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"S" in Single Women: the New Scarlet Letter


AP Photo/Evan Agostini

Good, ringed slash pinned slash taken, women everywhere, need to lock up their men for fear that single women will try to snatch them up - or so a recent study published by the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology is being interpreted as reporting.

The Oklahoma State University study suggests that single women prefer men that are already in committed relationships - that they "mate-poach." 

Researchers used photos of men, accompanied by statements that the men were either single or in a relationship. The women then responded to each photograph.  The findings suggest that single women were more likely to pursue the committed men over the single men.

There is something to knowing that a man is married or in a committed relationship that makes them seem harmless.  Women let their guard down and share stories with these men.  They freely develop friendships without qualms  that what they are saying will nix them from the realm of "attractiveness." However, this study goes too far to say that an attraction to these type of men equates with the mind set to steal them away from their committed mates.

This study, viewed in its context, used college students.  These are the years where many young women are finding out who they are and who they do not want to be.  Many of the participants can still be considered girls, and probably, think of themselves as such. 

In college, a close friend was a "mate poacher."  The female group of friends that we shared felt embarrassed for her because she wanted an idea, not love.  Her preference for committed men seemed to stem from her belief that they could commit to her the same way that they had to the woman they had cheated on.  

However, always lingering in their relationship was the comparison made to the first woman - the one he had decided to love freely when he was single. Oddly, it was more that the mate poaching friend made the comparisons. In her own mind, she continued to compete with the woman who had already walked away. In the end, she always seemed bereft, not of the relationship she actually had with the male, but of the relationship that she thought she would have with him. 

Her mate poaching behavior created an understanding amongst our group of friends. We made sure to keep our boyfriends and friends who were boys clear of her.  Somehow, we all instinctively knew that she was destructive and had deep, residual issues with her self esteem. 

Then, there were the girls that fought over the same boy.  There was no pride in going after someone else's man or taking turns in sharing the affections of a fickle boy. Everyone else felt sorry for the girls involved and hoped that they could someday find someone of their own.  

A couple of years later, after life had made us a little wiser, our hopes changed for these girls.  It became not that they find someone of their own, but that they would prefer to be by themselves over going after a fickle man.

The male poaching friend also found confidence in her own ability to gage the worth of a man and earn the relationship she wanted.

She learned that there was a deep shame and humiliation in falling for a boy who had a steady girlfriend. A woman may wake up one day and have all sorts of feelings for a man in a committed relationship.  She can be angry at herself when she is faced with the same decision of whether to pursue him. However, in that moment, she has to acknowledge that the other woman loves him. She may have not made her any promises, but he has. If the man and his woman are to fail, then they can fail on their own. She should not have any hand in its demise. 

All of these life lessons came after college. From there, we as women, learned to treat ourselves and one another better.  

This study confuses a trust in the judgment of another female that a man has been stamped decent and acceptable with a predatory level of attraction. We, as single women, are not defined by what researchers selectively find, but in how we choose to conduct our lives. 


  • shannon 5 years ago

    i have found that not all girls grow up to be virtuous women who aim share a mantra of not harming another woman in the pursuit of a man. My fiance through actions of his own dated and left me for another woman who knew that he was engaged.