Today in “Studies That Might As Well Have Been Conducted in 1955,” we have a soon-to-be-publishedreport from the November issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin concluding that when it comes to dating, men have a little bit of an issue with dating intelligent women.
The study found that while men are theoretically into the idea of dating intelligent women — you know, like, in a hypothetical dream world in which masculinity isn’t so fragile and threatened by the slightest displays of female power — in the reality of day-to-day life, they’d vastly prefer dating a woman who’s less intelligent than them.
Good job, guys! Good effort!
Researchers from the University of Buffalo, California Lutheran University and University of Texas at Austin carried out several studies with 105 male participants who answered questions about what they find attractive in women. The questions originated from a set of hypothetical scenarios in which the researchers posited that some women performed better than men in English or math classes.
At first, the results were somewhat encouraging: The men “are attracted to women who are smarter than them when she is psychologically distant,” lead author Lora Park told Mic. The “psychologically distant” jargon in this context means that the men found the smart targets (i.e. women) attractive in the abstract, i.e. from a distance. Which is great. These men appreciated a girl with a brain. Awesome.
But now for the depressing twist! “Men show less attraction to a woman when she is psychologically near and outperforms him in the intellectual domain,” Park said. “Some preliminary evidence suggested that this was due to men feeling more threatened — in terms of feeling less masculine — after the woman outsmarted them when she was closer to him.”
In other words: All those smarts are actually a turnoff IRL, so, well, FML, #MasculinitySoFragile.
This isn’t the first time research has reinforced the annoyingly gendered idea that men are easily threatened by female intelligence. A 2013 study determined that some straight men were uncomfortable with their female partners’ successes. “This research found evidence that men automatically interpret a partner’s success as their own failure,” lead researcher Kate Ratliff said. “Even when they’re not in direct competition.”
While intelligence and success are often not the same thing, both of these studies point to a general discomfort that some men have with women who wield any form of power or are in any way “superior” to them.
But it’s not all doom and gloom for women who unabashedly own their smarty-pants status! Earlier this year, professor David Bainbridge of the University of Cambridge determined that “the main thing that men are looking for is intelligence. Surveys have shown time and time again that this is the first thing that men look for,” he said.
Celebrities like George Clooney and Meek Mill have also come out in favor of dating strong, independent women. In an interview with Late Show host Stephen Colbert, Clooney joked he was the “arm candy” to his accomplished human rights lawyer wife Amal Clooney, adding that she was “a very serious person.” Clooney told Colbert he feels “shiny and pretty. That’s mostly what I do now.”
Meek Mill similarly praised his girlfriend Nicki Minaj’s smarts and ambition in an interview with GQ, telling the magazine he was attracted to her because she was a “hustler” who was “doing [her] thing.” “People don’t really have a girlfriend that’s doing more than them or the same thing,” Mill told GQ, essentially summing up the position of the men polled in this study. “I like girls that hustle. She a boss. She’s pretty as fuck. Bad as shit. Ambitious. What else do you want?”
Hopefully as time goes on, the Meek Mills and the Clooneys of the world will increase exponentially. And as for men like the 105 men polled in this study? They’ll slowly become extinct, like the dodos they are.