On Being Self-Aware

Diane Rehm yesterday, interviewing an expensive matchmaker:

REHM: And, Janis, you said that your clients are men. So you don’t take women who may have lots of money looking for a male?
SPINDEL: No, thank you.
REHM: Tell me why.
SPINDEL: Been there, done that.
REHM: Well, tell me why.
SPINDEL: To be honest with you, when I first started in business I had lots and lots and lots of fabulous women clients, really great women. And they seem to be needy and very high maintenance and you can never satisfy them.
REHM: Interesting.
SPINDEL: We would introduce them to amazing men. They’re not available, which is one of the biggest problems that I hear about women. See, I own the minds of men. I know what they want and I know what women do wrong. I could literally do this in my sleep. Men are very simple. You deliver exactly what they’re asking for and you leave the rest up to chemistry and the universe.

I have to admit this is somewhat at odds with my suggesting:

We should expect men to be more self-aware, transparent, and simple regarding their feelings about short-term sexual attractions. … In contrast, women should be more more self-aware, transparent, and simple regarding their feelings about long-term pair-bonding.

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  • Matt

    Your suggestion might be true on average, however wealthy women are a special case. Wealthy women feel like they should have improved value in the sexual market place, like wealthy men quite obviously do. However, this isn’t the case. A women’s success financial or otherwise isn’t that important to men. The typical NY Times wedding announcement is an investment banker marrying a kindergarden teacher. There is a reason for that.

    Also women, especially successful women want there partners to be successful. We men don’t care as a long as the women is a drain on our finances, above some minimum level of success, men don’t care. Thus a successful women has to contend with a broader range of competition for the same successful men. Plus a less sucessful women will be more attracted to a more successful man, so not only is there more competition for them, but that competition is more into the men then they are.

    • Douglas Knight

      Yes, these women are probably an exception; indeed, the matchmaker doesn’t have trouble with the women in the matches she does make. But the story presents a second problem to RH’s theory: the matchmaker finds her male clients easy to understand. In particular, she doesn’t seem to think that they want different things short-term or long-term.

  • Adrian Ratnapala

    Given the post’s title, I was surprised that “REHM” was a human being. Except for the kickoff sentence, it sounded remarkably like one of the ELIZA computer programs you hear about, which pretend to be a psychoanalyst.

  • http://www.gwern.net gwern

    > I had lots and lots and lots of fabulous women clients, really great women. And they seem to be needy and very high maintenance and you can never satisfy them.

    Selection effect? If they’re really so fabulous, then it should be pretty trivial for them to get hitched; so what sort of woman would actually seek out a match-maker?

    • John Maxwell

      Should we expect different selection effects for male and female clients?


    Women don’t know what they want. They evolved in a society where they were chattel so they respond to odd queues and chemistry, rather than anything they know of before hand.
    Also, women will completely change themselves for their husband. This all suggests that preferences do not matter as much in a woman’s choice of a mate as does the “quality” of the male measured on a socioeconomic and biological scale.

  • http://grognor.blogspot.com/ Grognor

    So women are just opaque in general? One wonders what kind of selection pressure could have created this effect.

    • http://theviewfromhell.blogspot.com Sister Y

      Mental opacity seems like a generally useful tool in effectuating the mixed mating strategy human females are seen to pursue from my understanding of evol psych (investment from a monogamous partner plus outside fertilization as desired).

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com Stephen R Diamond

        But that doesn’t distinguish males from females.

    • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com Stephen R Diamond

      Evolutionary psychologists endeavor to explain every psychological trait as an adaptation, but that isn’t to say they’re likely to succeed. Evolutionary theory doesn’t require it or even make it plausible.

      • http://theviewfromhell.blogspot.com Sister Y

        Next you’re gonna tell me human males have disproportionately large penises compared to every other great ape just because that’s the way it is, and we’ll never know why. That’s no fun!

        Do you have a proposal for which traits we get to play with as potential adaptations and which traits we don’t?

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com Stephen R Diamond

        Do you have a proposal for which traits we get to play with as potential adaptations and which traits we don’t?

        My point goes more to the credence we place in these historical reconstructions. Perhaps the most important preliminary consideration is how plausible is it that the mechanism responsible for the trait is modular.

        The notion that women are particularly inscrutable isn’t new. It doesn’t seem be limited to mating contexts.

  • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com Stephen R Diamond

    Women are harder to understand, but that’s because their minds really are more complicated.

    • Jayson Virissimo

      On what level of abstraction are they more “complicated”?

      • richard silliker

        Metabolic. However, complicated should read complex.

      • Roy B

        “Sperm are cheap, eggs are expensive” tells you all you need to know about why female mate selection criteria is more complicated than that of males.

      • Miley Cyrax

        “Sperm are cheap, eggs are expensive”

        I like this phrase. It alone explains more about human life than tomes of literature from “cultural studies.”

  • Miley Cyrax

    “See, I own the minds of men. I know what they want and I know what women do wrong. I could literally do this in my sleep. Men are very simple.”

    God, imagine if a man said that about women. The shrieks of “sexist,” “misogynist,” and “not all women are like that!” would last for weeks.

    • Drewfus

      Probably, although to be fair i think she might have meant that what men want re women is simple, rather than that men are simple, per se.

      More importantly – social status historically includes who can say what to whom. Going out on a limb, if women can say things about men, that men cannot say about women, then which gender has the higher status, ceteris paribus? Given that women do not have higher or even equal status to men in most modern societies (broadly defined), then perhaps this bit of culture points to something much more ancient – namely, prehistoric women had higher status than men! By prehistoric, i mean going right back to early hominids.

      Simply put, the hypocritical standards regarding what men and women can say to each other demand an explanation. Another example; men are often seen as more expendable than women, especially in war. Why, because prehistorically, women had higher status than men. Very unusual for any mammal, but homo sapiens are pretty weird in many respects.

      Another point is that all those high maintenance women who cannot be statisfied, probably is because in earlier times their high status would have resulted in rewards other than just high status men, such as power and privilege. That is not so available today so much, so these high status women are perpetually frustrated.

      • Miley Cyrax

        They’re not satisfied because their professional accomplishments aren’t aiding their mate-finding prospects, despite a “you-go-girl” culture that tells them that men want accomplished, strong-minded women and certainly not hot, young T&A.

        All the while they have to watch their male peers pursue less accomplished, but more physically attractive women, and watch less accomplished, but more physically attractive women pick off males from their prospect pool of mates.

  • MPS

    I think this simply reflects the fact that we have not yet “evolved” as a society to deal with successful women.

    Traditionally, men have the power and control the resources. In this context, women gain survival advantage largely through men, so women should value social status among men, more than physical attributes. Meanwhile men don’t rely on women for survival advantage so they can select based on physical attributes. And so traditionally, men focus energies on gaining status, and women are attracted to high-status men, and women focus their energies on being physically attractive, and men are attracted to beautiful women.

    The arrangement isn’t very good for women, because status-seeking is more personally empowering than beauty-seeking. So movement toward gender equality means women will attempt to compete and attract partners on the same terms as men. Also, status and career have increasingly become conflated with life purpose and personal value, and of course women want to participate in that.

    But, socially we’re still stuck in the traditional values, whereby women seek high-status men. For successful women, they tend to want at least equally successful men. It’s very hard to break these tendencies; just like it’s very hard for men to see past poor physical attributes and recognize other valuable offerings of some woman. Very successful men are rare; you think very successful women are rare but they are growing in number, all the while successful men are happy to select unsuccessful women as partners, so pickings are slim for successful women.

    I think these issues are at the root of the tension of finding partners for successful women.

    • Miley Cyrax

      “The arrangement isn’t very good for women, because status-seeking is more personally empowering than beauty-seeking.”

      Sure, perhaps if you’re an ugly woman. Let’s not project male values onto females.

      • MPS

        It’s more personally empowering because the general experience of being human is you have greater control over your ability to succeed in career than you have over your physical appearance. (As an extreme analogy, it would be more personally empowering to be judged on your vocabulary, than on your height.) At least, that’s the assertion I was making.

      • Scott H.

        Is it really more empowering when you are judged relative to your peers? I mean top 1% is top 1%.

      • Miley Cyrax

        Scott H.,

        Empowering for whom? Women or men?

        Sure, women have to compete against hot girls in the media as well as pornography. But women are hypergamous in the first place, so men are always effectively directly competing against the top men. Women and men are both discouraged and disempowered by the winner-take-all nature of the mating market, the former more caused by technology (porn and media) and the latter female instinct.

    • Roy B

      Traditionally, men have the power and control the resources.

      And, traditionally, men are also at the bottom of society – cannon fodder, imprisoned, and mateless. Women look at the CEOs and Presidents and think “men run everything” without looking at prisons, the mentally ill, homeless, and debased bottom of society.

      For successful women, they tend to want at least equally successful men. It’s very hard to break these tendencies; just like it’s very hard for men to see past poor physical attributes and recognize other valuable offerings of some woman.

      A smart person once said “Open-mindedness is not the air traffic controller for the genitals”.

  • Miley Cyrax

    I love how no one cares about the mating prospects of low status men but treat high socioeconomic women being unable to find husbands like some huge problem. And the implied solution, naturally, is to try and shame guys into “manning up,” eschewing the pleasures of female physical attractiveness and instead to try and get turned on by female prowess in the boardroom.

    • http://theviewfromhell.blogspot.com Sister Y

      I’m sympathetic to the plight of low-status men and agree it gets short shrift in the popular mind compared to that of women, but it seems marriage prospects are the least of their worries – it’s low-status women who have trouble finding a marriage partner, as I understand it. Low-status men not marrying is probably more about not having a job or being in prison than it is about failure of the mating market. Do low-status men even want to get married, keeping other social issues constant?

  • xxd

    From an evolutionary perspective the answer is obvious: if women seek “status” and thus want high status men because they consider themselves to be high status then they will need to take stock of beauty also. That means in order to get the high status men they’re going to need to turn a blind eye to the high status men getting some hot young T&A on the side. Men after all don’t expect to find only high status women, they are OK with low status but pretty. It’s the high status women that think they are the princesses. I wonder why that is. You would logically expec the high status woman if she is competing ceterus paribus with the men to be looking for a hot young male who is not necessarilly high status. But they don’t. As soon as they get a university education, a women thinks she can get a high status man regardless of how she looks. Why is that?

    • Miley Cyrax

      It’s due to the influence of a PC feministic society that refuses to acknowledge the realities of human sexuality and male/female differences. See my reply to Drewfus above.

  • fwiffo

    “it’s obviously evolution!” “no, it’s obviously a cultural adaption!” don’t you guys think that maybe you should be more careful with using ev.psych. if it’s so easy for a bunch of people to say totally opposite things?

  • Anonymous

    I could literally do this in my sleep.

    Literally? Oh wow, lol.

    • lemmy caution

      Let me help you with your English:


      2. Used to acknowledge that something is not literally true but is used for emphasis or to express strong feeling.”

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen R. Diamond

        Which is to say, it’s hyperbole. But since no hyperbole is called for in that context, “oh wow, lol” fits.

  • xxd

    Something else that may have been missed: obviously as most men want to marry some hot babe the naive response might be that a hot babe with degree and high income potential is a better choice.

    A little thought, however, makes you come to the conclusion that hot *intelligent* babe will cut your stones off and feed them to you and then get her pet gorilla to pound you to mush in a divorce fight.

  • http://cryptome.org Peter

    The standard fare of a married women’s “What’s mine is mine, what yours is mine” attitude is pretty much the heart of this. As a man this attitude doesn’t really bother you with a low income partner (you both work your ass off and have little to show) while it bothers you immensely with a high income partner (you both work your ass off and YOU still have little to show, she goes and buys shoes, toys, etc). I think this imbalance is often overlooked in modern times.

    • Scott H.

      Yes, but this goes back to her “need” for a high status man. The wife implores her husband to produce more in the same way a husband may implore his wife to look better. (Obviously, one type of imploring is culturally acceptable and the other has been beaten out of us, but you know I’m right. =)

  • Prakash

    If a majority of matchmakers feel women still need good looks and youth more than boardroom success to succeed in the dating market, then feminist organizations should be hedging their bets by contributing to the SENS foundation.

    Alas, such thinking is rare in this world.

  • http://alrenous.blogspot.com Alrenous

    Spindel’s men are not a random cross section. They’re highly successful men consciously pursuing a long-term relationship.
    Even if being opaque comes naturally…as humans, men can override their nature simply by deciding to.

    Spindel gets to cherry pick the non-opaque men, and then match them with the naturally non-opaque women.
    Who did she use as her pool of men for women?
    It’s normal for women to complain. The key is to gauge what they’re complaining about. What’s her criteria for ‘unsatisfied’?

    That said, the naive interpretation may be correct. Perhaps women aren’t satisfiable, or maybe even they don’t know what they want.