WHAT WOMEN WANT--WHAT MEN WANT by John Marshall Townsend


Why the Sexes Still See Love and Commitment So Differently
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Forget the sexual and feminist revolutions, says Townsend; men and women want what they have always wanted over the decades—and centuries and millennia, for that matter. In a nutshell, posits Townsend (Anthropology/Syracuse Univ.), men who engage in —dating and mating— are looking primarily for physical attractiveness in women; women seek men who have ’status and earnings power— and who will emotionally and materially —invest— in them. Such proclivities, he argues, are largely hard-wired into us by evolutionary psychology. Thus, for example, studies show that men are far more easily aroused by visual stimuli, while women’s fantasies deal more with men who will provide security and caring (thus, pornography is overwhelmingly purchased by males, romance novels by females). Such proclivities are little affected by some women’s newfound economic status; even economically self-sufficient or otherwise high- achieving women, such as medical students, often resist dating lower-status men, even if they—re perceived as handsome. Nor does marital status or gender orientation play much of a role (Townsend cites studies that reveal that the differences between what gays and lesbians seek in lovers are even more pronounced than between male and female heterosexuals). But his book suffers from methodological (not to mention stylistic) problems. Townsend’s sample of interviewees is somewhat skewed (a quarter of these 200 were medical students, while another quarter were Mexican-Americans); some of his statistics are meaningless (—Blumstein and Schwartz found that women in their twenties with three children have a 72 percent chance of remarrying, while women in their thirties with no children have a 60 percent chance—); and he also is too focused on the —macro— picture; there is almost nothing here about how individual psychology or cultural conditioning affects the search for, and selection of a partner. An interesting but flawed sociobiological analysis what men and women want from each other.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-19-511488-4
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1998