2012 March 11 Sunday
Chuck Rudd On “Chicks Dig Jerks” And Agentic Men

Chuck Rudd of Gucci Little Piggy argues that women who are attracted to assholes are really attracted to men who are assertive. The assertiveness is a signal for a man who can get resources. Are positive agentic men as attractive to women as negative agentic men?

But I think the “Chicks Dig Jerks” argument can go a little bit further. It’s not that women dig the jerkiness, per se; they just prefer the agency, the assertiveness.

I’d argue that women prefer positive agentic men, but often settle for negative agentic men – assholes – because the most desired group is in short supply and high demand. Along an evo psych framework – much like the one offered by the National Review’s Kevin D. Williamson who I think must be reading Heartiste – I argue that women, in general, are attracted to men who will increase their pool of resources. Positive agentic men have access to resources and are more likely to share those resources with the women in their lives. Negative agentic men will get resources through more direct and assholish ways, but they’ll obtain resources nonetheless. Even if the negative agentic is selfish the woman he is with will benefit indirectly.

My guess: there are genetic variants that cause different women to lean more toward positive or negative agentic men. How are those genetic variants distributed? Also, how does IQ influence a woman's attraction toward different kinds of agentic men? Also, does finger length ratio influence the preference for positive versus negative agentic men?

Update: My guess is that higher testosterone in women might make them less inclined to like agentic men because the testosterone makes them more like men. So feminine desire for agentic men would be lower in women whose minds are more like male minds. Could be wrong on this.

What I also wonder: Are higher testosterone women less likely to seek the advice of other women about which men to be attracted to? Does the female desire for confirmation of desires run less strongly among females whose minds are less feminine?

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2012 March 11 09:19 AM  Human Natue Sexuality

bbartlog said at March 11, 2012 6:47 PM:

'Agentic' isn't a word. And women's preferences are clearly influenced not just by potential resources to be gained but by the man's actual genetic value as a mate (not to mention entertainment value and other things that a hardcore evo psych guy would no doubt consider epiphenomenal). Chuck Rudd seriously misses the boat in trying to make everything about resources.

Randall Parker said at March 11, 2012 7:06 PM:


'Agentic' is a word.

Women (and men for that matter) are influenced by factors they aren't always consciously aware of. Some of the instinctive desire for a man with resources isn't direct. Many instincts cause a behavior in order to set off a chain of causes and effects. The woman doesn't have to react to the assertive guy and think "he'll get resources". The evolutionary reason for the favorable reaction could be that he'll get resources even though she's not necessarily consciously aware of that.

chris said at March 12, 2012 2:23 AM:

@ Randall


Interesting studies related to women's attraction to resources in a mate.

And this:


A foundational study on human mating strategies which is often cited by many other highly regarded scholars on the subject.

bbartlog said at March 12, 2012 10:23 AM:

Hm, indeed it is. My bad. Though it seems that Milgram used it in rather a different way than Rudd is. My other point I stand by. I made no claim about conscious versus unconscious motivations; even if you claim that the motivation to acquire access to resources is unconscious or being acted on indirectly, it doesn't explain female behavior sufficiently. Nor would we expect it to. Much of human evolution took place in places and times where access to male resources simply wasn't that critical to female success (early agricultural Uganda, let's say, rather than Greenland). In situations like that, sexy men means sexy sons (and possibly sexy daughters, but in this case we want to focus on the differences rather than on things like straight teeth and healthy skin). Confidence and assertiveness start out as advantageous, just because they lead to more mating success through more efforts (even before women see them as sexy in and of themselves). Doesn't take long before they take on the character of ornament and are perceived as sexy in and of themselves.
If the 'access to resources' foundation for this behavior were correct, we'd expect confidence and assertiveness to be found with equal (or greater) degree in societies where resource constraints have been severe, like Japan or Greenland. But in reality, male confidence is highest in places where resource constraints have been weak (closer to the equator). It's got to be about something other than resources.

Lono said at March 12, 2012 1:35 PM:

Positive agentic and intelligent men - such as myself - are far rarer - but I would argue we are perceived as less attractive to women in traditional social venues - due to the fact that we tend to employ mating strategies that favor quality over quantity.

Of course I have been married forever now - but in college I was never willing to participate in any normal type of mating strategy - as I was only interested in those women with whom I had an easy and immediate rapport. If they didn't stimulate me intellectually then I saw them as nothing more than cheap blow up dolls - no matter the quality of their appearance. This made me seem alternatively either shy - or aloof - in the company of many women - and they quickly turned to my many equally aggressive, but far more intellectually primitive, friends for validation.

So I would argue most women do not understand, nor have much experience, with the more evolved man - and therefore they actively look for the negative "bad boy" types who are invariably less misunderstood anti-heroes - and more narcissistic amoral douche-bags. And much as the seals of Península Valdés do not learn to adapt and avoid their predators during their mating season - so do most women return time and time again to be victimized by these sexual predators - who only do what comes most natural to them - without conscience or regret or reflection.

Windstrom said at March 12, 2012 2:34 PM:

Bbartlog is right, resources are not the end all and be all, in fact, they doesn't rank number one.

Protection is number one (not counting genes). Rudd is correct, but because he is hung up on "resources" he doesn't
know why agentic men are the most popular.

Every society features men who protect the women and children. Some may not do it as well as
others, but they all provide this at minimum. The need for a good protector is much older and
more ingrained than the need for a good provider and is still more essential, but we could quibble
about that. When you think about it, it makes sense as that is the one thing that only a young man
can provide, and young men are the most attractive.

Relatedly, Agnostic blogged about what young women find attractive and shows, in the meantime, that there
is a divide between what academics know and the rest of us and why we are in the dark:


"But for just about all of human history -- probably everything before men worked in a service economy within industrial capitalism -- being able to do well as a dad involved lots of physical activity. To earn a living, he was a hunter, a herder, a farm-worker, or a wage laborer who worked a lot with his hands and body. He had to physically protect his social circle and perhaps go off to fight others. Plus, playing with children and showing them the ropes of growing up is intensely physical, as any parent knows who's been worn out from chasing their kid around the house or the yard.

So, even in their role as paternal providers, males almost always had to be in good shape and full of energy, hence good genes would benefit him even outside of the one night stand. That's why young girls are so taken by a guy's dreamy looks even in the long-term case -- they want a promising forecast of how able he'll be to hunt, herd, plant, play, and fix stuff up farther on down the line. If he looks busted up now, he won't be able to do any of that stuff later on."

Check It Out said at March 12, 2012 5:32 PM:

Different kinds of women are attracted to different kinds of men. There's the opportunist bitch who digs only money. There's the tender sensitive one who digs commitment and love because they feel secure, even if the man is not rich. How about the empty-headed barbie who gets impressed by the self-centered man full of narcissism and vanity, and then pretends to be surprised when she finds out he's gay. You got the woman who likes the bad life and dig the "tough" redneck who kicks ass even if its hers. Also very freequent is the world adventurer who stays in any hostel hoping to find the best sex.

My guess is, Chuck Rudd hasn't really known that many women.

solaris said at March 12, 2012 5:50 PM:

Well now, I have just discovered that Roissey reads the Inductivist blog, where I recently posted a link to that same finger length pdf.

I think the upshot of the study by Manning et al. is basically ... that 2D:4D does not mean a hell of a lot.

As for "Chicks dig jerks", I remain unconvinced. Some chicks certainly dig some jerks, that much is undoubtedly true. I don't think there is some Grand Law of Human Nature in there though. People are a varied and complex bunch and cannot be summed up in snappy slogans.

Chuck Rudd said at March 13, 2012 1:37 PM:


My observation is that high quality women do recognize value when they see it. They may not choose intelligence by itself or they may not even go for status by itself, but they'll opt for a good-looking, intelligent, socially adept man who is friendly or positive over one who is unfriendly or negative. These are the life of the party types, and they often get overlooked in any of these discussions which tend to assume that assholes are the apex.

Check it Out,

"My guess is, Chuck Rudd hasn't really known that many women."

Undisprovable internet assertion. Of course there are all kinds. What I've written on the topic is a generalization and should be recognized as such. There are no Iron Laws on these matters. The main point is that women prefer men who assert themselves and they'll choose non-asshole assertive men rather than asshole assertive men. It's also probably harder to be a non-asshole assertive man which is why asshole assertives are more widely observed and commented on.

chris said at March 13, 2012 10:17 PM:


Perhaps of relevance?


Check it Out said at March 14, 2012 5:41 PM:

Yeah, yeah......

Wolf-Dog said at March 16, 2012 1:16 AM:

This might be misconstrued as a digression but the following article says that "Sex-starved fruit flies turn to drink". Maybe the world is far more competitive than we realise.


Aurelius said at March 17, 2012 8:15 AM:

Assertiveness suggests the courage to stick up for yourself (and your loved ones) and that you aren't desparate.

At a time when my self-esteem was at its nadir (thank God for Wellbutrin#, I had no assertiveness, which came across as desparation, because it was. Chicks aren't into that. Men and women both are desparate when they have nothing to offer, or feel they have nothing to offer. I would never date a desparate woman; would never date a woman who threw herself at me. A "negative agentic" man is just a guy who's a jerk, or who is mimicking the behavior of successful #i.e., "positive agentic"# men. Being assertive suggests you have something going on upstairs, that you feel passionately about something, that you have energy. When a woman says she wants to do A, but you insist on doing B, it suggests that you feel passionately about B. When she says she wants to do A, and you say "whatever you want," or do it in spite of wanting to do B, it suggests you don't feel passionately about B - or perhaps anything else. It suggests a lack of dirction, and a lack of motivation.

Aurelius said at March 17, 2012 1:26 PM:

* desperate. Duh.

Sam said at March 17, 2012 8:53 PM:

Maybe girls are to stupid to know the difference. :)

Michael said at March 25, 2012 10:13 AM:

Like most game ideas, this is a pretty massive mis-understanding of evolutionary psychology.

In our evolutionary environment, the guy most likely to have access to resources is the tall, athletic, decently muscled guy - the guy who could hunt well - which is why pretty much every study to date has shown that for sexual attractiveness, these physical traits are the only ones to matter. Many studies have been done trying to find a link between personality traits and sexual attractiveness (as opposed to long term mate choice, which is different and does depend on personality factors), and all have failed.

In our ancestral environment, *high status* was a purely physical affair. Which is also why the cultural trope of the girl marrying the rich, high status guy but banging the low class but physically studly pool guy or plumber on the side is almost proverbial in our culture - it is a perfect illustration of the dichotomy in women of sexual desire and rational considerations. A females rational mind will often tell her to marry high status and access to resources, but her primitive hind brain makes her attracted to physical attributes.

The fact that an agentic personality can gain you access to resources in our modern, capitalistic society is pretty much irrelevant to female sexual desire, which evolved well before modern capitalism. Further, for most of history, having an agentic personality did not really help all that much in gaining resources, as most wealth was rigidly stratified according to inherited classes.

I know it is tempting and comforting to believe that by merely displaying personality traits like being *agentic* - something fairly easy to do - you can actually win the sexual desire of a beautiful woman. This gives comfort to nerds everywhere. Unfortunately, however, evolutionary psychology, common cultural tropes and proverbs, as well as an ever accumulating stack of scientific studies show that this fond dream is simply false.

Michael said at March 25, 2012 3:17 PM:

In other words, in our ancestral environment, being able to bring down that large stag did not depend on having an *agentic* personality, and escaping that lion also did not depend on an *agentic* personality. The physically inadequate guy with a hugely *agentic* personality would have failed at both counts, and have had no access to resources.

The biggest mistake is to project modern conditions back into time. I know it is very difficult to really understand, but the part of our brains that control sexuality evolved not in modern capitalistic times, but in a time when physical attributes were pretty much the sole determinant of status, which was a function of hunting success (ability to obtain resources), and battle prowess. Neither hunting success, nor battle prowess, has anything to do with personality attributes, which is why the studies consistently fail to find any link between personality and sexual attractiveness.

The phenomenon that everyone observes - of women marrying *up*, or hypergamy - has nothing to do with sexual desire or a mans sexiness, but to a womans rational consideration of her own social position and benefit. That is why in modern America hypergamy is far less of a determinant in female mate choice, and we are seeing a slew of articles explaining how high earning women are hooking up with slacking, low earning guys. It is because in the absence of any need for women to marry up - a need that has existed in most prior societies - a woman can indulge her purely sexual desires, which are independent of status or personality attributes likely to lead to status in a modern capitalistic economy.

Sorry, guys, but personality - even *agentic* personality of the type needed to gain resources in a modern capitalistic society but utterly irrelevant when we were running from lions and chasing deer - will not make you a stud with the ladies ;) Game is a wish fulfillment fantasy, in the same way religion used to be in the past.

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