After reading an article claiming men prefer to date less intelligent women, psychotherapist Ray Rivers took issue. He explains his mindset using humorous rhetoric.
A new study, getting a lot of media attention, purports to show that men are as self-deluded as women have always suspected. They may claim aloud that they would love to date women who are smarter than themselves—but when actually confronted with such a specimen, they run and fold, and make self-serving rationalizations for their weakness.
To sum up the various components of the study: men were asked if they would be interested in dating women who had scored better than themselves on an intelligence test, to which they responded with enthusiasm: they wagged their tails and stood up on their hind legs and barked happily. However, when placed in situations where they believed they were in the presence of just such a female, they physically avoided her, and actually rated her less attractive—based solely upon this perceived difference in intelligence-test scores.
Now, I have long been aware that IQ tests don’t work: my wife consistently scores 10-20 points higher than I do on these things. But the study group apparently believed the results, which would seem to confirm the presumed working hypothesis of what I imagine to be the super-smart, super-hot, intimidatingly-bespectacled female researchers who conceived and birthed it: that male machismo is displayed with a ferocity and commitment, which is inversely proportional to the essential fragility of the ego from which it generated (Mr. Trump, any thoughts?). Yes, for these men in the study, the veneer of confidence and self-esteem is just like the shell of a giant snail—the true man can be found hiding inside, two huge scared eyes poking out, extended from a soft amorphous mass of arrested emotional development.
Well, I am a man, and I must speak up to affirm that, of course—this is exactly right. Machismo and braggadocio and the tight colored underwear of the super-hero (or whatever you call those clothes they parade around in at Gold’s) absolutely are proactive, over-compensatory defense mechanisms; erected from within a sweaty man-cave of various fears: of love, and failure; of vulnerability, and hypogonadism.
But this does not mean that women are doomed to continue to run the world, as contemporaneous performing arts tell us they have since time began, from behind a manipulative smokescreen of affected shallowness and emotionality, while continuing to attract mates and perpetuate the species by covering their intellect with an arousing thought-form-fitting burqa. Remember Marilyn Monroe’s “sexy” way of speaking—like she was still stabilizing from a Warner Bros.-cartoon-style head whack? Just like that.
This is because the study falters in the conclusions it draws. It stops short at the pathology of it all—which we all know anyway—by meeting this pathology on its own terms: in other words, the study seems to state that this fear and self-delusion and mutant reaction-formation (“I didn’t like her anyway!”) may be the Nature of Man (pending further study).
What I would suggest, alternatively: this is not the Nature of Man. Rather: this is the Nature of Ego. The Nature of Man is actually the will, the drive, the need, the mission—to transcend this ego, and thus save civilization and set humanity free. No, I’m serious!
The key to the whole study can be found in the age range of the men who participated in its different segments: one part of which studied 105 undergraduate men, and another part, 150 undergraduate men.
Undergraduate men? Is that an oxymoron? When I was an undergrad, I was certainly a moron! Undergraduate men are essentially moderately-socialized, horrifically-oversized gametes. Lest you think I’m slamming young men, note that the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that regulates impulse control and emotional decision-making, doesn’t even mature until the late 20s. This means that all mating—uh, dating—decisions at the undergraduate age are made at the survival level of flight, fight, or freeze.
Psychology theory tells us that the developmental “task” at this stage of life is to develop the ability to be emotionally intimate with another human being. In other words, this is the age-appropriate time for heterosexual men to learn how to open to, and support, a woman’s entire complex energetic being with unconditional love, authenticity and devotion, instead of viewing women as projections of their narcissistic ego-driven fantasies.
This is normal; this is what is supposed to happen at this age. Sometimes, it even does (sometimes, of course, it takes a few decades, or reincarnating lifetime cycles, longer).
Let’s return to the study: the men stated on a questionnaire that they would be interested in dating a woman who had scored higher on an intelligence test than themselves; they expressed interest in meeting such a woman who they were told was “down the hall.” That was Group One, who “claimed” to be interested in a more intelligent woman.
Group two actually met a woman, took an intelligence test side-by-side with her, and then had their scores read back to them while still side-by-side with the woman—false scores, deliberately “better” or “worse” than the female, in order for the researchers to observe the resulting behavior. They were then instructed to move their chairs to sit across from the woman and rate her attractiveness. Guess what? If the woman did better than they had on the test, they kept their chairs further away from her (supposedly an indication of level of attraction) and, furthermore, then rated her as less attractive!
However, there is a structural flaw here. There is no doubt in my mind that when the “men” initially expressed interest in dating the “smarter” women, they were picturing in their imaginations that these hypothetical smart girls were actually demonstrating an interest in them: flirting and touching them playfully, their pupils widening with interest in what they had to say.
This is a very different scenario than establishing a situation where, by the implicit rules of the set-up and staging, the female is “alpha” and the man “beta”, and then exploring how much personal space the man gives her. In any social situation, it is the “alpha’s” prerogative to invite the “beta” in. Were the women in the study radiating warmth and receptivity? After all, most men would in theory be open to dating Taylor Swift, but in reality would give her a wide berth unless she were overtly kind and inviting and touchy-feely.
That might be a bad example; obviously the beautiful Taylor Swift’s very popular recordings suggest that she is one woman who actually should be seen and not heard, but the principle remains: this situation has been robbed of the dynamic of mutual discovery, the process through which human beings open up and connect with each other. As far as the experiment is concerned, that has been shut down: participants have been “officially” defined by the authority, the researchers, in each other’s presence. Compounding this, the females were already “in cahoots” with the researchers, an energetic dynamic which no doubt informed the gestalt (this goes beyond whatever forms of “experimentor effect” or “experimentor bias” may have been present; I am speaking about the extremely subtle energetics of shared consciousness, which are present wherever humans are in contact with each other.)
Therefore, since these men are at a stage of life where they are like baby deer taking their first steps of adult romantic vulnerability, it is to be expected that they will be unable to transcend their Fantasies of Women unless they feel emotionally safe: hence, the men keep the chairs out of the personal space of the gals. Furthermore, their subconscious ego-shattering awareness of their own vulnerability is so shameful to this very ego, that it will typically impel them to double-down on that self-protective narcissistic hubris which is stunting their growth in the first place, and so we get: “I don’t even think she’s attractive anyway!”
Countless times in my psychotherapy and spiritual healing practices, men and women lament their romantic choices as being made according to a “checklist” of qualities (a good job, the right looks, men prefer small feet, women prefer large feet and hands).
The “men” in this study are at an age where, in order to avoid the discomfort of true vulnerability, found their romantic adventures upon a dynamic of conquest and seduction, by using social behavior to intentionally manipulate the “pictures”—the projections—men and women each understand that the other holds of them, based upon tropes of social and cultural identity.
This is a dead end; it ultimately leaves men, and women, broken and unhappy. This is the shallow psychodynamics of power; taken to the extreme, you usually wind up with in case studies: for instance, a global corporate executive who pays an S&M mistress a small fortune, just to provide a sensation of powerlessness that he cannot otherwise experience.
Meanwhile, deep within these hearts—the hearts of human beings all over the planet—are the energetic seedlings of fully self-actualized human beings, searching for a safe space of unconditional love where they can blossom through loving union, and caring exploration of each other and themselves. By learning, step-by-step, to surrender to the authenticity each offers the other, they support the journey through which they discover their own true nature, which is powerful, loving, at peace in perpetual motion and connected with the entire universe.
This study is flawed because it stops with the pictures. It is time for us to take the journey further. To paraphrase U2: it is time to see the man inside the child. This study is not flawed because of its small sample size. There are a lot more important things than the size of someone’s sample. It’s all about how they use it.
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