Recently a colleague returned from a trip to Latvia and remarked on how beautiful the women were. A discussion ensued at which it was agreed that women in a number of other countries were also very beautiful but markedly less outgoing than the Latvians. As you may recall, beautiful Latvian women like to parade their beauty. My colleague further informed us that the latter event was not unique, having witnessed something similar himself.
Is my colleague's observation a mere statement of prurient preference? Does this kind of thing belong in a family blog? Don't worry, at Marginal Revolution we never serve our prurience without a little theory.
Sociosexuality is a concept in social psychology that refers to how favorable people are to sex outside of commitment. It can be measured by answers to questions such as "I can
imagine myself being comfortable and enjoying "casual" sex with
different partners" (agree strongly to disagree strongly) or "Sex without love is ok," as well as with objective measures such as the number of sexual partners a person has had. A low score indicates subjects who favor monogamous, long-term, high-investment relationships. A high score indicates subjects more favorable to sex for pleasure's sake alone. with less regard to commitment. On average, males have higher sociosexuality scores than females but sociosexuality scores for females vary widely across countries.
Why might female sociosexuality scores vary? One hypothesis is that in cultures with low operational sex ratios (the number of marriageable men/number of marriageable women) female sociosexuality will be higher. The argument is that when the relative supply of males is low, competition for mates encourages females to shift towards the male ideal, i.e. when supply is scarce the demanders must pay more. (Note that this theory can also explain trends over time, e.g. Pedersen 1991).
Ok, where does this get us? Well in Sociosexuality from Argentina to Zimbabwe, Schmitt (2005) surveyed some 14,000 people on sociosexuality and he correlated female sociosexuality with the operational sex ratio. Here are the results:
Notice that Latvia has one of the highest rates of female sociosexuality in the 48 nations surveyed and the lowest sex ratio.
Thus, the theory is that Latvian women appeal more strongly to the male ideal because the number of marriageable men in Latvia is low relative to the number of women. Is it any wonder that my colleague found the Latvian women beautiful?