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Human Mating Game
It s a dance as old as the human race. At cocktail lounges and church socials, during office coffee breaks and dinner parties– most blatantly, perhaps, in the personal ads in newspapers and magazines– men and women participate in a ritual that has been embedded in our existence since the dawn of man. Beginning at young ages, humans start learning to master the art of attracting someone of the opposite sex, one day hoping to find the perfect mate. Whether it was the physical aspect, personality aspect, or the chemical aspect of attraction, there is something that attracts mankind to members of the other sex. The question is, How do you interpret these signals and how do you respond to them?
Researchers and educators are beginning to observe that the age that children start to take notice of the opposite sex. As early as the pre-teen years children start going out. Many parents fear that their kids are being pushed into adulthood too quickly. Yet, they recognize that pre-teen relationships often resemble child s play more than teenage romance. Pre-teens pair up to impress their friends. Within a group of pre-teens, they might constantly trade boyfriends and girlfriends because it doesn t really matter as long as each other has someone. These couples traditionally would not go out for more than a month and they may do little more than talk a few times on the phone. Fortunately, pre-teens take break-ups in stride which later prepares one for the possibility of hurting and being hurt by someone in one s future teenage and adult years (Hoose 56-63).
The early teenage years are when young adolescents begin to learn the basics of the Flirting Game, especially the girls. There are 52 different nonverbal courtship behaviors used by women. 31 of these 52 flirtations were exhibited by 13-16 year old girls in a study that included going to shopping malls, ice skating rinks, and other places that adolescents congregate. The only signals missing were those at the more overt end of the spectrum, such as actual caressing. Not only were some of the signs missing, but the teens gestures looked less natural than ones that would be made by more mature females; They laughed much louder, stared more obviously, and their moves were overall much sloppier. If there was a leader among the group, the followers usually modeled their behavior on the leader of the pack. The rate at which these adolescents signaled was considerably less frequent- 7.6 signs per hour per girl, as opposed to 44.6 per woman. Even though they much rougher around the edges than a mature woman, these girls were equally effective in attracting the object of their affection, in this particular case, teen boys (Lott 42-45, 72).
What teenagers are involved in may also make a difference in the view of sex and the sex drive of the adolescent. Most researchers have thought by encouraging kids to become active in playing sports, they would reduce their sex drive and keep them occupied so that they wouldn t have the opportunity to participate in sexual acts. In females, this seems to be true. Young women who participate in athletics seem to have sex later and less often than their non-athletic peers, and by doing so face a lower risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Supposedly, taking part in sports raises a females self-esteem and gives them the power to say NO. Males, in contrast, often tend to be slightly more sexually experienced. Kathleen Miller, Ph.D., of the State University of New York–Buffalo, states, The culture of sports reinforces the mind-set that boys score on and off the field. The minds of these boys think, Since I can t get pregnant, why should I worry if I get some girl pregnant. The males feel that since they are so busy with athletics, that they can have a little fun in their spare time, risk free. This is why it is so important that the adults in their lives help them to resist that message. Their coaches should be role models for male athletes. Being in their position they have the power to encourage the boys to be responsible and to make smart choices (Billie 18).
Adolescent… Adult… There is one form of attraction that is definitely common between the two. Physical attraction. Starting in your teenage years, people begin to worry and obsess about how they look. Psychologists call the familiar feeling that the whole world is watching oneself the spotlight effect. We tend to think that people notice appearances considerably more than they really do. Most people, honestly, just don t notice when one is not looking their best. Studies have shown that since people are so focused on themselves, that they naturally assume that others pay close attention to us, too, but mostly everyone feels the same way and is too concerned with their own problems. As stated by Cornell graduate student Justin Kruger, The truth is, we re just not as interesting to other people as we are to ourselves (Rooney 14).
What do the sexes look for in the opposite sex physically? Men, generally, consistently value attractiveness and youth in a mate. Males have evolved a mind-set that homes in on signs of a woman s health and youth. Modern man s sense of feminine beauty consists of clear skin, bright eyes, and youthful appearance are usually the visual signs to a man diagnosing a women to be healthy and fertile. A women s reproductive health also explains why men value curvaceous figures. Most men don t judge a figure on whether she is slim or fat, but instead on the ratio of the waist to the hips. Supposedly, the ideal proportion is the hips being roughly one third larger the waist. This relates to the higher fertility and resistance to disease in a woman. A good example of this is to look at the Miss America pageant. Over the past several decades, the winners have gotten 30 percent thinner, but the waist to hip ratio has stayed relatively the same over the years (Allman 56-63).
Women traditionally look at a prospective mate s ambition, status, and resources. Females tend to look at more of the material things in relation to physical appearance. They find more appealing a man who can take care of a baby rather than a man who can take care of his hair (Allman 56-63)
Where the two sexes meet, however, is rather interesting. One thing that both men and women found attractive were symmetrical features. Women view symmetrical men as more dominant, powerful, richer, and better sex and marriage material. Men, for their part, rate symmetrical women as more fertile, more attractive, healthier and better sex and marriage material, too. However, symmetrical men engage in more infidelity in their relationships. Women usually appeal to symmetrical males to receive their good genes for their children, not necessarily to carry on a relationship. A guy who will stick around and help out with parenting is on most women s wish list of qualities in a mate (Rodgers 37-41,64-65,67,69-70). Typically, however, men and women choose mates who closely resemble themselves in terms of weight, height, intelligence, and even earlobe length (Allman 56-63)
There are also some emotional aspects between males and females that should be duly noted. The mind s mating mechanisms can definitely be strongly influenced by the culture that one grew up in possibly through religious and moral beliefs. When men and women are looking for a short term mate, they will focus more on the physical aspect of a person and they will settle for a lot less in terms of personality. This reflects in men that they have often pursued a dual mating strategy. They would look for a healthy, fertile, long-term mate. But, might take advantage of any low-risk opportunity that they had come across. The end result is an evolved psychology that allows man to be sexually excited by a wide variety of women even while committed to a partner. This is also shown through studies of men s and women s fantasies today. Researchers have found that men and women actively engage in sexual fantasies, however, men typically had more fantasies about anonymous partners. In a different study, researchers asked males and females to imagine that their mates were having sex with someone else or that their mates were engaged in a deep emotional commitment with another person. And through the monitoring of the subjects heart rates, frowning and stress responses they were able to establish that the stereotypical double standard cut both ways. Men reacted far more strongly than the woman did to the idea that their mates were having sex with someone else. But women reacted far more strongly to the thought that their mates were developing strong emotional attachments to someone else (Allman 56-63).
Where do emotional and physical attraction meet? The obvious answer is in a relationship, but looking before that there is a ritual that most living beings take part in. This dance that animals take part in is flirting. Most men think that they are the ones who initiate the flirting by making the first move. In all actuality, the first move may have something as simple as brief eye contact initiated by the woman. Woman are usually the ones who initiate flirting by attracting towards them to make their move. As mentioned earlier there are 52 signs that a female has in her arsenal to draw the attention of that one man that she may be eyeing. The women who normally draw the most response in a social setting are the ones who send the most signals. Deemed universal among women: the eyebrow flash (an exaggerated raising of the eyebrows of both eyes, followed by a rapid lowering), the coy smile (a tilting of the head downward, with a partial averting of eyes and, at the end, covering the mouth), and the exposed neck (turning the so that the side of the neck is bared). Neither party in a flirtation is full dominant or submissive, there is a subtle, rhythmical, and playful back and forth that culminates in a kind of physical synchronization between two people. Still, by escalating and de-escalating the flirtation s progression, the woman controls the pace. Women are more aware than men of exactly what they do, why they do it, and the effect it has. Just as a man may only remember what happened in the bed, the woman may remember everything leading to the bed. (Lott 42-45,72).
There are many things to consider when you start a relationship and there are many different directions that your relationship could go. However, if we stopped to think about all the possibilities every time we flirted we be thinking till we are old and gray. The human mind suspends rational thought for a few moments during a flirtation to allow humans to block out considering all those possibilities to allow men and women to try and find their mate (Rodgers 37-41,64-65,67,69-70).
Some of the exhilaration of flirting, of course, lies in what is hidden, the tension between what is felt and what is revealed. Flirtation often seems to most resemble the antics of children on the playground or even perhaps the ritual peek-a-boo that babies play with their caregivers. The two groups in our culture that engage in the most sustained eye contact are mothers and infants, and lovers. The cycle of flirting takes humans in a full circle. Daniel Stern put it best, If flirting sets us off on the road to producing babies, it also whisks us back to the pleasures of infancy (Lott 42-45,72)
Does the idea of Fate have anything to do with a relationship? It depends on the way a person look at it. There are two general attitudes towards relationships: believers in destiny and worshippers of growth. What one believes may dictate the course–and even the outcome–of ones own love life. Destiny Theorists, are convinced that people are either meant for each other or not. Being in a relationship with this type of person could be dangerous because when these people find you less than perfect and are not satisfied, their relationships end in a hurry. Growth Theorists, expect closeness and compatibility to develop as they get to know their partner. They believe that with more growth, more commitment is made. There are goods and bads to both sides and either way can maintain a relationship, it just depends on personal preference. These point of views may inhibit or help you take initial attraction and flirtation to the next stage: forming a relationship (Hohn & Paul 16).
According to researchers, regardless of looks at younger ages, the personality of the person has a major significance on appearances in the future. Those who have good personalities when they are younger will be considered fairly attractive in their older years (Neimark 18). According to a poll taken worldwide, the top two mating preferences were not great looks, fame, youth, wealth, or status, but kindness and intelligence. They are love s greatest allies (Allman 56-63). This brings the point that it really doesn t matter how physically attractive one may think they are because there is most likely a person in the world who finds them attractive and would want a relationship with them. Their personality may win them a mate instead of gorgeous looks. Of course, most of these points brought up are only opinions and majority assumptions. I encourage one to draw their own opinion from their own experiences, because it will have more meaning and give them a better understanding of this dance we call the human mating game.
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