Hypergamist illustration

Hypergamy: Gold Digging or Good Old-Fashioned Dating

It’s basically the plot of Bridgerton, but is this age-old dating technique gold-digging or just nature?

Sperm is cheap; eggs are expensive. 

It’s a controversial statement, but given some exploration, it explains much of the social stigma underpinning our sexually motivated societal gender differences. 

Throughout human history and to this day, women tend to have a cross-cultural proclivity towards dating across or up the socioeconomic hierarchy. By contrast, men are usually happy to date down in social status and more likely to prioritize traits like youth and beauty. 

This, alongside the globalization and digitalization of the modern world, makes it increasingly difficult for the average Joe to get a date. 

To oppose Kanye’s iconic rap, the phenomenon isn’t as stereotypically ideological as you might first be inclined to believe; instinctual and physiological factors are at play. 

The origins of hypergamy…

It’s certainly nothing new…

Watch any period drama, and you’re sure to see hypergamy in action, with women seeking financial security and social status by “marrying up”.

But why?

Given the opportunity and volition, men could, in theory, go around spunking in as many women as they were so inclined (physical limitations aside). Shit gets real with women, however, who face different circumstances regarding the beast with two backs.

The possibility of pregnancy (despite modern birth control methods) renders a pregnant mother vulnerable, requiring nine months of sacrificial gestation, alongside the now largely less fatal but still very real risk of death and health complications.  Aiming to marry men who could, in theory, take care of them is a very real concern for women worldwide and a driver of female hypergamy. 

There is a heightened social stigma about female promiscuity and the increased risk of women getting an STI compared to men (think surface area).

Combining all that with the still very real gender wage gap increases the likelihood that men will out earn women, dating to seek financial security is still a reality for women alongside the riskier nature of heterosexual dating. 

Is hypergamy healthy?

So, is it okay for women to date up the status and economic ladder? 

Physical anatomical constraints suggest an element of validity to that oh-so-contentious question. And that has psychological repercussions whether we like it or not, manifestly in the hypergamous dating scene, which has left the female of the species the necessity of being picky. 

Couple dating by the sea

Plus, it’s all exasperated gloriously by the rise of social media and the global digitalization of, well, everything, but namely dating apps and instant messaging facilities, which means any female can open Instagram to a tirade of DM slides and unsolicited dick pics alike.

Rachel Sommer, Ph.D., a clinical sexologist provides her sexpert opinion: “Also referred to as dating up, hypergamy is the act of someone, particularly a woman, preferring to date or marry someone of a higher social status or sexual capital,” she explains.

“Surprisingly, the phenomenon is healthy and unhealthy, depending on who you ask. While it leaves men inherently needing to be better to get their preferred choice in the dating pool, it also gives them power. For this reason, men are always trying to be better, fully realizing hypergamy and how making more places them higher up the pecking order. And as you’d expect, being scarce comes with power, especially in the dating pool.”

“Being scarce comes with power, especially in the dating pool”

The digitization of the dating world

Dr Raffaello Antonino, a counseling psychologist with over a decade of experience, delves deeper into the inextricably linked effect of digitalization: 

“In my many years of counseling, I’ve worked with a myriad of individuals dealing with relationship struggles, and the digital revolution in dating has brought hypergamy to the forefront of many discussions,” he begins.

Couple holding hands on a date

“To paint a clear picture, imagine hypergamy as a sophisticated dance where the dancers constantly seek partners who can help them elevate their status. While some dancers are content with one partner, others wish to switch it up, aiming for a new partner every time the music changes. With digitalization, it’s as if we’ve opened up a grand ballroom where hundreds of dancers can join in, significantly increasing the partner options, creating confusion, cognitive dissonance, greater competition, and ultimately more loneliness,” says the good doctor.

“Imagine hypergamy as a sophisticated dance where the dancers constantly seek partners who can help them elevate their status.”

“As a psychologist, I’ve seen that dating apps can sometimes amplify the noise of casual relationships. However, it’s crucial to understand that these apps are as diverse as the people on them. Some encourage deep connections, while others cater to the casual ‘dancers’. 

Choose the right dance floor that suits your style.”

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