Smart women can’t find men to impregnate them, the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology conference in Geneva has been told.
Professor Marcia Inhorn, a researcher from Yale, said female graduates were freezing their eggs due to a “dearth of educated men to marry”, and that this “man deficit” was worse in countries where more women attended university.
These days I’m more concerned about avoiding pregnancy than freezing my eggs. I can, however, relate to the difficulties faced by smart women in the dating scene.
Anecdotal evidence suggests men often “date down”, choosing partners less intelligent than themselves. Bright, accomplished women often complain that men are “intimidated” by them, and that they need to play down their accomplishments to get a date.
And, a couple of years ago, researchers confirmed this. While men claimed to be attracted to very smart women, in actuality they shied away from those who seemed more intelligent than them.
No wonder we have a generation of women freezing their eggs.
Except this unwillingness of men to date smart women really tells only half the story. There’s another issue, which no one seems to talk about, and that is the single-minded insistence on the part of smart women to marry smart men.
We take it for granted that the female graduates can’t find equally educated men. But why do they need to?
Why can’t a woman be with a man less educated or intelligent than herself?
This, to me, is the key issue, and one I had not questioned until recently. It has always been a given: I want a man who is at least as intelligent as me. But why is this so important? And why is it usually true for women, but not for men?
We women are forging ahead, changing the paradigms in every area of life. We are in universities, in management, in politics, in boardrooms. We juggle motherhood with careers, buy our own properties, manage our own finances.
But in hetero relationships, we are still largely bound by traditions. We women still mainly seek men older than ourselves, taller than ourselves, broader than ourselves. We prefer men who are equally or more successful than us, and who earn at least as much money as we do. And we seek men who are as smart, or smarter, than we are.
Back in 2011, a hedge funder was asked why he dated less intelligent women. His response:
“Dating a less successful woman isn’t about wanting women to be dumb. It’s about wanting someone who prioritises their life in a way that’s compatible with how you prioritise yours. I love my job, but I work all the f—ing time. If I date an equally driven woman, we’re both working 18 hours days, when do we even have time to see each other?”
It makes sense, but I’d never considered it. I’ve been involved with men taller than me, shorter than me, older and younger, but every single one has been extremely intelligent. I assumed that I “needed” to be with a very smart man. I want to be challenged in a relationship on an intellectual level.
But highly intelligent men can make for very difficult partners. They can be narcissistic, obsessive, rigid and demanding. They may have little time and energy for family and relationships. If you’re looking for a supportive and nurturing partner, a highly intelligent, successful man may not be the go.
As the hedge funder observed:
“Every alpha woman I know wants to be with a man who is as successful as her or more so. And co-ordinating that stuff is almost impossible. Why don’t they just date some beta male who works in a bookstore and will make dinner for them every night? Doesn’t every successful person – man or woman – see how that’s easier?”
Of course, it’s easier, but we don’t do it. And why not? Well, it’s a legacy of the traditional paradigm of man as provider/protector of the family. We think we’ve escaped from it, but we aren’t quite there.
We fight the idea of man as head of the household, insisting on shared parenting and shared housework and equal rights, but we can’t let that last vestige go. We want a man who is stronger than us intellectually. We want a partner with a superior mind.
We need to challenge that. I need to challenge that. I need to let go of the idea of a smarter partner, and seek someone who has the qualities that make for a good relationship. Emotional intelligence. Generosity. Sense of humour. A desire to rub my feet.
And perhaps the egg-freezing graduates can do the same. A degree isn’t going to get up with the baby at night, and compassion isn’t linked to education.
If we learn to be our own heads of family, then perhaps we might be more open to love.