David Buss (@profdavidbuss) is considered the world’s leading scientific expert on the evolutionary psychology of human mating strategies. He is the author of several books on the subject, most recently When Men Behave Badly: The Hidden Roots of Sexual Deception, Harassment, and Assault.
What We Discuss with David Buss:
- Why, from an evolutionary standpoint, the reproductive interests of males and females sometimes diverge.
- Why metabolizing alcohol differently makes women more susceptible to an expectation of bonding (and how some men exploit this).
- The Dark Triad traits that mark the men most likely to have short-term relationships and cheat.
- How do women use active signaling to show they’re more open to short-term relationships?
- She’s not playing hard to get. If she rejects you softly, it isn’t an invitation to try harder — it’s a survival tactic meant to avoid prompting a violent reaction.
- And much more…
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Dr. David Buss of the University of Texas at Austin is an expert on the evolutionary psychology of human mating strategies. Last time he was on the show (we recommend giving it a listen here), we discussed what women want, what men want, and why their desires radically differ as outlined in his book The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating.
This time around, we dive deeper into the consequences of these differences in desire and try to unearth the roots of the dangerous dynamics that underpin men’s predatory behavior — and explore what we can all do to address it as a society. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
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Thanks, David Buss!
If you enjoyed this session with David Buss, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
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Resources from This Episode:
- When Men Behave Badly: The Hidden Roots of Sexual Deception, Harassment, and Assault by David M. Buss | Amazon
- The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating by David M. Buss | Amazon
- David Buss | Troubleshooting Strategies from the Evolution of Desire | Jordan Harbinger
- Other Books by David Buss
- Buss Lab | University of Texas
- David Buss | Facebook
- David Buss | Twitter
- Male Spiders Scam Females with Gift-Wrapped Garbage | Scientific American
- The Light Triad vs. Dark Triad of Personality | Scientific American Blog Network
- Jeffrey Epstein’s Hollywood Pipeline Ran Straight to Harvey Weinstein | The Daily Beast
- Out of Your League? A Scientific Assessment of “Mate Value” | Psychology Today
- Bill Cosby: The Rise, Fall and Release of ‘America’s Dad’ | BBC News
- Courtney Love Called Out Harvey Weinstein Back in 2005 | Glamour
- Bill O’Reilly Settled New Harassment Claim, Then Fox Renewed His Contract | The New York Times
- Reading Female Body Language: 15 Cues To Reveal Attraction | Science of People
- Who Blames a Girl by Saying, ‘She’s Asking for It’ Needs to Know | ScoopWhoop
- People Are Strange by The Doors | Amazon Music
- “Women Seem Wicked When You’re Unwanted.” – Jim Morrison | r/TheBluePill
- Incels: A Definition and Investigation into a Dark Internet Corner | Vox
- Why Do Men Send Unsolicited Dick Pics? A Sex Researcher Explains. | Men’s Health
- The “Sexy Sons” Theory of What Women Are Attracted to in Men | Psychology Today
- How to Recognize Dark Triad Personality Traits | Psychology Today
- The Psychology of the Backup Boyfriend or Girlfriend | Psychology Today
- Does the Mate-Switching Hypothesis Explain Female Infidelity? by David Buss | Aeon Essays
- Human Mate Guarding by David Buss | Neuroendocrinology Letters
- Three Ways People Try to Keep Partners from Cheating, or Leaving | Psychology Today
- The Role of Isolation in Domestic Violence | Kupferman & Golden Family Law
- Revenge Porn | Victim of Crime Resource Center
- Sexual Conflict in Human Mating by David Buss | Current Directions in Psychological Science
- “These Are Very Bad Dudes” — David Buss on Sexual Conflict and the Dark Triad | Quillette
- Self-Defense Tools for Women, but Make Them Cool | Glamour
- Texas Candidate’s Comment About Rape Causes a Furor | The New York Times
- A Gentleman’s Guide to Rape Culture by Zaron Burnett III | NASCO
- Sexual Overperception Bias | The Decision Lab
573: David Buss | When Men Behave Badly
[00:00:00] Jordan Harbinger: Coming up next on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:02] David Buss: Yeah. If you, look at, compare men who have affairs with men who don't have affairs, there's no difference in how happy they are with their marriage. Something like 70 percent, it is like because she was there, it was just different. It was a physical thing. The opportunity arose for women about something like 70 percent or more to become emotionally involved with their affair partner and fall in love with their affair partner. And so I think that what's going on is the affair's function as a mate switching adaptation, That these women are looking to either exit a cost-inflicting or sub-optimal mating relationship. So divest themselves of that partner, put their toe in the water, so to speak, in the mating water, to see if there's someone better out there for her, or use the affair as a means of transitioning out of the relationship, either by trading up or trading back into the mating market.
[00:00:58] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. We have in-depth conversations with people at the top of their game, astronauts, entrepreneurs, spies, and psychologists, even the occasional Fortune 500 CEO, national security advisor, or former Jihadi. Each episode turns our guests' wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better critical thinker.
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[00:01:47] Now, today on the show, my friend, Dr. David Buss, this is a fascinating look into why men cheat, specifically, why men cheat. Today, we'll explore sexual selection and why it's essentially an arms race here alongside evolution, which men are more likely to have short-term relationships and power dynamics discussion here, social status. There's a lot here in terms of relationships, dating, why the Dark Triad is sexy to affairs. We really get into the weeds on a lot of this, a little bit about rape and sexual coercion. So maybe if you got the kids in the car or you are upset by these types of topics, you might want to skip this one, at least for now, although it doesn't get too gross and graphics. So it's probably okay, especially for a normal mature or even a teen audience is fine as we mostly stay scientific with this one, but it is a fascinating conversation.
[00:02:39] And if you're wondering how I managed to book all these great authors, thinkers, and creators every single week, it's because of my network. And I'm teaching you how to build your network for free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. And most of the guests on the show, subscribe and contribute to the course. Come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong.
[00:02:56] Now, here's David Buss.
[00:03:00] Men cheat and women like psychos. That's what I took from the book. Am I missing anything?
[00:03:07] David Buss: Quite a lot .
[00:03:08] Jordan Harbinger: That happens, but seriously, really interesting read.
[00:03:11] David Buss: Thank you.
[00:03:11] Jordan Harbinger: It starts off with sexual selection and evolution being kind of like an arms race, right? There's these back and forth changes in species or in sexes to defend against — it seems weird to say this, but to defend/get around the defenses. Can you give us an example? You use the spider in the book.
[00:03:31] David Buss: Yes. So basically female spiders in this species have evolved to copulate with a male who presents a nuptial gift. And it's typically like a dead insect wrapped in silk. The issue is though, so one reason why is it wrapped in silk, well, one is, it takes the female a while to unravel the silk, to get the package. And that allows the male to copulate with her while that's happening. But sometimes males in this spider species can't find a very attractive morsel of food. And so they wrap a piece of trash in the silk and try to fool the female into believing that it's a tasty morsel. And females have evolved to detect if it's a true scent or just a piece of trash and males have evolved counter strategies to leave the dregs of a former meal in there. Also the females will sometimes try to grab the food and run away without copulating with the male. And so males sometimes like cling onto the silk, sometimes feign being dead. And then while the female goes to her spot and is eating the food, he sort of springs to life and copulates with her.
[00:04:39] So there's this co-evolutionary arms. And this is just one example among hundreds and hundreds of co-evolutionary arms races. The bottom line is that from my evolutionary perspective, the reproductive interests of males and females sometimes diverge. And I mean, this started happening one to two billion years ago with the origin of sexual reproduction itself. And once you have sexual reproduction, you have two species and the optimum mating strategy. The optimum mating strategy for one differs from the optimum for the other. And so each sex will evolve adaptations to influence or manipulate the other, to be closer to its optimum. And the other, then that will select for counter adaptations defenses to prevent being manipulated and to influence the other.
[00:05:28] So one analogy that I use in the book is that it's like you have a steering wheel. There are two pairs of hands on the steering wheel, one pulling in one direction, the other pulling in the other direction. These co-evolutionary arms races occur in many domains that I talk about in the new book on the mating markets. So you have deception on the mating market, sexual conflict within mating relationships once they form sexual conflict over whether a break up will occur, sexual conflict in the aftermath of a breakup. And then I also talk about broad brush overview, talk about sexual harassment in the workplace, stalking and intimate partner violence and sexual assault, and women's defenses against sexual assault.
[00:06:11] And if I could just add one more sort of a broad brush stroke view here, when I started writing the book, when you deal with co-evolutionary arms races, you kind of have to treat both sexes in the equation. And so I got through about five chapters in the book, the sexual conflict of women, as well as men deceive in the mating market, women as well as men commit infidelity, women as well as men commit financial infidelity. Another domain I talk about in the book within relationships, having secret bank accounts or credit cards, or having the bills mailed to your office rather than home. So there's financial infidelity as well.
[00:06:50] But through the second half of the book, when you get to the more extreme forms of sexual conflict where you're bypassing female choice. So things like sexual harassment, intimate partner violence, stalking, and sexual assault, where men more and more tend to have a monopoly on these forms of sexual violence that bypass female choice. And so, more and more, as I got to the more extreme examples, I had to treat males as the offenders and the defenses that females have evolved to prevent their female choices from being bypassed.
[00:07:29] Jordan Harbinger: Sure. Yeah, this all makes sense. This spider example kind of reminds me of how on dating profiles men are like, "Well, I'm 5'9", but you know, with shoes on him kind of 5'11" which is really close to six feet. So I'm just going to put it at six feet," that kind of thing. And then the woman's like, "Wait a minute, I'm wearing heels and I'm a lot taller than you right now. What happened here?" And you're like, "Oh, too late. You're at dinner. We already met up." That's the male, the human example of the spider piece of trash in a silk bag.
[00:07:55] David Buss: Right, males, they round up on high. They exaggerate their status, their income, but women do it as well. I mean, women shave off about 15 pounds off of their weight. And then both sexes of course, post photographs that are not, let's say representative of what they actually look like.
[00:08:12] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I definitely remember a few of those dates when I was single, where I'm like, "Okay, you neglected to tell me that you were actually under five feet tall. Like that was not part, not that it mattered to me that much, but it's like, you know, you might want to, that's kind of a thing that you might want to throw out there when you're a four foot eight, okay." But you don't guys rent Ferrari's and then just let everyone think it's their car. And then they hang out at their villa. That's not their villa, it's their friends. And it's like, "Oh, just hanging out at my villa. Well, it's not mine, but I can use it anytime I want. So it's kind of mine. Not anytime I want. It belongs to my friend's cousin, but like pretty much anytime I want." Right, there's a lot of rounding going on there.
[00:08:45] David Buss: Yeah, indeed. I tell a story in the book where I was giving a talk in LA and my host picked me up in his Lamborghini. And the second he pulled up to the curb, all the baggage handlers all came out and wanted to take selfies of themselves with the Lamborghini. I don't know if they went out, posted those on Facebook or on their Internet dating accounts but you get that.
[00:09:09] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, that makes sense. It's hard to say there's sort of this inexplicable tendency for a lot of men to just be like, "I saw this car. Here's me near this car that I saw," but you're right. The subtext is I have access to this car in some way. Otherwise, what's the point? You just saw something that I can find on Google. It doesn't really make a lot of kind of logical sense. If you're not assuming there's a Nexus there that they want other people to assume, even if they're not even thinking about it consciously.
[00:09:33] I wonder what you think is that kind of behavior so hard wired in us that even though these baggage handlers and guys who are working at the airport may not be posting it on their dating profile. They're just like, "I want a selfie with that car. And it's just, I don't know why." They're not thinking about why, they're not thinking about how they're going to use it. It's just like a thing where they go, "Ah, status symbol. Let me put myself in the same frame."
[00:09:54] David Buss: Yeah. Yeah. I'm sure that for some it's like that. And then for some, once you have those photos, and it's like, "I'm creating an Internet dating profile and this looks like a nice photo. I think I'll put that one up.
[00:10:05] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Right, it just so happens that, "I happened to have this in my favorites saved."
[00:10:09] David Buss: Right.
[00:10:10] Jordan Harbinger: I thought it was interesting — this is a little bit of a tangent here — I thought it was interesting how alcohol in women is metabolized differently and creates an expectation of bonding. Can you speak to that a little bit? I think a lot of women are going to rethink their one night stands when they hear this, but I just never had heard this before.
[00:10:24] David Buss: Yeah, well, there are a couple of things. One is that alcohol affects women more severely than men even correcting for body weight. So it's not just body weight, women are more sensitive to alcohol, but the second thing is it appears to release chemicals that are related to the bonding, the emotional bonding adaptation. Women have alcohol, then they engage in sex and they feel at that time that there's this strong relationship occurring or the start of a relationship when it is in fact not. It's the alcohol fooling their brains into believing that, that it exists.
[00:11:01] And I remember when I wrote my first book, The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating, I had this whole section on the importance of food and meat and feeding the woman so forth. And I gave it to one of my graduate students who circled that. And he said that, "David, meat is neat, but liquor is quicker."
[00:11:21] Jordan Harbinger: Cringe.
[00:11:21] David Buss: Yeah, cringe. It doesn't put man in a good light, but we know this. This is a strategy men use on fraternities and university campuses. And we have this other one. So I was giving a talk up in Dallas and it was part of the university's attempt to get donations to the university. And so sometimes they drag me out and have me give a lecture on mating just to amuse the donors. But anyway, I was talking to the donor who was very wealthy and then his wife and she introduced herself and she said, "Hi, I'm the trophy wife."
[00:11:53] Jordan Harbinger: Yikes.
[00:11:54] David Buss: And so I said, "So how did you guys meet?" I was asked, "How did you guys meet?" And so well, he came up to a bar. He saw her and he basically bribed the bartender that keep her wine glass full at all times. And so she didn't quite realize how much she was drinking, but it turned out to work and they ended up married.
[00:12:13] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, my gosh. I mean, this is one of those probably ended up okay kind of situations, but also really could have not.
[00:12:21] David Buss: Right.
[00:12:21] Jordan Harbinger: What if she had a drive and that's the least of it. There's so much wrong with this, but it's completely normalized in our society. Like, "Oh yeah, you know, get a couple of drinks in and it'll be fine." And it's like, well, so what you're saying is diminish her ability to exercise good judgment in sleeping with you. It's really kind of not okay at all.
[00:12:38] David Buss: Right.
[00:12:38] Jordan Harbinger: And that's not even like a woke thing, even looking back at my college years in the '90s and early odds, it never really sat right because it's like winning the game, but you're doping kind of, and also you can hurt the other person. I don't know. It just doesn't sit right.
[00:12:52] David Buss: It doesn't sit right and one of the other things it does is alcohol disables women's, not just their judgment, their cognitive ability to process information accurately, but also weakens their physical ability to defend themselves should a sexual assault be in the making.
[00:13:09] Jordan Harbinger: And we'll get to sexual assault later on in the show, because there's quite a bit on that in the book, which honestly, must've been pretty uncomfortable to write.
[00:13:16] David Buss: Very, yeah.
[00:13:17] Jordan Harbinger: We'll get there in a bit. Which men are most likely to have, you call it, short-term relationships and cheat, right? There's certain types of men that do this more or are more prone to this.
[00:13:27] David Buss: Yeah. So it's basically, what's called Dark Triad personality. So this is narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy combined with the short-term mating strategy. So the hallmark of narcissism is high scores tend to be grandiose. They think they're God's gift to women if they're men. They think they're more attractive, more intelligent, more higher in mate value than they really are. And importantly, high scores narcissists have a sense of entitlement. They feel like they deserve it, because they’re so great, a larger share of the pie. And that extends to the sexual realm, they have a greater sense of sexual entitlement. Machiavellianism, people who pursue manipulative and exploitative social strategies. So these are the liars, the cheaters, the deceivers, and they view other people as pawns to be moved around the chess set, to satisfy their own selfish goals. And then psychopathy one of the hallmarks is lack of empathy. So most people feel compassion when someone is hurt or a dog gets hit or injured, psychopaths don't. They might laugh when someone gets injured or a pet gets injured.
[00:14:41] So most humans, 95 percent of us have a normal empathy circuit, sense of compassion. It's like it's severed with these high scores on psychopathy. So if you combine these three elements of the Dark Triad, narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism, you combine that with a short-term mating strategy. This is the subset of guys who are most likely to sexually harass, to deceive, to seduce and abandon, and also to sexually assault.
[00:15:13] And so it's one of the things that I hope people — my book is not a book of male bashing, so it's not all man. Most men, I think, find it, things like sexual harassment or sexual coercion, to be morally abhorrent and would never engage in any actions like that. But this subset of men, high Dark Triad men pursuing a short-term mating strategy, they're the ones who are serial harassers and serial coercers.
[00:15:38] Jordan Harbinger: We see a lot of this in the media right now. This is a little bit off topic. You didn't talk about this in the book, but I'm wondering, do you think that there is a stronger presence of Dark Triad traits in people that make it to the top of politics and the media? Or are we just hearing about those particular instances because those people are at the top of politics and the media?
[00:15:58] David Buss: Yeah, that's a great question. And I don't know. I mean, it's possible, I mean, the people who are high on Dark Triad do seek out positions of status and leadership and so forth. And so they might be in fact, overrepresented among politicians and other forms of leaders. But I think it is interesting that, you know, those who have hit the media are kind of classic examples of this Dark Triad, like Harvey Weinstein or Jeffrey Epstein, classic examples of manipulative, narcissistic, then to have zero empathy for the harm that they're inflicting on their sexual victims.
[00:16:34] I think it is interesting to note also that this kind of makes my point of the serial harassers and serial sexual assaulters. So you have a small percentage of men committing a large majority of these acts of sexual violence, which fundamentally bypass female choice. That's one of the things that unites all these different forms of sexual conflict that I talk about in the book is female choice is like the number one law of mating. Women have evolved the desire to choose when, where, with whom, and under what circumstances they have sex. And these male efforts like sexual harassment, sexual assault, stalking, intimate partner violence, basically functioned the bypass female choice, or that's what they're aimed at. Aim to manipulate the female to basically mate with him as opposed to someone else or not mate at all.
[00:17:31] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, we can get into some of the mate guarding stuff goes creepy fast, actually. And we'll talk about that in a bit. I want to talk as well about the power dynamics, right? So if someone gets more wealthy or their status goes up or their career takes off and they get famous for, I don't know, they do a big podcast or something, right? Are these people hypothetically more likely to cheat on a partner or upgrade a relationship? And we'll talk about the mate guarding and stuff like that in a bit. But I'm curious about this because it seems like a lot of cheaters that we see in the media again, could be the same bias that these people are already famous, but it just seems like these guys can't help themselves, these politicians, these people who are talk show host on TV, like they just can't keep it in their pants.
[00:18:15] David Buss: Well, which gets to the issue of mate-value discrepancy. So when there's a mate-value discrepancy such as the man or the woman, because there are cases of that to, dramatically rise in status, then the higher mate-value, the person is statistically more likely to cheat or more likely to exit the relationship and try to trade up in the mating market. But again, it's not all cases. So you think movie stars for example, but there are some, for example, could you imagine Tom Hanks doing that? No.
[00:18:46] Jordan Harbinger: No, but it always surprises us., right?
[00:18:49] David Buss: It can surprise us, yeah.
[00:18:50] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Like it comes out of nowhere where you're like, "Oh, that guy would never do that." And it's like, "Ooh," I mean, look at Bill Cosby, right? Like this was the quintessential like, oh, he's like a respectable guy. He's got an education degree.
[00:19:01] David Buss: A family man.
[00:19:01] Jordan Harbinger: It turns out he was just a total scumbag, the whole time.
[00:19:05] David Buss: Yeah. That was baffling me. In part because the reputation was, the action was so discrepant from the reputation, you know, whereas Harvey Weinstein, another famous example. He had a reputation. I mean, it was widely known, seasoned actresses warned up and coming actresses, "Just make sure you don't be alone with him. Make sure someone else is around." Whereas Bill Cosby had no reputation at all of any of this as far as I'm aware.
[00:19:33] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I remember this clip from Courtney Love saying something like, they're like, "Do you have any advice for people just breaking into the scene in Hollywood?" and she sort of joking, but definitely not joking 20/20 hindsight, she said, "If Harvey Weinstein invites you to a party at the Beverly Hills Hotel, don't go." And then she walked off camera. Everyone was like, "Oh, what a funny dig at this guy that maybe she's friends with?" And it's like, no, she probably went there. and, knowing Courtney Love, kicked him in the nuts and ran out of the room, but like knows that he's been doing this for 20, 30, or 40 years, however long it's been.
[00:20:05] David Buss: Right. That gets to the point that people sometimes view rapists or sexual assaulters as sort of the losers in the game. So they have to resort to this tactic because they can't gain a woman to any other means. But in fact, it's often the opposite. These guys who are highly successful and can get away with it. You mentioned Weinstein, but also Bill O'Reilly, as far as, you know, didn't sexually assault, but sexually harassed and so forth, and people in a position to offer women large monetary settlements with non-disclosure agreements to keep them quiet. And again, that keeps the reputation intact. I don't know if Bill Cosby had any of those, but many of these other players did.
[00:20:51] Jordan Harbinger: In the book you mentioned, there's sort of a test where women use active signaling to show that they're more open to short-term relationships. I think a lot of people would love to know. What is this test? How do women signal that they're open to short-term relationships? I think the women want to know for obvious reasons and the guys obviously want to know. I mean, look, I'm asking for a friend is how I'll phrase this, right? But how do you spot that?
[00:21:13] David Buss: Well, some obvious things are manner of dress. So showing a lot of skin, wearing tight fitting outfits and so forth, flirtatiousness, touching, physically touching the guy, eye contact that lasts a split second longer than it needs to, these are some of the cues.
[00:21:32] Jordan Harbinger: What about people who say, "Look, this is patriarchal nonsense. Women should be able to dress however they want. Just because you show enough skin or wear tight clothes doesn't mean she's open to short-term relationships." I'm sure you hear that all the time.
[00:21:43] David Buss: Well, I mean, in an ideal world, people should be allowed to dress however they want and act however they want. Let's say, your rights stop when your fist starts to approach my face, but we don't live in an ideal world. We live in a world where there are real victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment. And so people need to know the statistical predictors of which men are likely to do it and the circumstances in which they're likely to do it.
[00:22:12] So I don't know if you have a daughter.
[00:22:14] Jordan Harbinger: One on the way in another few months.
[00:22:16] David Buss: So I have a daughter and I sure want her to know this information, because I don't want her as her father to get sexually assaulted. And so the notion that we can just somehow ignore all of these cues and pretend that we live in an ideal world. Now, maybe we'll get there at some point. And I mean, that's one of the reasons I wrote the book is I hope we do get there because these forms of sexual violence that bypass female choice are truly terrible and they happen to a large number of women. All the people who care about them, the fathers, the brothers, the male friends, the female friends, the mothers, all the people who have a stake in the interest of these victims, they suffer as well, so-called secondary victims. And so only by a deeper causal understanding of what gives rise to these forms of sexual violence can we have any hope of reducing its occurrence.
[00:23:10] Jordan Harbinger: It really is a shame. And I want to be very clear that like dressing in yoga outfits that show midriff and tight pants, I want to be really clear that like, this is one, you're right. And two, it is okay to wear that. You are not causing guys to sexually assault you. They are actually just horrible people that do this, that victimize others. It may increase your chances of that happening, but I want to be really careful not to assign blame. Because whenever you hear rape victims get asked what they were wearing, I'm just like, seriously, f*ck you.
[00:23:39] David Buss: It is terrible and I do agree with you. I talk about this issue of blame in the book. And one of the analogies I draw is mugging. So no one asks a mugging victim. "Oh, did you ask for it, or whatever?" It's like, it is a crime and there was a victim. And the same is true with sexual assault or sexual harassment. These are crimes and there are victims. And so identifying some of the statistical predictors of the circumstances in which they occur does not alleviate men of being guilty of these crimes and it does not warrant assigning any blame to woman.
[00:24:14] Jordan Harbinger: We even have women having to reject men in ways that are less likely to cause violent reactions. Can you explain this? Can you speak to this a little bit? This is also kind of a disturbing trend that we have now or probably always a bad.
[00:24:26] David Buss: Yeah, so we live in sexually integrated workplaces, at least in many domains, perhaps not a sewer cleaning, which is predominantly male, but many workplaces like in the ones I inhabit are sexually integrated. And mating adaptations, mating psychology gets activated in these contexts. Women, they're forced into this uncomfortable position when they're sexually harassed in the workplace to do what's called soft rejections. In other words, a guy comes on to them and instead of saying, "Look, buzz off creep, I'm not interested. You're a total loser." They have to say things like, or they do say things to minimize the retribution from the guy. So like, "I have a boyfriend," or, "I can't go out with you this weekend, I'm busy." And so they do things that try to minimize the revenge or retribution that they might get from that rejection because guys feel angry when they get rejected.
[00:25:20] I mean, we can even go back to the Doors. I don't know if you may be too young to remember this group, but Jim Morrison and the Doors.
[00:25:26] Jordan Harbinger: Sure, come on, man. I'm 41.
[00:25:27] David Buss: I know. There's a line in one of the, I think, it's on the Strange Days album where women seem wicked when you're unwanted. You know, men develop this anger to being sexually rejected. And so women are kind of forced into this position in the workplace of having to minimize that anger because if the guy's a boss or even a coworker, men do act with vengeance sometimes. And so unfortunately the soft rejections also sometimes invite further comments. So like, "You're busy this weekend. How about next weekend?" Or, "You have a boyfriend. Is he in town right now?" And so the soft rejections sometimes don't have the effect of shutting them down entirely. But it's just a really unfortunate bind that this puts women in the workplace in.
[00:26:19] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. It's not even just in the workplace, right? We hear about this all the time. Women have to do a lot of work not to like cause — actually let me rephrase that. Inadvertently be the cause of men reacting spurned or violently. And it just kind of sucks to have to worry about this. Like the idea that I can't tell someone politely that I'm not interested in them because I might get brutally assaulted and/or murdered is not really a great indicator that we are handling this problem very well as men or as a society. I mean, I know plenty of guys, like the vast majority of guys don't do this, but I use Reddit. I see forums about incel where these guys are like, just so toxic and the things that they say in there. I mean, these sort of clearly really going through the heads of some guys and it's really like scary, even for guys, it's scary to see these.
[00:27:01] David Buss: Yeah, indeed. And that's why I think, you know, most men are find these tactics of sexual violence to be morally abhorrent and/or disgusted by it. You know, what I would say is I'm aware of that, I talk a little bit about the incels in the new book and what I would advise incels is improve your mate value. And so being involuntarily celibate, they sometimes get very angry that they're attracted to women who are not attracted to them, but hey, improve your mate value. The fact is that women desire many different attributes and potential mates in not just physical appearance, but also health, physical fitness, dependable personality, emotional stability, is the guy there in times of need and so forth, as well as social status.
[00:27:48] And so these are things that are to some degree under individual control, and so you can improve your mate value and make yourself more attractive to women rather than just stewing and getting angry about the fact that women don't want you. And in some cases, some of these incels lack social skills. Unfortunately, men more than women tend to be on the Ache side, the spectrum side of the psychological disorders. And one of the features of this is failure of mind reading. So these guys are especially bad at correctly inferring the wants, desires, and beliefs of the opposite sex. But those things can be learned as well. Social skills can be learned, more accurate mind reading can be learned.
[00:28:30] And that's actually one of the goals of the book is, you know, the fact is as unpleasant as this might be to some, male and female sexual psychologies are fundamentally different, and failure to appreciate the fact that they're different or understand that they're different and the ways in which they're different causes a lot of failures of cross-sex mind reading. So you have things like dick pics, guys sending dick pics to women, and they think somehow a woman's going to be turned on by this. Now, of course, we know men do find attractive and are sexually aroused by decontextualize images of women's breasts and genitals and so forth. And they think that somehow women are going to be turned on by decontextualized dick pic, and they're not. Most of them would find them just gross. And so this was like an example of a profound failure of mind reading.
[00:29:25] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest David Buss. We'll be right back.
[00:29:29] This episode is sponsored in part by BiOptimizers. Magnesium Breakthrough by BiOptimizers is an organic full-spectrum magnesium supplement that includes seven unique forms of magnesium. If you're having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, you might want to make sure you're getting enough magnesium and make sure you're getting the full spectrum. Since many magnesium supplements use only the two cheapest synthetic forms, and they're actually seven unique forms of magnesium, the more, you know. Simply take two capsules before you go to bed and see how much better you sleep. Jen uses it for leg cramps. So if you happen to be pregnant and get those leg cramps, now, you know what to do and see how much more rested you feel when you wake up.
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[00:32:15] Now back to David Buss.
[00:32:19] I don't know if you recall. We've had conversations in the past few years. I used to run a business, literally teaching guys, not necessarily incels, of course, but like guys, how to improve mate value, social status without just becoming more wealthy, or getting a six-pack for example, I mean, I did it for 11 years. One of the main concepts was the mistaken idea that men and women think alike and we don't really see this right because we're inside the jar. So we can't really say like, okay, this is how women think, and this is how men think. We just think, well, all humans think alike. So of course, if I like this, other people are going to like this, or if I respond to this, other people are going to respond to this and it causes a lot of frustration. I mean, it's not just the dick pics, but it's also the idea that certain status symbols might mean certain things to one gender or sex and not the other. And it just drives people absolutely insane, sometimes to violence as we just sort of hinted at here.
[00:33:11] David Buss: Yeah, I think that's, you know, precisely yet that we're in some profound way we're stuck in the interiors of our own minds and brains. And we have to make inferences about what's going on in the minds and brains of other people. And if those other people are members of the opposite sex, you need to have some knowledge about that and that these other minds and brains when it comes to sex and sexual psychology are fundamentally different. We now know a lot about the ways in which they are different. And so I think that chasm can be bridged to some degree. And it's not just men who were off by the way, women are off as well.
[00:33:47] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, yeah.
[00:33:48] David Buss: Women don't fully understand how different male sexual psychology is from their own.
[00:33:53] Jordan Harbinger: Have you ever done — I read this somewhere. A friend of a friend is a transmale, so he used to be a woman and is now a man. He told me that he now after taking hormones for like a decade and things like that, he now is like, "Oh, I get why guys are so obsessed with sex. Like, this is not a hobby. It's not something you really like. It is like a biological imperative. You wake up in the morning and you feel like you need it so bad. You can't even function sometimes." This has been triggered in his brain by the amounts of male hormones that he's been taking for so long. I mean, he's facial hair now. So it's the full gamut. And he just was sort of chuckling with me. And I was like, "Now, you know how probably not even a teenage boy feels like, turn it up to 11 and that's a teenage boy, you know, you're an adult."
[00:34:40] David Buss: Right.
[00:34:41] Jordan Harbinger: It calms down a little, I don't know what's going on with the hormones in the brain because we can't compare the meter so to speak, but imagine like this, but all day, and you're in front of women who are your age in high school and it's just 24/7. Like, how are you doing your math homework?
[00:34:54] David Buss: Right.
[00:34:54] Jordan Harbinger: You're not.
[00:34:56] David Buss: And that's why I think this desire for sexual variety and the cranked up libido, cranked up sex drive, the sexual responsiveness to visual cues which we're bombarded with every day, these are not blessings. I actually got an email recently from an 85-year-old guy. So this guy's 85 and he said, after reading my book, that he understood. He said his brain tortures him every day. He's walking down the street and the six women he passes his brain tortures him by evaluating them on how sexually attractive they are and he's 85, he probably can't do anything about it.
[00:35:36] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:35:36] David Buss: So this isn't a blessing that guys have a sexual psychology that is so obsessed with sex and with the visual cues that we're bombarded by. Another way of framing that is that most men, vast majority of men, are attracted to women who have no attraction to them. That is their attraction is not reciprocated. And so maybe if you are a famous rock star, or if you're a Mick Jagger or a famous actor, you can fulfill many of your sexual desires but for most men, we can't.
[00:36:12] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Tell me about it.
[00:36:13] So Dark Triad, you mentioned this is sexy for many women. What is it that these men are doing? You kind of mentioned the sexy son hypothesis. I'd love to talk about this more because I think that this is something that sort of scares women and it helps to flesh it out and understand this a little bit more, especially the vulnerability to the Dark Triad.
[00:36:33] David Buss: Well, so Dark Triad guys are often very charming. They're very exciting. They're often very socially skilled. They put themselves at the center of attention and we know that status is in part determined by the attention structure. High status people are those to whom the most people pay the most attention. So attention is a critical resource on the attention structure influences that high Dark Triad guys put themselves in the center of attention. They're often very charismatic. They have verb, they tell stories in front of the group. And so those were all cues to status. Women are attracted to status. Also the risk takers, so these guys are risk takers, so they have the confidence. And that's another thing women are attracted to, as you well know, is self-confidence. As animals, we kind of take each other at our word. The guy seems self-confident that he must have a lot going for him. And so they display a lot of characteristics that women find very attractive in the short run. But these guys are disasters in the long run because they're statistically more likely to cheat, more likely to fleece the woman, get into her bank accounts, abandon her, cheat on her, be unfaithful, trade up at a drop of a hat. So as long-term mating, these guys are disastrous, but women are attracted to, especially younger women, I should say, are attracted to them for short-term mating. As women get a bit older and get more experience on the mating market, they are less and less attracted to these guys.
[00:38:02] Jordan Harbinger: What about Dark Triad women? This has to be a thing.
[00:38:05] David Buss: So there are fewer Dark Triad women, especially with the psychopathy component that shows the largest sex difference where it's something like three to one males or higher than women on psychopathy, less sex difference on narcissism, but you do get Dark Triad women. I talk about them in the book as well. These are women who are more likely to make poach, so they don't feel any moral qualms about sleeping with their friend's boyfriend or husband. So they engage in mate poaching, either for short term or a longer term relationship. And they also tend to use their sexuality in instrumental ways. For example, if you ask who is the occasional woman who sleeps with the boss in order to get a promotion, it's Dark Triad women who tend to. Actually, I knew about a specific case in academia, where a woman who was applying for a job at this university and had slept with the chair of the search committee.
[00:39:05] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:39:05] David Buss: She got the job, but she was a high direct. This was before I started at the university, but I found out about it, but she was to be avoided.
[00:39:15] Jordan Harbinger: How did that come to light?
[00:39:17] David Buss: Oh, I knew various players who were both around and involved at the time and they communicated the information to me.
[00:39:24] Jordan Harbinger: Wow. So everyone knew about this.
[00:39:27] David Buss: Well, I don't know if everyone knew, but let's put it this way, it wasn't a secret why she got a job as opposed to other more qualified candidates.
[00:39:36] Jordan Harbinger: Yikes. Guys just can't control ourselves, I guess, I don't know. I'd love to talk about affairs and backup mates as well, because we see this play out all over the place, right? It puts a major dent in our idea of romance and soulmates. Not that I've ever believed in that stuff either but I just think this is — yeah, that's true. I definitely probably am, but I'm not wrong, right? Science shows that this is accurate.
[00:40:01] David Buss: Yeah. Well, we evolve to make wise mating decisions and with backup mates, I mean, this is one of the things that surprised me is that even people who are in happy relationships cultivate backup mates, and it makes good sense that they should, because you talk about over human evolutionary history. Something could always go wrong. Your mate could dump you. From a woman's perspective, her partner could get injured in a club fight or get killed in a war. And so if a woman was forced to sort of start the mating search from square one, that would be less advantageous than if she cultivated a backup mate, should something bad happened to her relationship or her regular partner. And so I think it's a wise strategy. We don't think about it. Maybe disturbing to men to think, "Oh, my girlfriend or wife is actually cultivating a backup potential mate. Oh, he's just a friend."
[00:40:55] Jordan Harbinger: But it's subconscious too, right?
[00:40:57] David Buss: Yeah.
[00:40:57] Jordan Harbinger: It's not necessarily like, "Okay. If my husband croaks, I'm going after the attorney."
[00:41:02] David Buss: Not at all.
[00:41:02] Jordan Harbinger: You do see it play out that right, like you have — I don't want to mention other people who've been on this show, but you see people and they've been researching for like 40 years and then their partner who's researching with them passes away. And then now they're like partnered up with that guy's wife and you're like, "Okay, it could look bad," but it could just be that they were all very close. And then when this guy passed away, it's like, "Well, who's my backup mate? I'm not going out to the club. I'm 65 years old. Well, I've known this guy for 20 years. We have a relationship. We're pretty close. It's a sort of a hop, skip, and a jump to a romantic relationship where everyone is more taken care of.
[00:41:37] David Buss: Yeah. I've seen that a number of times as well, but I mean, yeah, humans have evolved to mate. I mean, we're a sexually reproducing species and we try to make wise mating decisions. We don't always succeed, but in some sense, I mean, we are all evolutionary success story. We've descended from a long and unbroken line of ancestors. Each of them succeeded in attracting a mate and having sex with a mate and doing enough stuff to produce a child and raise that child to reproductive age. And so as descendants of these successful ancestors, we carry with us the mating wisdom that led to their success. These include tactics of attraction to backup mates, to mate switching, to divesting themselves of a cost-inflicting mate, maybe ejection tactics.
[00:42:25] Jordan Harbinger: It's interesting, but also probably makes being an incel that much harder, right? Like, "Oh, there's only a few hundred thousand generations of you or people being able to do this. And you're the last, you're the guy who can't.
[00:42:37] David Buss: Yeah. I mean, one of the problems in the modern environment has to do with sex ratio. So ancestrally, and we know this from small hunter gatherer groups, as many as 30, 35 percent of men died in warfare and other activities. So the mortality rate among males is much higher ancestrally, and we know that men are more susceptible to diseases of a variety of sorts from the moment of conception all the way up through, I think the sex is converged around 80 or so. And so what that meant is ancestrally, there were fewer men around and a lot more women since sex ratio involved a surplus of women. Whereas in the modern environment, we've conquered many of the things that caused our male ancestors to die early and even casualties from war are minute fraction of what they were historically. And so this sex ratio imbalance no longer exists. In fact, in many cultures, there's a surplus of males. So like in China, when they had the one child policy, all of a sudden there's this whole generation, because they favored males, male children's full generation of males and there aren't enough women to go around.
[00:43:47] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I follow this quite a bit. And there's like parks where older people will stand in the park with a picture of their son and a little bit of resume data. And other people who have an unmarried woman will walk around and be like, "Oh, okay, yeah, he seems all right." And I hear from some of these guys who are involved in this, who are single and in China, and they are looking at — it's pretty dismal, right? Like you can be an employed guy who's graduated from a university. And your grandma is trying to marry you off to somebody that you would never even look at twice, who's in a 50/50 society with the equal number of males and females would never be even remotely in your league. Like you would just never bother. And they're like, this is your choice. There are villages where there are like three women and 50 men ratios in sort of small town, China. And the guys have just decided it's never going to happen. It's impossible.
[00:44:39] David Buss: Yeah. In the cities, the guys, it's basically a virtual requirement that he has to own his own apartment.
[00:44:45] Jordan Harbinger: And a car, yeah.
[00:44:46] David Buss: So financial resources weigh in shockingly.
[00:44:51] Jordan Harbinger: Surprise, surprise, yeah.
[00:44:52] David Buss: But yeah, the sex ratio issue is really interesting. I remember not too long ago, I gave a talk at Texas Christian University where there's a surplus of women. So there are about 60 percent women, 40 percent men. And the women described it exactly the way you did. That the guys who would normally say at five are an eight at Texas Christian University. And you're shocked that the guys who had previously gone to TCU and they get this kind of glazed look in their eyes, as they remember fondly, that was one time in their life when they experienced high mate value. You know, when you get that surplus of women, the whole mating system shifts more towards short-term mating because men become more reluctant to commit. They can carry out a short-term remaining strategy more successfully when there's a surplus of women. Surplus of men, the opposite happens.
[00:45:39] Jordan Harbinger: Right, right. Surplus of men, it's like, you've got to invest, invest, invest, invest in order to, hence the needing a house and a car type of thing. If the ratio were inverted in China, culturally, they might still value having a house and a car, but it might also be like, "Well, we'll make an exception this time, right? They'll get there, that kind of thing.
[00:45:57] David Buss: Exactly. So, I mean, that's why it's a practical piece of advice, go to mating markets where you are the rear sex, you will have more choice. And this applies to men and women. One of the interesting things in the modern world is that in colleges and universities, there is a surplus of women in the vast majority of them. In part because women are more conscientious, they get better grades coming up, and so they're more qualified to get in. And porn might have some effect of diminishing male ambition on this, but the big exceptions are things like engineering schools, like MIT or Caltech, where there's a surplus of men. And so if I were a young person just getting on the mating market and deciding where to go pick a social environment where you are the rarer sex, rather than the sex in a surplus.
[00:46:46] Jordan Harbinger: That makes sense, right. So if you're going to an engineering school start taking dance classes or something, yoga, I don't know, yeah. Get the ratio somewhere.
[00:46:53] David Buss: Right.
[00:46:54] Jordan Harbinger: Because otherwise it's looking pretty bleak.
[00:46:56] David Buss: For guys, yoga's often a good bet in any environment because most of the classes have a majority of women.
[00:47:03] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. This makes sense. So let's talk about why men and women have affairs. I think for men, we're talked about this a little bit before, right? Variety is just kind of a biological imperative, but a lot of men think women do this as well, but it's for different reasons, right?
[00:47:16] David Buss: Yeah, absolutely, so one hallmark of that is studies that have asked people, why did you have an affair? And for men, something like 70 percent, it is like, "Because she was there. It was just different. It was a physical thing. The opportunity arose." For women about something like 70 percent or more become emotionally involved with their affair partner and fall in love with their affair partner. And so I think that what's going on is the affairs function as a mate switching adaptation.
[00:47:47] So, and this is a point of departure where a point in which I have some disagreement with my evolutionary psychology colleagues who argue basically that affairs are all about getting good genes from one guy and getting investment from the other guy. I argue that the mate switching hypothesis explains a lot more of the question of why women have affairs. That is women are looking to either exit a cost-inflicting or sub-optimal mating relationship. So divest themselves of that partner. Put their toe in the water, so to speak in the mating water to see if there's someone better out there for her, or use the affair as a means of transitioning out of the relationship, either by trading up or trading back into the mating market.
[00:48:30] And so I think the mate switching hypothesis is a much more powerful explanation of why most women have affairs, not all, of course. These aren't necessarily mutually exclusive. It's possible that a minority of women could be attempting to get good genes from one guy and investment from another. But I think that's extremely rare.
[00:48:49] Jordan Harbinger: And we see the sort of biological evolutionary reason why men have a double standard when it comes to cheating, right? Because many men who are in affairs are actually happy in their marriage. Am I right on this?
[00:49:00] David Buss: Yes.
[00:49:00] Jordan Harbinger: And they're as happy as those who don't engage in affairs.
[00:49:03] David Buss: Yeah, if you compare men who have affairs with men who don't have affairs, there's no difference in how happy they are with their marriage.
[00:49:10] Jordan Harbinger: I found this interesting, because of course like the primary concern that I feel like even many therapists say is like, what are you not satisfied about at home? And it's like, that just totally misses the point that a lot of it has to do with, like you said, opportunity or variety. And it can be — I know guys that have cheated on their significant other, and I've asked them this question, like, "What prompted that?" And they're like, "I don't know." And they do know, but they don't want to say, "Well, it was just really easy for me." And they would go on and on and explain that they love their family. And it's like, they're good dads. They still go on vacations all the time. They're affectionate with wife. And I'm like, "This is a guy who cheated," and it sort of makes you think like, "Uh-oh, this can happen to anyone," but it is surprising. Once you understand that they're still just as happy in their relationship. It makes more sense because I'm thinking, wow, look at him, just fake it right there but it's not fake. He just wanted an opportunity and it was there.
[00:50:02] David Buss: This is why our mating minds to have a number of different components. And you can be totally in love with your wife and a total family man. And also you have this other thing called desire for sexual variety. And those are not incompatible. They might seem logically inconsistent, but because there are different adaptations, they're psychologically consistent.
[00:50:28] Jordan Harbinger: What about jealousy, right? Speaking of having affairs and the biological evolutionary reason why men — because of course, women don't want their men to cheat and men don't want their women to cheat, but it's completely, they're aiming at different things, right? Like in the book, you mentioned that if a woman has an emotional affair, guys are concerned, but they're not nearly as concerned if she ends up sleeping with someone else. Whereas it's the reverse for women or the inverse.
[00:50:50] David Buss: Yeah, exactly, both sexes are equally jealous, but the focus for women tends to be on — I mean, this is illustrated by a former student of mine. We actually do this very cool study where he looked at verbal interrogations when someone discovered that their partner might be cheating. And the question women want to know is: do you love her? And the question men want to know is: did you have sex with him? Of course, they don't necessarily phrase it quite that way.
[00:51:20] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:51:20] David Buss: But from an evolutionary perspective, this has to do with the problem of paternity uncertainty. That is because fertilization occurs within the woman, not within the man. Woman is 100 percent certain she is the mother. Men always are never 100 percent certain. They can't be, unless the woman's under lock and key, guarded by a phalanx of eunuchs 24 hours a day, men can never be sure. And we know that there is some rate of genetic huckleberry that exists in the modern environment and probably was a bit higher throughout human evolutionary history.
[00:51:52] Jordan Harbinger: That makes sense, yeah. And I mean, we see some societies that are structured like that, where the women live in a particular part of the house with the blacked out windows and can't go outside without a male relative. I mean, that's probably why that exists. It just got to be.
[00:52:06] David Buss: Yeah, the male efforts to guard their sexuality. I mean, female sexuality is an extraordinarily valuable reproductive resource and men have evolved to try to gain access to that resource. And then when they do try to control it and prevent other men from gaining access to it. That may sound clinical and sterile and harsh and whatever, but these are the selective forces that have given rise to sexual psychology, including sexual jealousy.
[00:52:33] Jordan Harbinger: You mentioned in the book that high scoring Dark Triad are more guarding and more vigilant when it comes to mate guarding. So I'm wondering is, high mate guarding is sort of the inverse also true that like, high mate guarding from a boyfriend or husband, is that a major red flag and/or indicator of Dark Triad or does that kind of only go in one direction?
[00:52:52] David Buss: My suspicion is it only goes in one direction because there are many causes of intense mate guarding.
[00:52:59] Jordan Harbinger: Okay, mate-value discrepancy.
[00:53:01] David Buss: Yeah, like a mate-value discrepancy with the lower mate value partner, doing more intense. And so it's not an invariant flag of Dark Triad.
[00:53:09] Jordan Harbinger: It seems like, well, of course you'd want to pay attention to those things either way, right? Because if you've got to mate- value discrepancy, do you find that people can ignore those in relationship? I know you're not a therapist, but do you find that people can ignore those in relationships or does it just kind of always creep up at some point?
[00:53:25] David Buss: I don't know. I think it's probably always there either in the foreground or the background, and that might be expressed in the sense of, "Oh, I'm just not as happy with this relationship as I used to be," and that could be an indicator of — and then these things don't necessarily have to be consciously calculated and people don't necessarily think in these terms like, "Oh, I'm an eight and my partner a six," or, "They used to be an eight, but my partner has decreased in mate value over the last five years. And so I want to divest myself of them and see if I can trade up in the mating market." No, we don't think that way. They just, "I'm just unhappy with this," or, "This is not working for me anymore." And so we're not aware of the underlying mating dynamics and reproductive logic of these phenomena, unless you study it for a living.
[00:54:15] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest David Buss. We'll be right back.
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[00:57:15] Jordan Harbinger: And now for the rest of my conversation with David Buss.
[00:57:20] It's funny, my mother-in-law will tell my wife, "Look at Jordan, he's working out. Look at Jordan, he's learning Chinese. Look at Jordan, he's doing this. Like you need to also develop yourself." And it's funny because my wife does develop herself all the time. And she's, you know, 1.5 kids. And like, it's not a thing, but her mom is kind of concerned. You know, like, "Hey, you got to pay attention because you have a husband that does a lot of things and has a lot of hobbies and is always growing and you have to grow with them," which is actually really good advice.
[00:57:47] David Buss: Yeah.
[00:57:47] Jordan Harbinger: Even though it drives my wife crazy because it's sort of misplaced in this instance, but it's funny that older folks will notice this just because probably a life experience has shown them that this is a phenomenon that occurs in their friends or their other relationships.
[00:58:01] David Buss: Yeah, your mother-in-law doesn't want a mate discrepancy that creeps into the relationship.
[00:58:07] Jordan Harbinger: Right exactly. Lower mate-value men probably guard more, right? Do they feel like they've lucked out getting a high status woman who's going to be hard to replace? If they're sort of on the disadvantage side, they might guard more?
[00:58:19] David Buss: Yeah. They might guard more and then also sometimes resort to cost-inflicting tactics like intimate partner violence if they lack the positive incentives to get her to stay in the relationship.
[00:58:31] Jordan Harbinger: Let's talk about that a little bit, abuse inflicting a cost. Is abuse, sort of, I don't want to say refuge of the lower mate value? But maybe it really is. Like, it's a strategy that somebody who's lower mate value might — if they can't raise their mate value, right? They're not going to get higher. They might say, "Well, what I can do—," or, "If I don't have the confidence in myself to raise my mate value, maybe what I do is I try to chop my mate down a size."
[00:58:55] David Buss: Yeah, which is really a horrific tactic, but men do it.
[00:58:58] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:58:58] David Buss: To verbal abuse and physical abuse. Even things like, you know, insulting a woman's appearance, "You look terrible today. You're ugly. Your thighs are heavy. You've gotten fat. You don't take care of yourself anymore." Attempts to undermine the woman's self-perceived mate value through verbal derogation or physical violence, and both have that effect, and of course, tragic that they do. But one of the things that women can do is there's statistical predictors of when violence is going to occur. So the guy starts to cut off her relationships with friends or family. If he starts to put her down verbally like insulting her appearance, if you monitor her activity like insists on knowing where she is at all times. She wants to go out to the grocery store and she has to let him know. These are dangerous signs that they're not invariant danger signs, but there's statistical predictors of the likelihood of future violence in the relationship.
[00:59:55] Jordan Harbinger: I found it interesting that you'd mentioned abuse invokes shame and isolation, which limits social support and makes it less likely to leave the abuser. So it's not just them cutting off her relationships. The abuse itself causes the shame which causes self-isolation. So it's almost on like multiple fronts, right? He doesn't just have to say, "You're not going out with your friends today." He can just give her a bruise that she doesn't want other people to see. So she just decides to stay home or says, "It's not worth the fight. I don't want to even ask to go out with my friends on Friday because it's not worth the fight that happened." And you hear this a lot, right? "It's not worth the conflict. That's going to happen with him. So I'm just going to stay home and watch Netflix."
[01:00:36] David Buss: Right.
[01:00:36] Jordan Harbinger: And like that's abusive, but we don't necessarily, maybe we just think, oh, he's kind of an assh*le. We don't look at it as abuse and maybe he doesn't either, but really it is because it's designed to lower her status in other people's eyes.
[01:00:50] David Buss: It has that function or has that effect. You're absolutely right. So him, overtly cutting off her relationships or her, self-isolating because she doesn't want her friends or family to see that black eye.
[01:01:02] Jordan Harbinger: Right. So it's like the walking on eggshells. It's almost like a dangerous cycle because once she's isolated, the abuse can actually ratchet up more. I would assume one of the antidotes, maybe not antidote, but one of the strongest protectors against abuse is having a wide social circle of support, strong family connections, things like that.
[01:01:19] David Buss: Yeah, absolutely, bodyguards. I think this is the, probably the most important defense against sexual assault and intimate partner violence. Historically, in revolutionary time, women did have those. They lived in extended kin groups where they had uncles, fathers, brothers, et cetera, who cared about them. Female friends, male friends in the modern environment where we are sometimes isolated from other people. And this has actually especially happened during the pandemic, by the way, there's a spike in intimate partner violence by about 20 percent because people are cut off from their bodyguards, but bodyguards have been critical for women in protecting themselves against physical abuse and sexual abuse. So that's one piece of advice for women, make sure you have people who care about your welfare and keep them close.
[01:02:13] Jordan Harbinger: In the book, you talk about stalking and revenge porn as well. So revenge porn lowers mate value, right? You're basically shaming or humiliating this person. It can be a form of mate guarding, really screwed up mate guarding, obviously, but it seems like these are just terrible strategies, but when you look at what they do, which is lower than mate value of the person that you're intending to guard. Like stalking, this was really surprising for me is that the chances of you stalking someone and then ending up reproducing with them are probably low, but they're not zero, which is where a lot of stalkers find their chances of reproducing or where they estimate their chances.
[01:02:47] So it's almost like evolutionarily adaptive, right? And also, if I'm dating someone and they tell me, I'm being stalked by this guy and he's probably going to slash your tires and he's probably going to throw a brick through your window. And he's probably following me around. I don't know how he knows where I am all the time. I'm going to have to reevaluate my relationship with this person, right?
[01:03:06] David Buss: Yeah, absolutely. One way to say that is that stalkers engage in what I call triadic sexual conflict. That is, they are A, trying to get the woman back because they realize in part that they will never be able to replace her with a woman into equivalent mate value. But B, they're also interfering with her attempts to mate with anybody else. And exactly, guys will say, "Hey, I really like you, but get rid of your stalker." And then when you get rid of your stalker coming because that's a scary thing for guys as well.
[01:03:40] One of the things we found in our study is in this gets back to that fundamental mating market metric of mate-value discrepancy in our study of 2,500 stalking victims, we found that the victims of stalking tend to be much higher in mate value and the stalkers tend to be much lower and mate value. And the stalkers probably realize often these are broken relationships. So these are relationships in which the woman gets together with the guy sometimes briefly and sometimes over for months, occasionally for years, and then breaks up with them. And the guy realizes correctly that he's not going to be able to replace her.
[01:04:17] Jordan Harbinger: Right. He's thinking, "I lucked out. She was at a downtime in her life and there was a bunch of men around," or not a bunch of men around or whatever, "And she had no job and I was there to scoop her up," right? You see this in movies and things like that. And then it's like the high school boyfriend comes back, who was the captain of the football team. And the guy's like, "Oh sh*t. This is it. The jig is up." And then resorts to mate guarding strategies, which eventually push her away and into the arms of the other guy, because he's turning into a little bit of a creep.
[01:04:45] I want to wrap on something that's not so cheerful here in the next few minutes, which is rape and sexual coercion. I mentioned this before the rape section of the book is extensive and it must have been pretty hard to write. I know you're a professional, but just hearing about all these details and information, it's almost traumatizing to read, let alone live through something like that.
[01:05:03] David Buss: Yeah. It was traumatizing to write. So I devote two chapters to that. One on sexual coercion where I look at the male psychology that drives it. And then one on women's defenses against sexual coercion, which I think is really the most important chapter of the book. It was disturbing. I mean, I almost stopped writing the book when I got to that section because it was so disturbing. Also knowing women who have been sexually assaulted and reading case accounts of women who've been sexually, it's horrific because it does so much damage. I mean, it causes anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, self-isolation. Sexual assault is just one of the — if not the most, one of the most horrific things that you can do to another individual, to a woman, but therefore it's especially important given its prevalence. And of course, there's conflict about it among scientists about how prevalent it is, but whatever the prevalence is, it's prevalent enough that we are concerned about it.
[01:06:03] So I personally know a number of women who have been sexually assaulted over the course of their life, sometimes by a family member, sometimes on a date, sometimes they had some alcohol at a party and got sexually assaulted by a fraternity guy. So yeah, I do think that it's critical that we understand the causes of it and critical that we understand the defenses that can prevent it from occurring. And so that's why I think the chapter on women's defense and the things that men can do also to protect women from sexual assault is critical without understanding these fundamental causes, we're kind of lost on it.
[01:06:42] Jordan Harbinger: Let's talk about some of those causes and then what men and women can do. Because I think a lot of times men view rape almost as a problem that women have that guys don't have. But I think the way that we start to get rid of this in our society, is, you know, we create systems of law and social order to get rid of sexual coercion. And we also don't say that it's only problem for half the population, right? We kind of have to self police a little bit.
[01:07:06] David Buss: Right, right. But it's not a problem for just half of the population or just half or just 50 percent—
[01:07:12] Jordan Harbinger: Just women though, like a lot of guys will write it off, right? I mean, I remember this.
[01:07:16] David Buss: So here's one thing, and this is maybe a controversial recommendation, but there is evidence that men who have had like a sister or girlfriend raped are much, much more empathic about rape victims than men who have not. And you can see it. So man just gets to this point, there are men who, in fact, do have sisters, daughters, mothers, girlfriends, female friends, and they care about them and they care about their welfare. And so I think even just imagining getting people as a thought experiment, to imagine someone they care about your daughter or a sister or girlfriend or wife getting raped can help bridge that gap.
[01:07:58] I use the example on the book, that's why the last chapter is called minding the gap of this enormous sex difference in our sexual psychology, where a male politician said something like, "It's inevitable that a woman's going to be raped, she should just lie back and enjoy it." Well, this is, of course, horrific because only a male could make a statement like that.
[01:08:20] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[01:08:21] David Buss: And that reveals in an abhorrent way, this profound mind reading gap, that males do not understand how traumatic sexual violence is to them, that bypassing female choice. It's not just a casual thing. It's not just a minor offense. It is a traumatic offense. And so I think in order to solve it, men have to get into the picture, into the mix here. Men have to be part of the solution, and it's not just half the population. We can't just leave it to women. This is why some of the changes in sexual harassment policies are actually, I think, quite good because historically it's all up to the victim of sexual harassment to do the reporting and the logging of the offensive behavior, but just now and where I live, in my university, if you observe an episode of sexual harassment, you are required to report it. Otherwise, you could lose your job if you don't. That may have some negative dimensions to it as well, but at a minimum, it takes the burden off of the sole shoulders of the woman victim, and makes everyone in the workplace kind of responsible for preventing sexual harassment.
[01:09:33] Jordan Harbinger: Something that leads to sexual harassment that you mentioned in the book is sexual overperception bias. I'd love to talk about this. I never heard of this before.
[01:09:39] David Buss: Yeah. So sexual perception biases, classic case is woman smiles at the man or incidentally brushes up against his arm. And the man thinks, "Oh, I'm getting clear sexual signals."
[01:09:51] Jordan Harbinger: "She's into me, bro."
[01:09:52] David Buss: "She's absolutely into me." We've done lab studies led by a former graduate student of mine Carin Perilloux, where we bring people into the lab and have them interact in them. We ask them: how interested are you in this person? How interested do you think they are in you, sexually? And we find a male sexual overperception bias that is men in first sexual interest when it's not there based on these minimal ambiguous cues.
[01:10:17] Now, of course, a smile is an ambiguous cue. It could mean sexual interest, or it could mean friendliness or politeness or even nervousness if the guy's kind of creepy. But what we find is that not all men are equally susceptible in the sexual overperception bias. Namely, it's men high in narcissism and men who are pursuing a short-term mating strategy tend to be especially vulnerable to committing the sexual overperception bias, thinking that the woman is interested when she's not. And so I think even male awareness of that, "I'm attracted to this woman. She smiled at me." It doesn't mean that your attraction is reciprocated by her. So sort of self-knowledge and self-monitoring can help. And then also women need to understand that males commit this sexual overperception bias.
[01:11:08] So one example that I use in the book is a real case example where a national grocery store chain instructed its cashiers, female cashiers in this case, to be very friendly, to smile and give eye contact to the customers as they checked out. And as a result, that is enormous mushrooming of cases of sexual harassment and stalking and everything. Lawsuits were brought and finally, they eliminated the policy which then lower the rates of sexual harassment by the customers. But it's a classic example that eye contact and a smile goes to the male brain.
[01:11:41] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. "Thanks for coming to Trader Joe's." And you're like, "Oh man, she's totally into me. I'm going to follow her out to her car after work." I mean, it's creepy to think about it, but like that's how the brain is working in some of these cases. A lot of the guys that suffer from this, like you said, high narcissism, but then there's sort of like the opposite of that, right?
[01:11:58] When I used to teach dating skills, there'd be guys and he'd be like, "Yeah, she always likes to come over and watch movies. And I'm like her snuggle buddy. I don't think she likes me though." And it's like, "Okay. She always wants to do stuff with me. She's always calling me. And then I don't know, she got like super jealous when I went out with this other girl that I don't even like. I've known her since college and now she's not talking to me, but no, no, no. She's not interested in me. She's just being weird. We're just friends." So like the guys that women are interested in, you have to like punch them in the face to get them to notice you. But then meanwhile, you smile at another guy because he's creeping you out. And the guy ends up following you around thinking that you were throwing signals at him and he's assaulting you at a party that weekend. It's crazy.
[01:12:41] David Buss: Fundamental disconnect and cross-sex mind reading.
[01:12:44] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Yeah, exactly.
[01:12:46] David Buss: So I wonder if the guys that you're mentioning though, are maybe a little on the spectrum side, that is, they're not reading social cues, not making correct inferences.
[01:12:56] Jordan Harbinger: Can be but also I think a lot of guys who are nice and raised well, and I put that in air quotes because that can mean a lot of things, but raised well, they don't go around thinking that every woman who's nice to them wants to sleep with them. And then they over-correct, right? They go in the complete opposite direction where they're like, "Well, if she is interested in me, there's a lot of risk there from me getting rejected if I'm wrong." So they just decide not to do anything, even though like they're 80 percent, 90 percent, she likes me, but they're like, "But what if I do something and then I'm rejected. I'm going to be humiliated." They start catastrophizing this. So they really, I think deep down a lot of these guys do know, they just don't want to suffer any further, in many cases, humiliation socially. So they just ignore it and they bury it and then they go, "Why am I having trouble dating?" And it's like, well, because when a woman likes you, you're ignoring the signals. And when a woman doesn't like you, you're using that to reinforce the idea that no women like you, right? That's a serious pervasive problem in a lot of guys of all ages who are trying to date. That's a different subject though, of course.
[01:13:54] Now, rape is in the book. It is a very complex issue. I want to just sort of highlight that we are not able to cover most of it here on the show, because again, it's two chapters. The book really does—
[01:14:05] David Buss: Two long chapters.
[01:14:05] Jordan Harbinger: Long chapters, yes, talking about, is it an evolutionary adaptation? What can be done about it? How pervasive it is? That alone I think is sort of worth the price of admission if you're interested in this topic, but I know we're running out of time here.
[01:14:17] I want to highlight in closing here. Scanning for alternative mates stays active, even in happy relationships. We kind of talked about that before. I really love this concept because I think a lot of guys, especially who are married and are happy, would love to know that it's not a sign that they're with the wrong person if they're like, "Oh, that girl over there is kind of cute." "Oh, that woman at work is really attractive." Like I think a lot of us, we go, "Uh-oh, what is my subconscious trying to tell me by finding other women attractive?" And the answer is, it's trying to tell you that your dongle still works. That's it.
[01:14:49] David Buss: Right, right.
[01:14:49] Jordan Harbinger: Or even doesn't in the case of the 80-year-old man, right?
[01:14:52] David Buss: Right, right. Or my false sexual desire is punishing me for this. It doesn't mean I don't love my wife.
[01:14:58] Jordan Harbinger: Right. And I think as a man, I can tell you that every guy that I know does this at some level, even if they're madly in love with their significant other, and the only exceptions are maybe like the first three months of a new relationship that they kind of don't have eyes for anyone else. It's like you don't stop going to car shows just because you have your own Ferrari, I guess.
[01:15:17] David Buss: That's an interesting analogy.
[01:15:21] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I just made it up. It might be crap and fall apart under scrutiny. We'll see. But it is good to realize that something like the male desire for sexual variety that you have as a man, it just doesn't mean anything about your relationship. It's a natural impulse. It doesn't mean anything about the state of your committed relationship.
[01:15:38] David Buss: Yes.
[01:15:38] Jordan Harbinger: Is there anything else that I haven't asked that you think like, "I've got to get this in, this is extremely important"?
[01:15:44] David Buss: There are a lot of things that's extremely important, but I just related to what you just, what I talk about is the attentional adhesion that is men find looking at attractive women, it draws their attention, even a split second, you talk like a woman, catch a woman walking down the street out of the corner of your eye. And it captures male attention and their nucleus accumbens, which is a reward center in the lights up. So they get rewarded for looking at attractive women. And so in some sense, we, male brains, are set up for this kind of action, which is not necessarily a good thing or a pleasant thing to be tortured in this way.
[01:16:24] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. But it explains a lot if we're getting dopamine from looking at beautiful women's faces and other things that does explain a lot.
[01:16:31] David Buss: Yes, it does. So in closing then, I guess, what my hope is, and this is why I write the book is that the goal is to reduce sexual conflict, to reduce conflict between men and women, especially of the more horrific forms of sexual violence, like sexual harassment, stalking, intimate partner violence, sexual assault. We want to eliminate these things and only by understanding the deep causes of these things can we have any hope of understanding them. So pretending that they're, I don't know, all due to patriarchy, the patriarchy in the sky or whatever is not going to do the trick. What we need is education about the fundamental sex differences in our evolved sexual psychology, that's a starting point.
[01:17:14] Jordan Harbinger: Dr. David Buss, thank you very, very much. Always fascinating.
[01:17:17] David Buss: Thank you, Jordan. Great talking to you. It's nice to talk to someone who's well-informed and smart.
[01:17:25] Jordan Harbinger: Of course, I've got thoughts on this episode, but before I get into that, here's a sample of my interview with Guy Raz who hosts NPR's How I Built This. He shares his number one secret to getting a great interview, how asking difficult questions during the interview serves both the overall story and the guests being grilled, and it's kind of nice to just riff with somebody else in the business. Here's a quick bite.
[01:17:46] Guy Raz: I came to NPR as a 22-year-old intern. I was very lucky. You know, I really wanted to be an overseas reporter and the stars were sort of aligned in the right way where I got the job and I was totally terrified. You know, I was sent to Berlin to be the correspondent for NPR.
[01:18:03] Jordan Harbinger: Don't mess this up. Oh yeah, and by the way, you're going to Bosnia tomorrow.
[01:18:06] Guy Raz: And that was how I began now overseas as a foreign correspondent. Bearing witness to historical events, being somewhere where they're unfolding in front of your eyes in real time is thrilling. It's absolutely extraordinary and fascinating. I mean, imagine if you were standing at the Berlin Wall on November 9th, 1989.
[01:18:26] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:18:26] Guy Raz: It's an extraordinary feeling to be in these places. And I was able to witness history unfold in front of my eyes many, many times.
[01:18:35] If there's really a secret to interviewing people, this is my secret: if you really want to get a good interview from somebody, you need to honor their story. You need to honor them if they're coming to talk to you. And the way you honor them, as you learn a lot about them, you spend the time you do the work. And if you do that, there's a better than 50 percent chance that they will appreciate that and respect that. I mean, those wow moments, they're real because what I do in an interview is I completely leave the world that I'm in. I completely leave the surroundings, everything, all the chaos, the noise, you know, Trump and politics. I just leave it, it's out. It's all the noise, COVID, it's gone. It's like when you see a movie, I am just in that person's world.
[01:19:23] Jordan Harbinger: For more, including the one teachable quality, all entrepreneurs seem to have in common, check out episode 404 of The Jordan Harbinger Show with Guy Raz.
[01:19:35] So much here and so much more in the book, especially about coercion and rape and some other disturbing topics that I just didn't have time/inclination to get into here live on the show. So definitely check that out. The book will be linked up in the show notes. Please use our website links if you buy books from the guest. It does help support the show.
[01:19:53] Now, in David's book, he also discusses long distance relationships. We do tend to deceive ourselves in long distance relationships. We fill in the gaps when that person is not with us with our ideal values, right? So we idealize the person when they're not in front of us. This is very human, very natural, very dangerous and destructive to long-term relationships, unfortunately. The antidote is, of course, spending lots of real time together, spending longer periods with somebody in the new/home environment really is kind of the only way to get around it. Don't get married or make a big decision, like moving in together before doing this. I've seen this mistake a lot. People who only traveled together and then decide to move in together or get married, and it's just a total disaster on wheels. You need to take things a little bit step-by-step for that specific reason.
[01:20:39] Also what I found interesting from the book and from our conversation is that women are more likely to keep hooking up with an ex. And for guys where like, "Oh yeah, of course, you know, friends with benefits. Why not? No strings attached," but a lot of women — and I learned this, heard this for the first time from the book. A lot of times for women, it mitigates bad feelings and social consequences. It may place the ex in a backup mate position. So like, "Hey, if something falls through with my new guy or with being free, I always have you to fall back on." "Okay, fine." But also it can stop guys from really freaking out because a lot of guys are more concerned, unfortunately, with the loss of sex than they are with the loss of an actual partner, especially depending on what age you are.
[01:21:19] So if she still hooks up with the guy, he might be less prone to violence or destructive behavior that could affect her. So hooking up after breakup, not necessarily done for the same reasons as men, which is often variety. That's often why men break up and continue to sleep around which you know, surprises, no guy and no gal anywhere.
[01:21:39] But it makes me wonder how many women listening have had pity sex or just, you know, breakup sex after the fact with a man that they broke up with just to ease out of the relationship. And I'm sure I'll see a bunch of emails about this. I do find this interesting. I wonder how conscious this even is. So have you, and I'll ask this of all the ladies listening here, have you slept with a guy after the fact just so he didn't get pissed off and because it was fun, but also, I wonder, how conscious this is, right? Like, do you even know why you're still hooking up with your ex? Or does it seem like, "Eh, it's easy, it's fun"? If you think about it, how many of you have done it just so he's less mad or so that you feel less guilt about the breakup? I bet it's a lot more people than we thought. And I bet a lot of you, you'd never even really think about why specifically it's just something you do.
[01:22:23] So this all sort of leads to the final question here, which is how to become irreplaceable. And there's whole industries on this. I ran a company that taught this for 10-plus, 11 years or so. And I ran a podcast that only talked about how to become irreplaceable, right? High mate value. The book gets into a lot of strategies on this. Some have to do with creating a shallow pool of local mates, which is of course harder to do. Focus is now not on the discrepancy, which is the status discrepancy that is between you and your mate, but on your mate and the other options out there. So how desirable are you in absolute terms matters far less than how desirable you are compared to everyone else around you?
[01:23:00] You know, if you are the, let's say, one of five women in an engineering class with 500 men, you are by all means one of the most desirable females these guys can possibly imagine, even if in a 50/50 pool of women, you're average or below, right? Which is great. And I assume the same thing goes for men when you are on a, I don't know, a cheerleading squad or something like that. And you're one of the guys that's interested in women on that cheerleading squad. And there's a lot of, you know, straight male cheerleaders. And they've told me during college, I remember this, a couple of friends of mine were on the cheerleading squad and we used to be like, "Oh, you're a cheerleader." and they're like, "You have no idea, man. Fish in a barrel, Jordan." I used to hear that all the time. Oh, the college days where we kept things classy and peasy.
[01:23:41] But this is one reason why breakups often happen between, let's say hometown sweethearts. Somebody goes to college, they leave their small hometown. There's way more selection and there's distance. It's just a recipe to pretty much any relationship, even if the relationship is otherwise good and stable. And I think the Internet, it remains to be seen how the internet just destroys these different strategies because now the pool of mates is massive. Depending on the radius you're willing to put into your dating apps. You know, you put 500 miles in or a hundred miles in or global or whatever it is, and now there's suddenly thousands or hundreds of thousands of people where formerly there might've been 10 people in your dating pool in your small town that you knew.
[01:24:21] Also of course, something that'll help you become irreplaceable as a mate, specialized skills, unique assets in a group, such as a big network or a lot of resources in another area or a special perk or something like that. I don't know. Fame seems to be the most obvious one here, a giant network of connections, or maybe just material wealth that is really obvious. I didn't see podcasting on that list, but that makes sense. I don't think podcasting counts as a specialized skill that makes somebody an irreplaceable mate. Although it worked out pretty well for me, I'll throw that one out there.
[01:24:49] Worksheets for the episodes are always in the show notes. Transcripts are in the show notes. There's a video of this interview going up on our YouTube channel. jordanharbinger.com/youtube. Don't forget. We've got our clips channel with cuts that don't make it to the show or highlights from interviews you can't see anywhere else. jordanharbinger.com/clips is where you can find. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram, or just hit me on LinkedIn.
[01:25:13] I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships and maybe even increase your mate value using software, systems, and tiny habits over at our Six-Minute Networking course, the course is free. jordanharbinger.com/course is where I'm teaching you how to dig the well before you get thirsty. And most of the guests on the show subscribe and contribute to the course. So come join us, you'll be in smart company where you.
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