Today's Tidbit: Why the World Is Full of Dirty Old Men

Why the World Is Full of Dirty Old Men

In yesterday's tidbit, we learned that across the planet women seek material wealth in their mates. This stems from our hunter-gather past in which females depended on male hunters to provide them and their children the meat necessary to support their large brains.

Women become fertile as teenagers, but men peak in hunting ability in their early thirties. So one would expect women to seek older men as mates. And sure enough David Buss and others found that "in all thirty-seven cultures included in an international study on mate selection, women preferred older men."

What about men? What do they seek in a mate?


If a man's going to commit to a partner, then he's going to want one that can produce lots of children. The expected number of children a female will bear peaks around sweet sixteen. And sure enough Buss found that "in every one of the thirty-seven societies examined ..., men preferred younger wives."

Not only that, but the older a man is the larger the age difference he finds most attractive. All of which explains, why husbands tend to be older than their wives, and why the world is full of so many dirty old men.


  • "Evolutionary psychology: the new science of the mind", 2012 book by David M. Buss, pages 115-46
  • "International Preferences in Selecting Mates: A Study of 37 Cultures", 1990 paper by Buss, D. M. et al. in Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology
  • "Birth Order, Age, and Hunting Success in the Canadian Arctic", 2009 paper by Peter Collings in Human Nature
  • "How long does it take to become a proficient hunter? Implications for the evolution of extended development and long life span", 2006 paper by Gurven, Michael and Kaplan, Hillard and Gutierrez, Maguin, in Journal of Human Evolution

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1 Comment

Why don't studies like this ever consider the options of the trophy wife? Every older man is not looking for more kids, they are looking for a young wife for more recreational reasons. It's not a nice reason but we know it's a real occurrence and should be considered in a study.

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