Researchers developed a computer model to simulate the human evolutionary process, and what they discovered was a possible explanation for why chicks dig “less supportive partners”, aka jerks.
We generated a large virtual population of males and females, the males all differing genetically in their ability to invest resources in raising children. The females had a genetically determined preference for this male quality, which meant that females with a strong preference were more likely to end up with a male who invested more.
The males and females that paired up in our model then mated and produced offspring, who inherited (with a small chance of mutation) the investing qualities and mating preferences of their parents. We ran our model over thousands of generations, observing which genetic traits thrived and which didn’t.
Evolutionary biologists had built this kind of model before to understand mating preferences in other animals, but we added some new ingredients. First, we allowed a female’s parents to interfere with her choice of a male. Second, we allowed parents to distribute their resources among their children.
We found that over time, parents in our model evolved to invest more resources in daughters who chose mates with few resources. This unequal investment was in the parents’ best interests, because a daughter with an unsupportive partner would profit more from extra help than her more fortunate sisters (the principle of diminishing returns on investment). By helping their needier daughters, parents maximized their total number of surviving grandchildren.
But this unequal investment created an incentive for daughters to “exploit” their parents’ generosity by choosing a partner who was less supportive. A daughter who was less picky than her sisters would accept a less helpful partner, but since her parents picked up the slack she ended up with a similar amount of support, while sparing herself the costs of holding out for the perfect man.
As a result, the choosiness of females gradually declined over evolutionary time. To counterbalance this, the parental preference for caring sons-in-law increased. Hence the conflict.
So chicks dig layabout badboys because daddy (or when daddy is missing, the government) will play the role of the beta provider. And daughters know this parental or governmental safety net is there for them, so they feel free to pursue exciting jerks with low future time orientation because TINGLES. In the ancestral environment, long before contraceptives like the Pill became widely and cheaply available, the daughters who jumped into relationships sooner with fun-loving jerks got a head start on the procreation race over their sisters who waited for the best package deal their looks could get them.
This newest theory is interesting because it cuts against the grain of conventional thinking. It’s assumed by the unimaginative masses that the badboy exploits a sexual market niche of fatherless, low self-esteem skanks. The “Forever Seeking Daddy’s Approval” theory of jerkboy attractiveness rests on the premise that women who have been abandoned by their fathers will seek male approval from similarly emotionally distant lovers. A sort of “fuck it forward” karmic philosophy.
But now a computer simulation has spat out a possible new cause of a badboy love phenomenon that no one with any sense denies (even foul feminists can’t deny it). And in this simulation, it’s not the sluts craving daddy’s comforting hug who fall into the jerk’s tatted arms; it’s the daughters of large, intact families who exploit the material generosity of their parents (really, their fathers) by dating jerks who could use some outside support.
Does this new theory square with reality? At the risk of outing myself as a charming jerk, ( ) few of the women I’ve taken to bed on the first date came from broken families. Most were smart, psychologically balanced, and raised in the bosom of a loving nuclear family. The “first date” qualifier is important, because it’s a simple metric to use in a pinch that distinguishes impulsive, jerk-loving girls from playing-the-long-game cockteases with ice in their pussies.
Naturally, you would be right to protest that those are just anecdotes. But from anecdotes and personal observations, we build theories of the world. Gotta start somewhere. And it’s also true that some of those same night conquests (a notable minority) turned out, upon later inspection, to have a closet full of family strife skeletons.
The “Parent Exploitation” theory is not without its flaws. For one, it does not, as far as I can tell, include male mate choice in its algorithm. This is a huge oversight. Men, by nature of their reproductive expendability, may not exercise as much choice in the mating market as do women, but they exercise some choice. The pockets of exceedingly beautiful women around the world prove that men, when the ecological conditions are favorable, do adhere to standards when choosing long-term mates. This theory has nothing to say about that. For instance, what is the SMV of the women who choose unsupportive partners and fill in the gaps with their parents’ assistance? How does female SMV inform jerkboy choice? How does a daughter’s or a suitor’s SMV influence parents’ willingness to provide support? What about the kinds of men who choose sexytime women over coy princesses, and vice versa?
Then there’s the issue of declining fertility. How well does the model work when there are more one-child families? It’s not a leap to imagine that a one-child dystopia would encourage the parent exploitation strategy by entitled lone daughters, because there are no sisters to compete for daddy’s money. A one-child family unit world might also spur more cad-chasing by daughters who are sole inheritors of the family wealth.
What about a massively scaled-up dating market, like the one we have today, wherein parents have little to no influence over their daughter’s mate choices which are made in the shadow of urban anonymity and severance from any familial or community roots? Does a daughter’s exploitation strategy work as well under those conditions, or is dad so fed-up with his powerlessness that he cuts her off completely? Or, conversely, does dad lavish gifts on his faraway daughter as substitute for his lack of presence in her romantic life?
That’s the problem with these mathematical modelings: too many unspoken-for variables. A model can be useful, especially as a guide to lead to further inquiry, but its shortcomings are also made more evident by its executable.
So I remain agnostic on the ultimate cause of the female craving for cads. My preferred theory — and the one that makes the most sense from an up-close-and-personal vantage — is a combination of the “sexy sons” and the “dominance signaling” hypotheses. Women are attracted to hard-to-get, noncommittal, charismatic jerks because the sons of those jerks will inherit the jerk’s smooth, reproductive fitness maximizing way with women, and the jerk’s dominance with women is a strong cue that, in the future, he will dominate any enemies who might threaten his family or his lover.
PS Have any of you noticed that the hottest daughters have lumpy, chipmunk-cheeked beta male fathers? It’s the Sitcom Dad-Hot Piece of Princess Ass phenomenon. Enticing femininity is almost guaranteed when both mom and dad are feminine. Women who marry very masculine men tend to produce masculine sons (good) and masculine daughters (bad). Reverse the polarity when dad is very feminine. John Scalzi better hope he bears nothing but daughters… for YaReally to poop on!
So maybe the simulation above is best understood as a palimpsest of the fact that most families which have the resources to give to daughters who choose jerk loverboys are headed by beta provider fathers. And that, since most beta provider fathers are more phenotypically feminine, their daughters will be hotter and thus better able to both attract love from discerning jerks and extract resources from distributing fathers. But as society becomes less monogamous at the margins, the ability and willingness of fathers (not to mention the number of these fathers) to play along with this game gradually decreases.