A year ago, Susan Patton gained considerable fame and notoriety for herself, and created a shit-storm in the Femosphere, through a Letter to the Editor published in the Daily Princetonian.
Advice for the Young Women of Princeton: the Daughters I Never Had
Forget about having it all, or not having it all, leaning in or leaning out — here’s what you really need to know that nobody is telling you...
...For most of you, the cornerstone of your future and happiness will be inextricably linked to the man you marry, and you will never again have this concentration of men who are worthy of you.
Here’s what nobody is telling you: Find a husband on campus before you graduate. Yes, I went there...
...Men regularly marry women who are younger, less intelligent, less educated. It’s amazing how forgiving men can be about a woman’s lack of erudition, if she is exceptionally pretty. Smart women can’t (shouldn’t) marry men who aren’t at least their intellectual equal. As Princeton women, we have almost priced ourselves out of the market. Simply put, there is a very limited population of men who are as smart or smarter than we are. And I say again — you will never again be surrounded by this concentration of men who are worthy of you.
Of course, once you graduate, you will meet men who are your intellectual equal — just not that many of them. And, you could choose to marry a man who has other things to recommend him besides a soaring intellect. But ultimately, it will frustrate you to be with a man who just isn’t as smart as you.
Here is another truth that you know, but nobody is talking about. As freshman women, you have four classes of men to choose from. Every year, you lose the men in the senior class, and you become older than the class of incoming freshman men. So, by the time you are a senior, you basically have only the men in your own class to choose from, and frankly, they now have four classes of women to choose from. Maybe you should have been a little nicer to these guys when you were freshmen?The brouhaha that this piece inspired has since led to numerous television appearances, a book (Marry Smart: Advice for Finding the One), and, for this past Valentine's Day, a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, wherein Miss Patton wrote:
...Despite all of the focus on professional advancement, for most of you the cornerstone of your future happiness will be the man you marry. But chances are that you haven't been investing nearly as much energy in planning for your personal happiness as you are planning for your next promotion at work. What are you waiting for? You're not getting any younger, but the competition for the men you'd be interested in marrying most definitely is.
Think about it: If you spend the first 10 years out of college focused entirely on building your career, when you finally get around to looking for a husband you'll be in your 30s, competing with women in their 20s. That's not a competition in which you're likely to fare well. If you want to have children, your biological clock will be ticking loud enough to ward off any potential suitors. Don't let it get to that point.
You should be spending far more time planning for your husband than for your career—and you should start doing so much sooner than you think. This is especially the case if you are a woman with exceptionally good academic credentials, aiming for corporate stardom....
...Could you marry a man who isn't your intellectual or professional equal? Sure. But the likelihood is that it will be frustrating to be with someone who just can't keep up with you or your friends. When the conversation turns to Jean Cocteau or Henrik Ibsen, the Bayeux Tapestry or Noam Chomsky, you won't find that glazed look that comes over his face at all appealing. And if you start to earn more than he does? Forget about it. Very few men have egos that can endure what they will see as a form of emasculation.
So what's a smart girl to do? Start looking early and stop wasting time dating men who aren't good for you: bad boys, crazy guys and married men...
....When you find a good man, take it slow. Casual sex is irresistible to men, but the smart move is not to give it away. If you offer intimacy without commitment, the incentive to commit is eliminated. The grandmotherly message of yesterday is still true today: Men won't buy the cow if the milk is free.
Can you meet brilliant, marriageable men after college? Yes, but just not that many of them. Once you're living off campus and in the real world, you'll be stunned by how smart the men are not. You'll no doubt meet some eligible guys in your workplace, but it's hazardous to get romantically involved with co-workers....The Femosphere has certainly been going to town on this outdated, anachronist and archaic advice. Miss Patton has even been written up for sexual objectification, specifically for having repeated that old "men won't buy the cow" proverb. I should inject here that just because a piece of advice is outdated or archaic doesn't mean that it is bad. Some people might find Miss Patton's recommendations useful, and some ladies might consider giving her counsel some consideration. One specific problem with Miss Patton's advice is that very few college boys are seriously contemplating marriage, while almost all of them are thinking about getting some of that proverbial "free milk." If one woman (or cow) won't provide it, then he'll probably be looking for another who will. Which isn't to say that there aren't any women who succeed in keeping their hymens intact until the post-nuptial celebrations. A lot of Christian and Mormon women do follow this modus operandi. But, this reality is probably rare at our major universities (except that a lot of the boys are virgins but wish they weren't). Nancy Reagan's tactic for hooking Ronald was to allow him to impregnate her, and the sucker fell for it. This particular plan of action didn't work so well for Bristol Palin, nor for a lot of other single mothers. Very few advice columnists are going to advocate (at least openly) this remarkable strategy.
Miss Patton's advice to "stop wasting time dating men who aren't good for you: bad boys, crazy guys and married men" may seem especially sound to men who aren't bad, crazy or married. But, as previously discussed, a lot of the ladies find themselves to be much more sexually aroused by the more dominant and aggressive "bad boys" and "crazy guys", whose aggressiveness may eventually make a woman's life uncomfortable.
One very important factor, that has changed dramatically since Miss Patton was a student at Princeton University, is that women are beating the pants off of men, both academically and professionally, which means that hypergamy is becoming less of an option for women. Indeed, by Miss Patton's reckoning, very few of today's men are at all "worthy" of a Princeton graduate. Marcia Anne Yablon-Zug points out that the improving educational and financial prospects of American women have caused them to reject relationships with men whom they do not regard as equals, which has created a large pool of unwilling bachelors. Many women are choosing spinsterhood over marriage to an unworthy man, while a fair number of men are going abroad to find wives in other countries.
An American woman who wishes to breed, and who wishes to do so with a high-status husband, would be well advised to work assiduously at this goal before she gets very far past the age of nubility. As Robert Herrick so elegantly phrased it in his poem, To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time:
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, Old Time is still a-flying;According to Charlize Theron, "Men grow old, and you guys become like a fine wine. When we grow old, it's more like a flower that's been cut off and we wilt and we die."
And this same flower that smiles today Tomorrow will be dying.
The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun, The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run, And nearer he's to setting.
That age is best which is the first, When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst Times still succeed the former.
Then be not coy, but use your time, And while ye may, go marry;
For having lost but once your prime, You may forever tarry
Riadh T. Abed developed a rather interesting hypothesis called The Sexual Competition Hypothesis For Eating Disorders. According to Mr. Abed, eating disorders originate in the human female's psychological adaptation of concern about physical attractiveness (which is a vital component of female mate-attraction and mate-retention strategies), and the present-day environment of Western countries presents a range of conditions which have led to the over-activation or the disruption of the archaic female sexual strategy of maximising mate value.
...The hypothesis on eating disorders presented here is derived from the evolutionary theory of human sexuality. The present hypothesis is based upon the assumption that, besides shaping anatomical systems, selection also designs psychological and behavioural adaptations that are just as important for the organisms' survival and reproductive success.
The present hypothesis is based upon the following assumptions:
- In the ancestral environment, the female shape was a generally reliable indicator of the female's reproductive history and hence her future reproductive potential.
- The female nubile hour-glass shape is the product of sexual selection and represents the most desirable visual cue for males. In addition to the hour-glass appearance the hallmark of the nubile shape is its relative thinness compared to older females.
- For the first time in human history mating behaviour has been decoupled from reproduction. This has been associated with a progressive decline in fertility in industrialised countries. Therefore progressively older females have been able to retain or recreate the nubile shape.
- A range of factors within the environment of western developed countries present conditions that heighten female intrasexual competition for high quality long-term mates.
Therefore it is hypothesised that:
- The pursuit of (relative) thinness among females in developed countries is a manifestation of the process of female intrasexual competition in an environment that contains a large number of pseudo-nubile females.
- Late onset eating disorder (bulimia nervosa) represents a process of "runaway" female intrasexual competition. It is contended that the late onset disorder arises through the reactivation of the "nubile program" beyond the age of nubility as a strategy of increasing mate value.
- Early-onset eating disorder (anorexia nervosa) is a developmental disorder that originates in female intrasexual competition whereby the nubile shape is set at an abnormally thin level in response to the novel stimulus of pseudo-nubile females within the young female's environment at a critical stage in her development (in addition to other, presently, unknown factors)....
...Human females...do not need to expend much time or energy competing for sexual access to males due to the trivial cost a single copulation represents to any given male. However, females do compete actively and vigorously with other females for male commitment (i.e. for long-term mateships) which, by its nature, is in limited supply. Therefore, selection has favoured female strategies designed to test and elicit long term commitment, reliability and parenting skills in men in addition to a sensitivity to characteristics related to high socio-economic status...
...Human males and females have distinctive body shapes. The adult male is typically 8% taller and 20% heavier than a similarly aged female and the sexes show different patterns of fat distribution....
The human female develops a distinctive fat distribution following puberty that results in the hour-glass or so called wasp-waist shape typical of nubile women...
...during the Pleistocene most women of reproductive age were either pregnant or lactating and therefore temporarily infertile...to avoid rearing another man's offspring men must have developed an aversion to even a slight thickening of the waist. Such aversion would be expected to be directed towards novel females (i.e. a female who is not already the male's consort) and should be particularly relevant to the male's choice of a long term mate....
...the nubile female hour-glass shape was designed by sexual selection through the differential reproductive success of females who possessed this trait compared to those who did not...
...what we now call eating disorders are a manifestation of "runaway" female intrasexual competition....
Reproductive potential (RP) in females is primarily a function of age and RP falls progressively with advancing years down to zero at menopause. A female's maximum RP occurs 3-4 years following puberty and this coincides with the time the nubile female body takes its full shape. Thus the newly nubile female will have a higher RP than at any other time during her lifetime and it would follow that males would be selected to be particularly attracted to females who display the nubile shape...across cultures the female shape found to be most sexually attractive is that of the nubile female...
...the hallmark of the nubile female figure in the ancestral environment was its relative "thinness" compared to that of older women who would have undergone a range of changes in their bodily appearance which include stretched abdominal muscles and skin and an accumulation of fatty tissue as a result of the inevitable cycles of child-bearing, childbirth and lactation...in the ancestral environment, the female's shape provided a generally accurate indicator of her reproductive history...
Thus...in the ancestral environment the short-lived nubile relatively slender hour-glass shape was the most reliable visual cue for maximum female reproductive potential (i.e. the maximum possible number of future years of active reproductive life).
Hence the visual cue representing this relatively slender nubile shape became a significant and highly effective part of the human female's strategy for physical attractiveness. Males who developed a "taste" for the visual cue of the nubile female in the ancestral environment (i.e. sought nubile females as long term mates) would have had a reproductive edge through the acquisition of breeding rights for the longest possible period of a given female's reproductive life.
Furthermore, sexual selection would favour females who possessed not only the nubile shape but were also endowed with a psychological adaptation that signals anxiety or alarm if such phenotypic cues are disturbed or threatened e.g. through premature obesity. Such premature obesity would have had the potential of reducing the female's mate value through a greater resemblance in shape to that of older (i.e. lower RP) females...it is suggested that an adaptation involving a behavioural strategy that aims at the preservation or the restoration of the nubile shape (the drive towards thinness) would have given females who possessed it (who were attempting to attract long term mates) a reproductive edge in the ancestral environment...
...As the nubile shape was relatively short-lived due to the effects of child-bearing, the nubile female would have had only to pay a moderate amount of attention to her figure to differentiate herself from the surrounding older women. The adaptation of the "concern for signs of nubility" may therefore, be more accurately described as the drive towards relative thinness i.e. relative to the other females in the immediate vicinity. This strategy of "concern about signs of nubility" is a form of female intrasexual competition designed by selection to secure the best possible long-term mate through the signalling of high RP. Intrasexual competition may be in the form of mate attraction or mate retention.
Therefore, eating disorders may be described as a state of "runaway" female intrasexual competition whereby the originally adaptive strategy spirals out of control in response to a range of environmental factors to the extent of becoming self-destructive...
The novel environment of the modern city in the advanced industrialised countries has produced a set of social and cultural changes that have affected the sexual strategies adopted both by males and females.
The cultural shift in European societies towards a preference for a thinner, slimmer female body form has been noted by a number of authors but there is no agreement as to why this has occurred. The question is: is this a peculiarly Western phenomenon or is it a common potential trend in any society once a range of identifiable environmental conditions prevail? Any hypothesis advanced to explain this phenomenon will need to account for the following: why thinness? why females? and why now?
One major factor in the chain of causation of this phenomenon is the declining fertility in Western societies. Fertility has been in a state of decline in some European countries since the 18th century. By the beginning of the twentieth century the trend was evident in most major Western countries.
Low fertility appears to have started among high ranking females and gradually spread to females in the middle classes. The trend became particularly clear with the advent of reliable contraception.
Around the same time a number of other major social changes took place within Western societies. These include the increasing status and rising economic and political power of women, a progressive weakening of traditional kinship bonds and the rise of the ideals of individual autonomy and self-reliance.
The decreased fertility was achieved by women through delayed reproduction and greater spacing of births. This has led to the preservation of the nubile shape in increasing numbers of post-nubile females who have been able to preserve or recreate the nubile shape beyond the age of nubility.
The rise of the phenomenon of the pseudo-nubile female is an ecological novelty that has become widely prevalent with the advent of contraception....
...in modern industrialised societies, perhaps for the first time in human history mating behaviour has become disconnected from reproduction. Furthermore, the human female has reached a position whereby she is able to regulate her own short and long term mating strategies with minimal legal or social impediments (i.e. minimal control by male kin).
It is of interest that much female intrasexual competition for high quality mates in pre-industrial societies was taken over by the female's kin...such practices as dowries, female claustration, daughter guarding and even female foot-binding were processes that could only be undertaken by the female's kin group and some would have required a collective effort. This kin group effort has been shown in studies to enhance the female's mate value and improve the quality of mate she eventually attains. Such participation in the competitive mating game by the kinship group on behalf of the mating pair has significantly diminished in modern society mainly as a result of the breakdown of extended kinship ties and the rise of the culture of individualism.
...while females (and males) in modern industrial societies can exercise freer choice in mating decisions, they are also having to compete for long term mates largely through their own individual effort. Thus the burden of competition in the mating game within modern societies, unlike the majority of pre-industrial societies, has had to be increasingly shouldered by the principals with little or no help from their kin.
Hence, the decoupling of mating activity and reproduction, the increased economic and social status of females in Western societies and the breakdown in extended kinship bonds has greatly increased the opportunity for both sexes to adopt short-term mating strategies. One consequence of this may have been a decline in confidence in paternity and a probable reduction in the availability of male parental investment....
...The loosening of marital ties in modern societies may have been accentuated as a result of greater numbers of higher ranking men engaging in serial monogamy; a strategy that tends to enhance male fitness as more men than women tend to marry again and they are more likely to sire children from a second wife than a woman is from a second husband.
One important effect of the decreased stability of long-term mateships in Western societies, is that significant numbers of males and females have to return repeatedly back into the "mate market" and therefore need to retain or to redevelop the traits and characteristics that increase their mate value to maximise their mate attracting potential.
Hence the females who return to the mate market in the modern environment (unlike in the ancestral environment) will have to compete in an environment that contains large numbers of pseudo-nubile females. However, while youth and good health are female attributes that greatly affect female mate value, the lengths females have to go to in pursuit of the outward signs of these attributes must depend on whom they are competing with. Thus, in an environment where there are large numbers of pseudo-nubile females, female intrasexual competition will involve the display of the ultimate sign of youth i.e. nubility itself. And as nubility carries the highest possible RP for a female, this represents the ultimate weapon in the process of female intrasexual competition.
Furthermore, the competition for long-term mates has to be undertaken largely through the female's own efforts.
A further factor that is likely to increase female intrasexual competition is that of socially imposed monogamy associated with social stratification which characterises all Western societies. Polygyny tends to reduce female intrasexual competition in stratified societies through having "more room at the top."
In addition urban living, unlike the ancestral environment, entails living in close proximity to genetic strangers. While the ancestral environment consisted mainly of extended kin where the intrasexual competition would have been tempered by affiliative and even altruistic behaviour, this is not likely to be the case in present day urban environment...
...the process of female intrasexual competition (mate attraction and mate retention) in such ecological conditions lies at the root of the phenomenon of the drive towards thinness evident in females in Western societies. The ever increasing intensity of the female intrasexual competition would explain the fact that the standard of the desirable female shape has become progressively thinner in recent decades.
Female intrasexual competition may also explain the finding in an American sample, of a relationship between thinness of females of similar educational status (measured through the thickness of subcutaneous fat) and being married to men of high socio-economic status. This suggests that the females who pursued this strategy have had greater success in mate attraction/retention...
...the extreme variant of this process is the "runaway" female intrasexual competition that manifests itself in the form of eating disorders. In other words, the fact that large numbers of post-nubile females in the mate market are displaying the nubile shape (the ultimate sign of youth) increases the risk that certain females will go "one better" thus entering a maladaptive and self-destructive state of "super-nobility" we call eating disorders.
...To summarize...declining fertility in Western societies has led to the preservation of the relatively slender nubile shape among increasing numbers of post-nubile women leading to the rise of the novel phenomenon of the pseudo-nubile female. This process has been associated with a process of increasing status and power of females in these societies, an increase in short term mating strategies as well as a loosening of marital ties and disruption of extended kinship bonds. The above factors have led to increased female intrasexual competition for desirable long-term mates which has resulted in the drive towards thinness. The extreme variant of this is what we call eating disorders.
- Physical attractiveness is a major component in the human female's mate attraction strategy.
- Concern and anxiety about physical attractiveness is a female psychological adaptation that has evolved through selection and is an important component of female intrasexual competiton for long-term mates.
- Genetic and/or phenotypic variation exists within the female population for the psychological trait of "concern about the signs of nobility."
- Reduced fertility within Western societies has resulted in the retention or the recreation of the nubile shape by an increasing proportion of women beyond the age of nubility thus giving rise to the novel phenomenon of the pseudo-nubile female characterised by the hour-glass shape and its relative thinness. In addition, there have been a range of ecological factors that have tended to intensify female intrasexual competition for long-term mates and has resulted in the progressive tendency towards thinness.
- The extreme variant of this state is the outcome of runaway female intrasexual competition and is what we call eating disorders.
- A distinction exists between early and late onset disorder. The early onset disorder (anorexia) is considered a developmental disorder whereby the female nubile shape is set at too thin a level in response to the novel stimulus of the pseudo-nubile female. The late onset disorder (mainly bulimia) arises from the activation of the nubile strategy beyond the age of nubility.
Another problem with Mr. Abed's theory is that, while we may never know what really constituted Pleistocene preferences in women, a lot of the art work that our Paleolithic ancestors left behind suggests a partiality for women with bigger bellies over the thin, nubile body type.
Obesity is particularly rampant in the South Pacific.
In Tonga, to call a girl fo'i gnako, which literally means a "round piece of fat", is a compliment and a way of flirting. The guys there like fat chicks. Take an American woman who is so fat that she couldn't get a date to save her life anywhere in America, send her to Tonga, and she could easily end up married to a big, strong member of the national rugby team. According to Chris Rock,
Black American men possess a fondness for fat women. Peter Paul Rubens also liked the fatties.
Different men do like different things in women, including different shapes. However, it is fairly well known that, at least among White Americans, a strong predilection exists for young, nubile women (a.k.a. hot young blossoms) with slender waists. As increasing numbers of post-nubile and older women are seeking to persist in or to return to the mating market, a lot of them are finding that they are failing to achieve a pseudo-nubile appearance sufficient to entice the romantic or carnal interest of men whom they regard as possessing adequate status.
According to Frank Marlowe's Nubility Hypothesis, hominid females evolved protruding breasts because the size and shape of breasts function as an honest signal of residual reproductive value. Well, we all know how our non-nubile and post-nubile ladies get around this "honest signal", don't we? Push-up bras and silicone implants. Rather dishonest advertising, but if it works, it works.
Mr. Hugo Schwyzer built something of a career around telling men that they shouldn't pursue relationships with younger women. For example, in his article Guy Talk: Is It Natural For Older Guys To Lust After Young Women?, he wrote that men were simply using science as an "excuse" for "culturally-conditioned" activity of the "predatory old guys: who want to stare "at 'young firm flesh' because that flesh belongs to a woman near the peak of her fertility." From his piece in The Atlantic:
What If Men Stopped Chasing Much-Younger Women?
It would benefit everyone, of all ages and genders.
If there's one tangible thing that men can do to help end sexism—and create a healthier culture in which young people come of age—it's to stop chasing after women young enough to be their biological daughters. As hyperbolic as it may sound, there are few more powerful actions that men can take to transform the culture than to date, mate, and stay with their approximate chronological peers. If aging guys would commit to doing this, everyone would benefit: older men and younger men, older women and younger women....
... Older men chasing young women is a tale as old as time. According to that tale, heterosexual men who have the sexual or financial cachet to do so almost invariably leave the partners who aren't young enough to be their daughters for the women who are. In the popular imagination, men do this because they can—and because they're presumably answering the call of evolutionary and biological imperatives that push them irresistibly towards younger women....
...What seems harmless and natural, however, is neither. A culture in which older men value younger women more than their own female peers does damage to everyone.
I'm not talking about the harm inflicted by pedophiles on pre-teen girls...I'm not talking about the vile street harassment of adolescents by older men...This is about the way in which young women come of age surrounded by reminders that they are at their most desirable when they are still at their most uncertain and insecure. Some young women are attracted to older men (for a host of possible reasons), but even these find too many men who are, in the end, deeply unsafe.
It's not just women who lose out as a consequence of this fixation on the older man, younger woman ideal. Ask women in their teens and 20s who are in relationships with older men about guys their own age, and you'll invariably hear laments about young men's immaturity. That callowness is often oversold by too many aging Lotharios wanting to emphasize the difference between their own supposed expertise and young men's clumsiness. The reality is that just as many young women "grow up too quickly" as a result of older men's attention, many young men grow up too slowly because of a lack of it. If men over 40 spent half as much time mentoring guys under 30 as they do chasing women in that age bracket, more young men might prove excellent partners to their female peers.
Many people who concede that older men's obsession with younger women is disillusioning and destabilizing insist that the sexual choices of men like Johnny Depp are driven by natural imperatives. That's not quite what the science shows...
...So if older men aren't pursuing much younger women because of evolutionary hardwiring, why do they? It's hard not to conclude that much of the appeal is about the hope of finding someone less demanding. A man in his 40s who wants to date women in their 20s is making the same calculation as the man who pursues a "mail-order bride" from a country with less egalitarian values. It's about the mistaken assumption that younger women will be more malleable. Men who chase younger women aren't eroticizing firmer flesh as much as they are a pre-feminist fantasy of a partner who is endlessly starry-eyed and appreciative. The dead giveaway comes when you ask middle-aged men why they prefer to date younger; almost invariably, you'll hear complaints that their female peers are too entitled, too embittered, too feminist.
One of the basic rules of tennis applies here: If you want to improve your skills, you need to play someone who is (at a minimum) at your own level. As sophisticated as a 20-something may be, she will be more so—with a more exquisite bullshit detector—in her 40s. When older men date much younger women, they cheat themselves out of an opportunity to be matched with a partner with the maturity to see them as they really are. Depression, the research shows, peaks for men in their mid-to-late 40s. In the face of statistics like those, middle-aged men can't afford to choose partners who lack the life experience to provide the right kind of challenge.
If the older man/younger woman dynamic is less "natural" and more destructive than we imagined, how then to respond to couples that make that dynamic work? When I've written about this subject in the past, I'm invariably challenged by young women with boyfriends their fathers' age, demanding that I stop judging their love. I always reply that it's possible to wish individuals well while still critiquing the context in which those individuals made their choices. It's like attending the wedding of a couple that gets together as the result of an affair: One can wish them every happiness without endorsing what led them there.
I'm not proposing that we shame every age-disparate couple. I am proposing that we challenge heterosexual middle-aged men to direct their sexual and romantic energies to their female peers. Everyone—older men, younger men, older women, younger women—will reap the paradigm-shifting benefits.And, guess what?
It turns out that, while Mr. Schwyzer was in the business of condemning age-disparate relationships, and shaming old men for chasing nubile hot young blossoms, this old coot was banging his nubile college students and "sexting" nubile young pornographic actresses. He found himself in a position where he could blame neither biology nor his patriarchal upbringing for his behavior. All that was left for Mr. Schwyzer to cite in his defense was "mental health" issues. Which reminds me of a little French ditty:
the moral of which is that "men are pigs", and the moral of the moral being that "women love pigs."
As the Engineer says in Miss Saigon:
"Each day these little buns of yours are worth less and less. Rake in the dollars now before the market falls too far." Susan Patton offers the same advice in so many words. And, she is absolutely right.