Culture

I would love to date a man who can’t read

Some of us are still trying to have some fun before we die and, I’m sorry, clever men are very rarely fun.
Culture

I would love to date a man who can’t read

Some of us are still trying to have some fun before we die and, I’m sorry, clever men are very rarely fun.

Ladies, picture this: you’ve come home from a long day of work and a commute which you spent scrolling through a wasteland of garbage takes about the US primaries, climate change, neoliberalism, and what makes the perfect woman. Your partner is already at home, curled up on the sofa with a book. He has not put the water on to boil like you asked because he was too engrossed in reading Normal People. Over dinner, he wants to discuss the book, and also have you read that 10,000-word essay in the New Yorker about prison abolition that he sent you last week yet? He moans loudly about the fact that Love Island is back on TV; “why do people enjoy watching brain-dead idiots with plastic surgery sit around all day?” he scoffs, as you daydream about leaving this man and a new life spent running your tongue up and down one of the 21-year-old-contestant’s rock-hard abs. You imagine a different, simpler life… one spent alongside a man who can’t read.

Personally I believe that men are inherently unable to read (have you ever sent a man a shopping list with clear instructions only for him to return home with nothing you asked for?) but if we are to believe The Internet (AKA Twitter), the modern, Millennial woman no longer wants someone to wow her with theory and casually recited poetry; what she wants is a partner with the literacy level of an 8-year-old. Obviously women don’t actually want partners who are literally illiterate — how would they read our texts? — but more and more women on the internet seem to be over the idea of dating men who are traditionally intelligent. So what has caused this shift in dating politics?

Perhaps you, like me, have felt your stomach churn one too many times at the concept of “sapiosexuality,” in which supposedly normal people claim that lively, intellectual debate can serve the same purpose as foreplay. Sorry to kink-shame, but sapiosexuality is nothing more than a way to inadvertently tell people that you yourself are very smart and clever, while also — in the case of the many famous men that claim to suffer from this affliction — dating conventionally attractive women in their 20s.

Aside from the sapiosexuals, men have traditionally had a penchant for “dumb” women. Essentially, men like the idea of a smart woman as a partner until they are actually confronted with one, at which point they turn into insecure little babies worried that a woman — of all people! —might outsmart them. Multiple studies undertaken in regards to (straight) men and the intelligence of their prospective partners show that men often look for inferior levels of intelligence in their female partners. A 2016 study found that men are turned off by clever women, unless they are as beautiful as they are smart. Another study from 2011 explored the “sexual exploitability hypothesis,” and found that “dimwitted or immature-seeming women” and women who looked sleepy or intoxicated were seen as not only “easy to bed” but more physically attractive than more lucid or quick-witted ones. Yikes! Yet another study, published in 2015, found that men are attracted to women who they experience as smarter than them at a psychological and physical distance, yet found them less attractive — both physically and emotionally — when they came in close contact with them.

In contrast, women have traditionally found intelligence attractive in a partner; this may have been because male intellect and acumen translate into a higher earning potential. But as women have gained more independence both socially and financially, it’s arguable that they have grown tired of their partners playing devil’s advocate in regards to abortion rights with them over dinner and have started to look for something different instead: a hot dummy.

In my experience, I have never found an intelligent man attractive. I went to one of the most prestigious universities in the world and spent my time there being actively sexually repulsed by every man in my vicinity. Men who spend all their time reading books are more likely to try and quote them back at you, or worse, read them to you out loud. They try to explain to you things you know more about than they do.

This is not to say the men that I have dated have been too stupid to hold a conversation, but the intellect I value is usually of an emotional or strategic variety. One of my favorite boyfriends graduated high school with no qualifications but managed to land himself a place at university using Photoshop; he now earns four times as much as I do. My current partner is, I’m pretty sure, illiterate, but what he lacks in his inability to communicate via the written word he makes up for in his listening skills and thoughtful, custom-made birthday cards.

So why are so many other women professing to want what I have? An unflattering reading of the situation might suggest that modern women are purposely seeking intellectually inferior partners in order to have the upper hand in their relationships, much like the way men have traditionally done. Feminism baby! One could argue that actively dating beneath your own intelligence level is a defense mechanism: after all, there are only so many ways a dumb boy can hurt you. Being the smarter one in a relationship puts you in a position of control — and also makes you feel better about your own level of intelligence. There’s something safe in knowing that you’ll comfortably win every argument, and that your partner will bow down to your assumed superior knowledge without question.

Maybe. For writer Crissy Milazzo, the wish to date an illiterate man is a humorous opinion borne out of content-related exhaustion. After a recent tweet about how important it is for writers to date people who read their work became the online topic of the day, she tweeted that the key is “to date people that can't read.” “I wouldn't want to be with someone who reads all my work because so much of it was garbage, especially in the age of content overproduction,” she told me over email. “Ultimately, who cares? That's why I joked about the idea of only dating people who can't read. That would be the perfect way to opt out of that entire ridiculous, day-long and inconsequential discourse over one person's tweet.”

Like all good jokes, there is nonetheless truth at the heart of it. “Maybe I'm cynical or delusional but I do think we're all really thirsty for actual connection and community — everything is so atomized and isolated and lonely,” she said. “I think underneath all the jokes there's this signaling that’s like, ‘I just want someone to have fun with. I don’t care if you read my work or if you read at all.'”

Comedian Rachel Sennott tweets often about her desire for a boyfriend who can’t read. What is the appeal of an illiterate babe? “First of all he can’t read my tweets — he can’t even read my tweets about how men can’t read. He is blissfully ignorant!” she said. Does she think this yearning is a byproduct of spending too much time online? “Maybe. I guess what I really mean is that I want to date a guy who is not online and doesn’t do the same stuff as me — but saying ‘can’t read’ is just funnier.”

Maybe we want to be with dumber men because we are all so tired. If you, like me, spend half your waking life in online hell half-digesting the unbaked thoughts of thousands upon thousands of people purporting to be giving definitive and correct opinions on everything in the world with absolutely nothing in the way of qualification, then you probably don’t want to spend your downtime in fear of an impromptu intellectual discussion about the finer points of Foucault’s Panopticon. Some of us are still trying to have some fun before we die and, I’m sorry, clever men are very rarely fun. This is, after all, the age of the Dumb Bitch, and what she wants is a man who can’t read.

Niloufar Haidari is a writer in London.