one misconception about attraction

If you read this article, please read the disclaimer at the end.

I was talking to a friend the other night who was lamenting that guys don’t care about anything but looks.

This is a typical criticism, but one that is sorely mistaken, and I think it’s a misapprehension that results in lot of mistakes. I think the best way to characterize this view is that idea that guys have a ranking in their heads, and that this ranking depends solely on looks. This generates a huge amount of insecurity in girls who think that any girl ahead of them in this looks-ranking is a deadly threat. They also think that guys secretly want to be with the supermodels and sex symbols of the day (because of course these women top any “looks” list), and this further adds to insecurity and pressure.

But this looks-ranking view is wrong. If it’s so wrong though, what explains its appeal? Well, its plausibility stems from the fact that guys do of course care about looks. Sad fact, but still undeniable.

But the point that bears mentioning is that most guys only care about looks in a threshold way. There is no complete ranking of all females in terms of their looks. Rather, there really is just a binary scale, either a girl is cute or she isn’t. Once a girl gets on the right side of this divide (she’s cute), then personality, devotion, and intelligence all start to become very important. This doesn’t mean that looks disappears as a criterion on the cute side of the binary divide. Two girls may be cute, but if they are both smart and fun to be with, then looks could be a tie breaker. And a girl who is much cuter than another might have an edge even if she is a little less fun to be with, even if both girls are on the cute side of the looks divide.

I think once this is made clear, a lot of anxiety can be dispensed with. In other words, guys are not completely pigs. They do care about all the important stuff that gives a person their uniqueness and content as a human being, but this stuff is not all that matters, and for a certain type of sexual attraction, looks is going to have to play a role in setting the terms of the debate.

Disclaimer: Of course I’m not trying to elide the fact that people are really hurt by the fact that looks matter to both sexes and it may be that looks “setting the terms of the debate” is also objectionable and offensive. My goal in this post is clarification. My point is that things are not as bad as some people I’ve met think, even if there is still a live debate about whether things could be improved still further.

Also note that just because one person does not want to be with another sexually does not mean that anything other than respect defines their relationship.

Finally, I realize that labels like “personality” and “looks” are really crude abstractions that stand in for more tangled concepts. I think nonetheless people know what I’m going for here.


2 Responses to “one misconception about attraction”

  1. 1 mengster
    September 2, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    speak for yourself, i have a complete ranking that i track in an excel spreadsheet and update every other week

    • 2 questionbeggar
      September 2, 2009 at 4:13 pm

      haha, I knew the comments would just be flying in on this one. I put that post out there as a softball, just ready for anyone to take a whack at. I might hear from Anna on this one, although she seems to confine herself to the google chrome debate.

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