Groom and bride’s mother were warned before 14-year-old’s wedding, court is advised

A man married a 14-year-old girl the day after he and the child’s mother were both warned by authorities that the wedding would be illegal, a court has been told.

The would-be husband sobbed in the County Court on Wednesday as a judge was told the man thought he was “rescuing” the young bride.

The 35-year-old, who was 20 years older than the girl when they were married last year, is the first man to appear before an Australian court prosecuted with marrying a child, an offence that carries a maximum penalty of five years.

He gave the mother a $1480 gold necklace as a dowry the court was told.

The Myanmar national will be sent back into immigration detention once he has completed his sentence, but cannot be deported because he is a Rohingya refugee and effectively stateless, the court heard.

The pair were married at a mosque in Noble Park on September 29 last year when the girl was 14½. The man cannot be named so as not to identify the girl.

The day before the wedding, prosecutor Krista Breckweg told the court, a Department of Health and Human Services official warned the man and the girl’s mother that it was illegal for the girl to be married.

Police had accompanied DHHS staff on previous visits, the court heard.

Ms Breckweg said imam Ibrahim Omerdic conducted the wedding ceremony and at one point said he could not issue a marriage certificate “because of my security”.

“So when you … if you need it later when you be 18 years I give you,” Omerdic told the girl.

Omerdic was this year spared an immediate jail term after he was found guilty of solemnising an invalid marriage, which carries a maximum penalty of six months in prison.

Magistrate Phillip Goldberg imposed a two-month jail term but suspended it for two years. Omerdic, who was sacked as an imam after his arrest, is appealing against his conviction.

The man who married the girl was a boarder at her home, Ms Breckweg said, and paid a mahr – similar to a dowry – to the girl’s mother of a gold necklace worth $1480. The mother was at the wedding ceremony.

Defence counsel Sophie Parsons said the mother played a “central role” in the marriage, as she raised the idea of the man marrying her daughter and reassured and encouraged him.

The judge, who cannot be named so not to identify the victim, said the mother was lucky not to be charged as a co-accused.

The mother and daughter weren’t in court on Wednesday.

Ms Parsons said the man was unsure exactly how old the girl was, although he knew she was at school and under 18.

It is understood the mother told police her daughter was 17 at the time and not 14.

Ms Parsons said her client was the girl’s friend before the marriage and wanted to help her through trouble at home.

“[He] saw himself as somewhat rescuing the complainant and becoming that supporting figure in her life,” she said.

But Ms Breckweg said it was “nonsensical” for someone to marry if they didn’t know their partner’s age, and questioned why he needed to marry the girl if he wanted to help her.

“That’s not support, with respect, that’s exploitation,” she said.

The man was arrested five days after the ceremony and has spent 351 days in custody.

He was originally charged with having sex with the girl but that offence was withdrawn by prosecutors earlier this year. The court heard there was a lack of evidence to proceed with that charge.

Ms Breckweg said the man told police they would think about sex when the girl had “grown up”.

Ms Parsons said the man was remorseful and wanted to apologise to the girl and the community, and felt he had ruined his chances of having a good life.

He was also ashamed for the damage he had caused to other Rohingya living in Australia.

The hearing was adjourned for 10 minutes when the man broke down in the dock.

The man now knew it was unacceptable to marry children in Australia, Ms Parsons said.

He will be sentenced on Thursday.

with AAP

Henry Sapiecha

Child brides: Why underage girls are marrying in Indonesia

Aulia* was 15 when she was married. There wasn’t a lot of choice. She had been dating Arief, a sweet-faced boy from the local garage, and the neighbourhood tongues were in overdrive.

“There was all this shaming,” Arief recalls. “I hadn’t actually kissed her and everybody gossiped about her being pregnant.”

Neither were ready for marriage. Aulia had dropped out of school because her stepfather couldn’t afford to send her, but wanted to go back: “My friend was still at school.”

Arief wanted to save for a few years. He dreamed of a big wedding to show off to his motorcycle club.

But Aulia and Arief live in a small, devoutly Muslim village in rural Sukabumi in West Java and the gossip was pernicious.

“It took my mother a month to persuade me to get married,” Aulia says. “She kept saying: ‘Don’t embarrass me’.”

The couple are sitting cross-legged on a rug in their tiny, dark rented home, its walls made of flimsy woven bamboo. They are clearly intimate. While candidly admitting they regret marrying so young, they insist they don’t regret marrying each other.

But at the time Arief did the only thing he could think of to escape his fate: He ran away.

“I went to my grandmother’s house and hid under the bed. My grandfather rooted me out. After that I put up my hands and said ‘I surrender’.” A week later the couple was married.

Indonesia has the seventh highest number of child marriages in the world.

One in six girls – 340,000 a year – marry before they reach the age of 18, the threshold for marriage recommended by international human rights treaty bodies.

Under the 1974 Marriage Law, girls can legally marry at 16, although boys must be at least 19.

This contradicts Indonesia’s own 2002 law on child protection, which defines a child as someone under the age of 18.

And parents can appeal to religious courts for their children to marry when they are even younger.

Many children simply lie about their age on the marriage certificate or hold a religious ceremony at home that is not formally registered.

Shinta and Denny will wait to register their marriage until Denny reaches the proper age. They were persuaded by their parents to be married by an ustadz (religious teacher) when they were 17 and 18 respectively.

Shinta and Denny will wait to register their marriage until they are both of majority age. Photo: Irwin Fedriansyah

“It was the talk of the town that we were alone together in the house and something bad might happen,” says Denny, a motorcycle taxi driver with a wispy moustache. “Most of the time my mother was here,” Shinta chips in shyly.

Shinta wants to go back to school but most schools in Indonesia actively discourage married or pregnant girls. According to one report, 85 per cent of girls end their education once they marry.

The couple are living in Denny’s parents’ austere, half-built house. It’s empty of furniture except for a broken cupboard and a calendar hanging askew on the wall.

The local midwife offered Shinta birth control but the price – 30,000 rupiah ($3) a month – is unaffordable. A baby seems inevitable.

Indonesia’s first child marriage report, Progress on Pause – published last year by the Indonesian government and UN children’s agency UNICEF – pulls no punches.

The report says child marriage is a “fundamental violation of girls’ human rights”, limiting their education, health, future income and safety.

Disturbingly, it found child marriage prevalence in Indonesia had reached a plateau after three decades of decreasing and was now consistent at the high rate of 17 per cent.

In 2014, child marriage caused a loss of at least 1.7 per cent of GDP.

Fifty thousand girls still marry before the age of 15 each year in Indonesia.

“It is very concerning,” says Indonesian child protection commissioner Sitti Hikmawatty. She believes the reasons are complex and require more analysis.

Rasiana Maharti is an 18-year-old teenage ambassador for Cikidang, a sub-regency of Sukabumi.

She earnestly implores her peers to say no to drugs and “free sex” (sex outside marriage), which is often associated with loose Western morals.

Rasiana Maharti is a teenage ambassador for abstinence from drugs and sex. Photo: Irwin Fedriansyah

Girls in Sukabumi are haunted by the fear of free sex, both because it is immoral and because it can lead to unplanned pregnancies.

Two of the girls in Rasiana’s class got married. “One married her boyfriend in the second grade of senior high when she was 15 to prevent zina [the Islamic sin of illicit sex],” Rasiana says. “One got married at 16 because she was pregnant.”

This is consistent with research by Mies Grijns, who – together with a team of young Indonesian anthropologists – has spent four years researching child marriage in a village of 8000 people in northern Sukabumi.

“It used to be parents arranging the marriage, but now you have love affairs,” Grijns says.

Adolescents now have more opportunities to meet each other at school or online, they even refer to “Facebook marriages”.

“Young people these days have a much bigger choice in partners but parents decide when they will get married mainly because of the fear of zina or because the girl is pregnant,” Grijns says.

Grijns, an anthropologist from the Netherlands who grew up in Indonesia, has lived in this village on and off since 1981, when she began studying labour and gender relations at a large tea plantation in the mountains.

‘Young people these days have a much bigger choice in partners’: anthropologist Mies Grijns. Photo: Irwin Fedriansyah

“I would see so many girls walking around with young babies but thought they were the sisters, not the mothers. That is how blind you can be,” she says.

It was not until she began sponsoring children to attend school that she noticed girls were dropping out to get married: “I was thinking ‘this is 2000. What is happening?'”

Today Grijns is in the last stage of her PhD research exploring contemporary child marriage in West Java and how and why it still happens. “I wanted to understand what was happening, what the positives and negatives were, what girls and their husbands thought of it.”

When Grijns began her research not much had been written about child marriage in Indonesia and the prevailing NGO view was that it was akin to slavery.

Her research reveals a more nuanced reality – some pious girls consider it an honour to be married at 13 – and a diversity of reasons for child marriage.

There are two main groups of villagers who marry young. Firstly the sweethearts who tie the knot because of the fear of zina and village gossip or because the girl was pregnant; and secondly those from more orthodox Muslim communities.

Grijns says these more orthodox communities consider primary school sufficient for girls. “There is an expectation girls should be married early and have children early. Usually girls are happy with it because they have internalised their religion and feel good.”

Novita, a vivacious 20-year-old in a sequined T-shirt, pours tea into glass mugs engraved with hearts and proudly shows off the woven bamboo house her husband built.

She left school at 12 because she was teased for developing breasts at a young age. After working as a babysitter for three years she married at 15: “I was ready at the time to get married, my hobby is taking care of children.”

‘If you are not married by the age of 25 you are an old spinster’: Novita, who married at 15, with her son. Photo: Irwin Fedriansyah

A month later Novita was pregnant. Her son, who plays quietly on his mum’s phone on the padded floral quilt, was born five years ago after a seamless pregnancy.

“In this village almost everyone marries young, it’s not a problem,” Novita says. “If you are not married by the age of 25 you are an old spinster.”

A grassroots movement called Koalisi +18 has campaigned throughout Indonesia to increase the minimum age of marriage for girls to 18.

However in June 2015 the Constitutional Court rejected a petition for a judicial review of Indonesia’s marriage law. Eight male judges – interestingly, the only dissenting voice was the one female judge – argued keeping the marriage age low prevented premarital sex and babies born out of wedlock.

“There is no guarantee raising the age limit from 16 to 18 years would reduce the number of divorces, health problems or resolve social problems,” one of the judges said.

But this year female Islamic clerics issued an unprecedented fatwa, or ruling, against child marriage at a congress in West Java that drew participants from Malaysia, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The fatwa – which is not legally binding – called underage marriage harmful, pointing to heightened risks of sexual violence, domestic abuse and death in childbirth, and said that it must be prevented.

In the village of Sanetan, in Central Java, there is a saying that it is better to be a divorcee than a spinster.

At the age of 22, Sanita Rini is well and truly considered a spinster. “A neighbour once even visited my mother and said: ‘What’s wrong with your daughter, no one wants her?'”

It wasn’t through a lack of effort on the part of Rini’s parents. They tried to marry her off twice, once when she was 13 and then again when she was 15, to males five years her senior: “Both times my parents said it was to lessen the economic burden on the family.”

Rini promised to pay everything back they had spent on her education if they allowed her to stay at school. “If you marry me off you will get nothing because I will have a new family of my own,” she threatened.

‘What’s wrong with your daughter?’: Sanita Rini with her parents on graduation day. They had pressed her to marry when she was 13. Photo: Supplied

Rini studied economics at university and now works for Plan International, a humanitarian organisation that advances children’s rights and equality for girls. She has even persuaded a number of villages in Central Java – including her own – to pass a regulation raising the minimum age of marriage to 18 for girls.

“Now my parents are proud of me,” Rini says. “When other kids my age are struggling to find a job, I have a job. I am showing my parents that not marrying me off is an investment for our future.

“It took a lot to be where I am. But many girls lack that and it is something I want to change.”

* Some names have been changed at the request of those interviewed. However they have given permission for their photos to be used.

Henry Sapiecha

Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich perhaps up for the world’s costliest divorce

Roman Abramovich ended his second marriage with a reputed settlement of £150 million ($246m) – small change for a multibillionaire.

This time, the Russian oligarch and owner of Chelsea FC may not be so lucky, after announcing that he has separated from his third wife, Dasha Zhukova.

The couple, who married in 2008 and have two children, insisted the split was amicable, but they could get embroiled in the world’s costliest divorce if forced to untangle the tycoon’s £7 billion ($11.5b) fortune.

Mr Abramovich, 50, owns the football club, the second largest yacht in the world and several luxury properties, including a £60 million mansion in New York and a £50 million property in Kensington Palace Gardens.

Among his fleet of supercars is a Ferrari FXX prototype worth around £1.5 million and a Bugatti Veyron, priced at £2 million.

However, Ms Zhukova, an art collector who is 15 years Mr Abramovich’s junior.

In a joint statement, the couple said: “After 10 years together, the two of us have made the difficult decision to separate, but we remain close friends, parents and partners in the projects we developed together.”

Legal experts said they expected Mr Abramovich to have a prenuptial agreement in place and any divorce proceedings would be dealt with by a Russian court in order to protect his assets, much like his previous divorce, when he is understood to have ended his 16-year marriage to second wife Irina Vyacheslavovna Malandina at a cost of £150 million in Moscow in 2007

Details have remained hidden under Russia’s secretive legal system, but it is thought Ms Malandina was given a lump sum as well as four homes and provision for their five children.

Mr Abramovich and Miss Zhukova were first seen together in public in 2005.

The oligarch was still married to Ms Malandina, but their friendship strengthened and Miss Zhukova and her father, Alexander Zhukov, were invited to Mr Abramovich’s New Year party later that year.

Her father is an oil, metals and banking tycoon who owns a mansion block in Kensington, west London, as well as homes in New York and Moscow.

The couple married secretly around nine years ago. Their first child, Mr Abramovich’s sixth, Aaron Alexander, was born in December 2009 and daughter Leah Lou was born in April 2013, both in the US.

Mr Abramovich married his first wife, Olga Yurevna Lysova, in December 1987 but was divorced just three years later. He wed Ms Malandina in 1991, before he made his fortune in the Russian privatisation boom.

Raymond Tooth, a London divorce lawyer, said it was “inconceivable” that Mr Abramovich and Ms Zukhova would not have a pre-nup.

“He will have done a deal and will sort it out in Russia to avoid any claims in an English court,” he said.

The Telegraph, London

Henry Sapiecha

Third marriage lucky for Rupert Murdoch’s daughter Elisabeth Happy Fairy Tale Romance

Rupert Murdoch’s second eldest daughter Elisabeth Murdoch married for the third time in a lavish wedding in Oxfordshire, England, on Saturday.

The Sydney-born television executive, 48, who has an estimated worth of $262 million, said “I do” to Turner Prize-winning artist, Keith Tyson, 47, after dating for over two years.

“The happiest of days,” Tyson wrote about the day on Instagram.

“Happily ever after,” he added.

The twice-divorced mother-of-four is known for her love of throwing extravagant soirees, particularly her annual New Year’s Eve party, so her third trip up the aisle was no different.

According to the Daily Mail, a barn at her home in the Cotswolds was transformed into a purpose-built party with flowers adorning the ceilings and walls.

The who’s who on the guestlist included former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson, Blur’s Alex James, News UK stalwart Rebekah Brooks, art collector Poju Zabludowicz and her sister-in-law, Sarah Murdoch.

It comes just over a year after Rupert said “I do” for the fourth time to Texan model Jerry Hall, 61, in a low-key marriage ceremony at Fleet Street’s historic ‘Journalists’ Church’ in London. Elisabeth acted as a bridesmaid for her step-mother, former wife of Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger.

Numerous celebrities attended including composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, musician Bob Geldof and actors Richard E. Grant and Michael Cain.

Elisabeth is Rupert’s second eldest daughter, and his first child with his second wife Anna Maria Torv, 73. They also had two sons — Lachlan, 45, and James, 44.

The News Corporation boss is also father to Prudence, 59, with his first wife Patricia Booker, and Grace, 15, and Chloe, 14, with his third wife, Wendi Deng, 48.

Elisabeth’s first husband was Elkin Pianim, a Dutch-Ghanaian economist, whom she married in LA in 1993 and divorced in 1998.

She also married PR guru Matthew Freud, the great-grandson of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud and nephew of artist Lucian, in 2001. They split in 2014.

They pair have been together for at least two years. Photo: Sue Webster

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Henry Sapiecha

Bride-to-be turns cancelled wedding event into a night for the homeless Indiana USA

After a number of calls cancelling her $30,000 wedding, Sarah Cummins opened the doors of her reception to the local homeless people of Indiana.

Sarah Cummins, right, hugging one of the many homeless guest that she invited after cancelling the $30,000 event. (AAP)

After two years of planning Sarah Cummins and her fiancé called off their wedding with only a week to go.

The reason for the sudden cancellation is unknown, but the two were left with a non-refundable booking for 170 guests at the Ritz Charles in Carmel, a suburb north of Indiana.

Not wanting the event to go to waste, Cummins’ decided to host a dinner extending an invitation to local shelter residents and families.

The guest list also included a dozen homeless veterans from the Hoosier Veterans Assistance Foundation.

Cummins’ arranged two buses to pick up the individuals who spent the night being wined and dined. They were treated to a menu including bourbon-glazed meatballs, goat cheese and roasted garlic bruschetta, chicken breast with artichokes and Chardonnay cream sauce and even the wedding cake.

The 25-year-old pharmacy student was determined to make the night a positive experience for herself and her guests.

She told local newspaper, the Indianapolis Star, “I called everyone, cancelled, apologised, cried, called vendors, cried some more and then I started feeling really sick about just throwing all the food I ordered for the reception.”

For Cummins’ this was an opportunity to show her new guests that they deserved to be at a place like the Ritz Charles just as much as anyone else does.

News of Cummins’ act of kindness caused a ripple effect. Indianapolis man, Matt Guanzon was among the many who were inspired, donating suits from his own closet so that attendees could dress up for the event.

Erik Jensen, a guest from Wheeler Mission was grateful to be the recipient of Cummins’ and Araujo’s kindness.

“It’s just a really great opportunity for us… it’s a great opportunity to spread love.”

The Ritz Charles was opened to homeless people after Sarah Cummins cancelled her wedding.

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Henry Sapiecha

Elon Musk posted an intimate photo with girlfriend Amber Heard at the Gold Coast Queensland Australia

In a picture tweeted to Elon Musk’s 8.3 million followers, actress Amber Heard is leaning casually on the billionaire inventor’s shoulder at the Gold Coast, Musk sporting a lipstick kiss on his cheek.

The tweet and Instagram post seems at odds with Musk’s general behaviour on social media, as most of his posts appear focused on his business projects rather than his personal life.

So why post such an intimate photograph?

Curtin University Associate Professor in internet studies Tama Leaver said Musk’s post was far from a casual snap.

“I think both of them have probably discussed and thought carefully about wanting this relationship to be public, and I think this is a fairly canny way of doing that,” he said.

“I think for both of them this will satisfy any local newspapers that needed an image.

“They’re obviously happy with their relationship being public and I think a statement like this often does suggest that there’s actually been a bit of history to this relationship, it’s something they want people to know about and I don’t think you could craft an image better.”

It’s the first time the couple have publicly posted about their relationship on social media.

According to Page Six, rumours of a Heard and Musk relationship began during the northern hemisphere summer last year when they were seen together on a couple of occasions.

Heard’s short-lived marriage to actor Johnny Depp ended after their divorce was settled in August 2016, with Heard receiving $US7 million.

Musk, the co-founder of car maker Tesla, has been married three times to two women and has six children, and finalised his divorce from Talulah Riley last year.

Last time Heard was in Australia, she and Depp appeared at the Southport Magistrates Court to face biosecurity charges for bringing their dogs Pistol and Boo into the country without the proper quarantine authorisation.

“Amber Heard in particular, the last time she was in Australia was memorable for all the wrong reasons,” Dr Leaver said

“It’s a good thing that she’s not surrounded by a strange controversy about small dogs.”

Dr Leaver said the images – Heard tweeted a different image from the same night – were a good way for the couple to spread a positive message about their relationship.

“Looking at the image that went with that, he’s got lipstick on his cheek so it’s not meant to be in any way ambiguous.

“I think it’s one of those elated public statements of intimacy more than anything else, and I think that’s quite important for both of them,” he said.

“To some extent it’s a very provocative image, because it does suggest that this isn’t just dinner, this is a lot more so I think that it’s done quite a lot with a single image.”

The photograph is some excellent publicity for the restaurant too, but Dr Leaver said that was more a coincidence than a concerted marketing effort.

“It’s certainly not going to do the restaurant any harm … I think Elon Musk is one of those people that has an extremely positive social media following so that certainly will do them some good.”

Dr Leaver said it was highly unlikely the restaurant paid for the exposure – especially given the fact that Moo Moo’s Twitter account was not tagged – but also because it was not something Musk would do.

“I think it would be more detrimental to him as sort of an entity to bother promoting a restaurant,” he said.

There was also speculation about whether Musk would mix business with pleasure while in Australia – a Tesla spokesperson told the AFR the visit was non-official, but tech site Gizmodo has suggested other reasons Musk could be in town.

Heard is in Queensland for the filming of Aquaman, which has brought a number of high-profile celebrities to the Gold Coast including Jason Momoa of Game of Thrones fame.

Filming for the DC Comics feature has been under way at the Village Roadshow Studios on the Gold Coast and at locations around the south-east of the state, and the film is scheduled for international release next year.

Henry Sapiecha

Heart warming ‘You may want to marry my husband’

Amy Krouse Rosenthal image www.mylove-au.com

WHILE many of us might be guilty of spending endless periods of time trying to perfect our dating profiles, none will ever hold a candle to the one written by author Amy Krouse Rosenthal – only, she wasn’t even writing it for herself.

Rosenthal, who is terminally ill with ovarian cancer, penned a dating profile for her husband Jason for The New York Times and it’ll simultaneously warm and break your heart in one foul swoop.

The author starts: “I have been married to the most extraordinary man for 26 years. I was planning on at least another 26 together.”

After asking her readers if they “want to hear a sick joke?” Rosenthal recounts heading to the hospital in September 2015 where, “a few hours and tests later, the doctor clarifies that the unusual pain the wife is feeling on her right side isn’t the no-biggie appendicitis they suspected but rather ovarian cancer.”

Her kids had just left for college but as soon as she received her diagnosis, Rosenthal and her husband’s post-kid plans “instantly went poof”.

“No wonder the word cancer and cancel look so similar,” she writes.

Rosenthal then proceeds to introduce us to Jason who she was set up with on a blind date.

“It was 1989. We were only 24. I had precisely zero expectations about this going anywhere. But when he knocked on the door of my little frame house, I thought, ‘Uh-oh, there is something highly likeable about this person.'”

By the end of their blind dinner date, Rosenthal admits she knew she wanted to marry him.

The best-selling author proceeds to construct the world’s best dating profile for her husband revealing everything from his “flair for fabulous socks” to “his affinity for tiny things”.

And then, she encourages her audience to do as they do on Tinder and swipe right.

The part that will have you careening through your house for a box of tissues is when she describes her tattoo which reads “more.”

“I want more time with Jason. I want more time with my children. I want more time sipping martinis at the Green Mill Jazz Club on Thursday nights. But that is not going to happen. I probably have only a few days left being a person on this planet.”

“So why am I doing this?” she wonders.

“I am wrapping this up on Valentine’s Day and the most genuine, non-vase-oriented gift I can hope for is that the right person reads this, finds Jason, and another love story begins.”

Rosenthal is a best-selling New York Times author well known for her children’s books such as Little Pea, Spoon, and Duck! Rabbit! as well as her 2005 autobiography Encyclopaedia of an Ordinary Life.

Since writing her piece You May Want To Marry My Husband, thousands have taken to Twitter to express their heartbreak and the impression the piece left on them.

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Henry Sapiecha

Online Date Site Punters Not Really As Picky As They Say They Are

arrows-to-the-heart sketch image www.mylove-au.com

People come to online dating with high expectations for an ideal partner who checks all their romantic boxes — but a new study, published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, shows that online daters often choose partners who don’t match their stated preferences at all.

“We looked at whether or not people actually contact people who match what they say is their ideal partner in their profile, and our findings show they don’t. Stating a preference for what you are looking for appears to have little to no bearing on the characteristics of people you actually contact,” said lead researcher Stephen Whyte of Australia’s Queensland University of Technology.

Whyte and his colleagues crunched data from more than 41,000 Australians between the ages of 18 and 80 who used the dating site RSVP. The researchers looked specifically at more than 219,000 instances when one online dater reached out to another and analyzed how the recipient’s characteristics — from hair color to religious views — matched up with what the initiator said they wanted. The study found that over 65 percent of the messages were sent to people who met only one — or none — of their stated preferences. Men, compared to women, picked people who shared fewer characteristics with their ideal partner.

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“How people go about finding a partner is changing dramatically thanks to the internet. Where once we were limited to settings such as school, work, social gatherings or local night spots, there is a much wider choice at hand online,” said Whyte. But as the researchers discovered, that much wider choice doesn’t mean that people are holding out for Mr. or Ms. Perfect, at least not when it comes to initiating contact on a dating site. Instead, as the press release puts it, “people may actually prefer to settle on an acceptable threshold of qualities or characteristics in a potential mate, rather than hold out.”

Ah, yes, that politically loaded term settlingSome have argued that it’s exactly what people — excuse me, women — should do, while others have strongly cautioned against it. While this research seems to suggest that people are settling when it comes to online dating, it sounds like something more positive is going on here. People are — very reasonably, it seems — open to talking to potential romantic partners who don’t appear to check all their boxes.

This news might mean less pressure to live up to a vision of the perfect partner — because online daters just aren’t taking those ideals too seriously. As Whyte puts it, “I think it’s really encouraging findings for people searching for that special someone online.”

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Henry Sapiecha


 

Chances are we’re more likely to date someone who has an ex

couple-kissing-in-farmyard image www.mylove-au.com

MOST people would agree choosing “the right” partner is fairly important, and a bad selection in this area can be devastating.

Most people want to attract a partner, and this involves a combination of self-promotion, and taking down the competition in order to appear to be “the right” partner.

Some of our efforts are conscious and some are unconscious.

Research has found people with relationship experience, all else being equal, tend to be more romantically desirable than people without relationship experience.

In other words, people are attracted to others who have already been “pre-selected” (or pre-approved).

We call this phenomenon “mate copying”.

Mate copying can be thought of as purchasing a product (a romantic partner) after seeing others (former partners) “use” it.

By virtue of having been in a relationship, an individual is communicating they have “desirable” romantic characteristics (these have appealed to at least one person previously) and you can be confident there is something about them that is appealing.

Do men and women mate copy?

In a sense the previous partners of a person are “endorsing” them, or attesting to their romantic competence. By doing so, they are indirectly offering relevant information about the person.

But why might this be useful? Well, if you are going to make an important decision (who to partner) you generally want a fair bit of relevant information. Knowing someone else has been chosen before is additional relevant information that will help you make your decision.

But there is a sex-difference here, and it essentially comes down to biology. There is plenty of literature supporting the idea men are largely attracted by physical qualities (physical beauty, youthfulness).

Women, however, are generally attracted to less observable characteristics (social dominance, kindness). Where men can get a fair bit of mate-relevant information from simple observation of a potential partner, women can’t, and are encouraged to look for additional information. One cheap source is knowing what other women think of a man, specifically, whether or not he is considered a good romantic prospect.

While some researchers have found evidence of mate copying in men, there is a fair bit of literature suggesting the phenomenon is quite a bit stronger among women.

One reason for this is men don’t get as much out of mate copying as women do. The information gains men achieve by knowing what other men think about a woman are marginal.

Being in a relationship is attractive … or is it?

Although you may not have heard of “mate copying”, you may have heard of “the wedding ring effect”. This broadly describes the popular(ish) belief that wearing a wedding ring makes a man desirable, because he has obviously won the romantic favour of at least one opposite-sex person (his wife), and he is willing to commit.

Given indicating a willingness to commit makes a man very attractive, and considering he is conveying a lot of positive characteristics (he’s likely a good partner, he’s willing to commit), the persistence of this belief is not surprising.

However, evidence does not support the idea married men are more desirable than single men. A big reason for this is married individuals are so much harder to attract and/or date than single individuals. Also, there are some strong moral proscriptions against pursuing a married person.

It’s not all about quantity

One of the interesting things about mate copying is that, like with many things, quality is more important than quantity. It’s known a man is much more desirable if his female partner (current or former) is highly attractive (than if she is less attractive). But we also know that while a moderate amount of relationship experience makes a man more desirable than if he has none, too much makes him really undesirable.

A study I co-authored looked at how romantically desirable a man was perceived to be, as a function of how many partners he’d had in the past four years. Men with one or two previous partners were far more desirable than men with none, but men with five were far less desirable than any of these.

This non-linear relationship might seem curious – if a bit of relationship experience is desirable, wouldn’t a lot of experience be really desirable? Well, no, and the reason probably has something to do with promiscuity.

While having had five or more previous partners is certainly far from unheard of, it may indicate the person can’t or won’t maintain a relationship for long. Maybe they have trouble committing, or maybe they are more interested in quantity. Whatever the case, they are indicating undesirable relationship qualities.

Mate copying among nonhumans has received a lot of attention in the past several decades, with numerous authors finding evidence for it in aquatic, avian and terrestrial animals. While enquiry into the existence of the phenomenon among humans began far more recently, preliminary evidence suggests it definitely exists and is an extremely powerful attraction force.

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Henry Sapiecha