Part 1 of this article, entitled “Nineties women are cosmopolitan, eighties women have mellowed with age, and we all love Beckham”, can be found here.
Question 6: Which of the following statements apply to you now?
These statements asked women whether they liked men of the same, or different, nationality or ethnicity; whether religious and political factors were important to them when choosing a partner; whether or not they liked conventional men; whether or not they would like to fulfil a traditional woman’s role in the home; and whether or not they value their independence.
41.2% consider religious and political views when choosing a partner. This is higher than I expected, as I met most of the people I know who take religious practice or political activism seriously through church or student politics. I don’t run into people who would take this seriously every day.
21.6% like conventional men, while 27.8% like them unconventional. 10.3% want to fulfil the traditional domestic woman’s role; 51.5% do not. A whopping 82.2% of women say that they value their independence. This figure rises to 85.5% when respondents were born in the 80s, and falls to 77.4% among 1990s women. This could be because younger women don’t feel able to talk of their independence while still living with their parents.
Do we go for men who look like us?
35.1% of women prefer men of their own ethnicity, 43.3% like their men to come from a different. background. This did surprise me. Most people I know personally seem to prefer white, English men, although some go so far as to have a thing for a stereotypically attractive nationality (Italian, for example, although not my Italian!).
Having said that, my experience could stem from the fact that many of my acquaintances were born in the 1950s and ‘60s. Most of our survey respondents were born in the 1980s and ‘90s. I was born in 1981. When we start to take age into account, the survey results become very interesting indeed.
Women born in the 1980s are split fifty-fifty on whether they are attracted to men of their own nationality or ethnicity, or a different one. 21 respondents (38.2%) are attracted to their own: 21 respondents like something different. Some women said ‘yes’ to both of these statements, which were not mutually exclusive. I guess these women are the most inclusive of all. Well done them.
Now, change the filter to show only data from women born in the 1990s, and things change dramatically. 51.6% of women aged 12-22 are attracted to men of a different nationality or ethnicity from their own. Only 29% particularly like men of their own nationality or ethnicity; 19.3% did not choose either option.
This is interesting, because when I set out, one of the things I expected to find was that my generation was the least racist ever – I generally find the late teenagers I encounter in everyday life to be very hostile to ethnic minorities (except the ones they know and like, of course; all the others are the problem). The statistics in our survey show a different story. Most of the racist remarks I hear come from the mouths of young men (the BNP youth section recently ran a campaign called ‘Nationalism is for girls too), and we all know it’s more common to see a white girl on the arm of a black guy than a black girl on the arm of a white guy. A study for another time, but if women in general aren’t less racist than the society around them, the ones who answered my survey are.
I think what this statistic shows is that the instinctive rejection of men of a different nationality/ethnicity that was bred into my parents’ generation is dying. Women are more likely to see any man that comes along as a member of the human race, eligible for a relationship as long as he is likeable and available, rather than to be unable to be sexually attracted to him if he looks different.
Is a woman who’s considered weird more likely to be unconventional or radical?
Put another way; does bullying breed radicalism? Some people see it as self-evident that being picked on would turn one against the status quo. Do our statistics back that up? Among respondents born in the 1990s, some of whom are still in school, there seemed to be a small correlation. Of the 16 women who reported being attracted to a different nationality/ethnicity from their own, 5 (31.3%) said they liked men who defy convention; only 1 (6.3%) said she liked conventional men. My sister, who was born in 1984, does not tend to describe men like Thierry Henry as classically good-looking. To her, a classically good-looking man, as judged by an Englishwoman, is white. (She is not remotely racist.) The statistics seem to show that women born in the 1990s also think that liking someone ethnically different from you is unconventional – even though our survey shows that it isn’t!
Statistics from 1980s women are less conclusive on this point (38% of those who like ethnically different men like unconventional men, 19% like conventional), but of those who said they liked men of their own nationality/ethnicity, the figures for liking conventional vs. unconventional men were almost identical. There is another interesting correlation; of those who like men of a different background, the same percentage of women (42%) said their friends disliked the men they were attracted to, and their friends liked conventional men. So, among those who liked men from a different background, there was a perception that the men they liked were too weird for their friends.
I also compared responses from women whose friends actively liked the men they chose with those whose friends thought they were weird for choosing those men, rather than just disliking them. I may as well stick my neck out here and say that I have always been considered weird, and am now a revolutionary socialist. I don’t really know how much of a correlation there is in my own life.
So, what do the statistics suggest? Well, this is exciting. When you look at 1990s women whose friends thought they were weird for liking some footballer or other, 80% like men who defy convention, 60% like men of a different nationality/ethnicity from their own, and 100% do not want to end up fulfilling a traditional woman’s role in the home. Those are swings of 54.2%, 9.4% and 38.7% respectively from the general population of women born in the 1990’s. Furthermore, when you look at women who say their friends agree with them on attraction, 15.8% like unconventional men, 47.4% like men from a different background, and only 52.6% don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen. The cheerleaders are apparently happier with the status quo that most of their peers. I’d say that’s a huge indicator that modern women’s social attitudes are being shaped by what their friends think of them.
What about us, the weird girls of the ‘80s? Smaller differences. 60% like men who defy convention and 40% like men from a different background (up 29.1% and 1.8%). There’s actually a small downward swing when it comes to the traditional domestic role: 40% don’t want it, compared to 43.6% of all respondents born in the 1980s. I have a theory about why this is, and why it’s so different from the girls of the ‘90s. Obviously, the younger you are, the stronger your views tend to be. Plus, many women my age have children, and I think many of them would love to be able to give up work in order to spend more time with them (do their partners feel the same, I wonder? That’s another survey.). However, 90% of those of us whose friends thought we were weird value our independence, compared to 85.5% of all ‘80s women. Perhaps we’re still rebels in our hearts, but have been worn down a little by the cares of the world.
Question 7: Is there any other information you would like to provide?:
30 out of 96 women had something to say. Here’s the pick of the responses.
“As a teenager it was looks and being part of the crowd. As an adult it is about intellect and personality.”
“I think your taste changes with age. I preferred clean-cut, good boys when I was a teenager. I prefer them slighlty rough on the edges now, but still not too wild. I think attraction is increasingly being determined by the media: for example, I´ve never found Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt attractive. Strange…”
“I have always been physically attracted to black men, and have dated quite a few in my adolescent years. I am a white woman from Holland, and have been married to a blond, blue eyed man for over 20 years. But still love to watch football and the black guys in particular! …”
“I would hazard that as an American some of my football crushes have been part of being drawn to global cultures and wanting something larger than my own “small world;” that said, I will acknowledge that I am often attracted to men more closer to my own skin color (I am of Italian descent) though they may be of a different nationality – and that has been, from time to time, food for thought.”
“I think there is always the Freudian aspect of what you are looking for in a partner.”
“I tend to be attracted to older men. Looks don’t really matter to me but humour and someone I can hold a conversation and debate with are much more attractive to me than a pretty face. As for what society thinks of this opinion, I would suggest that most people think me to be abnormal. I think that many people claim looks don’t matter however I don’t think deep down many people truly believe it. There is a picture perfect society that I simply refuse to follow. Yes my choice in men may be partly down to refusing to follow the norm. I like to be different and my choice in men follows this.”
“When I was a teenager I was usually attracted to boys my own age, whereas now I am more attracted to older men. I was also more attracted to men of my own nationality/ethnicity as a teenager than I am now, as now that is much less of an issue. That may be a sign of my own experiences/ horizons broadening, or perhaps of feeling less socially restricted than I did as a teenager.”
I will give the last word to the silly man who decided to pile into my girly survey:
“I like Jam. Jam is nice. Do you like jam? Imagine if there was a football pitch covered in sticky jam… do you think the players would be able to run around, or would they get jam in their expensive boots and cry like little girls? I think the latter.”