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A leading scientist claims that men value intelligence over bust size when it comes to finding a partner.
Evolutionary biologist Professor David Bainbridge argues that men are attracted to women with brains because a high intellect suggests she will be a responsible mother.
But do women think that's true? Here, six sharp-witted women reveal whether men find them irresistible or if brains are a turn-off...
Professor David Bainbridge claims men are more interested in women with brains than a large bust, as it suggests they are more likely to be a responsible mother
Novelist and TV producer Daisy Goodwin has a history degree from Trinity College, Cambridge
Clever chaps just stare at my chest
Novelist and TV producer Daisy Goodwin has a history degree from Trinity College, Cambridge.
So men find intelligence more beguiling than a big bust?
Well, I am a 34DD and have also been on the winning team on University Challenge (admittedly the slightly easier version in which teams of former students go head to head), so you could argue I am ideally suited to assess the truth of this research.
My experience is that, generally, the cleverer the man the more interested he is in my chest rather than what's going on in my head.
I once had a long conversation with an ex-newspaper editor — now a famous author — who, while asking me about my latest novel, stared so fixedly at my decolletage that I thought he might actually develop a crick in his neck. I don't think he even noticed what he was doing.
I also had a teacher at university who, while I was reading aloud an essay on the Counter Reformation, tried to rest his half-full glass of whisky on my chest 'just to see if it would balance'.
It's fair to say he wasn't fully attentive to my finely calibrated arguments about the Jesuits and their use of propaganda.
So I'm not convinced by Professor Bainbridge's findings. It might just be that his results are a bit skewed, as most men are going to say that they like clever women because, of course, any woman who chooses them must be fiendishly intelligent.
In any case, where's the challenge in attracting a stupid woman?
But very few of them want to feel that they are out of their league brains-wise.
As for my husband, while he says it was my brains and looks he was attracted to, as far as he is concerned it's a fine line between clever and too clever by half.
I think women find it sexy if a man is way smarter than they are, but a man will always want to prove that he's the really intelligent one.
After 27 years of marriage, what always cheers my husband up are the things I can't do.
For example, while he knows that on the general knowledge front I am always going to beat him, he never tires of pointing out: 'If you were really clever, you wouldn't have failed your driving test 13 times.'
Libby Purves graduated from St Anne's, Oxford, with a first-class degree in English
Busty airheads get so boring
Libby Purves graduated from St Anne's, Oxford, with a first-class degree in English.
The secret is out! Men do not like their women being dim. You needn't be a red-hot intellectual, but it helps to be quick-witted and able to listen to an argument. In a big, cruel, uncertain world the last thing a bloke needs is to be shackled to a demanding fool, however beautiful.
That men go for brains, rather than more obvious physical attributes, is a theory I've long subscribed to.
As a student I inherited a boyfriend from an airily lovely and wholly irrational girl who, he told me later, believed every word in her horoscope every week in every magazine, even when they contradicted each other.
He knew it probably had to end when she burst into tears at how it was 'sooo unfair' when her bank account was overdrawn.
I think he took to me because we met at a lecture on Dr Johnson and chatted about the use of dictionaries. It didn't last, but only because he went off with an elegant physicist who had better clothes.
So I can't be surprised by the report. Yes, there is a temporary buzz for a man in being admired by a daffy gorgeous airhead, but when it wears off he's left with the embarrassment and torment of having to go around with someone wilfully dim, prey to every barmy fashionable idea and probably addicted to Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop website.
Beauty is all very well, but you can't be rolling around in bed all the time. Courtship is about company as well as sex. So unless they're self-absorbed psychopaths who never listen anyway, most bright men do like women to be capable of conversation, able to listen to a new idea, think it over and offer one back. Even if the discussion is just about whether to go out or watch TV.
In my dating days, I managed to look middling-presentable, but it was pretty obvious that the men who stuck around were the ones who enjoyed a chat and a joke as well as a cuddle, and didn't mind an argument if it was good-natured.
I don't think I ever lost a boyfriend to a rival who wasn't as clever as me. And when it comes to serious stuff like marriage, men aren't stupid; who'd want to be lumbered with an idiot who doesn't have a taste for earning her own living?
It's all there in Jane Austen's Pride And Prejudice. Lizzie gets Darcy because she's bright and confident as well as having 'fine eyes'.
Her poor father Mr Bennet is stuck with Mrs Bennet because early in life, 'Captivated by youth and beauty, and that appearance of good humour which youth and beauty generally give, he married a woman whose weak understanding and illiberal mind had very early in their marriage put an end to all real affection for her'. Harsh, but true.
Sandra Parsons is the Daily Mail's literary editor
Try flattery and a Wonderbra!
Sandra Parsons is the Daily Mail's literary editor.
As someone with very little bust to speak of, I'd love to believe Professor David Bainbridge when he says it's the size of our brains, not our breasts, that matters more to men. Experience, however, teaches me otherwise. I know several women in high-powered jobs who are still single. They are all attractive, solvent and witty. But they're also very clever — and what they all say is that men find them scary.
Most men, of course, are clever enough to know that they'd be accused of being at best unenlightened and at worst downright misogynistic if they admitted to preferring a well-endowed bust to a well-stocked brain.
But they're usually not clever enough to disguise their fear when it becomes clear that a woman might be more knowledgeable than them or — worse — disagree with them. On a primitive, atavistic level they can't help but feel that their masculinity is threatened.
With another man they can confront the issue in one of two ways: by being aggressive, or by submitting. But with a woman? Submission's not an option — and they know aggression shouldn't be either.
So instead they end up in a defensive, patronising flap — which, needless to say, is not conducive to love and romance.
According to Professor Bainbridge, men value intelligence in a potential mate more highly than large breasts or long legs because they think a clever woman makes a better mother.
Even if this were true (there are plenty of brilliant women who are lousy mothers) it's impossible to measure. What clever women know is that what men really value is a woman who makes them feel good. And the way to do that is use your intelligence, well, cleverly.
For example: when they're holding forth on something you know a lot about, don't tell them that you've got a PhD in the subject.
Just look at them intently instead, while saying 'really?' in breathy tones of stunned admiration.
Or, if they're about to do something really stupid that will almost certainly jeopardise their career, don't tell them scathingly that what they're proposing is a sure route to demotion or the sack.
Instead just say, slightly hesitantly, 'of course, I know very little about this', and then follow up with: 'you've probably thought about this already, but what about doing X?'
Because a truly clever woman knows that the best way to attract a husband is to make your idea their idea. In short, be clever enough to disguise your cleverness.
Oh yes — and despite what Professor Bainbridge says, it won't hurt to wear a Wonderbra, too.
Biographer and literary critic Frances Wilson has an English degree from St Hugh's College, Oxford, and PhD from Sussex University
It's not my mind men swoon over
Biographer and literary critic Frances Wilson has an English degree from St Hugh's College, Oxford, and PhD from Sussex University.
Like many women, Marilyn Monroe included, I am sapiosexual — which means I am sexually attracted to intelligence.
My first crush was on the monocled Patrick Moore, then presenting The Sky At Night; at school I fancied the physics geeks, at university I went for the men who never left the manuscripts library.
I have no interest in what a man looks like, how much hair he has, how tall he is or how firm his six-pack, just as long as he keeps me satisfied in the intellectual department.
In fact, the more eccentric and bedraggled, the more authentic I believe his brainpower to be.
I still melt when my first husband talks computer science to me; when my current partner quotes from the minor Caroline poets I need to fan myself down.
So when Professor Bainbridge reveals 'The main thing men are looking for is intelligence' I should be cheering that the male of the species has evolved to the point where he can look longingly into a woman's spectacles without being distracted by whether or not her bust is, as the professor puts it, 'symmetrical'.
Except . . . I have yet to meet a true male sapiosexual, a man who genuinely swoons with desire when a woman entertains him over supper with an analysis of German metaphysics.
I am better endowed in the brain than the boob departments, but it doesn't take much to grasp that the big-brained men I have stepped out with care little for my skill at Anglo-Saxon verb inflections.
No man has ever salivated over my enthusiasm for the criticism of I. A. Richards unless I happened to be sporting a well-fitting Lycra top as I spoke.
Women learn from birth that it is bazookas rather than brain-power alone that will open doors for us. This is the result of my own research: men like women to be mirrors who reflect them to twice their natural intellectual size.
Magazine editor and writer Lindsay Nicholson has an astrophysics degree from University College London
Sex really isn't rocket science
Magazine editor and writer Lindsay Nicholson has an astrophysics degree from University College London.
As someone who studied astrophysics at university, I have to say that I never felt besieged by the nine out of ten students on my course who were men. But nor, I suspect, did any of my fellow female rocket scientists — some of whom probably also had bigger breasts than me.
Certainly no man ever gazed deep into my eyes and asked me to explain Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle to him, which I certainly could have done.
On the other hand I can't recall ever being turned down for a date by someone who feared I could calculate differential equations faster than he could — even though that would almost certainly have also been true. In fact, I have to say my brains have never really been an issue one way or the other. So I was slightly baffled by Professor Bainbridge's research, not least because as a scientist I really doubt that the basis of sexual attraction is something that can be measured in any meaningful sense.
The idea that men are drawn to women who look brainy enough to raise their children seems in itself wildly unscientific, as well as disregarding the effects of thousands of years of civilisation.
Raising children, while exhausting, demanding and deeply rewarding doesn't require the sort of brainpower required to dash off a fiendish sudoku in five minutes flat. And thank heavens for that. I think we only have to look around us to see that attraction is varied and complex.
As the mother of a 22-year-old daughter — both pretty and brainy in my view — I have spent years discouraging the idea that the prettier you are the more successful you will be in love (Princess Diana being a case in point).
But I don't think simply being brainy will help much, either.
I believe people get, and stay, together for a multitude of reasons, which are as impossible to calculate as the likelihood of a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil causing a tornado in Texas — which is Chaos Theory, by the way.
Mind you, as my daughter sits her university finals this month 'brains win you boys' could be an argument to get her through those last few days of revision.
And for that reason only, I might just concede that the professor has a point.
Writer Melissa Kite is a graduate of Royal Holloway, University of London
Men simply hate being outwitted
Writer Melissa Kite is a graduate of Royal Holloway, University of London.
Whenever I get chatted up by a man, one line always strikes terror into my heart: 'I like clever women.' Why?
Because in my experience men who say they want an intelligent, high-achieving woman are the most difficult men with whom to have a relationship.
This is because they are in love with an idea — a very commendable idea — but not the reality.
One ex-boyfriend of mine, a City broker, was always insisting to me in the early days of our courtship what a turn-on it was that I was 'incredibly bright'. He was also happy, he said, that I had a career and identity of my own.
A few years in, he was yelling at me to do what he wanted in every single situation, right down to what I wore.
He once made me line up my shoes in the way he wanted.
Perhaps a part of the attraction for him was that in conquering a clever woman he felt like he'd secured even more of a triumph.
Maybe that's what these men in the research survey are all about. But the reality of being constantly challenged by a woman whose brain is working overtime is not something they warm to in the long term, believe me.
I have a theory that most men make an immediate assessment when they meet a woman of whether she's the type he'd like to sleep with — and if she is, then they are far more receptive to what she says and thinks.
But a surface fascination with the 'brains' rather than the 'bust' part of the equation can evaporate pretty quickly when the woman challenges his right to dominate.
This is a tough truth for us girls, but it's far better for women to understand that men work this way. And it is better for men to be honest and admit they like pretty women who don't challenge them too much, because then it saves those of us who don't fit that bill a lot of time and effort.
Knowing what I do now, at the grand age of 43 I've taken a break from the dating scene.
If I was in it, I'd try to find men who are much more intelligent and successful than me.
A betrayal of my feminist principles? Perhaps — but it would cut out a lot of silly game-playing that only ends in tears.