“Treat ’em mean to keep ’em keen.”
This modern British adage champions an extreme male version of playing hard to get. The worse you treat me, the more I’ll want you. But does it work?
Another cliche may explain it best:
“We get the love we think we deserve.”
If we feel undeserving and unworthy, we’re sitting ducks for those who believe the ends of getting sex and ego validation justify the means of abusive, cruel behavior.
In their new book Mate Tucker Max and Geoffrey Miller offer a cliche of their own describing what men want:
“Guys want a lady in the streets and a whore in the sheets.”
They then propose the female corollary:
“Women want a man who is effective and assertive to the world but sweet and kind to her.”
That’s not exactly a clever soundbite, but it is an enlightening claim. We know that women value kindness in men highly – you may recall it was fourth on the list of female attraction cues listed in the Mate chapter on male intelligence. Kindness is a key form of emotional intelligence, which women use to judge the suitability of men for marriage and fatherhood.
What kind of kindness do women want?
According to Max and Miller, “women are attracted to displays of real altruism – empathy, thoughtfulness, generosity and self-sacrifice – that deliver concrete benefits to people in need. ” Women love good guy heroes who lead people and effect positive change.
Max and Miller cite doctors in TV shows as a good example. It’s true – soap operas (entirely aimed at women) have frequently featured hospital settings, especially in the early days. In more recent years, we’ve lusted after McDreamy and Doug Ross, George Clooney’s character on ER.
In short, women like men who assert their will with others outside the family, in order to get more resources for the family. Barring mental health issues, a woman does not want a man who demands that she submit to his rule of law or acts unkindly towards her or their children. Women aren’t very “keen” on men with low emotional intelligence.
Furthermore, when a woman chooses a mate she knows she is rolling the genetic dice. If she has children with a thug, she births baby thugs.
Often men confuse being kind with being supplicating or weak. This is not how women view kindness. We want to see kindness that comes from a place of strength, without an ulterior motive for personal gain. As in all areas of mating, women want it all; the strong, confident, kind man.
So why do we still have assholes in the dating pool?
You may wonder: if women want kindness, how have the traits of narcissism, Machiavellianism and sociopathy remained in the gene pool?
A new article at Scientific American explores Why We Are Attracted to Deviant Personalities. A recent study of 1,000 men and women with “a variety of pathological personality traits” showed that they have more sex partners than others.
OK, but why?
Aha! Sociosexuality makes an appearance!
Other Interesting Findings
1. Obsessive-compulsive males—but not females—were successful at securing long-lasting mates.
The reason? They are more successful professionally and have much higher incomes.
2. Neurotic females were more likely to be in lasting relationships.
The most neurotic female participants had
34 percent more long-term mates
73 percent more children than average
This despite exhibiting a trait typically associated with instability, anxiousness and insecurity.
3. Assortative mating .
“There is a well-known tendency to marry partners similar in personality to oneself. Men who marry women who are at the extreme end of the neuroticism spectrum may be high in neuroticism themselves. The same could be true for other pathological personality characteristics.”
Max and Miller offer their own explanations for why not all men are kind today:
Coercing women and stealing resources works sometimes.
When women feel unsafe, they choose macho, disagreeable men.
Research has shown that macho culture thrives in dangerous, risky environments. Women put more priority on safety for themselves and their children, selecting more aggressive, higher testosterone men. In developed countries where safety is not a constant worry, egalitarian relationships are the norm.
If you live in a civilized, developed society dominant behavior will work against you in mating. If you are in the long-term mating market and would like to avoid head cases, kindness is a far better strategy than “treating ’em mean.”
So if you’re a naturally kind and emotionally intelligent person, don’t hide that in hopes of attracting more women. Instead, focus on being effective with others and kind to her. That’s the winning combination women are searching for.