Think your wisecracks are slaying ‘em in the seduction stakes? Think again, sister. The bad news is that funny does not equal sexy. At least not for men.
For the upcoming literary salon I am chairing at the Union in Soho, I created a survey to help answer the question I am posing to my panellists on the night: What do women really want in bed?
The responses have been pouring in thick and fast (yes, I meant to do that) and make for fascinating reading.
Did you see what I did there? I just displayed a characteristic that both sexes state they find highly attractive. Or at least they do in dating profiles and in response to surveys like mine.
That is, of course, the infamous GSOH – or Good Sense of Humour – which was among the highest scoring desirable characteristics in my survey.
But it turns out that it’s all a matter of biology and natural selection. Yes, foiled by nature over nurture again.
Men might say they want to laugh along with a woman all the way to the bedroom but what they really mean is that they want the woman to be laughing at them.
No, not at their performance. That kills things stone dead, trust me. At their jokes, of course. Yep, as it also turns out, all those old-fashioned advice manuals were right.
Snigger at his bon mots, chortle at his puns, collapse in fits of giggles at his witticisms and he’s yours. No questions asked.
Even more annoyingly, this is all down to a biological imperative that links a good sense of humour to higher intelligence, a quality women are apparently hard-wired to value as it signals higher earning potential and therefore a greater ability to provide.
The evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller posits the theory that the ability to not only be funny but to appreciate humour has evolved as a result of sexual selection.
Two scientific studies* have shown that women prefer sexual partners who demonstrate a good sense of humour. Men show no such preference.
Worse, another study** reveals that the amount of a woman’s laughter correlated to the amount of her sexual interest in a man and was more predictive of both sexes’ interest in dating one another.
In other words, fall about and he knows you fancy him but don’t expect the same in return.
Now, I find this as hard to swallow as most women will. But biology moves a lot slower than societal evolution so all arguments of women’s equal or greater earning power fail in the face of that ancient and overriding imperative for survival of the species.
And that survival partly hinges on our finding men funny. Simple as that. But remember that humour has to be of the intelligent variety so you might want to give it a miss if he’s more into the slapstick, banana skin stuff.
Your takeaway from this? I’m tempted to simply guffaw at everything and anything a man says and keep him guessing. But he’ll probably just think I’m bowled over by his brilliance and wit.
Then again, is that such a bad thing? After all, it’s not just men who do the seducing. The difference is that women tend to be a little more wily in their ways…
Want to take that survey and see how you score in the seduction stakes? It’s here:
* Bressler, E. R., & Balshine, S. (2004). The influence of humor on desirability. Evolution and Human Behavior, 27, 29 –39.
Lundy, D. E., Tan, J., & Cunningham, M. R. (1998). Heterosexual romantic preferences: The importance of humour and physical attractiveness for different types of relationships. Personal Relationships, 5, 311 – 325.
** Grammer, K., & Eibl-Eibesfeldt, I. (1990). The ritualisation of laughter. In W. Koch (Ed.), Naturalichkeit der Sprache un der Kulture: Acta colloquii (pp. 192 – 214). Bochum7 Brockmeyer