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Thread: Evolutionary Psychology: Male Mate Preferences

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    Post Evolutionary Psychology: Male Mate Preferences

    Evolutionary Psychology, Lecture 7: Male Mate Preferences.

    http://psychology.unn.ac.uk/nick/EPlec07.htm

    Previous sessions have emphasised that males would tend to prefer short-term matings with as many partners as possible so as to maximise their reproductive potential. However, as this type of mating is not favoured by females, males are unlikely to have the opportunity to adopt this strategy. Males typically adopt more longer-term reproductive strategies revolving around commitments such as marriage. There are several advantages to this strategy:

    • As ancestral females would have demanded commitment before consenting to sex, males who failed to show commitment would lose out in the mating game.

    • Males who provided clear evidence of commitment would be able to attract a better quality female.

    • The male would increase the odds of paternity certainty, as he would engage in mate-guarding behaviours to reduce the possibility of cuckoldry.

    • The children of a stable relationship would be much more likely to survive.

    What do men find attractive in women?

    Buss (1999) points out that to be reproductively successful a male needed to mate with a female who has the capacity to produce children. Human female reproductive value cannot be assessed directly as ovulation is concealed (unlike most other mammals). However, there are several clues to a woman's reproductive value (the number of children a person of a given age is likely to have in the future) and ancestral males would have been selected for to detect and respond accordingly to these signals. Such signals would be 'honest' as they would be an accurate reflection of developmental and hormonal health.

    1. Youth.
    This is the most powerful cue to a woman's reproductive potential because she reaches her reproductive peak around the age of twenty, and her reproductive potential declines rapidly thereafter. In all studies of mate preferences a typical and strong finding is that males prefer females who are at their peak of reproductive potential. For example, in the cross-cultural survey carried out by Buss (1989) males in every one of the 37 societies assessed preferred younger wives, on average around 2 ½ years younger. As males age, they prefer mates who are increasingly younger (Kenrick & Keefe, 1992).

    Of course, the preference for younger partners is not always to be predicted, if teenage males preferred younger partners then these females may not be old enough to bear children, we would therefore predict that teenage males would prefer slightly older females. Kenrick et al., (1996) asked teenage males and females (aged between 12-19) the ideal age of a dating partner, and the age limits that would be acceptable. Teenage males (unlike older males) preferred mates who were slightly older than themselves - they are unlikely to be successful because females at all age ranges prefer older males.

    The male preference for youth is reflected in partner-wanted advertisements as males typically seek younger partners than themselves, this is recognised by women as they are likely to offer youth in their advertisements (Thiessen et al., 1993).

    Buunk et al., (2001) examined minimum and maximum age preferences for mates across 5 different levels of relationship involvement in people aged 20-60. Women preferred partners around their own age regardless of the relationship involvement. However, irrespective of their own age, males preferred mates at the peak of reproductive capability (18-30) for short-term relationships or sexual fantasies. For long-term relationships however, males preferred mates who although younger than themselves, were sometimes above the age of maximum fertility. This may be because males realise that very young women would not find them attractive.

    2. Beauty.
    All theories of human mate selection based on evolutionary principles assume that attractiveness provides a reliable cue to the reproductive value of the female - signs of youth (clear unwrinkled skin, bright eyes, red full lips, and glossy hair) are all external indicators of youth, good health and reproductive capability. Males evolved the tendency to become sexually interested in such stimuli because selection favoured those who assessed their partner's acceptability for mating on the basis of such fertility cues. Males assign far greater significance to physical attractiveness than do females. In surveys of mate preferences it is consistently found that males report physical attractiveness as being more important in a potential partner than females (Buss & Schmitt, 1993).

    Physical attractiveness is a strong predictor of whether a woman will marry, and of the socioeconomic status of their spouse. For example, Townsend & Wasserman (1998) used photographs of individuals varying in attractiveness which were presented with a brief description varying in social status; degree of generosity and ambition. Students were asked to answer a series of questions concerning the individuals dating / sexual / marital desirability. They found that males would be willing to date and have sex with the most attractive individuals irrespective of their social status.

    It used to be thought that standards of beauty were culturally determined, and individuals perceptions of beauty had to be learned ("beauty is in the eye of the beholder"). Darwin noted a wide variety of differing cultural preferences involving beauty (grooming, body shape, adornments, hair style, cosmetics, clothing etc) and stated that "It is certainly not true that there is in the mind of man any universal standard of beauty with respect to the human body".

    However, Langlois et al., (1990) studied infant's responses to faces differing in attractiveness. Infants aged 2-3 months and 6-8 months were presented with faces that had been pre-rated by adults and both groups gazed longer at the faces that had been judged as being attractive than those judged as being unattractive. In another study the same authors found that infants played longer with dolls with attractive faces than ones with unattractive faces. This suggests that beauty preferences may in part be innate.

    Cunningham et al., (1995) proposed a 'multiple fitness model' which emphasised that beauty is not a single quality but instead reflects a combination of desirable neonate, sexually mature, expressive, and grooming qualities. Within and between cultures, individuals may display variance in response to specific features, but will respond in a similar manner to the features as a whole. We should thus expect similar judgements in response to attractive/unattractive faces. They presented males from 4 ethnic-cultural groups in 13 countries with Asian, black, Hispanic, and white female faces. The average correlation between racial groups in their rating of attractiveness was r = .93, exposure to Western media had no influence on the ratings. Males in all cultures were attracted to female faces displaying large eyes, small noses, high cheekbones, small chin and a large smile; body shape preferences did differ though with black males preferring 'heavier' bodies.

    Similarly, Langlois et al., (2000) conducted meta-analyses comparing socialisation with evolutionary predictions concerning cross-cultural agreements/differences concerning perceptions of attractiveness. They discovered remarkable within and between cultural consistency between rater's in judging who is or is not attractive.

    Contrast effects: The above studies imply that males have consistent perceptions of beauty but such perceptions can vary. Kenrick et al., (1989) examined the effects of exposure to attractive nude females on male sexual attraction judgements. Participants who were currently in a relationship viewed 16 pictures of attractive nude females or 16 art slides. They were then asked to rate their current relationship and state the extent to which they loved their partner and found them sexually attractive. Males who had previously viewed the attractive female nudes showed a significant reduction in ratings for their partner.

    Kanazawa & Still (2000) assessed the cumulative effects of males being exposed to young attractive women. They analysed a large data set of more than 32,000 males and found that being male and a secondary school teacher/college lecturer statistically increased their likelihood of divorce.

    Which facial features are males focussing on when judging beauty?

    a) Skin condition: Skin condition may be a reliable signal of female health and fertility and flawless skin is one of the most universally desired female features (Etcoff, 1999). Skin condition is an 'honest' signal because it reflects the ratio of sex hormones (estrogen and testosterone), for example women with higher than average levels of testosterone have more acne and facial hair (Lucky, 1995). Females are aware of the importance of flawless skin to males and spend a great deal of time and energy removing facial hair and applying make-up/lotions to their skin. In addition to skin quality, Fink et al., (2001) proposed that lighter skin is an honest sign of youthfulness, interestingly skin tone alters throughout the menstrual cycle becoming darker during the non-fertile phase, during pregnancy, and in women who use the contraceptive pill.

    Van den Berghe & Frost (1986) have proposed that changes in female skin colour may enable males to distinguish more fertile females from less fertile ones. Fink et al., (2001) asked males to judge the attractiveness of female faces that had been manipulated for colour and texture. Smooth skin was found to be most attractive though they found no evidence that males preferred paler skin with slightly reddish skin being most favoured.

    b) Symmetry: While there is a broad consistency in the judgement of faces as being attractive or unattractive, it remains difficult to identify exactly the key features involved. Faces created by combining individual faces into composites are viewed as being more attractive than the individual faces themselves and this was initially thought to reflect a preference for averageness. However, in combining individual faces to make composites, symmetry is increased and facial blemishes are reduced. Grammer & Thornhill (1994) argued that males would prefer symmetrical female faces because such symmetry could only be produced in healthy individuals able to resist genetic and environmental disturbances. They created composite male and female faces and asked males and females to judge them for attractiveness, sexiness, health and dominance. The female composite faces were judged as being more attractive and sexy than the individual photos and this was due to their reduced asymmetry.

    c) Neoteny: A key feature of female facial attractiveness is the extent of neotenous features that the face displays. Such features (large eyes, high cheek bones, small nose, small chins, full lips, short eye-chin distance etc.,) are regarded as being very attractive and may be seen as an indicator of youth, and hence reproductive potential. Any cues to illness or advanced age (wrinkles, grey hair, poor complexion, facial blemishes, poor teeth etc) are universally rated as being unattractive. Johnson & Franklin (1993) used a computer program, which allowed participants to morph female faces until they had achieved an ‘ideal’ face. The final face had proportions indicative of a 14-year-old.

    3. Body size/shape: Standards for body size vary between cultures, for example in Western societies males prefer average-slim body sizes but in cultures where food is scare plumpness is a sign of adequate nutrition, health and good social standing. However, according to Singh (1993) the distribution of body fat may be an honest signal of reproductive status and capability. Differences in body fat distribution are minimal in infancy, childhood and old age, and maximal during early reproductive life. After puberty, males deposit tissue on the upper body whilst females deposit tissue in the thighs and buttocks. These sex differences in fat distribution can be assessed by measuring the waist at its narrowest point, and the hip at the level of the buttocks, and computing a waist-to-hip ratio (WHR). After puberty the female WHR becomes significantly lower than that of the male - the typical female range being between 0.67-0.80; while the typical male range is 0.85 - 0.95. The WHR is unique to humans and may be an adaptation signalling fertility.

    A growing body of evidence indicates that the WHR is an accurate indicator of reproductive status; as circulating estrogen lowers WHR and testosterone raises it. For example, in girls of the same body weight, those with lower WHR’s exhibit earlier pubertal endocrine activity; whilst older women with higher WHR’s have greater difficulty in becoming pregnant - it has been estimated that a 0.1 unit increase in WHR decreases the probability of conception by 30%. WHR also signals health status as the incidence of certain diseases (diabetes, hypertension, heart problems, strokes, etc) vary with body fat distribution - a high WHR indicates a greater propensity to have such problems.

    It is therefore likely that males would have evolved mechanisms (conscious or unconscious) to detect and use WHR to infer potential mate value; it is also likely that females could enhance their attractiveness by emphasising and advertising a low WHR through ornamentation and clothing. Singh (1993) asked participants to examine 12 randomly arranged line drawings which represented four levels of WHR at three levels of body weight (underweight, normal, and overweight) and rank them in order of attractiveness. In all weight categories, both male and female participants aged 18-22 rated the figure with the lowest WHR as a being youthful, healthy, reproductively capable and as the most attractive.

    In a follow-up study, older participants aged 30-60 carried out the same procedure and produced the same ratings, overall males and females rated the figure of normal weight with the WHR of 0.7 (N7) as being attractive, youthful, healthy, and reproductively capable. Interestingly, the underweight figure with a WHR of 0.7 (U7) whilst being rated as the most youthful, was not rated as being the most attractive or reproductively capable. This is perhaps because this figure is perceived as being sexually immature. WHR could magnify the sexual attractiveness of the ‘hourglass figure’ - shapely breasts and broad hips set against a narrow waist. A high WHR may give off warning signals of low reproductive value and high disease risk, but may also give the appearance of pregnancy.

    In a follow-up study Singh & Young (1995) addressed the role of differing body size, WHR and breast size in attractiveness. They found that the slender figures were judged to be more attractive, healthy, feminine looking and desirable for both short- and long-term relationships, the slender figures with low WHR and large breasts were the most preferred. In a second experiment the authors focused on the possible influence of hip size because two women can have an identical WHR in spite of differences in hips or buttock size. They devised a new set of stimuli in which all of the figures had a WHR of 0.7 but they differed only in terms of breast size and hip size. Attractiveness ratings were affected by hip and breast sizes, figures with large breasts and small hips being rated as significantly more attractive than figures with small breasts and small hips. The figures with large hips were rated as being unattractive irrespective of breast size.

    4. Behavioural Characteristics.
    A key problem for males is that they lack paternity certainty, those males that were able to reduce the risk of cuckoldry would have had greater reproductive fitness than those who could not. It would therefore be predicted that males should have developed adaptations to seek partners (particularly for long-term relationships) who would remain faithful. Chastity is valued highly in most cultures but there are large differences in its extent (Buss & Schmitt, 1993). Males in all cultures view promiscuity and unfaithfulness as being particularly undesirable in a potential long-term partner.

    Summary.

    According to predictions generated by evolutionary theory, males should find the following characteristics most attractive:

    • Symmetrical facial features.


    • Neotenous facial features (e.g. small nose, large eyes).


    • Clear, unwrinkled, unblemished and hairless skin.


    • Bright eyes, full red lips, glossy hair.


    • A slim waist and hips, large breasts, a WHR around 0.7.


    • Be younger than the male.


    • Have a 'good' reputation, i.e. chastity and faithfulness.


    • Be healthy, and have a 'youthful gait'.


    • Be kind, caring, good with children, nice personality and intelligent.



    References.

    Buunk, B.P., Dijkstra, P., Kenrick, D.T., & Warntjes, A. (2001). Age preferences for mates as related to gender, own age, and involvement level. Evolution and Human Behaviour, 22: 241-250.

    Buss, D.M. (1989). Sex differences in human mate preferences: evolutionary hypotheses tested in 37 cultures. Behavioural and Brain Sciences, 12: 1-49.

    Buss, D.M. (1999). Evolutionary Psychology: The New science of the Mind, chapter 5.

    Buss, D.M., & Schmitt, D.P. (1993). Sexual strategies theory: an evolutionary perspective on human mating. Psychological Review, 100: 204-232.

    Etcoff, N. (1999). Survival of the Prettiest. New York: Doubleday.

    Cunningham, M.R., Roberts, A.R., Wu, C-H., Barbee, A.P., & Druen, P.B. (1995). "Their ideas of beauty are, on the whole, the same as ours": consistency and variability in the cross-cultural perception of female attractiveness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68: 261-279.

    Fink, B., Grammer, K., & Thornhill, R. (2001). Human (Homo sapiens) facial attractiveness in relation to skin texture and color. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 115: 92-99.

    Grammer, K., & Thornhill, R. (1994). Human (Homo sapiens) facial attractiveness and sexual selection: the role of symmetry and averageness. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 108: 233-242.

    Johnson, V.S., & Franklin, M. (1993). Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? Ethology and Sociobiology, 14: 183 - 199.

    Kanazawa, S., & Still, M.C. (2000). Teaching may be hazardous to your marriage. Evolution and Human Behaviour, 21: 185-190.

    Kenrick, D.T., Gutierres, S.E., & Goldberg, L.L. (1989). Influence of popular erotica judgements of strangers and mates. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 25: 159-167.

    Kenrick, D.T., & Keefe, R.C. (1992). Age preferences in mates reflect sex differences in reproductive strategies. Behavioural and Brain Sciences, 15: 75-133.

    Kenrick, D.T., Keefe, R.C., Gabrielidis, C., & Cornelius, J.S. (1996). Adolescents' age preferences for dating partners: support for an evolutionary model of life history strategies. Child Development, 67: 1499-1511.

    Langlois, J.H., Kalakanis, L., Rubenstein, A.J., Larson, A., Hallam, M., & Smoot, M. (2000). Maxims or myths of beauty? A meta-analytic and theoretical review. Psychological Bulletin, 126: 390-423.

    Langlois, J.H., Roggman, L.A., Casey, R.J., Ritter, J.M., Rieser-Danner, L.A., & Jenkins, V.Y. (1987). Infant preferences for attractive faces: rudiments of a stereotype. Developmental Psychology, 23: 363-369.

    Lucky, A.W. (1995). Hormonal correlates of acne and hirsutism. The American Journal of Medicine, 98: 89-94.

    Singh, D. (1993). Body shape and women’s attractiveness: the critical role of the waist-to-hip ratio. Human Nature, 4: 297 - 321.

    Singh, D., & Young, R.K. (1995). Body weight, waist-to-hip ratio, breasts, and hips: role in judgements of female attractiveness and desirability for relationships. Ethology and Sociobiology, 16: 483-507.

    Thiessen, D., Young, R.K., & Burroughs, R. (1993). Lonely hearts advertisements reflect sexually dimorphic mating strategies. Ethology and Sociobiology, 14: 209-229.

    Townsend, J.M. (1993). Sexuality and partner selection: sex differences among college students. Ethology and Sociobiology, 14: 305 - 330.

    Van den Burghe, P.L., & Frost, P. (1986). Skin colour preference, sexual dimorphism and sexual selection: a case of gene-culture co-evolution? Ethnic and Racial Studies, 9: 87-118.

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    Thumbs Up Re: Evolutionary Psychology: Male Mate Preferences

    Long article, but well worth it.
    "And the few who are still capable of great loathing and great rebellion find themselves ever more tightly encircled."
    -Julius Evola

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    Post Re: Evolutionary Psychology: Male Mate Preferences

    Great stuff.
    "Whatever is done from love always occurs beyond good and evil." - F. Nietzsche

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    Post Re: Evolutionary Psychology: Male Mate Preferences

    A good summary of the universal traits preferred by males usually.

    Although you can see that culture can change everything. If its about todays women and especially their character, some men, at least those which do not plan to have any family, might think somewhat different.
    At least in our decadent culture of today.
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    Post Re: Evolutionary Psychology: Male Mate Preferences

    Quote Originally Posted by Agrippa
    A good summary of the universal traits preferred by males usually.

    Although you can see that culture can change everything. If its about todays women and especially their character, some men, at least those which do not plan to have any family, might think somewhat different.
    At least in our decadent culture of today.
    Modern Western society, possibly because of Capitalism, seems to put humans in some kind of "cheap" behavioral mode - where everything is valued very cheaply because of easily-obtaintainable, low-quality goods. Things are not carefully weighed, including mate preferences. It's the "f**k of the month club" mentality.

    Food, friendship, family, etc - are all weighed very cheaply and simply used for the moment instead of carefuly chosen and cultivated. The thing that people take more seriously, at least in the upper strata of society, is "career" - which takes precedence even over family, which is for society a very bad strategy, since family should always come first.

    This tendency is strong in the USA, hence the valid hostility of people from more traditional societies towards American culture. I attribute the tendency probably to Capitalism, and also possibly to multiculturalism and the lack of strong social bonds in everyday life that it creates.
    "Whatever is done from love always occurs beyond good and evil." - F. Nietzsche

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    Post Re: Evolutionary Psychology: Male Mate Preferences

    Quote Originally Posted by Scoob
    Food, friendship, family, etc - are all weighed very cheaply and simply used for the moment instead of carefuly chosen and cultivated. The thing that people take more seriously, at least in the upper strata of society, is "career" - which takes precedence even over family, which is for society a very bad strategy, since family should always come first.

    This tendency is strong in the USA, hence the valid hostility of people from more traditional societies towards American culture. I attribute the tendency probably to Capitalism, and also possibly to multiculturalism and the lack of strong social bonds in everyday life that it creates.
    Not all of us have families, Scoob. My focus over the last decade has been career and it has served me well. It's something I've always been able to depend on, unlike family, friends, and mates. It also fufuills the human need to be productive and contribute to societal well-being, at least in my case. We aren't all so blessed to have a spouse, 2.5 kids, and a dog. Some of us have to settle for stellar professional careers with fat retirement packages.

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    Post Re: Evolutionary Psychology: Male Mate Preferences

    Quote Originally Posted by Sigrun Christianson
    Not all of us have families, Scoob. My focus over the last decade has been career and it has served me well. It's something I've always been able to depend on, unlike family, friends, and mates. It also fufuills the human need to be productive and contribute to societal well-being, at least in my case. We aren't all so blessed to have a spouse, 2.5 kids, and a dog. Some of us have to settle for stellar professional careers with fat retirement packages.
    I'm not criticizing the individual, since I too feel these pressures. I'm criticizing the social trend. And it is quite negative for society. Career should come only after family IMO in a healthy society.

    I feel that creating a life with another human being touches on something Divine. Work is just work - it can benefit other people in a material way or create a path for something better, but without an inner feeling of love or unity with other humans, it's all futile, it's all just junk - at least that is how many people feel about it in the end.
    "Whatever is done from love always occurs beyond good and evil." - F. Nietzsche

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    Post Re: Evolutionary Psychology: Male Mate Preferences

    Quote Originally Posted by Scoob
    I'm not criticizing the individual, since I too feel these pressures. I'm criticizing the social trend. And it is quite negative for society. Career should come only after family IMO in a healthy society.

    I feel that creating a life with another human being touches on something Divine. Work is just work - it can benefit other people in a material way or create a path for something better, but without an inner feeling of love or unity with other humans, it's all futile, it's all just junk - at least that is how many people feel about it in the end.
    I think it's good for society. People like me, who are materialistic and self-centered, who put career aspirations and tangable wealth before marriage and children, are less likely to have families and therefore less likely to spawn a brood of neglected children who will in turn weigh down society with their emotional problems. It's eugenics at it's finest, really. It's preferable that people like me don't procreate, but being the selfish bitch that I am, I will anyway because it's all about what I want.

    I love Baby Gap.

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    Post Re: Evolutionary Psychology: Male Mate Preferences

    Quote Originally Posted by Sigrun Christianson
    I think it's good for society. People like me, who are materialistic and self-centered, who put career aspirations and tangable wealth before marriage and children, are less likely to have families and therefore less likely to spawn a brood of neglected children who will in turn weigh down society with their emotional problems. It's eugenics at it's finest, really. It's preferable that people like me don't procreate, but being the selfish bitch that I am, I will anyway because it's all about what I want.

    I love Baby Gap.
    This is an irresponsible attitude. It might seem fine for the individual, but the social effects are horrible. Look at Blacks for an idea of where it leads people.

    However, I'll add that having children only when you can afford them and care for them is good.
    "Whatever is done from love always occurs beyond good and evil." - F. Nietzsche

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    Post Re: Evolutionary Psychology: Male Mate Preferences

    I think it's good for society. People like me, who are materialistic and self-centered, who put career aspirations and tangable wealth before marriage and children, are less likely to have families and therefore less likely to spawn a brood of neglected children who will in turn weigh down society with their emotional problems. It's eugenics at it's finest, really. It's preferable that people like me don't procreate, but being the selfish bitch that I am, I will anyway because it's all about what I want.
    I just hope you dont mean that serious because its exactly that attitude which you probably caricatured, that is destroying our folks, our race(s), our values, our future and all what has any worth on this planet. In fact its an attitude that could harm whole mankind and the future of our ecosystem.

    This social trend is highly contraselective because the most women which follow it first are those which are usually more than average - tall, healthy, intelligent, educated. There genetic featues will be lost, their knowledge and what they would have brought to their children will be lost - it will be almost as would they have never lived!

    What does that mean? Such societies select against their best parts and destroy themselves on the long run. This sort of thinking and social-darwinism is biological and social destructive.

    The same women with other values were the perfect mothers because they saw their status, their social success in raising up healthy, intelligent children with high status.

    So if women like that say they are not able to do so, there are just two things to say: Mistakes by social environment and by education and the selfish attempt to legitimate it with the sentence: "I would be a bad mother blabla..."

    Emotional problems are of course the result of this wrong values and ill social conditions in which they live first and personal-inherited second. So legitimating the sick system and own behavious means to minimize the real reasons for this destructive attitude.

    The only real legitimation might be for such a women if she doesnt find a proper man, but even that should be no excuse if its about the survival of the own line, own fold, own race and the better parts of humanity as a whole.

    If such women dont are Nobel prize winners or produce artificial superhumans they CAN NEVER BE AS USEFUL AND PRODUCTIVE THAN THEY WOULD BE AS MOTHERS NO MATTER WHAT THEY DO!

    Because almost everything what they do in their job could do a man, a foreign, a lower status-less intelligent etc. woman also, or could be done with a family as the more important part of life.

    On the other hand the family, the children of such women are not that easy, if at all, replaceable.
    That means that such attitude harm the collective on the long run and has no utility at all.

    You might be trapped in the pathological tendencies of our today Western society, for which I dont just blame capitalism general but Liberalism-Marxism first, thats ok, but never defend this pestilence of humanity and say its good also...
    Women which think like that should question their whole life style, life concept and value system.

    Such behavious is irrational, biological and for the own genes/line destructive and just irresponsible.

    On long run such women which just stay alone without family and any future from their 50...

    For what should they have money then? To substitute the lack of a filled and decent life with further consumption?
    As individuals they are both victims and perpetrators, as a whole those which believe in such life concept and still promote it not just for themselves but legimitate it for others also are just perpetrators.


    Sorry but I cant stand such comments even if they might have been caricatured...
    Last edited by Agrippa; Friday, May 7th, 2004 at 06:52 PM.
    Magna Europa est patria nostra
    STOP GATS! STOP LIBERALISM!

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