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You can’t make poor men useless and expect rich men to be faithful

Isa Senkumba

You can’t make poor men useless and expect rich men to be faithful

And that’s an economic fact

In 2017, one rich man identified only as Ssemanda’s grabbed international headlines when he married three women at once. But his act is hardly surprising especially among rich men.

In an attempt to study the human sexual selection, psychologists David Buss and Michael Barnes asked people to rank 76 characteristics: What do you value most in a potential mate? Surprisingly, the winner was neither beauty nor wealth. Actually the number one characteristic or attribute was “kind and understanding,” followed by “exciting personality” and then “intelligent.” Men said that they valued appearances more highly than women did, and women said they valued “good earning capacity” more highly than men did—but neither ranked measures of physical attractiveness or socioeconomic status among their top considerations. But this study was done way back in 1986 and we should not also forget that people are liars sometimes.

What is more evident today, however, is the fact that women are looking for financially upright men and men are looking for beautiful and attractive women. The stereotypical example of that is known in sociology as a “beauty-status exchange”. When an attractive person marries a wealthy or otherwise powerful person, they both win. It’s the classic story of an elderly polymath-billionaire who has sustained damning burns to the face who marries a swimsuit model who can’t find Paris on a map but really wants to go there, because it’s romantic.

Women are looking for husbands with an income 58% higher than those of the available men. Wealth buys an affluent man power, recognition and a reputation. On average most women won’t even mind if the man is abusive or an inveterate lair because all they want is a rich man who will spoil her. Therefore women are more attracted to rich men even if she is going to put up with more unsavory behavior from him. She is determined to put in more effort to get him. In such situations women don’t hold out on sex for too long or return too many of his requests with a “no” response.

For a long time economists have argued that men from poor communities with less education experience lower marriage rates simply because they are not good financial bets. Definitely without steady incomes, such men can’t reliably contribute to a household. So while women might have children with them, they won’t commit to such men for life and that has been the assumption. Wealth and good education have been the score cards. We may not entirely ignore the religious and cultural expectations but education certainly seems to help most, possibly because it speaks to a person’s long-term job prospects and earning potential. So if you want your son to be marriageable one day, tell him to stay in school now and make money immediately after school.

Quite interesting but rich men pretty much get a chance to have their cake and eat it too. Even when such a man decides to marry, and is caught in the act of cheating, his wife is not likely to break up with him. A great majority of the wives of affluent men have become accustomed to accepting his cheating. He has nothing to fear by cheating and she is aware that quantity actually excites such a man. After all he is attached, well dressed, wealthy and confident.

The problem is that the society that makes poor men useless is the same society that expects rich men to be faithful especially after all women have rushed to get the few privileged men. Economics teaches us that, throwing poor men out of the tournament and leaving only the few rich men brings about shortage of supply of men in the market. The demand for men by the women remains heavily outstanding and this causes the stampede for men. In such an environment of excess you have no option but to have the few available rich men share the so many women hence the rampant male infidelity.

According to data collected by, the UK’s leading dating site for married people, the number of city professionals looking for illicit love online has risen by 8 per cent year-on-year. Adulterers earn an average of £52,000 a year and are more likely to be male. This is likely to go on and on because the relationship market is dominated by just a fraction of the male population, who have the financial muscle to attract women.



Isa Senkumba is a social critic

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