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Women have problems choosing men wisely

Published: 
Sunday, March 19, 2017

Poor women and educated women are finding it difficult to choose men wisely in T&T.

But what criteria do women apply when deciding to have sex or children with a man? The evolutionary psychologist David M Buss and clinical psychologist Cindy M Meston have identified 237 distinct reasons that women interviewed gave for having sex, ranging from “I was bored” to “I wanted my man to feel good about himself” to “I wanted to get closer to God.”

In their book Why Women Have Sex, they list two broad parameters which determine women’s choice of men: “Genetic benefits are the high-quality genes that can endow a woman’s children with a better ability to survive and reproduce. Resource benefits, including food, shelter from the hostile forces of nature, and physical protection from aggressive men, help a woman and her children to survive and thrive.”

Sometimes these two goals are in conflict—genetically fit males may lack resources, wealthy men may not be genetically fit—and this is the fundamental reason why DNA tests in developed nations show that about ten per cent of men are raising children who are not their own.

In an oft-cited survey of ten thousand people in countries around the world, Buss found that women put a higher value on status and resources when choosing a mate, while men put more value on youth and beauty. But the exact ranking differs between cultures, and in all societies kindness and intelligence rank highest for both sexes.

Although no specific study of mating preferences has been carried out in T&T, the 2005 Survey of Living Condition report notes that, “Whether women were under 25 years, 25-39 years or 40 years and over, more favourable patterns of variation in socio-economic status were evident among those who were legally married than among those in any of the other union status groups.”

‘Poor women more likely

to make unwise choices’

Table One shows that better off women and men are nearly twice as likely to be married as the poor. At the same time, the 2008 Multiple Indicators Cluster Survey notes that:

“The lower a woman’s educational level and socioeconomic status, the greater her chances of being married/in union before the age of 18 years.”

The MICS reports found that 22.2 per cent of the women with none/pre-school/primary level schooling were married/in union before the age of 18 years old as compared to only 1.9 per cent among women with university education. On average, only half of women in T&T get married. (See Table Two.) This also means that poor women are more likely to make ‘unwise’ choices in respect to men and hence end up being abused or even killed. Critics of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s statement have pointed out that a man may only become violent after the relationship begins; however, in certain contexts, women may actually prefer to be with aggressive men.

Evolutionary biologist David P Barash in his book Out of Eden writes: “It is both debatable and controversial whether women are attracted to assertive, sometimes aggressive, even violent men. I would like to think otherwise, but there seems little doubt that especially during our long-duration prehistory, aggressive men would have been able—if nothing else—to provide protection for their mates against other, aggressive and perhaps nastier men.”

This psychological predilection becomes salient in communities where there is pervasive violence, and where men in the prime of life are getting killed or being incarcerated at high rates, hence diminishing the number of young men available to young women. But the shortage of men in poor areas is also reflected at the other socioeconomic extreme—university students.

Between 2001 and 2015, according to UWI’s annual report for the St Augustine campus, the female to male ratio has gone from 3:2 to 2:1, with 63 per cent of the student body now female.

Adshade cites data from American universities showing that on campuses where women outnumber men, women have more negative attitudes towards dating and sexual relationships as compared to campuses where the ratio is equal. “Casual sex is also more frequent when women outnumber men on a campus,” Adshade notes, concluding, “a woman’s ability to bargain with her sexual partner over both the timing and nature of sex acts has been eroded on university campuses in the face of increased competition for men among relatively abundant women”.

Divorce rate in T&T two per cent

Table Three shows that only one occupation sector has a balanced gender ratio. Women outnumber men in all other sectors, except elementary occupations, where men outnumber women. But this sector includes the lowest paid and more dangerous jobs, so these men are less likely to be chosen by women even in their own category. The MICS survey found that more than a quarter of 20-to-24-year-old women were in relationships with men who were ten or more years older than them. This is an indicator of social inequality, since in most societies women tend to marry men just three years older. Marrying older men may also be an unwise choice for women since, Adshade notes, “the greater the age difference in married couples, the more likely it is that their marriage will end in divorce”.

Contrary to popular perception, however, the divorce rate in T&T is quite low, averaging two per cent. And, although opinion polls in developed societies find that seven per cent of women and nine per cent of men admitting that they have been unfaithful, in T&T 95 per cent of the people polled in the Norms & Values survey claimed that they had never horned their spouses.

However, the DNA results showing that ten per cent of all men mistakenly believe their children are theirs suggest that real percentage of cheating women is much higher, since not all extra-marital affairs will result in pregnancy, let alone births. Moreover, notes Adshade, “Women in poorer households are significantly more likely to cheat than are women in wealthier households”: among rich men, just two per cent are raising children who are not theirs; among poor men, it is 30 per cent.

And, often, it is that genetic fitness choice that leads to trouble.

TABLE 1: Marriage and poverty
Marital status             Socio-economic status
                      Indigent      Poor    Vulnerable   Non-Poor
Female
Never Married 1.4%          18.0%      11.4%       69.2%
Married           0.5%           9.5%        8.4%        81.6%
Male
Never Married 1.5%           18.7%       11.6%       68.2%
Married           0.4%            9.2%        8.0%        82.5%
Source: Survey of Living Conditions, 2005.

TABLE 2: Union status percentages
Marital Status     Ratios     Male         Female
Total               1,067,020   532,380      534,640
Married               41.2%     41.4%        40.9%
Never Married      48.9%     51.8%       46.0%
Divorced /           4.7 %       4.3 %         5.1%
Separated
CSO, 2011

TABLE 3: Gender ratios in occupational sectors
Occupations                                        Women      Men
Professionals                                        3.1%        2.4%
Managers, legislators, senior officers       6.6%       6.3%
Technicians, semi-professionals etc        13.6%      7.2%
Clerks                                                    22.4%     4.2%
Service Workers                                      23%        11%
Elementary Occupations                          22%        27%
Source: CSO, 2000

KEVIN BALDEOSINGH