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Hypergamy and the Coolidge Effect: Why People Need to Know About These Concepts


There is a theory in evolutionary psychology known as “evolved preferences theory”which suggests that when looking for a potential mate, “men usually choose physically attractive and traditionally feminine features of women as it resembles fertility and good health for their offspring while women prefer resources rather than looks as they have evolved to be dependent on men due to pregnancy and child-rearing”. However, many experts do not agree with this and suggest further studies as, according to them, this theory contradicts with what we know about our hunter-gatherer past. Instead, some claim that the preferences of women in mating must have something to do with the social roles they play since the post-agricultural society on so many levels.


The theory of hypergamy and the Briffault’s law

According to evolutionary psychologist Jordan Peterson, there is a consistent indication of female hypergamy across cultures and societies. This is observable even in egalitarian societies such as the Scandinavian, as what Peterson suggests, that women prefer to mate with men that are on the higher social and economic status hierarchy. So usually they will marry men, for example, who earn the same amount of money as them or even more but not lesser. Meanwhile, this seems correlate with the idea of Robert Briffault, an English surgeon and anthropologist who died in 1948. According to “Briffault’s law”, “the female, not the male, determines all the conditions of the animal family. Where the female can derive no benefit from association (relationship) with the male, no such association takes place”. In a sense, it suggests that “intimate relationships between men and women result from a calculated cost/benefit analysis by women”. If this is true, it makes sense to the notion of female hypergamy.


Filipino Women as Example?

Furthermore, in the Philippines there was a recent online study that might suggest a confirmation to these two theories. In October of this year (2019), The Filipino Times, UAE’s largest Filipino newspaper, did an online poll segment for “netizens” about how women choose their mate or partner. According to the result, almost 87% of Filipino women who answered said they would “rather choose money over looks as this gives them more financial stability.

According to Rollo Tomassi, author of the book The Rational Male, hypergamy is the “behavioural manifestation complementary to women’s hormonal and biological realities”. In a biological sense, it is the woman’s practicality and effective mechanism for selecting the best mate for possible genetic breeding. In this sense, according to him, all women are hypergamous in nature. However, in many societies, hypergamy comes in many forms depending on the context and the cultural environment that affects the condition. Therefore, hypergamy is not only limited to financial aspects but also to social status as well.

What about the Coolidge Effect

All across mammalian species, there is a biological phenomenon called the Coolidge Effect. This drives male mammals, including humans, to desire for new mating partners for novel sexual experiences. According to this, usually the male’s interest and arousal towards their mating partner becomes lesser and so they get tired of having to copulate with the same sexual partner as “their presence becomes less rewarding to the primitive mammalian brain”. So the desire for this sexual partner becomes less and less.   

To conclude, these theories cannot be simply denied or put aside because it is true that these are seemingly present in the current male-female gender dynamics of our societies. That is why we need to educate the people about this and we need more research and studies to find out if this is really true in all cultures and society so that we can learn to use these biological characteristics for our advantages instead of further social polarization and conflict through gender. However, if these are really fixed biological features, we really need to find out how to handle them. If not and if people remain ignorant of these topics, gender issues and problems will always continue to cause unrest.