On Friday I discussed a Wall Street Journal article about workplace perks and riffed about how two parties in a market can both be chasing a high-quality/non-fungible and thus scarce resource the other possesses, and that this “reciprocal scarcity” produces a paradox where both sides perceive a critical shortage despite their being, by the numbers, a lot of supply in the field.
The thing is, if you look like the rest of the field…you’re in the “presenter” role, and you have to try to get employers’ attention. You avoid mistakes that bounce people out of interviews, and hope that someone in the process liked you enough to give you the job above a bunch of other cookie-cutter candidates, because when they have more suitors than spots, they start making decisions on ever more petty criteria.
However, if you have some trait that makes you desirable for a particular niche…you will be more of a selector, and employers will fight over you. Those who need someone to do, say, international tax law, or arcane circuit design, or precision welding, or to close deals that couldn’t otherwise be closed, will find themselves adapting to the applicants more than the other way around, lest they be caught entirely without someone to do essential work for their business.
It should be pretty clear to regular readers that this mutual asymmetry also exists in the sexual and mating marketplace. It’s a fascinating analogy, as mates are not fungible commodities either – some people are more desireable than others, which changes people’s negotiating behavior, IOW what they are willing to give for what they get. When you feel your options for mates are scarce, you will instinctively put yourself in a submissive bargaining position, accepting poor mate quality and bad behavior out of fear that you will never convince another person to to love you.
(Sidebar: The “romantics,” as you might call them, are deeply disturbed by this model and reject it. Their concept is of a special, individualized “life force” that matches you lock and key with a soulmate, and that the dating culture is a large-scale randomization that enables soulmates to match up. They see the idea of a mating “marketplace” to be crass and dehumanizing. The truth is, though, that there are physical, structural and contextual factors that predict attraction between the genders, and these can leveraged and modulated by individuals to improve their results. You do not have to be an evo-psych true believer to buy this; The Selfish Gene is pretty well-accepted in the popular scientific community.)
The incidence of reciprocal scarcity in the SMP, obviously, is that the most desirable mates of either gender have strong bargaining power and wide choice. This came up in the Introverted Playboy’s recent post “Women are not the selectors, hot people are”:
“Both hot men and hot women–in other words, the most sexually desirable members of each gender–are the sexual selectors because a large number of people want to date or sleep with them…
If we look at the hottest men, the men who are the most attractive to the female gender, they do not have an issue when it comes to sexual access. They can either generate sexual opportunities for themselves relatively easily, or they have opportunities coming to them with less effort…The least attractive men are the most sexually driven–because they have so few options–and this is what makes them overeager whenever a hot woman gives them a little interest. This creates the illusion that women are the selectors, but what is really happening is that one person is more eager than the other, and as a result, the less eager person has leverage in the relationship. If the man is less eager (i.e. by being outcome independent, living a powerful life that is more interesting to him than getting the next lay, etc), then suddenly the tables start to turn.”
(Cross-blog plug: I really like the IP’s stuff, Badger Hut regulars would probably enjoy his style.)
A key note on the idea of “selection” is needed here. In today’s American society, outside of a sliver of religious sects, sexual selection is the predecessor to relationship selection. The vast majority of men are not interested in dating/having a relationship with a woman they aren’t attracted to. The same goes for women, excepting those who are trying to snag the beta-provider security in their SMP twilight, so let’s say no woman with options is going to date a man she’s not attracted to. In the vast majority of cases, some kind of sexual activity that goes beyond first base is going happen before the relationship is sealed.
So the sexual and so-called “marital” marketplaces are not operating in parallel as much as some kind of success in the SMP is a prerequisite to enter the MMP.
Now, let’s analyze the dual scarcities.
The dominance-and-status basis for male attraction, the strong influence of preselection and female hypergamy, and the horrifically inadequate social training provided to young men in today’s society put only a small cohort of men in the “desireable” category. These men are either nailed down by partners or “unavailable” by virtue of pluralistic availability (i.e. playing the field), and so to a woman seeking such a mate, they are perpetually scarce targets.
This is exactly the source of the feminist Apex Fallacy the manosphere is repeatedly citing (hat tip to Bernard Chapin for coining the term): if you are a woman who is not at the top of her food chain, you are a presenter and the men you desire are the selectors, and their behavior dominates your perception of what men and their lives are like. And select they will. Early on, the Manosphere get behind the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 rule – a longtime male proverb that “80% of the girls are sleeping with 20% of the guys.” This was never intended to be an absolute numerical description but expressed a Thompsonian verisimilitude of the sexual marketplace that resonated with most men – that the trend of women’s interest went to a small sliver of guys, while the rest are to be rejected with prejudice or tolerated as a secondary strategy when the music is stopping and there’s no handsome hunk offering her a seat on his lap.
Recent statistics that there are more male than female virgins in American colleges seems to back up the idea. (A corollary of the 80/20 rule was “you just have to get into that 20% and you’re set,” reflecting preselection’s power to make a sexually successful male even more desired.)
On the other side of the seesaw, you have reams of indistinguishibly drab beta males, whose mating fields run fallow in one season after another. They have meager means to attract and retain women, and are desperate for female attention and approval. These men are presenters, and the women they desire the selectors (and often the women they desire are of modest SMP “resources”). The results are predictably disastrous; they are the SMP equivalent of fresh college graduates begging employers for that first boost up the staircase, hoping someone will take a chance on them. They will have infinite, and corrosively self-destructive, loyalty and dedication because they are existentially scared of being cast out, of losing their newfound font of romantic attention and sexual access. The female reactions to this behavior are, to put it mildly, extremely negative.
We in the Manosphere are continually warning and coaching men to develop a mindset of abundance and avoid the mindset of scarcity. By a quirk of psychology, if a man acts in a manner congruent with having a lot of options, enough women will see him (and treat him) as a man with options for him to level up his bargaining position and have a chance at some success. It is truly amazing to watch a humble, mild-mannered man assume an affected posture of social dominance and outcome independence and see his fortunes with women improve. (Again, the romantics would say he’s tapping into some kind of core value buried deep inside him that people are responding to – but no, he’s simply exhibiting behaviors that are known to increase his perceived social value.)
As I once noted in a comment, the overall selection auction goes something like this:
- The top men take whom they want (who are happy to go along)
- The remaining top women pick the best greater-betas
- The middle betas and below then take the women they can get (who go along grudgingly)
So there’s a scarcity mindset at every rung relative to the rung above it. Even the men at the top perceive some scarcity, because their personalities and tastes for variety are insatiable (that’s part of why they are up there). Note that the women in step 2 are put in a position of relationship leadership that the empirical evidence suggests women are not very keen on.
In other words, just like in the job market, the mindset of sexual-marketplace scarcity can and does go in both directions. It’s easy to get wrapped up in cognitive bias by telling yourself, if you’re a woman for instance, that men have it easy. Men don’t have it easy, the small subset of highly-desired men have it easy (the apex fallacy lives), as do the most desired women.
My friend Captain Capitalism has undertaken some original research to determine the exact terms of the SMP’s interpersonal bargaining: he polled his male readership for their age and approximately how much time they spent pursuing women. The results were predictable but useful – guys in their mid-20′s to early 30′s spent almost a quarter of their free time pursuing women, with the results falling off such that by age 50 or so, guys were putting in almost no effort.
The numbers suggest that the age at which men perceive the most benefit from female pursuit is in the young adult years, however it also suggests that they are relatively weak bargainers at that age which itself motivates the intense effort to meet and date girls.
I penned two earlier posts that overlap with this Treatise, and rather than stuff their hyperlinks into the new text, I figured they were worth outboard citations in their own right.