How to Pick a Lover

Posts tagged ‘male sex appeal’

Picking A Lover: The Rating Game

Women are moved by sexual impulses towards particular men, not towards men as a whole, and men will never understand women as long as they do not understand this.
—H. M. Swanwick, The Future of the Women’s Movement

When you look around a party or when you go through your email address book or when you count on your fingers and toes men whom you have found attractive, you make implicit decisions about their appeal relative to one other. You also make decisions about their attractiveness to you. You have formed impressions based on appearance and conversations and, perhaps, on reports from other people; and you mesh these together into an overall response to the man. The many factors involved in sex appeal or animal magnetism or whatever it is called are difficult to define, but they combine to form an impression that is easy to recognize.

Every time you meet a new man, you form an opinion about him. Sometimes you feel indifferent, sometimes you feel a faint distaste, sometimes you feel drawn to him. In your responses, you subconsciously rank him from terrible to terrific, from fatuous to fascinating, from disgusting to delectable. It’s fortunate for everyone that the man who seems exactly right to one woman may not even seem passably attractive to another.

Helen of Troy

Helen of Troy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Christopher Marlow in Dr. Faustus describes Helen of Troy as having “the face that launched a thousand ships.” Some irreverent young men, not attuned to the sacredness of classic poetry, borrow this line to rate their women. Out girl watching, they will say cryptically to each other, “Five hundred ships, huh?” “No, I don’t think so. Three hundred at most. But look at that one! Eight hundred easy.” The popular 1980’s movie Ten, featuring Bo Derek wearing rows of corn braids and not much else, was based on a variation of this perennial theme where men rate women on a one-to-ten scale.

Long-distance love affairs call for another sort of rating scheme. Just ask yourself: how far would you be willing to commute for a rendezvous? Some men are attractive enough to draw you across the street. Some are attractive enough to rate a drive across town, if it isn’t raining. Some of the spectacular ones are worth a bus trip from Boston to Philadelphia. A few even rate a transatlantic flight.

On the other end of the scale, to quote a woman friend of mine, “Well, if we had twin beds, and his was all the way across the room, it wouldn’t be worth the trip.”

When you are thinking about rating various men and comparing their pros and cons, there is another problem to be taken into account. In assessing a man and the pleasure he gives you or might give you, you cannot always average out the good with the bad. Sometimes, the bad is so bad that it destroys all of the rest.

In Fats Waller’s song, “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” the man turfs out his girlfriend, complaining, “Your feet’s too big!” If shoe size is that important to you, then a beautiful smile and charm won’t compensate. However, it’s important to learn to overlook unimportant quirks and refrain from making arbitrary judgments over insignificant flaws. The more tolerant you can manage to be, the more people you can find potentially compatible, and the more tolerance you can expect in return.

Except for axe murderers, many of the so-called fatal flaws of physique or character are not all that fatal. Sometimes, however, a potential lover has a trait that makes him beyond the pale as far as you are concerned. He’s like a phone number you dial by memory. If you correctly remember six out of seven numbers, your memory is 86 percent correct, but you still don’t get the person you were trying to call.

Six correct out of seven is pretty good; but with phone numbers, as with people, it’s not good enough.

Don’t Be a Body Freak

The price of perfection is prohibitive.
—Jayson VanVerten

In the past, women complained that the image of the ideal woman was the Playboy model: eighteen or nineteen years old with gargantuan breasts; a vacuous, cocotte smile; and smooth, unblemished skin. She was young enough to give the illusion of virginal innocence but old enough to give consent. She was epitomized in the sort of showgirl made famous by Vargas in his provocative cartoons for Esquire magazine years ago.

Today’s ideal image is that of the Barbie doll with huge, surgically augmented breasts, legs that go on forever, and an anatomically impossible tiny waist. Whatever the ideal image, such women are quite unlike the girl next door and, in fact, are quite unlike even very beautiful women seen in real life. All of their imperfections and flaws have been airbrushed away by an army of photographers and technicians using the latest photographic equipment and digital software. As the noted sexologist Simon Van Velikoff observed, “The Playboy bunny discreetly has no pubic hair. She also has no moles or stretch marks or vaccinations. In the heat, she does not sweat. In the cold, she does not shiver; and probably, she never has a period.”

In real life, real women—like real men—are a walking collection of imperfections. Do you have fillings in your teeth? Do you have crooked teeth or braces to correct them? Do you wear glasses, or have you settled instead for contact lenses and tears? Do you have bags and dark circles under your eyes from insomnia? Do you have worry lines on your forehead? Do your feet sometimes swell? Can you pass the pencil test for sagging breasts and buttocks, or does the pencil you place there nestle in snuggly. Do you have scars from a trauma, appendectomy, or C-section? Do you sometimes feel like the “before” part of an Oprah glamour makeover? And even if you are cursed with all the above, do men still love you? Of course they do.

A man cannot go to bed with the idealized Playboy bunny unless you are willing to count the imagined couplings of his juvenile fantasies. That paragon of airbrushed perfection does not exist. And even if she did exist and even if he could find such a paragon of female beauty, he would not necessarily want her.

Too much perfection is intimidating and is in itself a barrier to intimacy. It is more than possible for a lover to flinch slightly at some of your imperfections (without making it apparent, of course) while still accepting you as a whole
and desirable woman and loving you both erotically and tenderly. “Love me, love my nose,” says Barbra Streisand, and so we do. It is important for all women to learn to do the same.

English: Screenshot of Barbra Streisand from t...

Image via Wikipedia

No one denies that a beautiful body is a wonderful thing. Yes, a man with a flat stomach and washboard abs is nicer to look at, and nicer to touch, than a man with an abundant jelly gut so common among middle-aged men. Yes, strong arms that can sweep you off your feet, literally and figuratively, are nicer than the undefined and soft arms of a desk jockey. But neither wonderful arms nor a full head of hair are essential. In fact, some women even prefer a little extra flesh on their men. Many women even refer to that extra weight affectionately as “love handles.”

If you want a loving lover who provides fulfillment on many levels, you cannot afford to be a committed body freak. Your lover does not have to have the body beautiful; he only has to have some features you consider exactly right. A teenager, proudly showing her boyfriend’s picture, mooned to me, “Doesn’t he have the most divine earlobes?”

Your lover doesn’t have to be physically perfect: he only has to have enough attractive characteristics that make him physically appealing to you. He does not have to have the whole package and certainly not the whole package as judged by the standard of the beautiful boys that adorn the pages of Playgirl magazine. In fact, it is rumored that many male models are gay, but since it is all fantasy anyway, perhaps that does not matter from a purely aesthetic standpoint. What you need in a lover is warmth, tenderness, passion, versatility, and sensitivity. A great body is merely icing on the cake.

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