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RE: At what age do women start appreciating guys for more than whether they are "fun" or not?
Have a look at r/K selection theory as it applies to humans. r selection is generally found in animals with huge amounts of offspring (think "spray and pray"). They have many offspring, mating and pair bonding aren't as important, and the offspring get little to no care from the parents. K selection is generally more prevalent in mammals that nurture their young and have fewer offspring (less offspring, more attention).
In the past, women have needed strong "alpha" type males, a man who "brings home the bacon" so-to-speak. Women would spend most of their reproductive lives out of commission since they were busy popping out and raising offspring. Since the alphas were the highest value males, they typically attracted the highest value females, i.e. they provided the most resources and they stuck around. This is the K strategy in action.
In the modern era, females can use a more r selected strategy since birth control, the welfare state, and the women's lib movement have rendered the alpha male as unnecessary; the need to bag an alpha is no longer as dire, and beta (r selected males) "white knights" or PUAs will gladly come in and play house for a day or two (or raise someone else's kids for fifteen years). "They don't understand why I would rather work late and save the day for my company and make connections instead of cutting out early and getting drunk instead. It seems very immature and short-sighted to me." Bingo. You're chasing gals with the smaller amygdalae (r selected).
To sum up: women can have fun with a beta since societal/cultural structures no longer necessitate a K strategy of pair bonding.
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