Recently I came across some statistical tables from Our World in Data that outlined how the preferences for 18 traits had changed in women and men seeking a prospective partner from 1938 until 2008. This was an interesting data cache, because 70 years is only 2- 3 generations, and thus it is unlikely that any change in the underlying biological framework of our species would have changed in any meaningful way. However, our society and culture in the West has changed markedly. From 1938 until today, we have had World War 2, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, The Cold War, 2 Iraq wars, the war on terror, 6 – 7 serious stock market crashes, The War on Drugs and the War on Terror. We have seen the second and third waves of feminism, the rise of globalism, the entry of women into the workplace, the rise of easy divorce, and we have seen the anti-establishment hippies take over the establishment. Finally, the initial survey was done right at the end of the global depression (1938) and the second survey was done on the start of the 2008 financial crisis.
This means that it gives us insight into how people’s partner preferences have been changed throughout one of the more change prone periods in recent history. One marked especially by changes to the gender dynamics that had been dominant for most of written history.
Changes Among Women
The starting point is an interesting survey retrieved from Our World in Data  that asked men and women to rank 18 qualities in order of importance when selecting a mate for marriage.
To the left you can see the chart of female preferences, and how they changed on the 18 traits that the survey used. For instance in 1938, the highest ranked trait was a man with a dependable character, followed by emotional stability and maturity, in 2008 it was mutual attraction and dependable character.
Some of the larger changes downwards came in Chastity, dropped from 10th place to 18th, Good cook/housekeeper dropping 5 places from 8th to 13th and refinement and neatness, dropping from 7th to 11th place.
The greatest gains observed came in the form of Education/Intelligence that went from 11th place in 1938 to 4th in 2008. Sociability, rising from 12th to 6th place, Good financial prospect,rising from 17th to 12th place, finally good looks rising from 12th place to 6th place.
Perhaps one of the more interesting takeaways from this was that one would have expected the would-be housewife of 1938, who would depend on her man more to provide for her and their children to rank education and good financial prospect higher within the rankings, however this was not the case. The 2008 women consistently ranked a man being a good financial prospect as more important than their grandmothers/great grandmothers. Another interesting observation was that the 1938 women ranked the man being a good cook/housekeeper as more important than their 2008 sisters, despite this generation relying on traditional gender roles. Finally, in 1938, women ranked desire for a home/children as 9th most important, while women of 2008 ranked it as the 6th most important quality, which is interesting given dropping fertility rates around the Western World.
Changes Among Men
Among the men of the same survey, some drastic changes can also be observed. In 1938 the highest ranking trait that men looked for in a wife was Emotional stability/maturity, followed by a dependable character. This is the same between the men and the women within the survey in 1938, with both genders ranking these two qualities as the most important qualities of a marriage prospect.
Some of the largest drops in importance came in the form of chastity, ranked 10 among men in 1938, but ranking 18th among men in 2008. Furthermore, refinement/neatness dropped from 8th to 13th place, and interestingly enough the desire for a wife who has ambition and is industrious declined from 3rd place in 1938 to 8th place in 2008. Perhaps 30 years of “Strong, independent women” have driven a point home.
The largest increases came in the form of good looks, rising from 17th place to 12th, mutual attraction rising from 5th place to first place, sociability rising from 11th to 6th place, finally, desire for home/children rose 3 points, from 7th place to 3th place.
Perhaps the most interesting observation between the men and women, is that unlike 1938, the 2008 men rank the desire for a home/children as 4th most important in a wife, yet women rank it as the 6th most important. So more men than women view a home and children as more important than do women.
Perhaps one of the more interesting take-aways from the data, is that despite their reputation as non-modern men, the men of 1938, actually didn’t rank the qualities that make a good housewife that highly. If one looks into the qualities that would create a “tradwife” from the table:
- Good Cook/Housekeeper
- Dependable Character
- Desire for home/childrne
- Similar religious background
- Similar political background
These qualities, with the exception of chastity were ranked equal, or lower in 1938 than they were in 2008. One must wonder if the reason why they are ranked so low are due to the innate expectation that any wife will have these traits, and thus they are of lesser importance to vet.
Similarly, ambition/industriousness was viewed as more important than the men in 1938, than 2008, after 40 years of venerating female ambition.
If one looks at the traits sought by the women in 2008, they actually rank “Good looks” as more important than the men do, and children less important than men. In fact, women in both 1938 and 2008 ranked Good looks as more important than the men did, which seems to contradict the statement that men are more focused on appearance.
Female Rankings of Male Appearance
The data based on appearance above made me wonder about how this would manifest in reality. So, I found two data sources, Hot or Not, and OKcupid. The OK cupid data has been shared quite widely across the manosphere, and demonstrated that women ranked over half of men as below average appearance, whereas male evaluations of appearance follow a bell-curve esque distribution, where a majority of women were rated as clustering around the average.
The interesting observation here is that with a median of 5,5 a total of 79,5% of the male population are ranked at 5,5 or below, and another 15,5% of the population is ranked between 5,5 – 7. Meaning that only 5% of the male population is judged by the women of OKCupid to be 8 or above for looks. Furthermore, that only 20,5% of men are above average for looks.
While esthetics is one of the more subjective aspects of philosophy, I found this to be very interesting in light of that most human values follow a normal distribution, including height and intelligence. One would expect appearance to at least show a semblance of following a normal distribution within a population, unless the men that frequent OKcupid are a sample that score well below average in this department. This would take the form of a bell-curve or something of that nature. Not
There is always the odds of the sample being skewed, which does not bode well for the women who value Good Looks as the 8th most important quality in a marriage, above both financial prospects , desire for children and ambition, who are looking for their match on OKcupid.
After considering that the sample may be skewed at OKcupid, alternatively that the women on OkCupid at used to dating men of much higher caliber appearance-vice, I found another set of data from Hot or Not . There are issues with how representative these data will be for the general population, as the sample is restricted to computer users and furthermore, people who are more than averagely concerned with their appearance. Using Excels NORMINV function, and feeding it the standard deviation and mean from the overall sample in the Hot or Not data  the rankings of male appearance showed a very different picture.
This curve is almost inverse of the curve from OKcupid, which is highly questionable. There could be a myriad of reasons for this, including different samples, perhaps the addition of gay men to the sample skews it, the question comes down to who are being rated and who is doing the rating on Hot or Not. The data from OK Cupid was outlined as females ranking male appearance, there was no such information related to who is being rated and who does the rating.
One could hypothesize that the sample on hot or not is highly skewed towards those who are above averagely preoccupied by their appearance, and that therefore the majority of the population is composed of the men who make up a clear minority in the Ok Cupid sample. Other options include raters that deviate in some meaningful form from the raters on the other site.
The two statistics simple contradict each other.
I decided to do a little experiment, where I combined the two data sources into a single data source, by applying the population percentages given by the OkCupid sample, to the same population that I applied the mean and standard deviations from the Hot or not Sample to, which lead to a total population of 9922. The resulting chart was interesting to say the least:
This curve is more similar to the classic bell curve that I mentioned earlier in that the majority appear cluster around the median in the hot or not population. However, this ignores the sampling bias that is likely in both sources.
A potential theory could be that, ugly men know they are ugly, and thus will not upload pictures on hot or not in any meaningful quantity, resulting in sample with above average looks. However, highly attractive men are unlikely to be searching for love on Ok Cupid, thus resulting in a sample skewed downwards on OK Cupid but upwards on Hot or not.
If this is further compounded by selection bias in the people rating appearance on either site, or perhaps appealing to a different demographic, this would go part-ways towards explaining the deviations between the two sources.
Neither source is probably accurate for a balanced sample from either side, as it is just as impossible for a majority of men to be above average as below average.
Rating Female Appearance
When testing the female data, the results were much less ambiguous and conformed to my initial expectation that female appearance would exist on a bell curve, with the majority of the population ending up somewhere around the mean. As mentioned earlier, many human characteristics have a tendency to to take this form from IQ to height, and thus it seems to be nature’s preferred distribution so to speak. Intuitively, it also makes sense that 70% of a population cannot be above or below average, without there being statistical errors.
The statistical distributions when men are rating females on OK cupid show a normal curve, where the majority of the population are around the mean. With the largest population being concentrated around 5 and 6. This is to be expected, however it is interesting that it deviates so much from the converse statistic. One must wonder, if there is such substantial sampling bias both among raters and the ratees on Ok Cupid. If this is the case, it must present a major challenge for those men who are rated as well below average by women who are average.
This could suggest that the women who are on Ok Cupid are a more representative sample of the population and consists of a much more diverse group than the males on OK Cupid. Alternatively, it could suggest that the females on OK Cupid judge the men much more harshly than the men do the women.
If one adds the statistics from hot or not, it appears to confirm the distribution from the OK Cupid statistics, and thus this distribution of female appearance is confirmed by the two data sources.
From the statistics from OK cupid one can see a slight skewing towards the higher end of the scale, with 77% of the population in the range from 3 up to 8 and 41% between 4 and 6. 50% of the population are in the range 1 – 5, 50% in the population 6 – 10.
In the Hot or Not statistics 89% of women are rated as being between 3 and 8, 53% as between 4 and 6. 33% are rated between 0 and 5,5 67% from 5,5 to 10. This does point to that the Hot or Not numbers also for women are somewhat skewed upwards, but not to the extent that the numbers for men are skewed upwards. Perhaps this indicates that the sampling bias for women is much less than the sampling bias for men.
However, this sampling bias does make it somewhat more complex to determine what the distribution of SMV is most likely like for men. For women, who derive a majority of their sexual market value from their appearance, one can therefore tacitly assume that this will be distributed along a bell curve, or similar to a bell curve.
Summary and Conclusions
The initial data  showed that mate preferences among the chosen 18 traits have been altered in the 70 years between 1938 and 2008, however there were some curious observations, such as being a good financial prospect and well educated being more important to the strong, independent women of 2008, than the housewives of 1938. Furthermore, that mutual attraction and good looks becoming more important traits in a potential marriage partner.
However, the applicability of the data is questioned on the grounds that they are asking about 18 specific traits for a specific situation, not in general. Thus, one must wonder if these can be generalized to the population at large. Secondly, with the the duality of female sexual strategies, the social changes that appear to favor open hypergamy, and the increasing narcissism, combined with the framing of the question does create some issues regarding how affected by solipsism the data may have become.
Many a man has attempted to live up to these and various other lists of qualities, with little to show for it except frustration and annoyance. If it was this simple, then one would not need a manosphere or evolutionary psychology, one would merely need to peruse one of the many men and woman’s magazines littering any convenience store checkout, implement and profit.
The lists within the pages of Cosmo or Men’s Health are perhaps not relevant to what we actually want and much more so what we feel we should want. Thus, are the lists merely attempting to build a better beta for women, who have just entered their epiphany phase and are now desperately wanting for a guy to “man up” and marry her regardless of her history?