A while back I discovered* the site Why Women Hate Men, which is a guy collecting the worst of the worst advertisements on dating sites that range from stunningly inept to extremely offensive. It’s a fun site. While reading it, I read the entire comment thread on a post that involved a man sending an email to a woman telling her not to mention the fact that she has a PhD on her ad because it’ll scare men off.

To the extent that there is a consensus in the comment thread, it is: Yes, men have a problem with smart women, but it’s their problem. All sorts of women have stories about how some relationship or another didn’t work out because he was threatened by her intelligence and some women suggest that their intelligence is why they have had difficulty landing a man. And how unwise it is of men to have the priorities that they do.

What this reminds me of, of course, is the whole perpetual Women Dig Jerks discussion. In one case, you have women declaring what men are really attracted to (they’re intimidated by intelligence, thus attracted to stupidity). In the other case, you have men declaring what women are really attracted to (they prefer jerks, which means they stiff nice guys). In both cases there are suggestions that it’s the priorities of the opposite gender that are the reason that they are alone. In both cases, they’ve all got stories to back up their perspective. And in both cases, it doesn’t matter what the side being talked about says because their “revealed preferences” don’t make their “stated preferences.”

I think that the comparison is valuable because the perceptions (regardless o the veracity of each) are held up by a rather similar set of pillars:

(1) It’s true sometimes. Some women are directly attracted to jerks. They actively prefer to be mistreated and/or feel that anyone whose affections are given too easily are worthless and therefore prefer guys that are more sparing with their kindness. It isn’t often, but this is sometimes the case.
(2) Some women are indirectly attracted to jerks. That is to say that they are not attracted to jerks specifically, but they are attracted to traits that correspond positively to jerkitude. Examples would be men that have dominant personalities, access to illegal narcotics, or a penchant for thrill-seeking.
(3) Some women, even if they don’t like jerkliness or things that corrollate with it, are willing to put up with it because there are other factors that are more important. It’s more important to get a hot or successfully guy than one that treats her well. They believe that if they are treated poorly, they probably deserve it.
(4) Sometimes women have difficulty finding a guy that isn’t a jerk. They’d love a nice guy… if only they could find one.
(5) When men see a woman dating a jerk, they don’t know if it’s because of #1-4.
(6) Men see women dating jerks and assume that because they’re dating jerks they prefer to date jerks. Also, any time a woman is dating a jerk, she must have passed up at least one – probably several – nice, good guys in order to date him.
(7) As men become invested in this theory, they assume with little evidence that when they are passed up it’s because they are not a jerk.
(8) Assuming that it’s only jerks that get women, they sometimes begin to assume that guys that get women must be jerks, thus reinforcing the theory.
(9) Single men tend to hang around single men. They tend to view the proliferation of single men around them as proof that this is a very serious problem with significant repercussions down the road.
(10) And it’s all women’s fault!
(1) It’s true sometimes. Some men prefer women of limited intelligence. They like being able to control their partner. They don’t like having their worldly knowledge challenged by the junior partner of the relationship.
(2) Some men are indirectly attracted to airheads. They like sunny demeanors and stupid people are often presented in popular media as being of limited intelligence. Smart people can be a drag because they’re always thinking about life, the universe, and everything. Also, there’s the youth factor.
(3) Some men, even if they don’t like stupidity or things that allegedly corrolate with it, will accept diminished intelligence for the sake of other attributes. They only hot women that will date them are the ones that they can impress. One of the most impressive things they have is intelligence.
(4) Sometimes men have difficulty finding intelligent women that will date them. They’d love an intelligent woman, but seem more capable of finding a less intelligent woman that doesn’t mind the philosophy books on the bookshelf than finding an intelligent woman that isn’t bothered by his lack of career ambition.
(5) When women see themselves being passed over for someone less intelligent, they don’t know if it’s because of #1-4.
(6) When women see themselves being passed over at all, they find the one thing in their conversation on that first date where they said something that indicated their intelligence or the man said something that could be construed as considering her intelligence a threat to his and will cite that as the reason that things did not work out.
(7) When imagining what kind of guy that he’s dating, they may fill in the blanks with assumptions of airheadedness even if such assumptions are not supported.
(8) When women look at the intelligent women they know having had trouble finding a partner, they assume that intelligent women are facing a crisis.
(9) And it’s all men’s fault!

These comparisons are inexact, but you get the idea. It doesn’t take a whole lot of truth to provide support for someone to believe something that makes them look good. It’s not a tough sell to convince a guy that he has been rejected because he is too nice nor a girl because she is too smart. Especially when you start involving ideology with anti-feminism as a function of the first and anti-patriarchy as a function of the latter.

I’m not going to venture a guess as to how frequent it is that intelligence hurts a woman and kindness hurts a guy. In a vacuum, it’s unlikely that either hurts either, at least when it comes to more than impersonal hookings-up. Women with degrees are more likely to marry than women without them. Convicts don’t have good marriage rates. I do suspect that (1) is more frequently true in the intelligence context than the kindness one but that (2) goes the other way. Really, I have no evidence for any supposition. I think the more important thing to take away is that even when you think you know what’s up, things are often a lot more complicated.

* – I discovered this site through Phi, who apparently discovered it through somewhere that he went from here.

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11 Responses to It’s All Their Fault

  1. Barry says:

    I do agree that nice man and intelligent women both have reasonably good assurance of eventually getting married (staying married is a separate issue, probably) but that those traits do hinder shorter, younger and less meaningful interactions with the opposite sex. The guy who’s nice and non-threatening is less attractive to a women who’s just looking to date or even just glancing around a room to find the nice-looking guys to hang around with. And the intelligent girl (even if she’s good looking) is going to have troubles finding the right guy.

    They’ll eventually get there, probably, but it may take a number of frustrating years.

  2. Barry says:

    Sorry, didn’t finish what I wanted to say…

    I think I fall into this category – my dating life (such as it was) was very frustrating in high school and college. Nice guy, average-to-below-average in looks (my assessment, maybe not from women if you took a poll, who knows). Rarely found women to be interested in me and when they were it only lasted a week or so. Thankfully I started dating the woman I would eventually marry my last year in college and we’ve been married for 16 years.

    I wonder sometimes what my romantic life would’ve been like, a) if I’d been more confident and successful (those two things feed one another greatly) in high school and college or, b) if I hadn’t met my wife and continued on post-grad not being engaged or married. I might have met someone just as quickly and still gotten married or possibly could have floated between several relationships. Or just as easily have found no one. It’s an interesting speculation. But my earlier failures, to this day, continue to tickle my mind in wondering what would have happened.

  3. Peter says:

    But my earlier failures, to this day, continue to tickle my mind in wondering what would have happened.

    You’re not alone. I do pretty much the same thing, on practically a daily basis. It’s very difficult not to want to kick myself when I think of all the absolutely boneheaded mistakes I made with women in my 20’s. Most of them fell under the general category of being too needy. Women will accept many flaws in men, but neediness is not one of them.

    As for personals ads, I’ve heard that the main problem with men’s ads is that they often tend to be too crude and explicit, while women’s ads often have overly long and overly detailed lists of what they want in men. And both men and women are often guilty of using decidely non-current photos in their profiles.

  4. Brandon Berg says:

    Women with degrees are more likely to marry than women without them.

    Actually, I ran the numbers in the GSS, and it turns out that of women aged 40-50 (I’m trying to filter out women who just delay marriage), the likelihood of being married at the time of the interview was not related to educational attainment. However, 13% of women with bachelor’s degrees and 12.8% of women with graduate degrees had never been married (I’m surprised at this; I thought it would be higher for women with graduate degrees), compared to around 8% for women with lower educational attainment.

    But f you look only at white women aged 40-50, there’s a clear trend: The never-married rates for <HS, HS, Associate, Bachelor’s, and Graduate are 4.1%, 4.7%, 5.6%, 11.6%, and 14.1%.

    Interestingly, for men the rates are 7.5%, 9.8%, 14.8%, 12.7%, and 11.9%. I bet Sheila would find that middle one interesting.

    Playing to stereotype, 40% of women aged 35-50 who majored in fine arts had never been married. That’s based on a sample of 12, though (they don’t ask about college majors often), so who knows?

    Convicts don’t have good marriage rates.

    Is it because no woman will have them, or because they just don’t want to commit? And there are those death-row groupies. Of course, they’re comparatively rare; the question is whether that’s because they exhibit an extreme form of a common tendency, or because they’re just plain aberrational.

  5. trumwill says:


    That sounds about right. I am relatively sure that had you not married your wife young, you would have found someone down the line. But there probably would have been more frustration along the way. Things get really frustrating after college when you’re no longer surrounded by potential mates. It is a little bit sad that when we’re at the point of finding the best partner, in college where there are lots of people around to choose from, we’re not mentally in a place to do so.

  6. trumwill says:


    Did you happen to follow the link on Why Women Hate Men? I never spent a whole lot of time (if any) looking at men’s profiles, so it never would occur to me that guys would put that sort of thing up there. I look back at my profiles with mild amusement and bewilderment, but they were dumb in a different way.

  7. trumwill says:


    I stand corrected. Did a little more poking into it and that statement was incorrect. Particularly when you account for race.

    I think that convicts are generally not predisposed to get married, but I’m not sure how much it would matter if they were. As for the death row groupies, I think it’s a cross between the two. I think attraction to dangerous men is something a fair number of women go through at some point in their younger years (sort of like a thing for penniless, unemployed artists) and that those women never outgrew it or moved beyond it.

  8. Sheila Tone says:

    Very insightful comparison. I can think of several female friends/acquaintances who were bullying, difficult and demanding, who liked to blame their relationship difficulties with men on their intelligence and independence. I was always too scared to respond with anything less agreeable than, “Hmmmm.” Which helps illustrate their problem.

  9. Peter says:

    It’s been claimed that a peculiarly high percentage of the profiles in personals ads show peoples’ ages as ending in “9.” 29, 39, 49, that sort of thing. The idea is that a person, whether a man or woman, who is for example 45 years old will give his or her age as 39.

    A person whose age really is 45 will say “40-ish.”

  10. Peter says:

    D’oh! I meant to say that a person whose age really is 49 will say “40-ish.”

  11. Sheila Tone says:

    This thing with their letters and phone messages is just mean. I know from personal experience on both sides that rambling post-rejection letters plague all genders and orientations.

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