Are Women Hard-Wired To Look For A Protector?

New Dating Survey Suggests the Answer Might be Yes

Aug 30, 2012, 11:00 ET from It's Just Lunch

SAN DIEGO, Aug. 30, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- When it comes to social status, most women are still looking for a man who is their equal or better, according to a new survey by dating service It's Just Lunch. The company received more than 1600 responses to its latest online survey, which includes questions about career, education and income.

On the topic of money, 79% of women said it's a concern and could potentially be a deal breaker if the person they're dating makes significantly less money than they do. On the other hand, 68% of men say it's not an issue at all.

67% of the women surveyed agreed with the statement "I'm more likely to date someone who is generally on the same career track as me," compared with 48% of the men.

When it comes to education, 59% of women, compared to 47% of men, answered the proposition "I'd rather date someone who has achieved a similar level of academic success from a similar caliber school" with either "Yes" or "Maybe."

"Forty years after the women's movement became prominent, it's clear that men are more open than women when it comes to dating someone with less education, lower income, and a less lucrative career path," says Irene LaCota, spokesperson for It's Just Lunch. "Maybe women really are hard-wired to find a protector?"

With regard to money, singles were asked: "You're on a date with someone and the chemistry is crackling. You briefly talk about careers and discover that while they are gainfully employed, you deduce they make far less money than you. Could this be a dealbreaker?"

24% of women but only 5% of men say "It's concerning, and I should probe further about life goals." 47% of the women and 26% of the men are mostly positive—but still find the economic difference worrisome, answering that "It's a bit of a concern, but I'm not going to worry about it and simply continue to have fun." But 9% of the women and 1 % of the men believe it's an instant deal breaker, saying "While I've had fun, I just don't think another date is in the cards."

But is the issue genetic, or just social?

Writer Jean Feingold says that when she dated a man who had both a smaller income and less education, on a practical level, it didn't work. "He didn't fit into my circle of friends," she explains. "We didn't share enough of the same interests. He always resented the fact that I made more money. I tried to be open-minded about these differences but in the long run, they were instrumental in me ending the relationship." Ms. Feingold has no further interest in "dating down" in the future. "I wouldn't do it again," she says.

Psychiatrist Scott Carroll says that the emerging field of evolutionary psychology views "dating upward" as being in-bred in females. "Current scientific thinking is that women's tendency to seek more successful males is part of a genetic survival program. The exceptions to this rule are when women will seek either a physically dominant male for physical protection or a more nurturing male if the woman is more masculine and highly successful herself."

Lawyer and blogger Chaton Turner disagrees. She says, "I think that it comes from conditioning as opposed to genetics." She adds that she has always bucked the trend. "I have dated everybody, at least in terms of type. I have dated the older and richer, the younger and poorer, the tall and the short. Currently, I am engaged to a man who is younger and makes less money."

Psychologist Marquita Williams believes that seeking protectors is a combination of both the genetic and the environmental: "Biologically women have the babies, so we inherently seek partners who can protect and nurture us," she says. "It harkens back to when men were the hunters and gatherers and women were the nesters."

But Williams also believes our environment reinforces this genetic predisposition. "We are socialized with the images of men being strong and powerful," she adds, mentioning that this concept is propagated by "the superman images in movies and on television to the idea that men's worth is [based upon] their social desirability factors: physical attractiveness, financial stability, jobs, etc. No woman wants a man that, if it came down to it, couldn't defend her or provide for her in some way."

Antonia Martinez, a psychologist and the creator of the Healing Man, Healing Woman game, says that high powered women may have fewer men to choose from. "Many men still can't handle being involved with a more successful woman," she says, "so that doesn't leave you a lot of choices."

If women are hard-wired to seek protectors, where does that leave men?

Beverly Keyes Taylor, a hypnotist who specializes in gender brain chemistry differences, says that "Men are hard-wired as hunters [and] protectors . . . .men and women's brain chemistry and brain neurology have remained pretty much the same since caveman days."

LaCota says that, though the topic is fascinating, on a practical level it doesn't matter whether we're more influenced by genetics or the environment—or even if we're influenced at all. "Ultimately, as human beings, with the right chemistry and the right timing," she says, "the human heart is flexible enough for any two people to fall in love."

SOURCE It's Just Lunch