Although women are generally attracted to men who tend to be marginally more intelligent than they are, it still remains a fact that the vast majority of women tend to be intimidated by men of high intelligence. One possible explanation for the usual female reluctance to date men of high intelligence is probably becasue of the statistical rarity or total absence of intellectually superior women at the furthermost reaches of the bell curve distribution of psychometric intelligence; since the overwhelming majority of women tend to be roughly homogeneous in personality and behaviour, men of high intelligence often find it difficult, if not almost impossible, to find a woman who is similarly gifted in mental capacity.
Interestingly enough, I managed to pose a similar question to a number of well-known and justly celebrated academics and scholars. My question was:
The French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau once said: “Women, in general, are not attracted to art at all, nor knowledge, and not at all to genius.” A close personal acquaintance of mine seems to believe that most women are physically repelled by men of high intelligence because most women are seeking a man who can be easily manipulated mentally into handing over whatever natural resources he is capable of commanding. He has also informed me that the more highly intelligent a man is, the greater will be his risk of having to endure a lifetime of perpetual celibacy given the statistical rarity of female intellectuals and the fact that “likes generally tend to attract likes” (women, being generally average in intelligence, pursue men who are similarly average or slightly above average in mental capacity). Certain studies would seem to bear this out; for example, a study conducted by C.T. Halpern et al (2000) suggests that “higher intelligence operates as a protective factor against early sexual activity in adolescence and lower intelligence, to a point, is a risk factor.” A number of writers, such as Clifford Pickover (Strange Brains) and Cesare Lombroso (The Man of Genius) before him, have also suggested that both intellectual giftedness and especially genius are highly correlated with celibacy, even gynophobia. I must admit that much of what my friend says seems to be true; it always seems to be the most highly intelligent males who have the most amount of difficulty attracting even a woman of average physical appearance. After all, if we are to believe Lombroso, most of the great geniuses of history were either celibate or endured miserable home lives. Is it true that most women find smart men to be intellectually threatening and run from them as fast as possible? Is there a strong connection between high intelligence in the male and misogyny?
Here are some of the responses I received:
Here are some of the responses I received:
David C. Geary Ph.d., author of the book “Male, Female”, wrote:
Well, there are studies that suggest that women are attracted to these traits in men. But, there is a negative correlation between IQ and men’s reproductive success; positive correlation for income. My guess is that women do not want men who are too extreme on any trait; they want tall, but not too tall, e.g. This is probably true of IQ and for reasons you state. What is too extreme? I don’t know, but probably once you get passed the 145 range (3 standard deviations > mean), you’re probably getting there. Of course, someone this bright should be able to figure out how to cover this up, except when necessary.
Professor David Buss, author of “The Evolution of Desire”, responded by saying:
Interesting thoughts, but they are not supported by my data, nor the studies of others. Women are indeed attracted to intelligent men, and in fact marry men on average 4 IQ points higher than their own. At the tails of the distribution, of course, one runs into trouble; so yes, at the very high ends, both men and women have problems finding someone they can talk to. Still, women are drawn to men smarter than they are; men are more willing to settle for a woman less intelligent, since they prioritize looks and other qualities more.
The famous anthropologist Donald Symons, author of the classic work “The Evolution of Human Sexuality”, wrote:
Here are a few observations re your questions.
Human intelligence increased dramatically over several million years of evolution, which wouldn’t have happened if intelligent men were at a reproductive disadvantage.
Studies of women’s mating criteria consistently show that intelligence is valued by women (cf David Buss’s books on human mating). Intelligence is near, but not at the top of the list, and there’s no reason to suppose that high intelligence by iteself can compensate for other deficits. Furthermore, other female mating criteria, such as high status, economic prowess and being funny correlate positively (though, of course,imperfectly) with intelligence. I would guess that geniuses like Newton, who is not known to ever have had sex with a woman, were celibate by choice, because of odd character quirks, and not because they were too intelligent to be attractive. Einstein certainly did well with women, and it sure wasn’t because of the remorseless precision of his profile.
Studies of preliterate peoples have consistently shown that headmen and shamans, who tend to have more wives and children, are regularly described as unusually intelligent. These are the societies that most closely resemble those that obtained during most of human evolution. And in modern industrialized societies, which diverge in many ways from the environment of evolutionary adaptedness, upper classes have fewer children because they choose to and have the means to (reliable contraceptives), not because upper class men can’t find wives or other sexual partners.
The anthropologist April Gorry analyzed the character traits of the heroes of 45 highly successful romance novels, written by and for women. Heroes were described as muscular (45/45), handsome (44), strong (42), large (35) and so forth, and no hero was described as the opposite of any of these things. Heroes also had various character traits, such as sexually bold (40), calm (39), confident (39), etc., and in 38 of the 45 novels he was explicitly described as intelligent. No hero was described as not having any of these traits or of being unintelligent. I find these data especially compelling, because women are voting for these books with their money, and the market will produce the kinds of romantic fantasies that women want to read.
In sum, I think that intelligence is a highly valued trait in men, and always has been, though it may not be number one on the list, and certainly can’t compensate, for most women, if other highly desirable traits are absent.
The psychologist Roy Baumeister, author of “The Social Dimension of Sex”, wrote:
Hmm, this has not been my impression, except for the statement that highly intelligent young men are slower to commence sex. But my understanding is that they often make up for lost time and live better sex lives than the dummies. Not sure, though.
In future, in the US at least, we are moving toward having a strong majority of university degrees going to women. Because women tend to marry up, this will be quite a sexual bonanza for the next few generations of men who earn advanced degrees. Educated women won’t want to marry uneducated men, and there won’t be enough highly educated men to go around, so those men who are available will be able to pick and choose like studs.
Controversial scholar Richard Lynn, author of “Wealth and IQ”, remarked:
YOU HAVE PRESENTED ME WITH SOME DIFFICULT QUESTIONS.
I must admit that much of what my friend says seems to be true; it always seems to be the most highly intelligent males who have the most amount of difficulty attracting even a woman of average physical appearance. After all, if we are to believe Lombroso, most of the great geniuses of history were either celibate or endured miserable home lives. Is it true that most women find smart men to be intellectually threatening and run from them as fast as possible? Is there a strong connection between high intelligence in the male and misogyny?
I DOUBT IT
Is there a causal relationship between psychoticism (mental illness) and genius?
YES - MORE WITH ARTISTS, WRITERS THAN SCIENTISTS
And, if so, is it possible that this factor alone could discourage men of high intelligence from finding suitable mating opportunities?
The famous evolutionary biologist Steven Pinker wrote:
It’s totally false. Survey after survey has shown that intelligence is one of the most highly valued traits for a woman seeking a man. There is no evidence that intelligent men are more likely to be celibate. The Halpern study says that smart teenagers are less likely to have sex, not that smart men are unattractive to women.
I also asked Professor Geary this question:
Is there a strong connection between high intelligence and psychopathology? Historically, the notion that genius and madness are somehow interconnected goes back to the time of Aristotle. Certain researchers, such as JC Kaufman (2001) and RA Prentky (2001), have suggested that the incidence of mental illness increases dramatically the farther one goes up the high end of the normal distribution of human intelligence; others have alleged that even high levels of creativity itself could possibly be connected to such disorders as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Even Lewis M. Terman (1947) found a considerably higher degree of social and emotional maladjustment amongst his longitudinal sample of gifted children relative to the normal population at large. Do men of high intelligence share many psychological traits in common with the mentally ill? Does the connection between genius and madness make it difficult for one to form normal relationships with others, especially women? Does it pre-dispose men of genius to lives of complete social isolation from others and the world around them? Can it readily account for the eccentricity and unconventionality that characterize so many of the personal lives of highly intelligent men? How much of this is true?
Is there a causal relationship between psychoticism (mental illness) and genius? And, if so, is it possible that this factor alone could discourage men of high intelligence from finding suitable mating opportunities? What do you think, professor?
The learned professor responded by saying:
Great questions. You might find Redfield’s Touched with Fire of interest. There does seem to be a good link between “genius” – creativity – and bipolar disorder, at least the more mild forms of it. My guess is that this sorts independently of IQ and thus genius types have both, along with a few other traits. There may also be some social awkwardness among really high IQ individuals, independent of bipolar, because they are different from other folks that thus find it hard to really relate to their issues and level of understanding. Some genius types, such as Newton, had a combination of high IQ, and possibly a mild form of bipolar disorder and I suspect Asperger. Overall, since there are more males than females at the high end of this continuum, finding an “equal” will be difficult, but it doesn’t mean a life of isolation. Newton never married, but Darwin did. Galileo had a long-term relationship and sired several children… Tesla never married, but Edison did.
To someone like this, talking to a psychologist about these frustrations might be helpful. Learning a few tricks about dealing with other people is helpful.
Additionally, I posed another question to Steven Pinker:
Evolutionary biologists have long suggested that it is the most successful men who attract women as wives and girlfriends, whereas men who are relatively unsuccessful more often than not tend to attract none. How is this reconciled with the fact that it is always men of the lowest socio-economic strata who tend to be the most fertile?
Mr. Pinker wrote:
Evolutionary predictions concern the time span over which we evolved, not the present. Until the twentieth century and the invention of contraception, wealthy men had far more surviving offspring than poorer men.
Even today, men of the lowest strata are not more fertile, though they use contraception less – that is a big difference.