The sexual market value (SMV) is the personal value that everyone has in the sexual market place.
High SMV individuals can get high quality partners and/or can more easily get a high number of partners.
Understanding the concepts around the sexual market value is enlightening, and it will help your increase your own SMV.
Unluckily, there is a lot of misunderstanding around.
Scientists have done great research, but have sometimes written with little appreciation for real-world sexual dynamics.
Some dating coaches and Red Pill authors took over the popular discourse with their personal experiences and theories, but with little scientific knowledge and rigor.
This article fills the gap by bridging science and real world.
So let’s start:
- Definition of Sexual Market Value
- Sexual Market Value Assessments
- Quantitative Assessments of Sexual Market Value: Surveys
- Female Adaptive Problems
- #1. His Resources
- #2. His Social Status
- #3. Ambition & Industriousness
- #4. Kindness
- #5. Intelligence
- #6. Male Physical Traits
- #7. Her Youth
- #8. Her Physical Appearance
- #9. Faithfulness
- #10. Misc.: Art, “Fun”, Good Sex
- Short-Term VS Long-Term SMV
- Pick Your Battles: Choosing A Sexual Niche
Definition of Sexual Market Value
We will define the sexual market value as such:
Sexual market value (SMV) refers to an individual’s mating value.
The individual’s SMV is the sum of all resources and fitness indicators that he possess, and it’s equivalent to his overall attractiveness.
Everyone wants a high SMV mate, but people’s success in the sexual market place is highly linked to their own sexual market value, which constrains their ability to mate as they truly wish to mate.
Luckily, your SMV is malleable, often highly malleable, and you can almost always increse it with well-directed effort and dedication.
Most people have an inherent understanding of their own SMV and usually target potential mates who are within a relatively narrow band within their own sexual market value.
Usually men tend to enlarge the scope of their mating efforts in short-term dating (red arrows, especially lowering standards), while sticking more to their SMV for long-term dating.
Focusing slightly above one’s own SMV is an inborn practice because it maximizes the chances of securing a high SMV mate relative to one’s own SMV while still playing with good odds.
The self-assessment of one’s own sexual market value is a mix of self-esteem, confidence, sexual market place feedback, past sexual success (or lack thereof) and, of course, temporal and environmental variables (ie.: the competition and normal mood swings).
Assortative Mating in The SMP
Each player wants a mate with a higher SMV.
But since each single player does not want someone who is lower value than they are, there is a strong tendency for each player to match and mate with individuals of around the same overall value (assortative mating).
Indeed, individual’s own SMV is the best predictor of the types of mates any player will pair up with, and that’s especially true for long-term dating.
Thus, the higher mate value one player has, the more dating power he has.
Sexual Market Value Assessments
Let’s make a deal:
We will be honest with each other.
And here is the honest truth: the sexual market value is so complex and so environment and context-dependent that any chart seeking to describe sexual market value is a fool’s errand -and ludicrous-.
But… People demand it, and articles look better with charts.
So we will present a few simplified charts while addressing the biggest drawback of all other charts: the lack of differentiation between short-term and long-term dating.
Male Sexual Market Value Formula (Short Term)
Looks matter for casual sex.
But if looks are the equivalent standing naked as you wake up in the morning, then game also matters hugely.
Game takes that basic package you’ve got and seeks to maximize the presentation of oneself. Game is the equivalent of marketing and sales.
Everyone engages in game.
Conversation is game, answering her questions is game, and wondering what to text back is game. What clothes you wear is also part of game.
Games works best in short-term dating just as marketing and sales works best in selling the product.
Once the sale has been done, the intrinsic qualities of the product tend to come to the fore. Which is why game that revolves around true self-development is the best way of improving one’s own SMV for both short-term and long term.
One might ask:
Why are resources even here, if we’re talking about short-term mating?
It’s been proven that resources can help even in short term dating.
Resources can also turbo-charge short-term attraction through “conspicuous consumption”. Throwing money around is a very effective technique to attract attention -and women-.
Sure, you tend to attract a certain type of woman with conspicuous consumption, but then again.. We are in the short term realm here and you’re not necessarily looking to bang wifey material, right (plus all women like money anyway)?
Male Sexual Market Value (Long-Term)
Now imagine you want to settle down.
And you would ask yourself the ancestral male question:
What do women want?
The simple answer is: everything.
For long term, women look at pretty much everything, and the more you have, the better.
Sure, it doesn’t mean all women can get everything, but the desire is still there.
For simplicity, I kept the traits in the chart below just like the traits for short-term SMV.
But if we had to make a more realistic chart, then we would add a lot more traits and the value of each one would decrease. Because, again, women look at the full package -package included, yes, scientists who say male penis only got bigger to show off to other males are clueless-.
Game is still there by the way.
Game in long term also includes the marketing and sales of the short-term, but it also enlarges its scope to include relationship management.
Intelligence is part of both “game” -learning social skills and putting it to use- and “personality” -people like those who can make them feel good, which also requires emotional intelligence-.
And of course, all traits are at least somewhat connected and some even overlap.
For example, high-status men is perceived as being more attractive, even taller. And vice versa.
And you rarely have high status with very little resources. And vice versa.
Female Sexual Market Value (Short-Term)
This one was not difficult:
Game for women is the ability of making him horny, which of course is strongly tied to looks as well, but it also complements looks, or can help make up for looks (partially).
Female Long Sexual Market Value (Long-Term)
Here is one misunderstood, yet simple reality of SMV:
When it comes to long term dating, men act more like women, screen harder and look more at the overall package.
And of course, the inverse is also true: when operating with a short-term mindset, women become more like men.
Whenever I hear a man who wants a woman with a master’s degree, for example, I know he’s not a player. Or at least, he’s not anymore and now he’s looking to settle down.
Age is interesting.
Especially since in Red Pill communities there a few popular charts only based on female age to assess her sexual market value.
But also age is relative, and it matters more for men who want children in monogamous relationships and within monogamous cultures with marriage institutions.
In non-monogamous cultures, men are not “stuck” with a woman for a lifetime. So as long as she’s fertile age matters comparatively less.
Faithfulness, the most sought-after trait in a few scientific surveys, also matters less to very high-status men in polygynous cultures.
These men have many women, so they care less about what each single one of them is doing -unless they’re jealous paranoid, exceptions always apply-.
Quantitative Assessments of Sexual Market Value: Surveys
I know what you’re thinking:
Wouldn’t it be great to have a nice ranking of all SMV traits that matter?
That way I know what to focus on.
Weighing the value of each single trait would bring much clarity to the sexual market place, indeed.
But as we shall see, that clarity would be illusory and provide more a semblance of science than true understanding.
But that hasn’t stopped researchers from trying.
Here is how Buss’ survey ranks the characteristics most commonly sought in a mate:
Surveys of the most sought-after traits in a mate are not a new phenomenon and began several decades ago.
This has allowed researchers to keep track of changes over time.
Here is one example:
Of course, surveys are prone to all kinds of errors.
To begin with, surveys are based on what people say, which somewhat overlaps with what they truly want and do, but which is far from being the exact same.
Just picture Katy, her survey in hands, thinking how her future husband should be like. And she selects “dependability” first because she thinks her two kids and dog need a dependable dad.
But when she goes out that evening and first lays eyes on Tom, wouldn’t you agree that good looks, or even simply “fashion and clothes” trump dependability?
So let’s take a bit of a deeper look into this sexual market value now.
And let’s go at the roots of what women want, and why.
Female Adaptive Problems
The following table is taken and adapted from “Evolutionary Psychology” by David Buss, and can be considered a high-level summary of why women want what they want:
The interesting thing here is that you can find different ways to help women meet their demands beside what the usual answers are (more in “Dating Power Dynamics”).
For now, let’s move past the tables, though.
And let’s get into some more qualitative investigation of sexual market value.
We will select the most important traits that determine men and women’s sexual market value and dissect them.
So let’s start:
#1. His Resources
The male occupational status seems to be the best predictor of the attractiveness of the woman he marries.
Countless of studies show that women appreciate resources much more than men do.
The preference of women for men with resources is a universal. In all cultures, religions and political systems, women placed higher importance than men in resources (roughly 100% more).
Even with the sexual revolution, women still value financial prospects twice as high as men do (albeit Swami says that self-professed feminists place less important on his financial standing… Or so they say).
Women seek men with resources even when they themselves have resources.
A research among women in the upper income bracket in the US showed that high income women placed an even greater value on mate with high degree, professional status and high income.
Resources & Short-Term Dating
Resources are most important for long-term dating.
However, they can also be effectively leveraged for short term dating and “sex on the side”.
Thorstein Veblen first introduced the idea of “conspicuous consumption”.
Veblen argued that in modern urban societies of strangers, men need to find a more reliable way to advertise their resources.
But for conspicuous consumption to be effective in short-term dating, it must be reckless.
A Ferrari or a Lamborghini screams “conspicuous consumption”, but a Porsche or a BMW doesn’t.
VIP table, bottle service and offering drinks to all pretty girl is conspicuous consumption, buying one drink to one girl is less conspicuous consumption and more boring provider.
#2. His Social Status
Women desire men who command a high position in society.
High social status or a high status job are viewed by US women as only slightly less important than financial prospects. But the two things often go hand in hand, anyway.
Evolutionary psychologists often said that women want high social status because it’s linked to access to resources. I believe that’s part of the reason why, but there is more: as Harry Kissinger once said “power is a potent aphrodisiac”.
Women also place high importance to indicators linked to high social status, including:
- Professional degrees
- Commanding the respect of the group (social power)
The opposite is also true, with women rating lack of education as “highly undesirable”.
Albeit this might simply be correlation, men who enjoy high status and income also seem to be aware of their ability to attract more desirable women.
As men’s income goes up, they seek younger partners while also expressing a stronger preference for facially feminine women.
Female Blinders to Low Status Men
Women, when they can still exercise the power of choice, tend to ignore lower status men for long term pairing and to sometimes even ignore their existence if they are also not attractive.
If those men are at least attractive and sexy, they might make for a short term fling -think of the proverbial “pool boy”-, but women enter these relationships from a position of power and only “settle” for lower status men.
#3. Ambition & Industriousness
Some personality traits are more important for younger men because they provide a clue as to their future role in society.
Particularly important traits are:
In Buss’ large-sample study ambition and industriousness were rated as important or indispensable.
Indeed, the best predictor of a man’s ability to climb social hierarchies and increase his income is how hard he works (industriousness), which is often underpinned by personal ambition.
And that’s why, on average, men work harder than women. And that also partially explains the famous “wage gap”: men are sexually incentivized to work harder and put in longer hours.
And that’s also why pool boys, guards and helpers are not very attractive: by selling their time cheaply they are communicating a lack of ambition.
Again, there is a major gender difference between the sexes here: women regarded a lack of ambition as extremely undesirable, while men didn’t care about women’s ambition.
In Buss’ large survey data both men and women the world over value kindness.
Buss says it’s because people depend on other people’s kindness, but not from strangers’ kindness, but from their mates.
And a mate who shows kindness also promises to provide support when we will all, eventually, hit a rough patch.
Kindness also increases the chance that a man will commit and provide, and make for a better father.
How About Assholes?
This might be the right time to introduce the topic of “assholes”.
The stereotype is that women say they want nice guys, but actually prefer assholes.
Luckily, there have been a couple of studies on the subject.
In Urbaniak and Killman’s study, female participants were given descriptions of typical nice guys, “middle of the road” guys and typical assholes.
The participants’ task was to pick the best men other women should date, and then they were asked which men they would pick for themselves.
Turned out, the “nice guy” was the man the majority of women picked for other women.
When it came to choose a man for themselves, some women did present the typical attitude of “a nice guy for you, a bad boy for me”, but it was not the majority. The majority still chose the nice guy.
In a similar study with dating ads, thus mimicking an even more realistic long-term dating scenario, it was still kind men who were picked the most.
Or, more precisely, men who exhibited altruism as a courtship display, using keywords such as “I volunteer at a food bank” or “I enjoy helping people”.
Age is another factor that comes into play.
Younger women tend to be more infatuated with the image of the rascal bad boy, while older women tend to go more for the stable and mature type.
The temporal frame (short-term VS long-term) is also important: with the stereotypical bad boy providing that “edginess” and “rebellion” that so well overlaps with “sexyness” and gains short-term mating points.
But the most important trait we need to discuss here is confidence.
What’s attractive about the bad boys is the allure of confidence.
That tells us that if the “nice guy” is unconfident and looks like he lets everyone trample him, then the bad boy might be the preferred option.
This is the same conclusion Viram reached when reviewing the evidence for the nice guy / bad guy dichotomy: to be successful, the “nice” guy does need to be confident -and, at that point, he’s not the “nice guy” stereotype anymore, I would add-.
But if we are talking about a confident man, then the bad boy appeals to a smaller fraction of the population while being unappealing to a much larger one.
Evolutionary psychology professor Geoffrey Miller says:
During human evolution, sexual selection seems to have shifted its primary target from body to mind.
Think about men and boy meeting.
What do they do?
99% of the times, they talk.
That talking is nothing but a way of assessing one person’s mind and intelligence.
Intelligence is also not just a trait that we select for, but intelligence is the meta-trait that allows us to play the dating game itself.
Take our cousins great apes, the chimpanzees and the bonobos, for example.
They live in complex societies where reproductive success often comes to depend more on social intelligence than on brute strength.
And that’s all the truer for humans.
5.2. Humor, “Game”, Conversations, Frames
Some people say “intelligence doesn’t count”.
And then maybe in the same breath say that “game”, such as the whole ensemble of seduction skills, is very important.
Yet, game is an indicator of intelligence. Frames are an indicator of dominance, but also of intelligence. And conversations and humor are both strong indicators of intellectual faculties.
Humor is also well adapt as a tool for sexual choice and sexual discrimination.
Every time you see a pleasure center that can be stimulatd but cannot be stimulated by everyone and everything, you are staring at a too for sexual discrimination.
Thus, when a woman says she likes a man because “he makes her laugh”, she is not exaggerating: humor is an important tool of sexual selection (the same is true for orgasms, as we shall see).
Women tend to show a preference for men who can make them laugh, whereas men tend to prefer women who laugh at their jokes.
5.3. Vocabulary & Conversations
Vocabulary is at least 60% heritable and 80% correlated with general intelligence (and 20% with body symmetry, BTW).
A widespread theory of the existence of so many synonyms when one single word would suffice is that words serve not to better explain things, but to show off superior intelligence.
Why Men Stop Talking
A common complaint of women is that men stop talking during relationships.
That complaint supports the theory that vocabulary, language and intelligence are used as courtship tools in humans: men show it off to gain sexual access.
But once sexual access has been granted, men don’t need to put up with that effort anymore.
As someone said “why should he regale you with poetry when 20 words a day suffice to have sex with you?”.
#6. Male Physical Traits
The female preferences for attractive physical traits include:
- Symmetrical body and faces
- Toned muscles
- Masculine features (more personality-based than the previous ones)
- Large jaw
- Jutting chin
- Low voice (up to a certain point)
- V-shaped torso
Some physical traits are intercultural and present few exceptions, like the female preference for men taller than they are (albeit even there I’ve had a few exceptions).
Other traits are more cultural and present more variance, like for example with the masculine features. Younger women sometimes prefer more feminine faces and bodies, see for example the legions of female fans that androgynous boy bands singers collect around the world.
Some of these features also have an upper limit.
Take voice, for example, which is attractive when it’s deep… But only up until a certain frequency.
Funny enough, men keep being intimidated by more mannish men long past women are attracted by them, suggesting that the “lover” strategy confers more SMV than the “fighter” strategy (Tamsin, 2015).
#7. Her Youth
Men solved the problem of finding fertile women, in part, by looking for younger women.
The proof that men seek youth as a sign of fertility is in adolescent males, who instead prefer older women (but older women don’t want these younger men of course).
7.2. The Appeal of MILFs
The MILF-phenomenon is real.
And shows that 20-something is not always better than 30-something.
Well, think about what an older woman with children has proven.
- Proven health: she’s been around for longer
- Proven fertility: her kids are the proof
- Proven mothering skills: her kids being alive are the proof
- Experience being a mother: men can “dick and move” confident she’ll keep them alive
That’s why, for men who don’t have to get married, a MILF can present a better option than an “untested” younger girl, who is also more likely to end up depending on him.
Case in point, I found this older MILF in my FB feed far more attractive than any other younger lady:
7.3. Youthful Behavior
Buss says that our ancestors had access to two types of observable evidence of a woman’s health and youth: features of physical appearance and feature of behavior.
Feature of behavior includes:
- Bouncy youthful gate
- Animated facial expressions
- High energy levels
7.4. Age & SMV: Her Age Highly Correlates with Power, His Not as Much
Age correlates strongly with women’s dating power and less strongly with male dating power.
- Age is more correlated to her reproductive value than men’s
- Age is more correlated to beauty in women than in men
- Women’s overall sexual value is based on fewer traits than men’s, and age and beauty weigh more for women than it does for men.
The peak of desirability depends on a number of factors but, on average, it tends to be in the early and mid 20s for women and late 20s and mid 30s for men.
Here is a chart from OK Cupid, based on the number of messages men and women received:
Again, as per our previous tables, the same holds true for this one: aggregate numbers are very bad predictors of individual’s true sexual market value because the individual variances are huge.
There are more influences and mitigating factors to age, including:
- Availability of resources
Destitute women might place a premium on resources and care less about his age.
- Quality & quantity of other available traits
Remember that what’s bargained is the sexual market place is the overall package and a lack in one trait (age) can be compensated by other traits and vice versa.
These findings are easily confirmed by data: the richest 400 men in the US married women who were on average 7 years younger. But when they re-married, billionaires chose mates who were on average 22 years younger.
#8. Her Physical Appearance
Men rate physical appearances much higher than women do.
Traits of high appeal physical appearance include:
- Smooth skin
- Clear skin (signals absence of parasites)
- Homogenous skin color distribution
- Big and firm breast
- Facial femininity (signals your and more estrogen, ie.: higher fertility)
- Full lips
- Large eyes
- Thinner jaw
- Small chin
- Chromatic contrast
- High cheekbones
- Relatively short distance between mouth and jaw
- Facial symmetry
- Clear eyes
- Lustrous hair (hair quality and length correlates with age and health)
- Good muscle tone
- Leg length (long legs relative to torso length, 5% longer than the average receive maximum attractiveness)
- Symmetrical faces and bodies
- Waist to hip ratio
Albeit not related to physical attractiveness, her voice also matters, with higher-pitched voices being preferred.
Same for walk: men prefer the female gait when she is wearing heels, because it makes for shorter steps and increased tilt and rotation of the hips.
8.2. Physical Appearance & Power: More Power for Women
Physical appearances provide a huge SMV boost to both men and women.
But it’s far more important for women than for women.
Because, as we saw, beauty matters more to men than to women.
Handsome men mostly gain in short term dating but less in long term dating, while women gain powerfully both in short term dating and long term dating. Indeed, beautiful women tend to have less casual sex and more relationships.
Conversely, some less attractive women might loosen up their standards both in terms of quality of partners and in terms of resources and commitment they demand for sex. That’s why less attractive women tend to engage more easily and readily in casual sex.
Which is also why beautiful people tend to have more daughters than sons.
7.3. Status Boost: The Trophy Wife
Men value a woman’s attractiveness also for the status boost it grants them.
Men do place a lot of importance on “rank”, and a beautiful wife helps them rank higher in social hierarchies.
So, yes, the “trophy wife” is a thing.
The trophy wife is especially important for unattractive men, because people infer that if he is with an attractive wife, he must be very high social status.
A trophy wife also matters more to status-driven men, insecure men, men low in self-esteem, narcissists, and men who build their self-esteem around external validation (also see the relationship analysis of movie character Tony Montana).
U.S. Men evaluated faithfulness and sexual loyalty as the most valued trait in Buss & Schmitt survey out of 67 possible characteristics.
Surprisingly -or unsurprisingly depending on your point of view-, nearly all men gave these traits the highest rating possible, averaging +2.85 on a scale from +3 to -3.
Women too evolutionary note of course and strategically self-present cues to sexual fidelity when they are in a long-term mating mindset.
Also see the “Madonna-whore” dichotomy.
#10. Misc.: Art, “Fun”, Good Sex
Why wouldn’t anyone value sex in the sexual market value?
Sex is one of the most glaring trait that many scientists and researchers miss out on.
Some scientists also largely miss out on the many “alternative” indicators of human intellect. Human intelligence and fitness indeed can be displayed in more ways than climbing status and economical hierarchies to acquire material luxuries.
Enter the obvious and well-documented appeal of poets, artists, singers of course, but even transcending hippies and tantric sexual gurus.
Some of the ways in which “alternative” signals of high fitness are paraded are:
- Art (albeit today it overlaps with status)
- Body ornamentation
- Irreverent humor
- Ideological ardor
- Snake oil salesmen
- Honest idealists
- Memorable storytelling
- Spiritualism, sometimes mixes with allusions to sex (see tantra)
- Shared consciousness
- Altered states of consciousness
- Pro-social behavior & charity
- Good sex
Both men and women enjoy good sex, and people who can provide -and market- their lovemaking skills are also providing a great SMV currency.
The female orgasm is elusive probably because it’s a sexual discrimination tool (more on sex and the currency on sex in Dating Power Dynamics).
Pro-social behavior is another aspect that researchers have largely missed on.
Geoffrey Miller makes a compelling case that cooperation didn’t evolve only because it was good for the selfish gene (see “tit for tat” games), but also because of sexual selection.
That makes a lot of sense and fits with the research evidence showing that men give more to charity and more in tips when women are around (and explains the phenomenon of virtue-signaling, too.
Short-Term VS Long-Term SMV
Of course, there is overlap between short-term and long-term SVM.
But as we have already mentioned more than once there are also important differences, which also underlines that the two are two different strategies.
See how women rated different traits when considering short-term partners or long-term ones, ranging from −3 (extremely undesirable) to +3 (extremely desirable):
Ambition presents the biggest difference between short-term and long-term, helping explain why an attractive hippie with a guitar can make for a great short term partner, but would rarely be sought after as a long term, “official” mate.
When it comes to physical attractiveness, women look more at male faces than body.
Men tend to look more at bodies than faces -some very classy friends of mine referred to the phenomenon as “banging her night and day with a bag on her face”-.
Sex and sexual “charge” is also not in the table.
But men who are successful at short-term dating tend to have a higher sexual vibe and also to be more comfortable around sex.
The promise is better sex, partially, but also “guilt-free sex”, where she doesn’t have to play the Madonna and hide her true self.
Pick Your Battles: Choosing A Sexual Niche
So many traits… And such a great opportunity!
Especially for men.
It allows for specialization and for choosing along the lines of personal preferences.
Since there are so many traits indeed it’s almost impossible for anyone to score in the top 10% in each one of them.
Sure, the indicators of overall fitness do somewhat correlate to each other, but it would be a mistake to think that they are highly correlated.
Says Geoffrey Miller:
(..) such correlations might be quite modest.
(…) Because each indicator is costly (so it works according to the handicap principle), there are trade-offs between indicators. This allows scope for individuals to differ in their allocation of resources to different indicators
The last part is especially interesting.
That means that each trait may work as an indicator of a specific kind of fitness, somewhat related to overall fitness, but focusing on a specific niche that appeals to a specific subset of potential mates who appreciate that niche the most.
Indeed, continues Miller:
(…) Instead, sexual selection may produce a great diversity of strategies for allocating scarce bodily resources among different indicators.
That means that each man and, to a smaller extent, each woman, can gain by “specializing” in a certain niche.
What’s Your Niche?
So, what’s your niche… ?
It pays off handsomely to think about it and know how to market it best.
- The Evolution of Desire, David Buss, 2016 (4th edition)
- Evolutionary Psychology, David Buss, 2019 (6th edition)
- The Mating Mind, Geoffrey Miller, 2000
- The Origins of Virtue, Matt Ridley, 1996
- The Red Queen, Matt Ridley, 1993
- Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters, Kanazawa, 2008
- Attraction Explained, Viren Swami, 2006
- Various Buss’ researches
- Various surveys and researches
This is an excerpt from “Dating Power Dynamics“