How to Pick a Lover

Posts tagged ‘sexual attractiveness’

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.

If You Must Be a Body Freak, Be Broad-Minded

There’s one thing about baldness—it’s neat.
—Don Herold

If you are so programmed that you can only love beautiful men and if the nonbeautiful are simply not appealing, then you have to think very carefully about what constitutes beauty. You have to contrast what would be ideal with what would be good enough.

Here is your exercise: think in your mind of whoever you consider to be physically the perfect man. There is any number of celebrity sex symbols you could choose from. George Clooney? Brad Pitt? Antonio Banderas? Warren Beatty when he was younger? Denzel Washington? Adam Levine? Any of the Backstreet Boys? Leonardo DiCaprio?

English: George Clooney at the 2009 Venice Fil...

English: George Clooney at the 2009 Venice Film Festival (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To keep him generalized, let us call him the all-star man. Think about the all-star man and ask yourself: if he were only five feet six, would he still do? The list of men whom many women would dismiss as too short includes such luminaries as Burt Reynolds, Dustin Hoffman, Richard Dreyfuss, and even the great Humphrey Bogart.

A lot of people who loved Clark Gable would have had trouble coming to terms with his false teeth. Sometimes, he would shock recalcitrant fans by taking them out in public. And the story goes that Bogey always licked his lips in his movies because he had a very irritable stomach and had to take Maalox all day, which left a white coating in his mouth.

How would you feel about your all-star man if he happened to be bald, or balding? According to Vidal Sassoon, who perhaps speaks from a biased position, “Hair is just another name for sex.” Many bald men, however, report that having a baldpate is an unfailing sex magnet. Perhaps women who find Andre Agassi magnetic and sexy are responding to something other than the absence of hair, but even if this is the case, they apparently are able to consider hair expendable. Indeed, many men are now shaving their hair completely off because a number of movie stars and athletes have once again redefined being bald as being sexy as Yule Brenner did in the 1960s.

There are many kinds of beauty. If you insist on using beauty as a criterion because that is how you are programmed, then at least try to include as many men as possible within the definition of “attractive enough.” If you have only
one type—if to be attractive to you a man must be tall, blond, strong, athletic, with blue eyes, a movie-star smile, and no moles—then perhaps you should consider as your next holiday a bicycle trip around Sweden. If you can love tall or short, dark or blond, blue eyes or black eyes, you can go to Italy as well, not to mention Argentina or Israel.

To this, as to every rule, there is an exception. If you are so imprinted on one particular body type and so conditioned to respond to it that you cannot have an orgasm unless you are holding on to muscular arms that are seventeen inches in circumference, well . . . then you are going to be stuck with bodybuilders and weight lifters. You will have the same limited range of erotic relationships as does the man who can only be turned on by a blonde with long legs and big breasts.

In all likelihood, you will find yourself turning down real men only to end up mooning over your favorite movie star or sports figure or over Playgirl magazine pictures of beautiful young men who, dressed or undressed, are equally unavailable except as fantasy playmates.

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