If you happen to haven’t watched “Nanette,” Hannah Gadsby’s fearless comedy particular on Netflix, try this now. (We’ll wait.)
In it, Ms. Gadsby takes on the fragility of masculinity — and at one level drills into Pablo Picasso, who, effectively into his 40s, had an affair with a teenage lady.
Ms. Gadsby, who has a level in artwork historical past, recounted how Picasso justified the connection by claiming that he and the lady, Marie-Thérèse Walter, had been each of their prime. Seething, Ms. Gadsby stated: “A 17-year-old lady isn’t in her prime. Ever! I’m in my prime.” She is 40.
That anecdote got here to thoughts not too long ago, in response to a brand new examine about on-line relationship revealed within the journal Science Advances.
In it, researchers studied the “desirability” of female and male customers, based mostly on what number of messages almost 200,000 customers, all of whom had been looking for opposite-sex companions, bought over one month on a “widespread, free online-dating service” — and if these sending the messages had been fascinating based mostly on the identical standards.
The researchers decided that whereas males’s sexual desirability peaks at age 50, ladies’s begins excessive at 18 and falls from there.
In different phrases, not so removed from the ages of Walter and Picasso.
“The age gradient for girls positively stunned us — each when it comes to the truth that it steadily declined from the time ladies had been 18 to the time they had been 65, and likewise how steep it was,” stated Elizabeth Bruch, an affiliate professor of sociology on the College of Michigan and an writer of the examine.
This examine isn’t an anomaly.
The examine outcomes echoed knowledge shared by the relationship behemoth OkCupid in 2010, through which the service discovered that males from the ages of 22 to 30 focus virtually solely on ladies who’re youthful than them.
“The median 30-year-old man spends as a lot time messaging teenage women as he does ladies his personal age,” OkCupid wrote in a blog post at the time.
OkCupid also reported that as a man gets older, he searches for relatively younger and younger women, while his upper acceptable age limit hovers just above his own age.
“The male fixation on youth distorts the dating pool,” OkCupid concluded.
Caveman mentality persists.
Michelle Drouin, a developmental psychologist who focuses on technology and relationships, was not surprised by the new study — in part because they “align with evolutionary theories of mating” in which youth suggests fertility, she said.
Dr. Drouin pointed out, though, that there are also theories that suggest that “men are just less interested in earning potential or power, and more interested in physical attractiveness.”
Women want brains. Men care less.
Speaking of earning potential, Dr. Bruch also found that a man’s desirability increased the more education he attained.
For women, that benefit ended with an undergraduate degree — and postgraduate education, in fact, made them less desirable.
Dr. Drouin said that educational dynamic might also be related to “beliefs that higher degrees among women translate into more work commitment and less relationship and family commitment.”
People aim high (probably too high).
Dr. Drouin stressed that the preferences of people seeking mates online reflect aspiration, not necessarily what people want in real life. A key finding of the study was that most users sent messages to people who were more desirable than themselves. Twenty-five percent more desirable, to be exact.
This data represents “the reality of dating preferences” — in other words, dating out of your league, Dr. Drouin said. That is often not the reality of dating.
“These messages sent by online daters can be likened to slot machine play in Vegas,” she said. “Little investment on the front end might pay out big on the back end — so why not opt for a chance at the biggest win?”
But then again, the internet can’t read chemistry.
“In the real world, the woman with a graduate degree who knows your favorite Kerouac passage, speaks a few languages or discovers new ways to cure disease might be undeniably attractive,” she said. “Think of Amal Clooney.”
Maya Salam reports on gender issues for The New York Times. Follow her on Twitter @Maya_Salam.