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“In America," he said, half dreaming after a night spent guarding the mound in his backyard, "first you get the sugar, then you get the power, then you get the women.” That’s an homage to (in the movie the quote was “money” instead of “sugar”), and it’s where both Simpson and Tony Montana went emphatically astray.University of Notre Dame sociologist Elizabeth Mc Clintock has done exhaustive research on the idea of people exchanging traits.
“Beauty-status exchange accords with the popular conception of romantic partner selection as a competitive market process,” Mc Clintock wrote, “a conception widely accepted in both popular culture and academia.” She referred specifically to the gendered version, “in which an economically successful man partners with a beautiful 'trophy wife,'" as commonplace..In one illustrious study of love (“human sexual selection”) in 1986, psychologists David Buss and Michael Barnes asked people to rank 76 characteristics: What do you value most in a potential mate? Number one was "kind and understanding," followed by "exciting personality" and then "intelligent." Men did say they valued appearances more highly than women did, and women said they valued "good earning capacity" more highly than men did—but neither ranked measures of physical attractiveness or socioeconomic status among their top considerations. Experiments that don’t rely on self-reporting regularly show that physical attractiveness is exquisitely, at times incomparably, important to both men and women.Status (however you want to measure it: income, formal education, et cetera) is often not far behind.In real-life dating studies, which get closer to genuine intentions, physical attractiveness and earning potential strongly predict romantic attraction.While people tend to prefer people similar to themselves in terms of traits like religiousness or thriftiness, when it comes to beauty and income, more is almost always seen as better.On these “consensually-ranked” traits, people seem to aspire to partners who rank more highly than themselves. The stereotypical example of that is known in sociology as a “beauty-status exchange”—an attractive person marries a wealthy or otherwise powerful person, and both win.
It’s the classic story of an elderly polymath-billionaire who has sustained damning burns to the face who marries a swimsuit model who can’t find Paris on a map but really wants to go there, because it’s romantic.
All you need is money or power, the notion goes, and beautiful lovers present themselves to you for the taking.
When Homer Simpson once came into a 500-pound surfeit of sugar, his id instinct was to turn it into fortune and sexual prosperity.
What appears to be an exchange of beauty for socioeconomic status is often actually not an exchange, Mc Clintock wrote, but a series of matched virtues.
Economically successful women partner with economically successful men, and physically attractive women partner with physically attractive men.“Sometimes you hear that really nice guys get hot girls,” Mc Clintock told me, “[but] I found that really nice guys get really nice girls.
[Being nice] is not really buying you any currency in the attractiveness realm.