#90 How Women Compete for Men with Maryanne Fisher
Today we're looking at a topic related to building your social awareness. You've probably come across situations where you're competing with other men for the same girl, and you've noticed that you have to navigate those social situations. What you may not have noticed is that women also compete for men. Better understanding how women compete for men can help you understand the situations around you and how to navigate those as well; because sometimes it may affect you also.
It's just general female psychology today and better understanding women and their dynamics, as well as your social environment. Understanding when women are competing against each other for you, or for other men, also provides you indications of when they are actually interested in you. So it's a good thing to understand from that point of view also.
Today's guest is Maryanne Fisher, PhD. She's the world's top researcher and expert on female intrasexual competition. That's basically how women compete for men. She's published over 60 peer-reviewed journal articles, and is Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology and works for the women and gender studies program in Saint Mary's University in Halifax Canada.
She also covers some other research topics. So we will also explore a few of those, including what determines women's physical attractiveness; what makes them attractive to men.
Specifically, in this episode you'll learn about:
- How Maryanne became involved in studying female intrasexual competition: how women compete for each other for men, or to retain the men they have (02:47)
- Synchronizing menstrual cycles when women are around each other (e.g., living together, working together) and its indirect course into social dominance (05:00)
- The types of things women compete for: access to good men or retaining the men they have (07:00)
- Variations in the definition of a "good man" (09:00)
- Research showing that people are more focused on genetics when they are younger (09:28)
- Important traits women use to attract the men they want: their competition tools (10:13)
- The influencers of competition (e.g. gossip) (13:00)
- The correlation between changes in facial expressions and unappealing behavior, and how that diminishes attractiveness (15:23)
- The cycles of a woman's competitiveness (16:47)
- Comparison of competitive trends based on geographical locations, and your local environment (18:05)
- Measures of quality of resources in figuring out the competition and the market (20:10)
- Is there increased competition as a result of women (generally) peaking sexually in their thirties? (22:00)
- Waist to hip ratio (WHR - compares the size of your waist to your hips) in order to identify the "ideal" measure: the attraction of men towards women based on this measure (body mass, physical attractiveness, and the Marilyn Monroe comparison) (24:20)
- Data related to men offering women sex and differences in receptivity (Clark and Hatfield study, see show notes below) (26:40)
- What competition among women means for men in terms of how a man approaches a woman he is attracted to (30:45)
- Best way to connect with Maryanne and learn more about her work (32:26)
- Recommendations for high quality advice (32:45)
- Research regarding women and sexual responses, in terms of their physiology, and the book by Daniel Bergner - What Do Women Want: Adventures in the Science of Female Desire (see show notes below) (33:11)
- Do women more frequently steal men from other women than men steal women from other men? (35:27)
- Top three recommendations for men starting to date and improving how they interact with women, and the results they achieve (37:55)
Items Mentioned in this Episode include:
- Maryanne Fisher, PhD: Maryanne's website at the Department of Psychology - Saint Mary's University.
- Success Is All in the Measures (Martin Voracek DSc, PhD, and Maryanne Fisher, PhD): Androgenousness, Curvaceousness, and Starring Frequencies in Adult Media Actresses. Maryanne noted this study when discussing waist to hip ratio (WHR), Playboy centerfolds, the Marilyn Monroe comparison, and male preferences.
- Gender Differences in Receptivity to Sexual Offers (Russell D. Clark III, PhD, Elaine Hatfield, PhD): Angel noted this study as an introduction to discussing men offering women sex and differences in receptivity.
- Professor Anne Campbell, BA (Hons), D.Pil.: Recommended by Maryanne for her research regarding sex differences in aggression, particularly female aggression.
- The Evolution of Desire (David M. Buss): Maryanne recommended David Buss for information regarding interpersonal relationships and what men and women want.
- What Do Women Want (Daniel Bergner): Adventures in the Science of Female Desire. Angel noted this book in reference to its research regarding women and sexual responses, in terms of their physiology. He recommends it for men to help them reset their views.
Full Text Transcript of the Interview
[Angel Donovan]: Maryanne, thank you so much for joining us.
[Maryanne Fisher]: Thank you.
[Angel Donovan]: So, before we get into your very interesting topic, I'd just like to get to know you a bit. How did you get into this specific topic of female...how would you describe it?
[Maryanne Fisher]: I would say it's called female intrasexual competition so, in other words, how women compete with each other for men or to retain the men they have and the way I got into it, it's actually rather humorous, at least I find it humorous. I was finishing up my master degree and I was looking at the time at how women rated other women's faces and men's faces according to where they were in their menstrual cycle. My idea was that, when women were ovulating or most fertile, they would be most picky about male faces and I thought that it would be a great study to do, did it, did hormonal analysis, did all this research and absolutely, no findings.
[Angel Donovan]: Oh, so there was no correlation?
[Maryanne Fisher]: No correlation whatsoever and so, I have to go to Italy for one reason of another and I'm there and I backpacking on Italy as a lowly graduate student with no money. I looked terrible and I'm all these women who are dressed very, very nicely and I remember standing in the Afasia Florence and there's this group of women and they were dressed so well that their purses matched their shoes and they had their act together.
I'm looking at a painting and I notice that there's whispering behind me and I turn around and one of them points at me and then, they all kind of giggle. So tongue-in-cheek I say, "Oh, my goodness. They're just worried because, I'm dressed so well. I'm competition for them. They're never going to get a date if I'm in town."
All of sudden, it was just this moment I'll never forget where I realized that in my master's research I had also been looking at how women rated other women's faces across menstrual cycle but, I had treated that as just a comparison group, where it's just noise because, my focus had been on how they looked at men. I had no theory to go for why women were looking at women's faces across menstrual cycle differently and all of sudden, it hit that women actually might be competing with each other to look more attractive when it mattered most for conception so, when they're most fertile.
It was that moment where I just realized that's what I wanted to do and it was a long time and I remember, I went back and looked at the data and it lined up perfectly with that idea. So, I did another study to replicate it and it lasted and that was my area.
[Angel Donovan]: Great, great. Since we're on the topic of menstrual activity, everyone talks about the experiments which have shown women who are living together, their menstrual cycles will align up. Is that validated? Is that proven?
[Maryanne Fisher]: Well, it is and it's not. It's one of those things where it's not just being exposed to the women that seems to matter. It's actually to do more with social dominance.
This a finding that's gone back several decades and originally, it just looked like it was going to be, "If you are in close proximity to another woman who's not on the pill or any other hormones, of course your cycles are going to synchronize," but then, they started noticing it happening in the workplace and not happening amongst roommates. That area took a bit of a detour and it looks like it's now social dominance. So whoever is rated most socially dominant maybe actually the person that all the women are synchronizing around which is interesting.
[Angel Donovan]: So, it fits perfectly in with your area.
[Maryanne Fisher]: It does, which is why I know a little bit about it. It's an area I haven't chased too much but I want to come back to one day.
[Angel Donovan]: That's interesting because then, they would all be rating each other's faces at the same time of the month. Would it not cause more competition or...?
[Maryanne Fisher]: Absolutely.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah.
[Maryanne Fisher]: It makes most sense. So, this is where it gets interesting because, so let's say you've got a set of ovulating women. Those ovulating women are looking at each other as potential competitors. Are they being more accurate because, it matters a lot of them right at that moment in their cycle versus during their menstrual cycle, they can be little bit nicer, more generous in their evaluations. I wonder if it's an issue of accuracy and that's something that one day I'd like to follow up with but, so many other questions. I haven't gotten there.
[Angel Donovan]: Sounds like it's kind of like sensitivity?
[Maryanne Fisher]: Right.
[Angel Donovan]: Like your rating system goes to either 1 to 100 or 1 to 10 and maybe normally, you just go to, "Oh, 1 to 8 is fine," and then, you look at upper-level-left where it's...
[Maryanne Fisher]: It could be better. It could be paying attention to a little bit more details. So whereas, you would look at say, another woman's nose and you go, "Oh, that's a fine nose." When you're ovulating, it could be, "Wow that nose is a little bit crooked, it's off to the left and it has a really bad oily sheen to it." So, it might be also a detailed attention system.
[Angel Donovan]: Great, great thanks. So, we're talking about women competing against each other but, what exactly what are they competing for? Why would they compete?
[Maryanne Fisher]: Well, this is where I think, maybe some of my work has differed from the work that existed before. My primary focus is how women are competing for access to good men or retaining the men that they have that they consider high quality and this is one specific area of study. We also know that women compete for things like access to resources for their children. We know that they compete for attention from husbands if their co-wives.
But, my specific area is really focused on a monogamous situation so, you've got one woman with one man and she's trying to get the best guy that she can or keep the man that she has. This introduces some variants because, you don't want a situation where all the women are going for the same guy because, a whole bunch of them are not going to end up mated then. So, you get individual variation and so on.
Essentially, what women are competing for in this context is they want a man with good genes. So, they want things like symmetry and making sure, for example, left and right side of his face is fairly consistent. They want someone who's healthy. They want someone who might exhibit signs of moderate testosterone, so a moderate brow and a moderate jawline.
At the same time though, according to evolutionary psychology, women are also interested in men who provide or are able to or could provide resources to them and any children they have. So, it's this issue of having a good man on multiple fronts. It's not just that he's attractive and hot. It's that he has resources which may be simply wealth or it could be that he's in a career where he could become wealthy. It may personality traits related to wealthiness such as ambition, industriousness.
On top of that, they might be looking for dominance so, they could be looking for height. They could be looking for a sense of humor. All sorts of other things that tie into it but essentially, this "good man" is like a unicorn, right? It's hard to pin down but that's, at least in theory, what they're going after.
[Angel Donovan]: Right. Do we know how good men are out there in proportion? Is it like 10% or 1%?
[Maryanne Fisher]: Honestly, I think it all comes to how you define it. I really don't know.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah.
[Maryanne Fisher]: Yeah.
[Angel Donovan]: Alright, that's cool. I knew that would be a hard question to answer.
[Maryanne Fisher]: Well, I think it's also, what a woman thinks is a good man at say, when she's 16 is going to be heck of a lot different when she's 20, 25, 30, when she has children and so on. So, I think that trying to put a number to it is hard for that reason but, it's also, are you focusing on the genetic material, meaning he's tall and all that but, could be actually a really terrible father or, are you focusing on someone's resources? So, my definition of a good man might not match my neighbor's definition.
[Angel Donovan]: Is there any research to show that we're more focused on the genetics when we're younger because, I certainly feel like just from talking to people and the way my friends have evolved over time, it definitely seems like that used to be where our mind was at all the time.
[Maryanne Fisher]: It'd be interesting, it's not...
[Angel Donovan]: And these days, we've got other attributes that have become a lot more important to us than they were back then.
[Maryanne Fisher]: Yeah, it's something that I believe is being studied. I believe that there's probably a lot of connection between our genetics or the way we look and our personality features. I don't think it's so much like a dichotomous black-and-white situation so that we trade off say good genes to have these good personalities. I think it's quite possible that maybe the balance of what we put the emphasis on changes but, it wouldn't be completely in contrast but, as far as I'm aware, I'm not aware of that research, no.
[Angel Donovan]: Great, great, good to know.
[Maryanne Fisher]: Mm-hmm.
[Angel Donovan]: So what are the most important traits women use to attract the men she wants or what have they been using in this competition, basically?
[Maryanne Fisher]: Ah, physical appearance is all the...
[Angel Donovan]: I guess we knew that.
[Maryanne Fisher]: Yeah, so they use a variety of things and this is where my research really has focused for a number of years. We know that when men and women are out in the dating scene, they tend to look for very similar things. So, they tend to look for someone who's kind, honest and it varies by what the kind of relationship they're looking for.
So, if it's a one-night-stand situation, women really, really place men's attractiveness as a premium. That's their number one characteristic they're going for whereas men, it's not such an important characteristic. As we go towards a long-term situation, we know that both men and women are saying that honesty, love, kindness, those sorts of things are first and foremost.
When you start working down the list though, you get to a point where physical appearance is on it and we find that men place a higher premium on physical attractiveness than women do. So you think like a top 10 list, it'd be about number four for men whereas, it would be on say, number seven for women.
If you go down on women's lists, they're looking for say, good resources or wealth and that would probably be about number five as it might not make the top 10 for men. So we see, that's the tradeoff.
But going back to why women are competing in terms of attractiveness, because men are placing such a premium on physical attractiveness, that's the vehicle which women compete, the primary way. So that could be easy, wearing pushup bras, wearing makeup.
I've interviewed a lot of women and they say things like pages and pages of data, things like, "I try to make myself as beautiful as I can. I try to make myself sexy. I wear high heels. I wear push up bras. I tolerate facial peels." All these things that they do to make themselves look attractive.
But, the other side of this and this side doesn't get talked about nearly as much is that women are very consciously also engaging in competition by trying to show their best personality characteristics. One of my favorite statements that a person ever gave was that, "I tried to act nice," meaning to me that she is not nice naturally, she's just trying to act it.
So, they engage in that sort of stuff too but, then on top of that, they also do some more nasty which is where they might put down a competitor. So, we call that competitive irrigation and that would be things like, you can directly confront someone and tell them that they're ugly or you could try to diminish her worth somehow compared to yours.
So, say you're with a best friend, another girlfriend and you see this really hot guy, you're interacting with him. You could say to her in front of him, "Oh so, how is the herpes virus going that you've got down there?" That's another way of derogating her. So, even though the primary focus is on physical attractiveness, once you have the guy's attention, you can compete in a whole bunch different ways including personality or putting down these other women.
[Angel Donovan]: So, you're looking really at the relationships because, we often think about catty women when they're gossiping. It would be like two girls gossiping about their friend. I mean, if you look at films and stuff, they're always picturing these kinds of scenarios. So, is that related to it, where they're like, "Oh, look at what she's wearing"? How does that effect competition because, the other girl is obviously, there's some influence because, the friendships and the social connections around her are being influenced by that but, how does relate to the end call which is getting the right guy?
[Maryanne Fisher]: I think there's bunch of ways. I'm going to go back to gossiping for a second because, that's an interesting topic to sort of unpack. We know that gossip is a way that people can bind with each other. So, it has a really good mechanism for forming these friendships, keeping these friendships. In the same way, you can exclude someone very easily by not letting them share your gossip.
That's thought to be related to what's called "indirect aggression" or behaving aggressively against someone without making it direct. So, you're not going to punch them in the face but, you're going let them know, "I don't like you because, I'm not sharing my gossip with you." That's also thought to be related to competition because, you wouldn't share your gossip with someone you’re competing against. So, the exclusion is really a form of competition.
So, that's our first issues. Another way though is that you can transmit information about a potential rival in that gossip and you can basically make sure she doesn't ever get a guy because, you know that it's going to spread through the network of friends you have and eventually, he's going to hear that she's with another guy or she has an STI or she's moving or she's lesbian or something else. So, that could be one motive.
Another way that it all fits together though is that it's not just simply about trying to get the guy directly. It's about trying to also manipulate and rule out your competitors. So, we've done studies where we've looked at how, for example, if a man hears two women who are talking to each other and one says something nasty about another woman, how does he view the one that said the nasty thing? What are his perceptions of her? What we find is that he thinks that she doesn't have as nice a personality, she's not as desirable but, he'd still think that she is just as attractive as he did before he knew anything about her.
[Angel Donovan]: So, it doesn't change anything in the end though?
[Maryanne Fisher]: It doesn't change a thing. So basically, we call this our, "hot is hot" study because, if a woman's attractive, it doesn't matter what the heck she does, it seems like men generally find her just as attractive.
[Angel Donovan]: I'm just thinking of sometimes, this could be just me, when I'm on a date with a girl, when her facial features kind of go a little bit negative, when she's saying something, sometimes it's not even actually saying it but, I can tell she's thinking something a bit negative by her facial features, that will often put me off a girl, that kind of behavior. I don't know if that's just me or if there's anything to that in terms of the facial feature recognition I was wondering?
[Maryanne Fisher]: I could dig a little bit deeper but, I don't know if you wanted to go there and that would be...
[Angel Donovan]: Oh no, psychoanalysis.
[Maryanne Fisher]: That's okay. According to our results, if you, let's say you thought she was an eight and then she does these facial changes, you probably, according to our data, will still find her about an eight but, now you might not think as nicely about her personality or you might not be thinking of her being such a kind person or maybe such an honest person. So, it's really that this attractiveness is sort of like a bubble that stays constant but, all the other ways you might evaluate a mate have gone down and that's what we find with competition. So, attractiveness stays the same but, as soon as she says something nasty, it's all these personalities’ attributes and how much they'd want to be with her for the long term that begins to shift.
[Angel Donovan]: Right, right. It's more likely, it's not a one-night-stand situation mostly...
[Maryanne Fisher]: Exactly.
[Angel Donovan]: ...if that's the kind of thing that's turning you off.
[Maryanne Fisher]: Right.
[Angel Donovan]: It's more like if you're considering hanging out with her more or long-term relationship, something like that. That makes sense. That makes total sense. I don't feel too psychoanalyzed there.
[Maryanne Fisher]: Excellent, I was a little bit worried about going there.
[Angel Donovan]: So, how does a woman's competitiveness, like how she acts, does it vary through her life-time cycles or different situations?
[Maryanne Fisher]: This is something we don't know that much about. There's been a bit of work that's coming out of Western Ontario and London Ontario, (there's a university there) by a [inaudible] named [inaudible] and Loren Campbell. They've written a chapter for the book I'm editing where, they were looking at women who are older and may or may not have a family and looking at the ways they compete.
There isn't a ton of data yet but, the theory behind it is that they obviously have a lot of different priorities and they have a lot more at stake than say a woman whose early 20s, just hitting the mating market and doesn't have kids, doesn't have a big mortgage and so on. I think, in theory, there has to be dramatic differences in the way women are going to be competing across say, the age range, just looking at age alone without even thinking too much about these contextual factors like factors like family and kids and so on.
I think the reason for that is simply that if you're looking at attractiveness being the primary way people compete, as women age, men tend to think they're less attractive. So, women are constantly competing to look younger. They're buying all these beauty creams that may or may not do a think, who know? They're engaging in surgeries and we have data on that to show that is definitely increasing as women are getting older.
[Angel Donovan]: So, I lived around a lot of different places in the world and different cities like, LA and New York, Bangkok, different places where they've got completely different trends and the sophistication, I think the focus of women on these different attributes. I don't know if you've compared different places, like mini-cultures.
Like you've got a city culture like LA, of course which is very specific and they have obviously, very high standards based on the things I see going on around me. The women that I see there in the street compared to some other places I've been are completely different, like San Francisco. It's a comparison I find it's like they're very extreme. People are a lot more relaxed about things. I don't know if you've looked at those different places and it is just based on what women see around them?
[Maryanne Fisher]: Ah, this is a good question. So, I would think it is. There's a thing called a "sex ratio" and there's different ways of measuring it but, that's how many men versus women are in your local environment. So in theory, at least, the more that the ratio skewed so that there's more men available and fewer competitors, the less you really have to worry about trying to find a good mate because, there's a whole surplus of men. Whereas, if it shifts the other direction, you're going to have to compete a lot harder.
And so this is actually work we're doing right now in my lab. We're looking at more the national level than say the community level but, we're looking at different countries and we're trying to figure out rates of cosmetic surgery and other procedures in relation to money those women might have access to. Our theory is that when you've got a population where, you think of the sex ratio and it's mostly even say and women did not have a lot of money, there's going to be a lot of competition for those guys who do have money because, the women don't have any of their own. So, our theory is that in those countries, lots of women are competing for access to cosmetics and surgeries, cosmetic surgeries as well as cosmetic products and as a result, we should see a spike in sales.
[Angel Donovan]: In terms of the women's makeup and all of these kind of things.
[Maryanne Fisher]: Exactly so, in countries where, say we've got roughly an equal number of men and women and women don't have a lot of their own money or own way to support themselves, competition increases for these guys and we see that directly playing out in sales figures for makeup and surgeries.
[Angel Donovan]: Now see, that's really interesting. So, there are measures of how much resources...how would you say, the equality of resources for men and women? Obviously, in the United States, it's become a lot more egalitarian, but as many countries I've lived in where it's not at all that situation like China, even Bangkok, Thailand it's definitely very skewed.
[Maryanne Fisher]: Absolutely, as far as I know, the only way you go about doing that is to look at things like literacy rates, education rates, so proxies of resource quality and that's actually something we're looking at. We have a huge amount of data. We've looked at things like the gender equality index. It shows that Norway is very, very high. Canada and the United States are more top third and then, you get down into Uganda and Afghanistan and it's very different.
That's exactly what we're trying to do. So, we're using these equality indices as well as resources as a way of trying to figure out this market and figure out competition.
[Angel Donovan]: So, how does that fit in with LA because, it's in the states?
[Maryanne Fisher]: LA is this interesting blip on the map, isn't it? LA is such a crazy place. I've spent some time there. I actually really love LA but, it's more because when I look around, it's this town of beautiful people of course and I would hate to be a single woman in that town because, the pressure to look great would be as astronomical, and even then, you're not assured of getting a good quality mate. It's just, like the bar is so raised in LA compared to other cities. It's one of those things where competition has to be extremely fierce there among single women.
[Angel Donovan]: It's not a ratio thing? Are there more women in LA or something because...?
[Maryanne Fisher]: I don't know the sexual ratios for LA. I have no idea.
[Angel Donovan]: Right.
[Maryanne Fisher]: Yeah, I know there's being some work done on that but, I haven't followed up with it.
[Angel Donovan]: Cool, just interesting stuff there.
[Maryanne Fisher]: Yeah, I suspect though, the ratio wouldn't be just men versus women. I would suspect young women in particular that are highly skewed compared to the rest of the country but interesting stuff. Yeah.
[Angel Donovan]: So, one of the things I saw, I think it was in one of your papers, was that sexual activity peaks for women in their 30s?
[Maryanne Fisher]: Mm-hmm.
[Angel Donovan]: So, I was just wondering if that increases competition around that time?
[Maryanne Fisher]: Well yeah, this is what don't know but, we documented that it does increase in the early 30s and we think this might, I don't want to be too stereotypical but, it might be sort of a last-ditch effort when there's some chance of fertilization of having a child. As far as I know, it hasn't been directly tied to competition. We would expect in some ways it would be increased but, on the other hand, again it comes back to that trade off.
So, if younger women are looking more for the really hot guy with lots money and they can get this great guy because they have their youth and attractiveness to offer then, women in their 30s might be willing to settle for either a man with different characteristics...so say better personality than genes or they might willing to settle for a shorter term relationship than they would otherwise.
So, I don't know how it plays out competition. It's something that we actually just presented on in a conference in Boston last week and I don't know how it plays out in the long run yet. Interesting questions, though.
It's the, where we went with that, just as an aside, this theory called "life history" theory. What it comes down to is that every individual has to make a decision on how they’re going to trade off the energy they have in terms of reproduction or say, sematic effort. So, how much energy do you put into your body, improving your body, if you're sick, healing your body, and so on versus the energy you would spend to try to find a mate, having sex and partnering.
It's on a spectrum. You can be someone who has a slower "life history" so, you don't take as many risks, you're looking for long-term relationships and so on. Or you could be someone who has a fast "life history" meaning that, you're really all about quantity of mates, seeking as many mates as possible, you might be a bit shady in trying to find mates, you might steal someone else's mate and so on. What our research is showing, as women get older, they actually become more competitive in general and that they tend to use a faster "life history" strategy.
So basically it's like, "Ooo, times running out. Okay, must have some access to mates . I need to get on with things right away." That would correlate really well with that study you found but, we just...theoretically, we can make that jump but, empirically we don't have the data to support it yet.
[Angel Donovan]: Great, great thanks for clarifying that.
[Maryanne Fisher]: Yeah, for sure.
[Angel Donovan]: This is something I think we've spoken about on the podcast before is the waist to hip ratio.
[Maryanne Fisher]: Right.
[Angel Donovan]: Right and it's often talked about in the press and other places but, I understand that it's not certain that this is such big deal or how do you look at it? Could you first of all explain what waist to hip ratio is and why it's supposed to be important?
[Maryanne Fisher]: Right, waist to hip ratio is just as it sounds. You take the circumference of the waist and compare it to the circumference of the hips and there's supposed to be this ideal measure of about, anywhere between about .62 and .69 somewhere in there. If the ratio is too below or too above that then, men are not supposed to find that body shape attractive.
This has gone around in circles for a long time and I think the recent data is actually quite more compelling than it used to be. But in the beginning, when waist to hip ratio came out, one of the debates was if it was Body Mass Index instead that matters, so that's weight scaled for height or if it's this waist to hip ratio.
We threw, Martin Voracek and I, University of Vienna and I, we threw a curve ball in there because, we actually proposed there might be a different index which is the "curvaceousness" index. So that's looking at things like, for example, not just the waist to hip ratio but also, taking into account upper body so, breast/waist ratio and so on or bust/waist ration.
[Angel Donovan]: I think that most men would agree that has some influence.
[Maryanne Fisher]: I would think so and we published a series of papers where we looked at things like Play Boy centerfolds and that was actually the most interesting data to me that we publish because, when waist to hip ratio research first came out, it was founded a set amount of Play Boy centerfold data, so a certain year range. What we did is we actually went back to Marilyn Monroe who in 1955 was the first centerfold all the way up to when we published the paper which was I think about 2010, 2008 somewhere in there. With this bigger data set what we found was that waist to hip ratio was not stable and the argument has been, "Well, if these indices of male preference, if this is what makes women attractive, it should be stable" and we didn't find that.
[Angel Donovan]: Right so, you think it basically changes over time? It seems like men have got a different interest over time in terms of that ratio.
[Maryanne Fisher]: Exactly, what we found is basically that as time has gone by that women have become more androgynous, meaning less of a change between the waist to hip ratio. So, they are basically more like stick figures, I guess is what we were calling them. So, it's interesting.
[Angel Donovan]: Kind of like most models today, they tend to be more androgynous than curvy these day.
[Maryanne Fisher]: Yes, exactly yeah.
[Angel Donovan]: There's another city that I saw and this is something that's quoted a lot so, that's why I wanted to talk about it. They've done these studies at Clark and Hatfield's what they had some guys approach women and offer them sex and zero percent of the women took them up on that offer but, I understand you've been looking at some data that you've found that says, "Oh, maybe that wasn't, that's not repeatable. Maybe that's not correct. Maybe some women accept these offers."
[Maryanne Fisher]: I'm so pleased you found that paper. No one talks about that paper. So, thank you. Yeah, we had this really interesting circumstance. It was just by fluke where we came across a reporter in Austria who for his story was going to go up to about 100 women. I can't remember the exact details off to my head now but, I think it was 100 in various locations around Austria and basically say the equivalent of what Clark and Hatfield had said in their experiment which is something like, "I find you really attractive," strike up a conversation and then at the end of it say, "Would you like to have sex with me?"
Based on the Clark and Hatfield findings where they found that no women would say yes to that, that's not what the reporter found at all. He actually found that, I think it was 14% of women actually did want to have sex with him and he reports that they did engage in it. Who knows? But, he also found that there was another fairly sizable percentage who said, "I can't right now but, I would love to in the future. Here's my contact information," or "I'm in a relationship right now. If that ends, I'd like your contact information" and so on.
Our point was that everyone's siting the Clark and Hatfield with zero receptivity in women as fact and is very rarely been replicated in a way that actually is meaningful. So, what we were proposing is that, basically it's time to revisit this. It could be that the study, the way it was done was very artificial because you remember, it's university campus, you might have some creepy coming up to you and saying, "Hey, you're hot. Want to have sex?" That's creepy.
[Angel Donovan]: I think it's more social...like, if you're doing that in a big city like New York, you just approach someone, they don't think anyone's going to find out so, there's a very different implication there.
[Maryanne Fisher]: Absolutely and you know, age might have also been a factor because, university campuses, you're looking at 19 to 21 year olds, 22 year olds versus in the city of Austria, you've got a wider age range. Same sort of thing, the anonymity makes a big difference, the real life consequences. I don't know about you but, I don't know if you gone to a university but, we're so used to people coming up and asking us studies on campus that I think we're jaded.
[Angel Donovan]: Oh really?
[Maryanne Fisher]: It's pretty much...I actually watched students of my colleagues trying to get me to do experiments and it's rather amusing so, I think the study is false. I don't think the findings replicable.
[Angel Donovan]: Cool, that's an interesting thing for guys to learn about because, I see it from an experiential viewpoint. Some of the people we have on the show, they recommend being very direct with women. Some guys built this advice around being very direct, very straightforward, pretty much you just said. They say like, "You know, I find you very attractive" and so on, "and I'd really love to have sex with you," like just very straight. You know that they report that it works out very well for them and they find it a lot more approachable because, they are just very direct and straightforward. Of course, it doesn't work with everyone.
I think, potentially, some of it could be related to social standards that are changing because, people are being, I feel they are being more open over time. There's more sex-positive talk out there these days like, girls should feel free to express themselves the way they want and so on. So, maybe some of the social stigma is kind of lifting and the results will actually change in those studies over time too.
[Maryanne Fisher]: It's quite possible. It's funny that you mentioned that because, we did the flip study of the pick-up lines. So traditionally pick-up lines, the studies have focused on the men's use of pick-up lines...
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah.
[Maryanne Fisher]: ...and looking at whether they're direct versus, I'd say, humorous or whether they're innocuous like, "So, what are you drinking?" that sort of thing. The studies show that the direct pick-up lines tend to have the highest effectiveness. That would be, "Hi, I think you're beautiful. Do you want a drink?"
We did the exact same types of studies but, we did it with women's effectiveness pick-up lines. So when women come up to men and again, we found that when women are direct, they're more effective, they're rated to be more effective. So, I definitely think you're right. The direct approach is probably the best approach for the most part and it could be that our climate has changed to the point that we're ready for it.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. So, I think we've done the round-about on here. Is there any bit of your research that's interesting to this competition aspect that we haven't discussed? What do you think this means for guys in terms of...like say I'm interested in a girl? She's in a group of girls or anything, does this mean anything to me in terms of my approach to her? If I'm interested in one particular girl, does it affect me in anyway?
[Maryanne Fisher]: Yeah, that's an interesting take on it. I so focus on women and competition among women that I don't think about men often in the picture but, I think part of it is realizing that men's behavior are a fraction of what's going on. So, if men see that women are engaging in interactions and don't understand exactly the motives of it, it could just be that the women are trying to size each other up, essentially. I'm realizing that that's pretty much where it ends.
[Angel Donovan]: I think that's helpful because, sometimes some girls will start some drama between each other and back in the day I was maybe like, "What? Why did that happen?" You know but, when you come to this competition going on, you can understand that, "Oh, the other girl liked me and this one was upset because I was..." It's these kinds of things which maybe would go over your head before but, if you start thinking about it, you'd pick up on the subtle signs of what's going one.
[Maryanne Fisher]: Or, if you're on a date and you're with a context of friends or group date and your date goes to the washroom with another woman and she's in a decent and they come back and she's a bit grouchy, it could be nothing to do with you. It could be that something happened in the washroom where they engaged in some sort of competition or something like that. It's amazing how much of this is nonverbal. Most of it's nonverbal so...
[Angel Donovan]: So, I guess the point would be to make sure you're not getting influenced by these dynamics. I mean, if you like a girl, she comes back from the washroom and she seems pissed off or whatever then, "Oh, maybe that's because, there's some sort of competition going on there and it's affected her but, she'll be okay in a minute. So, I shouldn't think that she's less attractive or whatever."
[Maryanne Fisher]: Exactly but, I would say, be robust in your views.
[Angel Donovan]: Excellent, excellent. So, what are the best ways for people to connect with you and learn about your work?
[Maryanne Fisher]: Ah, probably the best way is to check me out on my website. That would be www.MaryanneeFisher.com and go from there.
[Angel Donovan]: Excellent, excellent. Is there anyone beside yourself that you would recommend because, you respect their advice, you think it's interesting?
[Maryanne Fisher]: Oh for sure. It's all about what angle of interest you have. So, if you're interested in say younger women it would be Ann Campbell in the UK. If you're interested in interpersonal relationships and sort of what men and women want in terms of mate preferences, a good place to start would be David Buss's work. You pretty much can find evolutionary psychology all over the web now...
[Angel Donovan]: Right, right.
[Maryanne Fisher]: So...
[Angel Donovan]: I've been reading Daniel Bergner's book, What Women Want and it talks about the research done in terms of women's sexual responses in terms of their physiology which is different to the usual tools by evolutionary psychology. So, they're contradicting some things in terms of the evolutionary psychology template. I'm only half-way through the book so, I don't know. I can't talk about it.
[Maryanne Fisher]: That's a book I haven't read yet...
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah.
[Maryanne Fisher]: ...but what I can say is one of my PhD students is looking at sexual fluidity in women. So that's how...women that would rate themselves as mostly being straight or heterosexual, how they might follow the Katy Perry song, "I Kissed a Girl and I Liked It" type idea. She's been digging up a lot of research on the physiology of sexual response in women and it's interesting because, it does contradict evolutionary psychology quite a bit and I have to say, I know the work that was done on the physiology. I know the researchers involved. It's good work and I think that's one of the problems with some of the evolutionary psychology work that's being done is it's not relying on biology, quite often.
[Angel Donovan]: Right, yeah.
[Maryanne Fisher]: So, we're not using hormonal essays and we're not using different measures of blood flow as much as we should and that's definitely an issue.
[Angel Donovan]: Is that something that's going to be started with evolutionary psychology do you think or is it...?
[Maryanne Fisher]: There's a definite push now. It's very hard to publish a hormonal study without doing actual measures of hormone levels.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah.
[Maryanne Fisher]: It's no longer can you just get women a calendar and ask them where they are in their cycle. You actually have to prove it now. So, I think there's a definite movement towards that but, we still have a long ways to go. I think, it's going to be slow.
[Angel Donovan]: Basically, the top lines of the book are that the women are more sexual than we thought in terms of their responsiveness to situations and to other women and other stuff and the assumption is that now that they are more sexual than men. So, that's obviously something that hasn't been said.
That's the main interesting point of the book so, I can recommend it to people just to reset their views. There's still a lot of women who are little princesses and such going on and I think it helps guys who are less experienced to kind of reset their ideas by getting shocked. "Oh look, there are all these studies saying some stuff that's pretty different there."
So actually, there's a couple of other data points I just saw that I'd found is like, something about 47% of men are being poached compared to 32% of women from their lovers. So basically, women are stealing men more often than men are stealing women which also, I think goes against the stereotypes, maybe?
[Maryanne Fisher]: It might but, it does make sense because, if you're a woman and you want to have proof that a guy is a decent mate, what better proof is there if he's in a relationship. It's also the wedding-ring effect which is men who wear wedding rings are often rated basically as better mates or better prospects of being mate than guys without a wedding ring. It's because he's a proven man, right? I think that does somewhat work with evolutionary psychology but, it's all in how you interpret it, I guess.
[Angel Donovan]: Great, great. The last was non-paternity, they also called it "cuckcalled", I never really...yeah, "cuckcalled", is that how you pronounce it?
[Maryanne Fisher]: Cuckoldry, yep.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah cuckoldry, so basically where you're in a relationship with a girl or you're married and you have a child and it ends up not being yours and you look after that child and you raise it as your own but, you never know. So, I saw one of the studies said that it was possibly on the decline...?
[Maryanne Fisher]: Yeah.
[Angel Donovan]: ...over time?
[Maryanne Fisher]: That I don't know.
[Angel Donovan]: Okay.
[Maryanne Fisher]: What I can say is that the rates of paternity certainty or cuckoldry, we don't actually know what the rates are. We published a paper where we rounded up the literature to find the estimated rates and depending on now you measure it, it could be anywhere in the neighborhood of about 2% all the way up to 30% which is astronomical when you think about it. We tried everything to track down that 30% paper and we could find it.
[Angel Donovan]: So, that was a review paper you did?
[Maryanne Fisher]: Yes, it was a review paper exactly and then, we actually did do...we asked people basically how much they think it was in their population. It was an Austrian sample again but, it looks to be somewhere between 2% and 10%. I'd say it's more reliable but, what I think is interesting is the social implications of it. I don't know whether it's declining or now but, we do know that hospitals in Britain and Canada for example, stopped giving out the blood type of children because, it turned out that that was revealing cuckoldry, right?
[Angel Donovan]: Causing drama.
[Maryanne Fisher]: Exactly, right at a very bad time.
[Angel Donovan]: There's an ethical questions there I guess. I don't know.
[Maryanne Fisher]: Absolutely.
[Angel Donovan]: Especially since DNA testing is becoming more and more accessible and eventually, maybe it will just be done automatically because, when a baby is born if you take its DNA, potentially you could help it avoid certain diseases and stuff. So, I guess eventually that's going to be done and then, this might all come up as well which would be interesting.
[Maryanne Fisher]: It's going to be interesting.
[Angel Donovan]: Then, you'll have the real data.
[Maryanne Fisher]: Exactly. Yeah, it's going to be very interesting to see how it unfolds.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, an interesting future. So, last question here, we ask everyone this. What would be your top three recommendations to guys who are starting from scratch and just want to improve how they attract women and the results the get with women and success and so on?
[Maryanne Fisher]: Wow okay, top three recommendations to guys who are just going out in the dating world for the first time?
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, so they're complete newbies. They haven't gotten experience.
[Maryanne Fisher]: One of my very first recommendations is just to be genuine and I think, a lot of data supports that. There's one thing about wanting to be a player or to manipulate women for short term and that sort of thing. I don't think in the long run, it's worth the costs. I think being authentic and being genuine is very, very important especially, as you're moving from say a short-term mating situation to wanting someone that's more permanent. You don't want to be caught in a lie. So, I think that's one of my first things.
One of my second things would be basically trying to smell good at all time. Smell good. It sounds really odd but, it's actually one of the things that women are most likely to complain about in a mate and be put off by.
[Angel Donovan]: Is that hygiene or perfume or aftershave?
[Maryanne Fisher]: It would be basically hygiene so, smelling like body odor, having bad breathe, that sort of thing. It's also going too far the other side which is wearing really strong colognes and basically not smelling clean. Clean scent seems to be in particular what women are looking for and they actually comment on it when you ask them, "What do you like about this guy?" They'll say, "Smells good," and we say, "What do you mean by 'smells good'?" "He smells clean." So, that would probably be my number two because, it takes down a very attractive right away and it can definitely, help a lot of men out.
[Angel Donovan]: Oh, I love that tip. That's great.
[Maryanne Fisher]: That one's an easy one to deal with. Probably the third one is, just to bear in mind, it's sort of like the movie Beautiful Mind where all these guys are interested in the same beautiful woman at the beginning and then, they started doing the math on it. It's called "match equilibrium" and they realized that if they all went for the same beautiful woman, that they're giving up other mating opportunities and be aware that you may not all want to compete for the same beautiful woman. It might be worthwhile to figure out what your interests are, who you are and basically not compete like everyone else does.
[Angel Donovan]: Right.
[Maryanne Fisher]: So, not go for the same goal, if you will and that way, you're minimizing competition, you maybe also be finding someone that is really a better suit for your personality.
[Angel Donovan]: Right. I think that's a really important one because, of immediatization and I've actually come across this. We've done coaching and stuff in the past where what they were looking for in women, what they described to us is basically, the girls in the magazines and say, like in England for example, they have the Sun paper and they have [inaudible] and I remember some of the guys in England we trained. They were like, "That's the kind of girl I want," but I felt like, "It's just because you've been reading that paper for a while." Or like in the guys who are watching porn all the time, it's the same kind of deal. So, I think what you say is really important because, I think some of these guys haven't really thought about it.
[Maryanne Fisher]: Yes.
[Angel Donovan]: They're just kind of going for that thing that's being pushed into their mind since they were 10 years old or whatever.
[Maryanne Fisher]: Exactly.
[Angel Donovan]: And as you say, it can have a big competitive influence because, that's what everyone else is being programmed with as well.
[Maryanne Fisher]: Perfect. Yeah, that's exactly it.
[Angel Donovan]: Well, Maryanne, thank you so much for your time today. I really enjoyed the chat.
[Maryanne Fisher]: Thank you. I enjoyed it as well.
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DSR Podcast is a weekly podcast where Angel Donovan seeks out and interviews the best experts he can find from bestselling authors, to the most experienced people with extreme dating lifestyles. The interviews were created by Angel Donovan to help you improve yourself as men - by mastering dating, sex and relationships skills and get the dating life you aspire to.
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