My reason behind writing this essay was to demonstrate the many factors that goes into determining a person’s sexual market value, and why one will never be able to create an iron-clad framework to ensure 100% success rate. While some argue that economics is perhaps not the ideal system to apply to the mating market, due to the irrational nature of human mating decisions, I do not consider human mating decisions to be irrational. In my view, humans act in the mating market as rational actors, meaning that they are goal oriented, reflective and consistent as opposed to being irrational, namely random, impulsive, conditioned or imitative . For example, most people tend to have a “type” of partner that they display a preference for, which demonstrates consistency. There is a tendency for people to act in a goal oriented manner seeking out partners based on a range of characteristics such as relationship type, partner type or various others. People tend to reflect as they gain experience on which characteristics they do not want in a partner as well as which characteristics they want, which demonstrates reflective evaluation.
If partner choice was truly a case of being random, impulsive, conditioned and based on imitation, one would not expect to see many if any patterns, yet every piece of advice written on how to improve ones romantic life is based on the observation of patterns. However, one must keep in mind that rational behavior as per rational choice theory, is not the same as conscious and deliberate behavior. When an economist uses the term “The rational actor” he is not stating that people consciously sit down and compare the specifications of every single vacuum cleaner that is available to them, list out their choice criteria in a bullet point list, weigh them out, evaluate each product against the choice criteria and his budget for a new vacuum cleaner. He is stating that people evaluate their options and elect the one that is utility maximizing often subconsciously, and demonstrate a preference over time.
My goal was to elaborate on some of the underlying factors that affect such largely sub-conscious evaluations that we conduct every single day and that affect our mating behaviors. As I was writing this essay, it started to become clear that creating an iron-clad, objective system for valuation within the sexual market place is somewhat of an impossibility. While it is entirely possible to outline the major variables that will be involved on both sides in such an equation, and while it is also possible to understand the aggregate level strategies of both men and women, the interaction between variables is infinitely complex. Furthermore, the inherent limitations of rational choice theory, have been covered by authors such as Daniel Kahneman and other researchers into decision theory, and to put this in the terms Kahneman utilizes in his book “Thinking fast and Thinking slow”, a majority of mating decisions are most likely made using system 1.  Continue reading