Personal impressions into the matter aside for the moment, social science examining the issue of sex differences in manipulation skill and proclivity to manipulate are scarce. But a recent study definitely fingers women as the more manipulative sex in at least one major life domain.
Parental mate choice manipulation tactics: Exploring prevalence, sex and personality effects.
Parents and children are genetically related but not genetically identical, which means that their genetic interests overlap but also diverge. In the area of mating, this translates into children making mate choices that are not in the best interest of their parents. Parents may then resort to manipulation in order to influence their children’s mating decisions in a way that best promotes the former’s interests. This paper attempts to identify the structure of manipulation tactics that parents employ on their daughters and sons, as well as on their daughters’ and sons’ mates, and also to estimate their prevalence. On the basis of the structure of the derived tactics, four hypotheses are tested: Mothers are more willing than fathers to use manipulation tactics; parents are willing to use more manipulation on their daughters than on their sons; the personality of parents predicts the use of tactics on their children and on their children’s mates; and the personality of children and of children’s mates predicts the use of tactics on them. Evidence from two independent studies provides support for the first three hypotheses, but mixed support for the fourth hypothesis. The implications of these findings are further discussed.
So mothers are more apt than are fathers to manipulate their children. What is the underlying evolutionary reason for this particular sex disparity?
Women being physically weaker, having less access to weaponry, having little control over wealth, and consequently being less aggressive, need to resort to manipulation in order to promote their interests effectively. [...]
Furthermore, due to internal gestation, mothers are 100% certain that their children are their own; this is not the case for fathers, however, who are less certain about paternity. This indicates that mothers see their interests as being more overlapping with the interests of their children, and so they have a stronger concern about the latter’s mate choices. For instance, a bad mate choice on behalf of their children that compromises the fitness of their grandchildren (e.g., a mate who is likely to run away) will be more costly to mothers, who are certain that these grandchildren are actually their own, than to fathers, who are less certain. Accordingly, mothers will be more likely to interfere than fathers if they believe that a choice is not good for their daughters or sons.
This female facility with manipulation extends to the romantic sphere. In a state of nature (no Pills, no abortion, no female economic self-sufficiency or legal coddling), women run a MUCH greater risk of life-altering changes from a single act of loving penetration. Manipulation is the tool women use to level the playing field… or, more precisely, to tilt the playing field to their advantage in a modern social environment where every lever is already halfway pulled in their direction.
The irony of this biomechanic reality is that it runs totally counter to feminist and white knight blather about “manipulative cads/PUAs/niceguys/jerks/patriarchal oppressors”. The intimate, limbic knowledge that women are in fact the more manipulative sex drives self-regarding women (and their effeminate male custodians) to project this instinctive female power onto their protagonists. This is especially true of ugly women who most certainly feel the burn of male rejection and female ostracism more hotly.
Another consequence of the asymmetry in parental investment, with women being a scarce reproductive resource, is that parents are more interested in controlling the mate choices of their daughters than of their sons (Perilloux, Fleischman, and Buss, 2008). In particular, as men strive to gain access to women, by controlling the latter, parents can better control mate choice (Apostolou, 2010). Furthermore, due to the risk of pregnancy and the value that men ascribe to the chastity of women (Buss, 2003), the mating behavior of daughters is likely to be more consequential than the mating behavior of sons. For instance, a sexual adventure can commit a daughter’s parental investment to a man that her parents do not approve of, and/or damage her reputation, compromising her future chances of attracting desirable mates. Last but not least, parents cannot be certain of their relatedness to grandchildren fathered by their sons, but they can be certain about their relatedness to their grandchildren mothered by their daughters. This means that parents may have more genetic interests at stake in the mating choices of their daughters than of their sons, which in turn would motivate them to control their daughters more.
Overall, as parents are more interested in the mating behavior of their daughters than of their sons, it is predicted that they will be more willing to use manipulation on the former than on the latter.
Women vs women, redux.
Blaming the patriarchy (or the matriarchy) is beside the point; these forces molding the behaviors of men and women are without moral dimension. They exist to serve a god which in its feral simplicity frightens and offends the conscious human sensibilities which themselves are unwitting servants to the prime directive.
Interestingly, younger parents are more likely than older parents to employ manipulative tactics on their children.
One possible explanation for the latter finding is that the residual reproductive value of younger parents is higher than the residual reproductive value of older parents. In other words, parents have more reproductive years ahead of them when they are younger than when they are older. In a pre-industrial context, and most probably during ancestral times, parents would control their children’s mate choices so as to arrange beneficial marriage alliances, and they could divert this cost in their own reproductive effort (Apostolou, 2014). For instance, a father could use the bridewealth he received from the marriage of his daughter to get an additional wife for himself, while a mother could use the resources derived from a beneficial alliance to mother additional children. However, these reproductive benefits are exhausted with age, which means that older parents have less to gain from controlling their children. As a consequence, there will be less intense selection pressures exercised on older parents to control mating, which in turn may result in older parents being less interested in using manipulation to influence their children’s mate choice.
Follow the bouncing ball on this one. Age of first marriage and first child in the West have been increasing for decades. If the theory above holds, that suggests an aggregate decrease in the number of daughters who are feeling pressured by their parents to marry well. Hello, alpha fux…
So who is the most manipulative of them all?
Our findings suggest that the highest degree of manipulation will come from relatively young mothers with low conscientiousness and will be applied predominantly to their daughters.
And the least manipulative?
Highly conscientious, older male parents are the least likely to apply manipulation on their children and especially on their sons.
Age mellows, via multiple pathways. And sons are less stressful on fathers than are daughters. Spread the seed, guard the eggs.
What forms of manipulation do parents, and especially mothers, use? And how do these forms differ when used on sons or daughters?
For daughters, 12 tactics emerged (see Table 1), which largely overlap with the tactics that have been identified by Apostolou (2013). In particular, we have been able to replicate 8 of the 12 tactics: “hardball,” “matchmaker,” “coercion,” “prevention,” “whom one should marry,” “carrot and stick,” “chaperoning,” and “guilt trip.” Two more tactics that emerged here are closely related with previously identified tactics. In particular, the “advice and support” tactic is close to the previously identified tactic of “advice and reasoning.”
However, although there is some overlap, acts associated with reasoning do not load on the tactic that emerged here. It appears that acts associated with support (usually when something goes wrong with respect to romantic relationships) load highly instead. Similarly, the “social comparison and moral advising” is close to the “social comparison” tactic; however, the tactic that emerged here also has an aspect of moral advising. It seems then that parents use social comparison to demonstrate to their daughters what is morally right and wrong. The “use of relatives and friends” tactic did not emerge here. Instead, one tactic that emerged is “monitoring,” where parents closely monitor their daughters’ activities and try to get information about their behavior. Finally, the “emotional manipulation” tactic is similar to the “silent treatment” tactic, although in this case several acts that involve emotional manipulation also load.
For sons, 12 factors emerged as well (see Table 1). Nine of these closely overlap with previously identified tactics: “hardball,” “matchmaker,” “coercion,” “prevention,” “whom one should marry,” “carrot and stick,” “chaperoning,” “guilt trip,” and “use of relatives and friends.” As in the case of daughters, the “advice and support” tactic emerged, which is similar to the previously identified tactic of “advice and reasoning.” Also, the “emotional manipulation” tactic emerged, which is similar to the “silent treatment” tactic. The social comparison tactic did not emerge, but as in the case of daughters the “monitoring” tactic emerged. Overall, it appears that the structure of parental manipulation on sons is similar to the one on daughters. But there are differences, one being that the “social comparison and moral advising” tactic emerged only for daughters, whereas the “use of relatives and friends” tactic emerged only for sons.
“Social comparison and moral advising” is probably the unconscious default shaming tactic that parents use on wayward daughters because women are, on the whole, the more lemming-like sex. Women respond to the prospect of social ostracism more viscerally than do men.
Women are on average the more manipulative sex, but there is field evidence that some men are master manipulators in their own right. Pickup artists and assorted practitioners of the crimson arts have co-opted the manipulative power of womanhood for their own romantic and sexual benefit. They have taken what is women’s strongest hand and added a Joker for the five of a kind. These maestros of the muff understand that women are solipsistic creatures who fall in love with their reflections, and thus with the men who are adept at holding the mirror up to them.