back to article Market rationalist pigs get the best choice of totty

One of the joys of The Guardian, or at least what I find to be one of the joys of the paper, is the clearly, obviously, bonkers insane stuff that sometimes manages to get in between those sheets of newsprint. You can be reading along and thinking, yes, OK, this might turn into something interesting, and then you're faced with …


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  1. John G Imrie

    Playing the market.

    25 odd years ago when I was a hip young thing. One of our local clubs was nicknamed the Meat Market, for the simple reason, if you couldn't pull there you couldn't pull anywhere.

    Markets for sex are older then journalism, that's why the sex trade is the oldest in the world.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Meat Market

      "if you couldn't pull there you couldn't pull anywhere". ...... God! I hate that phrase!! It haunted me throughout the 90's. I frequented meat markets (nightclubs) all over the world and it's true I couldn't pull anywhere!

      Internet dating however is a godsend. I have pulled loads of time on there and the process of meeting, just seems so much more civilised.

      There are loads of gorgeous girls with great careers on Match. The trouble is, they are always on there i.e. the same beautiful faces, constantly on for 12 months+. Once you know the market and can filter out the exacting time wasters. You can find great partners. The Internet may yet save my genes.

      1. Mark 65

        Modern equivalent

        More up to date is the "parachute club", because everyone gets a jump. Sounds more like an old Etonian institution too.

        Get a call from your mother asking if you'll be over for Sunday dinner - "Doubt it mum. I'm going out to the parachute club tonight and I'll be having a late one". Almost sounds respectable. Just hope they don't ask to come along.

      2. Mike Flugennock

        Internet dating a godsend?

        "Internet dating however is a godsend. I have pulled loads of time on there and the process of meeting, just seems so much more civilised..."

        ...yeah, except for the ten year-old photos, photos not of the woman placing the ad, women lying in their profiles, fake profiles, and all that spam, spam, spam, spam, lovely spam, wonderful spam.

  2. Graysonn

    rationality isn't everything

    I think what he's getting at is that rationality isn't romantic. And if you're 100% rational then you'll value your prospective partner in purely empirical terms.

    1. Captain Thyratron

      I think what he's getting at is that he's a twit.

      Empirical terms? So, like, whether they annoy you and whether they have any characteristics that strike you as positive? Sure, a lot of that is subjective, but it all depends on things you have to go and find out about, which is the very definition of the empirical. You can't just divine them out of thin air. If rationality isn't everything, do you purport to suggest that being irrational fills the gap usefully? Really, man, which is better at making good decisions, your brain or your pecker?

      There's never really a good time to stop tempering your decisions with sense, especially when you're in a situation in which emotions are famously good at convincing you to do something stupid. There's empirical information and there are our imaginations. That's it. There's no other way for stuff to enter your mind. If you are not deciding based on empirical information, then you are deciding based on hormones and happy phantasms of your own invention which may or may not be in agreement with reality.

  3. Jim 59


    Great article. Online dating is weird though. There are usually many many more men in the database than women, perhaps by 10 to 1. The model therefore does not function in anything like the way that the operators say it does.

    Also, everyone in ODL is preoccupied by interests as a matching property. In the face-to-face world, interests are irrelevant, within reason, and it is largely down to background and personal chemistry.

  4. Thomas 4


    "Online dating - marketisation, if you will - expands the number of people you might be able to have sex with. This is a bad thing?"

    Yes, as it may result in another generation of Guardian columnists.

  5. Zog The Undeniable
    Paris Hilton

    We're all shallower than you might think

    Does anyone remember the experiment where bride and groom photos from 10 different weddings were cut down the middle? The brides were given to a panel of men to rank in order of attractiveness, and the grooms were given to a panel of women. When the ranked photos were put alongside each other, guess what? The couples all matched up. Basically, unless you have Mick Hucknall's money, it comes down to looks.

    1. Martin Budden Bronze badge


      A very interesting experiment, which doesn't show that it *all* comes down to looks: it merely shows that comparable attractiveness is on the list of requirements. Other items on the list might include such things as compatible personalities, compatible sense of humour, compatible political attitudes, etc.

  6. Graham Bartlett

    @Jim 59

    Not unsurprising. It's well-documented that women gravitate towards the alpha males who typically aren't that choosey, so if you're a woman on the pull and you're still breathing, you're basically guaranteed. But if you're a bloke on the pull, you don't look like a Hollywood model and you're not loaded, prepare for a lot of unsuccessful evenings.

    1. Cowardly Animosity


      Aww don't worry, some of us marry junior programmers!

  7. jake Silver badge

    Nowt daft as folks ...

    Head out to the ubiquitous Starbucks (or other almost-but-not-quite-coffee retailer [bookstore, Whole Foods, whathaveyou]). Eyeball the singles therein.

    Most are flashing their hardware to be seen with o't'day ... and completely ignoring their peers, obviously MOTAS looking for a date.

    It'd be funny, if it weren't so sad.

    1. AdamWill


      ...they aren't single, or if they are, aren't looking for anyone to date?

      not EVERYTHING is a meat market, you know.

      1. Mike Flugennock

        re: maybe...

        "...they aren't single, or if they are, aren't looking for anyone to date?

        not EVERYTHING is a meat market, you know."

        True dat... but I have heard that the supermarket is allegedly one of the best places to cruise for chicks. At least it's supposed to be in the States; I don't know about Britain.

  8. jpc60

    Assumptions from systems theory

    The point made in the original column is that our selection of partners, on a case-by-case basis, in large part boils down to emotional connection (which while associated with genetic predisposition, is in large part environmental, and also unconscious and irrational). Surely most people fall in love not for the extrinsic benefits their partner can offer, but for a way they feel. The columnist takes issue with attempting to match people up based on comparison of data sets, and evaluating potential partners based on these extrinsic elements. I'd tend to agree - but then there are photographs to help establish potential for physical attraction, and what the hell is the point of online dating if not to result in real life dates in which emotional connection can be established?

    Your assumption is that the way in which humans select partners is the same as the rational systems we have devised to explain statistical patterns in human behaviour. On a massive scale, these sorts of rational considerations probably account for a lot, but not on an individual basis. Our genes don't speak to us directly, nor are we predestined agents acting on their behalf. We often pick the wrong partners (on genetic criteria), or stay with partners who are damaging to us. Why? Irrational emotions. Which are far more significant to, and probably the defining force behind, the phenomenology of human relationships.

  9. oopsie


    While i can see that initial attraction might be less explainable by the systems theory, i'd have thought that for things to last you need some common ground etc? While dating sites may take this as their initial criteria rather than a prolonging factor i'd be surprised if that didn't at least increase the likelihood of dates resulting in relationships that last a while, even if it doesn't increase the initial success rate.

    Plus, don't some sites go beyond interests - i think OkCupid's model is reasonably good, in that it's fairly unlikely to pair you with someone you'll have blazing rows with?

  10. stu@moo

    Ooops! :-/

    "... than the having to take whichever of your sisters' friends no one else wanted."

    Is there a Mrs Worstall? I hope that doesn't get misconstrued...

  11. The elephant in the room

    "females are more likely to have children than men..."

    "...unless you're an alpha male"

    1. YARR

      re. "females are more likely to have children than men...

      This would be more accurately stated as: there is a wider distribution in the number of children fathered by men than there is in the number of children given birth to by women (obviously the mean average is the same).

      i.e. Fit women wont necessarily have many more children than ugly women.

      Low status men are out of luck but alpha males will father more children, some of them probably illegitimately.

      I think there's also more homosexuality (ignoring bisexuality) among men than women which also contributes to this trend.

      1. henchan

        achievement variance

        I recently saw a supporting stat given at an old TED lecture.

        Of all women ever alive, 80% have descendants now alive. The figure for men is just 40%. Presumably, in each case, of those who reached sexual maturity.

        The lecturer's argument followed that this single difference explains why there is both greater excellence and greater abject failure amongst men (who need to stand out to stand a chance) than amongst women (who are pretty much on a sure thing). And this variance difference is the case in every endeavour. Averaged over the entire population though both sexes tend to rate about the same achievement levels.

  12. breakfast

    We see through the filter of our ideas

    I don't think most people inclined to the left of Mussolini/Mr Worstall actually do dislike the notion of markets. We just tend to think that they are not the only model that fits every single element of life and that even in some cases where the idea of a market can be jammed in as a model in some circumstances doesn't mean it is the only model that fits and certainly doesn't imply it is the best one.

    We all see things in terms of our own reference points and understanding. When all you have is free-market theory then every problem looks like it can be solved by free markets. Like most ideas that we commit ourselves strongly to there is probably more religion than rationality to that.

    Now Paris, there is a lady who understands how love and markets intersect...

  13. jm83


    "Julie Bindel's assertion that foreign women working in London brothels was evidence of sex slavery" - I dont know the content of the original article, but given that prostitution in itself is illegal, by definition all prostitutes employers (pimps if you like) are therefore also illegal, this means the pro's have no employment rights and are more vulnerable to being taken advantage of (if you'll excuse the pun)

    "Jeremy Leggett has told us that solar cells will be price-comparable with coal-fired 'leccy in a couple of years thus we must throw lots of subsidy cash at solar right now: wouldn't it be better to wait until they actually are price-comparable, and then install them?" - Presumably the point here is that the photovoltaic industry needs customers and investment to become cost-effective... that isnt going to be acheived by everyone sitting on their hands. (the fact that solar in the UK is a bit silly is by the by)

  14. Johnny Canuck

    This is not a title

    Forget online dating - start checking census data. As a young man in my 20's I lived in a small town (pop 14000) that had a male/female ratio of 40/60. Due to economic factors a large percentage of young men had left to find work elsewhere and the available local jobs where such that most females didn't find them objectionable. Result - men gone, women stayed. Luckily I had found employment as a forklift operator at a local factory.

    1. Zog The Undeniable

      Let me guess...

      and you were fighting them off with a poo-encrusted stick.

      1. chr0m4t1c

        Old adage

        In the land of the jobless, the one-shift man is king.

        Or something like that.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Double standards

    "Look, I know that an awful lot of people over on the left side of the aisle don't like markets very much."

    Yes, except if it's a farmer's market selling overpriced vegetables with bugs in: lefties seem to love those markets, despite the fact that the sellers are out to make as much profit as they can (i.e. exactly like the captialist markets the lefties despise).

  16. Suboptimal Planet


    "So almost all humans have had to satisfact: get what's good enough rather than pursue perfection "

    I thought the term was 'satisfice'.

  17. Nick Pettefar


    On-line dating is great when you dislike smoky pubs and bars and want to meet someone who also dislikes them. Our first date was for a picnic in the English Gardens.

    We've been together 11 years now!

    Agreed that it's a market. The trouble with OLD is that you usually go in with so many ideals and yet what you really want is something that is probably impossible to measure. Yes, I'd like (probably) a female. Yes, alive, yes someone to love, yes someone who wants to shag me. Yes, someone who I won't feel ashamed to be with and vice versa and yes, someone I won't grow tired of and of course vice versa. I think that's about it. How often do you get to tick those boxes in the application form? Red hair, likes dogs, catholic, weight, politics, height, blah blah. You will go on dates with the person who matches your ideals and may never find that special person because you've ruled them out through choice. Also I've never seen the Good at BJs box - surely that's very important?

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