Burkley and Parker speculate that single women may be more drawn to attached men because they’ve already been ‘pre-screened’ by other women and found to be satisfactory as a mate, whereas single men are more of an unknown quantity. Burkely said that similar mate-poaching strategies have been reported in birds and fish. But previous studies of people had only asked whether participants found other potential partners attractive, so she designed hers to specifically probe whether participants would pursue a relationship.
The reasons for this seem obvious, on three counts. First, women are inherently competitive, so it makes sense that they’d be more attracted to a situation whose prize includes victory as well as coupledom. Men hate couture; better men hate oodles of makeup. Women don’t dress up for men, but for one another. That women are statistically more attracted to “taken” men suggests that we find some distinct pleasure in . . . converting them to even-fairer sex.
Second, the “traditional” male/female relationship involves a noncommittal man and a white-picket-fence-eager female who desperately wants him to settle down. The article suggests that women “pre-screen” men. While some women prefer drama, most seek stable, supportive partnerships. It only makes sense to find men with a history of such partnerships, and avoid men with sketchy dating histories. Jonesing after a “taken” man is as good a strategy as any. The hitch, of course, is that a taken man who jumps ship for greener pastures is not the drama-free family man our hopeful partner thought she’d found.
Finally, “taken” men pose no threat. Women pursuing a “taken” man know that their interactions will take place on her terms. It sounds perverse, but women worth dating need our space. We lose interest when clingy men apparently forget whatever they once had going on outside of the relationship. Dating an attached man precludes that lingering pre-teen fear that we’ll be pressured into committing—or acting—before we’re ready. For a gender accustomed to being jilted from our comfort zone, there’s something desireable about restoring our social order by pursuing someone not eminently (or immediately) available.
Of course, there is always the culture-leaping explanation Gabriel García Márquez offers in Love in the Time of Cholera: Florentino vows to wait for his first love (Fermina, meaning “constant”) for his entire life, until her husband dies, and bides his time seducing hundreds–six hundred!–women. When a friend asks the very-0ld and very-taken Florentino: Why are you so successful with women? Florentino replies: Because they see me as someone empty. Someone in need of love. Someone who cannot harm them. Are women doomed to be so eternally damaged from their first love that they forever search for someone who cannot inflict similar harm?
I’ve never been one to poach attached men. But then, my pre-screening works in mysterious ways: My child-bearing hips (“CBH’s”) seem to elicit quicker commitment than I’d like. I’m typically trying to avoid fast-monogamy, so inasmuch as I pursue “taken” guys, I’m probably attracted most to how non-threatening they are.
Which leaves only one two big questions remaining: Are women more attracted to taken men aware of this tendency? And: Are men similarly more attracted to taken women?
Thanks JB, via Instapundit.