« Physical Attractiveness and Mating Strategies for Women Review »
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Recently I have came across an article by Devendra Singh, titled “Mating strategies of young women: role of physical attractiveness” that appeared on the February 2004 issue of The Journal of Sex Research. Being a young male, I was immediately interested in the article right after reading the title. I learned from an old Chinese saying that I should know of my enemy before going into battle. Even though girls are not enemies and we are not in a battle, however I do believe by understanding their sexuality will lead to a more beneficial, satisfactory, successful relationship. With all that in mind, I printed a copy of the article right off my computer and started to read.

To resonate with its title, this journal article mainly explores the roles of physical attractiveness plays in the various mating strategies young women employ. The author conducts questionnaire surveys on people from different cultural backgrounds. In one survey, people were asked to assign various attributes to stimulus figures. In another survey, females were asked to rate their own attractiveness. Singh categorize those women and those stimulus figures according to their Waist and Hip Ratios then later use Multidimensional Scaling Analysis to sort the results of the survey into a graph. Thru the graph, she finds that physical attractiveness though not dictates but indeed greatly affects the ways females use to attract mates.

The journal started off by contrasting the differences between male and female preferences for a partner in a romantic relationship. It is believed that males tend to value good looks more than any other qualities when choosing a partner whether in a short term or a long term committed relationship. Since looks are of such great importance for male, it is only logical to examine further in order to find out how physical attractiveness can influence, affect and alter the mating strategies for many young women. As the author pointed out, there are two major general view points about attractiveness. One being that “What is beautiful is good” while the other is the “Darker side of beauty”. The first view is easy to understand due to the fact that we human beings are inherent perfectionists. We perceive the world with our eyes. With our eyes, what we see first is the outside of things. If the outside is what we please to see, we automatically think that the inside must be good too. The first impression that beautiful women give to people is that she must be smart too. The second view is common also. It is based on experiences such as when eating an apple, the apple is perfect from the view on the outside however it can be rotten inside. It is not groundless to say that beautiful women tend to be less faithful in a romantic relationship due to the fact that they have more available choices.

In her first survey conducted separately on different groups of people, the result reinforced the second view which is the “Darker side of beauty”. Participants in her survey generally believe and assign negative attributes such as unfaithfulness to more attractive woman stimulus figures. However, it is intriguing that the result of the survey also found attractive women are more desirable even in a long term relationship given the fact that most of the participant believe attractive women are most likely to have extramarital love affairs. This side finding is at odds with research done on exclusively American participants by others. The explanation of such discrepancy given by the author was that of different methods use. However, I do personally agree with the authors finding. If given the opportunity to choose between an attractive and a less attractive mate, I would take the chance knowing the attractive one might be less faithful. There’s one more side finding in her survey that I can also related is that people evaluate body shape or type too deviate from normal or average to be less attractive. In other words, the thinner is not necessarily the better and obesity is not good too.

The major finding of her two survey study is that there are two major tactics or strategies young women employ to attract mates. One is the “trade-off” strategy; the other is the “attractiveness enhancement” tactic. Both strategies are greatly influenced by the attractiveness of the perspective female and the attractiveness of her competitors. Singh concludes that by employing the trade-off strategy, attractive female can “obtain material benefits from a long-term mate and genetic benefits from short-term liaisons” while less attractive female can only “sacrifice some genetic benefit in exchange for superior material benefits provided by the mate” since they are less likely to attract physically attractive males; by engaging in the “attractiveness enhancement” tactic, less attractive female can gain advantages in attracting males when competing “with women of comparable attractiveness”. However, “if an attractive female were competing for a man who was being chased by women less attractive than she, she would have little reason to engage in attractiveness-enhancing tactics.”

This is a very interesting journal in many aspects. It contains rich information and many side findings that I can relate to. However, there’s one thing I do not like about this article is that the author takes too much time and effort in explaining the Waist to Hip Ratio and the Multidimensional Scaling Analysis. It is too detailed to a point where I found it to be a little boring. Did I find what I was looking for? Yeah, I did. Knowing their strategies, knowing want they want, I believe I do have an advantage.

One more thing, “What is beautiful is good” and “Darker side of beauty” are just stereotypes. They are far from correct for every case. Superficial beauty is desirable but beauty is not a full representation of a thing or a person. We should really try to find balance between outer beauty and inner beauty when selecting a partner for a committed relationship.