For Women, Our "Peak" Isn't Determined by Men

In a strange piece at the New York Times, Maya Salam for some reason re-invigorates evolutionary psychology and MRA talking points to undercut a comedy special she both praises and seems to entirely miss the point of.

The piece begins (emphasis added):
If you haven't watched 'Nanette,' Hannah Gadsby's fearless comedy special on Netflix, do that now. (We'll wait.)

In it, Ms. Gadsby takes on the fragility of masculinity — and at one point drills into Pablo Picasso, who, well into his 40s, had an affair with a teenage girl.

Ms. Gadsby, who has a degree in art history, recounted how Picasso justified the relationship by claiming that he and the girl, Marie-Thérèse Walter, were both in their prime. Seething, Ms. Gadsby said: "A 17-year-old girl is never in her prime. Ever! I am in my prime." She is 40.
I want to first note that I watched Gadsby's comedy special recently and I know exactly how it probably looks to misogynists: A 40-year-old butch-looking woman is not really in her prime. That's absurd. The old bat is clearly just jealous of cute younger women.

Which brings me back to Salam's piece. She notes that she was reminded of Gadsby's bit when she heard about a study of an online dating app showing that women's desirability to heterosexual men "peaks" at age 18. This was used to "disprove" Gadsby's claim:
The researchers determined that while men's sexual desirability peaks at age 50, women's starts high at 18 and falls from there.

In other words, not so far from the ages of Walter and Picasso."
Where Gadsby's piece interrogates the idea that a woman's "peak" is something that is determined by whether or not a man wants to fuck her, Salam seems to concede otherwise. This concession is also made within the title of Salam's piece itself (possibly generated by an editor), that asserts: "For Online Daters, Women Peak at 18 While Men Peak at 50, Study Finds. Oy."

I don't see a great need for that resigned "oy." It's not, actually, a huge, groundbreaking revelation that many men want to have sex with younger women. This proves jack about when a woman does or does not "peak."

Relatedly, the article goes on to note that men tend to be less attracted to women with postgraduate education and... yeah. No shit. And while Salam cites the weak-sauce evopsych rationale that men just want to have sex with younger, less educated women for childbearing reasons, in my experience, a lot of men don't want to date smart, educated, and/or funny women because they have no fucking clue how to relate to women as peers, let alone actual human beings. (Also related: It's not that women aren't funny. It's that men simply don't want us to be.)

Near the end of her comedy special, after recounting previous experiences of men assaulting her when she was younger, Gadsby declares, "I am in my prime. Would you test your strength out on me?" She defines her peak and, consequently, it's determined by when she feels strong, not by the extent to which men are comfortable or turned on. Indeed, to the contrary, her entire routine as a comedian in her peak does, and should, make many men feel deeply uncomfortable.

It is only now, as a 40-year-old woman, after a lifetime of living within a culture (and profession) that contributed to her inability to process her traumas, that she's able to speak about her experiences on her own terms, while also — by the way — basically inventing a new form of comedy.

So, yes. We know. A lot of men do prefer younger, less educated, less experienced, and less autonomous women to date and fuck. But maybe, strangely enough, women have worth regardless.

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