Menelaos Apostolou is a professor at the University of Nicosia, Cyprus. He was born in Greece (Athens) and studied in the United Kingdom. He publishes prolifically in the field of evolutionary psychology and is one of a handful of scientists who take involuntary celibacy seriously as a concept. Much of his recent research is centered around discovering the causes of involuntary celibacy and poor mating outcomes in general.
Other areas of interest for him include the evolution of homosexuality, the influence of arranged marriage on the evolution of various traits, and the potential evolutionary explanations of sex differences in behavior.
Apostolou has proposed that contemporary inceldom may partly be caused by evolutionary mismatches caused by the lack of arranged marriage in modern society. He argues that arranged marriage was the norm throughout human history. Therefore, the selection pressure exerted by people's parents was more evolutionarily relevant than sexual selection pressure exerted by individuals, like what is found more often in free-mate choice. This evolutionary mismatch essentially means that incels and other people with poor mating success (up to half of the population based on his research) may be disproportionately composed of individuals who lack the necessary traits or adaptions to succeed in the contemporary dating "market" that relies more on unguided mate choice.
Cyprus has one of the highest marriage rates in Europe, which may or may not have guided M. Apostolou's intuition about the relevance of marriage to the inceldom epidemics in other countries.
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Poor mating success and wellbeing[edit | edit source]
Apostolou has found mating performance to be moderately related to overall affect in both sexes. Specifically, three times as many of those with low mating performance reported feeling negative emotions frequently compared to those in the high mating performance category. On the other hand, twice as many people in the high mating performance category reported feeling positive emotions frequently compared to those in the low mating performance category. In this study, as with his others, mating performance was measured via a self-report method that gauged people's perceptions of the level of difficulty they had in initiating and maintaining romantic relationships.
Predictors of poor mating performance[edit | edit source]
Apostolou's methodology[edit | edit source]
Apostolou has conducted several studies which attempt to discern the primary factors that predict mating performance in both sexes. One potential issue with much of his research in this domain is that the psychometric inventories he has developed to measure "mating performance" rely solely on subjective and self-report measures of mating performance. Thus, it is often unclear how people interpret the questions, as individual factors such as sexual entitlement, sex drive, mating effort, social comparison, choosiness and perhaps self-deception would influence the perception of these questions. However, other typical methods of measuring mating success, such as lifetime sexual partner count, are perhaps even more flawed. These measures do not consider individual differences in sexual strategies, the quality of the sexual partners and relations, the fact that some men exaggerate their partner count, and environmental factors independent of mate value that frequently determine access to sexual partners, such as location, social standing, etc.
Also, it is essential to note that none of his research has attempted to establish a clear cut-off in terms of the amount of time single for those who are "involuntary single," unlike the Donnelly study. Many of those he classifies as "involuntary single" have been recently sexually active. However, most of them would likely be considered incel under the 6-month definition used in the Donnelly study. This lack of focus on long-term celibates perhaps limits the application of his findings regarding people who have been single for a very long time. However, one could probably still extrapolate his results to that group to a degree, as such people may be simply particularly disadvantaged in dating in part due to possessing extreme levels of the traits Apostolou has found to negatively predict mating performance. Brian Gilmartin's work on love shyness does indeed indicate that many of these sorts of men lack flirting skills, cannot discern signals of interest from the opposite sex, are extremely shy, and so forth. Interestingly, Gilmartin also had a nascent awareness that one of the main causes of his "love shyness" was that these men were unadapted to a mating market that was reliant on individual effort, as he boldly proposed (voluntary) government arranged marriages as one potential solution to the love-shy issue.
What predicts poor mating performance[edit | edit source]
Keeping these caveats in mind, we can examine the extent of the influence of various factors that Apostolou has found to be associated with mating performance:
- Mating effort: Apostalou found mating performance to be linked to mating effort, more so in women than in men (a sex difference which is not surprising as his questionnaire in this study also partially measured choosiness and desire to remain single, together with men's typical high receptivity to any form of romantic advance from a woman).
This finding partly contradicts conclusions made in blackpilled communities that focus nearly entirely on external causes. However, correlation is not necessarily causation. For example, the propensity to put effort into mating may be partly out of one's control (e.g., genes and social factors that constrict mating effort).
There may be a Matthew effect at work where some incels are repeatedly getting discouraged due to frequent rejection and lack of mating success. This regular external negative reinforcement would lead to them putting less effort into mating. One of the questions in his mating-effort inventory did measure fatalistic attitudes to dating that were possibly borne from rejection ("It is a waste of time to make an eﬀort to start a romantic relationship).
Those with a genetic and social predisposition to mate with ease might find even more motivation to put effort into mating, boosting their mating effort. If the mating effort itself does predict mating success, this sexual success would be expected to further inspire people with high mating efforts sexual self-esteem, which would, in turn, spur further mating effort.
- Standards: It is often stated that many people are involuntarily celibate as they are "too choosy." In one of his studies, Apostolou found choosiness only predicted volceldom ("prefer to be single") but not inceldom (finding it difficult to attract a partner), suggesting that having high standards in a romantic partner does not have much impact on involuntary celibacy. This finding also shows that those with high standards are more likely to be voluntarily celibate.
It is also important to note that it is probable that a decent amount of these people who "prefer to be single" are not celibate, per Apostalou's prior research, which has found multiple pathways that predict singledom. These divergent pathways include difficulties in forming a relationship due to internal or external constraints together with the desire to remain romantically unattached, generally to maximize casual sexual encounters. Apostolou found there were weak effects for sex and personality in predicting this latter factor. Men and those low in agreeableness and conscientiousness were more likely to prefer to remain single for these reasons.
In one study, Apostolou did however find a significant quadratic effect for choosiness and mating success, but only among women. Women who were both very choosy and who had very low standards had lower mating success. This is possibly because very choosy women are more likely to reject suitors excessively while lower levels of choosiness in women may be associated with low mate value, making them less desirable partners.
- Flirting capacity: Further, he found the main predictor of reported difficulties attracting a partner to be mainly flirting skill and, to a lesser degree, the capacity to perceive signals of interest from the opposite sex. Some of this can be explained by these two things overlapping significantly, as they correlated moderately with each other. Apostolou's prior research has also found that flirting skills and the capacity to perceive signals interact significantly. The mating performance of those with low flirting ability dropped more sharply than those with high ability when the capacity to perceive signals of interest decreased. A low level of both is perhaps most commonly found in people with disorders that negatively affect social cognition, such as high functioning autism.
As men are generally expected to initiate courtship, it is not surprising that his prior research that inadequate flirting capacity is more often reported as a driver of their singlehood by men. It is also unclear how decisive a factor flirting skills are in driving involuntary celibacy (as opposed to just difficulties with dating in general) per se, as previous research by Apostolou has found that flirting skills were not a significant predictor of self-reported problems with initiating a relationship. However, such skills were the main predictor of mating success in general among the personality traits he examined. In this study, only shyness and difficulty with perceiving signals of romantic success from potential partners predicted being more likely to report having problems with starting relationships. (Strong effect found for signal detection capability and moderate effect for shyness in this regard).
- Attention to looks: Apostolou found that "attention to looks" (basically putting a lot of effort into maintaining and enhancing one's physical appearance) only significantly (though weakly) predicted self-estimated mating performance for men. There was an interesting finding where the relationship between age, attention to looks, and mating success formed an inverted u-shape. That is, "Attention to looks" only predicts mating success among adults and not older people or younger adults. He has not examined the effect of third-party related looks on his measure of "mating success".
- Shyness: Apostolou has found shyness is a predictor of reported difficulties with initiating a relationship and poorer mating outcomes in general, with a moderate effect size (not broken down by sex).
Evolutionary mismatch hypothesis of poor dating success[edit | edit source]
Essentially, Apostolou presents evidence that a mix of general social skills, boldness, sexual charisma, and high mating effort would seem to be important in driving positive dating outcomes. As many people seem to lack these traits, this leads to an increased risk of singledom on their part, which is evolutionarily maladaptive. To explain why these seemingly maladaptive traits are so prevalent, Apostolou hypothesizes that many human phenotypes are adapted for arranged marriages, leading to an evolutionary mismatch. These phenotypes, which would not have had reduced fitness in the past, are now less adaptive (and possibly being selected against) due to social shifts towards greater individualism and social atomization that have effectively reduced mating to an individual affair, mainly due to industrialization and modernity.
This purported mismatch may also be a major factor in why certain ethnic groups, such as East Asians, are more prone to being involuntarily celibate. They had more stronger and more engrained traditions of arranged marriage than, say, Western countries, practices that are still reasonably strong in some Asian countries (though generally in a fashion that involves social pressure from parents and governments to marry).
A good test of this hypothesis would be to examine groups with strong traditions of arranged marriage and see if they are more likely to experience low mating success in contexts of random mate choice, controlling for potential confounding factors such as SES, physical attractiveness, racial preferences, and anything else that affects mating success.
References[edit | edit source]