Playing Hard To Get Is For The Birds

Researchers at the University of Bristol have done an exhaustive study of the way birds mate and came to the conclusion that when there were a variety of male birds looking to mate, the females would hold off on mating to apparently determine which male bird was willing to stick around long enough to stick it in*, calculating at a basic level that he'd then stick by her and their offspring. Naturally, this ground-breaking research is completely applicable to human dating, or so they're trying to tell us.

Professor John McNamara, a co-author of the study, had this to say, though he really doesn't appear to be talking about the birds:

"The more coy females are, the more helpful men will be; and the more men around, the more coy women are," he said. "This only works if there is a mixture of helpful and unhelpful men. If men are all the same the less effective this strategy will be. In the real world it seems females use coyness to select men by seeing how the male behaves in the different situations. Eventually she will decide 'I am going to have a child with this male' or 'I am going to reject him and find a better one'. Of course there are men who have mastered the ability of conning women into thinking they are helpful."

Does Professor McNamara sound, you know, just a little bit bitter about women supposedly playing hard to get to snag a husband?

He does allow, though, that this game theory model of mating only works when female animals have their choice of mates, which isn't always the case. But what he doesn't mention is that it also doesn't work when, say, both humans are choosing each other and when — bear with me here I know it sounds crazy — perhaps the woman isn't strictly looking for a genetic donation and co-parenting out of a man. The game theory model works on the basis that the woman (or female bird, technically) is seeking to maximize the potential of finding a co-parent for the offspring she plans to have, and that the man (or, male bird, technically), if he is seeking to maximize anything, is seeking to maximize his potential for getting laid. If you eliminate those motivations, or at least make them less than the sole basis of the interaction, the model falls apart.

So, look, if you're just looking for a man to slot into the husband/father role, go ahead, play hard-to-get and eventually you'll have a sucker on the line and maybe you'll beat the odds of divorce, though I doubt it. I sort of plan on continuing to have honest interactions with men that I like and who might like me, as I'm more motivated to find someone I still like talking to in 40 years than finding someone to fill a socially-assigned role. It's one of the great things about being a human instead of a bird.



*This is a joke. Yes, we know that birds do not breed this way. In fact, they breed exclusively through anal sex.

Psittacines do not have a phallus. They mate by joining their cloacas, with the male ejaculating sperm into the female's cloaca.

That's right, they breed through joining their assholes together. Chew on that the next time you hear someone claim to be a virgin despite having tons of anal.


Women Play Hard To Get To Find Out How Helpful Men Will Be, Scientists Say [Telegraph]

Related: The Male Bird Reproductive System [Winged Wisdom]