On Beauty

I’m only just starting to get my head around this beauty idea.

Since I was a teen, I understood that boys would fancy a girl because of her “beauty”. This made sense to me, because I myself would be attracted to boys because of their “beauty”. The criteria would often be arbitrary though, and depended on what can only be called taste. I find it interesting now that my best friend and I never went for the same type of men, and were never attracted by the same look although now and again we would stop in our tracks, glance at each other, and go “Phwoar” at some guy we passed on the street. Anyway, all of this made me conclude that There Is Someone For Everyone and beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Then as I got a bit more wordly-wise I began to understand that beauty was currency, when it comes to women. I saw that women’s bodies and faces were commodities that they could exchange in return for a wage, as a model or a dancer for example, or perhaps as a wife. I guessed that if there were two identical women’s CVs on the table, male interviewers would make a decision based on the attractiveness of the women in question. So I understood why women tried to beautify themselves. The more beautiful you are, the higher your currency, right?

But when I realised that beauty standards vary greatly from country to country, and across time and place, everything began to make less sense. Surely, if attraction to a particular set of physical traits was biological, then it wouldn’t vary as much as it does. We all know that large women are coveted in times of scarcity, because they represent health and wealth. The pale, anaemic look is still valued in countries where women till the earth as peasants. So I began to wonder what it was that men actually found beautiful about women…

… and more recently I began to wonder whether men find women beautiful at all except as currency. I find my friends beautiful, because they are. And the more I get to know them the more beautiful they become. Especially when they’re relaxed and not wearing make-up. But if men find women beautiful, then why do they require us to wear make-up and diet and walk about on spiky heels…? Why is it that I, a heterosexual woman, can find beauty where men can’t? Are straight men all latent homosexuals?

My conclusion is that men do not find women beautiful. They can assess the value of a woman’s currency as defined by the current cultural mores, and they can place a particular woman in a beauty hierarchy, and in fact they do,  (some women get a 10, others an 8, and others aren’t worth rating)  but all of it depends on the opinion of their mates, or other males. It means that getting a pretty woman has nothing to do with the woman herself and everything to do with showing other men how well you’ve done. I know all this sounds obvious, but it took a lot for me to get my head around the fact that men can’t decide for themselves whether a woman is beautiful or not. They really can’t.

And then we have the fact that women go on diets and get breast implants and other types of cosmetic surgery, believing they are making themselves  more “beautiful” to men. But it seems to me that this system of eugenics is taking place, not because men are actually attracted to this or that trait, but so that the women are able to slot themselves into a slightly higher chategory in the hierarchy that men have devised in order to display their own status, which also has the effect of playing women off against one another.

In all the literature I’ve ever read, only once have I been overwhelmingly convinced that a man found a woman beautiful. The man in question was Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. I’ll never forget the line about him stretching out his hand ever so tenderly to stroke a single lock of Cathy’s hair, touching it as gently as though it was a bird, before pulling back, startled. He was mesmerized by her beauty. It has baffled many critics that Emily Bronte managed to create such a passionate love affair, probably the most passionate in English literature, at the age of seventeen, despite being isolated on the moors with a controlling father and never coming into contact with men…. It turns out that Heathcliff was probably modelled on a female friend of hers after all.

 Do men find women beautiful?

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8 thoughts on “On Beauty

  1. i concluded that female “beauty” (fuckability) and female vulnerability are interchangeable in doodville. i find it entirely plausible that men get erections thinking about pleasing and impressing other men, bc thats what they care about and they make that obvious. but they *also* get erections over womens perceived and actual vulnerability, which is so sick its hard to talk about.

    heres a link, its a post based on dworkin’s “intercourse” where she talks about joan of arc, and how none of the men wanted to fuck her:

    http://factcheckme.wordpress.com/2010/10/13/whats-fuckability/

  2. Its pretty obvious that men find wild women ugly. They still want to fuck us, but in a perverse and dehumanizing way.
    This is why its so important for us once we develop a consciousness about these things start to reject the objectified images of ourselves, stop spending our time and money on being social capital for men.
    Patriarchy has no place for real beauty, we aren’t even allowed to keep our faces as we age without becoming invisible.

  3. Good post Cherry. You are so right that men cannot actually see beauty, and have to gauge it by what their mates think/agree with.

    The other thing thing is, the ‘decoder ring’ for the dudes. The more time and trouble a woman has gone into presenting herself (or ‘make herself attractive’), then that is a sign that, actual beauty aside, that she is compliant in her own oppression, and that is a bit of a hard on for the boyz.

  4. thanks for the replies!
    FCM, yes I completely agree with your theory that vulnerability=fuckability. I should have linked to that, as it’s connected to this post! And I guess that ties in with what DaveSquirrel mentions, about the “polished woman” clearly being more vulnerable than the “wild woman” (thanks for that term NN). But I’m also wondering whether men can perceive beauty at all in women without the fuckability gauge. I guess they can’t basically. I can imagine a soldier “confirming” with his mates that Joan of Arc was beautiful (or not), and then being attracted to her depending on the answer he got.

  5. I think they can perceive a good female specimen; as in young, healthy and intelligent but if other men see her as a social liability it will be no go; except for backdoor sex and they will offer that to almost all women, irrespective of age or beauty standards.

    I think Nucleurnight is right, men think women are ugly, not because we are ugly, but because proximity to us has always been dangerous, and therefore they perceive us as ugly. They call us spiders and dress us like insects — things that are also dangerous and therefore contain an intrinsic ugliness in human eyes.

    We women get lost because we are not as a rule, drawn to ugly dangerous things, when we perceive ugliness we respond as we are supposed to by immediate withdrawal, disgusting is code for dangerous in nature. The twist in the tail is that the more overtly sexually desirable a woman is, the greater the likelihood that other males will be simultaneously attracted to her and therefore the greater the danger she represents to individual males, as males may fight and kill each other.

    Male Gorillas in a zoo get on well but as soon as a female is brought near their enclosure they start to fight like mad. Close proximity to a young fertile female is a dangerous place for a young fertile male.

    Human males are afraid of each other and they project that fear on to us to ratify their alliances with each other. We are sacrificed and shared out so that they don’t have to fight. The use and abuse of prostitutes also serves this purpose by creating satiation and therefore a degree of indifference to all women.

    I am not much endangered by my proximity to young women therefore they are beautiful in my eyes.

  6. I did read somewhere that Joan d’Arc was actually of noble lineage (not actually peasant class), which would explain better why she was actually able to take up a military leadership role. The “hands off” order also makes more sense with class protection. Mere threat of Big Angry Sky Fairy really is not much protection (ie nuns have been raped).

  7. Somehow, I find myself coming back to this post and re-reading it from time to time. It’s one of the most powerful things I’ve ever read. Thanks a lot for articulating this. A lifetime of menz behavior finally makes sense.

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