If women are choosey and men aren't, why do many women maximize their perceived attractiveness?

One basic hypothesis is that women are choosey. Dring human reproduction, women have to pay the enormous costs of constructing an entire human infant, delivering it (and their bodies are just barely able to fit it through the various obstructions), and then raising it for at least 10-15 years. (even ‘wild’ humans probably need to be around 10-15 before they are physically and mentally able to support themselves)

A man, in theory, need only supply a few drops of semen that he produces anyway.

This fundamental relationship defines, well, almost everything.

So if women have a much smaller incentive to have sex with men than men have to have sex with women, why do many women often take actions to make themselves appear sexier.

The short skirts, the makeup, the push up bras, the exercise, the makeup, the high heels…it goes on and on.

Since they have to pay a much higher cost if they get pregnant, one would logically and rationally expect the opposite. Women would wear whatever is practical, and they would not bother with many complex behaviors in relationships to make themselves more desirable, knowing the male has no choice but to take any offers of sex when they are made by the woman.

One theory is that women make a relationship with them expensive (they expect gifts of resources, exclusive attention, and so on), so they have to make themselves to appear more desirable to entice men to pay the large costs that they themselves charge.

I guess this sort of answers the question. But it seems contradictory and almost like doing one thing, then doing the opposite.

What’s more desirable: choosing your favorite from among a small number of options, or from a large number of options?

The OP talks about one hypotesis, but actually posits two:

  1. Women are choosy.
  2. Men aren’t.

The second one is wrong. Since men are choosy as well, making herself desirable to a larger pool is one of the strategies that give a woman a larger pool to choose from. You know, same as guys? And even same as homosexuals. No matter which your “target group” is, they’re going to be choosy, so the more attractive you are by their standards, the larger your pool of choices is.

They are mathematically the same hypothesis. I’m saying that A >>>> B , where A and B are variables representing choosiness.

Women do not dress to impress men.

They dress and present themselves in the best light, to impress other women.

For that is who they are in competition with. And there are very strong societal pressures to do so.

But why

You posited them in absolute terms, now you’re repositing in relative terms. Even if we accepted men to be less choosy than women (which is left to be proved), that does not mean men are not choosy. Yes they are! Or are you telling me that you expect the Standard Man to find, let’s see, current-day Montserrat Caballé as attractive as any of these ladies? I don’t.

No matter how you argue with me, my point is the same and unavoidable.

Your premises don’t lead to the question you’re asking. If women are the more choosy gender, you’d expect them to put more effort into being attractive. Men, who according to your premise are willing to settle for anyone, don’t bother.

Moderator Action

While it might be possible to find some studies to cite to answer this factually, I think most of the answers are going to be opinions rather than fact. Let’s move this over to IMHO where folks can more freely express their opinions.

Moving thread from General Questions to In My Humble Opinion.

Disclaimer: I am about to grossly oversimplify sexual dynamics.

I think I see the problem with the OP’s assumptions. A woman’s attractiveness wouldn’t matter if men didn’t care at all whom they had sex with. But men do care whom they have sex with. Even Wilt Chamberlain, who claimed to have slept with over 20,000 women, had to make choices. If you look at it cynically, it’s impossible for a man to have sex with every woman he encounters, so he has to prefer some women to others.

Women are in competition with each other for mates. By maximizing her attractiveness, a woman increases the pool of men who are interested in her, which on average increases the quality of the best men in the pool. And if women really are choosy, it’s important to have a good pool to make choices from.

I think “choosiness” is partially biological, but can be emphasized or deemphasized by culture. There are cultures, and even periods in western culture, where men go to great lengths to enhance their attractiveness.

This is the answer.

But I do admit that when online dating, where the odds are really really in my (straight female favour) I don’t put the nicest pictures I have on my profile, in the spirit of "let’s see who still interested.

From a generic biological POV men want to have sex with a large pool of fertile women (young, attractive) who they can then walk away from, while women want to be with a man who not only has good genes but who has both the resources and fidelity to support her and the kid while the child is still learning to be autonomous (also if the father’s resources can be passed down to the kid, that will also increase the kids reproductive success. The children of dictators, rich people and rock stars get far more mating options than the children of nobodies).

So I’d wager that women are competing to attract the best men by outcompeting all the other women. Can a woman get sex whenever she wants. Generally (there are exceptions). But getting sex isn’t enough. Getting sex from a man with great genetics who has the resources to support the kid, who will stick around to support the kid, and who can pass those resources down to the kid is much much harder.

Part of me thinks polygymy is the natural order of human mating rather than this system where everyone mates and has kids. The top 10-20% of men monopolize all the women and the rest of us are SOL.

You say “in theory” men only need provide some sperm, and then you’re asking about reality, which does not conform to your theory. In reality, in our current culture, men need provide sperm, support, emotional, financial and physical attention to the woman he impregnates and the resulting child for the better part of two decades at least. Moreover, he is expected to cease, or at least limit, his choices in future sexual partners or face social censure and potential financial consequences.

You absolutely cannot remove culture from the study of the human beast. We’re social animals, and have gone to great lengths to make the burden of reproducing as equal as possible. Men are not unthinking lunks; they know perfectly well that sex may bring a high cost. Even if we accept the proposition that all men will have sex with any woman (which is clearly nonsense), that doesn’t men that men will willingly *reproduce *with any woman. (Nor will women willingly reproduce with any man.)

(Disclaimer: Very crude, questionable generalizations follow.)

Men aren’t choosy when it comes to sex. They’ll stick their dicks in anything.

But who you have sex with is different from who choose to be with…who you show to friends and family…who you settle down with and have a real relationship with. Men ARE particular about the women they have hanging on their arm. The attractiveness of one’s girlfriend reflects one’s status.

Women who try to look attractive aren’t trying to get laid. They’re trying to find or keep a mate.

To a degree. There are various things that make us less likely to stick our dick in something:

How fertile is she (the less her physical appearance implies an opportunity for fertility, the less desire to have sex we feel)

How do I and/or society feel about her (is she crazy, mean, embarrassing, etc)

I think part of the issue is that “choosiness” isn’t well-defined here. Do you use it to mean “Will not mate if they cannot find a partner who meets a high standard”, or “Will select the partner who meets the highest standard out of those who are available and interested?”

I assume it means ‘puts more effort into screening sexual partners’

I see this being said here occasionally and it just seems so bizarre to me. I am a single woman who would like to be in a relationship with a man. Last night I went out with some girl friends for dinner and drinks. I dressed up because I thought “might be some men there”. I never once thought “have to look good for the other ladies”.

I never, ever dress up to look attractive to other women. In fact if I’m having girls over, I’ll often not even put on makeup. I only try to look attractive to men.