BECOME THE MAN WOMEN WANT
13th of July 2014

Dr. Catherine Salmon Interview

Introduction:

Dr. Catherine Salmon is a Professor of Psychology at University of Redlands. In this episode Tucker and Dr. Salmon discuss the differences between male and female pornography, how romance novels represent and portray female sexual preferences, how men and women express their sexuality, the line between treating a girl like a princess and being a doormat, and how guys can develop social currency and status. Dr. Salmon’s research focuses on evolutionary psychology, particularly how it relates to female sexuality, pornography, and birth order of children.

 

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Key takeaways

  • Women aren’t that attracted to a bodybuilder-type guy, but the guy should be stronger than the girl and able to protect her. Strength also means emotional and mental strength – a guy who is capable and effective.
  • If you want a relationship with a specific girl you need to make her feel special and unique. That does not mean you should be a doormat for her – it means treating her like you value her for who she is.
  • The setting is a big part of a woman’s sexuality, as is their mood, the atmosphere, and so on. Making it special is important for women.
  • While status is important, being hard-working and ambitious can be very attractive in a young guy, even if he doesn’t yet have any status, because they’re indicators of future status.
  • If you’re a 17 year old guy, don’t compare yourself against older men – compare yourself against other 17 year old guys. And remember, there are groups that value all kinds of different skills. It’s a case of finding the groups that value the skills you have.
  • Pro wrestling has some very interesting and useful analogues to evolutionary psychology and real life

Links from this episode

Dr. Salmon’s Bio:

Major works:

Warrior Lovers:

  • Discusses differences between men and women with regard to erotic fantasies (e.g. pornography vs. romance novels)
  • These differences reflect the differing selection pressures of men and women
  • Also talks about slash fiction and how this has much in common with romance novels
  • Looks at the essential ingredients of female sexuality and how slash fiction provides this
  • Similar topic discussed in this paper: “Romance and pornography are both multibillion dollar industries, and their stark contrasts reflect the deep divide at the heart of male and female erotic fantasies. These differences reflect the fact that the selection pressures males and females faced in the reproductive realm over human evolutionary history were not identical.”
  • This blog post also talks about porn for women and slash fiction

The Secret Power of Middle Children

  • Book examines the effects of being the middle child in a family, taking insights from Catherine’s research (eg this paper, pdf) into birth order and parental favoritism
  • Some conclusions:
    • Middles receive less financial and emotional support from their parents, but become remarkably successful and innovative adults
    • Middles can be stubbornly independent as teens, but are extraordinary team players later in life
    • Middles are often seen as outcasts, but are actually far less likely to get divorced or be in therapy than their siblings.
  • Quote from the other co-author: “Although middles are neglected, both by parents and researchers, they actually benefit from this in the long run. They become more independent, think outside the box, feel less pressure to conform, and are more empathetic.
  • Q&A with co-author Katrin Schumann here
  • Newspaper article about the book here

Other interesting topics Catherine has written about:

Wrestling/sports entertainment

Prostitution

  • Wrote a chapter called The World’s Oldest Profession: Evolutionary Insights into Prostitution (read here via Google Books)
  • The search for excitement and variety in sexual partners is a male adaptive mating strategy, as it increases the possibility that the male will father a child and not have to devote any resources to it
  • Consequently it is almost always males who want to pay for sex (in both heterosexual and homosexual prostitution)

Eating disorders

  • Links between female-female competition and anorexia (abstract, full paper – pdf)
  • Another paper here (pdf) discusses the same thing: “It is commonly assumed that the desire for a thin female physique and its pathological expression in eating disorders result from a social pressure for thinness. However, such widespread behavior may be better understood not merely as the result of arbitrary social pressure, but as an exaggerated expression of behavior that may have once been adaptive”

Violence and aggression

  • This blog post suggests that TSA agents are redirecting aggression – they have been emotionally or physically hurt themselves but can’t retaliate against their attacker, so they redirect this against passengers
  • Another post talks about male violence as a strategy employed by the poor in situations of extreme inequality (both in wealth and reproductive opportunities): “ One of the best predictors of the level of violence in a country is the number of young males and we should be asking ourselves why.”

Audio Transcription:

Tucker:
So, I actually want to start with what we were already talking about, which is male porn versus female porn. And obviously, I think everyone kind of knows what porn is. When people think of porn, they think of gratuitous sexual videos where, like, the pizza guy shows up and then it’s like two seconds later and he’s having sex with some woman with huge, fake breasts or whatever. People think that’s porn, right? And it is a type of porn.

Catherine:
Yes.

Tucker:
Right. But that’s sort of more male porn. There’s also female porn. Right? So what exactly is female porn?

Catherine:
Well, I think that there are probably several things that are part of what one would consider female porn. But one of the things is that it tends not to be as visually oriented. So, one of the huge things about male sexuality is that it is very visual. You can see signs of female sexual attractiveness, fertility, things like that. It’s a visual stimulus, so it makes sense that men’s erotica would be very visually oriented. But for women, our history involves so many more things than just how physically attractive a man might be, in terms of things that are important to mate choice. The sort of backstory that we think about when we think about romance novels, for example, or whether you’re thinking about modern-day incarnations. A lot of people, when they think romance novel, they think harlequin romance, right? Some sort of really old-fashioned, granny-style romance novel that women are sitting on the porch reading. And that’s not really that representative of what we would consider pornography for women, either. It really involves a range of things. So, something like Twilight is soft-core porn for women. The reality is there’s your soft-core for teenage girls’ porn. And it involves things like getting to know the guy. I mean, yeah, he’s attractive, but it’s so much about what makes him so attached to her that is stimulating for women when they’re interested in that kind of material.

Tucker:
Right. You’ve said in the past – I might be quoting you, I think I am – that “The journey is as important as the destination in women’s sexuality,” and that’s sort of the essence of female porn. So, can you explain? Just to give you a little bit of background, most of the listeners of this podcast are younger guys, 16 to about 30. And obviously, they don’t maybe have the understanding either, clearly of not sexuality in evolution, but they really don’t understand women that well in a lot of ways. A lot of what this podcast is about is explaining women to them in a way that’s authentic, but also understandable for them. So, can you dig a little deeper into that?

Catherine:
Yeah. You mean into the journey part, yeah. I mean, I think that a lot of it…one of the things that we often talk about when we talk about female sexuality and what makes men attractive to women are things that often are related to long-term mating, right? Commitment to relationships. That’s not the only thing that women ever care about – there are women who are interested in having short-term relationships in various stages of their lives for various reasons. But a lot of female mating psychology is focused on long-term mating. So, one of the things that’s really important to women’s erotica is that it not be just focused on the sexual experience itself, that a lot of it has to do with the relationship, getting to know the guy in the story. Is that hero a worthy hero of having a relationship with? Is the guy not just an attractive guy, someone that you might make pretty attractive kids with, but it’s also about, is he gonna hang around and help you deal with things like that? So, a lot of the journey is the measuring of the male’s commitment to the relationship. That’s something that’s really important to women for the most part. A lot of them, especially young women, can be a little variable on this because often for young women, they are in a period of their life where they might be trying out different things, right? College is a time when a lot of young people experiment. But as women get older, they’re often interested in relationships and that sort of long-term mating aspect of things, so it really is important to know what kind of a guy he is. What kinds of things men do to signal the fact that they’re a good-quality guy.

Tucker:
Right. So, that’s one of the big attributes of almost all female romance novels, or what you would classify as female porn, getting to know the guy. What are some other themes that show up again and again?

Catherine:
Yeah. I mean, getting to know the guy. The fact that the guy is strong. So, what we would consider a powerful male. He doesn’t always have to be He-Man, Master of the Universe. But he needs to be physically stronger than her. You actually hear women a lot of times talk about that, how important it is that men not necessarily be sort of the body-builder type, but that they be stronger than the woman. And part of that is so that she feels protected, right? Because for most of our evolutionary history, that is one of the things that men brought to a relationship, the ability to protect his partner and any children that they might have. So, powerful males are always part of it. Guys that aren’t pushovers. He has to be nice to her, but he shouldn’t let everybody else walk all over him.

Tucker:
Right, exactly. So, when you say strong – I get this question from guys all the time – strong, physically, of course is important, but basically as long as you’re not a tiny little dude, then you’re probably gonna be fine strength-wise. Like, you don’t have to be Lebron James or some huge, hulking guy.

Catherine:
Right.

Tucker:
But when you say strong, you also mean emotionally and psychologically.

Catherine:
Yeah, I do. It’s not just about physical strength. Physical strength is great because again that can make a woman feel protected if the guy is bigger than her and stronger than her. But it also has to do with the idea that he is a powerful man. So, things like status. The idea that you don’t have to necessarily be a physically strong guy to be a somewhat socially dominant guy. So, you could imagine a shorter guy who is really in-control and when he walks into a room, people are like, “Yeah. That guy knows what’s going on,” you know. I mean, he has some authority and that’s important, I think. So, it doesn’t necessarily have to be just physical strength or size, but that sort of confidence that some men have that they are capable. That sort of thing, I think, is very appealing to women.

Tucker:
Okay. Alright, so strength basically means, aside from physical, it means a guy who is capable or effective at – it can be almost anything, but generally speaking – things that are socially regarded as important or meaningful.

Catherine:
Right, as valuable. So, he has some social currency in that sort of sense. Some social value. That sort of thing changes over time, and so you might even expect that the guys that were heroes and women sort of erotic stories or pornographic stories, are going to vary across time, depending on what is socially valuable at a certain time. We often talk about that in terms of romance novels. There was a time when romance novel heroes were all cowboys, because that’s what was considered ideal kind of guy that had value in the social group in that kind of time period, setting. Nowadays, maybe it’s running your own dot-com company or being a great investor, whatever. But it’s valuable and it gives you the ability to provide and protect.

Tucker:
It’s funny you said, like, dot-com. Because I’ve, like everyone else, even if they admit it or not, I’ve read at least the first book in Fifty Shades of Grey. And I was actually kind of shocked to see that the hero, Christian Grey is like an entrepreneur. Like, basically, like Peter Thiel. He’s based off that entrepreneur model.

Catherine:
Right. And you almost can only have that in this kind of particular economic setting that we live in now, because this is a time when that can still lead to great success. If you look at, like, period pieces, then you have to be sort of like a knight or you need to be the king of a country or something like that. Like, there’s all these different roles – doctor, surgeon – that people can hold at different times where men have this great sort of value that’s cache, that’s part of their occupation. In fact, there was that study done a few years ago. Maryanne Fisher and one of her colleagues did this study, and they looked at just the occupational status of men and women in romance novels, and it was really quite cool to see how it broke out in terms of very different kind of occupations. But it’s really about the ability to acquire resources in whatever way is valued at the current time.

Tucker:
Right, so that’s something I tell a lot of guys, that I think a lot of young guys especially don’t understand. They think, “Oh, I have to be an athlete or an actor or a musician or I’m never gonna get a girl.” It’s like, no dude, you just have to be good at almost anything that’s valued. It can be almost…if you look at romance novels, would you consider Pride & Prejudice or Jane Eyre a romance novel?

Catherine:
Sure. Yeah. They would be considered sort of classic, old-school style romance. Yeah.

Tucker:
Right. So, Mr. Darcy is basically just a gentleman landowner. He’s kind of a doofus, he doesn’t really do anything. Like, it doesn’t seem to me. Maybe I’m the wrong audience. He doesn’t really do anything, but he just has high status because of whatever reason, and so he’s seen as very attractive.

Catherine:
Right. Because status just brings up all those things with it, right? You’re valuable, you’re being able to acquire resources. So, what can shape status for men changes over time. But that ability to be a successful man, that’s always attractive to women, by whatever standard attractiveness is for that particular time. Maybe at one point in time, it is a rock star. It’s whatever. There’s some real downsides to those kind of guys, too. They’re not the most faithful guys, usually. But there’s a lot of variability in what brings resources, but for all human history, women cared about men’s ability to provide.

Tucker:
Right. So, let’s talk about a couple more themes in romance novels. What are some of the others? For instance, I know even going off rock stars, from what I understand, and please correct me if I’m wrong, whenever there’s a hero or a male lead in the romance novel, if he does have a sort of high status but also low fidelity sort of job, like a rock star or an athlete, then usually the way the plot works is that he either gives that job up or changes for the woman, right? Is that a theme you see?

Catherine:
Right. Yeah. Well, that’s a theme that you see a lot in romance. One way of thinking about that is that women value men who have strength and power and maybe are very attractive to lots of other women. So, they may have engaged in a lot of what we would consider short-term mating relationships over a period of time. One of the essential features of romance is that, even if the male has been really attractive, has had a lot of attention, has been very successful in the mating arena, he does change for the heroine. The whole point of romance is that in that sense, his love for her is so overwhelming that he will give up everyone else for her, and that that’s sort of an indicator of how committed he is to the relationship with her specifically.

Tucker:
Right.

Catherine:
So, yeah. You see that pretty traditionally across romance novels in different countries, different types of genres. For women, it’s really the flip of porn. Where in pornography, it’s all about having sex with as many different beautiful women as possible, it’s just like a parade of fertile women, whereas in romance, it’s about sacrificing that quantity for this incredibly quality relationship with this one special girl.

Tucker:
Right. Exactly. So, let’s talk about this, maybe take this and think about it in terms of, if I’m a 22-year-old guy, this is pretty interesting, this is cool, this gives me a lot to talk about in class or with other people, but what does this mean for my life? I think there’s a lot that young guys can learn from romance – it doesn’t mean they have to go out and read every romance novel, but just from the patterns of romance novels, they can understand about women. So, what are the things, if I’m a 22-year-old guy and I’m like, “Dr. Salmon. Tell me what I can learn. ‘Cause I don’t really understand women, but tell me what I can learn about women from romance novels.”

Catherine:
Right. I think one thing you can really learn is that men and women are different in this way, and significantly different. That doesn’t mean that they’re not incredibly compatible in some ways. But that what they’re looking for can be somewhat different, and it’s not that…sometimes, people think about that, “Well, you’re saying that women are only interested in long-term mating and men are only interested in short-term mating.” That’s not the case. The reality is that men are interested in long-term relationships, too. Most men are happiest married. They’re healthiest married. This is a really good thing for men across the lifespan. But there is that aspect of male psychology that still finds other fruit attractive, other than the one they’ve picked. And so, I think there’s two things. One is that women also need to recognize that. Women are not good at recognizing that and accepting it. But men also have to understand that women don’t see the world in quite the same way as they do and so women will always worry that they’re being compared to other alternatives and that the man might leave the relationship. One of the things that’s really important for young men in relationships, and you really wanna have a relationship with a specific girl, is to make her feel like she’s that special one from the romance novel. That will make a huge difference to her, even if you acknowledge that other women are beautiful, saying that there’s something special about her that changes the way he thinks about things. That’s gonna be really important to her, ‘cause that’s gonna make her feel more confident and more comfortable in a relationship.

Tucker:
I could not agree more. I’m actually in a very serious relationship right now with my girlfriend, and she’s about as smart and mature as any woman who would ever date me, at least. Maybe not ever, but who would date me. And it’s kind of funny, we go through this same thing, where it’s like…I’m like, “Oh, that girls is cute.” And she’s not, like, immature. She doesn’t get upset about that. But I can tell, like, it’s almost instinctual. She can’t help but want reassurance afterwards. It doesn’t mean she’s weak, it doesn’t mean she’s stupid, it doesn’t mean she’s unstable. It’s just…it’s almost like I can’t help when I see an attractive woman and I’m like, “Oh, that’s an attractive woman.” The fact that I have a woman I love and am committed to doesn’t mean that other girl’s not attractive. It just means that I’m not gonna pursue her ‘cause I’m happy with who I’m with.

Catherine:
Right. And the reality is that girls also look at other guys.

Tucker:
They’re just way more subtle! They’re way more subtle.

Catherine:
Right. It’s more subtle, and it’s not the same thing. It’s not like, a girl with a really big rack goes by and the head goes like this. A guy doesn’t walk by with really nice jeans and she just stares. But there are certain guys, and especially for guys they feel like they know something about, like the celebrity sort of phenomenon. If they feel like they know something about him and that there are things about him that are very appealing, then yeah. They look at those guys and they might even fantasize about relationships with those guys or about sex with those guys. It still doesn’t change the fact that they can be completely into a relationship with her partner. I think that both men and women need to remember that fantasy lives are somewhat separate from our behavioral lives. Pornography and romance are both fantasies. Neither of them are realistic in that sense. Most guys don’t walk into an elevator and have two women drop to their knees and blow ‘em. It’s a nice fantasy, but it doesn’t happen to most guys, right? In the same way that most women don’t need some incredibly wealthy, beautiful guy who’s had this tormented past and falls in love with her and is never going to leave her or even look at another woman, right? These are both somewhat unrealistic fantasies but those fantasies tell us something about that sort of essential sexual nature of men and women. Again, it points out that area where we’re quite different.

Tucker:
Exactly, so if I’m a young guy and I’m like, “I got it.” So, I need to understand her fantasies are different. I need to make her feel special, sort of like I’m with her for a reason. I understand what’s special about her. I value it, I recognize it, et cetera. What are some other lessons? One of the big ones we talked about already that I kind of wanted to get into was, I think women express their sexuality very differently than men do. I think you can see that very clearly in romance novels versus porn. So if I’m a guy, what are some things I need to understand about women’s sexuality, especially that I can learn from romance novels?

Catherine:
One of them is that the setting is important. Women can be incredibly sexual, but it helps to set the stage for that kind of phenomenon. It’s one of the reasons that people say, “Oh, vacation sex is great sex.” Vacation sex is great sex because it’s a romantic setting. For women, being in the mood is a huge part of their sexuality. Whether you’re on a vacation somewhere or you create that atmosphere at home, just putting that special attention to things, whether it’s music, it’s lighting, it’s fireplace. Whatever. Those things make a huge difference to turning women on.

Tucker:
Just look at the difference between…just pick your favorite female-based romantic comedy. Look at the sets versus a porn set. There can be trash bags in the back of a porn set and dudes won’t even notice. There could be a bear. They don’t care.

Catherine:
If you leave your laundry all over the floor, she does not want to have sex and be looking over the bed and seeing your dirty socks, right? I mean, it is not a turn-on to women at all, whereas for guys, maybe in the moment, you just don’t care.

Tucker:
You don’t pay attention.

Catherine:
That’s important, that’s what you get. You could be having sex in the dirty alley behind a nightclub in a porno, and that’s fine. Because the guy’s not focused on the setting. He’s only looking at the girl.

Tucker:
Exactly. It’s only the sex, yeah.

Catherine:
Yeah. But for women, that the trappings matter.

Tucker:
So, I think that brings up a very important sort of underlying theme, I think. Is, you just said it. Having sex in an alley, I can’t think of anything that’s more unsafe, right, in terms of whether you’re talking about crime or dirt or bacteria, I don’t know. However you define safety, most guys would think, “Oh, man, meeting a girl and banging her in an alley would be really exciting.” Right? I think most women would be like, “That’s incredibly unsafe.” Right? And I think that kind of brings up a very important difference about the way that men and women look at sex. Especially, to women, safety and trust is very important. That theme is very much expressed in romance novels, where in porn the idea that you need to be safe or you need to trust this person is like…not one the dude’s mind at all.

Catherine:
Right. And you see it in a larger extent, too, in pornography, there’s not practicing safe sex, no discussion of safe sex. Because that would be a distraction from the actual sex, which the focus of it. I think there’s a basic difference between men and women in that just in general, men are more turned on by risk-taking. Certainly many men, risk-taking and sensation-seeking is much higher. There are some women who are like that, but on average, women today tend to be much lower in terms of risk-taking. So, they’re not gonna find some of those kinds of scenarios as appealing in a general sense. Public sex, in general, is more of a turn-on for men than it is generally for women. Women are gonna be happier in a fancy hotel suite rather than doing it on the beach, other than the fact that as well, just doing it on the beach is not the most practical way to have sex, anyways, because sand is not your friend.

Tucker:
Well, right. Of course, but that’s…what I was talking about, though, was a little bit…I know one of the things that took me a long time to understand about women, and it was funny, once I understood this, I started actually looking at romance novels sort of differently, is that – I think maybe this is actually a separate issue – is that in my experience, and I think you see this a lot in romance novels, women are just as sexual as men, but they need to feel like they’re respected and they need to trust their partner and feel like it’s not just a pure physical act and that the partner respects them as a person, respects the act, and even if it is a very short coupling, even a one-night stand, if they feel disrespected, then they’re not gonna feel very sexual, whereas if they feel respected, they tend to feel much more open sexually.

Catherine:
Right. I think some of that has to go, just…if you feel like you’re valued, then you feel more secure in the other person’s view of you and then also because that reinforces your own view of yourself. So, it goes back to that issue that women who have a lot of confidence in themselves, even if they’re not the most beautiful women, are often the most sexual women because they feel secure in themselves, and so anything that the partner does that reinforces that is always gonna be beneficial. So, yeah, I think whether you want to term it respect, self-esteem, valuing the other, that’s always gonna be important. And I think it’s also important in that sense, that sort of sense of security, it’s important for their arousal in general. Most women aren’t just aroused by being scared in the same way physically as much as men can just by exciting new things, and it makes sense from that male sexuality aspect. There’s always a benefit to being ready to have sex whenever the opportunity comes by. Otherwise, you might miss it if you weren’t ready, whereas for women there’s not really an advantage to just random acts of sex in that reproductive sense. It makes sense that they’re more cautious, that they want more information about the guy, want to feel more secure in the relationship, or at least in who the guy is. Even if women are having sex early on in the relationship, they probably feel like they know the guy, even if they don’t really know him as well as they would be if they’d been together for a while.

Tucker:
Right. No, it makes total sense. So, in your research or your readings, have you seen discretion sort of being a main theme in romance novels? Because I know for guys, the idea that, “Oh, you’re gonna sleep with a girl and not talk about it again” is like…I mean, some guys are like that. Some guys aren’t, but it’s just not something that comes up. We don’t really ever think about it, whereas one of the themes – maybe I’m wrong – that I see a lot in romance novels is guys who are respectful, but they’re also discrete. They don’t necessarily hide anything, but it tends to be what happens with them and their partner only stays with them and their partner. Like, they don’t go bragging to their buddies or something.

Catherine:
Right. That serves, I think, two functions in romance novels. I think one of them is, it’s part of the respect that you’re talking about. So, he respects her so he’s not going to be talking to people, necessarily, about the details of their relationship or about her specifically. But I think it’s also, some of that goes back to the idea that she changes him and that there’s something really special in romance novels about their relationship and their sex, and so he doesn’t wanna share it because it’s so special because it’s with her. There’s a book called A Billion Wicked Thoughts.

Tucker:
Yeah.

Catherine:
Okay, so it’s hilarious. They had a chapter that was called “The Magic Hoo Hoo” and it was all about how sex with the heroine in a romance novel is just like…having intercourse with her suddenly has this magical effect and changes the guy because the sex is so amazing. But it’s kind of that, sort of a reflection, I think, of that general idea that this relationship is so special, you might have even talked about other relationships in the past, but not this one because it’s just different.

Tucker:
Right. It’s different because the woman is different, and so she’s had an impact on me, and either I’ve changed or I’m gonna treat her in a way that indicates that she’s high status and deserves respect and all that kind of stuff.

Catherine:
Right. Exactly.

Tucker:
Alright, so this is fantastic, but let’s direct this a little bit more – even more explicitly, ‘cause we’ll do these things and most guys get it. They learn a lot. But then some are like, “I don’t understand. What about me?” You know? Some guys you have to be very direct with. So, do you have nephews or sons or cousins? Like, young men in your life?

Catherine:
I do. I have a nephew who’s gonna be seventeen next week.

Tucker:
Alright, so he’s exactly our audience. Here’s my question: Are there any things from your research or from your field that you take and kind of contextualize and kind of pass on to him as advice? And if so, what are those things?

Catherine:
My brother’s not comfortable with me doing that. But, I mean, yeah. I think there are things that are really useful and I think part of it is, if you really want to have a relationship with a particular girl, it does really help if you kind of treat her, to a certain extent, like a princess. Not in the sense of spoiling her or being ridiculous about it, but in the sense that you treat her like you really value your relationship with her and you think that her opinion matters. So, it’s not just about how physically attractive she is and how much you would love to have sex with her. But it’s how much you like what’s upstairs as well as what’s below that. And that’s huge, because that’s part of the turn-on for women, because for most women, it’s not just about the guy’s body. It’s also about who he really is and who she thinks he is. So, I think for guys, making it as clear as possible to the girl that you’re with that not only do you think she’s beautiful, but that you think that she’s a great person to hang out with. A great friend. Because I think, in some ways, the best relationships long-term are the ones where you’re best friends as well as lovers. So that you get along and you care about each other in a non-sexual sense as well as a sexual sense.

Tucker:
Right, well, this actually ties exactly back into the first point you made, about erotic fiction and romance novels, is that the sex is usually a tertiary consideration and it happens long after the woman gets to know the guy and they have a lot of interactions or even if it happens quickly, it’s in a situation where she feels very much like there’s a connection. And connections, they happen mentally usually before physically.

Catherine:
Right. She knows he’s the one, and typically he knows she’s the one, too, in many cases, before they actually have sex, which is a little different again from a lot of relationships that people have. But I think, again, it’s that sort of real build-up to the relationship, what romance is about. Again, it goes back to the issue of the journey. It’s not a movie of a thousand climaxes, it’s just the one where they figure out they’re really with each other for the long run. ‘Cause that’s what most romances are really about. It’s like, you know, what do really need to figure out to decide if this person is the right one for you?

Tucker:
Right.

Catherine:
And I think when young people are involved in relationships, you may not always be looking for the one that you want to be with for the next twenty years, but you should keep in mind that this could be the one, actually, that you might want to spend that time with and not ruin it by not taking the other person’s….treat them like you’d want to treat a really good friend as well as somebody that you’re trying to get in bed with.

Tucker:
And the irony is, I tell this to so many guys, you’re so right. If you don’t worry about sex or think about sex, not only will you be way less nervous, but it actually helps you interact and connect with a girl better, and so if you do have sex, it’s usually gonna be better sex. And you’re more likely to have sex ‘cause the woman’s gonna like you more because you’re interacting with her as a person and not just as a vagina with a mouth or something.

Catherine:
Exactly, yeah. Exactly. ‘Cause that’s one thing that generally does tend to put women off. It’s not a live sex doll experience.

Tucker:
If you want to objectify someone, you should go to a prostitute or watch porn. If you want to interact with a real woman, you should treat her like a person.

Catherine:
Right. Exactly.

Tucker:
But let me talk about one thing, ‘cause I know that when you said treat her like a princess, I can already hear people being like…There are a lot of young guys who think “treat her like a princess” means be a doormat for her.

Catherine:
No. That’s exactly what you don’t wanna be, because she won’t want you if you are. Because women always say, “Oh, I want a guy who…” But then they don’t, right? The reality is once they get that, that’s not what they want. Because all of a sudden, that strong powerful guy is, you know…

Tucker:
He’s not powerful anymore!

Catherine:
He’s gone. He’s just dissolved into goo or something, and that’s not sexy for women. That’s not attractive. So, treating her like a princess doesn’t mean bowing to every whim or every wish that she has. It’s treating her like she’s really valuable in that sense. Not just valuable in terms of the physical sense, but valuable in terms of her opinions and just to treat her well in terms of thinking about things like she might want to do. So, obviously, in a relationship, especially during the early stages, you might want to do different kinds of activities and things together. Keep in mind that you both may not necessarily always like doing the same kinds of things and consider what she might like or not like in terms of some of that kind of stuff. And that’s really what it’s about. It’s not about always doing whatever she wants, but it’s about doing nice things for her. So if, for example, you’re really into monster truck stuff and she’s not but you are and she goes with you. Then take her somewhere that she would like for dinner or buy her flowers or whatever, but it’s sort of about the give and take of the relationship to a certain extent. But again, with that idea that you’re treating her like a princess, what you’re really doing is saying that she’s different from other girls for you.

Tucker:
Right. You’re with her for a reason and she matters to you. She’s not just a replaceable cog in a machine.

Catherine:
Right. It’s not like something like you can just swap her out for another version the next week if you’re not interested or bored or something. It’s actually giving her the idea that she has a place with you.

Tucker:
Mhmm. Right. Alright, so let me ask you. If I’m a guy and I’m like, “Okay, I get all this. I understand how to treat women. I understand, like, treat her like a person. Connect with her. Actually understand there’s more to our relationship than just sex, et cetera.” But if he’s still having problems understanding what to do to be attractive to women, because there’s a lot of guys who, once they get to know girls, can talk to them and can deal with them perfectly fine. But they have a lot of problem understanding exactly what it is what women want. We talked about this a little bit, but let’s go into it a little bit more sort of as advice for your nephew or young guy the same age. A guy’s thinking, “I get I need to have skills or be high status at something,” but when they think of high status, they think, “Oh, man, I have to be this famous academic,” or, “I have to be a famous writer or politician.” They’re like, “How do I get there at seventeen?”

Catherine:
Yeah. It’s great if you’ve got those things already, but when you’re a young guy, you don’t have those things.

Tucker:
Right. So what does the seventeen year old do?

Catherine:
Yeah. So, for the younger guy. I mean, a lot of it is showing cues that one day you might get to that point. So, it’s cues of things like ambition. Do you actually care about getting a good job or working hard? Because two things that generally lead to success are being hardworking and being ambitious. You can have nothing basically, but if you’ve got those things, you’re probably gonna go far. Women care about that, obviously, because they care about resources, so things guys can do to make themselves attractive. Obviously, people look the way they look. But you take care of yourself, you dress nicely. That doesn’t mean wearing a fancy suit. That just means looking clean and well put-together.

Tucker:
Right. Of course.

Catherine:
And then I think also, in terms of talking about things that you want to do, it’s not necessarily about driving the flash car or the fancy car, ‘cause it’s not about living outside your means, either, and the false advertising that sometimes goes along with that. But it’s, like, authentic cues of valuing success in the long run, so being ambitious. If you’re going to college, you don’t have a lot of stuff yet, but you might one day. That’s why med school students are so popular amongst the girls. They don’t have anything yet, but one day.

Tucker:
One day they will, yeah. The assumption is that they will, right. So, that’s fantastic advice. The other thing I think we should talk about. You already talked about it a little bit, so part of it, if you want to be attractive as a seventeen-year-old is show that you are doing the things necessary to be successful eventually. Right, ‘cause a sixteen-year-old girl doesn’t expect a seventeen-year-old to be world famous or world class at something, but she’s gonna be attracted to a guy who’s putting in the work to get there one day. Right?

Catherine:
Right. Right, in whatever format that may be. For some, that might be just working hard and doing well at school or in college. For others, it might be having a part-time job on the side. It might be learning some specific kind of trade. If you are the musician-type, it might be working on that. It doesn’t really matter, as long as you’re working hard at something, it gives her the information that you have the focus and determination to get yourself somewhere.

Tucker:
Exactly. So, let’s talk about the other side of that, too, ‘cause you hit on this earlier when we were talking about the romance novels. You said even guys who aren’t necessarily very successful or big and physically strong can have social currency and can be very skilled socially and can have high status as a result of that, which I think a lot of young guys totally forget about or don’t really understand. So, give us some examples about what that means. What does that look like?

Catherine:
Okay, well, when we think about…in a sense when we talk about social currency and that sort of thing, in a sense I’m talking about people who have status, not because they’re dominant, but because people respect them. And they might respect them because they’re good at some particular activity but there also might be respect for him because they’re good at negotiating, they’ve got lots of friends, people like spending time with them. So, there’s all sorts of things like that. Being really smart, having the solutions to problems. Even though you may not be physically strong enough to do some things, if you’re the one who figures out how things need to get done. Anything like that, greater organizational skills. There’s all sorts of different niche areas that people can have socially that leads to social success and social success, in the long run, leads to the ability to acquire resources. So, socially successful guys…sometimes it just means being popular. Right. And some guys are popular because they’re funny. Like, the comedian-type guy. Some are popular because they’re athletes. Some are popular because they’re really good-looking. Some are popular because they’re smart and they help you with your tutoring. There’s all sorts of things that guys can do that make themselves popular with a group of people and in a sense, girls are picking up on some of that. And they’re seeing it as cues to what they might call social ascendency or something like that in a grand sense. But really, it just means that people like you and value you.

Tucker:
So, basically, be popular with social groups. Be good at skills. Or be both, and you’re gonna be attractive to women.

Catherine:
Yeah.

Tucker:
I totally agree. It seems pretty basic to me, too, but you wouldn’t believe how many guys, like, this is, “Oh, wow, I’d never thought of that.”

Catherine:
And I think part of the problem is is we focus so much on what makes girls attractive, and people just ignore the boys. Because there’s so much attention on, well, people care about girls and they care about how girls look and doesn’t this create all sorts of problems for them because they’re so worried about whether they fit the right physical mold, and we forget that boys care about whether people think they’re attractive, regardless of what the barometer is of attractiveness. Whether it has more to do or less to do with physical versus other things. It doesn’t matter, they’re still worried about people thinking they’re attractive. But nobody ever pays as much attention to them. So I think, in a sense, it’s kind of ironic, because the gender studies people would tell you that research has been dominated by men, and so it’s only men’s concerns that have been focused on, and yet, in many ways, men’s concerns have fallen to the wayside in fields like psychology where, in fact, a lot of people don’t worry that much about boys’ social issues other than whether they’re behaving in the classroom or not. They’re focusing all in on girls’ issues these days. Which is fine, I think you need to focus on both, but I think it also gives short shift to guys these days because they often are missing the kind of information that would be helpful for them.

Tucker:
That’s actually an excellent point. I’m your seventeen-year-old nephew or whatever. What do I not know about the world, maybe one or two things. What do I now know, either about women or the world or something. What are people not focusing on that maybe you know that I should know? What kind of wisdom do you wish more men knew? You know what I’m saying? Especially younger guys.

Catherine:
Yeah. I’m not sure. I think there’s a lot of things. I think, with regards to girls, I think the great crime, in a sense, is saying that there are no differences between boys and girls ‘cause there are tons, like we’ve been talking about. So, I think they need to be told that, you know what, they don’t think about things the exact same way that you do, and if you assume that they do, that’s going to run you into some problems. And that goes both ways, ‘cause girls that assume that guys think like them are just as delusional, because they don’t. So, I think that’s one thing that I wished we focused on more instead of just saying, “Well, there’s no differences. It’s just the way we raise them.” It’s like, no. It’s not. Just acknowledge that the difference is there. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s just different. It’s not better or worse. One thing that I think sometimes, at least for this generation of kids, is that sometimes there does seem to be a lack of ambition in younger people, and I don’t know whether it’s because we tend to not expose our young people to as much, like, we keep them juvenile longer. But I think that sometimes, I think that, actually the ages you’re talking about, like, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, are really tough. Because they haven’t seen very much of the world for the most part, and they may think that there are only one or two routes to success, and if they’re not good at those things, then they’re lost. So, if they’re not the athlete or the brainiac, what are they? And I think that that gives young men, often, a real struggle about trying to figure out who they are and how they should live their lives. I think it’s exacerbated in modern society, often, with absent fathers and things like that, so they don’t necessarily have the appropriate role models. What I wish we could do is do a better job of helping young males who don’t have good, sensible role models who just encourage you to be successful at whatever you’re good at. Because the reality is that we all have very different skills, very different personalities. And we will all excel at very different kinds of things, and if you push kids too much in one way, they’re just not going to be successful and they’re gonna feel that there’s no place for them. And that’s a big problem. I mean, we see that today.

Tucker:
Dr. Salmon, I’m so happy you brought that up. That’s such an amazing point. I see it all the time, there are so many young guys who – you know, I’ve written some books that sold really well, and I kind of became famous for a certain persona, and they’ll compare themselves to me, and I’m like, “Dude, I’m almost forty and you’re seventeen. You should never compare yourself to me. It doesn’t make sense. It’d be like if I compared myself to Michael Jordan. Like, I’m six feet tall and an unathletic white guy. He’s six-six and one of the best athletes the world’s ever seen.” We should measure ourselves in totally different ways. And there’s so many guys who feel like they don’t measure up to anything anywhere, but the reality is, they just haven’t found the things they’re good at or haven’t developed those things, because no one’s ever told them they could or told them how or given them any sort of push or help.

Catherine:
Yeah. I think there are really two big issues that are a problem, and one of them is exactly that. People try to push them in certain directions and don’t let them just sort of experiment to figure out what they’re really good at and then encourage them to do that, whatever it is. And then I think the other issue is that one of the downsides of modern living is that we compare ourselves to inappropriate groups. So, it’s like the old story about how pornography is bad ‘cause the women are comparing themselves to the women in pornography and they don’t look like that and the guys are comparing them to women and they don’t look like that and then they’re wondering what’s going on with that. Boys do the same thing. It’s like the comparison to Michael Jordan or something like that. You’re a seventeen-year-old boy and you should be comparing yourself to the seventeen-year-old boys in your high school. Not all of these other celebrities that you see on TV, regardless of what age they are. I think that’s something that we actually should do more, to focus on with young people. Because we live in a very technological world. You’re exposed to tons of people and tons of information, but your peer group is your peer group, and it is not that. It’s the people that you live with in your community. So you can imagine, you know, thousands of years ago, it was the people in your village of 100 people. For a seventeen-year-old if there’s only twenty other seventeen-year-olds, you’re probably doing pretty good, right? I mean, you don’t have the same competition. And you’re not comparing yourself to an unrealistic standard, and I think that is a big problem with that. So, I think the unrealistic standards that kids pick up, especially for some boys when they see the success of athletes, for example, or rock stars, is particularly problematic. But I do think we need to do more to encourage young people to experiment in terms of what they may be good at, because a lot of parents – I even see it in my students – the parents think that they should be a doctor. Well, it’s delusional for multiple reasons. They may not be good at that, no matter what they do to be a doctor, but the thing is that what they could be really good at is something completely different and they will never know if somebody doesn’t say, “Hey. Have you ever thought about taking some more classes in this?” or, “Have you ever thought about doing this particular kind of activity or skill?” For all you know, you might have somebody who’d be some fabulous painter or marketer or something, and they end up being a really crappy Bio major.

Tucker:
Exactly. No, exactly. I tell that to guys all the time, and the thing…I want to actually add onto what you were saying, because you brought up a really relevant and salient point. You said if you were in a group of twenty, if you’re a seventeen-year-old and you need to compare yourself to the twenty seventeen-year-olds in your school or immediate social area, right? First off, that’s exactly right, and then if you’re in that twenty, then you can understand, “Okay. I get where I should be. I shouldn’t be dunking on Dikembe Mutombo in the NBA. I’m only seventeen. I barely can get my pants on in the morning.” But the other thing that I think I see, is if you’re in the, let’s say the bottom five seventeen-year-olds in that group. A lot of them will think that, “Oh, well. I clearly don’t measure up to this rock star or this athlete or this actor, and I don’t even measure up to my own group, and so I feel extremely inadequate in every way.” Right? What I try to tell those guys is that, look. First off, your group is almost certainly gonna have weird dynamics. Like, let’s say your group’s a bunch of athletes and you’re just short and chubby and you’re not gonna compete as an athlete. Clearly, you’re never gonna measure up there. But the cool thing about modern life is, you can find out what you’re good at and then go find those groups that value it. So, if you’re a short, chubby guy, but you’ve got an amazing voice and you can do podcasts or if you’re amazing at math and you’re also really good at spatial thinking, so you’re gonna become an amazing architect. There are tons and tons of places where being really good at those skills will put you very high up in a social order. It’s just a different social order.

Catherine:
Right. And I think there’s a natural tendency that we probably exacerbate, depending on the culture the kids live in, that it really is about physical strength. That it is about athletics for young men. And it’s not. I mean, there was probably a time where that mattered a lot more than it does not. You can imagine, historically, when, pre-technology, that was what mattered. Your physical strength is what was important. Nowadays, you can be incredibly successful and not some sort of awesome physical specimen. And it doesn’t matter. I mean, Bill Gates is not some fabulous physical specimen, no disrespect intended. But, you know, that certainly didn’t stop him from being incredibly successful because he was good at something else.

Tucker:
This applies to women, too. I see so many young girls who think, “Well, I’m not as pretty as Kiera Knightley or whatever, so I’m ugly.” And it’s like, I’ll look at her and I’m like, do you realize that the most famous seductresses in the world, most of them were not that attractive? Women like, you’ve gotta list, like, Cleopatra and like…world famous women who were either very powerful or men from all over desired. You don’t have to be overwhelmingly beautiful as a woman to be very valid and very attractive and very amazing. Same thing for guys. Just a different sort of set of details you’re talking about.

Catherine:
Right. Yeah, I agree, and I think that there are many paths to success and we shouldn’t get too focused on only certain paths to success being appropriate. Right? Anything that’s going to be the best use of your own skills is the way to go.

Tucker:
Totally agree. This is a fantastic interview. I’ve got one more small set of questions, really quickly.

Catherine:
Sure.

Tucker:
I did my research on you, and I couldn’t actually believe this when I saw it, because at first I was like, there’s no way she did this research. But, I’m talking about your pro-wrestling research.

Catherine:
Okay.

Tucker:
Yeah. Like, I thought it was amazing because I grew up watching wrestling with my uncle. I grew up in Kentucky, like, redneck, bumfuck Kentucky. And this is back before wrestling admitted that it was fake, and I used to argue with my uncle all the time. Like, clearly this is fake, whatever. And he would get so mad. I was like, whatever, thirteen, right? And he was like forty-five and this forty-five-year-old man would be red in the face screaming at me that it was real, and it was clearly fake to me, but I still loved watching it because the storylines were so great. To me, it was a redneck soap opera. And I’ve never seen anyone write about it that way until I came across…Like, I knew about you and your research, only in porn and middle child stuff. I had no idea you did a paper about the evolutionary themes and the storylines and how the storylines in pro-wrestling coordinate tailor almost perfectly with evolutionary themes like mate choice and tit-for-tat and go down the list. Do you want to talk about that for a little? ‘Cause it’s kind of amazing.

Catherine:
Well, like you, I also grew up watching wrestling. And when I was very small, I actually thought it was real. I was heartbroken when my favorite at the time, Ric Flair, was injured in an event and my dad had to sit me down and explain to me that this was not real and everything and go through that. And I’ve always sort of had this interest in it, and originally, some of my academic interest in it was because everybody said, “Why are you interested in wrestling? That’s just for boys.” And it was melodrama for men. Right? It’s a soap opera for guys. And I said, I think that’s true. I think it is a soap opera for guys. It’s a soap opera of, like, Roman gladiators and combat and solidarity and enemies and all the things you’d expect men to like, but why wouldn’t you think that women would also be interested in this? Because women like men who are warriors and people who win in combat and all these kinds of things, too. So, originally, I was interested in trying to figure out what was going on with the women who were interested in wrestling and whether there were any interesting things, systematically, going on with that. But, I’ve had a long-term interest in people sort of doing Darwinian literature and how you might go about analyzing literature from a Darwinian perspective, and shouldn’t all literature really come back to the basics of human nature in the end? And that’s why it works, right?

And in a sense, I think that wrestling is exactly that. I mean, it is the drama of all sorts of themes that we talk about in terms of the psychology in evolution and psychology and human nature. And so, the one article that I think you’re talking about. I had talked about a lot things like family relationship and kinship relationship, because we spend so much time on the importance of family and those relationships and the kinds of solidary-ness that families have but also the conflicts that families have. And so, there are tons of relationships in wrestling that involve things like brothers, also some father-son stuff, but a lot of brother relationships and I talked about The Undertaker and Kane, because they’re one of my favorite brother pairs in wrestling, partially because The Undertaker came from that era when the gimmick was everything in wrestling and it was so over-the-top. Then they bring in the brother burned in a fire, scarred up and everything. And it’s like, so over-the-top and so extreme, but at the heart of it, what is this talking about other than sibling rivalry and then when one sibling needs the other one, the other one does come to his defense and then they’re just united brothers of destruction. And I think that wrestling has always done that very well, focused on…and I think this is one of the reasons that men do enjoy it so much. It focuses on the relationships, not just in terms of things like brothers, but also, like, the band of brothers kinds of things. The idea that men join together and compete cooperatively, and tag-teams are perfect examples of that, and then there’s nothing in wrestling that can divide the fans and get them riled up more than having a tag-team that’s been together and they’re all about unity, and then one of them turns on the other one, and all of a sudden, they’re the biggest villain and jerk in the world, and everybody screams at them, but it’s the easiest way to move someone from being a hero to a bad guy, is to have him have a buddy and have him turn on him. So, I think wrestling’s fabulous that way, for touching on those basic themes in such a theatrical way.

Tucker:
Do you still watch WWF or follow it at all?

Catherine:
I do a little bit. Not as much as I used to, but I still do keep an eye on what’s going on with stuff. I do confess to having a particular fondness for late 90’s through the 2000’s, so it’s the time when people like Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock were first coming on the scene, and I think they were some of those incredible wrestling figures, ‘cause they were such good actors as well as good physical athletes, and that’s really what leads to huge success in wrestling, is to be great on the microphone and have these great acting skills and then be able to do what they do physically.

Tucker:
Well, have you seen how the last…about that time, a little bit after that time, the McMahon’s realized that bringing the actual family into the storylines worked really well. ‘Cause Vince McMahon can always be the bad guy and then his sons and daughters and the way they interact, it’s exactly what you’re talking about. And that’s kind of like the golden age of the WWF. Is when he brought more family in.

Catherine:
Yeah. That is how I think of that sort of time period, is that it really was a time when they were making crazy money doing it, and crazy readership and watching on the shows, and you’d go to Wrestlemania and there’d be, like, 100,000 people in the arena. And then tons of people watching on pay-per-view. It really changed. Part of it is that the televised version of wrestling, this modern sort of, it’s on TV, you’ve got pay-per-view, really did emphasize the storyline above everything else. But then with the internet, it also changed the way that it gets played out, because fans know it’s fake. They also know about the relationships behind-the-scenes, and that adds the extra interest, which I think is why it was so brilliant for McMahon to make his family part of the storyline and sort of hold back that sort of little bit. I think it’s impressive to watch what some of them did. Him and his son Shane, in particular, because they’re not athletes in the same way as the wrestlers were, and yet they’d go in the ring and get chairs cracked over their heads and bleed and dive off tables and stuff. It was like, seriously? You must really think this is gonna make a huge difference because you’re taking a big risk with this.

Tucker:
Well, there’s a reason Vince McMahon’s a billionaire now. You know? He’s smart. I’ll tell you, he’s a showman. You know?

Catherine:
He is. He really is an amazing, you know, whatever you want to call it. Sports performance, sports entertainment. It really is a neat kind of blend of that sort of physicalness that’s very appealing in terms of the competition aspect, but then the incredible theatricleness of the storylines. And I guess, too, with modern day stuff and all the video and stuff. Some of that stuff’s around forever, and of course, that time period is also when you saw stuff like D Generation X. So, you can see those sort of cultural shifts in terms of, well, who are our audience right now? And when you had all the young people flooding in when it was so popular, then you had D Generation X, and everybody’s pointing at their crotch, and everybody’s saying inappropriate things and they’re cooking wieners on the show and waving them around in front of people, and it was…I was the right age to enjoy that. I think my dad would’ve been horrified to watch some of that. It was not his wrestling. But it reflects the times. I mean, that’s another thing that he did that was very smart, was that Vince McMahon has let it change with the times, so that he has created heroes and villains who work for those particular times, so that years ago you had, you know, Iranian bad guys: Iron Sheik, Sargeant Slaughter, America versus the rest of the world. You don’t see that kind of stuff now. You see a very different. You see anti-corporation stuff. Anti-boss stuff. And you see some of the basics that you’ve always seen about male competition and who follows the rules, who cheats. It’s kind of funny, ‘cause really, the cheating is kind of, you know, it doesn’t matter who cheats. It’s just who has the hero persona and who has the villain persona in terms of, you know, how that gets played out.

Tucker:
That’s actually a perfect way to sign out of the podcast, because art is, like you say, art is absolutely always a reflection of ourselves, whether it’s romance novels or slasher fiction or male porn or WWF, all of our art, if you look at it the right way, will tell you about us and at least the people consuming it. You put the perfect button on it, Dr. Salmon! Alright, so thank you very much. This was an amazing podcast. I really appreciate this.

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