Wednesday, March 30, 2011

It's a Small, Hypergamous World

It's been less than two years since I was first introduced to the concept of female hypergamy - the desire for a woman to be with a mate of the highest possible status. This desire will drive women to "trade up" when given the opportunity. For that reason, it profits men to maintain as high a level of status as possible. Though prestige and affluence clearly play a role, women often prioritize a man's level of social dominance as the most telling predictor of mate fitness.

For obvious reasons, this "instinct" often malfunctions in contemporary terms. The thug who may provide strong physical genes that will enable your offspring to survive infancy is also an unpleasant individual, lacking partnership skills. Yet the thug, and the many variations on that "bad boy," will often attract more women than stable, attractive, productive men without the dangerous edge.

The Sexual Revolution, ushered in by the Pill and the Women's Movement, unleashed female sexuality in an unprecedented way. The result has been a hypergamous free-for-all, with women demanding increasingly long checklists of features from men as qualifications for dating. No one wants to "settle," so we've created a sociosexual environment where a brilliant and attractive professional may go without a date if he isn't the male that all other males turn to for guidance on what's cool. Never mind that he's doing brilliant research - it will count for less than the ability to walk off a rugby field battered and bloody but still smiling.

I believe that this sorry state of affairs is worst in the U.S., since feminism is more entrenched here than anywhere else, and most contemporary cultural trends (including hookup culture), originate here. This weekend, though, I encountered thought-provoking examples demonstrating that hypergamy is thriving around the world.

My husband and I watched the film Leaving (Partir) starring Kristin Scott Thomas, who seems to have made something of a career of acting bilingually in French films. She plays a wife and mother living a gracious and comfortable life. Her husband, a successful doctor, is guilty of having fallen into the routine of taking her for granted, but so has she - they're a typical affluent couple approaching middle age, and their marriage is boring.

She throws it all away for an ex-con who roams from short-term gig to gig, and she destroys numerous lives in the process, including her own. My husband was surprised (and reassured) by the strength of my reaction to the total selfishness of Scott Thomas' character. My impression was that the female director sympathized with her more than I did. The film received critical praise, and I recommend it highly. No effort required - we streamed it from Netflix.

I then spent much of Sunday with my nose buried in a book I simply can't put down: To the End of the Land, by David Grossman. From Amazon:


To the End of the Land is a book of mourning for those not dead, a mother's lament for life during a wartime that has no end in sight. At the same time, it's joyously and almost painfully alive, full to the point of rupture with the emotions and the endless quotidian details of a few deeply imagined lives.

Ora, the Israeli mother in Grossman's story, is surrounded by men: Ilan and Avram, friends and lovers who form with her a love triangle whose intimacies and alliances fit no familiar shape, and their sons Adam and Ofer, one for each father, from whom Ora feels her separation like a wound.

When Ofer, freshly released from his army service, volunteers for an action in the West Bank instead of going on a planned hike with his mother in the north of Israel, she goes instead with Avram, who fathered Ofer but has never met him and has lived in near-seclusion since being tortured as a prisoner in the Yom Kippur war three decades before. As they walk and carefully reveal themselves to each other again, Grossman builds an overwhelming portrait of, as one character says, the "thousands of moments and hours and days" that make "one person in the world," and of the power of war to destroy such a person, even--or especially--when they survive its cruel demands.


Grossman, whose own son was killed during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict, writes directly from the heart in this scorching antiwar novel.

Ora, Ilan and Avram meet in a hospital in 1967 when all three are recovering from serious hepatitis, and forge a lifelong bond. Ilan is emotionally distant, but intimidating, and on one occasion he kisses Ora in a feverish state that makes her weak in the knees. In contrast, Avram is smart and funny and incredibly present emotionally. Here is the text of a telegram he later sent Ora, after they'd been released:

"It was not love at first sight because I loved you long before that stop before I met you stop I love you backwards too stop even before I existed stop because I only became me when I met you stop."

I guess you know who got the girl.

Avram, a prolific writer, continues to share his thoughts in letters to Ora, who pulls back after receiving his telegram. He shows amazing insight, and no resentment whatsoever, in this excerpt:

"Last night I was at a jazz show with Ilan (who keeps trying to peek over my arm at what I'm writing, even though he continues to insist that he's not interested in you!). Anyway...I was able to pull together some of the opinions I've been gathering about girls lately, and I came up with some well-founded and interesting theories about them, and mainly about you.

I believe that, ultimately, you will not tie your fate with mine but with some other dude, Ilan or someone of his ilk, the point is, a guy who will definitely not tickle your navel with giggles like I do, and won't drive your mind wild with sharp observations like I do, and make every organ of your body tremble with pleasure like I do. But the thing is, he'll be hunkier, much hunkier, and calmer and more solid, and mainly more understandable to you than I am. Yes: that in the end you'll mate for life with some gorgeous, grave-looking, silver-haired alpha male.


...For I suspect, my duplicitous Ora, that deep in the depths of your light-filled and beautiful soul (which, I do not need to tell you, I love very much) lies a minuscule recess (like the ones in some corner stores, where they keep the old preserves?) that is, forgive me, slightly narrow-minded in matters of love. Of true love, I mean.

..I can only eat my heart out over the fact that it didn't happen to you with me, that revelation of love (because love is a revelation!!), because I was so close (fuckit, hissed the defeated Avram as he poured out his wrath), and that's also something I feel quite a lot in my life, the almost-happened, and I only hope it won't be the guiding principle of my life, the main tenet of all the guiding principles of my life."

"Yours, Dispirited by Torments."


I'm honestly not sure what to make of these inter-cultural confirmations of unchecked hypergamy. Game is a response that turns Avrams into Ilans. But it turns out, of course, that Ilan wasn't such a great catch - he remained remote, and selfish as well.

Forgive the cliche, but all I can think of is Fitzgerald's immortal closing sentence:

"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

22 comments:

JCclimber said...

And this part of the difference between men and women. I'd rather read all the pages of the financial reports sent to me as a stockholder than read a book like that.

I find detailed discussion of other's relationships to be boring. Mostly because I never learn anything new from them, they seem to duplicate patterns set down millenia ago.

Some details about friends' relationships is okay, it can help deepen the friendship. But mostly I (and all my male friends), prefer to build new experiences together to deepen the friendships rather than navel-gazing focus on past events.

By The Sword said...

Ilan should have written that letter to Ora but used a different girl's name. Wouldn't that have been nice?

Giraffe said...

How to cure hypergamy:

Bring back stoning for committing adultery.

Lurky the Lurker said...

Not a cure, but perhaps a deterrent. Fully restoring the penalty would probably eliminate a fair number of "alphas", though.

The LP 999/Linda said...

Cures to hypergamy. Quite an overwhelming list to build.

The emotional porn and predictive programming women are exposed to creates huge problems for their psyches.

The LP 999/Linda said...

Or what they choose to fill their heads and hearts with. Training your mind is training your heart is training your desires...

ox said...

Which brings us to another very significant point. Game is very relativistic and decisions are subject to context. Including the context of our ideological and sociological predilections. We can consciously choose the context in which we will let the impulses of game play out also. Game permeates advertising to such an extensive degree it is pathetic. Fundamental impulses can be trained to be expressed in various ways.

SarahsDaughter said...

"The emotional porn...what they choose to fill their heads and hearts with."

It's disturbing, the females that ask for marriage advice that just can't give up "their shows." It's one of the first questions I ask, "what are you putting into your head?" I'll repeat it one more time, direct them to helpful blogs/websites but then I'm out. My response to their third request for advice is, "you've continually shown that you are not capable of making tough decisions and that's what makes marriage work, I can not help you."
A woman truly looking to change her bad marriage needs to almost enter solitary and purge all t.v., friends, and often times family, for a time.

SarahsDaughter said...

Full disclosure, my husband and I are about to storm the gates at Netflix, jonesing for our new obsession..."Dexter" (long wait). Not sure that's emotional porn but it is porn of some sort.

Anonymous said...

Shall we also stone you men for cheating on the ladies? Just wondering if you believe in equal punishment for the crime.

As a women, I find Game patently offensive. Since I don't know if a man is an actual "alpha" (asshole) or attempting to be an "alpha" (asshole) I just walk away. I don't deal with disrespect. If that makes you think I think I'm too good for everyone I really don't care. I AM TOO GOOD to be used, to be someone's "lay", to be a notch in someone's bedpost, or too deal with a man who doesn't call when he says he will. I dealt with a man who had read about game and was trying it out on me. I dumped his ass.

The LP 999/Linda said...

Nah, the opposite of Game is in the culture. Beta male-dom is in the media (books, movies, emo stuff) more so than reality?

Susan Walsh said...

@Anonymous
Your response to Game is not unusual, but it is shortsighted. Game doesn't mean "acting like an asshole." Men learning Game are simply trying to develop their skill set in interacting with women, in order to give women what they want.

Game is amoral, as Vox said on VP yesterday. It is simply knowledge - in this case knowledge of the female psyche, specifically with regard to sexual attraction. It is the person who wields the knowledge who may use it for good or ill, just like any other insight into psychology.

A man who disrespects you or is unreliable should be dumped, but because he has poor character, not because he understands women. If the man who you'd been seeing had Gamed you successfully, you would have dragged him to bed instead of dumping him. Win win.

Anonymous said...

" Anonymous said...
I AM TOO GOOD...
March 31, 2011 3:25 AM"



Honey, you don't deserve anything, none of us do. Everything you are, everything you "own", was given to you by the Lord of hosts, Creator of Heaven and Earth. It's all a gift. The sooner you get thankful the better off you will be.

And no, you are not too good. I got one question for you. Have you ever sinned? No hemming and hawwing, just answer the question. Don't lie either, because everyone here knows the answer because it's the same answer for all of us.

In the eyes of God there is no difference between you and a whore. You've both sinned. The only difference in our eyes is the whore is honest about what she does. You on the other hand are deluded.

As far as your complaints about male cheating, I think you need to get your definitions straight. Is the man committing adultery? Then he deserves death and so does the married woman he committed it with. How's that for equal?

But see, the standard is much higher than merely the commission of the act, the standard starts with the intent of the heart. What do you think about, what do you plan? Is it sin? You better repent.

Last thing, you seem to have very little idea what game is, nor do you seem able to discern the intent behind its use. Because it is the intent that matters, not the tool.

Athor Pel

Vox said...

As a women, I find Game patently offensive. Since I don't know if a man is an actual "alpha" (asshole) or attempting to be an "alpha" (asshole) I just walk away.

That's some first-rate snowflaking there, well done! Few women who are not virgins actually walk away from alphas interested in them, they merely claim in public that they do.

Giraffe said...

Shall we also stone you men for cheating on the ladies? Just wondering if you believe in equal punishment for the crime.

Sure, whatever.

As a women, blah blah blah I AM TOO GOOD blah blah blah.

That's what they all say.

If you truly mean it, and act on it, congratulations, you've mastered your hypergamy. Which is good, because only a gamma wants anything to do with you anyway.

ridip said...

I dealt with a man who had read about game and was trying it out on me. I dumped his ass.

And he breathed a sigh of relief.

Joseph Dantes said...

Citing continued snowflaking across the Western hemisphere, forecasters predicted vajizzard-like conditions with bitch shields at minus 30 below.

Residents in affected areas are advised to mainline anti-freeze daily, and to equip their tires with heavy chains when traversing frozen broads.

Rescue efforts are ongoing for the thousands of unborn still trapped in howling wombwastes.

Susan Walsh said...

@Joseph Dantes
Thank you, that was my first real belly laugh of the day.

The LP 999/Linda said...

A small % of male critics have game by being anti-game.

Women who share Gamey-disdainy are not thinking the issue through well enough. Keeping reading, keep learning.

M. Simon said...

What you want to be is a stable, attractive, productive man with a dangerous edge.

Or as close to that as you can manage.

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