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Health & Sex

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Men Want Subordinate Women

Perceived Dominance Matters to Men in Relationships, Say Researchers
WebMD Health News

Dec. 15, 2004 -- Men prefer subordinate women for relationships, suggests new research in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior.

The study was conducted by a woman and a man: Stephanie Brown of the University of Michigan and Brian Lewis of the University of California, Los Angeles.

Brown and Lewis studied more than 300 college students, 120 of whom were men. The researchers wanted to see if dominance affected opinions about potential partners.

Dominance had nothing to do with personality. Instead, it focused on rank, power, and status.

Participants were asked to imagine themselves in a workplace setting. They read a description of "Johns" or "Jennifers," who were described either as their assistant, peer, or supervisor. They also saw pictures of the Johns and Jennifers. Photos showed people of similar age and attractiveness.

Next, participants rated how interested they were in spending time outside the office with each fictional colleague. They ranked the Johns' and Jennifers' appeal as an exercise buddy with no romantic strings attached, a one-night stand, a date, and a marriage partner.

When it came to the romantic or sexual options, participants only reviewed imaginary partners of the opposite sex. They were also told that company rules didn't restrict dating or relationships among employees.

Men preferred the women who were described as their assistants. That was especially true for long-term relationships with higher stakes, such as marriage or dating, compared to a one-time fling or a fitness partner.

Women weren't concerned about dominance.

The findings didn't surprise Brown and Lewis. They predicted that "males would be more attracted to a [woman] if she were described as his assistant than if she were described as his coworker or supervisor."

Evolution, not Cupid, might be responsible. Males might reduce paternity questions by partnering with subordinate females, the researchers suggest.

That's theoretical. Participants weren't asked about having babies with John or Jennifer, or which type of partner was more likely to be faithful.

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