WHICHEVER planet men or women may come from, it doesn’t seem to change one thing: When it comes to sexual attraction, looks count for men while women tend to consider the size of the wallet.
Cliched as it may sound, research into the study of mating preferences and attraction has shown this to be true.
Separate informal surveys done by RazorTV and The New Paper on Sunday seem to back up the findings.
RazorTV, in a bid to replicate an Asian version of Discovery Channel’s Science of Sex Appeal, showed how a man’s status and income influenced how women rated his sex appeal.
Eight women were shown pictures of three men and asked to rate them based on sex appeal.
Another eight women were asked to rate the same men. But this time, they were told how much the men earned: $2,400, $5,600 and $8,200, with the man rated least attractive in the first poll being assigned the highest salary, and the most attractive man assigned the lowest salary.
The result: You guessed it, the least attractive man became, with his higher pay, the most attractive. And the “attractive” one with the lowest salary was rated the least attractive.
Does earning power appeal to men too? No.
Men don’t care
The New Paper on Sunday conducted a similar poll of 40 men divided into two groups. Each group was shown pictures of three women, with the second group being told the income of the women.
While the second group of men who knew the income levels of the women gave them higher individual ratings, the order in which the women were ranked from being the most attractive to least attractive remained the same.
This seems to back the theory that men don’t bother much with a woman’s earning power when judging her sex appeal.
Men in both groups commented on the women’s legs, hairstyles, body shape, faces and smiles. None in the second group mentioned income as a factor in judging sex appeal.
Are men that shallow and women that materialistic? Not quite, said Associate Professor Norman Li, 44, an evolutionary psychologist teaching at the Singapore Management University (SMU), whose area of research is mate preferences.
The reason men value looks and women value money and resources when it comes to looking for a mate is related to the way human beings think and process information to better survive and reproduce, said Prof Li.
“Men are genetically inclined to look for physical attributes such as a woman’s youth because they are an indication of her fertility.
“We may not be conscious of why we make certain choices, but we do what feels right because it corresponds to giving us better reproductive opportunities. We may live in modern times, but we still have the old psychology which comes from ancestral times.
“In ancestral times, if a woman mated with a man who was not respected and could not hunt and gather, her children would likely not survive.”
He explained that even though women today work and are independent, they still want a man with resources, which in modern times means social status and money, as if they still need to ensure the survival of their children.
But Prof Li pointed out that other factors come into play when men and women look for a long-term partner.
“When it comes to sex appeal, men may look for physical attributes, but when it comes to finding a long-term partner, they look for other attributes like kindness, virtue, warmth, trustworthiness, a sense of humour and the ability to take care of children,” he said.
Directors of dating agency My Exclusive Match, Mr Steven Lee, 52, and his wife, Mrs Cynthia Lee, 52, are both relationship coaches.
They said that in their 10 years in relationship coaching, they noticed that men look for physically attractive dating partners while women want dating partners who have higher incomes, or incomes that equal their own.
But Mr Lee pointed out that one should not stereotype men and women based on these polls results.
Said Mr Lee: “It’s not that simple. We usually advise our clients to give themselves more time to find out about the dating partner. People tend to be attracted on the first impression, but a long-term relationship is based on more than just looks.”
Mrs Lee said most women consider a man’s income because they look for a sense of security.
She explained: “Even though a woman may not want to be financially dependent on the man, she does not want him to become a liability.
“It’s not being shallow, but being practical.”
Interestingly, Mr Lee noticed that in recent years, a handful of his clients also take a woman’s income into consideration when looking for a partner.
Said Mr Lee: “There are men in their 20s or 30s who look for a partner who can also contribute towards the household, or at least support themselves.
“These men view relationships as equal partnerships and feel that women also have certain responsibilities when it comes to the financial aspect.”
>> Shallow? It's basic instinct
This article was first published in The New Paper.