What is beauty?

Is beauty just a cultural thing, based on whatever the common consensus is at any particular time?  Or is there a ‘true beauty’, that we find in all cultures and times?  Actually it’s a little of both. Do you want to know which aspects of ‘beauty’ are arbitrary, and which seem to be biological? Or whether stick thin models are truly beautiful, or just an artificial fad? Then keep reading!

A strange event got my mind onto this topic. I was in Primark, a discount clothes store here in Leeds.  An interesting peculiarity about this store is that its layout makes it impossible to get to the men’s section without walking through the women’s underwear section.  Having no other option, I made my way through this mysterious section of the store.

As I slowly walked towards my destination, I saw someone from the corner of my eye who caught my attention, and my head instinctively moved to her.  And there she was, in all her glory.

An industry-standard ‘female’ mannequin.

I’d just walked through a women’s underwear section, which, being a busy Saturday afternoon, was filled not only with lots of women’s underwear, but also lots of women, and a mannequin is what catches my eye.

Maybe that’s an interesting peculiarity about me?

No… don’t open that door…

Female Mannequins
Sexy?

Why did the mannequin catch my eye?  The mannequin’s job is display the clothes in the best possible light. It’s a hard job to get into – the hours are long and employers will only hire you if you’re the epitome of attractiveness; because the same item of clothing worn by two people will generally look better on the more attractive one.

‘Male’ mannequins don’t have sunken chests and pot bellies, do they? The idea is to make you think you’ll look like that, if you’d only purchase the item of clothing. 

Fair enough.  But, why do they look like they do?  Why am I supposed to find this particular shape and size woman attractive? I looked into it, but stuck to female beauty, because (a) it’s a more interesting topic (don’t ask how long I spent “researching” pictures), and (b) it has more relevance to issues like body image concerns, the effect of the media, and so on.

Eye of the Beholder

We can start to answer this question by looking at what different cultures and times have held to be beautiful.  If there is wide variety, we can say beauty is mostly cultural.  If there’s wide agreement, we can say it’s biological.

The classic comment I got while chatting to people about this, is that although “thin is in” right now, in the past, fat was desirable.  Not ‘curvy’, but actually overweight.  I wondered if this was actually true.

Here are a couple of adverts.  The left one’s from 1885, the right one from roughly 100 years later:

'Get Fat' Advert.
'Get Skinny' weight loss Advert

Things have changed since 1885!  Though to be fair I did pick both of these specifically to illustrate my point, so they don’t really prove anything.

To find more evidence I searched the web, looking at how different cultures across time had depicted women in their art. I don’t have time or space to give a full rundown, but here’s some stuff I found out:

Women through time

Women over time
  • The oldest known representation is the Venus of Hohle Fels.  It’s around 35,000 years old, and is most clearly an overweight woman.
  • Of course there’s the work of Flemish artist Paul Peter Rubens in the early 1600s, who influenced the ‘Rubanesque’ movement.  Rubens displayed women as pale and plump; this was considered attractive.  For example, have a look at his painting, Venus at a Mirror.  This is the same Goddess of love and beauty who was depicted more slimly in other times.
  • Slim women got their fair share of attention too.  The Egyptians consistently portrayed a more slender ideal in their art, similar to the current trends.  See the painting here, from the Tomb of Nakht, around 15th c BCE.  Also, based on the paintings I found, the Chinese also preferred the slim look.
  • Weight wasn’t the only factor.  For example in Elizabethan England (1558-1603), beauty was pale skin and a plucked forehead!  Yes, the hair was plucked to make the forehead appear larger.  Not sure where that one came from, but pale skin was a sign of wealth, partly because the ingredients of the cosmetic of choice to achieve this look were rather expensive, and also health because if your face was clear and pale you probably didn’t have small pox.

I didn’t do an extensive study of all cultures prefer, but it’s pretty clear that there’s been a lot of variation over time. So far, beauty does look like it’s in the eye of the beholder.

Metal necks, ceramic mouths and silicone breasts

Even within the cultures of the world today, there exists massive variation in what is considered beautiful.  It’s amazing how creative we are with this; all manner of adornment, tattooing and manipulation of body parts are linked to beauty.  Again, not a comprehensive study but just a few points:

images of beautiful women across cultures
  • In many parts of Africa, obesity is desirable – it is associated with abundance and fertility.  In some areas, girls go to “fattening farms” – much the same in principle to health farms and gyms – a cultural institution aimed at increasing the appearance and charm of its clientele by placing them more in line with the current consensus.
  • This preference was also found in a study in 2008; in the US, men preferred a body shape thinner than the average, while men in Ghana preferred a body shape that was heavier than the average. (1)
  • Again though, we find that there’s more to beauty than body weight.  The Padaung women of Southeast Asia like to place metal rings around their necks.  They start this practice from a young age, and over time, the rings lengthen the appearance of the neck, increasing their desirability.  This has lead to an imaginative nickname: “Giraffe Women”.
  • In some African tribes, large ceramic and wooden plates are held in the mouth to stretch out the lips. Bigger lips = more desirable.  Eventually, the lips have stretched so much that the whole plate can be pushed into the mouth with ease!
  • Perhaps strangest of all is the modern West.  Many women undergo surgery to alter the size of their breasts, waists and lips.  Other surgical procedures are also common, usually based around increasing the appearance of youth.

Imagine if Western culture had evolved to desire mouth-plates instead of silicone breasts. Imagine women on the cover of Vogue holding ceramic plates in their mouths, or Pamela Anderson running down a sandy Californian beach, mouth-plate bouncing up and down as she goes.

It sounds ridiculous, but is it any more ridiculous than putting lumps of silicone in your breasts? Or spend all your time and money to afford the liposuction cost of thousands of dollars?  All over the world, people go to incredible lengths to match up to the standards of beauty their culture endorses.  At first glance these standards do not appear to be consistent.  When a culture changes, its standards of beauty often change with it.  So to a certain extent, beauty is ‘democratic’, decided by whatever the people happen to prefer.  But there’s more to this story than differences.  For example, even though “thin is in” at the moment, it’s not true that every thin woman is considered beautiful, is it?  You couldn’t replace a Playboy centrefold with a random girl of equal weight.

So there must be something else going on, other than cultural influences.  Perhaps the answer to what this is lies in what the different cultures agree on.

We’re not so different after all

Evolutionary psychologist Devendra Singh discovered that all around the world, men have a preference for women with a low waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) – A waist that is relatively thin and hips that are relatively broad.  This is regardless of the actual weight of the woman. The magic ratio is 0.7;  here’s an example you might recognise: (2)

Marilyn Monroe  - Perfect 0.7 waist-to-hip ratio
Marilyn Monroe – 0.7 waist-to-hip ratio

If you zoom in so that the hips measure 20mm, you’ll find the waist measures 14mm – a perfect 0.7 WHR.  This ratio is consistent in beauty icons across time and culture.  Audrey Hepburn had it, the average Playboy centrefold is 0.68: even the Venus de Milo has a WHR close to 0.7. And a relatively thin waist has been seen as attractive through time – a study of English and Chinese literature consistently found references to thin waists in descriptions of women considered beautiful at that time. (3)

So what’s the attraction to this particular shape?  It’s because a favourable WHR suggests that a woman is young, healthy, and fertile.  It’s a signal of genetic fitness and a good choice for a mate. Women whose fertility has been impaired tend to have higher WHRs, and unhealthy, starving women cannot maintain large buttocks and breasts – they need to use this fat as fuel.

Not surprisingly then, the magic 0.7 ratio is a preference shared in almost all cultures studied.  WHR provides very important information to a species whose main drives are to survive and reproduce.  Although there is some controversy over just how universal the 0.7 WHR preference is, there is reason to believe that even if fads and fashions change, this preference would remain – to so some extent.(4)

Face the Facts

One thing we haven’t looked at yet is facial beauty.  This is typically studied by showing photographs of faces (or actual people sometimes) and asking participants to rate their attractiveness on a scale.  In a massive meta-analysis of over 900 studies of this kind, psychologists discovered a huge agreement both cross-ethnically and cross-culturally on which faces were attractive.  This analysis strongly disagrees with the idea that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, and suggests there’s something universal and genetic about facial attractiveness – something we all recognise.

images of beautiful women across cultures

Three important aspects seem to be symmetry, clear skin, and averageness. The more symmetrical a face is, the more attractive it seems to us, and when a group of faces are morphed into one by taking the average of all their proportions, that artificial face is usually seen as more attractive than any of the individual ones.

Researchers did exactly that with photos of entrants to the Miss Germany contest. The average face was rated more attractive even than the eventual winner. Here ‘she’ is on the left. But, it’s not purely averageness that is attractive, because several unattractive faces morphed into one is not seen as more beautiful than a prototypical attractive face. (By the way, check out Beauty Check, where this photo came from – it’s an excellent site and their study is great fun too).

Don’t forget to indicate!

Looking at the evidence, a certain portion of the beauty pie is taken up by biological preferences inherent in most, if not all, humans – the indicators of health, fertility, and good genes.

The rest is taken up by cultural preferences. Why do societies differ in these ways?  Are they just arbitrary?  Way back in time, did a group of high-status people in a tribe decide that long necks were sexy, and dictate that preference to their subordinates, eventually spreading the idea through the whole tribe? 

Partly, but even cultural preferences are indicators in their own right. They might signal things like health or whether a person has reached breeding age, but the thing about health is that it looks pretty much looks the same wherever you live. Other things might look differently in different areas – for example, wealth. There seems to be a pattern between body weight preference and wealth – although the specific weight that is used as this marker seems to differ across cultures.

Researchers Sobal and Stunkard did a large review of sudies that looked into both body weight and socioeconomic status.  They found that in rich countries, the correlation is negative – the richer you are, the thinner you tend to be – and in poor or undeveloped countries the correlation is positive – rich people tend to be overweight. (5)

The reasons for this are unclear, but it’s thought to go something like this: in a poor society you need to be wealthy to become fat, and if you’re a hungry person in a poor society, wealth is very attractive. So overweight people suddenly become appealing. Also, more weight is seen to relate to maturity, and it’s useful to have mature people around in hard times. However, in a society that’s generally rich, these preferences aren’t activated, which allows thinner body ideals to evolve more often in these places.

Another interesting study found that men going in to a canteen reported that they preferred heavier women than men going out of the canteen. Hungry men prefer heavier women. So if you hate the thin ideal and want a way to get rid of it, now you know how – starve all the men in the society! (please don’t, though). (6)

What is beauty?

Combining these findings, we come to a basic formula:

Adherence to social consensus + Genetic Fitness = Physical beauty

Social consensus will be things like the current body size preferences, fashion/adornment preferences, and so on. Genetic Fitness is WHR, facial symmetry, and things like that.

So take a genetically fit (‘biologically attractive’) woman, and throw her in any space and time. Provided she can match up to the status quo of that time, she’ll always be a catch. And even if she didn’t match up, she’d probably be seen as attractive to some extent. Likewise, a woman who isn’t as genetically attractive can ‘trade up’ by adhering to the social consensus.

In other words, take Jessica Alba, and fatten her up, or use brass rings to make her neck seem longer, or pluck her hair line back and make her skin pale – and she’d still be considered beautiful in Ghana, Northern Thailand, or Elizabethan England, respectively.  Do all three, of course, and she’d be an absolute smash in a goth club.

I’m being superficial

I’m being superficial on purpose here, because I just wanted to look into beauty. There’s more to attractiveness than physical beauty of course – personality, how you carry yourself, confidence, and all kinds of other things – although I know it doesn’t seem that way, because our culture is very superficial. The only thing is, I don’t know how much of the attractiveness pie is taken up by physical beauty, and how much is taken up by these other things. Maybe that’s a topic for another day.

Is it right or wrong for a society to be as focused on physical beauty as we are? I don’t know, but it’s clear that we’re not alone on this – through time and space, people have altered their bodies to look more attractive.  All manner of cosmetics, paintings, decorations, piercing, exercise regimes, scarification and accessories have been used.  But all of these practices are essentially arbitrary, and relevant to a specific culture at a specific place and time.  They establish connections with the norms of that time, or to a particular group within a society.

But it’s useful to understand that apart from the biological markers of health and fertility, there’s no definition of beauty that isn’t considered ugly in another place or time.

34 Comments

  • Warren Davies says:

    References:
    (1) Frederick, D. A., Forbes, G. B., Berezovskaya, A. (2008). Female Body Dissatisfaction and Perceptions of the Attractive Female Body in Ghana, the Ukraine, and the United States. Psychological Topics 17:2, 203-219

    (2) Singh, D. (2002) Female Mate Value at a Glance: Relationship of Waist-to-Hip Ratio to Health, Fecundity, and Attractiveness. Neuroendocrinology Letters. Special Issue, 23, 81-91

    (3) Gottschall, J, et al. (2008). The “Beauty Myth” Is No Myth: Emphasis on Male-Female Attractiveness in World Folktales. Hum Nat, 19, 174–188

    (4) Jasieska G, Ziomkiewicz A, Ellison PT, Lipson SF, Thune I. (2004). Large breasts and narrow waists indicate high reproductive potential in women. Proc R Soc Lond B 271:1213–1217.

    (5) Sobal J, Stunkard, A. J. (1989). Socioeconomic status and obesity: A review of the literature. Psychol, 105, 260-275.

    (6) Nelson, L. D., & Morrison, E. L. (2005). The symptoms of resource scarcity: Judgements of food and finances influence preference for potential partners. Psychological Science, 16, 167-173. See also Swami, Poulogianni, and Furnham (2006), showing that it’s not just a preference for heavier objects in general!

    Image Credits – Mannequins: Naked by thomashawk, Tomb of Nakht from World Images

  • mohinder says:

    Warren wrote : “The only thing is, I don’t know how much of the attractiveness pie is taken up by physical beauty, and how much is taken up by these other things. Maybe that’s a topic for another day”

    Imho, it probably depends on the sexes.

    If Brad Pitt acts like buffoon chances are alot of women who found him physically attractive would be turned off by his personality (obviously, where only assessing apperance vs behaviour here and are dismissing his superstar status which most women would find attractive and inturn ignore his buffoon nature as a quirk)

    If Angelina Jolie acts like a buffoon chances are alot of men would find her attractive, regardless.

    • Warren Davies says:

      Yeah that’s a good point, I think you’re right from what I read. The theory goes; men go for looks more because ultimately there’s more information about youth and fertility in appearance, while women go for personality more as there’s more information about status and resources in personality. I think that’s what you’re getting at.

      What I’d be interested in is, if you could convince a girl that she’s as desirable as Angelina Jolie, so that she really believes it – would she be seen as more beautiful just because she acts differently (more confidently, expects attention, or whatever). And if so, how much more?

      Because most of these studies were done by getting people to rate pictures of women – some even used cartoon drawings of different body shapes! This is fine if you’re specifically looking at visual attraction and trying to eliminate other variables, but in real life there’s a lot more going on so it’s hard to say how much practical use you can get from this.

      Thanks for the comments Mohinder!

  • Now physical beauty is only half of the picture. It’s the first that we see and the one we base our first impression on. In reality those who are extremely beautiful on the outside are often an empty shell with nothing to show on the inside because they are so self absorbed with their beauty. So maybe true beauty does come from within
    .-= Improved Social Life´s last blog ..claim =-.

    • Gisette says:

      Saying that doesn’t make you any better than these vapid men and women that you seem to loathe. What about those who don’t give a damn and are very down-to-earth and genuinely kind people? Inner beauty trumps in the long run, but, deep-down, we can’t ignore that fact that we like beauty. And lowering someone’s character based on their attractiveness is just as bad as being judged solely on your looks.

  • I know this is a bit of an “older” post but interesting to me.

    As to faces, I remember part of a documentary where babies focussed much longer on and came back to faces that would be deemed ” model beautiful” probably to do with the proportions of the features and the relative distance between them. It’s kind of all innate, I think the study concluded.

    Real beauty is on the inside anyway, love, compassion, generosity and such.

    • Warren Davies says:

      hi Jannie!

      Glad you commented! This is one of my favourite articles and I wish it had received more attention than it did. I spent weeks researching and writing it!

      Yes I recall something similar. It seems there is an innate aspect to beauty, particularly when it comes to faces. Babies spend more time looking at beautiful faces, and different cultures agree on who is beautiful – even cultures with little or no contact with each other. But other aspects are more open to interpretation and cultural difference, life body shape (with the caveats mentioned above).

      And yes there is the ‘inner’ aspect to beauty. I suspect that perhaps women will on average be more likely to view beauty as being on the inside, but I am certain that many personality and compatibility factors will interact when people are deciding who is beautiful. All these studies can really uncover is the averages, which might tell us a little about human nature, but the real picture is probably much more complicated than I present here.

      Cheers,
      Warren

  • Jeff says:

    Nice explanation. Some great research in what you wrote and I never heard about the plate holding women :P. I sometimes wonder about this topic as well but I find even in what society defines as pretty women theirs a lot of differences in what me and even my close friends find attractive. The waist to hip ratio seems to be consistent though.
    .-= Jeff´s last blog ..Usual vitamin deficiencies for certain lifestyles =-.

  • I have never read such a very interesting post! These people are disfiguring their body to look beautiful in the eyes of others?

    I guess others like what Asians and Africans sense of beauty are also connected with their belief and culture. They don’t do that merely for sight unlike western women of today who really undergo surgeries to look better than her neighbor.

    • Warren Davies says:

      Yes we’re very image-focused in the West. We have the ‘ideal’ appearance blasted into our brains God-knows how many times per day, so we start to compare ourselves and others to it. Plus we have a lot more mirrors. It struck me recently – do such societies have mirrors? Do they know what they themselves look like?

  • Dave Muncher says:

    Enormously interesting but it occured ti me that what this article doesn’t tell you is that ‘beauty’, like ‘quality’ is a simply a set of attributes or features. These are rated differently, indicating what is important to them.
    .-= Dave Muncher´s last blog ..Uneccesary Airport Security More Travel By Car =-.

  • Taylor says:

    I think in our global quest for uniqueness and identity among those most common to us, we come up with unique standards of beauty to create something that either others can’t attain or aren’t interested in anyway.

    The net effect is that beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder, or the crazy bastards that dreamed some of that stuff up in different parts of the globe.

    Great post by the way. You put a lot of thought and work into it and it shows

  • Mark says:

    At some level it boils down to beauty is in the eye… However; beauty is of course an inside job and all human cultures obsession with it, with manipulating it (bound feet, neck extension, plastic boobs, etc, etc,) with measuring it, is a reflection culturally and personally on our own lack of inner peace; some might say self worth (although even that is a loaded term now).

    We’ve all had experiences of getting to know someone and their “body and face” disappear. Their true beauty shines through. This is the unchangeable, real beauty to me. Probably belabouring the obvious…

    The rest is interesting and even in some cases stimulating or attractive to the lizard brain! Is there any inherent “meaning” to it beyond we all struggle in some way with thinking we are “less than good enough?”

  • topper says:

    Why is this study on attractiveness only about women? Please don’t buy the old myth that only men value looks in women, and not the other way around.
    I can very much enjoy the type of men society calls “androgynous”; fine characteristics in the face, not very muscled. A lot of young girls prefer this also, but this changes as they get older and suddenly they like the George Clooneys of the world and forget about the Brad Pitts. I think it is not because they really think their former ideal is not handsome, but because society demands that women do not really favor looks in men.

    By the way, the morphed photo on the actual website Beauty Check ? Really does not do ANYTHING for me. Not pretty. Too big a nose, too small lips, mouth too low, eyebrows too thin, too boring facial form. In fact, were she to have a bigger nose for instance, she would become more attractive, because her face would be more interesting to look at.
    The photo on your blog of the mash of faces (it’s a different picture than on Beauty Check!) is in fact pretty. I never found mannequin dolls in stores to be pretty at all.

    Of course, the fact that I think it’s pretty is still influenced by the media. Were we to show more black faces, more Asian faces in the media, those faces would be deemed prettier and be appreciated as they deserve. I think that allready happened, with bigger lips (African) and more symmetrical faces (Asian) getting more popular. With the rise of the internet I have the hope that people of the world come in contact with eachother and value eachother, including their beauty, more.

    And in the end, beauty does not matter. The fact that we make a fuss about it in women and not in men is merely cultural. We’d better spend our time doing something useful than on objectifying ourselves and other by only valueing looks, rather than intelligence, wit, humor and kindness.

    • Warren Davies says:

      Hi Topper,

      Thanks for the comment.

      The reason I focused on women was partly selfish (I just like looking at women more than men), and partly because there are more social issues relating to female appearance than male.

      It may be a myth that only men value looks. Personally, I think men focus more on looks than women, but it matters to both genders (as do the other factors but reversed). However, it’s plainly obvious that society at large values looks on women more than men. In many ways it must suck to be a women with all the focus on female physical attractiveness. The models that are pushed down our throats are the top percentage of attractiveness, following which they have a strong career and other incentives to stay thin and pretty (money, status/fear of losing status) which ‘normal’ women don’t have, then on top of that the pictures are airbrushed.

      Then these pictures are distributed widely, so that our brain sees a greater degree and amount of highly attractive people than actually exists. So women start to hold themselves to a higher attractiveness standard than is realistic, and you end up with body image issues, eating disorders, and so on, which are more prevalent in women than men.

      I completely agree with your last sentence though – we would be better off overall and as a society if we did that, but alas there are very influential people making a lot of money out of our current superficiality, and they have no incentive to change anything.

    • Zwa jerry says:

      Beauty is God

  • JORDAN FRIDDLE says:

    In nature the male species always is attractied to looks because they are looking for a fertile female and the female species is looking for a strong and powerful male. That is even with animals. So as humans men still look for the most attractive women that shows fertility, and women look for power but not only in body type but also in personality. If a guy is a goof off and an idiot than he is not a prime pick for a girl, so girls look for guys who are confident and a good head on their shoulders. Someone who can protect the woman, that is beauty to me.

  • Ashley says:

    Me and my persnal thoughts—– I personlly think that real beauty shows in your heart,for what you choose to say ,how you speak, how you love others, and how you treat other people:)how you project yourself as a person. But im wondering what is that click in are minds when we see “beauty”. what makes it in a split sec register as postive reaction compaired to the negitve instent reaction that we have. If it is projected upon us by magzines and TV and other people we see or talk to,then why is the click so Instent? Instead of a more slower reaction, that causes us to think about the difffernt types of beauty that we most likely have come across. Now that is what confuzes me most!!!

  • caitlyn says:

    I loved this article!

  • Mandy says:

    Thanks, this is a very interesting article.
    I came across this article while searching for waist to hip ratio preference. I don’t entirely believe that the currently accepted waist to hip ratio ideal is accurate. I’ve noticed that in the past few years, I see more and more women in entertainment who have what I would describe as a more boyish waist to hip ratio. I was just watching a show in which the female lead took her top off to reveal her back to the viewers. Her waist was even with her hips, and her upper back was just slightly larger than her hips.
    I don’t think this is bad but it’s an interesting shift, if my perception is accurate.

  • Stephana vital says:

    Who are we to judge peoples appearance?god created human in his own image that everyone should respect.i thnk physical beuty has nothing to do with us,because we can’t lengthen even a single part of our bodies,we can’t create a symmetrical face,we can’t make our self short like Will smith’s wife-jada.When people look at me,they say,look at this primitive woman,not attractive,not beautiful,ofcoz am fat flat,but i came to understand what is beauty when my husband wanted to kill himself just because i wanted to dump him,he said”where to find such a beatuful heart, face,waist,lips,body color,etc”for this i realized what is beauty.beauty is on beholders eye and only love can make u see all are the same by god’s eye.otherwise it mens nature to set these quality for women,and they are distructing the truth about beauty myth.have look at a story of rachel and leah in the bible,and also the book of esta.again beaty has something to do with eyes but not with soul or mind.and this has caused many men and women to marry wrong partiners which have caused dilema to marriage and hence divorce.u see.thanks

  • Madison says:

    I know this is an article from awhile ago, but I did enjoy it (I giggled a few times). Great references and info as well! I’m doing a project and my question is “what is beauty?”; this helped alot for getting ideas as well as giving me some background on cultural beauty.

  • Tara says:

    I also recently came across this article while researching for a paper about the drastic changes in beauty in history and the reasons for that. This article was super helpful and really interesting to read! Also, your references lead me to some more great sources. This was very well written and definitely makes you think! I guess Beauty really is the eye of the beholder, because very little of it is the same everywhere, and it surely won’t stay that way! Thanks for a great article!

  • Gisette says:

    To be honest, people abuse “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” It’s stupid how we act like it’s a crime to like beauty; it’s second nature! It’s biologically impossible to overlook beauty when choosing a life partner, and men and women alike judge based on how attractive a possible love interest is. Men are more consistent when it comes to beauty standards, and what’s today is what’s hot to them, on average. Women have wildly fluctuating standards, and even my female friends and I can never agree as to what is attractive to us in men.

    Basically, we need to stop being so crazily PC all of the time. There’s nothing wrong with liking beautiful individuals! Yes, our inner qualities and smile and beaming personality are wonderful and great, but liking someone you consider beautiful isn’t a crime. We should all be able to frankly say to our friends, “Wow, s/he is freaking hot,” without having to worry about “BEYOOTIZ IN TEH I OF TEH BHOLDR GAIZ!!1!” It doesn’t make you any less a person to like someone you think is attractive; it’s as natural as breathing and it’s what allows great marvels like the arts to exist!

    So, suck it, PC-ers! >:D

    • Warren Davies says:

      Well said, Gisette. Beauty is kind of in teh I of teh bholdr but, as you say, there’s some consistency in what the majority of people find attractive, like the symmetry and so on.

  • nima says:

    From a Freudian point of view, I believe the faces that are more like mother’s face (for men) and father’s face (for women) are more desired. those are the faces that kids see the most in their childhood.

    • Jeff says:

      How would that work with interracial couples? As in, I’m white and I’ve been with my indian girlfriend for over three years, physically her face doesn’t look anything like my mothers.

      ?

  • Jamie Louise says:

    wow that was soo interesting, i am currently doing an art project at uni on “What is True Beauty”. i have asked this question to my friends on face book and most of them referred to inner beauty, and the rest said special moments or someting that captures your eye and stayes in your memory. your research is so helpful, it was an interesting read. 🙂

  • Jeff says:

    I agree in theory that to generalise based on looks, to judge someone in value based on there looks in such a way is wrong. Even the notion of our psychological inclination to more readily trust those whom are attractive seems rooted in this idealogical perception of the desired “beauty.” Yet ultimately, as a man, what is referred to as beautiful in main stream media seems pretty hard to turn away from, no pun intended.

    I suppose thats the point, the perpetual permeation of an idealogical and purely physical “beauty” made upon our consciousness.

    I was kind of free from it for a while, I just completely switched myself of from it totally. It was relieving actually, there is the vast mental space that comes as a result of tuning your mind, to shed any and all thoughts of physical attraction and patterns of lust. Through that there is actual room to experience what people refer to when they say “there’s more to life than looks.” It was an eye opener I suppose but unfortunately, it didn’t last, just like Oscar Wilde “I can resist everything except temptation.”

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