Sexy Science - Women don't always get their just rewards

THE alpha male can have women falling at his feet, but what of the alpha woman? For her, success often has the opposite effect. So what is an ambitious girl to do?

THE Olympic village in Beijing would have been a veritable sex-fest last weekend, according to an article in one of the broadsheets by British former Olympic table tennis player, Matthew Syed. After months of extreme self control during training and competing, the combination of all that unleashed testosterone and exquisitely toned, rippling flesh would have left athletes with little choice but to go on a romp before returning to their normal lives, he says.

But, he notes, while male gold medallists have to fend off female admirers, top women athletes are not regarded by their male counterparts as any more desirable than lower-ranking women or even perhaps the sexy hostesses there to help the athletes.

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This pretty much reflects the situation in every other sphere of life, where alpha women don't reap the rewards in terms of adulation from the opposite sex that alpha men do. And this can have a bearing on women's relationship and family prospects. For instance, an Australian study showed that being well educated and smart might be a handicap in having kids. Around one in nine Australian women are childless, but among women with a university degree that figure rises to one in four. In professional women it's one in three. There's plenty of evidence, though, that men who are successful in their career tend also to be a success with women, and without contraception this would translate into lots more babies.

A friend of mine reckons men find it hard to live with a successful woman. He said that a man likes to be with a woman who's proud of him, to give him the confidence to fight his battles and bring home the bacon. I guess this might be difficult if she can beat him at his own game. It comes down to the differences in the qualities that men and woman are looking for in a mate. If a woman chooses a high-status man, she might be able to secure material benefits and social standing for herself and her children, but, if a man chooses a woman higher in status than himself, he might get left feeling like a spare part. A man's priority when choosing a partner, at least in the first instance, tends to focus on indicators of fertility: youthfulness, a feminine face, and curves in the right places. Depressing, isn't it?

If a woman is to find herself a man who is attracted to her and who she fancies herself she will usually have to look "up the gradient" from herself, or at least on an equal footing, in terms of earning power, educational level and even height. So the further up a given gradient a woman is, the smaller the pool of potential boyfriend material.

So what is a successful girl to do? I guess it depends on what you mean by successful. No doubt many alpha don't need a long-term relationship. On the other hand, some will want just that. If they're lucky, they'll find a relationship with a guy whose talents may be different from their own but complementary. The other option is to tussle for one of the small number of elite men at the top of the pile.

It may seem like a bum deal for women – you can work your butt off but don't expect the same rewards as men in terms of sex and relationships – but there is another side to the coin. While men who reach the pinnacles of success can have women falling at their feet, not every man can be Usain Bolt or Richard Branson. For every gold medallist guy, there are loads more who just can't make the grade and the pickings for them can be very meagre indeed. More about that in a column coming soon.