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Who's The Fairest of Them All? - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Who Is The Fairest Of Them All?

July 2, 2009

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

Looks have inspired love affairs for centuries. Now a new study of over 4000 people reports that most men agree on what makes women “hot” while women have a much broader view of what makes a guy attractive. But the question remains, why are there such dramatic differences between the genders in how they perceive attractiveness?

According to this study, men have a much more narrow view of attractiveness than women do. They rate thin, seductive and confident women as the most attractive and almost always agree on the criteria. In general, men love the visual and a beautiful face framed by flowing glossy hair coupled with a curvaceous figure that catches their attention.

In contrast, women seem to disagree about male attractiveness across the board. Some guys are rated high in “hotness” while others are relegated to the non-preferred status. Over all, women emphasize romance, connection, stability and commitment. They are twice as likely to consider their partner’s emotional characteristics when choosing a mate. The bottom line is that men may have a tendency to narrow the number of women maintaining a broader array of choices for romance.

Psychologists account for these differences in men and women in the following ways:

Worldwide Trends: In a study of over 10,000 people in thirty-seven different societies, men were more interested than women in a partner’s physical appearance -- particularly youth and beauty. When men seek a partner online, they are three times more likely to seek a good looking partner rather than valuing other assets.

Socialized Differently: Men and women are socialized to view the opposite sex in vastly different ways. Men are rewarded for having an array of beautiful women around them and multiple partners are not always discouraged. On the other hand, society actively discourages women from promiscuity and we are encouraged to forge intense, long lasting, romantic relationships with men. Even with the inroads we have made in gender equality, women are consistently held to a much stricter standard of moral behavior.

Men Fall Faster: There is a downside to the male’s attentiveness to the visual. They generally fall in love faster due to their admiration for female looks. Women are more measured in their attachment decisions and are more likely to consider character, earning potential and loyalty as desirable attributes. Women are more likely to break up with men with up to 70% of divorces instigated by women.

Many people ask me in my practice if women are becoming more selective about men as our power in the world increases. Here’s usually what I reply:

Although we cannot seem to agree on the exact criteria of male attractiveness, women are much more vocal in their preferences and now consider relationships as optional, not required. Since we spend half of our adult lives outside of marriage, we are now partnering more for the sheer desire to be with our man rather than for either money or procreation. In fact 13 million American couples have declared their intention to not have kids.

As we have acquired more economic power, we also have more choices in acquiring younger mates who enjoy our power and seasoning. Although looks are not at the top of our lists, many women say that looks in a man are also important and they prefer men with a strong jaw (a sign of high testosterone), and tall men with a strong, well developed torso. Most importantly, we also prefer men who will talk to us about our feelings, our relationships and our children. Basically, our expectations of marriage and partnership are increasing along with our paycheck.

Here’s the elephant in the room and the answer that everybody wants to know: Are the standards of attractiveness shifting for both genders as the expectations of marriage are rising?

As expectations for relationships have become more stringent, both genders are relaxing on the physical standards of attractiveness. Having a beautiful persona may win attention initially, but the sustainability of a relationship depends on more substantial skills. Instead we are seeing these trends:

  • Emotional Intelligence: Ninety four percent of Americans will marry at some point and we are entering marriage later and we are demanding an emotional compatibility that is unprecedented in our history. Women no longer value the “strong silent type” but often prefer a man who at least has good listening skills. His ability to manage his moods successfully, respond empathically and help with the kids counts more than his ability to produce tons of money. Men are also growing tired of the pretty women who are emotional divas.
  • Rise of the Power Bride: We are seeing men value a woman’s brains as much as they value her beauty. Many men date highly educated, successful women after becoming bored with women with fewer interests and narrower experiences. Since the majority of bachelor and master’s degrees are awarded to women, men have access to the most highly educated, disciplined and dynamic group of women in the history of the world.

Here are some tips for the real secrets of attraction and getting the on you want.

Looks are just a small dimension of attraction and they fade with the years. It is important to remember that the real key to sustained attraction is similarity. People prefer mates who are similar in values, attractiveness, education and earning potential. Even if you different personalities and backgrounds, sharing the same experiences over the years can create a shared and similar understanding of life that is relationship sustaining.

Sources include:

"The Social Psychology of Gender" by Laurie Rudman and Peter Glick

David Buss’s work on Gender Politics

Woman Sense Rules by Dr. Sylvia Gearing

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