive. Please start a separate thread for that argument.

    This is a thread about the cultural/social impact that these preferences could have, regardless of where the preference originate from.
    Even if these differences in preferences are biological, once these preference exist, they become part of the social/cultural environment that then has other additional impacts on people's behavior and can create other gender differences that themselves may have little direct genetic basis.

    Imagine you are a 20 year old person and almost every person who is a possible opposite sex mating partner no matter their age thinks you are at your most attractive now and you will rapidly decline in appeal. Everywhere you go where there are people of all ages of both sexes, you are among the most attractive to almost all the opposite sex there and you'll likely be acutely aware of it. Meanwhile, all the older members of your own sex are also acutely aware it too, likely causing some negative feelings towards you.

    Contrast that with being a 20 year old and only the possible mates around your age find you most attractive, but older possible mates do not. As you age, which subset of possible mates find you most attractive ages with you. Everywhere you go where there are various ages of both sexes, you are only the focal attraction of a subset of potential mates and older members of your sex also have their own subset of potential mates who find them attractive.

    No matter one's gender, it is likely that such drastically different social contexts would impact many aspects of one's psychology, self evaluations, sexuality, and how one views and interacts with members of one's own and the opposite sex.

    And while people of both sexes do vary in attractiveness in ways that are independent of age, the data show that on average females experience the social situations closer to the former while males experience the social situation closer to the latter.

    In addition, that is just the extreme difference of what it is like to be a 20 year old female vs. male. The male experience remains somewhat stable, b/c there is an ever changing subset of women who are most attracted to his age group. But the female experience changes drastically, such that an exponentially fewer number of potential mates are attracted to their age group. And as young women, they know this is coming toward them.

    Although the effects of these different social experiences seems likely to be large and impact many things, it is difficult in the abstract to know exactly how. But it is worthwhile speculating on what these impacts might be and keeping these possible effects caused proximally by "environmental" when thinking about various gender differences of many sorts.
    Last edited by ronburgundy; 03-29-2019 at 08:01 PM.

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    Bateman's Principle

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    Quote Originally Posted by Trausti View Post


    Bateman's Principle
    Can you explain how you think that relates to my OP?

    The graph doesn't seem relevant to Bateman's principle, because whatever it is showing is clearly not a stable principle of any kind but something that can change greatly over a few years with many years showing no gender difference.

    As far as Bateman's principle more generally, it is consistent with the data in the OP and my discussion of it. If males of all ages are trying to have sex with young females at the height of fertility, then most young females will have little problem reproducing. But if females are willing to mate with male's of all ages, then males never pass through a period where most of them have an easy time finding a mate.

    But that just reinforces the premise that males and females experience very different social environments. It doesn't comment on the main purpose of the thread which is to discuss what possible impacts on psychology and behavior these different social environments might have.

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    Somewhere I read (could have been snarky) that men want to mate with women who resemble their mothers when the men were infants--that golden period when their mothers were slim twenty-somethings who didn't hesitate to give them breasts.

    The OP also is supported by the lack of work for women in Hollywood. Sally Field (born 1946) played the love interest of Tom Hanks (born 1956) in "Punchline" (1988). Six years later she played his mother in "Forrest Gump."

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    Quote Originally Posted by James Brown View Post
    Somewhere I read (could have been snarky) that men want to mate with women who resemble their mothers when the men were infants--that golden period when their mothers were slim twenty-somethings who didn't hesitate to give them breasts.
    Yeah, that sounds like some Freudian stuff, and most of what Freud said is nonsense. Also, that is only relevant to the question of where these preferences stem from (which I'd rather not bog down this thread with), rather than what the social impact of these preferences are.


    The OP also is supported by the lack of work for women in Hollywood. Sally Field (born 1946) played the love interest of Tom Hanks (born 1956) in "Punchline" (1988). Six years later she played his mother in "Forrest Gump."
    Kinda. It explains why almost almost all female protagonist or love interest characters in movies geared toward males are in there early 20's, even when the male's are much older. But women could still be playing plenty of other non-sexual roles. So, the absence of older women in movies is a combination of male sexual preferences for younger woman and Hollywood's disinterest in female roles that are not about sexuality.
    Last edited by ronburgundy; 03-30-2019 at 07:25 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by James Brown View Post
    Somewhere I read (could have been snarky) that men want to mate with women who resemble their mothers when the men were infants--that golden period when their mothers were slim twenty-somethings who didn't hesitate to give them breasts.

    The OP also is supported by the lack of work for women in Hollywood. Sally Field (born 1946) played the love interest of Tom Hanks (born 1956) in "Punchline" (1988). Six years later she played his mother in "Forrest Gump."
    Meh. There's a ten year age difference IRL. Considering women can conceive children in their mid teens or so, and some people can look substantially older/younger than their real age, plus Hollywood makeup....it ain't that much of a stretch. Plus, in Forest Gump, she was his mom when he was a little kid and as a grown adult, so it was smart to cast someone who was closer to his own age. Its easier to make someone look plausibly older than younger so it makes sense.

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    It took me a while to think through all of this. There are a lot of ramifications. One is that at age 20, both have the best chance of getting what they want. And as each gets older, some will be settling, and some will be settled for. Which does indeed make for a different dynamic. The men perhaps thinking that they will later get a new thing that they want, while to woman would think about having to hold onto, and compete for, the thing that they want.

    All of this subconscious, of course.

    As a woman who got married once at 21 and again at 35, it doesn’t feel exactly accurate, but as a thought exercise... it has interesting implications.

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    "Women over thirty are the best; men over thirty are just too senile to get it"

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    Biologically it makes sense because men need a fertile woman to reproduce, and women usually prefer a man who raises their well-being (with wealth), in order to help raise their child, meaning they'd typically seek out someone with more experience/status than themselves. Obviously this trend doesn't always hold true, as, quoting Bronzeage, people can only pick from the group they have available.

    But you didn't ask about biology, you asked about the cultural impact. All that really comes to mind is that most cultures would be oriented to encourage females to find a partner as early as possible, either culturally or legally. These same cultures would also actively promote, or at least not demonize, sexual promiscuity in men (because men are always fertile, and women are those who hold a precious period of fertility).

    And as women age society places less and less value on them, and they likely experience more sub-conscious bias (although one could argue that this probably has more of a biological than cultural basis). The same trend would likely be true of men, but I would assume men are more valued for a longer period of time.

    Overall - wealth and status flows toward women who have the most reproductive years left in them. And women seek out men who raise their status.

    Not sure if that's the cultural answer you're looking for, but I can't really think of any other implications.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ronburgundy View Post
    So, it will surprise no one here to learn that men of all ages prefer the looks of women in the early 20's. IOW, men never change in their sexual attraction to women and like the same age women when they are 50 as they did when they were 20.
    It may or may not surprise you to learn that women of all ages prefer the looks of men close to their own age. Women's tastes in men change in correspondence with their own age such that at age 20 women like men around 21, while women at age 50 like men around age 46.

    The founder of OK cupid published some data from his site based upon about 10 million users who as part of their attempts to find dates are asked about their preferences. Below are the graphs that show what I just described.





    This is NOT a thread about whether this difference in attraction is biologically based or evolutionary adaptive. Please start a separate thread for that argument.

    This is a thread about the cultural/social impact that these preferences could have, regardless of where the preference originate from.
    Even if these differences in preferences are biological, once these preference exist, they become part of the social/cultural environment that then has other additional impacts on people's behavior and can create other gender differences that themselves may have little direct genetic basis.

    Imagine you are a 20 year old person and almost every person who is a possible opposite sex mating partner no matter their age thinks you are at your most attractive now and you will rapidly decline in appeal. Everywhere you go where there are people of all ages of both sexes, you are among the most attractive to almost all the opposite sex there and you'll likely be acutely aware of it. Meanwhile, all the older members of your own sex are also acutely aware it too, likely causing some negative feelings towards you.

    Contrast that with being a 20 year old and only the possible mates around your age find you most attractive, but older possible mates do not. As you age, which subset of possible mates find you most attractive ages with you. Everywhere you go where there are various ages of both sexes, you are only the focal attraction of a subset of potential mates and older members of your sex also have their own subset of potential mates who find them attractive.

    No matter one's gender, it is likely that such drastically different social contexts would impact many aspects of one's psychology, self evaluations, sexuality, and how one views and interacts with members of one's own and the opposite sex.

    And while people of both sexes do vary in attractiveness in ways that are independent of age, the data show that on average females experience the social situations closer to the former while males experience the social situation closer to the latter.

    In addition, that is just the extreme difference of what it is like to be a 20 year old female vs. male. The male experience remains somewhat stable, b/c there is an ever changing subset of women who are most attracted to his age group. But the female experience changes drastically, such that an exponentially fewer number of potential mates are attracted to their age group. And as young women, they know this is coming toward them.

    Although the effects of these different social experiences seems likely to be large and impact many things, it is difficult in the abstract to know exactly how. But it is worthwhile speculating on what these impacts might be and keeping these possible effects caused proximally by "environmental" when thinking about various gender differences of many sorts.
    I think there may be some other trends in the data:
    • Young women may like slightly older men...like a 20 year old woman may like a 20 year old or a more mature 25 year old, averaging to 23.
    • Many older women who are still "active" may prefer a 40 year old man or a cut off at 40 because of how older men lose testosterone etc. Meanwhile other older women may be interested more in personality and conversation, liking those the same age.

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