Trophy wives are a stereotype, sociologist claims

Family|June 21st 2014

The stereotypical ‘trophy wife’ marriage is largely a stereotype, a sociologist has claimed.

Sociologist Elizabeth McClintock of Notre Dame University in Indiana claims that instead of attractive women marrying wealthy men, couples are typically well-matched.

In her study, entitled Beauty and Status: The Illusion of Exchange in Partner Selection?, McClintock interviewed a nationally representative sample of couples in which each party had also been rated for attractiveness, identifying those couples thought to be equally attractive.

She concluded that ‘trophy wife’ situations, in which the female partner’s only assets were her looks, are relatively rare, and that couples in fact tend to choose partners of equal status.

“I find that handsome men partner with pretty women and successful men partner with successful women,’ she declared. “…. the strongest force by far in partner selection is similarity – in education, race, religion and physical attractiveness.”

She added:

“Donald Trump and his third wife Melania Knauss-Trump may very well exemplify the trophy wife stereotype. But, there are many examples of rich men who partner with successful women rather than ‘buying’ a supermodel wife.

McClintock cited Sergey Brin and Larry Page, co-founders of search engine and internet services firm Google, as examples of successful men who had married equally accomplished wives. One of their wives has a PHD and the other is a successful entrepreneur.

The perception that certain marriages are based on a ‘trophy wife’ exchange is often based on selective perception, one that minuses the genuine achievements of the women concerned, the sociologist claimed.

“I’ve heard doctors’ wives referred to as trophy wives by observers who only notice her looks and his status and fail to realise that he is good-looking too and that she is also a successful professional – or was before she had kids and left her job”.

McClintock’s study is due to be published in a US academic journal American Sociological Review.

Photo by Joe Mud via Flickr

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  1. Commenter Man says:

    A flawed study with flawed conclusions. No early-to-mid 20s male has enough money and power to have a trophy wife. This study uses early to mid 20s males and females, and the trophy wife/rich-powerful man pairing happens only when the man has accumulated enough wealth and power to trade for a younger beautiful woman. No young male has that at such an early age.

    If the study had looked at pairings of, say, over 50 year old rich/powerful men with very attractive women in the late 20s to early 40s, and found the same results as the study that looked at very young people, then their conclusions might be valid. The way the study was conducted, the conclusions are not acceptable.

  2. Passerby says:

    Sorry but this study does not smell righ, (probably feminist with an ax to grind) sociologist McClintock’s “study”, it pretty much conflicts with both with nature and reality. Yes many women find wealth to be a desirable trait, a little cruder extension of the idea of marrying a “good provider”. See what happens when women think you are vastly wealthy, not all women of course but just look at “The Bachelorette”. Diana married Charles for God’s sake –Chalres. Yes many men will to spend more resources on more attractive women, yes the world has many wealthy doorpost-personality husbands with uber-babe wives, just watch Real Housewives of Orange County, look at the wives of wealthy athletes, look at Donald Trump. Sot hey exist. It is all a matter of degree really, there was some prior man-as-a-resource appraisal by his fiancee on some level in all marriages, few women marry men they think they are going to have to support, right? I suppose you call them trophy wives by definition when there does not appear to be much more holding the relationship together than her as accessory. A decent woman might just expect a husband to support themselves and beyond that it is compatability; others are a little more utilitarian and looking for a compatible provider “find a man”, a self-arranged marriage really, then some are more intent (together probably 90% of all marriages), but then you get into (buy, lease, rent) trophy wife, kept woman, hooker, yes they exist.

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