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What Men Think About Your Intelligence

January 14, 2013
A reader recently commented on the post Men Don't Care About Your Accomplishments.
I am a highly intelligent woman, though not a genius by any means. However, men my age tell me that intelligence is not a turn-on for them. They say that as long as a woman is "reasonably intelligent" that is what they need... This makes me think that I might be possibly too cerebral to attract men... I laugh but I'm not bubbly and I never dumb myself down for men.
Someone rightly pointed out that part of what put men off was my desire to correct things they said that were inaccurate or participate in verbal sparring (I appreciate a good debate). I've reigned that in with good results but I want a man who actually likes my intelligence.
Is this a matter of men liking different things? Does my intelligence make no difference at all? Or is it a matter of combining my intelligence with enough social leverage to not make it my main feature?
This isn't the first time this question has shown up in the comments of this blog - or in my e-mail. I have also discussed the topic at length with my sisters, their friends, and a couple of the girls I've dated. And judging from their absolute disbelief at what I've told them, there is some news to be shared here...

No woman wants to date a weak man. In fact, a man's attractiveness to women hinges on her perception of his personal strength. A man could manifest his strength in many ways: he could be financially powerful (rich), physically powerful (tall or strong), socially powerful (confident), intellectually powerful (smart or witty), morally powerful (good), politically powerful (highly positioned), etc.; but unless you respect and admire him for his strength, however it is manifested, you will not be attracted to him. Even the best-looking man in the world will be rejected by women once they realize he is weak.

Men know that their role in a relationship is to be the more powerful one, and to use their power to protect and provide for their woman and children. If you subscribe to evolutionary biology's take on history, you will recognize this as a result of the fact that women have long been the physically weaker sex, and traditionally they have needed a male to protect and provide for them and their offspring. But reasons aside, the fact remains that men want to be the stronger mate in relationships. It gives us a feeling of importance to take care of our woman and children - it gives us purpose.

Women also prefer this state of affairs, as is evidenced by the fact that women routinely choose more powerful men as their partners. Women want a man who can hold his own among other men, who is impressive to them, and whom they admire for his strength.

Now, one of the most important signs of a man's power is his intelligence. It is the most pervasive expression of power because it touches every aspect of a man's life and facilitates all other expressions of power. For example, an heir to a large inheritance has financial power, but without the savvy to invest it wisely, that power will be squandered. A man might be physically strong, but unless he knows how to fight technically, he will be beaten soundly by much smaller, weaker opponents (the martial arts demonstrate this). Or a man might have all the social confidence in the world, but unless he is smart and discerning enough to know how and when to wield it, he will alienate those around him.

Intellectual strength is also instrumental in developing other strengths or powers. A man who is smart enough to understand the biological mechanisms behind dieting is going to be a much more effective in his workouts than the stereotypical dumb jock. He will see faster and better results, and will end up being physically stronger (all else being equal). Or a man who is sharp enough to observe and understand social dynamics will eventually gain more leverage over social situations than will a stupid but naturally confident person; his presence will become more commanding. Or again - more simply - smart men are more successful at their jobs and make more money than unintelligent ones.

One of the most common comments on the post Men Don't Care About Your Accomplishments, is the suggestion that men are are "threatened" or "intimidated" by smart, accomplished and intelligent women. When a woman is smarter than a man in a relationship, it isn't necessarily "intimidating" or "threatening," but it does rob him of a large portion of the power he feels that he needs in order to fulfill his role in the relationship - that is, in order to protect and provide for his woman and children. Note that it isn't his absolute power that is important here, but his power relative to hers. He needs to feel both powerful himself and needed by her in the relationship, both needs being intimately linked.

If this doesn't make sense, consider the same point by analogy: a man needs to feel admired and respected in a relationship in the same way that a woman needs to feel adored and desired. A woman's traditional role is to be the mother of the couple's children, and in order to fulfill that role she needs to be beautiful and radiant enough to attract her man - to make him want her sexually. A man who feels powerless in a relationship is like a woman who feels undesired in a relationship.

Alternatively, imagine how it would feel to date a man who was far more physically attractive than you. I don't mean more attractive "for a man;" I mean more attractive absolutely. Imagine he is tall, incredibly handsome, has the perfect physique and dresses impeccably. You, on the other hand, are slightly out of shape, have aged faster, aren't the best looking woman in the world, don't really do the whole "make up thing" well, and can never seem to pull off "stylish." Now imagine walking into a party on this man's arm. Heads turn from every direction as you walk in, but to take in his beauty - not yours. You are barely noticed. This is how a man of inferior intelligence (read: weakness) can feel in the presence of a woman who is much smarter than him. And this probably goes a long way towards illustrating how the feeling isn't "threatening" or "intimidating" so much as demoralizing - which is worse.

All of this is background to making the point that men want to be smarter than their woman, and they want this not because they are proud or misogynist, but in order to feel a sense of purpose. They aren't afraid of or threatened by smarter women, but their woman's intelligence can prevent them from having the advantage of power that makes them feel masculine and garners their woman's admiration.

Most women will admit that they don't actually want to be smarter than their man. While it might initially be an affront to hear that men want to be smarter than the women they date, you actually have the corollary desire. You want to be smart, and you understandably want to be given credit for your intelligence; but you know that intellectual ability plays heavily into a man's strength, and you want your man to be powerful - not only so that he can protect and provide for you, but also because you cannot be attracted to a man you don't admire and respect.

There are two caveats to this generalization:
  1. Men will feel the need to be more intelligent than their woman in proportion to how masculine they are, because this dictates how much need they feel the need to fill a traditionally masculine role in relationships. It is also true that women will feel the need for their man to be more powerful than themselves in proportion to how feminine they are.
  2. As mentioned above, there are different types of power. While intelligence is undeniably important, what ultimately matters is that the man and woman both value the same manifestation(s) of power and that the man has the advantage in that regard - whether or not this includes intelligence specifically. So, for example, maybe he and she both care most about physical power. Even though she is smarter, she will still respect and admire him for his height and physical strength; and he will be proud to fill the role as the one who is physically stronger in the relationship. In most instances, couples will put various levels of value on some combination of the different manifestations of power rather than all of it on one of them. But in the majority of relationships, intellect will play a large role.
One final and important point: intelligence is still undoubtedly a positive trait in women, so long as it does not undermine the man's strength by exceeding his. One of my favorite qualities of my most recent ex-girlfriend was her willingness and ability to talk for hours about our observations, ideas, and experiences related to a vast variety of subjects. She was always curious and often pensive. She was probably the smartest girl I have ever dated, and it might not be a coincidence that she was my most serious girlfriend.

So to conclude: a woman's intelligence is undoubtedly an attractive quality, but it has the negative side-effect of undermining a man's ability to feel powerful, and a woman's ability to admire him. The moral? Seek out men that are smarter than you, or at least, men that you still admire greatly in spite of their lesser intelligence. Keep at an arm's length any man whose overall abilities you start to question. Be cognizant of his feelings of strength in the relationship, always making sure that he feels - or rather, knows - that he is more powerful than you. And finally, smarter-than-average women: rest assured that your intelligence is not a negative in the dating world. While it is true that unintelligent men might be turned off by their own relative inability, your intelligence will be highly valued by the men you find most attractive - that is, the smartest ones.

Related Posts
1. No, Your Intelligence Isn't the Problem
2. Men Care About How You Talk
3. Men Don't Care About Your Accomplishments
4. The Analogy Between Confidence and Beauty

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