Altruism is Freaking Dead Sexy, Giving is Hot

painting of the word "give" in white letters on a blue background
Image by Tim Green / CC BY

There might very well be a reason all the red pill MRA folks are so angry. It would seem the strategy of negging, i.e., being mean and/or insulting to romantic partners in an attempt to manipulate their self-esteem in a coercive way? Well, it’s not only sleazy. It’s arguably ineffective. At least in the long term.

It might just be that the red pill can give you blue balls.

In fact, it would seem that engaging in good deeds could have a positive effect on your sex life, especially when considered long term, past the realm of the one night stand.

As Arnocky and Barclay write:

Research has shown that we prefer altruistic partners, all else being equal; especially for long-term mating (the evidence for altruism being preferred in short-term mates is mixed).

Anecdotally, I’d also say ┬áthat the best lovers I’ve had were not only concerned about receiving pleasure but giving it as well.

It’s very much the middle G in Dan Savage’s GGG — Good, Giving, and Game.

So sure good deeds inside the sack and out aren’t necessarily one and the same. But it’s easy to see how a spirit of charity could follow you through various contexts and improve your social relationships.

Can Altruism Be Selfish?

The question does remain: Can altruism be adopted for selfish means? Can you become a giving person to be a bigger hit with the ladies? Or does the selfishness of the reasons for adopting it make it no longer altruistic?

Researcher Daniel Batson has given a lot of thought and attention to these sorts of questions.

As Batson writes: “Especially in so value-laden an area as our helping of others, we cannot assume we know — or if we know that we will report — our true motives.”

In his work Batson has focused on whether or altruism actually exists and if seemingly selfless acts instead have hidden selfish upsides:

If a friend’s distress caused you distress, and you stayed up all night providing comfort in order to reduce your own distress, then your motivation was egoistic. True, you sought to make your friend feel better, but that was not your ultimate goal. It was only instrumental in allowing you to reach the ultimate goal of feeling better yourself.

If your friend’s distress caused you distress, but you helped in order to relieve the friend’s distress as an end in itself, then your motivation was altruistic. True, by relieving the friend’s distress you probably relieved your own distress and avoiding feeling guilty. Yet, to the extent that these outcomes were not your ultimate goal but only unintended consequences of pursuing the ultimate goal of reliving the friend’s distress, your motivation was altruistic.

Empathy Makes All the Difference

Batson argues that the secret ingredient in all of this is empathy. Regardless of any other factors, if we feel empathy towards another person, we will help them even if it has no upside for us. In the absence of empathy, a complex social calculus takes place in which we will help if there’s an upside for us (even if it’s not readily apparent to others and maybe even hidden from ourselves).

And I’m willing to bet that empathy is the secret sauce to differentiate between “Nice Guys” who expect to be rewarded with sex when they’re halfway decent to women in short intervals and actual altruistic dudes (and dudettes, people, etc) who are giving, understand, and yes, hot.

Actually caring about other people.

It makes a big difference.

 

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