Judging quality by price – of wine and men…

A woman choosing a man is much like me choosing a bottle of wine. While I appreciate good wine, I cannot judge a bottle’s quality from the label. At a loss for any substantial criterion by which to evaluate the many bottles on the shelves, I take one that looks appealing – despite the fact that the look of the bottle is ultimately inessential to me.

The most important thing I need to know is the price of the bottle. If I look at the price tag and it says $4.99, I am going to put the bottle back on the shelf right away. It could be a great wine. Strictly speaking, I don’t know otherwise. But given market dynamics, the low price is evidence against high quality. So it is in fact rational to put the bottle back on the shelf. Likewise, if the price tag says $49, I will usually also put the bottle back. I am primarily looking for a bottle within a particular price range.

A woman choosing a man (for sex or more) is in a similar situation. She appreciates a good man and can tell the difference once she knows him. But she cannot discern the qualities she is looking for at first sight. She may initially judge by looks, but this is mainly because looks are the only obvious feature. Ultimately looks are not essential.

The most important thing she needs to know is the “price” of the man: his status. The main immediate indicators of a man’s price tag are in his body language. One important element of this is the posture of chest and head. The degree to which his back is upright, chest pushed out, and chin pointing slightly down – as though an invisible string were pulling him up by the neck – provides an analog signal of the social importance that a man claims for himself. Chin up and looking at someone “down your nose” is merely an aggressive gesture. Chest out, chin down, by contrast, is looking at the scene “down your chest”. This stakes a claim to status.

Whether we understand this rationally or not, we all understand it intuitively. This is the reason why it is difficult for a low-status player (Keith Johnstone, 1979) to take on high-status postures in public. It feels wrong, it feels arrogant. A low-status player senses that he is not supposed to claim so much status. He will vaguely fear retaliation. The fear is not unfounded: claiming high status even implicitly through body language can prompt explicit aggressive responses from women as well as from men. This makes the status signal reliable as a source of information: only those who can defend their claim can maintain it. Claiming high status by posture and other body language cues turns women’s heads in a way that looks alone never do.

Women are sexually interested in men whom they perceive to be of higher status than themselves. This is a remarkable fact about female sexuality which is not widely accepted in mainstream culture, although it is too much in evidence to be denied entirely. In movies and advertisements, for example, women are typically portrayed as having more masculine sexual preferences: for good looks. Their sexual advances toward men of higher status are typically portrayed as a conscious scheme for some benefit (e.g. a promotion) rather than as genuine sexual interest. It appears that it is easier for our culture to accept that a woman would have sex without enjoying it so as to manipulate a powerful man to her advantage (whoring as a liberated woman’s conscious choice for her own benefit) than that she is sexually attracted to his power (whoring as an inherent feature of female sexuality). Political correctness demands that any powerful and attractive male character also be good looking, so as not to threaten the view of female sexuality as physically based, just like male sexuality.

So what is the price that sells the goods? How far should he push his chest out and chin down? I will buy the bottle that is neither too cheap nor too expensive. And a woman will choose the man that she feels to have somewhat higher status than herself. A desirable man is glamorous for his higher status. But it has been argued that perfection or excessive status is less glamorous for being completely out of reach. It is the one a league above yet within reach that most stokes her desire.

This is why seduction critically requires a correct assessment of her perception of her social value relative to yours. A less attractive woman will respond to compliments and self-deprecation. The hottest girl at a party may need to be swiftly pushed off her pedestal with a playful neg so she doesn’t look down on you. Similarly, if you already have exceedingly high status in a social environment, then you may need to lower the price a little so as not to scare her away. And if you have lower status in the present scene, you need to choose a hefty (yet defensible!) price and exhibit a tag that she can’t overlook.

It is important to note  that “having low status” here is not a statement about you or your place in the world. It is merely a statement about her perception of you in the social scene, in which she has observed you.


Keith Johnstone (1979). Impro – Improvisation and the theatre. Routledge, New York.


4 Responses to “Judging quality by price – of wine and men…”

  1. 11minutes Says:

    This is so true, but also very hard to calibrate for anyone who used to be in the lower tiers of social status.

    A high status player knows that he doesn’t need to avoid signs of weakness. The saying “There are no frigid women, just clumsy men” does not count for the man who nonchalantly laughs it off.

    It is easy to overdo the high status manners (= unattainable), and leave a girl feeling insecure.

    It is just like with girls who used to be fat. Since it takes some time (and feedback through social interactions) to determine the new market rank in the mating arena, there is a period where the person still feels unattractive while flawless-seeming on the outside. And while these girls look in awe (or disbelief) when being told that they are sexy, so do the ex-beta guys when something goes wrong and the girl loudly exhales, sighing “Thank God, you’re not just perfect!”

  2. Ovid Says:

    But can’t it be said that looks,at least to some degree,are a status marker in their own right?

  3. stagetwo Says:

    11minutes, i like the comparison between ex-beta males and former fatties. mutual value calibration is difficult enough when there’s one unknown: the other person’s value. with two unknowns, our estimate of the perceived value differential may be so far off that we can’t predict the dynamics at all anymore.

    ovid, good point. to the extent that the social environment values looks, looks will translate into status, and via status into desirability.

    and then also: when girls get excited about a cute guy, they are not lying. they really think he is cute and it is a plus. but they are also projecting lots of other qualities onto him. and when he opens his mouth and is merely sweet, then all the magic of his cuteness is gone in an instant.

    i think there is also a special class of slut: the sexual trophy collector. they go by all sorts of criteria and some of them by looks. however, this doesn’t mean that looks are at the core of what turns women on.

    another factor independent of both looks and status is dominance, of course. an ugly, low status man can be very sexy if his demeanor promises that he will dominate her during sex.

  4. What exactly is the 'friend zone'? - Relationships -Dating, marriage, boyfriends, girlfriends, men, women, friends, attraction ... - Page 9 - City-Data Forum Says:

    […] Originally Posted by Neemy So you're comparing something that is supposedly biologically programmed into our systems to something that is determined by societal and political issues, now? How does that make sense? Unless your point is that society is programming women to feel that way, I really don't know how you're making your analogies, here. And if that is the point, I stand by my earlier post. Whatever experience you have with women has no bearing on how I live my life. And why can't I do that? Banks line up to throw money at people who have tons of it; they rarely give it to those who have very little of it. Likewise, women line up to boff guys who already have tons of chicks. The analgogy is a proper one. It's important to understand why this is the case. For men, looks is the essential prerequisite for attraction. Whether a woman is attractive to us or not can be determined in 1.2 seconds. Unless a woman can make herself more beautiful (which is close to impossible), men won't be attracted to her. For women, the essential qualities sought are not as evident as they are for men. So women, unconsciously, refer to the judgment of other women to determine whether a man has these qualities. This is why a man can move out of the friend zone. If the beta male friend, who once was wrapped around the little finger of his admirer, suddenly demonstrates a fierce independence and a penchant for seducing hot chicks, he WILL become attractive to his admirer. This blogger explains this phenomenon better than I ever could. Judging quality by price […]

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