A recent blog post titled “Why girls love the dad bod” seems to have gone viral. The post outlines several reasons for why women are, or should be attracted to the “dad bod,” that make little biological sense – if we are talking about pure, unadulterated attraction. And let’s be honest, aren’t we always talking about that.
Without writing another word I could simply show a few pictures of dad’s that are not representative of the dad bod and you can judge for yourself these are attractive phenotypes.
And I would predict if placed along side pics of guys adorned with dad bod, the fitter men would win out in a selection of mates. See, I wouldn’t actually take much issue with the rationale laid out by Miss Pearson in her article if she had clearly stated what she meant by “attractive.” She is clearly talking about a long-term mate. In evolutionary biology selection of long-term versus short-term mates is well understood. The data convincingly, across species, show that females select to mate with (i.e. deem sexually attractive) those males that phenotypically represent the “best genes”, because it’s those very genes that have allowed such males to outcompete for reproductive access and it’s those genes that will allow her progeny to do the same. It is these males that express phenotypic honest biological signals of “good genes” that typically get chosen for short-term mating; i.e. one night stands, short affairs, etc. This is so well-understood in the scientific community that it is just about taken as pure fact, while the layperson is commonly misled by ideas of so-called monogamous species and articles like the one cited here, the biology just doesn’t support it.
Nature does not reward the lazy. Nature penalizes those that do not strive for optimum. And nowhere is this more evident than in the mating context. The mating game is a harsh place in nature and can result in lifelong virginity and/or death to males that do not put a metabolic, physiological, and behavioral premium on sexually selected traits (known sometimes in social sciences as secondary sexual characteristics). Take for example Chiosagnathus, the Darwin beetle. The male is much larger than the female and carries pincers that span almost the length of his body.
This is clearly a disadvantage for the male. These huge pincers slow the male from escaping predation, but he cares not about predation, it is mating that he cares about, and only mating. The giant pincers of the Darwin beetle are used to wrestle with other male Darwin beetles, the victor of such wrestling matches gets uninterrupted mating access with females. Or, take for example a number of avian (bird) species. Many people hold the false notion that birds are monogamous and nothing could be further from the truth. Agopornis, commonly known as the “love bird” exemplifies this notion. Scientists have DNA paternity tested clutches of love bird eggs and for any given clutch there’s a probability that every egg could be sired by a different male! And, interestingly enough, it’s often the case that NONE of the eggs have been sired by the in-pair copulatory male; i.e. the male that sits on the eggs with her. And this is where I think we get to the differences between preferences for dad bod versus jacked dad. Nowhere in nature is the less optimal rewarded, except under the circumstances of paternal investment. You will never see a female Darwin beetle fly after the loser of a wrestling match. Nor will you see ungulates (hooved mammals) chase after the loser of male-male competition for mating access. You will, on occasion see females spend time with lesser males and even offer sexual access to these males, but this is usually during a non-reproductive part of their estrous cycle.
And if you don’t think this happens in humans you are dead wrong – just go watch an episode of Jerry Springer! Extra-pair paternity (paternity as a result of an affair) is estimated to be between 12 and 34% Yep, you read that correctly: upwards of 1 out of every three children could be sired by a guy who is not the “dad” on record. And the data are fairly unequivocal about the types of guys that do the siring and they don’t have ‘dad bods’, rather they express optimal levels of masculinity (muscularity, low body fat, physical prowess, strength, etc). In fact, women report having affairs with guys that are more fit than their in-pair romantic partner. Additionally, there is good data showing that women selectively choose to engage with these men around the time of highest fertility risk (ovulation). These two types of guys have sometimes been referred to as “dads” versus “cads.”
MY THOUGHTS ON DAD BOD “BENEFITS”
In her article, Miss Pearson outlines a series of characteristic that are in line with evolutionary psychologists notion of a “dad” (relative to a “cad”). I will try to translate this as briefly as possible:
She notes “It (dad bod) doesn’t intimidate us.” Of course not, guys who carry excess adipose tissue around the midsection and do not have a relative muscular stature also tend to have less of the androgen testosterone. Midline adipose tissue is an honest biological marker of that and testosterone levels are associated with male-male competitive violence and aggression toward offspring in the animal kingdom.
“We like to be the pretty one.” This statement alone undermines her entire argument by admitting that guys who are fit are attractive, sexually. And when it comes to human mating relative mate value is both a physical and psychological state, so it’s likely that if you prefer being the pretty one it’s based on insecurities about your own self-image. Better get that shit resolved because even dad bod guys will find that unattractive!
“Better cuddling.” So much truth, because fit guys are out fucking other girls or competing with other men. Who has time for cuddling when you look like a Spartan?
“Good eats.” Misery loves company and by the way most hard charging Power Athletes eat more calories than overweight men. It’s the training program that allows them to differentially convert food energy into muscle instead of store it as fat (insulin insensitivity and “science” like that).
“You know what you’re getting.” This just makes me sad. I will simply refer you to the images of dads posted here to ensure that women know settling is not something that has to be undertaken.
My last point about this: given the current state of health, wellness and fitness (or lack there of, remember we are in an obesity epidemic which predicts that the current generation of young people will be the first ever to not outlive their parents) do we really want to give people an excuse to be out of shape and strive for mediocrity? If for no other reason, children model the behaviors of their parents and simply signing your kid up for weekend sports isn’t the answer. If your kid doesn’t see you being active what message do you think they will take from that? And is that the message you want to give your kids/the future generation? To do what I say, not as I do. That it’s acceptable to be relatively unfit, we have pills for that? Not this dad. Not ever.
And if you think I’m wrong, then SHOW ME THE DATA.
The Author, Prof. Steven Platek, is a (single) dad of two, grandfather to three, boasts a 650 pound deadlift, 440+ squat, and has 8-10% body fat. He has also published over 60 peer-reviewed articles and is Vice President of the Applied Evolutionary Psychology Society.
Steve (a.k.a. Prof. Booty) Platek
Steve is a Professor of evolutionary neuroscience, Power Athlete follower since 2011. He co-owns CrossFit Gwinnett in Buford, GA, where he hosts the CrossFIt Football seminar, and he is also a Co-host of Power Athlete Radio Podcast. He's edited three academic volumes and published over 50 peer-reviewed papers on the topic of attractiveness and evolutionary psychology. He is currently acting President of the Applied Evolutionary Psychology Society, an international society for advancing the topic of applied evolutionary science in medicine, psychology, and health and fitness. He founded the academic journal 'Frontiers in Evolutionary Neuroscience'. He played competitive ice hockey growing up and has been a CrossFit coach since 2008.
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