The Ladder Theory

The Ladder Theory is the non-scientific rationalization of men’s and women’s first impressions of each other. This theory was created in 1994 by Dallas Lynn with the help of Jared Whitson.

According to the Ladder Theory, men and women consciously and unconsciously project a mental rating when meeting anyone from the opposite sex. For men, rating is based largely on a woman's attractiveness (60%), on whether she will put out quickly (30%) and other factors (10%). For women, on the other hand, a huge chunk of their preference is on money/power (50%), appearance (40%), and a small portion on the traits women profess to care about, but don’t in reality (10%).

The theory explains that each of us has our own “ladder”. Men have one ladder, while women have two. For men, the top spot in the ladder is occupied by women whom they really wish to be dating and have a sexual relationship with, and those at the bottom are those they consider unattractive and undesirable. As for women, things get more complicated because they have two ladders representing those they consider as potential mates (“real” ladder), and those they only want to be friends with (“friends” ladder).

The ladder theory has the following assumptions:

  • Men cannot be friends with women they find attractive.
  • Women are more attracted to power and money.
  • Men always want to have sex with women and vice versa.
  • Men and women’s intention in life is to move farther up the ladder.

Problems arise when there is a disparity in the ladder. Meaning, a woman may be on top of a man’s ladder but the man may be at the bottom of a woman’s ladder. In this case, it is possible that the man finds the woman extremely attractive yet the woman may think he is not rich or powerful enough for her. Moreover, when a woman does not tell the truth about where a man’s position is in her ladder, the man will be misled and left to wonder why she never called him back after such an enjoyable date.

Although the creators claim that the Ladder theory is based on many years of study, there are some loopholes in the details, since some of the assumptions are based on stereotype studies, generalizing men as poor animalistic beings and women as intellectual whores. While it may be true for some, it does not apply to everybody. For example, women may have other reasons for not wanting sex with a man aside from finding him unattractive. Religious beliefs or a physical condition may prevent a woman from wanting sex. Another criticism revolves around the author’s arguments, which have no reliable sources except for his own personal experience and that of his peers. In a sense, arguments are somewhat biased and probably prejudiced.

The Ladder theory has created quite a stir among men and women, especially among the younger generation. It is often discussed in online forums, blogs, and articles as well as in the blockbuster movie, When Harry Met Sally. While many people find this theory amusing and humorous, a lot of negative reactions have cropped up because it is deemed that the theory is blunt, tactless, and rather subjective.

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