BECOME THE MAN WOMEN WANT
23rd of July 2014

Isabel Behncke Interview

Introduction:

If you want actionable insights from a brilliant, accomplished, beautiful woman, this will be your favorite Mating Grounds interview so far. Isabel Behncke is a Primatologist at Oxford University. She begins by explaining her research with bonobos and lays out exactly what this means for guys: basically, she says to “feed the female.” Trust me, it’ll make perfect sense the way she explains it. Isabel also tells you how to be vulnerable (which is very attractive) without coming off as needy (which girls don’t like), what to do when you’re taking a girl to dinner, and exactly how to correct the most common mistakes she sees guys making all the time.

Podcast:


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Key takeaways:

  • Lack of authenticity and dishonesty – fake signals – are both easy for women to spot and incredibly unattractive.
  • If you have to tell a woman you are handsome and strong, you are not. Remember the saying: “Tell me what you boast about and I will tell you what you lack.”
  • Positive emotions – play, laughter, fun – are contagious and keep interactions going. Conversations last longer when there is more laughter.
  • Dinner dates are fundamentally different to getting coffee in the middle of the day. The mood is different and people are more suited to socializing in the evening.
  • “Feed the female”: firstly this means to make sure she’s not hungry, but it also means that you need to make an effort, and invest your time and energy into your time with her. For example, make sure you’ve picked a good restaurant, and pick out a nice table in the corner.
  • Stinginess is unattractive – not just in relation to money but generally not contributing, being a drain on her energy or not being fun, being needy.
  • There’s a huge difference between neediness and vulnerability. Neediness is like a little brother or a son who can’t handle his own issues and wants someone else to take responsibility of his issues. Vulnerability is sharing something that’s troublesome or bothersome for you with someone else, something that could make you look bad – it’s a show of trust in the other person.
  • Vulnerability is sexy if it’s paired with a guy who is strong and intelligent – because it shows that you are genuinely strong because you’re willing to trust the woman, rather than just projecting an image of invulnerability (which may well be a dishonest signal).
  • Women love guys who can play well with kids (or even dogs or other animals) because it shows that the guy can be big and strong but also deal with something weak and fragile, and be caring and kind.
  • Having a dog also shows that you exercise, that you’re sporty, and that you can interact with and take responsibility for another living thing.

Links from this episode

Isabel Behncke Izquierdo’s Bio:

  • Primatologist, currently completing PhD at Oxford University – previously studied at University College, London, and Cambridge University
  • Her “overall interest is to discover how can our evolutionary past help us understand human social behaviour”.
  • Originally from Chile, studied in the UK, and also spent three years in the Congo following wild bonobos and studying their social and playing behavior.

Further reading on Isabel Behncke Izquierdo:

Podcast Audio Transcription:

Tucker:
A lot of our audiences are young guys, right? And what they don’t have is honest authentic meaningful feedback from intelligent beautiful women who can really break this down and understand it. So, let’s talk about this. Because you’re obviously very intelligent and very beautiful, and like you think about these things, you study about these subjects. Clearly you study them in Bonobos, your primary source of research, but you understand I think a lot of the part of the point you said before is, you study Bonobos to help us understand ourselves better and our evolutionary past better. So, let’s talk about like this guy, and what is it that is so unattractive about him. Like specific things about his behavior because a lot of young guys, I think, do similar things and they don’t realize how it comes afterward.

Isabel:
Yes, in one word is their lack of authenticity. The dishonesty. It’s the fake signals. We all know about reliable signals and fake signals. And, this just shines through a fake signal. So, female sex is truly good at smelling that from a distance. I mean, for a very good reason, as we all know, evolutionary. We have the sensor in our self. And girls, with dishonesty– “enk enk enk”, wrong. And then, dishonesty plus loser, is just sounds like, I mean, you know, if it was Brad Pitt—still bad, but kind of hot, at least. So, that’s very very unattractive. It also seems like lack of intelligence—of real social intelligence which is of course something that we appreciate very very much.

Tucker:
Right, but what are the things that he does? I am digging in the specifics because a lot of guys, especially think of the young guys you know Dr. Izqiuerdo. Like, think of how socially ridiculous and ignorant they are. It’s not because they are dumb, they’re just like, young guys. It takes us a while to learn. When I was 19, I was basically a monster, like I was barely better than a dog, right.

Isabel:
Don’t say something bad about dogs. We love dogs even though they’re silly. Dogs are wonderful. We love them even they are silly. So, it’s okay.

Tucker:
So, what are some specific things you can think of that he has done, and obviously I am talking in abstractions. Don’t say his name. That doesn’t matter. Just examples of his behaviors, so a young guy can think of, “Oh I’ve than that, that’s terrible. I’ll stop doing it now.” You know.

Isabel::
Yeah, I am not going to talk about this guy because I know him, but I’ll talk about other people instead.

Tucker:
Great, that’s perfect. Any good specific examples.

Isabel::
So, for example, that typical young guy that comes and says anything—that immediately thinks like, “Look how handsome I am. Look how intelligent I am. Look how I am the most powerful.“ Dork! Even the interview with John Durant. You told him, “You are a thinker”, and he said “No, no, I am just really handsome and strong.” And of course, he was being playful.

Tucker:
Right.

Isabel:
But if that’s the kind of thing that a guy would tell me, I am like, “No.” I’m going to run for the hills. If you have to tell me that you are handsome, powerful and strong; it’s because you are not.

Tucker:
Thank you so much, Dr. Izquierdo, I’ve said that so many times. I mean, coming from you, I think it’s going to be more impactful.

Isabel::
In Spanish – by the way I am not a doctor yet – it is Behncke not Izquierdo; because in Latin America, we use two surnames.

Tucker:
Oh, yeah right, you reverse it. I’m sorry.

Isabel:
It doesn’t matter at all. It’s just that my parents always get very upset. So, where was I?

Tucker:
We were talking about guys that are trying to pretend to be things that they aren’t.

Isabel: :
Yes, right. So, the other thing is, it’s about the body building. In winter, I go the gym and it’s really interesting. I go there in the evening, it’s almost all guys and there are a very few girls. And, they’re guys of one type. Theyarehuge buffs. They’re really kind of tight, stretch, that you can see that they are almost wet, to kind of show every single angle. And, they are pumping iron as they look at themselves in the mirror. I’m like “Oh my god.” No, no. I would seriously prefer the fat lazy guy who’s a poet and funny and has read books, while all of these guys has like no chance. I mean, I’m talking for myself. But again, I think it’s about the signal. You are trying too hard. Basically with his body, he’s telling me, “Look, I am strong. I am fit”. And I’m like, “Okay you are saying it too loud.” It’s not an anonymous signal. There is a saying in Spanish that goes something like, “Tell me about what you boast and I will tell you what you lack.”

Tucker:
That’s a great saying. That’s fantastic!

Isabel:
So, it’s just keeping this thing. It’s right. I see these kids and they have this much of testosterone and that’s right. They are young males, they should, that’s great. But of course, we are social learners, so I think it’s okay that they take their time. I mean, humans take a long time to develop for a reason. And that’s fine, so they shouldn’t feel bad about themselves and I think that’s a very important point because I also see the other extreme, which is the anxiety and extreme low self-esteem. And the way we have to tell them look, of course you cannot be existentially struggling. You’re young, that’s the nature of life. Life is complex and after all, you are alive. You are descendants. You are kind of part of a magnificent lineage that’s succeeded in having sex for more than a billion years. So, if past performance predicts future performances, at least statistically speaking, give yourself a chance.

Tucker:
Let me just ask you. Do you think young guys—you think it’s just normal genetic development, or do you think there is anything going on culturally that young guys tend to be the way you describe?

Isabel:
I think it’s normal to take a long time to learn because our society is complex. And, that’s why humans have a longer developmental span than any other animal, because we have to learn. All these things. Playing and interacting with others is a huge part, and therein lies the key of what’s happening today culturally that social learning watch, has social image. And then playing and interacting has interaction in it; what are young guys are doing this these days? They are sitting on in their asses, they are playing video games and watching porn so much. It’s fine. I don’t mind if they do, but if you are not interacting with real people in the real world and learning you are basically and obviously you are not developing those skills. So, and Philip Zimbardo, wonderful Zimbardo, made this great point few years ago in text so beautifully. He calls it, ‘the demise of guys’. And, just saying how in his lifetime he had seen, just boys would naturally, of course, this has been a problem. It’s ages old, but in the last fifteen years, boys have become really more inept than never, apparently. So, I think what I would say to them, first of all, “Get off your bottom, get off your asses and move and go out and interact with the world. Life is a movement. When there is no movement, life ceases. And I use that in the broadest sense of the world because movement is movement towards life’s curiosity, is engaging with. So, not just movement by physical movement, by all means we want to see men who are active. Learn to go for runs, learn to climb hills, and learn to set up a tent for god’s sake. I know how to make a fire. If a guy doesn’t know how to make a fire, I will call you a loser. No, no. Not so much. It’s complex dependence. That’s personal, ignore that, but there is in a sense that I would like to tell them, the only moment would I excuse your sitting down at work is if you are reading a book.

Tucker:
Right.

Isabel:
So, go out and interact.

Tucker:
It’s funny. Let’s talk about you, because it’s funny how you know how to start a fire. I was thinking about this and kind of looking at the research on you. People say “Oh, I am primatologist.” I think a lot of people think ‘oh you go the zoo and you watch monkeys. No, no, no. You went to the Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo. There is like fucking wars going on there. People are dying and you showed up there as a young researcher from Oxford, right? And you are like, “Alright, I am going to study Bonobos here.” So, you don’t just know how to start a fire. You can operate in a third world nation that is at war, in the jungle. That’s a little bit more. That’s pretty amazing, just like I don’t even have a question, that’s just amazing.

Isabel:
Well no! I am from 3rd world, so it’s not so bad.

Tucker:
Chile’s borderline; Chile’s maybe a second world, I think.

Isabel:
My family, I always say, for all intents and purposes we have more conflict than in the real jungle. Congo is of course a very very serious, very serious issue. Congo first of all is gigantic place. It’s more or less the size of Western Europe. In terms of conflict not only now, there’s terrible conflict. The rape capital of the world – women have 50 times the chances to being raped in Congo than in the US. Around 6 million people have died in the last 20 years which could be more or less up to the magnitude of the people that died.

Tucker:
In the Holocaust, yeah.

Isabel:
And the First War. This is a very strong contrast to me because I want to study Bonobos who are in a way, the opposite. The kind of the light of the heart of darkness. Of course Congo is just a Conrad than the heart of darkness. And Conrad actually, although heart of darkness was fiction, Conrad was there and Mr. Kurtz, the character that puts the heads on spikes, we now know is the combination of three real life officers. So all of these stuff, all of these heritage exist in Congo. On the other hand, we have this wonderful great apes who are really interesting contrast to that. So, just in the kind of metaphorical sense to really go into that, I mean they kind of archetypal clichés, you have to go into the dark. Learn about humor and life and females who are not coerced but rather free, there is no rape, there is no lethal aggression for them, that’s it.

Tucker:
Alright, let’s talk a little bit about Bonobos. I think a lot of guys in our audience have the problem that you talk about a lot. What they understand about monkeys or about evolution generally comes from sort of ideas of what chimps do. Right? And I think a lot of your researches done or the reason research you’ve done and popularize it is make people understand that that’s not only way that other primates interact. So, why don’t you explain a little bit what Bonobos are and how they differ from chimps.

Isabel:
Bonobos are first of all our living closest relative together with chimps. So, I don’t want to hear that we descend from Bonobos, that we descend from chimps nor we descend from apes. We are apes. And these guys are cousins, so think of it as having a common evolutionary grandmother. Right, you have cousins now, you don’t descend from them and you are not equal to one and you are not equal to the other. You share some traits with one and you share some traits with the other. Why? Because you a have common ancestor. So the common ancestors of humans, chimpanzees, bonobos lived more or less around 6 million years ago. Plus or minus one. And that means that we have some traits tha are like chimps and we have some traits that are Bonobo-like. What has happened now historically, is that we know chimps a lot better than we know Bonobos. And that meant that the history, the story of human evolution has been told very much from a chimp’s point of view, which is fine because of these we have many traits of chimps.

For example, chimps are political Machiavellian male coalition builder. They are exquisite politicians. They are always building thisese coalitions, thinking how they will get their Alpha down, and then they hunt together. They hunt cooperatively. They make tools. They have variation in how they use tools. They eat meat as well and they are very hierarchical. They have linear hierarchies and they are aggressive. They are aggressive towards other males, towards females. We know that there is infanticide. There is lethal aggression within groups and in between groups. They have something called “proto-wars”. Chimps go on and patrol the borders in their territory and if they find another chimp of neighboring community there might be aggression. They may have genital mutilation as well, sometimes murder. It’s not always that it is important not to blow it up because in a fight, one case can be blown out, and this happens. Imagine you are alone in your family. Everyone is dead, even your relatives are dead. And the only thing you know about this is cousin, right? You were told, how do you think your ancestors were like? And then of course you tell the story from that perspective, right? So then it’s man, the hunter. It’s man, the toolmaker. It’s man, the politician. It’s all about gadgets and hunting and hierarchies and aggression which is of course we are being recognized because of that.

And then there is another part of the family and you certainly recognize, and certainly “Oh, aha!” Here is your Bohemian, your peaceful cousin and you go “right”. So maybe that explains why you know I kind of like humor. I enjoy joy. I am actually emotionally sensitive. I like spending time with other people, I recognize myself from being social. I feel this impulse to care. That’s the heritage that is very important to us. And we haven’t really completed the history, the story of our past with that piece of the puzzle. And that’s I want to say that is very very important is much more than an intellectual exercise. Humans are a story telling species and we tell stories about ourselves like if you want to understand yourself you look at your family tree. And you know, my mom came from here and my dad so, the other side of my family was accountants, blah blah. So you understand yourself from your history. As a species we do the same with our family tree in evolutionary sense. So, if we tell our story in a certain way we also construct our identity in that way. And this is crucial. I am going to get this on how it relates to guys because insofar you tell the story in this way, you say “Aha, this is human identity. I am like this so suspicious therefore surely I just have to go around and yes look at me I am such a buff.” I just pump some iron and people go like, “Oh my god, I love you.” And they wonder why it doesn’t work? Well it’s because you are lacking the other side of the picture.

I mean it’s fine. We are all here to learn and the other side of the picture comes from Bonobos, of course there’s more. So, who are Bonobos–looks very much like chimpanzees. They are more slender. So it’s not true that they are pygmy chimpanzees. They are not pygmies. They are just more slender in build. And what is really amazing in them is that they are female dominated. They are a matriarchy but they are not matrilineal hierarchy. The female coalitions is not because of blood relations. Usually, you see in hunter-gatherers or other primates who have female coalitions, some matrilineal. Mom sees their grandmother, Auntie and so on.

Tucker:
Like Baboons! Baboons are matrilineal.

Isabel:
Yes! Exactly! But these guys are not related. The females by definition, they emigrate from their groups when they reach adolescence, so by definition, a female that arrives to the group where she will settle is a stranger. Keep that in mind because that’s amazing because it means we primates kind of develop relationships that finally as she ages, she gets very strong in the hierarchy, high status, and effectively Bonobos society is structured around this female coalitions. The guys will go, “Yeah, feminist.” No. This is not a feminist argument. I am just describing Bonobos. Another mistake that people do, whenever you start describing the species, people go, “Woah, it means that we must do this or you’re saying that this is better or my species are better than your species.” No, it’s nothing to do with that. What’s important here are the principles. That we can relate from this and how that can be grounded in advice to guys. And it comes down as with mostly everything in evolutionary biology to reproductive strategies.

So I think you’ve talked a little bit probably about this with Matt Ridley and other people, definitely with Geoffrey. But so for a female mammal, to become pregnant, to bring up offspring, it’s a very expensive thing to do. Which means that to lose that offspring, it’s a much higher cost than for a male to lose some sperm, right? And especially for apes because the longer gestation period, longer dependent period, and so on. So but then, put into the question that these animals like we, are long lived. So, evolutionarily speaking, it’s not about the survival, of your offspring. It’s first of all the thriving of your offspring, and the reproduction of your offspring. And it’s the survival of the offspring of your offspring. And then you’re dealing with long lived species who by definition lived in uncertain environment, given that we’re social. So as a female, you go, “How the hell do i protect–what kind of investment can i do? What kind of buffer?” The only thing that you can do is to create resilience in your network, right? Given that we are so inherently social. So hence, that’s why females tend to create relationships. So it’s the quality and quantity of relationships. Because saying, “If you disappear, there’s the village you know, to take care.” That means, so in practice of Bonobos, that translates into a society that is peaceful and is very cohesive. So, it’s not I don’t want to hear, “Oh bonobos, they are so utopian and angels.” No! They’re not angels. They’re primates as all of us and as primates, we are conflicted multi-layered creatures. Conflict is part of any social system. The key is how they deal with it. And because of this kind of long term view that results in an environment of peace, what happens is that, first of all, there is no lethal aggression. So far you know, it could always happen but overall they are much much more peaceful than chimpanzees. And that provides an environment that males actually benefit from. So, often people talk about bonobo females because of course bonobo females are actually really so unusual.

Tucker:
Right.

Isabel:
And these stuff that, you know, is also it’s so colorful it’s that they have sex. Bonobos are incredibly hypersexual mammals and they use sex very much as we use language. It’s a multifaceted behavior that can be used in different contexts and have different meanings. So, they use sex to prevent stress, to decrease stress, in playful contexts in tense contexts. They are full of tension and so on. And females have sex to bond, and actually if I look at my data, the most frequent sexual partner combination is not male-female. It’s actually, female-female. And this is about bonding. Yeah, you raised your eyebrows, but the point here for the guys is actually that through this cohesive environment, it actually benefits the guys. So, it’s not about, “Oh okay, in chimps males have their upper hands and females, you know, are fucked. But in bonobos is the other way around. It’s the females that you know, dominating them. These poor little guys are in the periphery kind of crying behind their mamas.” It’s okay, it’s true that Bonobo males depend on their mothers for, for status. But, Bonobo males are not this poor little guys kind of in the periphery.

So, that’s why, first of all, I want to make clear to, to, the guys that this is not a feminist argument. It’s good for them when the females are powerful because females are not scared and in bonobo males, they have much more sexual access than in chimpanzees. There is no coercion and females exerts a female choice. So, for example, it is still true that the alpha male in bonobos gets more matings than the lesser ranking males. But the lesser ranking males get matings as well. And given that if we look at proximity, the alpha male, when females are in [INAUDIBLE], tends to be in close proximity, then you go “hmm, how are these other guys getting matings?” Its female choice. Because otherwise, we don’t see coercion from other males and they literally see how there is female choice. Because bonobos have this copulation invitation signals, so they do this kind of head bowing. The male and the female, and you see the female go, “hmm, okay.” And sometimes go anything like, “No.” And it’s very clear. But females are sexually receptive throughout their cycle, like a human. So I’ve seen, you know, females copulating that are seven months pregnant. For instance with their sexual soliings shriveled, so they’re obviously not in the highest attractive phase. But, so yeah, all of this is to say that there is a clear benefit to males. Bonobo males are magnificent. They’re strong, they’re beautiful, they’re powerful. So, it’s not this winky little poor guys. Quite all contrary. They’re really magnificent males, and you just cannot help but when you’re observing to think, to feel, these guys have a good time, have a good life. They’re enjoying themselves. They play so much.

Tucker:
Yeah.

Isabel:
Bonobo, my, I was so surprised. My interest that was to look at play, to look at adult play, because of how strong bonobo females are, and their role, I assumed okay, this is the sex that means to bond, therefore the highest frequency of play partners will be between females. Ah! Mistake. I was completely wrong. It’s the adult males. These guys play so much. I should show you the video of the alpha male. He is magnificent, huge, just his hair shining, like the muscles that all these guys couldn’t even aspire to that, and he just plays so much. He actually does the playing invitiation to females, to infants, to juveniles, to other males, and you can hear the laughter, just across the forest. It’s beautiful.

Tucker:
They use play as social bonding, the males, is that what you’re saying?

Isabel:
Yes, they use play as a social bond. I think there is something– are you familiar with Sarah Hardy and cooperative breeding?

Tucker:
Yeah.

Isabel:
Of course there’s no cooperative breeding as such, because there’s no provisioning of food, right? That’s obvious, but there is something that happens that I call cooperative rearing, because it is the males who are donating social capital, right? Not food, but your time. Play is social learning. In social species social learning is very important. It determines your success to a great degree so you are literally donating social capital and the males are doing it all the time. And their rewards has several levels: on one hand, I think positive emotion of play is rewarding in itself, so that’s one point for guys. If you put it in emotional laughter, play is contagious. Make the girls laugh. Make them happy. Have fun, challenge me and it’s contagious. Positive emotion evolved, and in the raw, raw, sense, what is emotion? Positive or negative. Positive emotion makes you want to interact with the world and is contagious because it keeps interactions going. So just really don’t again, “Huh, I’m so tough.” Okay, loser, boring, I’m leaving. See, even with conversations for instance, when I look at that conversation length, just very simple measure. Think of laughter, right. Laughter, you think laughter is produced in the context of jokes, right? No.

Tucker:
Not really. It’s quick observations that are socially relevant and contextual.

Isabel:
Exactly, of course and it is punctuating conversations. So, it’s a kind of marker that “Haha, yes I’m here, I like you. I want to continue to talk with you.” And when we laugh, we release always feel good chemical happiness. That really makes me want to continue to interact with you. Which is the same that happens in social playing animals replacing most, yeah yeah. This is fun, let’s carry on. If you measure the conversation the length of conversations, when there’s laughter, conversations last more. Ha! That’s so simple, right? So like really a simple advice to give. If you want to keep the girl talking with you, make her laugh. Engage her with positive emotion.

Tucker:
We tell that to guys all the time. Not just make her laugh, absolutely, but also bring something to her life. So, laughter can be one thing, funny interesting stories, great conversation. You know, like doing fun things. There’s so many ways to make someone’s life better and it’s not hard at all.

Isabel:
No, completely and you discussed about the one piece of advice I was thinking now on the walk with the dogs. “You have to think, okay, one thing, one principle of what evolutionary biology teaches us”, and then I was watching the dogs and it came to me. I think it’s, “feed the female.” This is nice.

Tucker:
You don’t mean literally food though? You mean feed the female what she wants.

Isabel:
At many levels, food, yes. No, at many levels. Feed the female. First of all in terms of I evolutionary biology, feed the female is actually a serious thing because the constraining variable, the limiting factor for females is usually food, resources.

Tucker:
For reproduction right?

Isabel:
For reproduction. Cause energetically speaking, we have to deal with the laws, especially if you’re a mammal, even moreso if you’re a primate or an ape. Feed the female, at that basic level, tick. Of course now society will have food. If we’re going to talk about food, first of all you don’t want your girl to be hungry because we get in a really really bad mood. So, in that sense, feed the female first. Then of course, food is the full ritual of courtship. So guys, hello. In human evolution, food sharing: it’s important. Right?

Tucker:
There’s a reason you take a girl in a restaurant on a date. It’s not just random.

Isabel:
I could really go over this.

Tucker:
Please do, yes.

Isabel:
I mean not only do I look at Bonobos, but in my group what we do is we look at humans as animals and we look at human evolution what has changed throughout our history. What were big markers. For instance we fire, what fire does, gives us more time right? Fire, you can cook. You can sit around the fire and you can share food that is cooked. That’s a time that you will tell the stories, the jokes. You can see how story telling makes everything. The evening, it’s a special time for socializing and we know it. Somehow sitting down, sharing food, fire, candle, it’s deeply, deeply rooted in us and you know it. If I go “OK, Tucker, let’s go for a bite at 11 to Starbucks to buy coffee. We could have the same one hour and a half and–I mean it’s different.

Tucker:
Totally different.

Isabel:
Everything is different, right? This is something, the light decreases. The fire, the food, you’re like– it’s difficult to explain but socializing has its time and its mood, and guys, you have to invest, don’t be cheap.

Tucker:
You don’t meanmoney. You mean like -time is more important.

Isabel:
Yes. Absolutely, time. I mean that sense. I mean feed the female because feed the female of course is food first of all, we’re talking really basics here just to cover, just in case. The second, think about the ritual of food. Food sharing and taking a girl to a restaurant. Ask her what she wants but also be assertive, suggest, surprises, be attentive, the usual things. Her glass should never be empty. Just share food. I’m going to repeat this a few more times just in case, and in terms of feed the female, while it may not be cheap, it’s also in the actual investment of time, but also I want to feel that the guy has thought about it. There’s feed the female beforehand in the sense of investment of time that he thought about where we’re going. If he tells me “Okay, I’ll take you to dinner” then he picks me up and we end walking an hour and a half around the city and he’s like, “Oh I’m being spontaneous, I didn’t really want to book.” I’m like exhausted, cold and hungry. And then we ended up on a table in a corner of Pizza Hut. I hate him. I’m like, “No.” So think about it. Call the place, ask them, “Can the table not be–simple things. Girls get cold, moreso than men. Right? But that’s because we are fatter, or we are more fat, of the nice kind! But that’s the different conversation. But we get cold. So just–how distracting it can be? Guys, listen. If you take a girl to a restaurant, and she’s sitting over and the door opens, every time somebody comes in, there’s a draft. I cannot tell you how distracting, how disagreeable that is. You’re trying to concentrate in the conversation and you get “Ugh, ugh, ugh.”

Tucker:
Alright, shut the door, shut the door!

Isabel:
Shut the door! And you can never be on the floor. Call the restaurant – if you can go there before – and see, “Okay, I want that table in the corner.” And you know, you can always go to the guy who’s making all the reservations. “Oh you know, I’m bringing in a girl, would you be really nice?” Blink your eyes. People love that, and they will help you. It’s just, ask. So in that sense you’re feeding the female, they need to feel that you invest.

Tucker:
Right.

Isabel:
Right? This is not about money, this is also about some resources. Your energetic resources, your time, “I’m listening to you.” That all signals, you are important.

Tucker:
Hey what–

Isabel:
Even if it’s short term or long term, it doesn’t matter.

Tucker:
It gets back to what you said earlier about honest signals which we’ve talked about a lot. You can’t fake money but if you have a lot of money, spending money is not an honest signal. That’s easy. But thinking of someone else and considering them, you can’t fake that. Either you do that or you don’t.

Isabel:
Yeah, completely, completely. I mean it that sense, it doesn’t need to be an expensive restaurant either, I mean, there are great places that are cheap. I mean, just have a nice little corner table and it’s lovely.

Tucker:
So what are the things that you think that guys just totally get wrong? Things like you see “Ugh, this guy is doing it absolutely wrong.” Or you see a lot over and over? It could be general, social circumstances or guys who are romantically interested in you, or whatever. Like, what are some things you wish like, “Man, I wish guys understood not to do this.” You just covered a great thing that they should do–feed the female, we got that. What are the things we’re doing wrong?

Isabel:
I think the things they are doing wrong are those ultimately touch in the violations of the principles of feed the female. Because for example, forms of stinginess, which is again not about not having money, not being able to spend. And there’s many forms of stinginess. So females are incredibly, incredibly attuned to when men are not contributing–feeding the females. But also when they’re extracting resources from you. And those resources could be intellectual, you know, if he’s stealing my ideas to tell somebody else. Could be energetic. “Ugh, he’s just draining me because he comes with all this drama and instead of the two hours that I wanted to have fun, laugh, be challenged and learn? Oh my god, he’s kind of like weeping like a little girl.” Vulnerability is really important but the neediness. We want a sexual partner, I don’t want a child. I don’t want my child and I don’t want my little brother. I want an equal and I want somebody who I can admire and that’s very important.

Tucker:
Hold on. I want you to–you just mentioned something super important that a lot of guys don’t understand. I know exactly what you mean but explain the difference between vulnerability and neediness. You just explain neediness which is guys who are dependent on you, who are like a little brother. You know like, who can’t do things on their own, right? That’s needy. What’s vulnerable look like?

Isabel:
Vulnerability is a wonderful thing and it’s the foundation of trust and intimacy. So I think that getting the difference is very important. Vulnerability is basically when you open yourself to me. And to say, “Actually, yeah. I see that I might not have done this right. I see that actually I have difficulty.” So, you reveal yourself to be human to me and you reveal your vulnerability. And in doing that, a reciprocal circle of vulnerability starts, in which you know, “Oh my god, really? I’m so glad you told me that because to be honest, I always feel terrible when I have to go public speaking. But I had no idea that you did, too. Because you look so confident then, “Haaaaa!” you laugh together. And you bond. We bond through experiencing vulnerability together, but it has to be shared. Because ultimately, there’s also always this veneer, you’re invincible. Yeah, it is attractive and I think it can work for shorter reproductive studies i.e. hook ups.

Tucker:
Right.

Isabel:
For the long term one, different strategies require different strategies. [Laughs] Hook ups and long term have some things that are in common, like investment of the feeling of… but I think that trust and vulnerability will be much more important in the long term version. So for example, in bonobo play, there is quite a very graphic and funny example but to me it’s very profound and perhaps you saw it in the TED Talk but it’s the game–

Tucker:
Grabbing the nuts, yeah?

Isabel:
Yeah! And of course, it’s funny so why don’t you describe it?

Tucker:
Well, it was just, the video is pretty cool. To the, whatever the jungle and then there’s like, I don’t know if it’s an alpha but it was a male, obviously. And then there was a little–I think it was a girl who was kind of following him around and like, pinching him by the balls. It didn’t look like she’s grabbing too hard, she was kind of pinching him in his nut sack. Literally like his fucking testes. And they were like–he was going in a circle like kind of trying to get her, and she was following him around and it became this game they were playing with each other. Yeah, it looked like these two people having fun, like not even a sexual game. It’s–

Isabel:
No–

Tucker:
It’s hard for a dude to think of that as fun because our testes are so sensitive, I guess his aren’t very sensitive like you can grab them and it’s no big deal? But, right. He clearly enjoyed it and he was clearly having fun with her.

Isabel:
Yeah. No, exactly. I’m not advocating to do this at home, so again, it’s about observing the behavior and extracting the general principle, right? And so what was happening was actually that you’ll have a kind of Ring a Rosie game in which a male is being followed by a female and she literally has him by the balls. Her hands are grabbing his testicles and they’re going round. And at some point, she lets go and he stops and he looks back, kind of like, “Huh? Come on! This is boring, carry on!” Of course it’s very funny, and sometimes I say, “Oh look, she has him by the balls but he loves it. Hahaha.” and we all laugh. But think of it in the sense of vulnerability. Before I told you that in chimpanzees sometimes they have genital mutilations, i.e. mailes literally rip off the testicles of other males. And yeah, and I think we can really see the testicles are the most vulnerable part of male anatomy, right?

Tucker:
And part of the most valuable part too, right?

Isabel:
Yeah, extremely! Which makes it kind of really salient. So this is almost like this is symbol. And I noticed that in bonobos, different types of play engage testicles. And then I thought, “Oh my god, in chimpanzees it’s such a strong contrast!” These are literally–it’s a symbol of vulnerability.

Tucker:
Yeah.

Isabel:
It’s when you offer yourself. Part that is really vulnerable, and then you go, “Look, I am offering this that is so vulnerable!” And then “Oh, you didn’t hurt me.” So I trust you, because you didn’t hurt me, but then on the other hand, the female, the girl is like going, “Oh my god, you offered me that? That is really vulnerable.” So, it is when, and then, hence, they get a reciprocal circle of trust and you tell a secret to somebody, right? That’s similar. So, when you tell a secret to somebody, you’re also offering your vulnerability on somebody. And you feel thankful. “Oh my god, thank you for trusting me.” And then you immediately, this is so human. I tell you a secret and you will feel compelled to confide in me as well. So anyway, hence the difference between vulnerability–

Tucker:
So, let me sum that up for our listeners who maybe aren’t super smart and tell me if you agree. The difference is neediness is when you can’t do things for yourself, or you’re sort of pathetic, or you’re very weak in a way that you can’t even handle your own issues at all and you want the other person to do important, difficult things that are your responsibility. Vulnerability is very different. What vulnerability is, is when you share something that you’re very afraid of or that’s very troublesome and bothersome for you, or something that could make you look bad or create a bad situation for you, you share it with them. And, not in a weak way but in a strong way because you have the courage to trust them and hope that they trust you back, right?

Isabel:
That’s perfect. Yeah.

Tucker:
That’s a huge difference between those two things. I think a lot of guys especially American guys don’t understand the difference at all between those. They think–younger guys especially think all vulnerability is weakness. It took me a long time. I don’t think I learned that until I was maybe, 32, 33, 34? It took me quite a while to learn that. But if you could learn that young, that’s something I know I’ve said and I guess you’d agree, it’s very attractive to women, if you could actually be meaningfully, authentically vulnerable.

Isabel:
Yeah. Although I think and I really understand that it’s a very difficult thing. So, to do for many women, I would say that there are proxies. There are ways. There are crutches, so you can use if you feel you can’t be vulnerable, which is, use literature. Use poetry, learn, you know.

Tucker:
Music!

Isabel:
Music, exactly. You know, it’s fine. You don’t have to be Cyrano de Bergerac. You don’t have to be. There’s so much out there. And you can just say, “Oh, look! I’ve read this book, I think it’s really capturing something.” This film, this piece of music—and that’s another aspect of feeding the female. Because the brain, as Geoffrey Miller has said so beautifully, is the most erogenous organ of the body, by far. We females love brains. Brains are sexy. Hello? You know, so when I see these magazines, that are supposedly telling young guys, “Yeah, we’ll tell you how to get the girls,” and they tell them all about six packs and muscles and you know, sexual techniques, you know, that are so great, and there’s nothing about, “Oh, make them laugh. Make yourself interesting. Learn the art of conversation. Feed the female intellectually, challenging, in the kind of fun, caring sense. So, yeah, cultivate your brain because your brain is very sexy.

Tucker:
Oh, and tell me if you agree with this. Vulnerability is even sexier if it’s paired with a guy who is strong, intelligent, and all those things. To tie this back up with the things you said in the beginning, if you’re trying to project all these things, strength, and all you know, and like an accomplishment and power; if you just project that, that’s unattractive because that means you’re hiding something or compensating. But, if you pair that with actual, honest vulnerability, then you can become very attractive to a woman because then in her mind, she’s like, “Okay, this guy actually is strong because he’s willing to trust me with these things. You agree with that or?

Isabel:
Yeah, completely. And that relates to an aspect of play that we call self-handicapping. So, basically when you’re very strong, but you voluntarily restrict your strength, and you make yourself “weaker”, and play with somebody who’s smaller or weaker than you. You imagined me like a big, strong guy playing with the kid? If you use your strength, you’d be a dick because obviously–

Tucker:
Smacking a kid around or something, right.

Isabel:
“We’re playing tug-o-war!” And the kid goes, “Oh my god, I think he just broke my nose.” Right. That’s not going to work very well, right. But you know, the wisdom, literally learning how to play the game. You know, to know how to behave differently in contexts, okay? “This girl is shier, I have to adapt myself to her.” Self-handicap. You know, tone down. Listen. Basically self-handicapped in play is about empathy. It’s about seeing who’s in front of you, and learning how to play with them according to who they are. Instead of like, “This is who I am,” and I go, “boom!” Regardless, whether it’s a chicken, a mouse, or an elephant, you go “Oh dear”. There’s no sensitivity context, or whatsoever.

Tucker:
Well, the other side of your example, that you didn’t say is like – listen, I’m sure you know, one of the most attractive things a guy can do in front of a woman is play appropriately with a child. Like, If you’re a guy and you can play with kids, and kids love you and you’re super like–you know, you have the right mix of sort of that kids enjoy, sort of like you know, your restraining strength; your humor, your empathy and whatever, that as I understand is extremely attractive to women because it’s like, “Oh, here’s a guy who can be big and strong but also under has the empathy to deal with something very small, and weak, and fragile.

Isabel:
Yes. Okay, two things about that. Yes, I would say, but guys who do not drool for babies, don’t despair.

Tucker:
Right.

Isabel:
Because it’s not a requisite. Personally, you know, this is just personal, I’m not such kind of a baby-oriented person, so maybe I’m just thinking for myself.

Tucker:
But you love dogs, so a guy with a dog would be the same thing.

Isabel:
Exactly, but as a principle, I completely agree. I’m being slightly flippant because we know that this it’s true. We know that deep down we’re looking for this signals. Signals of caring, being nice, being generous is important. But you can see, you don’t need a kid to actually—if you’re 20, you don’t need to be like, “Hi, by the way I brought my niece.” Like you know.

Tucker:
Yeah. No, no, no. The last thing I would ever tell a dude to do is to take a girl, like a little kid to a park or something. No, no, no, no, no.

Isabel:
Because also, kids are lovely for 20 minutes…then a little bit boring if you’re not the parent. But for instance, I will be looking for the signals. I will not necessarily, you know, let’s say, doesn’t need to be with the kid. I will watch how you behave with people and organisms that are weaker than you. So, of course, you don’t need to be so clear to know that you cannot punch your boss. But I will watch how you behave with waiters, with taxi drivers. I will watch how you behave, very importantly, with animals. For me, a guy who’s cruel to animals in a slightly way, you know, the guy who goes, “I will crush this bee, ah ah ah, just because I can.” I’m like, “Oh God!’ Like, “You’re an idiot.”

Tucker:
Do you hang out with a lot of guys who go around bragging about killing insects? Is this your…

Isabel:
You know what, because once, I saw in school and I think he’s still with me. He kind of went off. One thing is like to smash mosquito or like spider, for you know, but that thing is to go out of your way. You know the kind of people who takes pleasure and is ranging in the psychopathic.

Tucker:
Yeah.

Isabel:
But we are very—because as you may know, we have very tuned systems, to go against obviously, you know, they’re psychopaths. So, cruelty, any you know, hint of that you’re being unnecessarily cruel or standoffish with waiter, these are the people and the beings that you have to be the most polite with. Because, actually, you are in a position of power, so if I see you with any hint of abuse or it’s not attractive, I know guys. I know what the advice is, “Get a dog!”

Tucker:
Well, I told that to guys a lot, except only for guys who want to take care of dogs, because to me, there’s nothing worse. I know at least from my perspective, I’ve been actually met girls that are really into them, and then like I’ll find out in a week later they have a dog, and I’m like, “How did I not know that immediately?” Like, just one girl. I’m not even kidding. I dated her in LA for a little while—I didn’t date with her, I slept with her for like a week. But she likes spending two nights in my place and the whole night, right, and never said anything about her dog ever. And like, didn’t leave early and then it’s like, I realized. And then one day she’s like, “I guess I got to let the dog out.” I’m like, “We’ve been together for 16 hours. What was going on?” She’s like, “Oh, I had food and water out and just poops in this like little cage thing”, and I was like, “What kind of a monster are you?”

Isabel:
No, no, no. Completely.

Tucker:
Yeah. That was, eurgh.

Isabel:
Big, big, big signal. Yeah. No, and of course it’s also part of a joke because these days in cities many people cannot have it and you can only have a dog, you know, when you are able to exercise them and so on. The thing is that on one hand, it is not just the caring signal, but the dog—if you’re into them, if you care. Actually also has the you know, I’m sporty. I like being outside. I can move, I can interact with another social being that has emotions. I have a sense of humor. I can tolerate hairs without losing it, etcetera, etcetera.

Tucker:
Well, I can take care of a living creature.

Isabel:
Oh yeah.

Tucker:
Right?

Isabel:
That’s fundamental.

Tucker:
Uh-huh.

Isabel:
Yeah. I feel. We’d like to see guys that they feel, they are protective.

Tucker:
Uh-huh.

Isabel:
And you see these male bonobos, they are so lovely. They are so lovely with the infant. They really donate their time. They’re so tolerant. These infants come and they pinch them and they steal their food and they put fingers in places they shouldn’t and so on. This is huge magnificent males. It’s very wonderful.

Tucker:
Alright, so we’re taking way too much of your time. Thank you so much for this interview. This is amazing. This is the best interview we’ve done so far. Like this is, I’m telling you, the guys are going to love this one. This is so much—like for so many scientists, they’re brilliant. It is brilliant work, but a lot of them have problems really explaining what it means to people. You don’t have any problem with that all. This was amazing. There are going to be guys whose lives are changed because of this.

Isabel:
[Laughs]

Tucker:
Seriously. I’m serious. No, because , like, you did an amazing job of explaining, “Look, here’s my research. Here’s what it means. You know, and here’s what it means for your actions on day to day basis. And most people can’t bridge that gap, right. But, if you can bridge the gap, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, but you know as well, if you can bridge the gap for them, it actually changes behavior for the better, you know. Like, there’s some women out there who are going to have some boyfriends in a few months or years because of this interview you just did.

Isabel:
That would be amazing. Tell them to remember to feed the female.

Tucker:
Oh well, thank you. Thank you again very much as well.

Isabel:
You too. Take care.

Tucker:
Bye-bye.

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