Are We All Gold Diggers and Cradle Robbers?

Question: What do we look for in a mate?

Ted Fischer: Men it is argued tend to like younger women, tend to like particular figures, like large hips, because they’re good for childbearing, and large breasts that are good for breastfeeding.  And women tend to like strong, masculine, big-shouldered men, who can take care of their child and them.  And there may be some truth to that kind of thing.  I think it’s too neat of a system.  There are lots of popular books written that way.  Lots of -- when I teach undergraduates, they love those socio-biological notions, because it’s just a nice neat little system.  But I think it’s too neat.  I think that -- and it varies from culture to culture.  At different points in our own culture we’ve put on a pedestal more corpulent women.  And Andean cultures, for example, the perfect body style for a woman is not the hourglass figure, but more a squat square figure.  So it’s too easy for us to extrapolate from current cultural norms and the say this is some sort of evolutionary propensity.  There do seem to be more pairings of older wealthy men and younger women, which evolutionary theory would lead us to believe. But you also, I’m always struck by newspaper reports of older women going out with younger men, and you see more and more that these days.  And that’s not at all what evolution would have us think.

The Vanderbilt anthropologist describes what we look for in a mate.

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