Reference: From The Sunday Times
October 7, 2007
What modern women want: a beta male
Men are surrendering in the sex war, taking on the supporting role
Last week I went to dinner with an eligible doctor. As we were finishing the main course, I struck up conversation with the owner (Marco) in Italian – I speak five languages. My date nearly choked on his linguini and spent the rest of the date mute. I had committed the worst dating faux pas: I had outshone my suitor.
Yet it would seem I am not the only woman who is wondering whether it is time to hang up her brain and turn into a Stepford Datee. In America research shows successful young women are hiding their accomplishments for fear that their academic achievements and financial kudos will scare off potential suitors.
And it is no different here. Researchers from Aberdeen, Bristol, Edinburgh and Glasgow universities discovered that high-IQ women saw marriage prospects fall dramatically, but men with high IQs had little trouble finding a mate. They found that for each 16-point rise in a woman’s IQ, her marriage prospects declined by 40%, but the man’s chances of marriage increased by 35% with each rise.
The widespread view is that accomplished women are at a disadvantage in the marriage market because men start out by saying they want a strong, powerful woman and then end up running off with the secretary. I should know. A few years ago my Swiss banker found my conversation too arty and cast his attentions on a lovely Spanish girl who worked in his office.
Should women pander to male insecurities? Self-help guides exhort us to flatter the male ego; don’t talk too much and let him make all the jokes if you want him to like you. Well I would rather skewer my eyes out than change my personality.
So what is the answer? Someone has to surrender in the sex war. Should women soften their image if they want to marry an alpha? Since the beginning of time anthropologists have told us women are programmed to seek a mate who can provide for her.
We all witnessed the implosion of the 1980s power couple. As women flexed their shoulder pads all you got were stressed couples who were battling for the same role and trying to find a slot in their diaries for dinner.
But now there is a third way. The second-generation feminists – that is, women in their twenties and thirties – have found a new way to solve the alpha-beta paradox. The 21st century sisters have a terrifyingly clear agenda when it comes to finding a mate. They map out their life plans early: rise to the top of their chosen career, get the smart house, the cute kids and curl up in bed with a loving beta male. The alpha girl doesn’t need Mr Alpha to sweep her off her feet and buy her a condo in town; she has enough money to do that herself. She is successful, confident and she wants a caring man who can pick up some of the domestic slack.
Penelope, 34, a high-earning public relations executive, is married to an actor. They are both comfortable acknowledging that the wife is the chief breadwinner. So it makes sense that it is her career that gets fast-tracked. “John is really irreverent and playful and after I have had people kowtowing to me all day, it is nice to be brought down to earth with a joke.”
Does he mind playing the supporting role? “I love it that my wife is this go-getting career woman. I have never been into status anyway, so I don’t feel emasculated by the fact that she earns way more money than me.”
To better understand this role reversal, we have to look at the key social changes in the past 30 years. Since 1975 the number of women entering the workforce has increased by a third and in 2005 one-third of all managers were women. Women are better educated – there are more women with advanced degrees than before – and there are now more female trainee lawyers and doctors than male ones.
This creates a shift in the way women view marriage. With their increased earning power, women are less hung up on the Jane Austen model of finding a providing husband. “Women can choose a man who has charm and looks, instead of going for the grumpy, ugly alpha just because he is solvent,” says Penelope. So is this a liberating thing?
For young women this shift in economic power has given them new choices. But what about the men? While it is true that many older men seem stuck with the “man as success ob
Having grown up with successful women such as Margaret Thatcher and Madonna as role models, and with popular culture awash with fantasies of all-powerful women, from Lara Croft to Buffy the Vampire Sla