Hot or Not?

It’s almost enough to make you cancel your subscription to Vanity Fair. Not only do attractive people get the best partners and shoes,  they’re also given the biggest breaks.

Surveys by Castelloe, Wuensch and Moore (1991) and Downs and Lyons (1990) found that better looking people get preferential treatment in court, shorter sentences and shorter fines. A study of damages awarded in a staged negligence trial (Kulker and Kessler, 1978), found that when the victim was better-looking than the defendant, he received twice as much compensation as when the it was balanced the other way. Research in the US also shows that good-looking guys are paid 12-14% more than their less attractive workmates, (Hammermesh and Biddle).

But what constitutes ‘attractiveness’? And does it vary between the sexes?

Both men and women are attracted to symmetry – but for women, this applies to the body, whilst for men it means the face. (Perhaps this is part of the reason why less attractive guys often get gorgeous ladies.  That and their wealth/good sense of humour). Men are most attracted to women with ‘baby’ faces – small nose, large eyes, big smile.  That’s because it allegedly  awakens a powerful desire to touch, embrace and protect.

When it comes to instant attraction, women look for men with the following;

  1. Athletic body shape
  2. Broad shoulder, chest and muscular arms
  3. Small, toned bum
  4. Full head of hair
  5. Sensual mouth
  6. Kind eyes
  7. Strong nose and chin
  8. Narrow hips and muscular legs
  9. Flat belly
  10. Large penis
  11. Three-day beard

But in a long-term partner they want;

  1. Personality
  2. Humour
  3. Sensitivity
  4. Brains
  5. Good body

When it comes to instant attraction, men apparently look for;

  1. Athletic body shape
  2. Sensual mouth
  3. Full breasts
  4. Long legs
  5. Rounded hips/small waist
  6. Hemispherical (I kid you not) buttocks
  7. Attractive eyes
  8. Long hair
  9. Small nose
  10. Flat belly
  11. Arched back
  12. Long neck

In a longer term relationship however, they prioritise ;

  1. Personality
  2. Good looks
  3. Brains
  4. Humour

One out of 12 ain’t bad, even if my neck only scrapes it at number 12 – were it not for that, I’d say ‘what a load of cobblers’. But y’know, nothing says sexy like a crane neck.  Just ask Earthworm Jim.

So how seriously should we take this kind of pop psychology?

For starters, consider the terms.

‘Good looks’.  By whose standards? Surely what’s considered attractive in one culture, may be the essence of ugly in another.  (Belfast airport for example, smells of biscuit.  It’s a national tragedy – hordes of pale-skinned dark-haired lovelies, all dyed walnut.  And, sisters, I’ve been there.  Say it with me, ‘Step away from the Fake Bake’..)

Newsflash Two: Apparently both sexes would also prefer some ‘personality’, (as opposed to say, dating a rock. Or an amoeba).

Then there’s the question of ‘Kind’ eyes. Someone tell me, what does that even MEAN?

Facial hair (I’m guessing this is for the men). Why three and a half days growth? Why not four? Just what would happen if those renegade follicles were allowed to run rampant for an extra day, or even a week? Beardgate? Mouche Armeggedon ?

And as for ‘hemispherical’ buttocks, words fail me.

Even if we could agree on a universal standard of beauty, just because I find  Marlon Brando somewhat pleasing to the eye, doesn’t mean that I expect to settle down with him. (I know he’s not an option now for lots of different reasons, but totally ripped pecs does not maketh the man.  Even if it does make the knees a little wobbly).

Plus, to be brutally frank, even if you’re putting all your eggs in the ‘looks’ basket, you’re going to need a few extras.  For starters, you’ve got to be one of the .005% of the population who fit the criteria of ‘jaw-droppingly gorgeous’.   And that’s just the beginning.  There’s a whole lifetime’s worth of money,  effort and potential surgery needed to maintain those peachy cheeks. Not to mention the fact that it’s not just eggs with use-by dates.

If your partner is with you purely on the basis of your looks, you’d better not lose or put on too much weight, do any activities that might threaten wrinkles or injury, or – under any account – give in to the process known as ‘aging’. Having done all this, you can then rest secure.  Or can you?

Perhaps the cruellest irony is this: there’s nothing uglier than someone who’s obsessed with how they look.

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