In 1989, Clark & Hatfield conducted an interesting experiment. This experiment was conducted in a college campus setting, where confederates asked male and female college students 3 questions:
“Would you go out with me?”
“Would you come to my apartment?”
“Would you go to bed with me?”
The results suggested that the female students were equally likely to go out on a date as male students. However, none of the female students were willing to sleep with a stranger they had just met, compared to the 75% of male students who agreed to do so. Shocker! Although there can be many reasons for this, it points to the fact that males are just less choosy with mates when compared to their female counterparts. Why is this so then? Why are women just so choosy? Well, fret not you men out there because this valentines’ day, evolution will attempt to answer this question for you!
Human mating has ancient origins. In fact, sexual desire first arose in our ancestors six million years ago. However, compared to our non-homo sapient ancestors, we now have greater ability to choose partners beyond sexual desire alone, thanks to brain evolution. One of the more recent theories of why women tend to be choosier is the parental investment theory. The theory states that while both male and female parents invest heavily in their offspring, women have significantly more biological investments. Think monthly menstrual cycle, carrying the fetus in the womb for nine months, childbirth, and nursing. Furthermore, because women are only fertile for a short window period, they can only reproduce once every three to four years and for a limited amount of time. On the other hand, males, well, they could impregnate a woman everyday if they like, and until old age! Hence, evolution has favored a more stringent selection of male partners because doing so increases the female offspring’s chances for survival. Imagine raising a child alone after giving birth to them. That would be so tough!
Women face various problems in long-term mating. This then leads to specific evolved mating preferences that make women ‘choosy’. In the past, preferences were strongly correlated with the physical strength of the male. However, as the world evolved, preferences for partners also evolved along with it. Women are less particular about physical strength alone and more so about social predictors of success – good financial prospects, social status, older age, ambition. Furthermore, because modern women don’t just care about the survival of offspring, they also choose males who demonstrate dependability, stability, commitment, and have similar values and personalities. Of course, there are individual preferences.
I find it almost magical that 2 people will mutually choose each other in a world of infinite choices. Still, everlasting love doesn’t just happen. It requires a commitment between 2 people who attempt to make it work despite all odds. I hope that displays of love don’t just happen during Valentines’ Day. After all, every day is a chance to let your significant other know and feel how much they really mean to you. Happy Valentines’ Day, everyone!
Written by Caluag Aira Mheleen Avendano
Illustrated by Lim Daphne