Source: Sunday Times
Date: 18 January 2009

Why women have better sex with rich men

Women’s sexual pleasure is directly linked to their partner’s wealth, says new research

Jonathan Leake and Holly Watt

Cassie is unrepentant about dating rich men. “Of course it is much better to sleep with men with lots of money,” said the 27-year-old lawyer from London.

“Any girl who tells you different is lying. Rich men are powerful and successful and confident and charismatic. They know what they want, and they go out and get it. That translates to being fantastic in bed.”

Cassie is living proof of the latest scientific discovery about human sexuality: that the number and frequency of a woman’s orgasms is directly related to her partner’s wealth.

Her explanation is simple. “Women don’t want to lie back and think of the gas bill,” she said. “It’s a lot more fun to have sex in the Ritz than the Swindon Travelodge. And to be ripping off Rigby & Peller underwear than M&S knickers.”

Cassie’s story of being attracted to rich and powerful men is, of course, as old as the hills. It was famously expressed in the question put by the spoof chat-show host Mrs Merton to one of her guests: “So, Debbie McGee, what first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?”.

Examples abound. Even in his eighties, Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy, has a succession of young girlfriends. Ronnie Wood has recently shown that it’s not only Mick Jagger among the sixtysome-thing Rolling Stones who can attract much younger women, and Donald Trump, the portly American businessman, has a wife 24 years his junior.

Until now some of us may have taken consolation in the idea that the beautiful women involved in such relationships were just doing it for the lifestyle - and enduring the sex.

Now, however, science is showing that a rich man’s money has aphrodisiac qualities as well as purchasing power. Their partners really can have it all.

Many will object to the idea that women are hardwired to be gold-diggers. Perhaps, however, they will be appeased by the revelation that the same kinds of primitive forces are at work in men too. They may operate in different ways and produce different behaviour - but they come from exactly the same source: a genetic code fine-tuned by millions of years of evolution to make us seek out whoever offers us the best deal in life.

It was Charles Darwin who first offered a new explanation for the mysteries of mating. He suggested that characteristics evolved and spread through populations depending on how much they improved our ability to reproduce.

Back then, the most obvious examples came from the animal world. When two stags locked horns they showed how members of the same sex compete with each other. Conversely, when female peahens chose the peacock with the flashiest tail they showed the power of mate preference. In both types of “sexual selection” as Darwin dubbed it, the lesser males were doomed to become evolutionary dead ends while their successful rivals passed their genes to posterity.

Ever since then, researchers have been realising that such sexual strategies permeate the lives of all animals - including humans - and affect everything about our behaviour and relationships.

Among all the discoveries, however, a mystery has remained: what is the point of the female orgasm?

Among animal species few if any females experience anything like the intense pleasure felt by women. The only thing like it is seen in some primates such as macaques. Why, then, have humans evolved this source of pleasure?

Dr Thomas Pollet and Professor Daniel Nettle, academics at the University of Newcastle, have been mulling over this question for years. As evolutionary psychologists, they believe everything about the way we flirt, court, have sex and bring up our children is strongly influenced by our genetic history.

If female humans have acquired the ability to have powerful orgasms, they argue, then women will have evolved that ability for a reason. “Women’s capacity for orgasm could be an evolutionary adaptation that serves to discriminate between males on the basis of their quality,” said Pollet. “If so, then it should be more frequent in females paired with high-quality males.”

He and Nettle tested that idea using data gathered in one of the world’s biggest lifestyle studies. The Chinese Health and Family Life Survey targeted 5,000 people across China to conduct in-depth interviews about their personal lives, including detailed questions about their sex lives, income and other factors. Among these were 1,534 women with male partners whose data formed the basis for the study.

They found that 121 of these women always had orgasms during sex, while 408 had them “often”. Another 762 “sometimes” orgasmed, while 243 had them rarely or never.

There were, of course, several factors at work in causing such differences but, said Pollet, money was one of the main ones. He said: “We found that increasing partner income had a highly positive effect on women’s self-reported frequency of orgasm. More desirable mates cause women to experience more orgasms.”

This is not an effect limited to Chinese women. Previous research in Germany and America has found similar responses.

However, it begs a further question: what does an orgasm actually achieve? Why does having more of them give a woman’s genes a better chance of passing down the generations?

David Buss, professor of psychology at the University of Texas, Austin, who raised this question in his book The Evolution of Desire, believes female orgasms achieve several possible purposes. “They could promote emotional bonding with a high-quality male or they could serve as a signal that they are highly sexually satisfied, and hence unlikely to seek sex with other men,” he said. “In other words, they are saying ‘I’m extremely loyal, so you should invest in me and my children’.”

The idea that our most intimate relationships are dominated by subconscious forces beyond our control may sound disturbing but it is widely confirmed by other research.

Anthony Little, a psychologist at the University of Stirling who specialises in studying human attraction, has found that the type of men to whom women are attracted changes throughout the menstrual cycle.

He said: “Most of the time, when women are not fertile, they prefer men who are more feminine but when they reach peak fertility they change and display a preference for more masculine traits, what you might call the rugby player look.”

Underlying this is another idea some women might not welcome: that women are generally attracted to gentler looking men because they are more likely to show commitment to a relationship and to invest resources in children.

However, for the week or so in each month when women are at their most fertile they are programmed to seek out the men with the “best” genes - the ones most likely to ensure their children survive. That means the man with the biggest muscles, the squarest jaw or, nowadays, the biggest bulge in his wallet. Such men are hard to keep so, once impregnated, women may return to their gentler long-term partner and trick him into bringing up a child that is not his.

Other research shows that in most societies about 5%-10% of children have been fathered by men who were not the woman’s long-term partner at the time of conception.

Given the scale of such threats, men have developed defences of their own - including the ability to subconsciously detect when women are at the peak of fertility. A study of lapdancers in America showed that men gave the best tips to those who were fertile, and the worst to those who were menstruating. The researchers suggested men can pick up a series of subtle cues such as the body scent, changes in complexion and body shape, and behaviour of fertile women.

Ian Penton-Voak, a psychologist at Bristol University, believes such findings show nature at work in its rawest form. He said: “In some ways it makes us seem almost evil but it’s wrong to impose moral judgments. There are no morals involved in evolution and what we are producing is just knowledge about how it works.”

Natasha, a 40-year-old professional woman from Surrey, believes she has benefited from giving way to her evolutionary urges. Recently she broke up with her husband of 12 years and found a rich boyfriend.

“I do have much better sex than with my husband,” she said. “My boyfriend is rich, confident and attractive and makes me feel protected and safe. Women need to connect mentally for really great sex, it’s not just a physical thing. It needs to be someone you respect, and rich men get that sort of respect.”

Here, however, a note of caution may be needed. Pollet and Nettle may have found women have more orgasms with rich men - but they also found no evidence that they were any happier overall.

Meredith Small, professor of anthropology at Cornell University in New York state, suggests this discrepancy also shows the cunning of evolution. She said: “Even if a rich man is a jerk in every other way, having orgasms with him allows you to convince yourself that he is making you happy.”

Cassie admits that relationships with rich men can be difficult. “The richest man I dated wasn’t great at calling and being places on time. But it was worth it anyway.”

She added: “Poor men just aren’t the same, although with the recession there are a few more of them out there now. I wonder if it will make a difference to their performance?”

The trouble with orgasms

Little boy: “Mummy, mummy, mummy, what’s an orgasm?” Mother: “I don’t know, dear, go and ask your father.”

Yep, after millions of years of evolution and almost as many sex surveys, much about the female orgasm remains a mystery. The male version is pretty easy to understand; but the whys and wherefores of female orgasms, or lack of them, are not so clear.

Men are the root of the problem, of course. According to Jonathan Margolis, author of O: The Intimate History of the Orgasm, things began to go wrong when men lost their simple caveman instincts.

Neanderthal man and woman apparently used to have no problem with sex, thinking it nothing more than a bit of fun. Then along came Neolithic man, an altogether more sophisticated kind of guy. After he made the connection between sex and childbirth, complications ensued. Customs arose that restricted sex and compounded male domination. Among the ultimate fallout were such oddities as the Victorians referring to a female orgasm as a “hysterical paroxysm”, and the supposed discovery in the 1980s of a highly sensitive female zone known as the G-spot. Last year an Italian university claimed that the elusive G-spot does exist - but that not all women had one. Very useful.

Through all these trials, however, the power of sex has remained undiminished. According to the World Health Authority, 100m acts of sexual intercourse take place every day.

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