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Uncut GemsCourtesy of Netflix

Why are straight men always punching? An investigation

TLDR; women are amazing

Straight men are so… interesting. While they’re not a homogenous mass – the Lynch-loving, Kerouac-reading softboi is worlds apart from the protein-quaffing gym bro – there are some quirks that seem to apply to hetero guys across the board. For example, it’s a fact that they all twitch in their sleep, watch YouTube videos on the toilet, and enjoy throwing rocks into large bodies of water. And when it comes to relationships, more often than not, they’re punching above their weight.

There’s ample evidence for this. Take the enduringly popular TikTok trend where women compare their “hot friends” to “the boys that broke their hearts”, jarringly juxtaposing photos of gorgeous girls against men who look like they use 3-in-1 shower gel. Or who could forget how last summer, Love Island viewers collectively yelled at their television screens in desperation every evening as Liberty Poole (literal angel) went unappreciated in her relationship with Jake Cornish (boring, annoying accent). It’s not a new phenomenon either: Marilyn Monroe is arguably one of the most beautiful women of all time while her lover, Arthur Miller, looked like just some guy.

It’s also a trend Molly*, 28, has noticed in her own life. “Some of my friends’ boyfriends are punching. There have been a few times when I’ve met a friend’s boyfriend for the first time and come away thinking ’what does she see in him?’,” she says. “And I think that some of my friends are less happy in their relationships than their partners are. They don’t bitch or moan or complain or anything, but just mention small things which suggest they’re perpetually annoyed at their partner.”

But why is this such a common experience for women who date men? Dr Alex Jones, an expert in the psychology of attractiveness, explains that women are also less inclined to care about their partner’s looks. “One reason psychologists think this happens is due to differences in the costs of reproduction. Men pay a low cost for reproduction – they just have to have sex, basically – but for women it is much higher, as pregnancy and childbirth is costly and can be life-threatening under some circumstances,” he explains.

“Men focus so much on looks because there is some evidence that looks can signal fertility and youth, so women with those traits are more likely to become pregnant,” he continues. “But for women, it’s a much more complex story. Women tend to look for signs of commitment and resources in a mate, who is willing to invest in them and offset the high costs of pregnancy and child-rearing. As such, they don’t focus as much on appearance as men.”

Molly agrees, adding that singledom for women is different to singledom for men. “I’m not saying that all women ‘settle’, but I also think there’s also more pressure for women to be in a relationship,” she says. “It ties into that way of thinking: like, ‘oh, you must be beautiful, because you’re in a relationship with someone who loves you.’ I think that means women are potentially more likely to compromise than men are.” Confidence plays an important part too: a study done at Cornell University found that men are more likely to overestimate their abilities and performance, while women underestimate both. With this in mind, it’s perhaps unsurprising that many amazing women think they’re undeserving of an equally amazing man.

“I think some of my friends would be happier single, or with someone who’s more on their wavelength,” Molly continues. “But it’s harder for women to be single than men because society judges single women more than it judges single men – in fact, I don’t think it judges single men at all. I think for a lot of my friends, the prospect of being single is scarier than the prospect of being with someone they’re not 100 per cent happy with.”

Rising female achievement has also created an imbalance in the dating pool. Writing for Quilette, data scientist Vincent Harinam explains that “an increasing cohort of successful women are chasing a shrinking number of high-value, commitment-averse men.” Research backs this up: one study which sought to quantify the prospects of success on Tinder concluded that the bottom 80 per cent of men are essentially competing for the bottom 22 per cent of women, while the top 78 per cent of women are competing for the top 20 per cent of men. Essentially, the demand for successful, attractive men is far outstripping supply.

“An increasing cohort of successful women are chasing a shrinking number of high-value, commitment-averse men” – Vincent Harinam

This chimes with Molly’s own personal experience in her last relationship. “It was definitely not a looks thing,” she tells me. She explains that during their relationship, Molly and her partner were both working jobs that they didn’t enjoy – but while Molly took steps to address this, her partner seemed more resigned. “He had an idea about what he wanted to do, but he wasn’t really putting anything in place to make that happen. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with not being productive, but we live in a society that really values productivity and I think that way of thinking seeped into my subconscious.”

“It was just really frustrating because I knew he had a lot of talent and he was really clever,” she continues. “I’m definitely not proud of this feeling, but I felt really impatient with him.”

This isn’t to say that all guys are gross, lazy, evil little trolls (although some of them definitely are, sorry) and that all women are angels, but rather that relationships don’t exist in utopic vacuums and societal imbalances caused by the patriarchy or capitalism usually lead to similar imbalances within relationships. With this in mind, it can feel tempting to surrender to heteropessimism, buy a few Florence Given prints, and delete all your dating apps, but the fact remains that many women do immutably fancy men and it’s fruitless to simply will straights out of existence.

We’d be far better off considering how we can make heterosexuality more appealing. As writer Asa Seresin put it in her viral On Heteropessimism essay, “to be permanently, preemptively disappointed in heterosexuality is to refuse the possibility of changing straight culture for the better.” It may be impossible to wholly disentangle a relationship from the societal context it exists within, but it’s certainly achievable to carve out a joyful partnership with someone with your own set of standards and expectations. ‘Hetereosexuality is a prison’, some say, referring to the supposed unfairness of being born as a woman ‘doomed’ to be attracted to men. But there’s no reason why heterosexuality has to be a prison. It can be fashioned into a home.

*Name has been changed