Tyler Cowen in his book Discover Your Inner Economist attributes to Bryan Caplan the following about their colleague in the world’s grooviest economics department Robin Hanson:

“When the typical economist tells me about his latest research, my standard reaction is ‘Eh, maybe.’ Then I forget about it. When Robin Hanson tell me about his latest research, my standard reaction is ‘No way! Impossible!’ Then I think about it for years.”

Exactly right. For my money, Robin has more provocative ideas per day than most people will have in their whole lives.

And he’s done it again, this time in a way I hope will be of interest to readers of this blog, in a pair of posts over at Overcoming Bias. One is titled “40% of US Moms Unwed” followed by “Who Cares About Unsexy Men?” (Answer: Robin Hanson does. And no, dear reader, it is not because Robin is himself an unsexy man. He once had a commenter ask “Can I mate with you now?” Robin cares because he’s good guy.)

The conjecture Robin is advancing in these two posts might be summarized as follows: societies which have monogamous marriage as a strong institution are good for men who are unsexy, that is to say, unattractive, unartistic, unathletic, low in wealth or social status, and so forth. The reason is that even an unsexy man can offer something to a woman: commitment and support, both to her and to any children they might have. Since men and women exist in roughly equal numbers, they can pair off and even unsexy men can have a reasonable chance of marrying. (For a similar argument, see Robert Wright’s The Moral Animal.) But if women prefer to rear children alone, then we might tip into a different equilibrium. If women are no longer interested in what unsexy men have to offer, we end up with a fierce competition among men for sexual access to women, and a lot inequality among men. Sexy men will end up effectively polygynous, while unsexy men will be cast into the outer darkness of celibate despair.

It is a bleak projection and one that Robin himself doesn’t like. I suggest interested readers look at the underlying posts. What struck me most was the great outpouring of comments generated, two of which I reproduce here.

Some suggested that a turn to porn is the way to go; of these, one of the more interesting is the one here:

I’m so darn nurturing, but not sexy, so what I do is go over to my sister’s house and play with her little babies until I am all out of love, then I go home and watch amazing porn in peace and quiet. It’s a good life, I hope all the unsexy men adapt as well.

We at ErosBlog should be honored to provide a public service.

But perhaps best of all was the very first comment on “Unsexy Men”, in which the commenter came up with a one-word answer to the problems of unsexy men:


Yes, I guess I now see a point of contact between the two blogs…