According to their website, this year marks Dallas Lynn and Jared Whitson’s tenth anniversary of their ground-breaking hypothesis about how men and women rate the opposite sex.
Their Ladder Theory rests on a set of basic ideas: men have one ladder for rating women—since they just want to hook up with all of them with varying degrees of urgency—while women have two. On one ladder are the men they want to hook up with, while on the other are men they just want to be friends with. In between lies the abyss into which many men fall while trying to jump from the friend ladder to the hook up ladder.
Lynn and Whitson—who declined several requests for comment—have even used pie charts to explain how men and women rank each other. For men, 60 percent of a woman’s appeal hinges on looks, 30 percent on her sexual voracity and 10 percent on other categories. For women, 50 percent relies on money or power, 40 percent relies on attraction and 10 percent is concerned with, “things women say they care about but don’t.”
But will Ladder Theory be coming soon to a Core near you? Though several professors from the Sociology, Psychology and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality departments declined comment, Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology Steven Pinker gave the impression that it may take a second Curricular Review before Ladder Theory finds its way into Harvard sourcebooks.
“There is a grain of truth in the idea that men are, on average, more interested in casual sex than women, that men and women put different weights on different criteria for choosing a mate and that mating is a kind of marketplace in which people seek the most desirable mate that they have a hope of attracting,” Pinker writes in an e-mail.
“Other than that the site [www.laddertheory.com] gets a lot of what we know about mating psychology wrong, which is not surprising, because it deals in extreme caricatures of one or two stereotypes rather than examining the actual literature on human mating…So on the whole I found the so-called ‘theory’ a rather dumb oversimplification of what we know about mating, and the language and tone of the site immature and crude.” Psychology concentrator Maura E. Boyce ’05 agrees. “My initial impression of it was that it was a lame interpertation of the evolutionary attraction that men and women have for each other.”
However, Shawn J. Anchor ’00, Head Teaching Fellow for Psychology 1504: Positive Psychology and Literature and ArtsA-18: Fairy Tales, Children’s Literature, and the Construction of Childhood, sees possible uses for the Theory. Anchor says, “The Ladder Theory does wonders for the self-esteem of female footstools and ‘nice guys who think they should be getting more play’ everywhere by reminding them that looks and money, not just their personality, are to blame. It is rumored to be the homepage for the Yale Marching Band, all the members of Hanson and the head TF of Positive Psych.” Booyah for confessions.