Ladder Theory

by Chuck Ross on October 26, 2009

Gentlemen and ladies, I’d like to (re)introduce Ladder Theory*. The idea isn’t mine, rather it was developed in 1994 by a guy named Dallas Lynn. While the concept behind Ladder Theory is nothing new, the metaphor provides a new mental model with which to observe male/female dynamics.

Men have one ladder on which they vertically rank women according to their ability to induce erections. On John’s ladder, Julie may be ranked at the top meaning that he would die to have sex with her. Gertrude, a warpig, is at the very bottom of the ladder. John would only have sex with her for three reasons: inebriation, bribery, and species propagation. The essence of the monolithic male ladder is that female companionship is merely a function of how much the guy wants to put his penis inside her. “Friendship” is a foreign term for a man’s ladder**, and “interested” has only one definition with varying degrees of magnitude.

In contrast, women have two ladders on which they allocate the men in their lives. “Friendship” isn’t foreign and “interested” can have many meanings. Like concealed ovulation, fake orgasm, and descended breasts, the erection of two ladders serves to hide womens’ true nature. Frank may occupy the highest rungs of Jasmine’s “Real Ladder” – the one where sex happens – while Timmy may occupy the highest rungs of her “Friends” ladder – the one where masturbation takes place (look out below!).

The essence of a woman’s ladders is that they aren’t related. The men on the “Real” ladder are sexual possibilities depending on certain circumstances while the men on the “Friendship” ladder are not. A woman can have a guy friend that she values more than the possible sexual relationships with men on the “Real” ladder even though there’s no chance of her hooking up with the friend. The female ranking system isn’t as straight-forward as mens’ (go figure). We have one variable from which everything else follows; they have two from which chaos and mayhem ensues.

According to Ladder Theory, a sea of abyss – described as a witches brew of self-loathing, embarrassment, and awkwardness – lies at the bottom of these ladders. A man attempting to hop across from the “Friend” ladder to the “Real” ladder may fall into the sludge. The authors point out that – unlike Nietzsche’s tightrope walker – there is no rope to guide a man from the “Friendship” side to the other. I’ll add to Ladder Theory by asserting that – if he wants to make the transition – a man has to make a running leap with a full head of steam, hoping to get across. While the chances of this actually succeeding are as good as a lion escaping from his cage at the zoo; anythings possible. Be aware that most lions that try to escape their cages are euthanized. If the friend does happen to make it across the abyss, he’ll only be able to grab on at the bottom of the “Real” ladder due to gravity’s pull. If he jumps but fails to grasp hold of one of the rungs, he’ll land face first in shame stew.

One might ask why it is necessary to have the 2-1 ladder structure. Why can’t men be ranked on one ladder according to overall attraction? The answer is simple, and it has to do with the variables by which each sex is attracted to the other. Men are most interested in physical beauty. Their single ladder ranks women – for the most part – on that one variable. Some women may leapfrog others based on willingness to hook up, but its all still a function of attraction. The single ladder implies that all women could theoretically move up or down the scale. This doesn’t hold when women rank men. Once a man has been relegated to the “Schmuck scaffold”, he has little chance of moving to the next ladder.

I’ll leave you gentlemen with the cogent advice of the Theory’s author:

“You can see that a lot of problems can be avoided by declaring as soon as possible to a girl that you will not be friends under any circumstances. You can explain that she is too attractive or you can be blunt and say you don’t want to bend your “friends” over a table and fuck them, but would rather play poker and go to the races with them, thus disqualifying her from friendship. As long as you are clear. This may scare a girl away. But if it does what would you want with such a skittish little twit anyway?”

*After I wrote this piece, I found that Dave in Hawaii had written on it a couple years back.

**Gay men have a ladder dichotomy similar to women’s.

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