I started this post six months ago. It was originally titled, "Being Sexy is a Depreciating Asset". That seemed a little too incel-ish, so I stuck it on the shelf. Then I came across this recently-published study of dating habits and decided to dust off the original thesis, as it appears that being sexy is indeed a depreciating asset.
It's too much to ask you to read the article. I know that. So I'll do the Tl;dr: this is a study of human behavior during online dating, specifically asking who we go for online. The data inside is fascinating, both as an insite into human mating behavior and as a primer on improving the game theory aspects of online dating.
Here's what we learn from the article:
- Everyone tries to hook up with someone better looking, but not too much better looking. We have some idea of our "league" and all of us, like minor league baseball players, are trying to get called up. The single A people are looking to go double-A, while the AAA guys are eyeing the majors.
- Desirability is affected by many things, including age, education and race (yeah, no shit). Education in a woman is not so important to male suitors, but very important to women looking for men. Asian men are less desirable than other races, but this pales in comparison to how low black women score. Not to harp on it, but the difference between black women and women of other races is shocking. I can't explain the magnitude.
- Hot people don't hunt. They sit back and receive messages and pick and choose.
- A bit surprising: Message length (i.e., the effort you put into your opening) isn't so correlated with success, at least for men. By the way, a woman sending a message gets a reply about 50% of the time, while men only receive a response 20% of the time.
- (From the supplemental statistics) Online dating appears to provide a surprisingly "quality" field of people: 75% had college degrees, <10% had kids. Average age around 30-32.
- There is a strong, direct correlation between age and desirability for women (probably obvious), but the desirability of men seems to actually increase until the mid-fifties or so. This surprised me.
I suppose this describes a subset of male-female interactions, mainly those looking for a relationship. No doubt, Tinder statistics would differ from this group. But for people looking to settle down, not a ton of this is super surprising. Being good "on paper" seems to matter. So to does the pairing of similarly-matched people (the so-called ladder system).
Perhaps the most interesting thing is the inherent conflict that this data highlights: women's "value" (insofar as their measurable desirability) seems to decrease with each passing year, while men seem to increase for a long time. Beauty vs wealth, I assume, an empirical validation of sorts for the sugar daddy/trophy wife trope. But this creates a very different set of priorities. As a dude, I would be smart to stay single and wait until later in my career cycle to go fishing. As a woman, the best years for attracting a mate occur decades earlier. Perhaps I should revise my thesis to say, "Being a sexy WOMAN is a depreciating asset."
At first blush, men have the advantage in the current scrum. A significant component to the feminine draw, youth and beauty, evaporates unbidden, which should tip the scales over to my male brethren.
However, we don't always make rational decisions. As a younger man, I would basically flip over and do anything to please an attractive woman. If she was happy, there was a chance she might sleep with me. Intellectually, I knew it was simpering, pathetic behavior, but biology is strong and man is weak.
I don't think I can say a whole lot about this that hasn't already been said, but, if we remove both gender and romantic entanglement from things, this new data might open up a new hypothesis about the ultra-beautiful, which I will now articulate as a hypothesis: Being a highly attractive individual is, more often than not, a limiter.
Seems antithetical, eh? But let's take a look at this a little more closely. We know that being attractive is ephemeral. But it's also immediate; you're either good looking NOW or you're not. You either live in that world or you don't. It's very binary.
Being good-looking means that you're handed a great deal of stuff. This sounds great, but I wonder if it doesn't come with some consequences (real consequences, not just having your sense of self worth tied up in your appearance - we all suffer from that one).
Here's an example: I had a classmate in graduate school who was, intellectually, dense as a fucking rock. A smoking hot rock. I carried this chick through our lab practical for the same pathetic reason any dude would. In doing so, I've a disservice to society, because that girl is now out there somewhere, running around with a doctorate, doing bad science and fucking things up.
So what? you ask. Still got that paper, right?
Maybe. Maybe not. I don't know - I've never lived in the bubble. But imagine this girl's experience: she's getting carried along by horrible, lecherous people like me. No struggling. No scrapping. Put simply, at the end of the day she's not developing the same skills that "ugly" people are forced to develop simply in order to survive. No one will ever tell her that she's a goddamn awful molecular biologist until it's far too late to do anything about it. On a long enough timeline, her development is stunted; even if this person was/is intelligent, she'd never had to develop it. It seems the equivalent of living your life in a sensory deprivation chamber.
This is the crux of my argument of attractiveness being, ultimately, a limiter. As an average-looking man, I know exactly where I stand because my facial features are not symmetrical enough for anyone to lie to me about it.
There are probably other reasons being beautiful is challenging. For example, I would find it maddening if people disregarded my meaningful accomplishments in favor of praising my looks.
As a final thought, I'd ask you to consider stand-up comedy, an arena where looks and cleavage cannot compensate for a lack of talent. No one is good-looking enough to tell bad jokes for a living.
Have you ever seen a truly attractive person (man or woman) doing stand-up comedy? I haven't. Yeah, there are some people who look OK up there, but there aren't any Tom Brady/Giselle type people up there? Know why? It's cause everyone laughed at their shitty jokes when they were younger, so they never developed a word-class sense of humor. To this end, the best comedians are downright fugly, possibly because they had to become so to overcome their external limitations.
That's it. Started with a paper on aspirational dating, ended with a reveal on why there are no attractive comedians.
Noah's Inner Monologue
Scribblings of a man who can barely operate an idiotproof website.