It’s the perennial question: What do men and women want in a mate? Since the 1930s, researchers have been asking college men and women to rank 18 characteristics on a scale of unimportant to extremely important–and my, how times have changed! The headline over seven decades is the rise in importance of love and mutual attraction — and the decline of chastity: Ranked #5 for women and #4 for men in 1939, in 2008, love and mutual attraction is topping the charts for both sexes, while chastity, ranked #10 for both men and women in the 1930s, has plummeted to dead last in 2008. For men, a woman’s education and and her ability to earn a good income has become a top-tier priority, while her housekeeping skills have fallen low down on the list of a man’s desired traits, a trend that began in the 1970s survey, and continues today. For women, a man’s desire for a family is on the rise and whether he’s got a “pleasing disposition” seems less important than it was even a decade ago. Along with Christie Boxer at the University of Iowa, I’m exploring the implications.
The increasing popularity of self-help books is an indicator of the modern American quest to maximize personal happiness through a process of self-discovery. Self-help books – non-fiction books that offer advice for behavior modification and make explicit promises for positive change – have doubled as a percentage of all book titles since the 1970s. This dissertation explores the demographic profile of self-help readers, the marketing and advertising strategies of the self- help industry and the formula of a self-help bestseller.
This is a study of changing commitment patterns among American young men and women during the second half of the 20th century using gendered magazines like Playboy and Cosmopolitan as guidebooks for evolving courtship rituals. These magazines offer insights into the choices, fantasies and ambitions of young men and women since 1965. How has advice to men and women changed – and did magazines reflect, set or simply provide an escape from the actual trends for dating and marriage in 20th-century America?