Women Only Want Men They Can’t Have, Says Science

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The Hairpin reported yesterday on a University of Virginia study that proves once and for all that women only want what they can’t have. (Not really.)

According to the study, “college women viewed the Facebook profiles of four male students who had previously seen their profiles. They were told that the men (a) liked them a lot, (b) liked them only an average amount, or (c) liked them either a lot or an average amount (uncertain condition).”

If you had to guess which group was most attracted to the same exact guys, right now, what would you say? A, B or C?

Did you guess C: “the uncertain condition?” Gold star!

“Participants in the uncertain condition were most attracted to the men — even more attracted than were participants who were told that the men liked them a lot. Uncertain participants reported thinking about the men the most, and this increased their attraction toward the men.”

It’s tempting to take a pessimistic view here and interpret these results (as some Hairpin commenters did) as evidence that women are attracted to “guys they can’t have.” However, the study says no such thing. The results of this study indicate that women are attracted to guys who they’re not sure they can have. Which is a very different animal.

No group in this study was told that the men looked at their profile and definitely weren’t into them. I can’t say for sure, but my suspicion is that, had such a group existed, the researchers would have found that women were still more attracted to the “uncertain condition.” But why?

Here’s my theory, based solely on anecdotal evidence: Women don’t want to just be accepted for who they are, but they don’t want to be mistreated either. They just want to earn what they get.

As much evidence as there is in the dating world that ladies won’t refuse a little random positive attention now and then, there is also much evidence that when they get too much of it too easily, they start to resent it. What accounts for this? Well, it may be that women, just like men, want to be liked for who they really are, not for how they present at a glance.

Think about it. How could a woman possibly be interested in a guy who “liked them a lot” based soley on their Facebook profile?! He doesn’t even know her. Thinking that you might like someone after looking at their Facebook profile is sane. Knowing that you like them a lot… creepy.

So, just to give everyone the benefit of the doubt for a second, let’s say that the results of this study prove that women (rather than being too picky, or biologically wired against their own best interests, or whatever) are actually employing a reasonable strategy for choosing a partner when they reject guys who are super into them right off the bat. These women are choosing men who are more likely to actually pay attention to them, to get to know them, to not put them on a pedestal that they will inevitably fall from.

They’re choosing men who are being real.