From early 2003, I deal with one of Barbara Dafoe Whitehead’s assertions about guys:
BDW: Several women mentioned that at times in their life they felt that their intelligence or intellectual achievement seemed to work against them in their romantic relationships with men, but most women felt that there were some men “out there” who would be attracted to smart women. The problem was finding them.
CGH: The inference, as I see it: all else being equal, we guys would prefer to be the brains of the operation. This is certainly true of some of us; historically, I have often been drawn to women of greater intelligence than mine, but there’s always that nagging thought in the back of my mind: “If she’s that smart, what in the world would she want with the likes of me?” The author does in fact touch upon this phenomenon; asked if some men felt they “were being spurned because they aren’t impressive enough,” she replied:
BDW: [S]ome men did, yes, but they tended not to be four-year college graduates. They were guys who were not quite so well-educated and felt that many women looked down on them.
CGH: I think there’s more to it than that — I don’t think I’d be any more desirable (or, more precisely, any less undesirable) with a sheaf of postgraduate degrees — but frankly, what would a plumber have to say to an art historian? Or, for that matter, what would an art historian have to say to a plumber?
Have things improved in the intervening decade and a third? Not a chance:
A recent study from the Warsaw School of Economics, located in Poland, suggests that men are intimidated by clever women.
Yeah, that’s right: Study findings suggest that after a woman reaches a certain level of “clever” or “smart” behavior, there is no longer a positive correlation on how attractive her potential partner finds her.
The guy from Psychology Today explains this thing in terms of the methodology used:
[The] most interesting result was that there is a clear point at which men stop valuing a woman’s increasing intelligence. We have seen that, when it comes to women’s preferences, more is better: a man is more likely to be chosen if he is more attractive and more intelligent. As far as women’s preferences are concerned, the sky’s the limit. Women may be happy to trade intelligence off against attractiveness, but they will always be more likely to choose a man who is that little bit more attractive or intelligent. Not so when it comes to men choosing women.
To illustrate this, let’s track the chances of one woman being chosen by a man at a speed-dating event. This woman scores a 6 out of 10 for attractiveness: about average. Now, if her intelligence rating is a lowly 2 out of 10, she has only a 20 percent chance of being chosen. Let’s imagine that her intelligence increases 2 points, to 4 out of 10: now she has a 30 percent shot. Boost her intelligence by another 2 points, to 6 out of 10, and she now has a 40 percent shot. But a further 2 intelligence points have virtually no effect: she is still at 40 percent. And maxing out her intelligence to 10 out of 10 reduces her odds of being chosen, back down to 30 percent!
To sum up, our hypothetical woman with a 6 out of 10 score for attractiveness will do best with men at a speed-dating event if she scores around a 7 for intelligence: if she is any less or any more intelligent than this, men will be less interested in her.
I would argue that a 7 for intelligence is no slouch, and that average appearance is more like 5 than 6. Still, I know enough women smarter than 7 — they’re smarter than I am, and I figure myself to be about a 7 on this scale — to be properly intimidated.
By the way, this isn’t only true of women who are of average physical attractiveness. The same pattern holds true for very attractive and unattractive women. At every level of attractiveness, the optimum level of intelligence is somewhere around 7 out of 10. For very attractive women, the optimum intelligence level is slightly higher; for unattractive women, the optimum intelligence level is slightly lower. But it’s always the case that a woman with a brain the size of a planet will be less appealing to men than a woman who is equally attractive, but less intelligent.
My interest in this realm, of course, is purely theoretical, as I expect women, irrespective of intelligence, to give me the cold shoulder.