Friday, December 31, 2004

I Don't Think So

After surveying 120 male undergraduates, two social psychologists concluded that:

Men would rather marry their female assistants than equal-ranking women or their supervisors....

Their explanation:

Men's preferences for less-dominant women may be rooted in evolution, the researchers suggest.

"Males who preferred to mate with relatively subordinate partners - as opposed to higher dominance partners - may have been better able to limit the chance - or amount - of paternal uncertainty, either by preventing their partner from having sex outside of the partnership or by being able to closely monitor their partner's sexual behavior for possible infidelity," write Stephanie L. Brown and Brian P. Lewis.

Based on my observations from, arguably, the lala land of medicine, I agree with the conclusion but I think they're way off on the explanation. The reason one prefers a subordinate partner has nothing to do with evolution or sexual behavior. Rather, it has to do with mundane practicalities.

As a rule, nobody wants to come home after 36 hours on call and 5 surgeries, only to hear that their partner just finished a 40 hours shift, and had 7 surgeries. All you want is a clean place, all domestic problems taken care of, a nice meal waiting, and a pretty face [pretty, as in showered, brushed their teeth and combed their hair, a considerable upgrade from your I've-been-splashed-with-every-known-bodily-fluid-and-maybe-I-had-time-for-a-quick-shower-in-the-sink state] ready and willing to: 1) tiptoe around you, 2) give you a massage, and 3) be awed by you, and your medical adventures. It's harder to awe an equal or a superior than a subordinate. It's also harder to dump all the relationship responsibility on them, and make them do whatever mundane, but necessary, tasks you're not that much into.

Considerations of sexual fidelity, or even activity are so low on the scale of priorities, it's a wonder physicians manage to reproduce at all.

Update: Just as I mention the low priority of sexual fidelity considerations, I see naughty Dr. Charles has a post about philandering. Indeed!