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Love goes poof if you scrimp on spending

sex and relationships Updated: Jan 23, 2012 13:59 IST
Sanchita Sharma
Sanchita Sharma
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

His secret of success to scoring with young women, said 85--year-old Hugh Hefner in an interview, was consistency. Hefner, of course, meant his consistency in dating 20 year olds, but his belief is not supported by hard science. New research out this week confirms that what works for him and many others like him is their consistency in knowing what women really want: expensive gifts.

Females like males who don’t scrimp on spending, and this holds true across species. Even female spiders scuttle away at the sight of worthless gifts and can be lured back to cheap mates only if he plays dead in desperation and offers himself up as a meal.

Male nursery web spiders (Pisaura mirabilis) prepare elaborate silk-wrapped gifts to give females in exchange for sex, but whether they score depends entirely on how much the female likes the gift, reported BioMed Central’s online journal Evolutionary Biology.

Researchers found that male spiders who give females edible gifts – houseflies and seeds – get to mate with them longer than cheapskates who offer rubbish such as exoskeletons of already-eaten bugs. Males who get no gift at all were rejected at the outset. Male spiders sometimes play dead – called thanatosis — to lure back a mate running away with the gift.

Despite similar packaging, both males and females assessed the value of the gift correctly and modified their behaviour accordingly, showed the research. Sometimes they even fought over edible gifts, but never over the worthless ones.

The evolution of male deceit, explains the study, involves the simple equation of costs and benefits. It costs the males effort to find and wrap a gift, but these costs are reduced if the male does not have to look for a gift by simply gift-wrapping leftovers.

Arachnid mating rituals don’t appear much different from human behaviour, reported a study of sex and advertising by Kathleen D. Vohs of the University of Minnesota. The study, published in The Journal of Consumer Research in 2009, found women respond more favourably to advertisements where objects being sold were presented as a gift from a man to show his commitment.

Last month, the study ‘Sexual Economics: A Research-Based Theory of Sexual Interactions, or Why the Man Buys Dinner,’ by Roy Baumeister of Florida State University deconstructed the complexities of romance into an economic model where women traded sex for money, gifts and marriage.

The commodification of relationships is most apparent on dating websites such as WhatsYourPrice.com, where financial jargon is used to ask “generous men and beautiful young women to buy and sell first dates”. Based on the sexual economics concept, it asks men to calculate how much a woman is worth and place a bid. The woman then weighs her options and decides whether the money offered is worth her time.

The site’s review of dates successfully brokered over six months showed that men who want women over 10 years younger pay approximately 13% more than the average to close each year of age gap. A man 40 years older pays about 400% (4 times) more than a man who is only 10 years older to attract the interest of the same woman.

Clearly, Hefner was dumped at the altar this summer by potential mate Crystal Harris because his whittled-down bunny empire is no longer a good enough gift. Going by arachnid behaviour, the next step should be faking death. Sadly, the research omits to mention whether the male survived the encounter or ended up as supper.

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