"Nerrrddds!": Ogre is favored by evolution

Josh Clark

As cruel as he was and as round as his comeuppance in the classic 1984 comedy, "Revenge of the Nerds," oversized geek hater Fred "The Ogre" Palowakski (correct spelling, look it up) would be favored by the process of natural selection. The idea behind that barely coherent sentence is based on recent joint study between Binghamton University and University at Albany, both in New York. Harassment and bullying of nerds at the hands of aggressors like Ogre seem to be a mechanism of competition for resources, specifically finding a mate. Even more, it seems to work.

In a survey of 65 male and 47 female college students, the scientists unearthed a correlation between sexual activity and suffering bullying at the hands of same gender peers (called peer victimization) in middle and high school. This correlation skewed in different directions for each gender, however.

Boys who were victimized indirectly (like suffering demeaning or embarrassing encounters) at the hands of other boys reported fewer overall and annual sexual partners than those who weren't. Girls who suffered the most indirect victimization by girls, on the other hand, reported more frequent sexual activity than those who had made it through adolescence without emotional crippling. The researchers posited that victimization serves for males a chance to knock out competition for mates. By appearing weak, nerds become less attractive in the eyes of potential mates. This does not necessarily make Ogre appear more attractive, but would ostensibly increase his chances of finding a mate with fewer competitors in the dating pool. This would make him favored by natural selection, then.

For girls, it's a little more complex. The researchers theorized that either girls who are victimized are more vulnerable to sexual advances due to lower self-esteem or that attractive girls are the ones who are victimized most by their peers (the researchers didn't factor physical beauty into the study). Either way, you can bet randy teenage boys couldn't care less which one's correct.

The self-reported study is up for peer review in the January issue of the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

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