I am thrilled to welcome the brilliant journalist and scriptwriter, Andy Bodle, to my blog, stoking the fires of controversy on the subject of men, women, money and power. Think you have strong opinions on the division of the sexes? you might want to hold onto your hat ...
WHY MEN WILL ALWAYS EARN MORE THAN WOMEN
Amanda and I had been dating for three months, and things were, I thought, going pretty well. The conversation and the copulation were well above par, and we'd sailed through the friends and family test. Then she dropped the bombshell. "I don't think I can go out with someone who earns less than me."
She was earning 46 grand a year. I was on 44.
Now, some of you will say, "That obviously wasn't her real reason." And some of you may have a point. But the money thing was clearly an issue for Amanda. And she's not alone.
In 1994, David Buss and his team at the University of Texas surveyed 10,000 people across 37 cultures. They concluded that when it came to selecting a mate, women the world over attached much more importance than men to good financial prospects. Countless studies have since borne out Buss's findings. Indeed, it is one of the fundamental principles of evolutionary psychology that that in the dating market, women value wealth (that is, the ability to provide resources), while men value youth and looks (the ability to provide offspring).
(There's a thorough, if slightly technical explanation of why this is the case here.)Preferences in human mate selection.
(Some of you at this point will be protesting: "I don't care about bank balances, and nor do any of my friends!" That's as may be. All that you need to accept for the sake of this argument is that some women - it doesn't have to be a high proportion - care more about the earning capacity of their partner than men do. )
You only have to look to the realm of fiction to see how widespread the fantasy is. Christian Grey, the hero of the most popular book of the year, is up to his nipple clamps in cash. Very few of Carrie and co's boyfriends in Sex and the City were ever short of a dime. And chick lit novels (I've read dozens while researching my blog) are teeming with trustafarians, bankers, doctors and stinking rich pop stars.
Now think. How many times have you seen an old and unattractive but obviously affluent woman with a beautiful younger man? And how many straight male prostitutes are there in the world?
Even if this is true, you argue, the reason is obvious. Women only value wealth because men control it. Once women have enough to support themselves, it won't be an issue.
But it's not that simple. A more recent American study found that women who earn more money than average paid more attention, not less, to the wealth of prospective partners. And Matt Ridley, in his excellent book on the evolution of sex, The Red Queen, cites a survey in which even prominent feminists said they wanted still more powerful men.
So what, you ask? What's wrong with being a little bit old-fashioned in your choice of man? Well, there is one little thing.
The gender pay gap is a problem that just never seems to go away. Every year, it comes down a little, but the fact remains that after 40 years of feminism and equal-rights legislation, women, on average, still earn 10% less than their male counterparts. The usual reasons cited are direct discrimination, the undervaluing of jobs traditionally regarded as "women's work", and attitudes to parental care. But I would propose a further cause: men want it more.
Recall my original argument. Now, picture for a moment a fantasy world where every woman gets what she wants. If every woman gets a man who earns more than she does (or if even only a few do - as long as men have no preference), then men will, on average, earn more than women. Simple, inescapable maths.
Of course, wanting something doesn't make it so. If it did, I wouldn't be writing this; I'd be in the middle of a 40-year honeymoon in the Maldives with Jennifer Connelly. But in this case, wanting something *does* make it so - because men hear what women want, and act on it.
Here's one point that no one will dispute. Sex is an incredibly powerful motive for men. Generally, if there's something a man can do to increase the quality (or quantity) of his prospective mates, he'll do it. If he knows, for example, that cash will give him a leg up in his quest to get his leg over ...
Meanwhile, money adds almost nothing to a woman's mate value. In most studies, it doesn't even feature in the list of qualities that men look for. In an otherwise even job market, then, men have one, vital extra incentive: lust.
I put it to you that while women are going into job interviews thinking, "I deserve this. And I could do with the extra cash", men are going into job interviews thinking, "I deserve this. I could do with the extra cash. And it's going to get me laid more. "
Complaining about pay inequality and wanting a rich boyfriend, then, isn't a million miles from driving to work and moaning about the traffic; or campaigning against the wind farm they want to build near your house and railing at your energy bill. You're a hypocrite. You're part of the problem. If you want equality, you've got to stop viewing men in their traditional role.
(If you need a spur to pack in your addiction, ladies, here's another research statistic: the richer a man is, the more likely he is to cheat on you.)
Before the feminist movement sets its ravening hordes upon me, I'd like to make it clear that I'm not saying this is necessarily so. It's just a theory. And what are the horrific implications? That maybe, if women stop seeing men as protectors and providers and start seeing them as equals, It might bring us a step closer to actually being equal.
Now, excuse me while I get back to writing the hit screenplay that's going to earn me a million and win the heart of Jennifer Connelly.
Andy Bodle is a journalist and scriptwriter based in London. He blogs about science and sex at www.womanology.co.uk.
Follow him on twitter @_womanology_