Sexual economics masquerades as romantic love

Matthew Brophy

Love – that sweetest quintessence, that transcendent sentiment, that feeling that moves the world. It’s Valentine’s Day, the annual celebration of romantic love. Today is when guys take their girlfriends out to dinner, buy them gifts and profess their devotion to them.

Yet love is not as lofty as it seems. Though romanticized in movies, celebrated in song, heralded in Hallmark cards, in actuality, love is brute sexual economics.

Why are men going to give women flowers this Valentine’s Day? It’s not because they freely want to; rather, guys want something out of it. Bluntly put: Men have to pay maintenance to keep their women happy in order to retain sexual access. Flowers are an investment, heart-shaped boxes of chocolates a sweet manipulation and sparkling jewelry a mark of ownership.

Evolutionary psychologists Margaret Wilson and Martin Daly assert “men lay claim to particular women as songbirds lay claim to territories, as lions lay claim to kill, or people of both sexes lay claim to valuables.” In fact, when a woman has been out of the sight of her man for a long time, studies show that a man produces significantly more ejaculate the next time they have sex – even if the man has remained sexually active in her absence. It seems the more chances a woman has had to collect sperm from other men, the more profusely her mate “sends in his own troops.”

Women are evolutionarily programmed to seek to secure a man that will provide resources to her and her children. Thus, women tend to be attracted to men of resources, status and power. In a study of 37 cultures worldwide, anthropologist David Buss found that females in all 37 cultures placed more emphasis than males on a potential mate’s financial prospects. In another study where men and women were shown pictures and career descriptions of several people, then asked to preferentially rank them as potential mates, women ranked primarily according to status – an ugly doctor was on par with a very attractive teacher.

Men, on the other hand, ranked primarily in terms of physical beauty. So I suppose the movie “Maid in Manhattan” tells a true story: Even if a female is a lowly hotel maid, as long as she has a body like J-Lo with a badonkadonk butt, the man doesn’t care about her status.

Does this make the women of “Joe Millionaire” superficial gold-diggers? Does it make men into superficial pigs? Who is to say? One thing is for certain: Men are more open to casual, anonymous sex than women. In a college survey, three-fourths of the men approached by an unknown, attractive woman on a college campus agreed to have sex with her, whereas none of the women approached buy an unknown, attractive man were willing.

So men are in the business of finding beautiful lasses to have sex with. Women are in the business of finding devoted men to extract resources from. This is probably why women from early childhood dream about their beautiful weddings and finding that special prince, whereas men, from early

childhood, fantasize about having sex with that girl from the beer commercial.

Love, it seems, is merely sexual bartering. Every individual has personal capital – for a man, it’s resources and status; for women, it’s beauty. Each person trades to optimize her or her returns. This is why you don’t often see an attractive woman with an ugly guy – and if you do, the natural inference is that the ugly guy is wealthy and powerful (or it’s an Internet date). Studies show this inference is usually correct. Given their assets, men with power and status try to attain the most nubile and attractive woman they can.

So love is a business partnership – feminine beauty in exchange for resources. Certainly there are feelings attached, but not nearly as sappy and romantic as we would like to believe. Love is a beautiful façade that masks the ugly face of our true motivations. That said, I’d like to wish everyone a happy Valentine’s Day.