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Dallas Lynn's controversial ladder theory model

How men and women (supposedly) evaluate each other

The Ladder Theory is purported to analyse how men and women evaluate members of the opposite sex, especially on a first-impression basis.

Ladder Theory was originally satirical but, as is often the case, proved to have more than a grain of truth embedded in it.

Ladder Theory was first conceptualized in 1994 in Exeter, California USA, by Dallas Lynn, with acknowledgement to the contribution made by Jared Whitson.

A detailed explanation of The Ladder Theory is on the website: Please be aware the language on this site can be (very) strong and it has a similarly strong male bias.

Ladder Theory is specifically aimed at heterosexual men and women, although it could arguably be applied to any legal sexual orientation.

See the Ladder Theory Disclaimer below for contextual explanation (i.e., why Ladder Theory is on this website).


Basics of the ladder theory

The basic premise of Ladder Theory is that all men gauge women on an I-would-have-sex-with-this woman/how-likely-is-she-to-have-sex-with-me scale.

Women apparently have two ladders:

  • Potential sexual partners, and
  • Platonic partners - those she would never have sex with.

Given that women are arguably a lot more more complex than men, then that figures..

Classification and ranking (for both sexes) is described as a 'Ladder' hence the name Ladder Theory.

Allegedly, the higher up on someone's ladder you are the more likely you are to get laid.

The following (basic) table sets out how men and women apparently make their initial mental assessment of each other.


Ladder theory male/female assessment factors

men % women %
How attractive is she 60 How much money/power does he have 50
How soon she will have sex with me 30 How attractive is he* 40
Other aspects 10 How much women say and don't mean (e.g., I prefer a man with a sense of humour, a sensitive man, etc) 10

* Attractive (40%) to women is broken down as follows:

  • 50% - Physical Attraction
  • 20% - Competition (is he someone else's, does he ignore me, I-want-what-I-can't-have, etc..)
  • 20% - Novelty (women it appears lay some kudos on men being 'novel')
  • 10% - Other (we can only guess..)


Men's ladders

Based on the above, a man will place a woman highest on his ladder if (he judges) she is willing to have sex with him and he finds her attractive.

It could be said that most men and women would not find that statement ground-breaking.

Men apparently classify women as follows:

  1. Top - (of course) is the woman he really/most fancies.
  2. Next - the women who he would have sex with and admit to.
  3. Last - those women he would have sex with but never admit to it (or be too drunk to remember who she was). Too much alcohol can as we know make even the most unattractive woman (and man) appear desirable.

As an aside it should be remembered that beauty is subjective, and (often) superficial, especially when applied to women (although some men also prefer not to be to seen without their make-up or other physical enhancements).

Men, as stated in the Ladder Theory, do not have a ladder for 'Platonic' females since the theory works on the premise that all men basically evaluate women as sexual objects.


Women's ladders

Women as stated earlier have two ladders - Potential Sexual Partners and Platonic Partners.

The first problem here for men is that they often don't know which ladder they are on.

When they do get it wrong they can come to an 'abysmal' end.

Women place Money/Power as a man's most attractive aspect.

This is borne out by how many 'not very attractive' powerful rich men have beautiful women companions. (If the cap fits..)


The abyss

This is common to the bottom of both sex's ladders.

Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter the Abyss.

Especially if entering via a monumental fall from grace - and if you are a man!


Other ladder theory points, worthy of note

According to the Ladder Theory women very rarely allow ladder-jumping (no pun intended) so men need to make clear early on they want a woman's body, as well as her mind, if men want a position on the 'Potential' ladder, otherwise you could end up on her Platonic Ladder, and never more to be seen in a sexual context.

Please note this is not a call to action. There are laws about sexual harrassment.

Ladder Theory is a superficial classification and does not try to explain the subtle unconscious foundations upon which initial assessments are made. People will continue to make judgements based on their own life-experiences and values and needs, which are liable to change depending on their current personal circumstances - and unfortunately at times how drunk they are!

Use of the Ladder Theory is not without risk or injury.


Many ladder-related injuries are caused by not understanding how to use the ladder correctly.

Injuries can sometimes be serious and long-lasting.

Some 'minor' incidents do not preclude further attempts at scaling the giddy heights again.

The amount of grovelling that accompanies a desire to be put back on a ladder is usually commensurate with the seriousness of the 'incident' especially (again) if you are a man.

Ladders can be flimsy constructions, and can be extended or shortened without warning.

Locking mechanisms on extended ladders are rarely used and both sexes continually revise the payload on their respective ladders.

Men can find themselves at the top of a woman's ladder without being aware of taking any conscious steps - and of course vice versa.

Also remember that what goes up can come down!

Accusing the owner of a ladder of misuse - particularly if the owner is female - is no guarantee that a problem will be rectified - and you could find yourself consigned to the Abyss.


Ladder theory disclaimer

If you like/don't like the Ladder Theory, and seek further information or enlightenment then please see for the original authority and wisdom, such as it is, on the subject. Be warned - it is not the most politically correct website in the world.

This webpage is an introduction and summary explanation of Ladder Theory for those who might find it useful or amusing, either as a subject for discussion, or an interesting reference example (good or awful depending on your standpoint) for learning or teaching various aspects of human relations and motivation.

If referring to this material in a teaching or training context you must ensure that you do so in a manner that will not cause offence or breach relevant discrimination laws. To some people Ladder Theory will be harmless fun and interesting. Others could regard it to be insulting or offensive, so if in doubt don't use it.

(Almost) needless to say, Ladder Theory is based on absolutely no scientifically validated research whatsoever, and in terms of its reliability and seriousness should be treated as such.

That said, Ladder Theory can with a little imagination potentially be related to the following areas of learning and development:

  • planning and preparation
  • strategy and tactics
  • systemic rules and structures
  • visualisation and self-image
  • learning through experience
  • self-worth and self-esteem
  • human behaviour and evolution
  • dating and mating
  • office and business relationships between the sexes
  • roots and factors in sexual discrimination - envy, desire, rejection, etc
  • the 'casting couch'
  • connections between fidelity and high achievement
  • gender equality
  • and many other aspects you will no doubt think of yourself.

see also


© Sandra McCarthy and Alan Chapman 2008-2009.