She’s a trophy wife! She’s a gold digger! These are common phrases attributed to highly attractive women dating plain-looking men.
They are seen as being in a barter relationship where the currency is the man’s finances and the woman’s looks.
To the man, these women are trophies to be shown off. To the woman, these men are a quick way of climbing the social ladder or earning quick money.
However, a new study dispels this perception. According to the study conducted by the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, “the trophy wife is a stereotype fuelled by an attempt to trivialise women’s careers and reinforce sexist notions.”
In fact, the study adds, women who are seen as trophies will usually date men who match their level of attractiveness. “Couples who appear to fit the trophy wife stereotype actually match in terms of physical attractiveness and socio-economic status.”
In the study, researchers used a sample of young couples who were interviewed and rated based on their physical attractiveness.
According to lead researcher Elizabeth McClintock, a sociologist, handsome men tended to partner with pretty women while successful men tended to partner with successful women.
“On average, high-status men will have better-looking wives, but this is because they themselves are considered better-looking. They are less likely to be overweight and more likely to afford luxury grooming.” Ms. McClintock adds that if women stop working to take care of their kids at home, it is easy for them to be regarded as trophy wives.
“People will label them without bearing in mind that their husbands are equally good-looking or that the housewives were highly-qualified professionals before quitting their jobs,” she says.
The study titled Beauty and Status: The Illusion of Exchange in Partner Selection states that the strongest force in partner election is a similarity in education, physical attractiveness, race and religion.
The research further establishes that contrary to the trophy wife stereotype, social class barriers in the marriage market are relatively impermeable. “Beautiful women are very unlikely to use their looks to move upwards in terms of class by marrying a high-status man or trading their looks,” adds the study.