Beautiful women, lonely men

Men who see too many gorgeous women find themselves less attracted to the ordinary ones who might actually date them. Poor little bunnies.

Published August 8, 2008 3:10PM (EDT)

Pity poor Michael Levine. He has "the enviable fortune to work with some of the most beautiful women" in the world, but it's killing his sex life! (Which makes one question the whole "enviable fortune" bit, but whatever.) See, studies show that the more men see extraordinarily beautiful women, the less attracted they become to the ordinary ones who might actually date them.

Making matters worse, men's lizard brains evidently haven't figured out that the pictures in Playboy and Cosmo are two-dimensional, and that the chances of Joe Jerkoff meeting one of the models in person are mighty slim. Predictably, Levine offers an argument from evolutionary psychology for why this is so. "Our ancestors were probably designed to make some estimation of the possible pool of alternatives and some estimation of their own worth relative to the possibilities" -- but the alternatives for a caveman did not include photographs of Gisele Bündchen, Angelina Jolie or the Playmate of the Month, and the modern male brain hasn't corrected for that. (Apparently, the average dude also has a pretty freakin' high estimation of his "own worth relative to the possibilities.") So men unconsciously add models and actresses they'll never meet to their pool of potential dating partners, which "leads to a lot of guys sitting at home alone with their fantasies of unobtainable supermodels, stuck in a secret, sorry state that makes them unable to access real love for real women." Poor little bunnies.

It's true that all the images of "ideal" women in the media normalize a beauty standard -- young, thin, white, clear-skinned, straight-haired, able-bodied, etc. -- that only a tiny percentage of women can achieve. And it's not so hard to believe that this has an impact on men as well as women in defining expectations. But am I seriously supposed to feel sorry for a grown man arguing that being around too many beautiful women makes him "unable to access real love"? Or that evolution moves too slowly for most men to know the difference between a photo and a live woman? Really? That's a "sorry state" indeed. On the upside, as commenter Scheherezade noted over at AlterNet, "Sounds like male shallowness could become an unsuccessful evolutionary trait."

By Kate Harding

Kate Harding is the author of Asking For It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture--and What We Can Do About It, available from Da Capo Press in August 2015. Previously, she collaborated with Anna Holmes, Amanda Hess, and a cast of thousands on The Book of Jezebel, and with Marianne Kirby on Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere. You might also remember her as the founding editor of Shapely Prose (2007-2010). Kate's essays have appeared in the anthologies Madonna & Me, Yes Means Yes, Feed Me, and Airmail: Women of Letters. She holds an M.F.A. in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a B.A. in English from University of Toronto, and is currently at work on a Ph.D. in creative writing from Bath Spa University

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