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The sexes: Do gentlemen prefer bimbos?

Men choose women on the basis of looks, while women are attracted to men with ambition, status, and brains. To find out if these old stereo

Men choose women on the basis of looks, while women are attracted to men with ambition, status, and brains. To find out if these old stereo­types still hold true, said Columbia University economist Ray Fisman in Slate.com, three colleagues and I set up an experiment. We created a speed-dating service at a New York City bar, allowing hundreds of men and women to meet for four minutes. After chatting and sizing up each other, they decided whether they’d like to see a person again for a real date. After thousands of meetings over two years, the results are in—and nothing, it seems, has changed. Women still prefer intelligent, ambitious men. But even the highly educated men in our study put tremendous emphasis on looks in assessing their “dates,” flocking to beauties and shunning women they perceived to be smarter or more ambitious than themselves. It’s sad, but still true: “We males are a gender of fragile egos in search of a pretty face.”

Any successful woman could have told you that, said Maureen Dowd in The New York Times. Modern, college-educated men may claim not to be threatened by women with brainpower and money. But “in the real world,” they’re far more comfortable with subservient secretaries and flight attendants than with lawyers or corporate vice presidents. This leaves vast armies of successful urban women with no one to date, unless they pretend to be dumber and poorer than they really are. Homo sapiens may still be evolving, but you wouldn’t know it from the male of the species, who still craves a woman who will look up to him with big, dumb, adoring eyes.

That may be your experience, said Christine B. Whelan in National Review Online, but it’s not mine. Nor is it that of the vast majority of successful, accomplished women. The U.S. Census Bureau recently surveyed 50,000 households, and found that nearly 90 percent of women with college or post-graduate degrees had married by age 39. Highly educated women tend to marry later than women traditionally did. But when they do marry, they choose more carefully and are half as likely to divorce as women with only a high school degree. Consider what happened when I met a great guy last year and informed him right off that I was writing a book. “He didn’t run out the door in search of a less threatening woman.” He asked me out, and recently, we got married. “Gentlemen do prefer brains.”

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