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Sociology/mating game - appearance vs reality


Good day
My question is on the human mating game.
Interested in finding out how much of the mating game is based on genuine love vs deception / manipulation. A significant amount of marriages end in divorce in the last few decades. Throughout history women have adapted ways to hide their true intent and appearances (for example makeup, pretending, changing their voices etc..)
Have the following questions:
1. what is it in a man's nature that causes him to be blinded and not see through a manipulative, deceptive female intention? Why are men programmed this way so as to not see reality from appearance and to be easily seduced through women charms. In other words what causes most men to place the fake appearance of a woman as love and fail to not see the intent when this game in nature has been played over and over with each generation.
2. women are famous for labeling men as abusive; isn't it just as abusive as well when a female has false or fake intention for a man but uses manipulative techniques and guises such as makeup, pretending, altering their body, seductive dress and behavior which they label as love but their true intent is more selfish.
3. are there any studies that examine the psychological effect on men in situations when they discover that they were lied to by an appearance designed to entrap them

Hi Sam,

I'll be glad to help with your questions. My responses are numbered to correspond to the numbers in your questions.

1) Men and women both have a vested interest in reproduction, generally speaking. Both men and women sometimes practice deception for the purpose of gaining mating advantages. In seeking to gain such advantageous, both men and women - some, not all - lie about their true intentions, their feelings, their personal attributes, and other pertinent aspects. I don't believe that men are any less adept at detecting deception than women are. Human mate practices are challenging and complex; certainly dishonesty plays a a role. However, the success of the human species strongly suggests that - despite its pitfalls - human mating strategies must be working, and that the role of deception must not be pivotal. If it was then humanity would not have survived. In other words, there are plenty of women who lie to appeal to men, and plenty of men who lie to appeal to men. But, it must be the case that most relationships are not based on lies because, if that were the case, humans would be an evolutionary dead end. While there are plenty of relationships which fail due to some form of dishonesty, most relationships work. The direct answer to your question, then, is that some men continue to be victims of deception because such deception does not happen enough to create selective (evolutionary) pressure for men to develop counter-strategies. If women deceived men all the time, then you could indeed expect men to evolve counter-strategies. The same is true for women.

2) "Abusive" can be defined in multiple ways, of course. In my opinion, for a woman to use cosmetics to enhance her appearance is not tantamount to a man physically hitting a woman. It's a matter of record that men physically abuse women exponentially more often than women physically abuse men. It's a matter of opinion whether a woman who enhances her appearance to be attractive to men, and who may lie about her intentions for doing so, is committing abuse. More broadly, I think it's fair to say that men and women - when trying to attract a mate - take measures to enhance their appearance. The consensus among evolutionary psychologists (more below on that), is that - from the standpoint of evolved mating strategies - men value youth and beauty in a female mate, while in a male mate women value access to resources. That's why it's more common to see rich older men paired with young beautiful women than older rich women with young handsome men. In order to gain an advantage, then, women may use clothing and cosmetics and other means to accentuate youth and beauty, or to disguise age and other perceived flaws. Some men, meanwhile, try to gain an advantage by displaying their resources, such as expensive clothing, an expensive car, buying costly gifts, etc. The man may have a terrible personality or be physically unattractive, but by advertising his wealth he is trying to overcome those deficiencies by showing off something which many women value (not extreme wealth, per se, but the ability to provide for a partner and a family). Similarly, a woman may have a very bland personality and may have low intelligence. But, if she is physically attractive and young, then she may still be very appealing to most men because what men value above all are youth and beauty. So, both men and women try to emphasize the qualities that they believe the opposite sex (for hetero people) values. That may involve some deception. But again, if deception was so rampant than trusting senses was impossible, then humanity would not have survived. So, although plenty of men drive expensive cars to conceal the fact that they are jerks, and plenty of women wear makeup to make themselves look flawless, there are more people who, in their relationships, are not deceived.

3. I'm not aware of a specific study that meets your description. Nevertheless, I think it's fair to say that no one likes being the victim of a lie, and I'm sure that any study would support that supposition. Life offers plenty of examples of men who may be attracted to a woman who is wearing exquisite makeup and the finest, most flattering clothes. Then, he may see her in a t-shirt and sweatpants and be repulsed. And/or, she may have used the influence granted by her appearance to take advantage of the man in some manner. But, there are also plenty of examples of men who flatter women, make solemn promises, and profess their undying love - all to gain immediate sexual access. Then, after that goal has been achieved, then man disappears. I don't think that men are disproportionately the victims of deception in pursuing a mate compared to women. Both men and women - some, not all - will take measures to make themselves seem like a better mate than perhaps they really are. Recognizing that deception is possible, that people can be selfish, are reasons that caution and taking time are two essential ingredients in the pursuit of a long-term partner, in my opinion.

Finally, Sam, I strongly recommend the book The Evolution of Desire, by David Buss (first edition in 1994 but there is a revised edition, too). Dr. Buss is an evolutionary psychologist and the preeminent authority of human mating practices, from an evolutionary perspective. This book attempts to provide the ultimate answer for why men and women think and behave as we do when seeking a mate. It's very insightful, based on sound scholarship, and is intended for a general reader. I'm confident that you'll find it very provocative and perceptive.

I hope that this helps, Sam!



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Marc Aperio


I'll be glad to answer any question about sociological theory, sociologists, and social institutions.


I've been studying sociology for 15 years. I'm also currently volunteering in the US, European, and Medieval history categories.

My newest book WE NEED TO TALK: 27 DIALOGUES ON RACE IN AMERICA is available in the Amazon Kindle store. Also the author of AMERICAN REVOLUTION 2016: RATIONALE AND AIMS FOR RADICAL CHANGE

BA History (High Honors)

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