There’s a saying that the older we get, the better we were. I can relate. When recalling exploits of my bike racing days with friends from the 1980s, the stories take on a heroic scale and easily trump the best fish-that-got-away tales.
But time hasn’t clouded one reality. As shaved-legged pimply ectomorphs, we conquered regional races, but not women. Casanovas we weren’t. My friend Jim was an exception. OK, he wasn’t really a bike racer, although he often cycled to the local drugstore. From what I can recall, he only played one “sport” in high school.
Jim contacted me recently after reading my book, explaining he was broke. “All those women I pursued,” he said, “cost me a fortune.” I laughed it off, but have since wondered. Do biological drives affect our spending, investing and choice of partners?
Evolutionary psychologists Margo Wilson and Marin Daly of McMaster University would say yes. They offered male college students the option of receiving a $100 check immediately or being given $150 one month later. Under most circumstances, they waited for the bigger payoff. But if they were shown pictures of beautiful women beforehand, they took the money upfront.
Was a relentless pursuit of beautiful women Jim’s Trojan Horse? In their book, Willpower, authors Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney reference studies suggesting the sight of an attractive woman activates the nucleas accumbens—parts of the brain reflecting impulsivity, fear, addiction and reward. Photos of average looking women created no such response.
A friend of mine is an anchor newswoman on CNBC. A beauty in her late 30s, she worries that her aesthetic assets are diminishing. “The network wants gorgeous young women,” she says. Television agencies covet beautiful people to front their cameras. That’s no secret. But check out the women working as stock market news anchors. The Money Honeys wreak havoc like Helen of Troy.
The networks have apparently discovered that by coupling monetary temptations with talking aphrodisiacs, they enhance ratings and satisfy sponsors. Studies prove that men trade more frequently than women. They’re also more likely to invest impulsively. By exploiting biology, television networks and the brokerages that advertise on them profit.
Historically, many men don’t propagate. They fail to find what some call a “reproductive opportunity.” They didn’t have to shave their legs or chase other skinny blokes on bikes to fail. Laws of the sexual jungle were tough enough. Odds of them reproducing were only half what they were for women. Many genetic lines simply died out. Everyone on Earth today--from Oprah Winfrey to your plumber--descended from lines of sexual conquerors, beating the odds to spread their seeds.
Perhaps our wiring hasn’t changed. Based on Wilson and Daly’s research, men are biologically aroused to capitalize on increased odds of sex. Cringe all you want. Such impulses, whether we act on them or not, appear to be genetically hardwired.
When women were shown photos of attractive men, no such weakness for immediate cash gratification occurred. Perhaps women are more evolved. Or they might be drawn by a different ancestral urge.
According to the 2012 U.S. consensus bureau, nearly 86 percent of women marry men equal to or exceeding their own age. Considering that women live longer than men, this makes little sense. Only 14 percent choose younger partners.
Answering why is tough. Like men squandering money for a sexual drive, it’s an uncomfortable thought to ponder.
We like to think our biggest decisions are based on logic, not raw biology. But, whether they realize it or not, women may be attracted to older men for their more established nesting assets. When it comes to money, sex, and childrearing, perhaps we’re more primitive than we like to admit.
Andrew Hallam is a Digital Nomad. He’s the author of the bestseller Millionaire Teacher and Millionaire Expat: How To Build Wealth Living Overseas