We’re all too familiar with rumors about young beautiful women marrying older rich men. Think Donald Trump and his wife, Melania Knauss-Trump. Then, the prettiest girls from school or from work are often known for being sexually promiscuous. Stories like these are widely used as moral tales, claiming that pretty girls are sleazy and rich boys are always keen to take advantage of that. Or is it that everybody’s after something and, if given the resources, we’re more than happy to trade looks for finances and vice-versa? In any case, these stories are told to prove a bitter point – not that easy to pin down, but it’s something along the lines of love and life being unfair to those of us who are dreadfully average and hardworking. What a drag.
Luckily, we know of someone who carefully documented the most desirable qualities in a potential partner. Spoiler alert: that thing about trophy wives is a myth, sort of. Well, let’s put it this way: we have good news and bad news. The good news is that there is no such thing as a trade between looks and money when it comes to going steady with a romantic partner. The bad news is that pretty girls marry handsome guys, and same goes for the wealth factor, i.e. well-off people choose well-off partners. Now, don’t give up just yet. There is much more to the story, and some bonus good news is that by and large, people manage to find perfectly fine (if mostly temporary) partners to make them happy.
How we pick lovers
So what kinds of traits are important in a romantic partner? Elizabeth McClintock, a sociology researcher at the University of Notre Dame got a pretty good idea about that after doing a study on about 1400 subjects in France. What she badly wanted to find out is whether the desirable traits are traded between partners. In other words, if beautiful girls use their looks in exchange for a life of material luxury offered by wealthy guys.
For McClintock this idea of looks for cash trade sounded fishy, so she went on to debunk the myth of the trophy wife. What bugged McClintock the most was this market metaphor, according to which partners trade one quality they have for another they lack in. Namely, very attractive girls who aren’t doing that well money-wise, pair with rich guys who aren’t all that good-looking. And surprise, surprise, that was only half of the story.
We look for partners with similar qualities
What happens is that, indeed, sometimes rich men marry gorgeous women. But that’s not all there is to it, in that said men are handsome themselves, while the women are more likely to be as well-off as their respective partners. Some people have it all. McClintock points out that usually financially stable men are also attractive, as they can afford investing in looks (body care products, fancy clothes, healthy food etc.). Additionally, evidence shows that rich people aren’t that keen on marrying a Cinderella, but instead are picking girls from somewhat similarly wealthy families.
Of course, McClintock herself admits that trophy wives do exist, but the truth of the matter is that this kind of couples aren’t nearly as widespread as people make them out to be. She says that the reason the notion of trophy wife is so widespread is pretty simple. When we see a gorgeous woman next to a well-off man, we rush into labeling her as trophy-wife, and don’t stop to think if the guy is equally handsome, or if the woman is also successful financially. Take, for instance, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. She’s gorgeous, he’s wealthy, but he’s also a handsome man while Angelina was equally successful when they became a solid couple.
This being said, romantic relationships are not based on trading looks for money, but on matching looks with looks, and money with money.
Most important qualities
All this being said, let’s look at some of the qualities that people are more prone to take into consideration when deciding to go steady with a romantic partner. These are the features that McClintock found most significant for the participants in her study in France. These qualities are: grooming, personality, education, and occupational status.
- 34% of her subjects completed the same years of education
- 46% scored as having equally attractive bodies
- 49% had equally attractive personalities for each other
- 54% were similarly well groomed
That means that people who are alike from these points of view are going to choose each other. And as you see, good-looking people tend to hook up among themselves, as well as well-off people, as the years of education completed can pretty much give us a clue about one’s economic status.
Another thing that these numbers tell us is that romantic compatibility is a mix of factors that goes beyond looks and cash (although these two are important). When looking for a stable partner, it’s hugely important for people to have matching personalities – meaning, broadly, that we are really attracted to people it feels great to be around.
What about sex?
We haven’t really brought that up, have we? That’s because a whole new blog post could be written about sexual compatibility, what great sex is, what makes for a great hook-up and so on. Right now though we will have to settle for a few important facts about sex. Since we went through the topic of trophy wives, and more generally, attractive girls, here are a few interesting finds that boggle the mind.
- Attractive women avoid sex during the first week of dating
Maybe it’s a French thing, we’re not sure (since McClintock’s study was based in France only), but turns out that women who were rated as most attractive, tend to take their time before hitting the sack with a new guy.
- Attractive women seek more stable relationships
That’s a tricky one, because it’s a power play. McClintock thinks that women who know they’re attractive, will use this quality to their benefit when wanting to go steady with a dude. Closely related to the above point, women will use their attractiveness and sexuality to gain more control over the course of a relationship. That’s not to say guys don’t have their own tools, but physical attractiveness is something girls’ will use for their advantage when they put their mind to it. Which leads us to the possibly surprising piece of info below.
- Attractive women have less sexual partners
You’d say that if genetics were generous with a girl, she’d be using that gift to hit the sexy times jackpot. Well, not necessarily. Maybe McClintock’s French subjects are different than hot people from other countries, but looks like the French hotties aren’t that eager to experiment with different people in the sack. Could be due to that long-term partnership crave we just mentioned or something that McClintock couldn’t figure out yet. Point is, attractive people aren’t necessarily having more fun that the less good-looking ones out there.
So, to wrap it up, we kinda look for ourselves in a partner – smarts pairs with smarts, wealth seeks wealth, looks too have to match. And when it comes to sex, it looks like, as a rule, hot chicks aren’t exactly the most promiscuous ones.