Thursday, February 4, 2010

Attraction: Less is More?

The OkCupid blog had one other article I found interesting, and this was about response rate based on people's attractiveness. As you might imagine, pretty people get more responses (although of course, who is and isn't pretty can be subjective). However, the article also had some more nuanced findings, which were that while most men, no matter how they look, go for the most beautiful women, women tend to shoot for average-looking men, even if these women are much more attractive themselves. Yep, it's the "King of Queens" effect in full force-- something we see all the time in movies and TV, but apparently people follow the same patterns when it's just them and their computer. Art/life, or life/art? (I'm aware that referring to "The King of Queens" as "art is stretching it.) Interestingly, Kevin James is married to a modelesque woman in real life.

Maybe this has to do with the fact that women know that a lot of really good-looking guys have become kind of...full of themselves. We all know "that" guy. However, I think we've also all met "that" heterosexual man who is not all that conventionally good-looking, but is just as cocky and feels just as entitled to female attention as the "hotter" guys.

So my question is this: For asexuals, does appearance matter more, or less? I think it could really go either way. "Less" is the obvious answer because duh, we're not sexually attracted to anyone. However, a lot of us still experience some kind of non-sexual attraction, in which looks might be a factor. "More" actually makes sense to me because as someone who isn't into men or women on any consistent basis, it takes a lot to catch my eye. Like I said, "pretty" is subjective, and I've definitely been attracted to people in the past who looked good to me, but still wouldn't beat Johnny Depp (or whoever else the girls go wild about) on hotornot.com. You know how people say "I'd go gay for ____", ____ being some hot celebrity of the same sex? I'm not implying there's a "right person" who will "make us sexual"-- you should know me better than that by now. But for someone like me, who only has a crush on someone once every 5 years, it obviously takes some kind of panache, and a lot of it, to get me interested romantically. Or maybe it's just random and my 5-year mark was drawing near.

On a related note, it feels confusing sometimes to be an asexual who is romantically attracted to people, but only very rarely. It sort of puts me in a rock/hard place situation when it comes to dating. ("What dating?" Yeah, yeah.) Nothing has, of yet, compelled me to become romantically involved with someone I'm not attracted to. However, the fact that I do have rare attractions can give me the vague feeling that I'm "missing something" the rest of the time. I don't doubt that for me, this is what's normal. And I'm assuming there are others who feel the same way. But still...

15 comments:

Siggy said...

As I read the article, it's not that the women aim for average-looking men, it's that looks make less of a difference for them. One of the graphs made it appear like women go for "medium"-looking men (2 out of 5), but then the same graph said that women rate the average man as 1 out of 5.

Does appearance matter for asexuals more or less? For me, the answer is obvious. It matters less, because I generally can't tell when people have good looks. How am I supposed to be biased towards attractive people when I can't even pick them out?

For me, it's not so much a matter of infrequency as it's a matter of feebleness. Lately, I've been looking at guys and thinking to myself, "Am I looking at this guy because he's attractive, or because I've been thinking so much lately about whether I can detect attractiveness?" All I can figure is that my reactions are so feeble that it's comparable to illusion.

I would be very interested to see dating advice for borderline romantic/aromantics. If only we could find someone qualified to give such advice.

SlightlyMetaphysical said...

My personal answer is that, like you, it takes a lot for me to find someone pretty. My standards of attractiveness are very high and quite unusual, so I'd probably only be attracted to people I'd rate above 4.5. I wonder if there are some other demisexual/demiaesthetic asexuals who work the same way?

However, as I said in the last post, I wouldn't particularly date someone I find attractive (which is lucky, 'cos there's no way I could bag a 4.5).

Ily said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Siggy and SM. After I wrote this post, I was reading about how "looks" could be defined in 2 ways: 1), how good-looking someone is, and 2), all the other information you can get (or think you can get) from looking at someone. The author thought that women cared a lot more about 2) than they did about 1). Personally, I'd buy that. Like when I was on OKCupid, I was surprised by how many guys had these really bad webcam photots. They might have been good-looking guys, but to me, I just wondered why they didn't take the time to upload a decent photo. I guess that would be an example of 2).

Rebekah said...

I feel the same kind of rare, mild, romantic attractions you've described in your final paragraph (with essentially the same feelings towards it), and, to me, looks matter not at all. I'll notice people I find particularly attractive, but those people are not necessarily those to whom I am romantically attracted, nor have they ever been connected (in fact, the one time that happened - when I noticed how physically attractive someone was and then developed a crush on them), my attraction swiftly ended when I really discovered that he was kind of boring and didn't read books.

Raymo.E-J said...

"I would be very interested to see dating advice for borderline romantic/aromantics. If only we could find someone qualified to give such advice."

@Siggy - Perhaps you can ask the A team at A Life Podcast. Henrik identifies as aromantic and I think Alexa is borderline a- and pan-romantic.

In response to the post:
Appearance does factor into attraction for me. Mostly with females, only because I'd like to see what our baby would look like. Yes, I'm still sold on decisive "family planning" as one of the major progressive movements to alter the modern world system).

... I was about to write that appearance usually isn't important to me. But it is. Again, especially with females. With males on the other hand, homoromantically speaking, appearance doesn't matter much. I could "bag" a 2.5.

Appearance for me is mostly defined by how well it SEEMS a person takes care of themselves. Specifically, clear skin, clean teeth, and neutral or positive disposition (baseline facial expression).

Funny thing this topic: because, today while riding the but to work I saw a female looking out the window. I handn't seen her face-to-face but looking at her profile. I knew I'd find her attractive. I walked up and sat next to her and asked her where her parents were from. She said El Salvador. Which was interesting because she had pale green eyes. And as I wrote in this post about my infatuation with ethnic phenotyping, I found her absolutely attractive: she had a kind face, a gentle brow and a... pretty nose. Here I guess I could rate her a 8.5 in my book, on a 1-to-10 scale.

Similar to Siggy's introspection into his perception of the attractive male, when I bid her good day and went back to my seat, I realized that, were it not for all this theorizing and conversing in the asexual realm, I probably would never have gone up to her or anyone I found "attractive"...A life is good :)

Anonymous said...

The men I tend to be attracted to aren't conventionally good looking, but all have nice shoulders/ backs (suggesting amazing hugs!). So just by having that I tend to want to find their faces attractive. At the moment I'm still working through a huge crush on a guy in my office, although I enjoy crushes up to a point, I do find them annoying as they take up so much time and energy, especially as I have no intention of ever wanting to be in a relationship with the person. Personally if I could get rid of romantic attraction and just enjoy the aesthetics, it would make my life a lot easier.

Siggy said...

"Perhaps you can ask the A team at A Life Podcast. Henrik identifies as aromantic and I think Alexa is borderline a- and pan-romantic."

LOL, I can just imagine Henrik giving dating advice. He'd get a kick out of that. He's so lovably antisocial.

Okay, so having a podcast qualifies them to speak on their podcast, but why should I trust their dating advice any more than I trust the random thoughts bouncing around in my own head? I think all borderline aromantics are in the same boat here; we all suck at dating.

Ily said...

Henrik's dating advice...I have a feeling it would be highly amusing...
:-)

heidi said...

What an interesting concept. I think OKC's data is skewed because while I might find someone conventionally appealing, I probably assume there's an ego backing it (if they took that much care in looking good for the photo). So, while I have "um, no" and "meh" and "awww" and "ego" as levels of so-called rating... I'm not going to message Mr. Ego because while he might be eye-candy (for someone, I have a hard time with that), he's not my type. Mr. Awww (is probably a nerd) but is far more likely to have a mellow photo and not look like some unkempt, unshowered dude with 3 wks of ramen stains on his shirt. But if he looks just shy of rational good looks, I might think there's a delicious brain to be picked. Go figure.

Disclosure: I dabbled in online dating but never contacted guys in my area because they all seemed like jerks or slobs. Out-of-town contact felt far safer and was easier to have real conversation because they KNEW they couldn't get any action via compy (and could easily be blocked if they got annoying).

I hate, hate, hate King of Queens. And most other shows of that sort (Everybody Loves Raymond, etc). But I do think that women are looking more for compatibility while menfolk figure they can get along with whoever if it's worth it to them.

Noskcaj Llahsram said...

I'd have too agree with you, Ily, it takes a lot to get me to notice someone, I feel kind of shallow for saying this, but most of my interpersonal interaction is very task oriented (school, projects, work...), and most of my 'extra-curricular' activities are better done alone or through some sort of telecommunication (email correspondence, videogames online, etc.), so when I do spend my free time with another person (lets assume a stranger) it's because I find them novel in some way. I'm sure you can see the problem, if I don't interact with them how do I find something novel; which leads to mostly pursuing the physically novel (attractive and unusual looking individuals).
Then there is a whole beauty as natural art aspect...

edgeofeverywhere said...

So interesting! These findings sound totally believable to me.

For me, the answer to your question is both less and more. Less because I only really become attracted to people I already really like and am close to, so it's not really about their looks. However, people generally have to be movie-star or rock-star attractive in order for me to be immediately drawn to them without knowing them at all.

Ily said...

Yay, lotsa comments! I'm glad folks are finding this interesting...and for what it's worth, I'm another person who does not, in fact, love Raymond.

heidi said...

Ily, I can't recall if it was your blog that first mentioned it or not - but in the crowd of folks who actively not-love Raymond, it's because his wife is essentially rearing an extra-large child. Yet this trend repeats in SO many shows. And the episode about the way they met is appalling =X A dear friend just broke off an engagement because she was tired of playing "mom." ...so, yeah, I'm not sure who the show caters to (lowering women's expectations or men's), but it needs to stop!

Ily said...

Nope, I've never mentioned it before. I haven't seen it enough to actively dislike it-- I just don't find it all that entertaining. I tend to feel that way about most of the half hour sitcom genre. Usually I watch a few episodes and they seem to get less and less funny over time.

heidi said...

I had roomies who loved it; it turned into my "run away and hide/read/cover ears" time.